”Tools of participation – that is the new economy. You cannot package an authentic experience. You set the stage and let people script their own dramas.”
Word of mouth only
Those are the words of David Batstone, an american business entrepreneur, professor and journalist, I heard speak at the SIME ´05 conference. With the Internet we are moving away from information society, dominated by top-down mass-market approach, to an interaction society characterised by participation. Tools of participation are enabling this, expanding rapidly by word of mouth only. In fact, many of the highest valued brands today are not doing any marketing at all. They let the users do it for them.
Creating economic value
David Batstone writes: “The online world, in my humble view, has tapped out its usefulness as a static kiosk. Yes, it's a terrific reference librarian, retail outlet, and one-stop data shop. But the next quantum growth for the Internet will arrive with participation technologies that give us the tools to transform our lives. In truth, the Net as a communications platform has been my sense of its real potentiality all along. It is the first glimpse of an emerging economy. You give me the tools to make my own personal history, to change my life, to feel in a new way, to participate in something authentic, you will own a piece of economic value.”
Examples of enablers
The open source model used for Linux is well known. Over 20 million programmers are jointly developing code together. The free Internet telephone software Skype, with 200 million user (Nov, 2005) and the search engine Google are other tools of participation. “Internet is reducing the transaction costs and entry barriers in all industries”, says Andrew McLauchglin, chief policy officer of Google Inc. This gives rise to hyper competition, but also enables smaller brands to sell their products. For example, over 700 000 people selling goods and services in the US have e-Bay as their main source of income. CDBaby has enabled some 400 000 independent bands to sell their music.
Online social networking
Other tools of participation are CIWI and Open BC enabling social networking on line. OpenBC has some 650 000 members mainly in Europe and Asia, available in 16 languages, enabling the members to not only keep track of what their contacts, and their contacts contacts, are doing, but also where they are at a specific moment in time. Speaking about social networking, the online community Lunarstorm is in fact the largest city in Sweden with 1.2 million users, representing 75% of all young kids in Sweden. With 1.3 billion web pages linked to every month, it is as big as the largest online newspaper in India. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit has over 800 000 articles in the US only. Habbo Hotel, a virtual hang-out pixelized as a 5-star luxury hotel, engage 5 million users with an annual turnover of 40 million euros.
Click on the title of this blog (“12. Tools of participation”) to read the whole article by David Batstone.