Generation C and the Co-Production Economy

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 itself has been popularised by online articles and has begun to take hold with the aid of viral marketing, virtual magazines 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 towards “knowledge work” involving technology and/or creative pursuits and how this is impacting on cities and economies.

Labelling 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. Contrarians like Andrew Keen go 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 as  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 burned during the first tech boom.

Notwithstanding all the cynicism, I 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 Seybold doesn’t think so. In fact she articulates a somewhat clinical and business centric view. She’s adamant that Web 2.0 is neither a fad nor a phenomenon associated with a particular demographic. Web 2.0 enables not only peer produced digital content, but also opens a whole new channel to engage with customers by allowing them to co-design the products and services they want.  More importantly 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 its cutting edge? Once everyone is converted to Generation C and is cross-trading the same images, soundbites and 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:  “That Web 2.0 is all fizz and no substance”.

3 thoughts on “Generation C and the Co-Production Economy

  1. >Once everyone is converted to Generation C and is cross-trading the same images, >soundbites and information nuggets repeatedly, will this devalue the opportunity?

    Good question. I think co-creation will just become the normal way of doing things, which doesn’t devalue the opportunity, just the novelty.

    Look at Threadless. These young guys have grown up only knowing the digital way of doing things. It just makes sense to them – and reduces business risk like crazy – to co-create products.

    However you do have a point in that this is a great time to be starting a Web 2.0 kind of company, if only for the PR opportunities it provides.

    There’s still a digital divide (and sometimes I wonder if it’s growing) between the digerati (Generation C and learned Gen C) and those who can’t, won’t or just don’t understand it. And lots of opportunities in translating one to the other!

  2. You’re welcome Simon. I guess the concern I have stems from my understanding of social network theory. The best ideas reside in the interstices between disparate networks of individuals. Connecting the networks and facilitating knowledge exchange makes good ideas happen.

    But when you fill up that space or when the same information diffuses throughout a network, it loses immediacy and much of its marketable value.

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