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Archive for July 2010

Graduation day, a lot of social but hardly any mobile

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Originally published at www.crossmedialab.nl on 16 July 2010.

Yesterday, we experienced the graduation of Digital Communication students. I forgot how many there were but the organization had to split up the group into two. Otherwise the ceremony would have taken four hours or so. The mentors of the graduates were instructed to speak only two minutes at the most. Fortunately, most of them stuck to the rule.
I had only three graduates but due to the fact that Erik Hekman had left for Mexico the other week, my list extended to an odd ten in total (it didn’t take me twenty minutes, though).

What struck me was an overdose of the word ‘social media’. I recon that half of the graduates’ theses dealt with the assignors’ question: “gamma a social media”. Apparently, social media is hyping. Apparently? No! Social media is hyping. But still, this is what Web Prowler criticizes on 9 May, 2010: “Only about 1% of the online population uses Twitter weekly. One suspects it has been concentrated among the media elite, even as celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey have begun using and promoting it. It’s more of a media industry thing right now. Very few people between New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco are using it”. As Web Prowler continues: “Social media has reached critical mass, with 83% of the Internet population now using it – and more than half doing so on a regular basis – according to new research being released today by Knowledge Networks. But for all the media industry’s hype and buzz surrounding social networks, micro blogs, and other social networking platforms, the genre has failed to become much of a marketing medium, and in the opinion of the Knowledge Networks’ analysts, likely never will”.

But then again, that was early May of this year. We are a moth and a half further and I guess social media has not stopped evolving. Social media has evolved – or should I say revolutionized – into masses of people using an immense number of social network sites, platforms and what have we. Could it be that we are now fully interconnected?

Only now, as the theses of our graduates proved, organizations are gradually reshaping their thoughts on using social media either as a tool to interact with their internal and external stakeholders or as a tool to some how anticipate. We all know that Twitter is a major push tool for companies. It seems to be the same old story. If you want to reach critical mass in the usage of technology, sell porn (which reminds me what good’ol Steve Jobs once said about his walled-garden system: “if you want to buy porn, buy an android”.).
Much is being experimented when it comes down to extending social media to the communication strategies of organizations. And this year’s harvest of Digital Communication Bachelors of our faculty more or less proves this hypothesis.

Some key word examples. The Attorney General’s office in Utrecht wanted a (closed and secure) social media system to meet today’s advantage of information gathering of the press; the attorneys cannot keep up with the information pace of their cases. Real estate broking is searching for new ways of interacting with house buyers and sellers, augmenting the experience for buyers to have a look inside the estate they may want to buy. This may well change the collective conservatism of that branch in the Netherlands. And as a third example, two of my graduates developed and realized a tablet application for doctors to examine people how not speak English or Dutch. The doctors can service even illiterates without these languages.

One research group graduate (Masoud Banbersta) spent six months researching, analyzing, concluding and advising on the key success factors of social network sites with an emphasis on Twitter (thesis available here). Now, that’s serious stuff but very satisfying and readable.

Back to yesterday and also back to my field of interest: mobile. Only one student graduated on something mobile (only heard about it, not read the thesis yet). I hope this will change soon as we can see points all around us tipping it off. And then I have not spoken about the next new big thing; the melting pot of social media and mobile.

From all of us at Crossmedialab: dear graduates, enjoy your summer and we all hope you make a great career start (many of you already did that and that’s fantastic).

Written by Kees Winkel

July 28, 2010 at 12:39

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Digital Communication, why won’t kids choose for it?

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Originally posted at www.crossmedialab.nl on 28 June 2010

Perhaps I am a bit occupationally deformed when it comes down to (digital) media. That’s probably because I’ve been in the media business for three decades. That must have lead to full incorporation of media as such in my life. Sometimes it is hard to understand that what I regard as important may be of utter uselessness to others who just take the media as they are. But then again, media are in every people’s lives, whether one likes it or not

So, media are important. There is no doubt about that. All of us are informed and persuaded through the media, may they be analogue or digital.
So, one may think that I am not the only one who regards the media as a very relevant phenomena in our society. Every year a couple of hundreds of youngsters enter our venue in Utrecht to leave it again after an odd four years as communication professionals. Most of these young colleagues know hardly anything mentionable regarding digital media. That is a disgrace. One should think that with the up rise of digital media would cause a natural effect on young people who want to do ‘something’ with communication. Apparently that thought is a no go.

Our fabulous education Digital Communication can’t get enough students. Kids who need to choose what to do when they grow up hardly ever consider that the future of communication and media is in digital, more specifically mobile. At least, according to me.

