Thursday, June 30, 2005

[[ZEIGEIST]] The Long tail
Here's some articles that introduced me to the "long tail" concept:

1/ Lessons from Silicon Valley
“The 20th Century mass production world was about dozens of markets of millions of people. The 21st Century is all about millions of markets of dozens of people.”

BBC Radio 4 and World Service Presenter Peter Day talks to Joe Kraus, one of the inventors of the excite search engine. Go to article

2/ The Long Tail By Chris Anderson
"For too long we've been suffering the tyranny of lowest-common-denominator fare, subjected to brain-dead summer blockbusters and manufactured pop. Why? Economics. Many of our assumptions about popular taste are actually artifacts of poor supply-and-demand matching - a market response to inefficient distribution….retailers will carry only content that can generate sufficient demand to earn its keep… An average record store needs to sell at least two copies of a CD per year to make it worth carrying; that's the rent for a half inch of shelf space…. With no shelf space to pay for and, in the case of purely digital services like iTunes, no manufacturing costs and hardly any distribution fees, a miss sold is just another sale, with the same margins as a hit. A hit and a miss are on equal economic footing, both just entries in a database called up on demand, both equally worthy of being carried. Suddenly, popularity no longer has a monopoly on profitability… Barnes & Noble carries 130,000 titles. Yet more than half of Amazon's book sales come from outside its top 130,000 titles. Consider the implication: If the Amazon statistics are any guide, the market for books that are not even sold in the average bookstore is larger than the market for those that are…

This is the long tail. Go to article
What is synthetic knowledge?
Synthetic knowledge is based on the distinction the philosopher Immanuel Kant made between two types of knowledge.

Kant claimed that in judgements, there were only two possible relations of a subject to its predicate. The first is analytical, where the predicate belongs to the subject, and the second is synthetic, where the predicate lies totally outside of the subject. Only synthetic judgements add new material to our conception of the subject (Kant: 1993, 35). In this sense we can view traditional cultures are being analytic and modern cultures as being synthetic, because technology itself can be seen as this new additive material. This is all bound up with my PhD proposal.

Kant, Immanuel (1993), Critique of Pure Reason, J. M. D. Meiklejohn (trans.) London: Everyman
Hello there!
This is my first post in the blog world. It came about because of the convergence of three things.

The first is my interest in the open source model for doing things. Not just programming but anything. For example wikipedia, the internet encyclopaedia that allows users to edit its content, thereby creating a collaborative effort, which is greater than the sum of its parts.

The second is my interest in sustainability issues as another model for new ways of doing things. This does not have to be a luddite model of environmentalism, the idea is to use technology to bring about a sustainable future.

The third was re-reading Arthur C. Clarke's childhood's End to my son. In the chapter, the golden age, Clarke sets out his utopian view of the future, not conflicts or wars, no crime, total surveillance, an unlimited supply of consumer goods, secularism etc etc..

It's not that I agree with Clarke's ideals, what struck me when reading this was just how much the modernist paradigm of consumerism and industrialism (which Clarke was very much embedded in) is shifting, at least in terms of how society, technology and existence are conceived of.

Essentially what I am saying is that we already know now what the future will look like. And it will be a profound a shift as that between the agrarian age and the industrial age. For example I imagine that the concept of manufacturing anything for a single use will seem very alien to our descendents. What I am talking here is a paradigm shift. This suggest not the reworking of old knowledge, but the ongoing analysis of totally new knowledge. Hence the title of this blog.

What do I mean by new knowledge?

Well for example, read this article on sustainability. This article is polemical in tone and prompts more questions than it answers, but the important point is that I don't thing that we would have even be able to formulate such a polemic even five years ago.

What do I hope to do here?
This is my attempt at open source living. It is an experiment to open up certain parts of my life for others to browse critique and even alter if they want to. This 'opening up' is not in the sense of confessionals or a celebrity-style access to personal secrets. I do not want to live my life as an open book, but I do see the value in opening up those aspects which are in a sense public anyway.

These are some of the things I am interested in and which I want to make open source:

1/ I am about to embark on a PhD on immersive media

2/ I write songs

3/ I already curate a few websites on Stanley Kubrick

1/ What I want to do is share the research process of the PhD. I.e., post reports of what I am doing at every stage of the process. This work cannot obviously be a collective effort since ultimately I will have to be judged on my efforts as a individual scholar. But I hope to promote the collaborative aspect of academic study to its full capacity by offering an online diary of the writing of a PhD.

2/ I intend to make my songs available, complete with lyrics and guitar chords. I.e., an attempt at as open source songs.

3/ I'm very proud of the visual-memory sites, two of which I inherited from other people. The Kubrick Site from Geoffrey Alexander and Stanley Kubrick 1928-1999 from a guy who wished to remain anonymous. But they did most of the work on these sites, therefore these sites will largely remain as they are, as a much visited and appreciated resource on Stanley Kubrick. However I am toying with adding new sections about Kubrick scholarship, which I hope will use the open source model. I think that the Kubrick FAQ would especially benefit from open sourcing as it is was conceived through alt.movies.kubrick as a nascent form of open sourcing anyway.

That enough for now.

Any suggestions are of course welcome.