Monday, March 04, 2013

Depression era web

Bruce Sterling, at Webstock. Photo: Webstock Flickr

I was in Wellington recently , DJing at a fantastic conference called Webstock. One of the speakers, author Bruce Sterling, touched on a theme that is not that distant from a rather interesting post at Digital Music News, quoting Radiohead's Thom Yorke.

Sterling talked about the current age of the internet as being one of dark euphoria, and that we are in the depression era web. The railways have come, the fences are up, it is no longer the wild west. The internet has been messing up the foundations of business corporations for decades, and now the internet’s foundations are messed up too. Stacks (like Amazon, Google, etc) have livestock. They know all about you. They are monetising you. You are their product. It was a pretty grim talk.

On a similar theme, Thom Yorke said to the Guardian, on Google and Apple, that "We were so into the net around the time of Kid A. We really thought it might be an amazing way of connecting and communicating. And then very quickly we started having meetings where people started talking about what we did as 'content'. They would show us letters from big media companies offering us millions in some mobile phone deal or whatever it was, and they would say all they need is some content.

"I was like, what is this 'content' which you describe? Just a filling of time and space with stuff, emotion, so you can sell it?"

And then there's In Rainbows, regarded as an earth-shattering, daring experiment that would change the face of music pricing and access forever. But that was way back in 2007, when digital utopia was still under construction.

Radiohead never did it again."

MORE: A report from Webstock 2013: Jasmina Tesanovic (Sterling's partner)

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