To wrap up, MOCOM 2020 has published this:
Approximately 60% of the world’s population has a mobile device used predominately for voice communication;data still remains a small component. Mobile communications are a delivery and transactional vehicle that fosters job creation in emerging economies and can transform other industries such as health, banking oreducation. Adirect correlation exists between increased mobile phone penetration and increased macro-and micro-economic development.
The vision for the future of mobile communications is a fully interconnected world where every citizen will access, create and use content. This is the fastest growing technology in the history of mankind and is also the most effective technology known to date to enable individuals, particularly those at the base of the pyramid, to participate in the global economy.
The nearly 4 billion mobile phone subscribers in the world are realizing multiple macro- and micro-economic and social benefits. This will only continue as more individuals become connected to the global economy and more products and services are deployed. Council Members coined the phrase “Humanity’s Nervous System” to describe this interconnected and highly personalized world.
As an industry, mobile communications are relatively recession-proof and will continue to experience growth, create jobs and unlock innovation. Economic crises result in change – as such, mobile communications will play a huge role in reducing current inefficiencies and raising the productivity of both individuals and businesses.
Three fundamental dimensions impact the future of mobile communications:
1. Access: the ability for individuals to utilize both voice and data mobile communications ubiquitously
• • Key enablers for access include:
– cost reduction of services (infrastructure sharing, handset recycling)
– a global regulatory framework with the removal of mobile specific taxes and over-regulation
• • Key uncertainties include:
– whether universal access is a fundamental human right
– whether we should strive for regulated universal access or defer to market forces
2. Applications/Platforms: the value added services and capabilities available to end-users which would be an extension of the larger public Internet
Key applications for improving the state of the world would include health, education and financial services.
• • Key enablers include:
– an open and interoperable system which creates opportunities for “bottom-up” innovation
– the increasing sophistication of handsets and user experience
• • Key uncertainties include:
– why there hasn’t been greater uptake in health, education and financial service mobile applications given rapid global subscriber adoption
– regulation with mobile banking and financial services
– who pays: financing for health and education
– the literacy challenge of those who only require a phone for voice services
3. Data Ownership (and Associated Personal Rights): the information generated and gathered on individual behaviours and transactions.
This wealth of information holds tremendous transformative potential but clear rules and transparent regulatory frameworks are needed to ensure personal wealth creation and
the prevention of abuses.
• Key enablers include:
– ownership: you own your own data
– accountability: a “post-privacy view” using watermarks to create an audit trail of who uses it
– use of anonymous and aggregated data to create new socially intelligent applications (i.e. health, urban logistics, government services)
• • Key challenges include:
– establishment of a global framework for data usage and protection
– general awareness of this dimension and its broad and fundamental power
– privacy and security of data and application
– liability of data ownership or management

Written by Kees Winkel

July 28, 2010 at 12:37

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Pandora’s Neocracy #5: Give back the Internet to the people

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Originally posted at www.crossmedialab.nl on 16 May 2010. I have added the comments.

A couple of weeks ago NOS (Dutch Broadcasting Corporation) announced that they would focus on Internet applications solely instead of forcing themselves into complicated and expensive different apps for different operating systems. At the first glimpse one may think that to be a sort of strange decision. One would expect this mastodon of digital innovation to serve as many people as possible. With all those different OS’s in the market of smart phones and other either mobile or portable devices, has NOS gone silly? Don’t they want to reach all capita? Have they no obligation to offer content to all in The Netherlands? The answer is: YES, they do. And that’s exactly why they chose to develop Internet applications instead of bringing all those different apps to all those different operating systems. And that’s smart, as far as I’m concerned. From now on everybody can obtain the contents NOS produces, aggregates and distributes, regardless of what type of OS one may have embedded in one’s smart phone. Thank God for that. Dutch public broadcaster is bringing Internet to the people – free Internet content – instead of supporting the original device and software makers. Now that’s what I call a true neocracy.

The other day I talked with a bloke who wanted to admire my iPhone as he saw me using the little rascal in public. I was making a phone call. Can you believe it? I actually used my phone to make a call. The guy had heard about iPhones and had seen them in print on posters from operators but never had seen a real one in full operation. It is hard to believe but it’s true, this story. But hey, let us not forget that people like me are like spearheads when it comes down to modern communication. So I showed the thing to him. At a certain moment I told him that I was sorry for not being able to show a lot of apps as I had not downloaded many. Apart from a Layar and QR button, my interface only offers the original buttons that came with the machine. “Why would you want them?”, he noticed. “Well”, I replied, “they, uuuh, well they come in handy. You see, here I keep my contacts, there my photo’s. That’s Youtube and next to it my calendar. Then, there’s the stocks and the compass. There is also a button for the camera, notes, maps, the weather, a Dictaphone, the clock, Safari, calculator and iTunes”, I explained the multi-color display. “And if I slide to the next page, there are some more buttons and apps. Great, hu?” They guy asked me which of these buttons I use most. I had to think. Could it be that I use the phone and Safari button most? I know I have used the compass once. Normally I know quite well where I am and I have not had any directions to go 51° North East during the last forty years or so.

Stop. I’m being over-rational. Had I been a boy scout, that compass would most certainly serve the purpose. I have heard that the US Army is using iPhones in distant Afganistan. Apparently the device is of great use to them. The machine is small, light weight and can be loaded with many relevant applications for soldiers in the cause of battle. True enough (but don’t drop it in the water). Of course I am being over-rational but I am trying to make a point.

For common civilians such as myself, many apps are not relevant. Stop again. I should not generalize my personal issues. For me reading my email on my phone is actually quite relevant.

