Just an update on my recent work… My writings here have been sparse at best lately but it’s mainly because I’m doing so much research and consulting elsewhere. Some of it is now available online so here’s the overview:
My 6-month fellowship at the Deloitte Center for the Edge has been fantastic. It’s been a great opportunity to hone my research, dive into some meaty topics, and work to refine my communication skills so that I can make some pretty complex stuff meaningful to a broader audience. It’s also been a tremendous opportunity to work directly with John Hagel and John Seely Brown – two verifiable wizards, each in their own right.
The fellowship is wrapping up at the end of December so I’m starting to whip up my next gig. Give me a shout if you’ve got any interesting collaborations…
Apple recently booted Google Maps from its iOS 6 release, replacing the world standard for mapping & location with its own offering (having cobbled together the acquisition spoils from C3 Technologies). For people actually trying to find their way around, the results have been less than stellar. Complaints abound.
Over the weekend I bought a Kinect and wired it to my Mac. I’m following the O’Reilly/Make book, Making Things See, by Greg Borenstein (who kindly tells me I’m an amateur machine vision researcher). With the book I’ve set up Processing, a JAVA-lite coding environment, and the open source Kinect libraries, SimpleOpenNI & NITE. I’ve spent a good chunk of the weekend reading a hundred pages into the book and working through the project tutorials and I’ve generated some interesting interactions and imagery. There’s also a ton of tutorial vids on You Tube, natch, to help cut through the weeds and whatnot.
The work of James George caught my attention when he began publishing still images generated by mixing inputs from a DSLR camera paired with a Kinect scanner. He & partner, Jonathan Mind, recently produced this thoroughly compelling future-now video from the same process, using their open framework software, RGBD Toolkit, to manage the mapping and in-scene navigation. The camera is fixed but since the Kinect produces a 3D scene you can navigate around the captured image. Where forms in the camera field cast shadows, i.e. where the Kinect cannot scan past e.g. an occluding arm & hand, you see stretching and warping of the 3D mesh and image map. The effect is uncannily similar to the scenes in the film version of Minority Report when Tom Cruise’s character watches holovids of his son & wife, their forms trailing along the light path of the holoprojector.George & Mind frame this video as an exploration of emerging techniques and technologies in filmmaking. Also, they talk about coding and geekery and other cool stuff.
Clouds is a computational documentary featuring hackers and media artists in dialogue about code, culture and the future of visualization.
This is a preview of a feature length production to be released later this year.
By Jonathan Minard (http://www.deepspeedmedia.com/) and James George (http://www.jamesgeorge.org/)
Made with RGBDToolkit.com
2 new songs from my Sathorn Unique project. This has been the bulk of my focus lately, between paying gigs & whatnot.
Also, please check out my short note on music as structure, music as dream.
[Cross-posted from Boing Boing.]
Narrative media is undergoing a shift from the traditional model of single, linear story lines to much broader explorations of the story world. Narratives are developed within larger contexts where even tertiary characters can act as launch points for new stories that flesh out the fictional universe. These bleed into the physical world through alternate reality gaming and transmedia cross-platform experiences that directly engage the audience, drawing them into the story through real-world challenges. ARG’s may not be especially new but they’re being more commonly integrated into franchise productions through transmedia campaigns across web sites, mobile engagement, shorts, graphic novels, video games, music, and any other possible medium that can extend the story.
While much of this shift has been driven by the entertainment industry, typically around run-up advertising campaigns, transmedia experiences are perhaps most compelling as native expressions of a fully-articulated narrative universe. This is transmedia world building: creating a fictional universe so rich and complete that a multitude of interweaving stories can emerge from it, taking form through the social and technological spaces we share. The video game spin-off becomes an opportunity to extend the narrative and create a new experience. The web site becomes a breadcrumb in the story arc offering a phone number that conveys a meeting place. The graphic novel picks up the life of a tertiary character from the original story. The audience is asked to participate in the unfolding narrative.
