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We have a full-blown conversation going on about the shape and direction of the conversation economy. This may be one of the most important developments of our time, having huge implications for economic growth, politics and society as a whole.
John Battelle is writing very important analytical pieces on conversational marketing. David Armano is crafting extremely important scenarios about the role of consumers in the conversation economy. Everywhere you look, in marketing, media, my own profession, journalism, business, politics, you see silos falling, communication increasing and conversations arising across traditional boundaries.
The architect and artist Maya Lin told me some years back that creativity occurs on the borders. And we have lots of creativity these days.
The whole issue of control and generation of content is at the heart of this discussion. Its what we mean by Social Media and User-Generated Content. We are clearly shifting away from a time when a few produced, distributed, sold and controlled. In journalism, we are interacting with our audience as we shape our stories, putting them online to be distributed in an infinite variety of ways around the world. Sometimes journalists lead the conversation. Sometimes they follow. Jeff Jarvis at BuzzMachine covers this all the time. . Call it media democracy.
Businesses are embracing consumers as co-creators of ads, products, services and just about everything else. Sometimes they lead, sometimes they follow. Call it business democracy.
The same thing is happening in design, which begins with a long traditional of user-focussed methodology. Now it is extended as open source, web 2.0 and other forces push the boundaries of design. Call it design democracy.
The essence of the conversational economy is that content is created by the give and take between audience and author, as Battelle puts it. The author/professional doesn’t dictate the content. The content comes out of the interaction. Just as important, the content is free from the means of distribution. Just as music file shares couldn’t be controlled (well, the big music companies tried to control them), all content these days oozes from one distribution system to another. In fact, as content is created, it becomes part of the conversation and changes that conversation. It’s iterative—very much a part of the design process. The discussion evolves and moves on. Think wiki. Therefore, content is a service provided, not a product to be controlled.
Unfortunately, there are many in the design community who do get the conversation economy. They continue to think in terms of credentials and control. In writing my Parsons speech, Are Designers The Enemy of Design, I sought to open a conversation about the issues of design democracy and sustainability. GK VanPatter followed up with a wonderful request to many design gurus to comment on those points. I wanted to continue this conversation by posting their 50 comments and commenting on them. That would expand the conversation from the design community served by NextD to the entire global business community.
But I cannot. I was censored by GK and told I could not take the 50 comments off the pdf on his journal. This is what he emailed me: “I believe you have been ill advised in your “Enemies” mission. I don’t agree/share your views and ways, so honestly I have no interest in continuing Beautiful Diversion on your “blog”. We are quite happy with its present distribution. Thousands have already been downloaded from the NextD site.
It’s all about control and content. Which side of history does design want to be on?
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