Rambling Thoughts On Convergence, Communities & Passion

Part I: Convergence
I’ve noticed a few interesting announcements in the media world over the last couple of days.
Morgan Freeman & Intel have partnered in a new venture to distribute movies over the Internet before the same releases hit theatres. This is partly an attempt to circumvent piracy and perhaps moreso, an attempt to profit from the growing appetites of consumers for rich home media centres and content.
– It looks like Apple’s iTunes latest release has more than just Podcasting support. It looks as though there will be iTunes access through new Motorola mobile phones. Of course, competitor Sony Ericcson has also been working on a digital music enabled, Walkman-branded phone.
– The Spoken Alexandria Project has been launched which is a “library of spoken-word recordings consisting of classics in the public domain and modern works (with permission)”. Rick Schwier, who blogged the announcement, writes “the group’s dedication to free and open access is just the kind of thing that makes me think that we may be witnessing a very profound shift in how our society manages information.”

So Rick’s idea gets me thinking. I really do think we are witnessing this shift, but it’s interesting how it’s coming down. The first two of the examples noted above are based upon media convergence in the way the big companies would like you to see it … paid, proprietary content. And really, the companies (especially Apple) have been very successful in this respect. And in contrast, the third example is based on open content, and structured around a community of content. While all three announcements have been featured in the news over the last few days, they feature very different philsophies around content distribution.

So now off on a bit of a tangent … and really, I don’t actually know where I am going with this (it’s late).

Part II: Open Communities
Alfred Essa recently wrote a post titled, “Immanuel Kant Meets Flickr And Open Source“. It’s an interesting piece where Essa contemplates open code/content in academia and projects a formula for the development of a community. After some deliberation, he writes:

Open Code + Open Content + Open Services = Community

While I think it’s a neat idea, and certainly supports a lot of what I have been looking at in open source communities, it’s missing something … it’s missing something big.

Yet another tangent …

Part III: Passion, Advocacy & Good Will
I have had a blast with my on-going open source research project. It’s been an absolutely incredible experience. What’s made it so incredible is the amazing willingness of people to talk to me about their beliefs around open source and open content, and the advocacy many of these individuals lead in their own communities. There is a huge advocacy movement within this environment and many of my readers partake in this incredible activity. For example, a participant I have been hoping to interview for some time now is driving from Edmonton to Regina (almost 800 kms one-way) just to speak face-to-face about open source/content with me. The response, the passion, the advocacy and the good will of people who I see as a part of the open movement never fails to impress me. While much of the discussion is done over networks, through blogs, wikis, VoIP, etc., this is primarily a human movement and a mechanism for humans to work together on shared pursuits for the betterment of society. I strongly believe this.

Part IV: Conclusion
So how does this all tie in together? As for the struggle between proprietary and open content, the battle will be long, but I hope that the outcome will be clear. Openness, and open thinking especially, will win out, as long as we continue to see the strength, passion and advocacy of people supporting, developing, sharing, collaborating and making all of this happen. Content will be shared, rather than captured and controlled. As for “Open Code + Open Content + Open Services = Community”, let’s not forget the human element. It’s the key difference between corporate forms of knowledge control, and open forms of collaboration.

It’s late, this is likely incoherent, and I think I’ve ranted enough.

2 thoughts on “Rambling Thoughts On Convergence, Communities & Passion

  1. Cool post, Alec. I think the human element is so important. When Brent Wilson was at the U of S talking to staff and students in the Ed Comm/Tech program, he mentioned that forgiveness is, for him, a vital element of any community. I agree with him, although I would use the word love instead of forgiveness. I think that the glue that holds any community – real or virtual – together is love.

  2. What will happen if you’ll replace in the formula the term “open” with the word “free” as in “free speech” (http://www.fsf.org/)? I think you will have “free/libre community”.

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