Back to the Internet and giving it back to the people. I believe that it is the people who should decide how to use and what to use from the Internet. Currently, we, as the people, are pretty much forced into whatever marketing makes us need. As a marketer and Internet observer, I believe that marketing is making big mistakes. Sooner or later people will not accept push mechanisms any more. Power to the people!

tagged with: nos, power, people, internet


Rogier Brussee on 17 May 2010 at 17:29
Hi Kees,

the I-Phone/ Android/Blackberry/…. app phenomenon is yet another example of something that gets clearer if we analyze it from the media supply chain and the role of accessibility p.o.v.. Recall that the media supply chain is something like

production—> aggregation—> distribution—> consumption

Also recall that the web was invented by Tim Berners Lee as a social aka highly accessible medium, in the context of highly computer literate environment like CERN
because it made all the stages easy (type your conference notes with a bit of markup,  copy them to the proper directory,  and presto your colleague at SLAC can read them over the internet with the browser on his workstation). Once the web spread to the rest of the world the battle for control over the supply chain began. The internet is not an easy to control distribution medium, by design, its algorithms tend to route around damage by Hydrogen bombs and censure alike, and culture, the free for all culture was already firmly rooted and was one of the main attractions.  If the internet as a whole has an aggregation stage then it is dominated by Google and other search engines. On the consumption side, Microsoft has for many years tried to cripple access to the web by active negligence of IE, providing just enough functionality to crush netscape. But the web itself being enormously useful and profitable including for MS itself, and activist open standards based could not be crushed.

Enter mobile. The very phrase, mobile internet, is technically a contradictio in terminis, and frames the idea that it is a separate, rather than just poor and expensive but pervasive IP network. From the very start the mobile network providers, the controllers of the distribution stage, have tried to keep consumers in their own walled gardens: i.e .their own aggregation processes. They were carefully set up in such a way that the producers only get get access to distribution, and therefore to the customer, if they pay.  Conversely consumers can pay for services and content, because the network operators own an extensive billing platform.  Originally the network operators also largely controlled consumption by controlling the capabilities and the user interface of the phones. However, see below. Note that the network operators have incentives to sell subscriptions, but that carrying data only makes them money if they can charge per Mb. Otherwise it only costs them money, especially if so much traffic is generated that it requires investments in the infrastructure.

Enter Apple and the i-phone.  Apple has an interest in selling phones, and an interest in selling music and software, both of which they already have the infrastructure for to do over the internet. In other words they control both the aggregation and the consumption phase of the media supply chain. Next they manage to cow network operators (AT&T, T-mobile) in only selling the i-phone with flat fee relatively cheap subscriptions, thereby creating the conditions to use mobile as what it is: a pervasive distribution channel, over an IP network. Strangely enough i-phone users react by using the network just like they would the internet, creating traffic as if it costs nothing,
which should be enough to make the network operators hate Apple. Anyway,  by controlling the device Apple has control over aggregation and producer access to consumers/customers. In other words Apple has created another walled garden, which is just nicer looking one, and profitable to Apple rather than the network operator.  Even though Apple provides the safari webbrowser (without flash!) because they have an incentives to make the i-phone sell, they also makes sure that 1. an app (over which they have some control and on which they make a little money) provides slightly better experience than a website, 2. they carefully create the illusion and the idea that an app is special even if it is little more than a website in a frameless browser and 3. such apps are based on proprietary apple technology that cannot be easily ported to other platforms.
Enter Google with Android.  By controlling an operating system, Google gets much of the control over the device (like Microsoft has over PC’s) and potentially, they get this control over many more devices than there are i-phones (again like MS).  They do not have quite the same infrastructure for setting up a walled garden that Apple has: the Android Market is not quite the app-store, AND they don’t sell music and video content. Google will above all be interested in making their main assets, the search engine and their own services like g-mail and you-tube more valuable to advertisers by attracting more consumers. In this model, standards based web content from independent content providers fits much better,  as each such provider is a potential advertiser for Google. However,  in this model network operators will still have to play the role of IP carrier only.  It is to be seen if consumer pressure (with the I-phone as an example) will be enough to push them into this role.

three questions pose themselves:
* what will big device makers like Nokia, LG and Samsung do? At least Nokia used to control an OS, Symbian, but that seems to be slowly nearing the end of its life cycle.Nokia is also investing in opensource Linux based operating systems like MeeGo.  and setting up their own aggregation infrastructure for services for their phones. But I doubt if it can overcome the first movers advantage of the largely open source Android and the phenomenal advantage of Google’s search and other services, and provide an attractive alternative for network operators.

* What will Microsoft do ?.

* What will be the result of 4G which promises ADSL like speed but above all new competition for mobile network operators. With licenses sold at a fraction of the cost for 3 G. E.g. in the Netherlands a UMTS license costed from fl870M to fl1600M in 2000 http://www.umtsworld.com/industry/licenses.htm while a 4G license in 2009 was 1 million euro or less http://www.rijksoverheid.nl/nieuws/2010/04/26/frequentieveiling-mobiel-breedband-afgerond.html.  Thus new competitors have a better chance of being profitable while only providing IP connectivity.  Indeed existing network operators try with every legal means possible to keep these new operators of the market.



Kees Winkel on 26 May 2010 at 23:01
I couldn’t agree more. You do a good analysis of the current state of affairs. Th walled garden concept is one of technology. No words are used in marketing as the marketing of operators ans device makers focus on consumer markets, creating needs and wants. The entire industry is controlled by the distributers who either allow people to participate or not because they control the consumption possibilities. Rogier, I think we should write a paper on the subject.

