Tag Archives: Free culture

The Economics of Free Culture

I’ve spent the last 18 months in a period of self-development: learning, thinking and writing. There has been a vague idea of something ‘book-like’ at the end of the process that might generate an income but, to date, I have earned nothing. I am a kept man. In Mrs. Woos words recently, “It’s lucky you can occasionally make me laugh or you’d be dead”.

Last night I gave a 10 (11) minute talk in the form of a book review of a series of blog posts. I did all the preparation between 2pm and 5pm, without too many distractions and it was more structured than my normal on-the-fly blog posts. Ignoring the ideas that I slipped in from the previous research, this is the best data I have from which I can measure my writing productivity.

If we assume a rather optimistic income of £50,000 a year for a writer and an optimistic 2 weeks per year holiday (due to the constand flow of work, at steady rate which I can satisfy), we get a nice round target of £1,000 per week to aim for, or £100 per half day. So, to have a comfortable life as a writer, I would need to find someone willing to pay me £100 for a page of writing that I hadn’t even had to research, or at least double that if if they wanted me to go somewhere to present it, plus expenses. So, £250 per 10 minute speaking engagement or they could just read it here for nothing and I could get a bar job like most artists and musicians I know. As everything becomes free, our creative economy is imploding. I need a new commercial model.

Let’s imagine there was a micro-payment system for this blog. How cheap does information have to be, to compete with free, when people are drowning in an information flood? The Free culture of the Information Revolution is doing for new writers what karaoke did for pub singers.

For the first time in my life, I’m asking myself, “What would Simon Cowell do?” and the implications of that are too horrible to contemplate. When my childhood in the Sixties promised a future of 50% leisure time to weave a new kaftan or write poetry, I imagined the wealth and the leisure would be distributed evenly. I should have considered the broken promises of the industrial revolution to save us all from toil.

Agile, Lean and Failing Early

About a year ago I started to write ‘a book’ with a working title of ‘Information Metaphysics’, about the essential nature of this thing called ‘information’ that we all think we understand, until we think about it more. That is still a work in progress.

I deliberately allowed myself to be distracted, to explore my notion of creativity and to write another book about the role of co-incidence in life while exploring a painting and a poem of the same name. At some point I ran aground in shallow water and started to worry that I was failing to demonstrate any progress towards ever earning any income from writing.

In the corner, I had a stack of  ideas that didn’t fit in with my evolving concepts for either book. I came up with the idea of writing up each of these ideas, as you might a blog post, and Lean publishing them, regularly in an online portfolio. People would be able to download a sample, then if they liked it, effectively subscribe, at a low price point (US $5,) for all further instalments ever. This would partially fund my extravagant life-style of black coffee and cheese sandwiches, while I completed my main book. [ If you are a regular reader of this blog , at this point please think of yourself as EMI rejecting the Beatles, or perhaps sacking The Sex Pistols. ]

One of the main advantages of Agile and Lean development (I had planned to explain what the differences are) is that something that is bound to fail, fails quickly, with minimal damage. This morning I accepted that my experiment has not worked and ‘unpublished’ my book “Finds & Thinks”. There is apparently no market for my kind of cheap, concept-culture, when people can see as much free stuff as they have time to read, watch or listen to without having to think at all. You might wish to Pinterest this post so you can forget about what you’ve done.

Of course, I may just be rubbish at thinking and writing but I prefer to think it is an early warning sign that Free culture isn’t working for those who come up with new ideas. Which, I think, is about what Iggy Pop said in his BBC John Peel Lecture.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04lcj6z (only available for 14 days)

I might even get a job. The Man pays better. If you see him, tell him I’m waiting.  But if he’s late, I may have completed my solution to intertwingularity. If you don’t know what it is, look it up. It was going to be in the $5 book.

Free Anarchy

The following has been conceived and written in one day. Please consider it a first draft of the manifesto for the ‘share nicely’ revolution – the happy face of Anarchy in the UK.

As predicted, The Revolution will not be televised. It will however be streamed, live-Tweeted and blogged as the State has only just noticed that it has temporarily lost control.You’d think they’d be putting some sort of controls in place to limit our freedom of speech… They’ve what? Oh dear… Well that sucks!

This week, four ‘comfortably off men’, representatives of the UK’s State: Prince Charles, David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband (in my unresearched order of richness) met to encourage young people who face a possible future of economic failure and joblessness to ‘get on their bikes’ and work for nothing for the good of The Big Society (them.)
Obviously only the richer kids will have a bike; just as only middle-class parents will afford to buy their kids a job by funding them during a couple of years of internship or an industrial apprenticeship. I imagine the ceremony to have been accompanied by a backgound chorus of press representatives singing “get a job, you scroungers” to the older siblings and parents of many of the assembled kids.

I fear I spot a discontinuity and I have to agree that Occupy, Anonymous and Russel Brand have a point. Something is seriously Wrong and I don’t know what to do about it either.

The problem for those calling for revolution is that we’re already having one and whilst I applaud our leaders for embracing the uprising of ‘Free culture’, I’m not sure that this is quite what most of us involved at the grass-roots level of the movement had in mind and we’re not ready to be ploughed-over just yet.

A brief review of my superficial knowledge of European history today has informed me that revolutions come in two flavours:

  • technological: (which travel in pairs, the second a direct consequence of the first) with ‘the management’ in charge but showing no real forethought, then
  • political: the violent response from an angry population that has somehow been displaced by the ruling class’s selfish exploitation of the change. This revolution results in major changes to political and economic systems.

The Industrial Revolution led to the start of modern Capitalism. The next one seems likely to end it.

Political revolutions are often inspired by intellectuals but implemented by people who enjoy the sound of boot on brain. Let’s hope we can avoid that outcome this time around, before Occupy take their Internet back. We’ve had the ‘Computer/Information Revolution’ and we’re in the ‘Information Sharing Revolution’ but They aren’t sharing nicely and I’m angry. A lot of people are. Science recently showed that 2-year old humans are pre-programmed to expect their fair share of the rewards from anything they worked for. Fairness is in our DNA. We’d like it now please.

Our economic revolution seems likely to remove capital as the primary constraint on human endeavour, as agricultural and industrial labour were devalued by earlier revolutions. The Information Sharing Revolution may make ownership of the means of production and mythical Intellectual Property rights and management of the state out of the hands of leaders. Hive society needs a shared purpose not management. ‘Leaders’, please collect your tools of control, today’s meetings are cancelled. We’ll govern ourselves thanks.