Click Together: An Anthem for the Online Revolution

Following my last posting’s talk about mashups, I was inspired to try something a little different.

As I’ve been traveling around the world telling people (and writing about for the last 11 years), we’ve got an online social and cultural connection revolution happening right now before our eyes. And since every revolution needs an anthem, what the heck, I thought it might be fun to try penning one.

If someone want to try recording it (you’ll know the tune in a moment), I’d love to hear it done…you could try a more PG-rated version of the great-but-kinda-naughty Beatles-NIN mashup available on YouTube right here.

So here are the lyrics….

Click Together (an online community anthem; to be sung to the tune of “Come Together”)

Here come old *H@Kk_Ur!*
He go surfin’ all nightly
He got Flickr eyeball he read global braindump
He got ten servers in his big RV
Must be influential he just post what he please

 

He shop all naked he got eBay football
He got Twitter finger he one Second Lifer
He say “I friend you, you friend me”
All is information and It got to be free
Click together online community

 

He blogospheric he big Technorati
He got Google goggles he shoot YouTube picture
He got cloudware clickstream on his page
Look him up in Facebook he make maximum wage
Click together online community

 

He carpal tunnel he wear Warcraft diaper
He got wiki widget he one porno filter
He say “Web plus Web is Two Point Oh”
Got to be a broker he Net portfolio
Click together online community

A Mixed Up Mashed-Up World

I haven’t confessed this publicly before, but I love mashups. I think they’re an exciting, fresh art form that does syncretism, combination, and extension out in the open, whereas it has always been done “behind closed doors” before.

In case you aren’t familiar with this new form of self-expression, the American Heritage Dictionary online officially defines mash-up as an audio recording that is a composite made up of other recordings, usually from different musical styles.

Although the world of music is where mash-ups started, and where they probably have had the biggest impact, I’d certainly say that we have examples in all other media. The great cultural theorist Walter Benjamin’s Arcades Project, for example, was essentially a mash-up of other people’s writings about consumption and culture.

Warhol’s Monda Lisa SeriesThe opening to Grant McCracken’s magnificent Plenitude book is a mash-up of quotations about the multifarious aspects of contemporary consumer culture.

Andy Warhol mashed up contemporary images of art and advertising, for example in his Mona Lisa series.

The entire video style known as montage could be considered to have a large subset of work that is very much made up of mashups. A nice example of that would be the use of advertisements in Sut Jhally’s brilliant anti-consumption video “The Ad and the Ego.”

How much of contemporary marketing could be thought of as a mash-up? I wonder. That level of combination, and the different ways it can be applied, might be worth thinking more about.

Consider how ads play on other ads (Linda Scott has written nicely about this in some of her work on rhetoric). Even how product categories are riffed and ripped when marketers position new products.

Is there a science of mashups? A cultural studies set of scholarly works (I’m sure there is and would appreciate being pointed in that direction). Are there interesting global patterns?

I’m always on the lookout for new mashups. If you have any good ones, please send me the link or post them in a comment here.

How and Why Online Consumers Get Creative, and Why It Matters: A New Article With a Set of Frameworks

C3PONo, this is definitely not Andrea Hemetsberger pictured here. In my last blog posting, I wrote about Andrea Hemetsberger and the rest of the faculty at the University of Innsbruck in Austria. Andrea and I have been talking about our research interests for at least 5 years, planning various projects that are now beginning to come to fruition.

“But what does this have to do with everyone’s favorite golden gleaming android and authority on human-cyborg relations,” you may ask, fanboys and fangirls? You’re going to have to read on….

Last year at the European Association for Consumer Research meeting in Milan, Italy, Andrea and I presented a paper we were working on that offered a typology of the way online consumers create in communities. We were working at that time with a number of different ideas, but were trying to organize some of the key terms and research findings in the area of open source and creative consumer online communities, such as those I’ve studied in the areas of fandom and entertainment, food, and automotive products. We ended up with a presentation based around a 2 X 2 matrix that captured some of the key elements of creative online communities.

