YouTube is guesstimated to be spending a million a month on bandwidth – much of it people watching what other people have directed. And some of it is very good.
It is commonplace in media, culture, and marketing circles to remark upon how many people are now engaged in creative activities and how good their activities often are. We have lots of ways of explaining this development. It marks the continuing democratization of an aristocratic privilege, the growing strength of what Bell called expressive individualism, the multiplication of venues and the decline in the costs of production, gatekeeper elites, and other “barriers to Smoots entry.”
By some reckoning, it was the rise of Punk that sounds the “all clear” signal. Now anyone could, and everyone should, pick up a guitar and “have at it.” It doesn’t matter how bad we are, the point is to get up on the stage and let rip. Rock stardom…not just for musicians anymore. This was the DIY (do it yourself) spirit now legitimized.
What I don’t think anyone appreciated was how good this DIY stuff would become. I think the general assumption was that we would live in a two-tier world, with a great no man’s land between the professionals on high and the amateurs below.
Boy, were we wrong. I was at a wedding some years ago in Canada when three brothers roasted the groom with quality material. At PopTech a couple of years ago, the resident comedian Rocket Boy complained that all the speakers were doing pretty good material.
Every time someone holds a contest inviting people to submit their own films or make their own ads, I think the judges are a little chastened that so much of the stuff should be so good. They know that it is only accidents of biography that puts them on the panel and not in the crowd. An awful lot of DIY work turns out to be “performance grade.” (It is precisely this rise in quality that makes the cocreation branding process vastly less risky and much more interesting.)
And the Generous Web has provided the venue for unleashing the talents of multiple millions. Traditional gatekeepers still look for ways to control it – to protect their hegemony of “creativity”. It’s not working. Even if they’re signing these guys up.
UPDATE: Read Terry Heaton’s “The killer app isn’t “monkey see, monkey do”