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Zero History – Notes from a n00b

7th October 10

Skateboard

I know that I’m late to the game on this ‘five things I’m thinking about’ meme and very new to the game in this advertising business, so here’s hoping that the two things balance out here, in my first nervy post.

1) Where is knowledge stored?

OK – so just a week ago I was posting farewell on The Penguin Blog, trying to distill a few years of digital publishing thinking into a couple of hundred words and now I am in a new office with new people doing a completely different thing in a new industry. So my short term goal is to find the well(s) of knowledge and drink deeply.

In preparation for this transition I’ve read a couple of books and redirected my RSS and twitter streams adwards. But already in 4 days I’ve learned more from a few concentrated conversations than from hours of reading. So maybe I’ve been reading the wrong books and blogs, or reading them badly.

But perhaps it’s a very analogue notion that knowledge is stored on paper and a digital notion that knowledge is amalgamated in crowds. Everyone is an expert in something, everyone has a specialist subject or a unique take on an issue – the challenge is finding them and unlocking their knowledge. And face-to-face beats distance learning every time.

2) Is there still an edge?

The publication of any new William Gibson book is always a good opportunity to think about the edges of things and, of course, the places in between, which in our upside down topsy turvy existence must be edges of a sort. My favourite Gibson passage is from All Tomorrow’s Parties where the disappearance of bohemia is explained thus: “We started picking them before they could ripen. A certain crucial growing period was lost, as marketing evolved and the mechanisms of recommodification became quicker, more rapacious.

Of course, as a new entrant to the world of advertising I need to start rapaciously appropriating the edge as swiftly as possible, which is why I should start finding out where it is.

3) Skateboarding

(Actually, specifically, the sound of resin on concrete, or even more specifically the difficulty in finding good skateboard sound effects)

Don’t get me wrong I am not and have never been a skater but I have always loved skate videos and watching this yesterday (via Ruby Pseudo) it struck me that it is the sound that I love especially. I was born in a city and have lived most of my life in the same city and can’t really imagine not living in a city. Cities, as far as I’m concerned, are where stuff happens, and I am a huge fan of stuff happening. And, since skating demands ‘crete perhaps there is no soundtrack more urban than the sound of skating. If there are other, even more urban soundscapes I should be tuning into, let me know.

4) Flickr and careful curation

Every now and again it’s worth remembering what a lovely and valuable discovery engine flickr really is. Of course for simple image search it’s great but there is also the joy-inducing serendipity of discovering that there are others who share the same interests as you, whether these interests are craneporncontrol panels or failure. A friend of mine describes internet pornography as having the same serendipitous effect – all of a sudden you discovers kinks that you didn’t know you had. But with flickr the quality of a group is in the care of the curation. A good group will have clearly communicated criteria for submissions and submissions that fall outside certain boundaries will be rejected, so preserving a curatorial, yet crowdsourced, integrity. It strikes me that there are all sorts of lessons to be learned from flickr and curation and community are good places to start.

5) The Idea Thing

A change in profession is a good opportunity for some good old fashioned introspection and navel gazing. So, is there a difference between what I did (getting things made and selling them) and what I now do (communicating ideas about things other people have made and want to sell)? Who is the customer for an idea, the client or the audience or both?

When ‘things’ encapsulate ‘ideas’ do they stop being purely things or purely ideas? I am less interested in *the social object* than I am in *the idea thing*, a digital or physical object that captures and communicates an idea about the world. Can idea things sell stuff, or are they the stuff that sells?

I guess I’m about to find out.

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