Econ of Open Content
Ok, so I can’t resist reflecting on some of what’s being discussed at this conference. I told myself I’d lay off blogging until after the OCW eval report was done, but this is really such a good conference. Producer culture issues abound.
It was extraordinary to hear the director of training from a major media company animation department describing how a woman in her basement can produce animations that begin to approach professional quality. After that presentation, there was some discussion of how major studios would survive, and there was some soft language about how there’d always be room for both. Time will tell.
I think I’ve covered this before, but highly-centralized, expensive modes of production created the blockbuster movie, the movie star, and the best-selling author. When you can only make a few movies, and they’re really expensive to make, you have to get the most people possible to watch it. You do this through mass advertising and the fetishization of the stars. If you want to sell books, you elevate Stephen King to the status of genius. But none of this actually represents the distribution of acting or writing skills–it just represents the capacity of the machine to sustain stars. Plenty of others are equally talented, and increasingly, plenty of others now possess the means of production to share their talents.
The really new and interesting observation, which came out yesterday and I can’t attribute as I should, was that while we’ve moved into a producer culture mode with regard to the means, we are still living with a mass media hangover with regard to the content. That is to say that most of the content currently used in distributed productions is based in, responds to, critiques, extends and satirizes mass media content. It’s what the producers know, what the consumers of distributed content recognize, respond to, and reinterpret. A good example of this is the full-length fan-created Star Wars movie that’s been created.
This tension between producer culture means and mass media-based content plays out in many intellectual property arenas. The Star Wars fan movie exists because George Lucas is willing to cede control of the Star Wars property to some extent. Disney, I’d expect, would be somewhat less open to similar attempts. So the question in my mind is, When the hangover ends, what then?