May 9, 2008
We’ve all heard about User Generated Content (UGC). I don’t like the term. Once you start generating content in a two way ecosystem you are no longer a user, you are a participant. In fact I have written long rants about the subject.
But that’s a subject for another day. An oft missed point re-occurred to me today so I thought I would write it up.
Bloggers and social media consultants are still trying to convince mainstream media and businesses that Participant Generated Content is a new media reality. Many companies are trying to grapple with the phenomena and are wondering if users remixing copyrighted material and/or generating their own media is an opportunity or a threat. At the very least it is highly disruptive to the role of traditional broadcast media – and where there is market disruption, opportunity is usually mixed right in.
It’s key to remember or realize though, that Participant Generated Content is not new. In fact, it’s as old as cave paintings. You don’t even have to look that far back. What about Lego and Crayons. What about singing in the shower. What about writing a letter or making a mix tape.
It’s clear through these examples that people have been expressing themselves through their creations since the dawn of time. The only difference in the new web ecosystem is the scale, scope, tools and business opportunities associated with this self expression. As usual the web simply gives us new visibility and connectivity to each other and new tools to create and share.
It’s important to have this context in mind during the debate around the purpose, place and legality (in terms of copyright) of participant generated content; Because with this more long-term lens perhaps more businesses and media companies will properly understand the phenomena and the instinct that drives it. It might even help them to engage with the opportunity in more creative, human ways.
It’s not a set of weird web early adopters. It is not just ‘the bloggers’. It is not some fringe activity. It is a basic human instinct to create and share. And it certainly isn’t new.