Turning consumers into producers

The final scan of my RSS feeds, last night, pulled in an item from Doc Searls who said that he was on live radio at The Linux Show. (Doc's item also mentions the RSS Winterfest Webcast a week from today. I'll be there; the complete list of participants is here.) When I clicked through to The Linux Show's stream, I heard Doc say some things about the recent Macworld and CES shows that really hit home -- so much so that I wanted to hear them again. I reached for the RealPlayer's slider, but it was unresponsive. Doc wasn't kidding, he really was coming live from that radio show. His announcement of that fact made it from his computer to his blog to my aggregator in time for me to catch the live stream. Just another one of the daily miracles that I can't yet bring myself to take for granted.

Here's the bit that caught my ear:

The most significant announcement was GarageBand. What Apple has started doing is providing the means by which consumers become producers. And in doing so, he [Jobs] is hacking the industry. He's hacking the entertainment industry, and he's hacking the consumer electronics industry.
Exactly right. Why should you care, if you're reading this blog for insight into enterprise information technology? A book I've mentioned before, Jeremy Rifkin's The Age of Access, helps connect the dots. In our April 2003 story, Leveraging a global advantage, I used the meme -- expounded on by Rifkin in this book, David Friedman in Inc. Magazine, and others -- that "every business will be like show business." For the purposes of our story, that meant a fluid ad-hoc approach to assembling the teams and resources needed to develop enterprise software.

But Rifkin's book takes a broader view:

A final point needs to be made about the Hollywood organizational model that is too often glossed over or missed altogether in discussions of management strategies. It's no mere coincidence that other industries try to model the way the entertainment industry is organized. The cultural industries -- including the recording industry, the arts, television, and radio -- commodify, package, and market experiences as opposed to physical products or services. Their stock and trade is selling short-term access to simulated worlds and altered states of consciousness. The fact is, they are an ideal organizational model for a global economy that is metamorphosing from commodifying goods and services to commodifying cultural experience itself. [Jeremy Rifkin, The Age of Access]
There's much more in this fascinating book, whose basic premise is that the defining principle of capitalism is now no longer ownership of property bought and sold in markets, but rather access to services leased within networks of suppliers and users. That we are now organizing our IT infrastructure as a loose federation of services is, I would argue, another non-coincidence.

Pay close attention to the pivotal word "experience" -- as in, for example, "the user experience." It's the clue to understanding why Steve Jobs and John Mayer onstage at Macworld, mixing tracks in GarageBand, have more to do with IT's mission than you might think. The quality of experience that we deliver, through software and services, will depend on our ability to negotiate protocols and relationships in a fluid, rapidly-evolving environment. In short: to jam.

Former URL: http://weblog.infoworld.com/udell/2004/01/14.html#a886