Written by Kees Winkel

July 28, 2010 at 12:35

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Pandora’s Neocracy #4, mobile conventions and education

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Originally poste at www.crossmedialab.nl on 1 April 2010.

VPRO (Dutch public broadcasting member) wishes to position itself as a taste community, interacting, participating, broad- and narrowcasting both DIY and prescribed content through any given media. Ergo, it positions itself as a full Monty crossmedia media brand that will incorporate any given media as log as it reaches its target audiences and – this is rather important – those audiences reach each other as well. Rising star on its firmament is mobile. During the VPRO’s presentation at the Mobile Convention in Amsterdam today, VPRO’s Erik van Heeswijk, editor in chief of the digital department, gave a stunning example. I am really sorry I haven’t got the film yet about the crossmediality of the particular example of ‘Beagle’, VPRO’s contribution to the Darwin year. This is a true crossmedia concept with blogs, a mobile site, 1050 minutes of quality TV, radio, print (both specific publications and their TV guide), etc. They also make use of third party media like Youtube, Hyves and LinkedIn. This production must have cost quite an amount. But fortunately, Van Heeswijk replied my question whether he is obliged to share their gained knowledge and expertise with the society – as VPRO is doing this great work with public money, say tax money – with a full YES. In fact, he added, he would like to encourage this. (I’ll give him a ring next week.) Mobile, as he mentioned will become a key devices through which people will look, listen, interact and participate in his community of taste. That’s one way of looking at will is going on and what will happen in the future regarding mobile.

The convention nearly exploded with near future examples, experiments and existing services now available for any given OS. I wasn’t really amazed by the fact that iPhone users, representing approx 6% of the shipment rate, generate 43% of the mobile Internet share whilst Nokia with its 49% shipment rate only does 15%. Android is the runner up with respective 8% generating 11%; not doing badly at all. At least, according to Sanoma Digital’s enlightened Menno Bieslot. Sanoma should know. They do 68 million page views per months with their mobile site nu.nl alone. Even more interesting is the moment of consumption during the arch of a day. Guess what, mobile content consumption of nu.nl peaks as soon as 6 AM when people start waking up than goes down and peaks again towards the wee hours as of 10 PM. Sanoma is obviously preparing for a shift in media choice of consumers as they are bringing out entire magazine title aps for iPad (such as their blockbuster Autoweek, what an ap!) and, again similar devices from different brands with different OS’s (HP, Microsoft, they are all preparing t attack Apple with its new goodie).

So that’s one side of what the world is made ready for. All is marketing. Who would need all these novelties? As usual, it is a matter of creating demand and that’s what we’re good at. That is what Blutarsky & Muzar showed us in their workshop on how to use AR (augmented reality) to introduce the new Splinter Cell game for the Xbox 360. As of April 15, one can walk around Amsterdam and augment their world with location-based fantasy by means of a layer and some QR’s. Participants are challenged to play the game in a semi-real environment; A real treat for gamers (personally I dislike shooters, guess I’m too much of a VPRO-taste community node to like to play war games).

And than there was Yuri van Geest. Sorry, he was the one I started out with in the first morning session. He’s with MobileMonday and quoted – my day was made already at that moment – Paul Saffo who is with IFTF, Institute For The Future. It’s not just Saffo who inspires me, it’s Van Geest as well. Way too short was his presentation. Talked about singularity and what the Singularity University, an initiative of NASA and Google, are cooking up regarding what mobility will really be about in the (not so distant) future. His vision is that of the merge of DIY (do it yourself) DNA and mobile communication systems. To some this may sound scary. To me it sounds like something that is still a bit far away but most likely ‘coming soon in this theatre’.

So, where’s the neocracy? Don’t know! Van Geest quoted Saffo, saying that new technology such as the convergence of biology and technology takes its time in the beginning. Then it depends on, God knows what, acceleration complexities and turn into a tipping point, as Gladwell calls it. Pfffff.
Central theme as I see it in our world today is the convergence of mobile and social networking. Russell Buckley and Andrew Grill talked about it as well in their keynote speeches. This convergence is the first major new step in our Darwinist society in which action leads to reaction.

Now, how does this all translate to what one of the research group obligations is; education? One essential part of the training of bachelors is that they apply to a so-called minor. During the period of a half-year, they than either deepen a specific topic or broaden their perspective. It is their choice. So, last March 25, our university organized, as usual, a minor market. Three hundred minors were literarily marketed during a two and a half hours market floorshow that has something of the ant-like atmosphere of the Damascus souk and the crowdedness Albert Cuypmarkt during a gentle summer Saturday afternoon. Strange things occur. Some minors are frantically bombarded with interest of our brave youngsters; some minors may only experience an utter glimpse of disinterest. Well, I guess it is pretty much like the real thing and as my motto goes, all is marketing.

One may argue about what marketing actually is and whether the offering of education should be ‘soled’. Fact remains that it is usance to sell individual minors in a market setting one afternoon per year at one location in an overheated hall of a faculty at our campus. I recon this is food for thought for policy makers and visionaries in our fine academic community.