The pieces here aren’t particularly new but they’re all starting to converge with the technologies that enable these experiences. Most importantly (and disruptively) they are converging in a way that radically empowers independent content creators at exactly the moment when they’ve been completely abandoned by the industry giants of yesteryear. The majors have ditched or shelved their independent film houses and now focus solely on tent-pole blockbusters. Premiers at Cannes, Sundance, and other indie fests are barely selling to the studios. Yet, independent creators can set up powerful home studios and score a RED camera or even a Canon 5D mk2 to shoot & produce exceptional, authentic work. And very soon the audience will control access to this massive Long Tail of content right from their living room (and from their mobiles, and laptops, and kiosks, and car stereos, etc…)
Indeed, the near-simultaneous announcement of both Google TV and the new iteration of Apple TV herald the final arrival of truly integrated internet TV. This is the enxt major wave of convergence. These devices will fully legitimize web video – the pre-eminent domain of independent film, tv, and short-format creators – and bring it directly into the living room for mass consumption. Viewers will be able to open chat streams, web browsers, interactive content, and feedback polling while watching content from YouTube, Hulu, Vimeo and anyone else uploading to the cloud. Content providers will grab analytics off the back-end, manage ad placement, and push interactive challenges directly to the viewers. Internet TV convergence will be radically disruptive.
The majors are fighting hard to control this space. They’ll continue to defend the old models & limp box office gimmicks like “3D” movies while new media innovators will be figuring out how to use Microsoft’s Kinect and augmented reality and geolocation to extend the reach & impact of their content. New models of crowdfunding & collaboration will bring the audience into the production, and creators will push out distribution through iTunes, Netflix, torrents, and the emerging array of independent web hosts. Whatever the role of Old Media may be in the future, independent creators will play a much larger role in the new media landscape.
As the title says, I’ll be guest-blogging over at the eminently awesome Boing Boing starting next Monday, June 14 through Friday June 18. I am super stoked! And looking forward to sharing lot’s of great bits & great people, including a number of interviews lined up that will be very interesting… See you there!
[Cross-posted from a piece I wrote for Hukilau.]
While discussing the recent success of indie web video shop, Happy Little Guillotine Films, in securing a million dollar tie-in with 7-Eleven, Marc Huvstedt at TubeFilter notes the relative obscurity still visited upon the web series genre. Even Joss Whedon’s Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog scraped by on a $340,000 budget, he laments. Web TV, it seems, just can’t get enough investors exited about producing content.
But the problem isn’t a lack of compelling content. It’s that web video hasn’t been integrated into the primary consumption channel for serialized video entertainment. Viewership is scatterred, fleeting, and uncertain. IPTV is going to change this. Yesterday’s announcement of the new Google web TV device heralds the onrushing age of internet-enabled television currently being built out by Google, Sony, Samsung, Philips and many others ready to grab video from YouTube, Hulu, Google, (Hukilau!) etc… and bring it right to your living room. Imagine Dr. Horrible in HD on your widescreen LCD with live IM chat, twitter feed overlay, and mobile alerts for new episodes, fan contests, and transmedia spin-offs, back-ended with analytics, sentiment analysis, and ad-profiling, cut up with on-the-fly capture & remixing… You get the idea.
While traditional tv networks struggle to get into the social media persuasion game, internet producers were born & bread in leveraging social networks to grab eyes and build engaged fan bases. They’ll have a natural advantage in the set-top convergence.
Within 5 years many households will have upgraded to IPTV hardware and the browsing workflows will have been integrated. Viewers will more effectively search, filter, & share across the new media landscape, from traditional networks out into the long-tail of the web. Digital convergence in the wired living room will give web TV a huge lift in steady viewership and draw out increased investments in compelling, engaging, and ambitious stories from independent producers. IPTV invites the legions of independent talent to bring their stories & creations to the television audience. This will be incredibly disruptive.
[As an aside, keep an eye on Adobe's deal-making to get Flash as the standard interface layer for IPTV's.]
[Mike Elgin has a good post looking at some of the social opportunites with Smart Tv.]
[Engadget notes how the competition has reacted to the Google TV announcement.]
[Also from Engadget, a really good overview - Google TV: Everything you wanted to know...]
[Seriously. Keep an eye on Adobe partnerships with cable co's...]
While the chorus of hand-picked pre-release iPad reviewers has pretty roundly declared it just as magical as Steve Jobs told us it would be, and how the interface sweetly beckons the user into it’s experience before gently disappearing to reveal some new oddly-posthuman machine love affair, not a whole lot is being said about what this device means to content publishers. The naysayers deride, among oh so many niggling things, it’s flat file system, lack of HDMI output, no USB, no Flash support, and virtual uselessness as an authoring platform but, clearly, that’s not what it’s really meant for. As many have noted, the iPad is a device designed primarily for consumption.
