Interactive Media

Google’s SketchUp

Google enters the world of 3D software with a free 3D tool called SketchUp.

Google SketchUp (free) is an easy-to-learn 3D modeling program that enables you to explore the world in 3D. With just a few simple tools, you can create 3D models of houses, sheds, decks, home additions, woodworking projects – even space ships. And once you’ve built your models, you can place them in Google Earth, post them to the 3D Warehouse, or print hard copies.

It will be interesting to see where this leads. They offer a ‘pro’ version which handles imports/exports of industry standard filetypes etc.

Interactive Media Web 2.0

Digital to analogue – snail mail

Shiny Letter is a new Web 2.0 startup. They have the requisite rounded corners, the perpetual ‘beta’, and a reflective logo.

What is interesting about them is the service they provide. It is truly analogue.

You write a letter (up to 4 pages long) then choose a font. Pay them US$2 on your credit card or PayPal and they will print it out and post, yes post!, it to any worldwide destination.

Its a novel and quirky idea.

Web 2.0

BBC 2.0 vs Fox’s MySpace

Today Sydney Morning Herald

The BBC, which receives about 3 billion pounds ($7.19 billion) a year in public funding, has announced plans to relaunch its Web site to incorporate more user-generated content such as blogs and video, as well as developing new broadband portals in areas including sports, music, health and science.

James MacManus, an executive director of Murdoch’s News International company, accused the state-funded BBC of “blatantly commercial ambitions” and seeking “to create a digital empire.”

“Our view is that can only damage the development of commercial digital media,” MacManus said.

“This is being done with public money,” he told The Associated Press. “It really is outrageous.”

The BBC says it hopes its new site will attract unsigned bands hoping to showcase their music – one of the key successes of, the social networking site recently bought by Murdoch.

“We have one of the best Web sites in the world, but it’s rooted in the first digital wave,” BBC director-general Mark Thompson told staff on Tuesday. “We need to reinvent it, fill it with dynamic audiovisual content, personalise it, open it up to user-friendly material.” (emphasis mine)

He said in the new world of “BBC Web 2.0,” audiences would become “participants and partners.”

Rival broadcasters have long complained that the BBC uses public money to fund types of programs supplied by commercial operators, abandoning a public service remit in a chase for viewers.

Web 2.0

More on Wikipedia usage / prod-users & pro-sumers

Andrew McAfee at Harvard posts about Wikipedia statistics and discusses whether or not it is realistic to expect consumer to producer ratios to be higher in enterprise uses of wikis and blogs than in the real world.

What is interesting are the figures for Wikipedia from their November 2005 statistics.

I think there’s also a long tail among people, and it relates not to willingness to consume (i.e. demand) but rather to willingness to produce. In November of 2005, the most recent month for which comprehensive stats are available, Wikipedia had over 850,000 articles in English, and 2.9 million across all languages (including more than 10,000 in Esperanto). This content was generated by fewer than 50,000 contributors in English, and 103,000 total.

A ‘contributor’ is defined by Wikipedia as someone with a user ID who’s made at least ten total edits. Anonymous and more casual participants are certainly important at Wikipedia, but it’s my understanding that the bulk of actual content comes from the population of contributors (please correct me if this is wrong). And even this population is skewed: active English wikipedians (more than 5 contributions in a month) numbered 15,600 last November, and very active (100 or more) numbered only 2081.

The Internet lets Amazon aggregate demand for books at the end of the long tail, and thereby profit. The Net also lets Wikipedia aggregate supply from people at the end of the long tail of willingness to produce, and we all profit. But these people are a tiny, tiny fraction of all Internet users.

Wikipedia DOES have very low barriers to participation – indeed anyone CAN edit. But obviously not everyone does. This is something that plays out across ALL media, new and old.

For some reason we are quite happy to accept that not everyone is a writer, film maker, or even wants to publically share their photographs, but we find it difficult to accept that not everyone will (want to) be a blogger, wiki-writer, or even an active participant in web 2.0-related activities.

Nicholas Carr, known for his 2.0 skepticism, commenting on McAfee’s post writes

McAfee makes a critically important point. But I’d go even further. Although wikis and other Web 2.0 platforms for the creation of content are often described in purely egalitarian terms – as the products of communities of equals – that’s just a utopian fantasy. In fact, the quality of the product hinges not just, or even primarily, on the number of contributors. It also hinges on the talent of the contributors – or, more accurately, on the talent of every individual contributor. No matter how vast, a community of mediocrities will never be able to produce anything better than mediocre work. Indeed, I would argue that the talent of the contributors is in the end far more important to quality than is the number of contributors. Put 5,000 smart people to work on a wiki, and they’ll come up with something better than a wiki created by a million numbskulls.

The quality of any entry in Wikipedia, for instance, is ultimately determined not by how many people work on it but by how many talented people work on it. An entry written by a single expert will be better than an entry written by a hundred fools. When you look deeply into Wikipedia, beyond the shiny surface of “community,” you see that the encyclopedia is actually as much, or more, a product of conflict than of collaboration: It’s an endless struggle by a few talented contributors to clean up the mess left by the numbskull horde.

