December 13, 2005

Darknets and the Lightnet

After a week of interviews with Internet luminaries J.D. Lasica and Lucas Gonze, I put together a Publish article analyzing two web memes: Darknets and the Lightnet

Here is my story.

In addition, Lucas Gonze suggested that I post my interview questions on an open thread on a blog—an open-source conversation about the story. So, read the story, grab some Star Wars metaphors ("Lucas, I am your father," for instance), and start remixing…

Q:
How will Lightnet's focus on interactive, user-manipulated video/audio content affect the publishing industry? For instance, what will the New York Times website look like in a Lightnet world? What kind of things can a subscriber do with New York Times content in a Lightnet world?

Q:
The idea of an audience is changing too. How can a newspaper/television show/old media outfit possibly survive in a Lightnet environment? In a world where users are constantly manipulating and mixing media, how can royalties, subscriptions and all that get sorted out?

Q:
Your new classification system seems to relegate Web 2.0 heroes like I-Pod and ITunes to the Darknets' past--just as the world was catching on! How will these platforms evolve over the next few years, if the Lightnet trend continues? Are general audiences really prepared for this dramatic media shift?

Q:
I'm still unclear about the ultimate effect of the Lightnet shift. Is it really possible to live in a world without Darknets’ DRM restrictions on these digital properties? Will the future depend on a balance between Darknets and Lightnet models, or will one idea eventually conquer the other?

Continue Reading

1 Comments:

At 5:36 PM, Blogger Lucas Gonze said...

Here are my original responses, straight from my sent folder.


Hi Jason,

First off I want to clarify a little.

The idea of lightnet is as much a description as a prescription. It articulates similarities between movements which are normally considered separate, most obviously podcasting, video blogging, remixing and playlisting. (The mashup subculture which sticks to authorized source material, that is. See www.ccmixter.org).

Lightnet tells a story about the present. It lets us place events within a narrative, which sometimes helps see through the fog of history.

Lightnet is only a story, but there is some related science. See "online or invisible" at http://citeseer.ist.psu.edu/online-nature01/, which shows that research which is available online is more cited, and hence more influential and useful. (http://weblog.infoworld.com/udell/2003/11/06.html develops that idea). The robust health of free and open source software also suggests that the lightnet story is a productive way to think about internet audio and video.

> I've been following your Lightnet posts for the past few days, and I
> would love to write a short article introducing our readers to the
> discussion and look at how Lightnet projects could change digital
> publishing. I would love to include some of the insight you've
> gleaned from the web conversation surrounding your posts.
>
> Your elaborate web discussion has illustrated the basics of Lightnet
> very well. Would you be interested in answering a few follow-up
> questions by email or telephone? My questions:
>
> How will Lightnet's focus on interactive, user-manipulated video/audio
> content affect the publishing industry? For instance, what will the
> New York Times website look like in a Lightnet world? What kind of
> things can a subscriber do with New York Times content in a Lightnet
> world?
>
>

In a lightnet world, New York Times audio and video will be about as accessible as as text. Some audio and video will be only for subscribers, some will be freely available via the Times' web site. In just the same way that it is unusual to see New York Times text articles on filesharing networks, it will be unusual to see their audio and video on filesharing networks. In just the same way that most web pages can be viewed in most browsers, most internet audio and video will work in most players. In just the same way that most web pages have a URL, most audio and video will have a URL.

Per Creative Commons CTO Mike Linksvayer, "Lightnet content is *light to the web" *(http://gondwanaland.com/mlog/2005/11/28/redefining-light-and-dark/). Given an item of lightnet content from the New York Times, anybody will be able to email the link to a friend, incorporate the item in a playlist, comment on the item on their own home page, and perhaps make a derived work in the form of a remix, podcast, or videoblog.

The most important takeaways for the publishing industry are that lightnet content will tend to be more popular than darknet content. If a publisher wants to make an impact with a piece, it should do everything it can to enable all three of interactivity, interoperability, and interconnectivity. (See http://gonze.com/weblog/story/legs)


> Your new classification system seems to relegate Web 2.0 heroes like
> I-Pod + ITunes and Wikipedia to the Darknet past--just as the world
> was catching on!


Not just web 2.0 heroes, but also the P2P anti-heroes. The consequences of this way of thinking are weird and surprising.

Wikipedia is lightnet, not darknet, by the way -- it's all three of interactive, interoperable, and interconnected. But yes, the many ways in which Apple prevents interactivity, interoperability, and interconnectivity move it away from the center of the action.

> How will these platforms evolve over the next few
> years, if the Lightnet trend continues? Are general audiences really
> prepared for this dramatic media shift?
>
>

Steve Jobs will have to be less of a control freak. For example, the iTunes music store is nominally a web site, but the only web browser it allows is iTunes desktop software. This prevents easy wins like having users email around links to artists and songs. Similarly, Apple invented a new protocol for podcast links (pcast:// instead of http://), and because this will cause an error for most users, most podcasters aren't adopting it -- this violates the "interoperable" leg of lightnet.

General audiences are not prepared, and they will never be. You have to get off the couch and leave the audience. Lightnet is participatory media.

Compare seeing an artist perform on TV with going to their Myspace page. On TV, the artist is unapproachable and static. On Myspace the artist has a contact address, a community of other fans to interact with, and bookmarkable sample songs.


> The idea of an audience is changing too. How can a
> newspaper/television show/old media outfit possibly survive in a
> Lightnet environment? In a world where users are constantly
> manipulating and mixing media, how can royalties, subscriptions and
> all that get sorted out?
>
>

The good news for people with careers in the old media is that skills still matter. Podcasting is a monologue much like an MTV host would do, and the seminal podcaster Adam Curry is indeed a former MTV host. Top bloggers like Jeff Jarvis and Josh Marhshall tend to have learned how to write in the print media. And so on.

About the business issues, it comes back to the same old business talent and skill that it always did. You will no longer be able to sue customers for a living, but that was always an aberration. Publishers will give away some content in order to be able to sell other content, and they will find new revenue sources when they become remixers themselves.


> I'm still unclear about the ultimate effect of the lightnet shift. Is
> it really possible to live in a world without darknet DRM restrictions
> on these digital properties? Will the future depend on a balance
> between Darknet and Lightnet models, or will one idea eventually
> conquer the other?
>
>

My feeling is that there will be a balance. Making money is always about relieving friction, and some businesses will find that creating friction is sometimes profitable. The lightnet music company Magnatune, for example, makes it easier to get music if you pay than if you don't. Paying relieves a deliberate inconvenience.

However artificial friction it is a different animal than DRM like the Sony rootkit, which was intended to prevent all three of interconnection, interactivity, and interoperability.

> Thanks for listening. Answer as much or as little as possible, I hope
> to hear from you soon...
>
>

I'm really happy that you're doing the story. Your writing itself will be a part of the conversation, so it's a great example of how renewable media works. For myself, even though I am getting the credit for this idea, all I did was recognize and expand on a good idea by someone else (a blogger named Alex Barnett), then collate related writing by other people.

best,
Lucas

p.s. a grammatical point which I want to get right before the terms are widespread: "lightnet" is always singular (because everything in it is interoperable and interconnected), "darknets" is always plural (because by definition they are not interoperable or interconnected). I'm not implying that you made that mistake, just worrying that an editor may.

 

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home