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Young = Flexible = Growth = Life

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Culture is liberated by delivery technology, but is restricted by business.

The web is a delivery technology. So is the US Postal Service. So are text messages, and so is language. All of culture passes through these methods. It cannot exist without them.

Culture is restricted by business models. The album is not the ideal packaging for music, but it was the only one available that would help people make a living, so it holds on even now, when it is obvious that it’s obsolete.

Friction in delivery technology is inversely proportional to its ability to support an industry. Therefore the better delivery gets, the less we need an industry to support it.

The ideal environment for culture is one in which business cannot make any money from it. Then culture naturally flows rather than being about what can be made money with (the Canadian art grant structure comes to mind).

There is a theoretical future where ideas take as long as they need to get explained. They don’t take 250-300 pages, which is an artifact of the publishing industry. Most ideas can be explained briefly, so they will be. Packaging will naturally move to what is most appropriate for the idea/meme in question.

Existing businesses will do as much as they can to prevent this from happening, because they need the model to support themselves.

It’s possible that the end game to this is ubiquitous information, on every device, in every location, instantly available when it is created. When this happens we have reduced the infrastructure and its cost to the bare minimum, and almost all commerce becomes part of the long tail.

But in the meantime, relic industries are important to you because they provide credibility and mainstream attention. This is why bloggers publish books– because not everyone can (that’s admittedly different these days).

This means you use what people believe in (the past) to support your goals (the future). But you cannot ever believe in the methods of the past. Once you do, you’re maintaining (eventual) residual infrastructure in order to support yourself.

This is bad because that is the point at which you stop growing and start becoming a relic yourself. I don’t want that, and I’m guessing you don’t either.

Young = Flexible = Growth = Life

Old = Rigid = Contraction = Death

Become any of these, in either equation, and you will become the others.

* Filed by at 11:15 am under clear thinking, culture, random


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One Response to “Young = Flexible = Growth = Life”

  1. John McLachlan Says:

    Julien, the points you raise, especially about relic industries and reducing friction are of great interest to me as I work in the non-profit arts sector both as a person hired to work on website and promotional materials for artists and small organizations and as a contract grants officer (hate that term) for a couple of arts grants programs in British Columbia.

    I’m always thinking about how to reduce friction and I get bristly when I see what should be forward-thinking people in arts organizations desperately clinging to old ways. Maybe they are just trying to keep their jobs (fair enough) but it’s at the expense of new models and most importantly, less friction.

    I love that you identify friction as the thing. Totally get that. I’ve been fighting friction for years. Friction is not only how relic businesses try to keep the barriers up but it’s also how people in an industry deal with each other. People can create a lot of friction by how they treat others in their industry. I mean “people to people” friction as in “you aren’t part of the club, get out” which shows up in subtle or not so subtle ways (it even shows up at events like SXSW with “in crowds.”

    When you say you can never believe in the methods of the past, I think believing the past can work amazingly well for people and businesses for a long time. The question for us is, do we want to “get out of the way if you can’t lend a hand for the times they are a-changin.”

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