Friday, June 13, 2008

The great disruption of social networks reaches its tipping point

I feel like I've been warning that global warming was about to reach its tipping point - and suddenly images of the arctic glaciers collapsing, crashing into the sea at an alarming rate, are being broadcast around the world, providing hard evidence for all to see.

The great disruption of social networks has reached its tipping point. The theory of the impact of the networked world has become real. The evidence is now with us.

A short time ago I wrote that the disruption caused by social networks had only just begun. I thought we'd been guilty of over-estimating the change that the internet heralded - and of underestimating the significance of the rapid charge toward ubiquity of social connectedness - via the easy-to-use tools of 2.0 - social networks in their various guises.

But it looked to me like a two-speed 'social' world had emerged:
1. UGC-powered broadcast models (where 99% of the 'audience' consumed what 1% created)
2. Total Communities: where to take part you have to create part (eg twitter, secondlife, facebook (reversing the 99/1)

But now, Via JP Rangaswami's Confused of Calcutta, comes evidence of the inconvenient truth of the speed with which the networked world is emerging - a shock for those of us who perhaps thought the UGC-powered broadcast model was something more persistant than a hangover of the broadcast world.

It's evidence of the speeding up from broadcast to networked, from centre to edge.

It concerns youtube - one of the models I placed firmly on the UGC-powered broadcast side of the equation.

In the past our assumptions were that it followed the 1% create, 99% audience model.

That may be changing - and very rapidly indeed.

JP Rangaswami tells us that Dr Michael Wesch, (of The Machine is Us/ing Us and A Vision of Students Today) is speaking on the Anthropology of YouTube at the Library of Congress in Washington DC.

And this, according to the Library of Congress news release is what he will be talking about:
"More video material has been uploaded to YouTube in the past six months than has ever been aired on all major networks combined, according to cultural anthropologist Michael Wesch. About 88 percent is new and original content, most of which has been created by people formerly known as “the audience.” "Wesch will discuss the three-year-old video-sharing Web site in a lecture titled “The Anthropology of YouTube” at 4 p.m. on Monday, June 23, in the Montpelier Room on the sixth floor of the Library of Congress’ James Madison Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C."

Update: " finishing highly experimental presentation for Lib. of Congress ... 50 minute video made of over 300+ YouTube vids that I will narrate live"

I think this part is worth repeating:
"In the last six months...About 88 percent is new and original content, most of which has been created by people formerly known as “the audience.”

The numbers were so impressive that I thought I ought to check with Dr Wesch. I am extremely grateful for how rapidly he has responded:

"The numbers are as fuzzy as the distinction between professional and amateur. We are very confident that at least 80.3% of all content is UGC ... and as much as 95% (depending on how it is defined).
"The difficulty comes because many "users" are now creating near-professional-level content and are often getting paid for it - even if they did not expect to get paid for it when they started creating videos. I would consider myself one of these people in this fuzzy category (see my youtube account "mwesch")
"And one more clarification: the 88% figure refers only to what is new and original (and may be ugc or pro) - the other 12% are repeats, reloads, or stuff that was copied from TV, etc.. I think 80.3% is the safest figure for what we call "unambiguously user-generated content"

The notion that we are all publishers now (and that also means we are all advertisers now) has taken a giant leap from theoretically possible to actually happening.

The networked world is becoming reality before our eyes.

The end is in sight for the silent majority
When all is said and done Youtube may yet remain a UGC-powered broadcast model, attracting large audiences to consume that which is created by ever-larger numbers of user-creators. But as surely as participation rises towards the norm, so those who would passively consume will fall into a silent minority.

They'll get as much as they ever got from the broadcast world, which is to say, rather less than those of us enjoying the fruits of the networked world.

I'll be speaking about some of the implications of this in New York next week. Find me at WidgetWebExpo I'll be in NYC from Saturday evening.

The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?