Hoist the sail and harness the new force of nature

Joakim Jardenberg is a change advocate and participant in discussions of all aspects of the old, new, digital and social media. The text is taken from our publication “Build on others’ work” about how you can create media and build services on data and content that already exist.

There is widespread misunderstanding about a generation free. Superficial surveys say that kids today aren’t willing to pay for anything at all, which of course parents of teenagers know, isn’t true at all.

New relationship to content

However, we can see a new very special relationship with content, especially digital content. Paying for a TV license, buying access to content behind a paywall or even understanding that something that can be copied isn’t OK to copy – just isn’t included in the worldview.

But that doesn’t translate into being egotistical, immoral parasites or even “pirates”. It just means that these kids grew up in, and have adapted to, a brand new world. Or rather a world of ancient principles.

Step back in history, way back. To the time when we lived in symbiosis with nature and we found our strength in solidarity. The resources around us were there for everyone to use. Nature’s wealth was owned by no one, but was used by the community. Each person contributed a share, for the good of everyone.

Without getting into politics, property ownership is its opposite, a semi-modern construction, with the emphasis on construction. It has been maintained through a number of regulations, with associated means to enforce, govern and control. But very little of the old mechanism works in a digital world where content is available in abundance, where global law is impossible, with technology that never allows itself to be limited and with an audience that is increasingly dissatisfied with anything less than everything.

To paraphrase old Stenbeck: Technology wins over the law.

remix 81 b
Photo: “remix 81 b”, Cyberslayer. CC BY-NC-SA.

Consumer, creator and co-creator

The digital world is now seen increasingly as a commons. All creation is based on someone else’s work, and the strength is that the new ecosystem creates completely new opportunities. As the venerable British newspaper said in its digital strategy, “Weaving the Guardian into the fabric of the web.” No short-term gains there. By becoming part of the web you stake your claim for this role. Make sure you are relevant today, and would be missed if you should disappear. This foundation is crucial. If you are necessary and perhaps even loved, the rest is a relatively easy business development.

But back to the digital generation. The base of their worldview is simple. They see themselves not just as consumers, but as co-creators. The roles are intertwined. The former consumer pays back with commitment, refinement and distribution. With such simple currencies as time and creativity, new values are created.

You may think that it is possible to preserve the rules of yesterday. You may be tempted by tougher rules and more supervision as a viable approach. You may find it appealing that the trend can be blocked.

But I promise: a force of nature like the new transparency is unstoppable.