Sunday, November 05, 2006

identity creation vs content creation

I like how John Hagel III contrasts MySpace with YouTube. He calls it Identity Creation (MySpace) vs. Content Creation (YouTube).

YouTube is similar to Blogger, WordPress, TypePad, flickr, and other popular upload platforms. They all enable average users to quickly and easily publish content to the web, for the potential viewing of a global audience.

At the MySpace platform, people are trying to construct and convey a personal identity, and connect with others of compatible sentiments and moods.

On the other hand, people at YouTube are trying to provide video content that will appeal to others, whether their personality is a part of that content or not. At times it is other people's content, like music videos by favorite bands, or juicy segments of a televised speech.

An excerpt from "Halloween Goblins" by John Hagel III.


In this context, let’s differentiate two different forms of creation – identity creation and content creation - by contrasting MySpace with sites like Flickr and YouTube.

Identity creation. The overwhelming growth of MySpace stems from its success in helping participants to create and evolve distinctive identities. It does this by providing a robust platform for appropriating and mixing different elements, combining music clips, video clips, graphics and text in engaging ways, to create and communicate a distinctive identity.

Bowley’s article does a nice job of communicating how MySpace rapidly gained share against an earlier social network site, Friendster, by emphasizing this functionality.

Bowley reports on her conversation with the two founders of MySpace:

They were getting “antsy” about doing something new, especially in social networks, they told me, and thought they could get away from the pre-programmed “box” that Friends locked users into and instead let people “really open up and do all sorts of things with their profiles.”

“Our site worked,” said DeWolfe. “You actually could log on, surf, customize your web pages and really be creative.”

In contrast to Friendster, MySpace encourage people to put up wacky art or even pipe music on to their pages. . . . As Friendster fell back, MySpace became the leading social network site, its millions of pages a cacophony of teenage self-declarations, friends’ testimonials, flirting, provocation, scrawls, art and music.

Content creation. Now let’s contrast this with Flickr or YouTube. Here, the emphasis is on a different form of creation – it’s more about content creation than identity creation. Surf through Flickr and you encounter impressive photography. YouTube provides a great platform for presentation of videos, some appropriated from other sources, but an increasing number produced by the contributors themselves. On these sites, you get some sense of the identity of the contributors, but the real focus is on showcasing the content itself. Networks in these sites begin to organize around a shared interest in certain forms of content. The content is the anchor and shaper of social networks.

It is interesting to note that MySpace really took off initially as a showcase for indie bands and their music. As music fans flocked to this site, MySpace was able to evolve into an environment for broader identity creation and experimentation because of the flexible platform it had created.

Sites like Flickr and YouTube are likely to have a harder time doing this because their sites are optimized for content capture and display.


Now, how are using your blog? To forge and display a journaled identity, a corporate presence, an expertise or specialty? Or are you more concerned with content, like information or entertainment? Have you ever thought of it this way? Toward which are you most slanted? Identity or Content?

Is Identity just another form of Content, and is Content a Self-Identifying Identity?

Where does identity end and content begin?

Can you clearly define one sentence as "me/myself" and another sentence as "information"?

Aren't many YouTubers displaying who they are?

Don't many MySpacers provide information and entertainment content?

Where are we now, then?


Jecklin said...

When asking these questions, I think we have to take into account what side of the computer screen we are on.

Are these questions being asked from the side of the creator of content and identity, or the end user--ie. the one gazing at the screen (lovingly, with scorn, curiousity, boredom, quest for information, indifference etc etc) taking it all in.

Personally, I prefer the youtube, blogs, flickrs etc. I am more interested in what people create. If I like, maybe I'll become interested in them, but generally not. I'm content with your cool content.

Identity can be faked. There is also peril in searching for Identity (yours or the creator's) in someone elses content.

At the same time, our actions do reveal our identity, too. In some ways, they are one and the same.

My gut tells me Myspace is more illusion than identity, whereas blogging, youtube, flickr ect can really have an impact on the creator.

quick add: when a person is new to a profession, learning the ropes, an identity is taken on, right? One's "identity" is modified. Persist in that profession for long enough period of time, and you do become an extent.

heh...I think I'll go outside now and clean the gutters of leaves. the rains are here!

steven edward streight said...

Jecklin: your first comment is troubling to me, because I can no longer distinguish content producers vs. content consumers.

The two types have merged into one, the Producer-Consumer-Distributor.

But, there still may be some who simply create, and some who simply consume. I just see less and less of this.

I've heard others say that they make their music to please themselves first, make it good enough that they would listen to it, even if it wasn't themselves who done it.

So I see my work also that way.

I produce my writing and music for self-consumption. If others like it or hate it, it means little to me, because I may not like what they like, so we're all in the same boat.

The one gazing at the screen is, more and more, also producing material for the screen: blogs, videos, chat, podcasts, intranets, digital grass roots journalism, software development.

I think that most of my readers are technicians, developers, designers, marketers, ecommerce specialists, webmasters, CEOs, and personal bloggers.

Great point about False Digital Identity.

You stress the most ignored fact on the web: You Cannot Trust Anyone Online.

Not me. Not you. Not anyone. Unless you know them offline, via personal presence, telephone, video chat, etc.

Personal presence is best, but you may not want to be physically close to some online entities, especially if a young male or female.

Fake Identities rampant galore in the web. All the MySpace girl blogs have photos of themselves that are beautiful and voluptuous, with few exceptions. How many of those photos are stolen from porn sites?

How many Geekyboy14 are really, in the real offline physical reality true world: OldpervertGeezer52?

But the best blogs combine Identity Exhibition and Relevant Content Dissemination.

Tell us who you are, and also tell us things that are funny, useful, enlightening, thought-provoking, challenging, helpful, inspiring, astonishing.

I keep coming back to Seth Godin's "Be Remarkable--Worthy of Remarks", "Be Astonishing", "Put a Free Prize Inside Every Product".

Jecklin said...

James Corbett in the comments of a post made the following statement:

This is something I’ve been writing about for a while and a few weeks ago I summed it up with a post entitled - “I’m an Application”. To quote -

“MyBlog traditionally conceptualizes me as a book. It sees me as content. But the evolution of MySpace, MyStartPage, etc and the emergence of widgets points to a convergence of those platforms towards a conceptualization of me as an Application.

I’m a collection of inputs and outputs with some processing (not enough according to my critic!) in between. I’m not a book. People don’t read me, they interact with me. My digital-self should reflect that interactive nature.”