Architecture of Participation

I recently watched Clay Shirky’s keynote address at the 2008 Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco.  His brief lecture was very insightful and well worth the 17 minutes invested to watch it online (see end of post).  His main argument is that we are entering a new media landscape, one that is defined by participation and not consumption.  He states that when it comes to media, people like to consume, produce, and share and this is not just a passing fad.  He believes it is analogous to the same cultural shift that occurred during the industrial revolution.  Shirky shares that, nevertheless, he often had a hard time explaining this to “traditional” media folks.  The reason, he believed, is because he never had a compelling anecdote – until recently.  Here is a story that he shares at the end of his address.

A friend of Shirky’s was sitting with his four year old daughter watching a DVD.  In the middle of the movie, she jumped up off the couch and ran behind their big-screen TV.  Maybe she was looking to see if Dora (the Explorer) is really back there, the dad wondered.  But that wasn’t what she was doing.  She started rooting around in the cables.  Her dad said, “Whatcha doing?”  She stuck her head out from behind the screen and said, “Looking for the mouse.”

Shirky concludes the story with this simple yet powerful statement, “Here’s what four year olds know.  A screen that ships without a mouse, ships broken.”  Translation: younger generations demand interaction with their media.

In my opinion this demand for interactivity extends will beyond media; I believe it defines the future of our economy.

As more and more online tools create the platform for this participatory environment, people are going to demand that they are involved not just in the consumption of products and services, but also with creating and sharing them.  In the future, successful companies will not only be run by the management team, they will be run in part by the team of people who use the products and services.

When I started Atayne, I had the vision that the company would be run in large part by the people who love our brand and products the most.  The way I see it, we are not a company.  We are a community.  A community of individuals who demand more from the companies we do business with.  A community of individuals who believe we can positively change the world by doing what we love.

I hope you all will join us in this social experiment to redesign how companies operate.  If you have any ideas, I would love to hear them.

One response to “Architecture of Participation

  1. A great, thought-provoking post. Your last two paragraphs are right on and made me think of a company I have been impressed by recently.

    A couple of us have started long distance longboarding as cross-training for running. There is a company run by two brothers in NJ called Original Longboards:

    By all rights and appearances they seem to be doing well and when you call there, it is pretty well always still one of the brothers who answers the phone and talks to you to answer questions, make suggestions, etc. Good stuff. Nice to have companies like Original and Atayne laying out a new blueprint…

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