So, I went to sell our new minor Mobile Business Design. As the initiator of this completely new educational wonder I, quite obviously, evangelized my baby as probably the best thing rising star communication experts need to join with only one restriction; we only accept thirty students to participate in this introduction to what will happen tomorrow and is being instigated today. Ahum.

Education is a strange phenomenon these days. Of course the offer is massive and it might well be very difficult to choose the right education. One other thing really struck me when scrolling through the aisles of plenty in our market place. Apart from an occasional minor offer that serves the ongoing development of our society and digital life in particular, hardly any minor pamphlet spoke of where (what) we are heading for. Ergo, there is apparent anticipation on the shifting paradigms in society by teachers and students. I find that strange. No minor futurology, no minor on tomorrow’s usage and acceptance of technology, hardly a word on the changing communication behavior of people, collective organization through Twitter of revolting people or the implications of mobile games, played on a smart phone. (Hardly) nothing of the sort.

There is another issue that struck me (at least a bit), digging into the concaves education and modern media as I wearily returned to our faculty hat day. Neither teachers nor students step into the lobby and open their mobile to synchronize the information provision given by our faculty bureau. There are two ways of looking at this. One, our teachers and students don’t want to have relevant information on their mobiles, two, the faculty does not disseminate relevant faculty information to mobiles. Regarding those two options I would say that neither is applicable (don’t read me wrong, there is the third option – that of no relevant information – which is, of course, not true). I’d say that the desire to have relevant information on one’s phone is not relevant yet because there is no offering yet, hence, no desire. Fortunately we now have our university’s first mobile site online: m.voorlichting.hu.nl. At least that is a start.
Now let our minor students cook up something of a killer app or a way of getting people to accept all these novelties and embrace them as signs of progress. No, better, let them cook up glorious ideas to enrich our lives through crossmedial and predominantly mobile enablers.

Written by Kees Winkel

July 28, 2010 at 12:32

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Pandora’s Neocracy #3, The future of mobile communication

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Originally published at www.crossmedialab.nl on 18 February 2010.

Communicating, interacting and participating by means of mobile apparatus is booming; social networking, banking, navigating, watching (delayed) television. The mobile communication trend seamlessly fits in the development in which more than one media is available and used (crossmedia) to provide in the (information) needs of civilians and consumers. It also has an impact on the social and commercial development.

The figures make thing clear, a string growth is visible, say not just the statistics but also observations. Have a look around. How many times do you see someone walking in the street with a cell phone glued to his ear? How many times do you see somebody looking at a mini screen in the train, headset plugged in? Are we on our way to the ultimate individualization in which personal services are offered, used and found normal? What is this with mobile? More and more advertisers add mobile as a media extension, a new channel, to their strategies – mobile as in mobile internet – while SMS is still the most popular service we use (apart from the good old making a phone call and using our cell phone as an alarm set). So what will be the effect of innovations like Layar, QR, and what’s next? In other words, where are we heading for? How mobile will we be? And, side line because I’d like to make up my mind from a crossmedia perspective, what will be the crossover effect of mobile communication on different media.

Big questions. And that’s why we organized a full afternoon to discuss these issues with some experts and an audience of, happy to say, students, colleagues and representatives from the field. I’ll report on that event separately.

So, what is mobile? What do we want with our mobile phones? What should a device like that do, now and in the future? What does mobile mean to us? I’d say there are roughly two perspectives. The one starts off from an offerer’s perspective of mobile apparatus and services and the other from a user’s perspective. The hustle about offer and demand is as old as the human race; do we create a market or do people want new stuff? Are iPhone apps to enrich our lives or that of Mr. Jobs?

Anyway, mobile communication seems to be a phenomenon that has embedded in our society; it’s here to stay. The Almere police department sends her burghers text messages if something bad happens. People get notification when an amount was paid to their bank account. Hip dudes watch Tiesto on their mini screens and lord knows how many people stare at their screens while waiting for the bus. Big deal?

We see the rise of a global mobile communication industry, expanding the traditional industry’s quittances of selling devices, networks and data streaming. Over a million iPhone app’s have been downloaded so far. Nokia’s Ovi is booming. People buy their paperbacks at Bol.mobi, check their account at Rabo.mob. People ‘ping’ each other as the flat fee operator subscription doesn’t charge them extra and show their Blackberry as if they show their engagement ring to good friends, their peers, their tribe.

Marketers have a hard time, these days. Should they focus on young people? Baby boomers? Or rather tap into the mainstream classes with all their limitations, bigots and mediocrity? Who are they (we?) doing this all for, we the digital and mobile elite? What life-enrichment do we offer? Which value do we create for whom?

Questions, questions and questions. One thing I believe is that our society will change gradually because of the implications of incorporating mobile communication in our lives. In fact, mobile communication is one of the enforcers of creating neocracies. I guess.

Written by Kees Winkel

July 28, 2010 at 12:28

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Pandora’s Neocracy #2, Hope

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Originally published at www.crossmedialab.nl on 31 December 2009.

