I predict that one way or another we’ll be hearing more about “Generation C” the Community of talented individuals who Connect to Co-Create Content. What a mouthful! Appropriately, the phrase itselfÂ has been popularised byÂ online articlesÂ and has begun to take hold with the aid of viral marketing, virtual magazinesÂ and blogging. Idealog ran an article on the topic about a year ago.
The concept probably had part of its origins in Richard Florida’s controversial, but widely read book The Rise of the Creative Class, which explores the Post-Industrial shift towardsÂ “knowledge work”Â involving technology and/or creative pursuits and how this is impacting on cities and economies.
LabellingÂ the co-production economy as the next Renaissance is possibly going a little far at this stage and I still believe we do need to question the validity of crowd-written editorial.Â Contrarians like Andrew Keen goÂ even further, espousing a dystopian view of the future whereby the Internet enables the lowest common denominator to prevail in the world of arts and letters. He describes Web 2.0 asÂ a “vertiginous media world in which content and advertising become indistinguishable”. However, Keen may have an axe to grind. He founded an Internet startup company that crashed and burnedÂ during the first tech boom.
Notwithstanding all the cynicism,Â IÂ do like Matt Webb’s summation of what Gen C stands for amongst creative and connected people. Community, empowerment and sharing seem like important themes even without referring to the Internet in any way. I’ve seen the phrase “digital socialist” used in the context of freeing up better broadband connectivity and perhaps that moniker applies here too. So is Gen C and the disintermediation of traditional media and consumer channels perceived as a broader threat to capitalism?
Patricia SeyboldÂ doesn’t think so. In fact sheÂ articulates a somewhat clinical and business centric view.Â She’s adamant that Web 2.0 is neither a fad nor a phenomenon associated with a particularÂ demographic. Web 2.0 enables not only peer produced digital content, but also opens a whole new channel to engage with customers by allowingÂ them to co-designÂ the products and services theyÂ want.Â More importantlyÂ let’s imagine what might be possible if we networked entire organisations together and let them collaborate on interesting stuff.
But once corporates and government agencies take it onboard, will Web 2.0 then become mainstream and lose itsÂ cutting edge? Once everyone is converted to Generation CÂ and is cross-trading the same images, soundbites andÂ information nuggets repeatedly, will this devalue the opportunity? Will we still be able to differentiate between knowledge and folklore?
The folks at Webstock have organised a panel debate and networking evening in Wellington on June 19th. The topic of the debate is:Â “That Web 2.0 is all fizz and no substance”.