Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Congratulations Six to Start!

I posted a while ago about the awesomeness of Six to Start and their We Tell Stories project.
They have just been awarded the Experimental and Best of Show awards at SXSW for the collaboration with Penguin Books.


Read more here:

Other big winners:

Games: Why So Serious? The Dark Knight Alternate Reality Game from 42 Entertainment
Community and Peoples Choice: Lost Zombies
Activism: Tweet Congress

Full listing here:

Monday, 16 March 2009

Extreme Neighborliness

Local communities are organizing to become stronger together. Described by Allison Arieff as “Extreme Neighborliness” - a concept “so old-fashioned as to seem innovative” - this movement is gaining power as scalable local initiatives are applied to the social web.

Carrotmob.org from San Francisco, and WannaStartaCommune? from LA are leading the way in community organizing for local economic, social and environmental benefit.

So Easy
Carrotmob uses the power of the crowd to effect sustainable change through local shopping. By harnessing an action that people are doing anyway – grocery shopping - and organizes in a way that uses the power of the group to demand sustainable action. One customer, buying one carton of milk, may not be able to influence their local retailer, but 500 customers, buying 500 cartons of milk, have a combined buying power that would make any local store pay attention.

At no extra financial or logistical cost, customers are secure that their purchases are working for local sustainable good. Carrotmog explains it well: Carrotmob simply asks people to coordinate and plan the purchases they are already making. This model is not threatening, not expensive, not time-consuming, not uncomfortable, not “radical,” not confusing, and not negative. It’s the perfect level of involvement for most people.

How Organized Consumer Purchasing Can Change Business from carrotmob on Vimeo.

SoYouWannaStartaCommune? is providing tools for small groups of neighbors to organize the sharing of local resources to save money, time and energy. They provide a downloadable pdf http://www.wannastartacommune.com/store/cart.php?m=view guide that gives instructions for Getting Started, What's in a Commune, a Resource-sharing Guide, Potluck & Workshop Planning Tools, Simple Organizational Documents and Technology Tips to help you manage and grow your commune.

They too harness the assets available at a small community’s disposal when they work together – Linked back yards or disused land? Room for a vege patch. Limited car parking? Try car sharing. Combined energy usage? Solar or wind power becomes a viable option for a group of housing. Varied work schedules? Potential for shared child minding. These assets are already in the community. All it takes is to come together in an organized way to take advantage of them.

win + win = WIN
Carrotmob challenges businesses to compete for consumer loyalty. As a result, these stores get a ready made fan base willing to support them. Though they pledge a percentage of their profit to sustainable improvements, they increase their customer base and increase total sales. By implementing sustainable improvements to their stores, they will also reap the reward of long term cost savings from increased energy efficiency.

Carrotmob can put rewards in place that will make environmental responsibility the most profitable choice. Companies will do what we want, not because of negative pressure, or morality, or a boycott, or a petition…there are enough sticks out there. We need a big juicy carrot. They will do what we say because they won’t be able to resist the profits.

SoYouWannaStartaCommune? challenges neighbors to pool their talents, assets and expenses to find sustainable and communal solutions.

Carrotmob have big plans. They are using the power of the local to effect small changes in family owned businesses. The power of their movement now is firmly rooted in a block by block, neighborhood by neighborhood engagement. With a little organization, they see potential to move up from local grocery stores, to big shiny corporations. As the consumer communities they create grow larger, the more power they wield.

SoYouWannaStartaCommune? needs to be based in smaller local groups. As a community grows, and the less personal contact you have with each other, the less likely you are to go out of your way to compromise or help someone out. Working in groups based around culdesacs or apartment blocks defines a community and connects them with a strong bond of locality. That said, the suburban commune concept is infinitely scalable as communities form block by block, apartment complex by apartment complex.

Carrotmob Makes It Rain from carrotmob on Vimeo.

Using the power of the group requires an organizer. Someone who is willing to lead and schedule and mediate. As demonstrated by these two initiatives, there are an increasing number of people out there willing to teach you the tools to organize. To enable you to harness the power of your local groups and challenge communities to effect change. In the words of Carrotmob – to “do it with the carrot not the stick”.

(PS. thanks to Will for the heads up on Carrotmob. x)

Thursday, 5 March 2009

and Zombies

The new book by Seth Graham-Smith is feeding a Zombie frenzy. Just add “and Zombies” to a search and see what you can find.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies features the original text of Jane Austen's beloved novel with all-new scenes of bone-crunching zombie action. As our story opens, a mysterious plague has fallen upon the quiet English village of Meryton--and the dead are returning to life! Feisty heroine Elizabeth Bennet is determined to wipe out the zombie menace, but she's soon distracted by the arrival of the haughty and arrogant Mr. Darcy. What ensues is a delightful comedy of manners with plenty of civilized sparring between the two young lovers--and even more violent sparring on the blood-soaked battlefield as Elizabeth wages war against hordes of flesh-eating undead. Complete with 20 illustrations in the style of C. E. Brock (the original illustrator of Pride and Prejudice), this insanely funny expanded edition will introduce Jane Austen's classic novel to new legions of fans.

By Seth Grahame-Smith

Road Signs and Zombies

Austin, Texas - Hackers perform public service warning commuters of Zombies in area: "Zombies ahead! Run for your lives!"