For the first time since many years I have watched our queen’s Christmas speech and listened. (http://player.omroep.nl/?aflID=10445151). I have never been a real fan of monarchism as a whole but, hey, what the hack, at least we in Holland have someone who’s keeping us together, haven’t we? But now our first lady from her ivory tower told ‘her’ people that we are actually getting less social. We have no more ‘nabuurschap’ (close social companionship, ‘talkoot’ in Finnish, for all that matter). The reason according to HRH is digital media. Can you believe HRH said this? Where did she get that royal wisdom?

HRH refers to our actual neighbors, the folks who live next door. She is afraid that we are loosing touch. As in that we don’t know them anymore. I suspect that HRH has nothing to do with neighbors in the first place. A propos. Have you ever been bothered by over-enthusiastic neighbors trying to either win your heart or at least a firm position in your daily goings-about? Apart from this, HRH most likely possesses a cell phone and may occasionally read some form of (citizen) journalism made public in some sort of social medium (digital).
HRH’s speech was on Christmas day and the tone of voice was one of utter disbelieve, at least for me. Our queen told us that, because of SMS, MMS, and what have we – Twitter – our world is growing less social. Unfortunately she neglected in giving any scientific proof of this mumbling.

Two days later (27th December, 2009) Désanne van Brederode, a popular philosopher and columnist who referred to good ol’ Bea’s speech that emphasized on ‘individualism which is going on and is killing our society these days and digital media are very much taking care of this’ (Bea’s words).
Can you believe? Who has ever heard of such ridicules? Who has been whispering all that baloney into those royal ears? Who has been feeding our royalty with spam? I humbly ask: Who is writing HRH’s speeches these days?

Following the media during the Christmas holiday, I realized that a lot of commentators more or less adapted to HRH’s point of view. It is a fragile issue. Probably we are all trying to understand what is going on and some people came up with the warm-hearted idea of lonely people. It’s obvious. It’s Christmas. So let’s reflect a bit on what has happened this year and proclaim that we are neglecting our companions. And as we are into it, let’s blame progress – read digital media – as some wannabe researchers and other oracles have dominated that, because of those devious media, fast groups of people are turning less social by the hour. As Van Brederode says: ‘a moralistic present under the Christmas tree’. She finished her speech with an ode to individualism. And I couldn’t agree more with her. Is it not that we become a group, a tribe, because of our different individualities?

I strongly doubt the idea that media, be they digital or analogue, influence basic human social behavior. Would I turn less social – or, to put it in HRH’s words more individualistic (which, to her believes is not a good development) – by reading the morning paper or entering a thought in my (paper) diary? Okay, media, or better the contents in the media, appear to have an effect on public opinions. We have seen enough good and bad examples over the years. But as far as I am concerned, no medium has ever made anyone more or less social, let alone loosing touch with our neighbors.

Pandora’s Neocracy number 2, the first in this new decade, therefore, for me is hope. The hope that no man will be influenced by the contents of public speeches and taking it for granted that a high positioned stand-alone individual tells us about daily life, why it so very wrong and that we should not deal with ‘moralistic group pressure’. Hopefully we are too much individuals to fall for that trap. Together we are strong, each one of us.

Written by Kees Winkel

July 28, 2010 at 12:24

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Pandora’s Neocracy #1

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I got the idea to write what I would like to call Pandora’s Neocracy. Currently there are five and I am planning more. This first one was, once again, published on www.crossmedialab.nl on 29 November 2009.

Let’s not argue over the fact whether Pandora had a box or a jar. According to my source her original container was called pithos. Whatever may be the ultimate truth, as we may learn from Greek mythology, Pandora gave us ills, toils and sickness. And hope. Zeus ordered his friend Hephaestus to create a woman – Pandora – to punish mankind after Prometheus stole the secret of fire. As the story goes, Pandora had been given a large jar [pithos] and instruction by Zeus to keep it closed, but she had also been given the gift of curiosity, and ultimately opened it. When she opened it, all of the evils, ills, diseases, and burdensome labor that mankind had not known previously, escaped from the jar, but it is said, that at the very bottom of her box, there lay hope, good old hope. Apparently, once Pandora understood what had been in her pithos, she quickly closed it.

Just imagine the blame that came upon Pandora. She had been created by the Gods to give man all he disputes. Pandora had been made to show the world, no better, experience the downside of what we are. Let us believe for a moment that these pre-Christian Gods were never distilled from the human brain but actually were the existing creators of all we are. Were they than not the first to deliver us hope by feeding us with curiosity (open the frapping thing up, Pandora!), hope and, ultimately, our search for a better world; Utopia? We should thank Zeus and his merry band up there on Acropolis.

It was the great humanist Thomas More who came up with the word Utopia. On his island Oceania, all would lead a perfect life. People would work to earn an income (in those days a pretty innovative approach), each would have the same rights and obligations and there would be perfect harmony. A propos, if people would not cohere to this perfect society, they would be punished severely.

Zeus ordered a creation to challenge man to obey the rules of superiority and More created his own little Utopia. The two collide in what I would like to baptize as Pandora’s Neocracy. And I have some thoughts on this issue as I am focusing my research on what may well be a new pithos; the mobile phone.