More specifically (and more importantly to the publishing & distribution biz), the iPad is a shiny, friendly, closed & gated, DRM’d device for finding, purchasing, and consuming new media, all managed by the secure & reliable iTunes Store. The user gets what is arguably a faster, more intuitive, and compelling experience that will probably have them throwing gobs of money at the next generation of digital media. Publishers get a delivery target that is a de facto store with all the innate moral understanding about payment and value and theft that comes with that context. And consumers get the ability to search, find, purchase, and consume media in one single, engaging mobile device.
In the iPad frontier, it’s explicitly OK for publishers to charge users for content. They have a whole new platform in which to innovate experiences that upsell users from the last generation’s content. You loved The Beatles remasters? Well now you can get The Beatles remasters with HD multimedia interactive album copy & studio videos for only $22.95 an album!
It’s no wonder that Disney, ABC, the Wall Street Journal, Netflix, Conde Nast, Harper Collins, Simon & Schuster, Penguin, Marvel, and many, many others have rushed to the new platform to plant their flags and set up shop. Marvel basically set up it’s own comic store on the device, as Netflix has done with video. The Wall Street Journal has the perfect premium gateway for their subscription model. News & magazine publishers barely breathing after the beating they’ve taken since the web forced them to give away all their content for free must be droooooling over the opportunity to create the next generation of news experiences in a gated platform. Likewise for the book publishers finally reaching the new frontier of interactive digital content more compelling than paper books now lining so many remainder shelves like dusty word bricks. And arguably, the planet may be at least partially relieved of some of the paper and ink waste bloating landfills (we’ll overlook the as-of-yet unresolved energetic/carbon burden of dematerializing into electronic containers…).
While many of us have been beckoning the new era of open content, the major media publishers have been begging for the lockdown offered by the iPad. To them, the device promises both a new platform for innovating compelling content, extending their business opportunities into the future landscape at a time when they’ve been so stuck in the past, and it offers the security of a trusted gate for managing purchases and IP protection. It’s more of a nightmare for a lot of people but for the majors it has to be a dream come true. I can only assume that Steve et al worked closely with these interests to make sure they help build an impressive content catalog and a massive hype machine to drive as many new buyers to the iPad as they can. Apple knows that it sells a lot more product when it has the major distributors on it’s side and, at this point, the Old Media houses are pretty much powerless in Steve’s patented Reality Distortion Field.
Questions remain, of course. They’ve already sold over a million units in pre-sale but will the price point hold enough momentum to herald the new age of digital content consumption? Fanboys and early adopters are not enough to sustain a publishing revolution. Apple will probably drop the entry level price in another year or so after it’s stacked up a solid catalog of content. Will the content be good enough to merit the costs? The Wall Street Journal thinks people will pay $17 a month for their service. I wonder if more news sites will follow the lead of the Wall Street Journal and start locking down their web content..? And how long until all the content houses push back and want to extend distribution to the next gen of iPad competitors? Well, it hasn’t been much of a problem for iTunes & the iPod so far. That ecosystem, with plenty of would-be competitors, has kept music publishers pretty happy in a time of otherwise dismal CD returns. Will Apple’s DRM solution be enough to stem the blood loss from file sharing? Face it kids, piracy is a problem for the industry. And face it, industry: your recycled, top-40, tent pole, hedge fund, bloated, over-managed content production models are done. Get used to the long tail of compelling new media niche content that costs half as much as it used to.
Whatever you think about Apple, however much you hate them for being so good at manipulating the public narrative in their favor, however much you detest-and-secretly-admire their obsessive design principles, their ability to dismiss seemingly obvious functionality, their iron-fisted distribution mamagement, and their cavalier “we don’t really worry about the business side” attitude towards their shareholders… Whatever. Apple has lined up pretty much the entire content industry, pointed them at a new playground, and guaranteed them a financial return on their efforts. Will it be enough to save their business in the face of the democratized world of free user content? The industry will abide and do it’s best to make compelling new content that’s only available on this very compelling new device.
[For a much more user-centered take, see Cory Doctorow's impassioned piece, Why I Won't Buy an iPad and Think You Shouldn't Either. Also see Joel Johnson's similarly impassioned counterpoint.]
[Andrew Keen summed it up nicely in this tweet: "my prediction: iPad will formalize chasm between Apple's high-end paid content model & Google's low-end free model. Adieu to mass media."]
[Quinn Norton discusses the Elephant in the room: the iPad is simply too expensive for most people.]
[Investor Howard Lindzon shows off the NASDAQ app w/ StockTwits support. Lovely UI!]
[Round-up of media brands currently on the iPad.]