What has this go to do with ‘prod-users’ and ‘pro-sumers’?

My feeling is that in working so closely with production technologies ourselves – which have come down in price and have become relatively ubiquitous amongst our peers – we have begun to lose sight of the majority who don’t want produce (regardless of continually lowering barriers to participation and incentives). Or, that will only produce, insofar as ‘production’ relates to the production of ‘meaning’ through the act of reading a text.

And that ‘interactivity’ will, for the many (the vast majority) will remain a relatively trivial act of SMS voting on a reality TV show, or reading (and not contributing to) a blog, a website about the latest blockbuster, or simply reading/following (but not adding to) the walkthrough on their latest xBox/PS2-3 game.

For everyone who ‘produces’ and shapes their public identity through a MySpace page, blog, or even just through a post to a forum, there are a far greater number who don’t and won’t. It is worth remembering that for many digital natives, teenagers and the like, the internet is a communication tool used primarily for instant messaging (cf the continuing popularity of MSN) – not the creation of more formalised and less transient identity production like MySpace. And even when this creation does occur it is often communication-purpose driven (see Facebook)

We need to remember that not only has technology opened up the means of production, it has also opened up the means to consumption (search technologies especially) – and that these are not necessarily directly connected.

Web 2.0

Hagel on SOAs and Web 2.0 applications in enterprise

Although sometimes a museum environment seems a long way from a traditional ‘enterprise’, this post from John Hagel raises some interesting points around the resistance to Web 2.0 applications inside enterprises and contrasts Web 2.0 with Service Oriented Applications (SOAs).

There will be some resonance in the quote below – particularly as museums move more towards explicitly social uses of their data and digital assets (at least in a way that is beyond traditional museum business in terms of exhibitions).

When you talk to SOA proponents today, you will hear a lot about connecting applications and databases, but not a lot about connecting people together and helping to support their interactions with each other. In contrast, Web 2.0 advocates put a lot more emphasis on the opportunity to connect people together and to support their collaborative efforts. Web 2.0 certainly also addresses issues of connecting applications and data, but Web 2.0 is distinctive in the social dimension that it explicitly addresses.

The next wave of innovation by enterprises will depend on the ability to connect people together more effectively, especially at the edge of enterprises, and provide them with tools to support collaborative creation. In this context, Web 2.0 technologies like wikis will play a key role in driving value creation in the enterprise. As Dion Hinchcliffe has written, the architects and software engineers that dominate enterprise IT departments disconnect in discussions of Web 2.0 technologies because of the strong social aspect addressed by these technologies. SOA proponents ignore these technologies at their peril.

Copyright/OCL Interactive Media Web 2.0

SF Film Festival Video Remix Project

The San Francisco Film Festival has teamed up with Yahoo to allow people to ‘remix’ films from the festival. All online. Its quite amazing.

Take a look at the remixes and try it yourself.

The program allows Festival Web site visitors to reedit, repurpose, remix and mash up an array of clips from selected Festival films. Remixes are then posted back to the site for others to view and enjoy.

Apart from being a total hoot and a chance for people to mess around with the films that they have come to know through the SFIFF 49, the program does have a historical-cultural angle as well. These days, academic types would call the International Remix media mashups “social media” or “user-generated content”.

The program also pays homage to a lineage of cut-and-paste sensibilities that pervade modern media aesthetics, echoing many experiments in cut-up artistic practice such as Kuleshov, Eisenstein and Dziga Vertov’s film tests and Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray’s Dadaist use of ready-mades and absurd juxtapositions. These early experiments (and others like them) helped pave the way for the powerful artistic concept known as montage, which itself has been repurposed and remixed over the years through contemporary practices such as pastiche aesthetics, collage and mashups, which, in turn, owe a huge debt to the breakout of hip-hop turntablism in the early 1970s.

It is in the spirit of such unexpected, vital and fun innovations that we offer you International Remix. This program was developed in collaboration with Yahoo! Research Berkeley and the Institute for Next Generation Internet at San Francisco State University. Besides the online gallery, a selection of the best remixes will screen at Edinburgh Castle.

I wonder what permissions were required from the filmmakers to do this – its a very clever thing and plays off the idea of social media, audience co-creation. Could this ever happen in Australia?

I’m not so sure after the kerfuffle over the Australian Film Commission funding a project (Mod Films’ sci-fi remixable film The Sanctuary) that is to be released under Creative Commons because of moral rights issues (which, don’t exist in the US). See 7.9 and 7.10 below.

Is this an unintended consequence? Moral rights have a long history in Europe and there are plenty of very good justifications for them – not least being the ability of rights holders to refuse the use of their work in exploitative ways.

Moral rights in Australia –

Moral rights

7.7 The Copyright Act also provides creators with certain non-economic rights known as moral rights. They are the right of attribution of authorship of one’s work, (the right to be named in connection with one’s work), the right against false attribution of authorship and the right of integrity of authorship (the right to object to treatment of one’s work that has a detrimental effect on one’s reputation).

