January 31, 2008

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It’s a huge stretch to think about society, and about business, from the perspective of the independently empowered individual. In business, and even in government, we are so accustomed to thinking about people as dependents, and to seeing their abilities in terms of what we as institutions allow, that it’s difficult to switch our perspective around — and think about companies, and organizations, existing at our grace, and building their services on what we bring to the collective table.

Until I read this piece by Adriana Lukas this morning I hadn’t fully realized how the ubiquitous use of the word content, which I’ve griped about for years (and which Adriana quotes) frames our understanding of markets, and media, in ways that place presumed control in the hands of “providers” other than ourselves. Even UGC — “User Generated Content” — is not seen as ours, but as freight for media companies to forward for their own purposes. As John Perry Barlow put it a few years back, “I didn’t start hearing about ‘content’ until the container business felt threatened”.

Media is where the madness is maintained. And that madness will persist for as long as we continue to assume that business is shipping, and that our worth is measured as freight for The Media’s container cargo business.

But rather than gripe some more, Adriana offers a useful way of framing the full worth of individuals, the creative goods they produce, and what they bring to both social and business relationships: the concept of the person as the platform:

Content is media industry term. The number of people talking about content grows every day as they assume roles that before only media could perform. With more tools and ways of distributing, photos, videos, writings, cartoons etc. are being ‘liberated’ from the channel world. Alas, often sliding into the platform and silo world. As far as I am concerned there are only two platforms – the individual user and the web.

That gives us something interesting to work with as we continue exploring how this changes everything.

The link behind that picture leads to a small set of shots I took with my new little inexpensive Canon pocket camera (with a name like a license plate, so I don’t remember it). Takes some getting used to, but I like it.

One of the pleasant discoveries I’ve made since moving (at least temporarily) Back East (as we, or they, say in California), is that I enjoy the winter. Nothing is prettier than New England under a fresh snow. That’s what I was trying to shoot there.

What I missed was taking some shots the day before the snows came, when the ponds were both frozen and clear. I bought some skates and went out on one of the local ponds with The Kid, who with a total of hours on skates was far better than his old man, who hadn’t been on the things in at least three decades — and hadn’t skated on a pond or a lake since his teens. So we’re talking, like, 45 years ago, give or take.

Now it’s warmed up and about all that’s left of the snow is gray glaciers of former slush along the sides of roads. Still, it’s pretty to me.

This weekend we’ll go skiing with friends up in Vermont. My first time skiing there. Looking forward to that, here at midnight in Toronto (at the moment).