Four minutes ago, Lauren was in the Netherlands on the way to the UK ( And she is using a new publishing platform called Hi. It may not be the right service in the right vein, but here is as good a place as any to talk about the creative use of the network as a publishing medium. Hi is defined with an Italo Calvino quote: “The city does not tell its past, but contains it like the lines of a hand, written in the corner of the street, the gratings of the windows, the banisters of the steps, the antennae of the lightning rods, the poles of the flags, every segment marked in turn with scratches, indentations, scrolls.” — Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities. It enables you to think in two modes, using your smartphone and device to create and extend records of what you have just noticed. The moment sketch is a record in three parts – 20 words, a geolocation and a photo. Then add a sketch (nice beta interface for those like me who think they cannot sketch). Polish it up as an Extended moment, then place it in your Profile. Now sit back and imagine what this tessellated mosaic of sketches and moments will look like when you search on a place, reveal the moments of others, catch a glimpse of realities never before revealed. Here then is a form of travel writing, and a form of poetry, and a form of network expression, and it could be elements of networked fiction. Above all, it is individual expression in a collaborative context. Is it finished? No, it has hardly started and will never finish. But it is art. Or, if you insist, Art.

So does it take us past Twitter? No, it is completely different. This is observation of the mundane as much as the unique. And it is a symptom as much as an answer. It reminds us that the future of entertainment in the network may not be about powerful intermediaries orchestrating things for us, but new tools and platforms allowing us to express ourselves in ways previously impossible. Behind me is a shelf of 32 scrapbooks, in which, for some forty years, I have pasted pictures of houses, paintings, cathedrals and archaeological sites encountered on travels. Apart from the fact that they were attacked by mice one hard winter a few years ago, they have served me well – but how much better if I could now savour them as moments, and easily share them with others. In a recent article on “Big Data” I found the horrifying confession from Netflix that they used advanced data analytics to chart their entry into the production marketplace. Using these technologies, they claimed, allowed them to hone their decision making and allowed them to pick House of Cards as their launch production, bringing 2 million new subscribers in its wake. This is the trouble with success – it brings failure in its wake. Applying data analysis in this way will only ever show what people liked yesterday, and demonstrate that what people say that will like can be in actuality very unstrung from what they eventually discover they do like. The key to data analysis is finding out what it all means. The story of art, on the other hand, is exploring the scope of human expression.

We all know that some things go down well. Narrative works on many different levels. So do images, and location (or do I mean locale?). Many of the services that we create already have precious elements of all of these things. Look at, which raised over $50 million in second tier funding last week. For luxury goods shoppers, this is almost an art form. It lets them dream aloud, then tells them where its at and what it costs Then look at Relationship Science (, which raised $30 million last month. By interconnecting financiers and managers and ideas users build and explore future business development and funding scenarios – or did I mean to say narratives? So we know that life is art and art is life? So why, if we are so prepared to pursue life in new forms in business or shopping, are we so dubious about moving away from the formats of the Gutenberg world when we engage with the world of publishing. Only a few weeks ago I sat calm and still (disguising inner torment) while the lady who heads a major book publisher here explained to me and the audience that I was addressing that she regarded my criticism of publishers as wrong-headed; her company was a very successful example of digital publishing, since 25% of her sales now came from eBooks.

Fortunately an astute chairman directed us away from confrontation. For me, format shifting is simply moving deckchairs on the digital Titanic. And since the roles of publishers in B2B or STM have changed radically as they encounter the workflow issues of end-users, move away from intermediaries, and become investors in tools and platforms, so it will predictably be for consumer publishers. They will seek to manage the platforms of creativity, like Hi, not the outputs. There will be less of them, and so there should be. What is the point of a world where everyone is his own publisher if someone is trying to own everything?


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