7.8 Moral rights apply to all works and films (and works as included in films) that were in existence and still in copyright on 21 December 2000 and all works and films (but not sound recordings) created after that date.

7.9 An author’s right of integrity of authorship in respect of a film is limited to the author’s lifetime. In all other cases, moral rights endure for the term of copyright.

7.10 Due to the personal nature of moral rights, they may not be assigned (ie given away to another) or licensed. It is, however, possible for an author to provide a written consent in relation to certain treatment of his or her work that might otherwise constitute an infringement of moral rights.

7.11 A range of remedies is available for an infringement of moral rights. These include an order for damages, an injunction or a public apology. The Copyright Act provides a general reasonableness defence to actions for infringement of the right of integrity of authorship and the right of attribution of authorship. It also provides specific defences to actions for infringement of the right of integrity of authorship in relation to certain treatment of buildings and moveable artistic works.

(from Attorney General’s Department, Australian Government)

Interactive Media

Games as work / work as games

Short but interesting article from Nick Yee from Stanford who runs the Daedelus research project into motivations and psychology in MMORPGs.

Video games are often framed as sites of play and entertainment. Their transformation into work platforms and the staggering amount of work that is being done in these games often go unnoticed. Users spend on average 20 hours a week in online games, and many of them describe their game play as obligation, tedium, and more like a second job than entertainment. Using well-known behavior conditioning principles, video games are inherently work platforms that train us to become better gameworkers. And thework that is being performed in video games is increasingly similar to the work performed in business corporations. The microcosm of these online games may reveal larger social trends in the blurring boundaries between work and play.

Web 2.0

Focussing on the user / Phillips on user-experience-enhancing advertising practices

At the museum recently we’ve been talking a lot about 2.0 things. Web 2.0, Library 2.0, Media 2.0. A lot of it is hype, but there are now plenty of real world examples of a new user-enabling philosophy spreading across media platforms – not just the net-enabled/threatened.

Wall Street Journal reports on a very interesting advertising move by electronics company Phillips. Apparently they have been running with the theme of ‘simplicity’ and to reinforce this brand message they have been trying out some novel advertising ploys – aimed at getting the user/reader/viewer what they want quicker (with less noise/more signal – brought to you by Phillips, of course).

Philips Electronics, which is gaining a reputation on Madison Avenue for breaking conventions in reader- and viewer-friendly ways, is paying the Time Warner magazine unit $5 million for a novel ad play. Issues of four magazines — Time, Fortune, People and Business 2.0 — will feature the table of contents on the first page; a flap on the inside front cover will tell readers Philips is making that possible. The issue of Time that’s involved goes on sale Monday, April 24.

When it comes to getting space near or before the contents page, “everyone fights for it,” says Melissa Pordy, director of media investment solutions for Cheil Communications America. “It’s sort of, for lack of a better word, the Hollywood Walk of Fame.”

While the table of contents guides readers, it is also used by some magazine publishers to create prime real estate for advertisers who want readers to see their products soon after opening the magazine. In fact, says one publisher, certain magazines will often spread the table of contents across two or three pages, then sprinkle those pages around the front of the book — all to create more desirable ad spots. Promising advertisers ad space before a contents page is often done to secure additional business from the advertiser during the course of a year, this publisher says.

The placement of the contents page varies from magazine to magazine. The May 1 issue of Fortune, for example, has contents on pages 11 and 14. The April 24 issue of the New Yorker has contents on page 8. And the May issue of Vogue has contents that begin on page 22. Weeklies tend to have contents pages closer to the front than bulky fashion monthlies, which carry loads of ads from designers and other relevant marketers. In those cases, say media buyers, readers use the ads to discover new offerings from favorite designers.

With the Time Inc. magazines, readers will know right away about Philips’s involvement. A flap on the inside front cover of the magazines will state: “Simplicity means not letting complexity stand in your way. It starts with the Table of Contents on the first page. And it continues with the last page where you’ll see innovative products that will change the way you live.”

This is a very interesting Media 2.0-related play and has ruffled some feathers, and is in many ways akin to a print magazine version of TiVo letting people skip advertisements to get to the content they want.

Social networking Web 2.0

Making MySpace look better

Here’s an amazing bit of CSS coding from Mike Davidson that instantly makes a MySpace page look a thousand times better.

Several weeks ago, I finally signed up for an account, and within seconds I was instantly put-off by what had been created for me: a hastily-designed “profile page” with uninspired colors, misaligned tables, and a mish-mash of extraneous cruft and design elements which made this feel more like a halfway house than a “home”. Now, granted, I am a designer by trade so my tolerance for this stuff is orders of magnitude lower than most of the population, but clearly, this was not a place I even felt comfortable having my name on.

So with the default home page this underwhelming, what is a MySpacer to do? Customize, of course. One of MySpace’s greatest features is its ability to let you skin your own home page. Unfortunately, 99% of the customizations I’ve seen are chalkboard-screechingly awful, but what could a MySpace home page look like if some actual design thought went into it? That is the question I sought to answer.


Design Trends 2006

Interesting article on this year’s design trends.