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Tony Hirst

I think there is a whole bunch of other stuff going on here, too, including behavioural/psychological effects.

For example, in an oft-appearing phrase, what will happen when the kids of today who have grown up with free online content and apps get their own credit cards?

The cult of free is not just limited to online, though. The Observer Business section this Sunday had an article about a new free mens' magazine that is due to appear anytime, having taken heart - presumably - from the several 'free' (ad-supported) London/metropolitan newspapers.

"Free" at the moment is actually "paid for", but NOT directly by the consumer of the 'free' content. The cost is borne elsewhere, with the customer paying across several layers of indirection/intermediation.

Sometimes, we're happy to pay direct.

Disintermedation and reintermediation will find some sort of dynamic balance, I suspect, as consumers move between levels of indirect payment for the services they consume.

An appreciation of ecological concepts is key to developing this sort of model further, I think. My starting point would probably be to read up on the nature and structure of food webs!



yep, i agree(fwiw!). I blogged something similar, esp re Wienberger, here http://conclave.open.ac.uk/openair/?p=104 and mentioned in passing today that the openlearn global warming document on scribd got nearly 600 unique visitors IN A DAY (30 July) which is more than the most popular unit in LearningSpace gets in a week!


you know I like an ecological metaphor, so I'd agree there. As for what will today's teens do with credit cards - they'll buy trainers and gig tickets. They certainly won't pay for digital content. And once something is free there's no going back really.
Stuart - yes, you're Scribd post is interesting. It reinforces what Clay Shirky was saying in 2003 about why micropayments would fail (http://www.shirky.com/writings/fame_vs_fortune.html). He followed this up recently, concluding that in a digital age creators would need "to decide between going for audience size (fame) or restricting and charging for access (fortune), and that the desire for fame, no longer tempered by reproduction costs, would generally win out." (http://many.corante.com/archives/2007/04/25/sorry_wrong_number_mccloud_abandons_micropayments.php)

Doug Clow

Martin, I think you're right that "music has been the one industry that has really struggled with this desire for content to be liberated." The looming battle is for video content, and there the signs are that the video content owners are being just as ham-fisted as the audio ones. Even the organisations who you might expect to Do The Right Thing here are armlocked in to Getting It Wrong. Witness the outrage of the BBC's DRM solution (for stuff the licence-fee payers have already paid for!) and the disastrous car-crash that Google Video is turning in to (denying people the right to watch stuff they've already paid for!).

It's worth remembering that the full Stewart Brand information-is-free quote is:

"On the one hand information wants to be expensive, because it's so valuable. The right information in the right place just changes your life. On the other hand, information wants to be free, because the cost of getting it out is getting lower and lower all the time. So you have these two fighting against each other."

I reckon the battle's not even fully joined yet in video.


That's very Cartesian of you. (from seely brown's OpenLearn conference keynote)

If we were more Atelian we might say, "Digital content wants to be free, and will aggregate between the paths of it's greatest communication." (OK it's not good, but something like that).

I get surprized by people treating 'content' as something which precludes its communication, and the communication derived from it. You have UK Idol over there don't you? So yu can see the broadcast model = wrapping ads around (mostly) crap. And you will have noticed how many pennies the voting generates. (Interactive? Yeah right.)

We are watching (and contributing to) the convergence of the two models. So depending on which end 'the ínitial outsiders' are coming from, they are either a Simon Gallagher (Idol's privately interested broadcasting founder) or Jimbo Wales (Wikipedia's publicly interested interactive founder). The archetypes are pretty clear.

The internet might be "a matter transporter for digital content", but its where things are cached, where the libraries of common content packets stick as they REpass through nodes, which defines where content is (economically) transponded from/to (between TCP/IP networks).

I do like your 5 steps. If we generalized a bit more, it sounds like 'the five steps of Innovation', although "än initial outsider breaks down the barriers" might become "someone finds a way to make money, both going (broadcast) and coming (it's response)".

So how should we refer to this convergence? "The bundling of the economics of information with its related communication" or "the bundling of the economics of communication with its related information?" Depends whether one is coming or going I guess.

Hopefully, sometime in the (far) future we can expect to see a more seamless, and a more balanced, approach between (say) a BBC/OU programme and its related Lab/Learning/ (communicating) space. Of course this will depend on what archetypes exist in our public institutions. It also depends on long it takes public networks managers to reconfigure (portions of) their networks from a client/server model to a P2P model, so 'their' members can (economically) share transponding points. i.e. interactive libraries/communication tools.

Until then, we'll just to duplicate the same discussion across a thousand blogs.

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