SxSW: Bruce Sterling’s Annual Rant

by Luke Wroblewski March 12, 2007

Bruce Sterling’s annual rant at South by Southwest 2007 took at interesting look at common space peer production (participation culture, social applications) and where it was heading.

  • 2006 was the year of video. It is the stupidest of media –where a lot of dumb things happen.
  • TV and Internet will not converge. Broadband will eat old media and the old guard is putting up walls. The native Internet generation cares nothing about the proprieties of old media.
  • Cultural studies, law studies, and media studies –all taking about the same ground swell. Common Space Peer Production is an entirely new method and approach to getting wealth and power, which is why the establishment is interested in it.
  • First world is the global market (global capitalism). Second world is all forms of governance. The new third world is common space peer production: it is a new thing (not communism, not capitalism). It is not for profit conglomerate activity. Fourth world has nothing but the fastest growing population.
  • This third world has existed before but never been put into mass scale production like it is today.
  • Henry Jenkins thinks their baby is going to be knifed. But it is not that fragile. Politics of fear being applied to participatory culture.
  • Things that are businesses will stop being viable. Craig Newmark (Craig’s List) is not interested in having a business. He is interested in having 20 million friends. But Craig’s List is gutting newspaper classified ad revenue.
  • Someone is making your business into a social-based peer system where laborers are doing better work than an industry without really working.
  • There are downsides to fandom. Fan art is not good and will never be good. We will not see a good painting by committee.
  • Mash-ups might enable creativity. But they are an epi-phenomenon. They are not moving culture forward. Technical capability does not necessarily make things better.
  • Media is not converging, but becoming different flavors from the same mixing machine. Different forms of media are just different browsers for ones and zeros.
  • Powerful enough compositing tools melt down media.
  • The downside of folk culture is that is for hicks.
  • We need a new form of media criticism to understand what is good. To valorize new media is to be an electronic hick.
  • Blogs are a passing thing. Most interesting blogs are platforms for development.
  • The worse form of semiotic pollution is spam. What kind of medium does that? Imagine buying a TV and it tries to rob you.
  • Reed Hundt has a scheme to take away a couple of channels away from broadcast TV. Broadcast TV debases the poverty impoverished people who still watch it. Take those same wavelengths and put the internet on them. This would saturate TV areas with broadband. It would move America from 20th place in broadband to the top. Our current place is kind of humiliating.
  • What it takes to build a third kind of production system:
    • Divy up the work. Lots of work and no one wants to do it all. Work has to be granular, modular, and integratable.
    • Even if contribute only 5 seconds, still add value. 5 million little bits, 5 heavy operators.
    • Divide into projects (modular). Show progress.
    • Integrate: has to add up into one thing that achieves something in society. Must do something.
    • Self-selective: people chose to join
    • In or out mechanism: don’t trap people; give them a two way membrane.
    • Communication: need a platform to discuss (fast, efficient)
    • Trust construction: learn how to trust each other. Confidence building measures.
    • Norm creation: how to behave in order to fit in; what’s allowed? What’s normal behavior?
    • Transparency: can’t do it behind from behind the current.