John McCann

Archive for August, 2006|Monthly archive page

In Measuring participation on August 7, 2006 at 4:22 pm

I invite you to read the comment secton of my recent post about teen use of the Internet. I really enjoyed the exchange with the commenters and I encourage all of my readers to comment so we can have a conversation.

I have been thinking a little more about the issue raised by lenina in her comment and my response. How can it be that over half of on-line teenagers create content while at any given website (such as a Yahoo forum or YouTube) only a small fraction of all visitors to the site actually create content of any form? As the Guardian article that caused the debate said the “creator to consumer” ratio at just 0.5%.”

As I said in my comment, this question can be answered by looking at the unit of analysis: sites versus people. After writing my comment, I thought of an example that might help clarify what I am talking about. Suppose you owned a shoe store and you keep records of people who entered your store. On a typical hour, 100 people enter the store, 1 buys a pair of shoes, 10 try on shoes but do not purchase, and 89 simply look around. You can calculate that 1% of the shoppers in your store buy shoes from you.

But can you correctly state that only 1% of shoppers buy shoes? Of course not. Practically every one buys shoes. The percentage of your shoppers who buy shoes from you has nothing to do with the percentage of people who buy shoes. You cannot look at statistics about the activity of people who use one entity and use those statistics to make statements about the percentage of people who use the larger collection of entities. The percentage of people buying in any one shoe store tells us nothing about the percentage of people who buy shoes. Similarly, the percentage of visitors to Wikipedia who create content tells us nothing about the percentage of people who create content for the Internet.


Current transition

In Culture & society, Early Predictions on August 4, 2006 at 11:56 am

In cleaning my office at Duke, I ran across a book I had read several years ago: Nicholas Imparato and Oren Harari, Jumping the Curve: Innovation and Strategic Choice in an Age of Transition (Jossey-Bass Publications, 1994). I plan to re-read it again to see what I can learn about the transition to the Participation Age. I will relate one passage here that I had underlined during my first reading because it sets the stage for understanding the history of major transitions.

The authors consulted the work of historians and philosophers to identify major historical transitions.

“They traditionally maintain that these dramatic transitions have occurred only twice in the entire history of Western civilization, thereby breaking history into three periods. The first period is called the Classical Age, the second is called the Middle Age, and the third is called the Modern Age. … the first age goes from early civilization to the years 313-476, a time that marks the fall of the Roman Empire. The second age stretches from that point until medieval life declines and gives way to the rudiments of modern social structures. This process spans different years in different parts of Europe, but began in Italy during the 1300s and continued through the scientific revolution of the 1600s. The third period that began then continued until sometime in this century. None of these changes, therefore, was abrupt or sudden; each dovetailed with a wide array of human activities. Graham Greene once remarked that there is always a moment in time ‘when a door opens and lets the future in.’ Nietzsche, more directly, called these moments of epochal transformations ‘new dawns.’ Today we are in a period of similar transformation, a source of both turbulence and renewal.”

After this discussion of the past, the authors begin to address the present and future, warning us that our current transition is likely to be much faster than those in the past.

“We should be mindful that the current transformation will occur more quickly than did previous transitions. The Middle Ages lasted one thousand years and the Modern Age has endured half of that. Events today will compress into an even tighter time line. As historian Arthur Schlesinger has noted: ‘A boy who saw the Wright brothers fly for a few seconds at Kitty Hawk could have watched Apollo II land on the moon in 1969.'”

What, the authors’ opinion, is at the root of this current transition?

“The most dramatic driver, of course, is the revolution in communication and information technologies.”

I will continue to read this book as well as look through some of my own earlier work to see what they have to say about our current “new dawn.”

Teens participating

In Content business, Content workers on August 1, 2006 at 7:34 pm

Judy McGrath, chairman and CEO of MTV Networks, gave a keynote address at the 2006 CTAM Summit, which was a conference of cable and media folks. Lostremote provided a synopsis of her remarks. The aspect that interests me the most is her remark about the role that teens are playing in MTV’s media efforts:

  • MTV research shows that 57% teens create content for web; spend 3 hours on the web every day; and 9 out of 10 use the web for homework.
  • “Our audience wants to participate and wants to leave their mark on the media landscape.”
  • These teens are content workers. Even though they work for free, they are still content workers. They are in the content business in the sense that they are creating content. Firms such as MTV provide the tools and the context for their creation. Just a couple of years ago, such content did not have a suitable distribution channel. Today, sites such as YouTube provide the conduit, one that is getting filled with content. The result: serving 100 million videos a day.

    This is just one more piece of evidence that the Participation Age is in full bloom.