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October 20, 2009

Marc Reeves on the future of local and regional media

Writing about web page

Big announcement today about the future of the Birmingham Post:

Warwick hosted an event last week where Post Editor Marc Reeves talked about the future of local and regional media, including some discussion on the situation at the Birmingham Post.

Here is the presentation:

The other presentations are at:

May 26, 2009

Anarchism and Digital Media

Warning – this may be a bit rambling and maybe not well thought through, but here goes:

You sometimes hear it said that the web is an anarchic place. It can certainly feel like it.

In doing some research in Buenaventura Durruti and the Durruti column in the Spanish Civil War I started reading up some materials (well, Wikipedia articles) on Collectivist Anarchism and was struck by the parallels that you find between this political position and the ideas of many writers and activists in the digital media world – especially in relation to Open Source, Open Learning, Creative Commons, podcasting and Web 2.0 services, such as DIGG, Facebook, YouTube and so on.

A quick background. Collectivist Anarchism is s political doctrine first championed by Mikhail Bakunin who was the primary opposition to Marx at the First International proclaimed at the St. Imier Congress (1872).

The basic doctrine:

‘advocates the abolition of the state and private ownership of the means of production, with the means of production instead being owned collectively and controlled and managed by the producers themselves.’

What distinguishes it from other systems, especially Communist Anarchism is that it allows for money, or at least reward for effort -

‘while communism and collectivism both organise production in common via producers’ associations, they differ in how the goods produced will be distributed. Communism is based on free consumption of all while collectivism is more likely to be based on the distribution of goods according to the labour contributed.’

So – to summarise. The means of production and distribution are collectivised with individuals paid a wage based on the amount of effort they supply to the collective – a wage that is agreed by the community.

A few quotes:

from Anarchist Collectives about the SCW:

‘In distribution the collectives’ co-operatives eliminated middlemen, small merchants, wholesalers, and profiteers, thus greatly reducing consumer prices. The collectives eliminated most of the parasitic elements from rural life, and would have wiped them out altogether if they were not protected by corrupt officials and by the political parties. Non-collectivised areas benefited indirectly from the lower prices as well as from free services often rendered by the collectives’

from James Guillaume:

‘such a society would “guarantee the mutual use of the tools of production which are the property of each of these groups and which will by a reciprocal contract become the collective property of the whole … federation. In this way, the federation of groups will be able to … regulate the rate of production to meet the fluctuating needs of society.’

from Wikipedia about Bakunin:

‘By “liberty”, Bakunin did not mean an abstract ideal but a concrete reality based on the equal liberty of others. In a positive sense, liberty consists of “the fullest development of all the faculties and powers of every human being, by education, by scientific training, and by material prosperity.” Such a conception of liberty is “eminently social, because it can only be realized in society,” not in isolation. In a negative sense, liberty is “the revolt of the individual against all divine, collective, and individual authority.”’

Let’s pick this apart a little.

The idea that the means of production are collectivised is very common in web 2.0 – from blogging onwards the principle is that the tools for production are available to all and not controlled by specific interests (though some may query that…).

What is interesting is that on top of this is a layer of rewards that makes the current digital environment closely aligned to the system outlined by Bakunin. Whether we are talking about donations to wikipedia or to the students working on a neat little app in their dorms, to the satisfaction given to a viral video maker on YouTube these services are designed to stimulate further effort by demonstrating a return to those willing to invest. This is not necessarily financial, but it is there. The implicit understanding is that the more you put in, the more you can get out. Wikipedia, for example, is great for browsing information, but are the rewards greater, for you and the community, when you actively put effort into creating and editing articles.

It is also worth noting that as outlined in the example from the Spanish Collectives, much of this cuts out the middle men – publishers, broadcasters, distributors etc etc. This is not an exclusive element of collectivist anarchism as opposed to communist anarchism, but the latter emphasises a central decision about the distribution of rewards whilst the former makes it more of a community decision. This to my mind is more in line with the way the web structures these things.

It’s also important to see the emphasis placed on the social as opposed to the individual. Bakunin felt that progress, whether community or individual, was essentially a social phenomenon. It is in social and community interaction that we find the ability to reach our potential, and the web is the means par excellence for making those connections.