I am sorry my introduction took a while but there is a reason. ‘Pandora’s Neocracy’ is my endeavor that will, hopefully, lead into the caverns of how, what and why people do with mobile phones in the context of crossmedia. I regard the cell phone as pithos. It is more than a communication tool. It is Pandora’s box, most likely leading us away from traditional social patterns and bringing us new ‘living-togethers’; neocracies. Hence Pandora’s Neocracy. Subtitle: understanding how people use mobile phones and crossmedia to reinvent their social environment. To be continued.

Source (refference in italic) Verdenius, Willem Jacob, A Commentary on Hesiod Works and Days vv 1-382 (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1985). ISBN 9004074651.

Written by Kees Winkel

July 28, 2010 at 12:21

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A mobile hoax and a minor

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Originally posted at www.crossmedialab.nl on 28 October 2009.

I came upon a nice picture of a layar (that’s not a mistake. It is the commercial name of virtual layers on mobile phone applications) on a mobile phone. We see Keizersgracht in Amsterdam on a nice autumn day through a VodaFone branded cell phone. We can look through the phone and the apparent Funda site, the Dutch real estate site. Intriguing. In the same image, we read information regarding a house at Prins Hendrikkade, costing about 349,000 Euro. As an example of what’s coming up, I’d say it is a great picture. From a reality point of view, I tend to say that this mash-up is a hoax. The picture we see is indeed Keizersgracht. The bridge you may spot at the end of the canal is Leidsegracht. It is where I walk the dog twice a day. The shot is taken at the bridge of Leidsestraat. Prins Hendrikkade is by no means even close to this point. I know because I live just behind the left-side houses. And, a propos, there’s no way one might acquire a flat for that price in the Prins Hendrikkade area (which happens to be near Amsterdam Central Station and Nemo. But, who cares. VodaFone has made its point.

Of course, layers like the one in the mock up are gaining territory as we speak. So, what is the relevance of talking about these innovations in mobility? Well, I am delighted to say that I have been working on the concept of a minor. Not just me of course but I have written the concept based on brainstorms with some colleagues. Boudewijn Dominicus, our former educational manager, instigated the whole idea. Clever thinking, Boudewijn! So, hopefully, we are on the road with this educational innovation September 2010 (in terms of higher eduction, that’s fast).

The minor is called Mobile Business Design. There is an addition: ‘in a crossmedial context’. That’s obvious to us but may not necessarily be to outsiders. There is a lot happening on the mobile front. It is not just about layers (layers). It is more about people using their phone to do other things than what they have done so far. I on’t really know where this is heading to but it sure feels exciting. So, we are planning a couple of things that will improve our professional education in crossmedia and digital communication with knowledge about mobility and the (assumed) cross-overs with other media.

The first thing we plan is what we call an Encounter. We hope to be able to cooperate with esteemed players in the field of mobility and creative industry (we have not asked these players so I’m afraid I can’t mention their names at this stage. Sorry). During this Encounter, a half-day brainstorm session, we will deepen issues that deal with the near future of development of mobility, what the industry requires as mobile and crossmedia competencies the next couple of years and how our faculty and research group can anticipate on this.
The next thing is that we refine the concept of the minor Mobile Business Design which has been sent to the Hogeschool’s auditors. What will happen after this, I really have no clue at the moment but for me personally, I’m happy to say that it would be a jewel to my crown.

I haven’t talked about the relationship of mobility and crossmedia yet. I recon it is obvious. Maybe, part of the invitation text for the Encounter may help: “buzz developments succeed each other faster than warp speed. And turbulence rages on. Trends abide as unthought-of heirs of a recent history. Will Twitter stay or are we already in for a new social medium that will enable us to tell the world where we are, what we are, who we are and what we do? Or will the next big thing be something completely different? Something that will facilitate us to be anywhere and nowhere at the same time: “beam me up Scotty”? And looking at all these developments, how can we anticipate?”

Hoaxy mash-ups or not, we are all very sure that we stand at the mere beginning of new exciting developments in tooling our human communication. And I am happy to be able to architecture these accretions into our professional education.

Written by Kees Winkel

July 28, 2010 at 11:56

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A literate paradox

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Originally posted on 23 September 2009 at www.crossmedialab.nl.

According to the Dutch Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) 97% of the population of men and women between 12 and 75 years have used the Internet in 2008. That is an amazing number, I’d say. 20% uses the Internet at somebody else’s place, like at a friend’s place, 47% uses the Internet at work and 18 % in school. 6% uses the Internet somewhere else, meaning in an Internet café, hotel, etc. So, what do these figures tell us? To be frank, I wouldn’t know.

These statistics tell us that Holland is extremely well covered with infrastructure. The Dutch are superbly interlinked with the rest of the world through the wonders of the Internet. But my core question is whether the Dutch are literate enough to deal with such formidable connectivity. The sole question is whether people can actually deal with all of these goodies from technology.

A couple of days ago, I read an article in ‘Parool’, our nation’s one and only city newspaper, about the number of illiterate people in The Netherlands. I was astonished that over 1.5 million (out of approx. 16.5 million) Dutch citizens are not able – or hardly – to read, let alone write. I had always thought that Holland was a country of cultivated culture with suburb (and foremost) writers, painters, documentarists, intellectuals, merchants and bankers, all in all, literate intellectuals. But roughly one out of 10 ‘Dutchies’ simply don’t know how to read and write! Yet, these assumed dumbos do something with the Internet, I presume, at least according to statistics. Are they only looking at pictures, or what?

