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January 24th, 2010

Hey, where should I put my content?

To me one of the more interesting dialogues of the past week has revolved around the question of where participatory media is going.

The initial blow, from what I can tell, originated from VR pioneer Jaron Lanier. He’s promoting a new book, You are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto, which includes a focus on the popularity of social networking and what it means for the future of the web. This brief article includes the highlights. Lanier veers farther into the open source v. closed source idea here than I’d like to, but I get what he’s saying.

It’s definitely something that’s been on my mind lately. Some of you may know that I’m a photographer; I enjoy sharing my work with the world. For the past several years my main avenue of doing so has been through flickr. I have a small but loyal following of people seeing my work and, let me tell you, that’s really exciting. Even if one person sees a photo of mine and loves it… that means something to me. To use Lanier’s language I did receive kudos for this work. And flickr helped get my photos seen in a store, in a book, and in a magazine. I could have done that on my own but, frankly, it would have entailed more work on my part.

Despite that, I am torn between having all of my work on flickr – a site I don’t control – and my own domain. As more and more of our collective content becomes available online I think this is a valid concern. My HD videos will live on flickr, YouTube, or Vimeo. Small updates and trivia will live on Twitter and Facebook. And there’s nothing on my personal site anymore. The site that I, really, have the most control over has the least amount of content… what a change from five or ten years ago.

Lanier’s argument suggests that we’d collectively see more exciting and diverse work if we didn’t always rely on crowdsourcing. Caterina Fake wrote a great response to Lanier on the benefits of our new participatory media. I see value in both arguments really: Lanier touches on my “wow, five big sites are controlling a mess of content!” side and Fake speaks to my “but these are just new societies!” side.

It seems like a tough knot to untangle. What do you think? Do you still have a personal site? Are we just all robots?

Posted in Technology

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