Open Source is a collective exercise that is beneficial to the whole, and individually rewarding to the architects and builders of materials.

Blogging is a collective exercise that whilst highly individualized, could not realise its potential without the network of social connections that underpin it.

Web services and digital media production take the tools of production and collectivise them whilst open distribution networks reward the producers of content in the form of kudos or cash.

I recognise that better brains than mine may choose to pick this apart, but I am open for debate on this.

July 30, 2008

Google car – arse

Damn – walking along the Science Park road I got passed by the Google Maps street view car – at least I wasn’t scratching my arse or picking my nose at the time – just talking on the phone.

Anyway, in a petty act of revenge here is MY photo of them photographing me photographing them photographing me and so on…
Google street view car

April 24, 2008

A video a week for half of web users

Writing about web page

A report from Universal McCann gives some interesting stats:

- 59% of internet users view at least one video clip a week
- 73% have read a blog
- 57% are members of a social network
- 48% have listened to podcasts

The report surveyed 17,000 people across 29 countries.

I don’t necessarily see this as surprising but it’s interesting – what would be good would be to get a sense of whether there is a growth in long-form video consumption via the web. If the stats for iPlayer are anything to go by then there is evidence that the perception of the web as essentially a short-form medium may be in need of revision. Whether the BBC could get the same numbers for content not also broadcast on TV is up for debate.

February 25, 2008

Digital Media session – some follow ups

The presentations at the Digital Media skills sessions seem to have gone down well, at least from the audience feedback I have had so far. As a presenter I choose never to judge myself in these matters.

Anyway, one of the outputs from the session was that some people wanted further information about various things and to continue the discussion around digital media and specifically the opportunities at Warwick.

As such I will endevour to start publishing some items of interest here for your perusal, consideration and discussion.

This should break down into a few clear areas:

1) the tools and technologies at Warwick
2) techniques and good practice (hopefully with some examples)
3) broader commentry and reporting of stats and trends as and when my addled brain can make sense of them (and considering I’ve been up at 4am for the last 7 days, don’t expect too much of that…)

I hope that some of the other people involved in video and audio production will be able to join in these posts – I will be inviting guest contributors (you know who you are!).

I can’t promise that this will be anything like regular but we can do our best…

December 01, 2006

Threshers worried about email offer

Writing about web page

Here’s an interesting piece from the BBC about the impact on Threshers of the recent viral email with the 40% off voucher.

“It was never intended to get this big,” a company spokesperson said.

The company admits it is slightly concerned about the popularity of the offer.

“We are waiting with bated breath… Early next week, we should get the figures for what level of business we have seen this week and over the weekend,” the spokesperson added.

“This is a better offer than normal and it could end up hitting our profit margins.”

Interestingly a spokesperson for Stormhoek said:

“What has taken us by surprise is the scale of consumers talking to each other and passing it on to the next person,”

Hmmm – now, I happen to know that Stormhoek know quite a lot about marketing (do a search on technorati for them) – they’ve done a lot of work with bloggers and so on, so I might consider taking that with a pinch of salt.

What might be amusing here is that often you hear wine makers complaining that Off Licence special offers cripple them as they have to sell wine at very low margins in order to allow consumers to enjoy 2for1 offers – here we might have an example of an off licence being screwed by a supplier.

I also, however, don’t believe that Threshers weren’t fully aware of the potential for this campaign. I have received the voucher 3 or 4 times. Pity Threshers has very little I would choose to drink. Shit wine is shit wine whether you pay 100% or 60%.

On another matter related to threshers I have to say something about Gordon Ramsey. I used to have much respect for the man, but have struggled of late as he has pimped his arse all over. The end came for me when his mug was plastered all over the windows of Threshers and related businesses. This is the man who publically stated something along the lines of – I know nothing about wine, I don’t care if someone pays £3000 on some bottle of crap….

and so on.

The man may be ensuring his pension, but his reputation is being tarnished. Threshers, I mean come on Gordon!

February 24, 2006


I just noticed that I have an icon in my favourites list for the David Byrne radio site – it's his head.

Everytime i go to favourites there is a mini David Byrne watching me.

Can't decide if this is good or bad.

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