As a pedigree marketer, I wonder what can be made out this latent paradox. Is it so that a fast minority of Internet users is literarily illiterate? And if the issue of illiteracy is a common yet taboo-sized issue, can it be altered? And, should it be?

If we compare the amount of visuals used in all different kind of media today with the amount of, say, twenty years ago, we observe an astonishing growth of pictures. For me, this trend raises associations with walking in medieval churches and looking at all the fine paintings on the walls. They show stories to an alleged illiterate audience (those old time comics were planned for the people then, not now).

In my marketing lectures I often say that the common medieval guy saw less visual messages in his entire life than a modern person sees in a day. Pictures are important nowadays. But pictures are not text. And people need understanding of text if they desire to write a SMS, an email, a blog entry; any form of participating in response facilitating media requires literacy. Yet, with apps like Twitter, how much text does one actually need? The answer: 140 characters. The rest is picture. But then again, every picture tells a story. Paradox revisited.

Written by Kees Winkel

July 28, 2010 at 11:54

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Information Overflow

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Originally posted at www.crossmedialab.nl on 19 August 2009

I have been a list member of SocNet for years now and every now and then some posting attracts my attention. Take a look at this recent message from John Maloney:

*****  To join INSNA, visit http://www.insna.org *****
Hi –

Here is an invitation and credit for free registration for SocNet for a Webinar on Information Overload


Wikipedia sez A. Toffler coined the term information overload (IO). It is probably valid, just nothing new.

From a practical standpoint, there was, is and always will be IO. That’s not the problem. Rather, the practical issue is something akin to ‘meaning deficit’ or ‘sense scarcity.’ That’s what interferes with positive outcome, not IO.

Humans are sometime incorrectly abstracted as information processors, like some shiny new backplane on the latest server rack. That is ridiculous and harmful. Also long as humans are considered mechanical processors, there will always be overload.

Humans are pattern interpreters. Cyberneticists know this property. Humans possess extremely limited data processing bandwidth, but command an infinite capacity for pattern abstraction and mastery

Sense making and meaning inhabit soc/org/val networks. That’s what makes them so important. It will be interesting to see if the IO people recognize the importance of network analysis and comprehension


P.S. If you ever feel ‘overloaded,’ just turn to your networks for relief!
_____________________________________________________________________ SOCNET is a service of INSNA, the professional association for social network researchers (http://www.insna.org).

Actually, the posting is an invitation to join a webinar (I assume this is a web seminar) on August 12, 2009. I’m afraid I missed the opportunity due to summer vacation, including the rejuvenating radio silence I had laid upon me deliberately. But still, I guess John and the organizers of the webinar on I.O. – Information Overkill – have a point.
Reopening my mailbox a couple of days ago, I stumbled over hundreds of mails and to be honest, I closed the box as soon as I could. Just reading the mere notification of the number of mails made me realize that summer was not yet over so I faked myself into a state of temporary tabularasa; at that moment I couldn’t give a damn. But that was three days ago and this morning I set myself upon the task of running through all messages that so desperately screamed for my eyes and mind.
Out of the near seven hundred mails (It had been approximately five weeks since I had locked my laptop) I distilled an odd fifty that needed attention. Those mails were of personal and professional character. The rest was newsletters, bargains and average rubbish, ergo, information, I once subscribed to in a whim. And at that given moment this morning, it was a fast overkill.

Let’s focus on the passage in John’s mail that says, “Humans are sometime incorrectly abstracted as information processors, like some shiny new backplane on the latest server rack. That is ridiculous and harmful. Also long as humans are considered mechanical processors, there will always be overload”. I am trying to interpret this text. We (humans) are information processors, at least to some people, thus there is I.O. Okay. We process (create, generate?) information. That is true. You may have heard of the 1 – 9 – 90 rule; out of 100% people participating in any given way in social media, 1% actively publishes User Generated Content, 9% responds to it (interacts) and 90% reads (or better, visits the social medium). So, 1% of the participants create (processes) the information overload and 9% responds actively on the overload. As this 9% is actively interacting one may assume that any information overload reasoning does not hinder those people. Remains the 90%. They come and visit the information carrier, the website. These visits are voluntarily, one may assume.
So far, so good. I have been talking about one social medium. What if we multiply this with all media we encounter during the cause of a day? Can we talk of I.O. simply because we have so many encounters? Humans have developed a tool called selective perception. We only see and hear what we find of any interest. All other information we lay aside, sometimes knowing we have been battered with it but not doing anything with it; not processing this information. Sometimes we don’t even remember that we have been sprayed with certain information.

I imagine that the issue of information overkill has little to do with the amount of encounters. There must be something different. In his posting, John says that humans are pattern interpreters and that is where social networks come in. So, we are not the information process geniuses we believe to be, we are the interpreters of patterns (social patterns, I presume) thus making the social media important as we thrive on social patterns. Perhaps that is where the real social value is created for people in participating in social media. Well, at least for 9% of the participants. The 1% processors are a clear given fact to me, the 9% as well. I wonder what goes on the minds of those 90%. Do you think they feel the burden of I.O.?

Written by Kees Winkel

July 28, 2010 at 11:48

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