Interactive internet movies and Zombies

What would you do? This interactive horror film allows viewers to make their own decision to live or die. Make the right choice, and live on to the next scene. Make the wrong decision and it could be your last. Http://www.survivetheoutbreak.com

Banks and Zombies

Zombie Banks is “an apt label, given that zombies are basically "the outer husks" of what they once were, robbed of their inner soul and staying alive by feeding off the living”. Listen to Zombie Banks here at NPR.

Pirates and Zombies

Instructables.com - The World's Biggest Show and Tell - engages in a pirate attack on Threerings.com, makers of Whirled, an online game environment.

Three Rings gathers its zombie horde to defend its honor against the nefarious Instructables crew.

Reality TV & the Will to Participate

Is Big Brother responsible for the highest USA voter turnout since 1972?

  • Youth Turnout Rate Rises to at Least 52% with 23 Million Voters Under 30
  • 3.4 Million More Young People Vote than in 2004
  • Young Voters Account for at Least 60% of Overall Increase
  • 18% of All Voters Were Young
From CIRCLE – The Centre for Information & Research on Civic Learning & Engagement

Have reality TV shows like Big Brother or American Idol - which challenge the audience to vote to determine the outcome of their entertainment - trained a generation of Americans to get to the polls?

Has voting for reality TV, trained us to vote in reality?

I went to a Communications Forum at MIT last week that focused on: Popular Culture and the Political Imagination. The panel included Johanna Blakley, David Carr, and Stephen Duncombe, with Henry Jenkins as moderator. The conversation focused on the new political consciousness taking shape in and around popular culture and raised the concept of the election as entertainment.

With larger than life villains and heroes, a classical “sword from a stone” story arc, celebrity cameos, unlimited interactive multi-platform media, and MC’d nightly by Colbert, Stewart, and Fey, the recent election played out like a blockbuster series of American Political Idol.

According to a 2001 survey of over 2000 Americans (aged 8 to 54): "The No. 1 reason people watch (reality TV) is the thrill of "guessing who will win or be eliminated from the show." That thrill is the reason cited by 69 percent of all reality TV watchers, and 84 percent of regular viewers, who make a point to watch. The second and third most common reasons viewers tune in are to "see people face challenging situations" and "imagining how I would perform in similar situations," stated by 63 percent and 42 percent of all viewers, respectively."

It is easy to see how these motivations for engagement could be transferred to the recent election. As the panel discussed, Obama was able to build an engaging and relatable brand that people really cared about, his message of HOPE was able to become a generic vessel for peoples aspirations and he became a symbol for people apply their own beliefs to. Like many reality show contestants, he started out as just a regular guy, he let people imagine how they would perform in his situation.

We have now been exposed to about 10 years of reality TV. As a society we understand the format, the tricks and what is expected of us as an audience. Audience responses demonstrate a sophisticated approach to what they are seeing that has been honed over long periods:
"The fact that audiences apply a sliding scale of factuality to reality programs suggests one of the ways they have learned to live with this genre over the past decade. Audiences watch popular factual television with a critical eye, judging the degree of factuality in each reality format based on their experience of other types of factual programming. In this sense, viewers are evaluators of the reality genre, and of factual programming as a whole."

As savvy evaluators of our media, we are now versed to demand certain things from our entertainment. One of those things is the ability to participate in the outcome of events.

In 2005, the Super Girls phenomenon hit mainland China. Super Girls is a pop star making program modeled on American Idol where contestants sing and are voted off by the audience. The final episode of the 2005 season was one of the most popular shows in Chinese broadcast history, drawing over 400 million viewers.

"One of the main factors contributing to the show's popularity was that viewers are able to participate in the judging process by sending text messages with their mobile phones to vote for their favorite contestants. During the 2005 regional contest in Chengdu alone, 307,071 message votes were cast for the top three contestants, each vote costing 0.5 to 3 yuan. This was considered as one of the largest "democratic" voting exercises in mainland China."

Audience participation has been cited as the most crucial factor in its success. As winners were determined by cellphone short messaging votes... the show "blazed a trail for cultural democracy," said Zhu Dake, a renowned critic of cultural matters. "It's like a gigantic game that has swept so many people into a euphoria of voting and selecting, which is testament of a society opening up," Zhu argued.

A further comment: An even more noteworthy thing is that the Super Girls have stimulated the will to participate. The SMS voting seems to have introduced a new form for direct election. It is direct, it is convenient, it is fast and it works. It can simplify the voting process. It can be done in a few minutes' time. It seems to be just a technical problem to make it become the main means of voting.

Politics as entertainment has the potential to both open doors to engagement and also trivialize important and serious issues. The key driver I see for encouraging a blend lies in the comment above – Stimulating the will to participate. If politics is entertainment, and people are taught to engage with their entertainment in a meaningful and critical manner, then people will learn the tools to increasingly engage in the debate, in the creation, and in the management of their society.

As we move towards increasingly interactive and pervasive entertainment, and audiences progressively demand the ability to influence and author the outcomes of events, it seems inevitable that we will learn to become more socially engaged in our communities.

Note – I would love to find some more recent data to dis/prove this. Who can help?