We’re seriously lacking in terminology for this new and growing field. There are too many words in some of these terms. So at least for today I’m calling them…..C3PO: Creative Consumer Communities (3 C-words) Producing Online.

After we had presented, we began talking with Hope Schau of the University of Arizona. Hope has been working in areas of online consumption and online creativity for all her career. She had lots of great insight and examples to contribute.

My Schulich colleague Detlev Zwick was co-editing a special issue of the Journal of Macromarketing about ICT: Information and Communication Technologies. He and his co-editor Nik Dholakia invited us to contribute something and we thought immediately of building the C3PO typology. And then we thought about collaborating with Hope and building an article out of it.

As the paper moved through the revision process, it gained a lot from the contact with the Journal of Macromarketing. The journal, if you aren’t familiar with it, says that it “examines important social issues, how they are affected by marketing, and how society influences the conduct of marketing. The journal typically concentrates on these topics:

  • How markets and marketing systems operate
  • Classical and nontraditional examinations of the role of marketing in socio-economic development
  • The origins, growth, and development of marketing history as an activity and marketing thought
  • The marketing of products, services, or programs to enhance the quality of life for consumers, households, communities, countries, and regions
  • Explanatory theory, empirical studies, or methodological treatment of tests for topics of greatest interest to macromarketing scholars, including competition and markets, history, globalization, the environment, socio-economic development, ethics and distributive justice, and quality of life.”

This orientation is quite unique, and it means that the journal published papers that broaden market out to its social implications-offering an interesting sociological and macroeconomic spin on marketing topics.

The article we wrote, and just published in the December 2008 issue offers up a way to understand how online technologies help to spur different types of online community innovation (and yes, I’ll say it again, just for the fun of it, C3PO).

Here is an extended abstract for the article.

If you look at past theories of consumer innovation and creativity, you will find that they have been devised for an age before the emergence of the profound collaborative possibilities of ICT. With the diffusion of networking technologies into consumers’ lives, collective innovation is taking on new forms that are transforming the nature of consumption and work and, with it, society and marketing.

In this article, Andrea, Hope and I theorize, examine, dimensionalize and organize these forms and processes of online collective consumer innovation. We look at Manuel Castells’ ideas and theories of informationalism, and extend them. Then, we follow this macro-social paradigm shift into grassroots regions that have irrevocable impacts on businesses and society.

A central proposal in the paper is that, in this early and initial phase of our understanding of this phenomenon, business and society need categories and procedures to guide their interactions with this powerful and growing phenomenon. That’s how theoretical understanding will move forward.

To serve these needs, we build on past literature and terminology, and also broaden and open up some definitions of our own. We classify and describe four types of online creative Crowds, Hives, Mobs and Swarmsconsumer communities-Crowds, Hives, Mobs, and Swarms.

  • Crowds are large, organized groups who gather or are gathered together specifically to plan, manage, and/or complete particular tractable and well defined projects, such as those who will gather to compete for a million dollars in this year’s Crash the Superbowl ad content, or to get paid more than professional designers to create T-shirts for Threadless
  • Hives are online communities whose members contribute a relatively greater amount to the community, but who also produce innovations specifically to respond to particular challenges or to meet particular project goals such as those at Niketalk or casemodder.de
  • Mobs are communities based around the contributions of specialists who speak to a relatively homogenous affinity or interest groups, and whose contributions are oriented to a communo-ludic spirit of communal play and lifestyle exchange. An example would be the individuals who create, contribute to, and maintain alt.coffee, or the Huffington Post, or the Slave to Target blog
  • Swarms are the often large and multitudinous communities that produce individually small individual contributions that occur as a part of more natural or free-flowing cultural or communal practices, such as the typical Web 2.0 communities working to benefit Amazon, Flickr, Wikipedia or Netflix

Our conclusion is that there are a variety of In the age of online communities, collective innovation is produced both as an aggregated byproduct of everyday information consumption and as a result of the efforts of talented and motivated group of innovative etribes. Marketers and social pundits need to make distinctions, stratetize, plan and draw conclusions accordingly.

The full article is available free to my blog readers using this link to the “Wisdom of Consumer Crowds: A Journal of Macromarketing Article.”