Tag Archives: future

Personal artistic patronage – the next phase of TV….?

What do these people all have in common?

Spot the millionaire

They appear in some of the greatest works of art in the history of the world – because they had a) money and b) taste.

For centuries, the only way to get your art made was to make it for the Church, or in some cases for the Court. One of the key elements that spurred the great artistic reawakening was the pure economics of the situation – a new wave of more worldly masters, mainly merchants and venture capitalists. Of whom the undoubted rockstars were the Medici.

Out of love of glory bound together with love of art, they empowered artists, writers and poets to broaden their horizons, to explore the secular, and to express themselves on the grand stage.

Closer to the present day, we have this:

Now Richard Branson is no Medici (thus far.) But he is a representative of something we are all familiar with, whether as professionals or as irritated film goers – that as the commercial models of the past video industry crumble, we see increasing roles for businesses in funding (and appearing in) entertainment content.

It’s easy, and perhaps right, to be pretty suspicious of this force, particularly as it migrates to a more subliminal level, and to the screen in your living room rather than the public forum of the cinema.

They really could have leveraged the space on his forehead more effectively to improve brand recall...

But the fact is that the economics of the world of TV are changing. This will definitely mean a more integral role within the world of TV content for brands and companies. I would argue that there is also a potential role for individuals, and that the day of the great patrons will return. Why?

In the past, there were 4 things that gave you power in the world of TV, and that made the TV channels and networks powerful (loosely quoting Andy Lippmann, of the MIT Media Lab.)

1. Access to a mass form of distribution

2. Money for and capability at promoting content

3. Venture capital to invest in creative projects

4. The taste and expertise to act as a curator and editor

What is interesting about this is that we sit at an interesting turning point in the world of TV, where the first two are changing beyond all recognition.

What an Apple TV almost certainly won't look like

Distribution is through the internet or wireless connection – and YOU own and pay for that. And promotion…well, increasingly, you do that too, because the recommendations you and your friends make to each other are much more powerful than any advertising campaign.

So that leaves two aspects: venture capital for creative projects, and the taste and expertise to choose the right content and support the right talent.

Which sounds an awful lot like artistic patronage. Add this to an app-led, tablet-style interface and the chances of watching the Bill Gates or the Madonna channel seem more and more likely. Especially as Twitter, Facebook and Google Plus increasingly condition us to expect a Web of content organised around people, rather than topics or channels.

This wouldn’t be anything brand new – CurrentTV feels near as dammit like the Al Gore Channel.

Current TV. Good, but ahead of its time.

And it won’t necessarily be individuals…it could be collectives (like the Coppolla/Bogdanovich/Friedkin ‘Directors Company of the 1970s)

The Directors Company - good, but ahead of their time (and generally mad and power-crazed)

But in the next phase of TV, artistic patronage could come back in a big way.



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The Gilded Cage: Why inside every Apple user is a Charlie Sheen waiting to get out

It’s just possible that there a few people out there who think that being Charlie Sheen would be really great.

I certainly wouldn’t mind a crack at it for an evening, or maybe as a short weekend break. But ultimately, we can collectively agree (once we’ve finished pointing, staring and giggling) that overall Charlie Sheen is a figure worthy of pity rather than amusement.


After all, he is rich. And (just about still) good looking. And he knows lots of people that you would like to know. And talented (I’m no 2 ½ Men enthusiast, but I wouldn’t have minded being in Wall Street, or Platoon, or, for that matter, Young Guns.)

The fact is that Charlie may be rich, and good looking, and talented, but mainly nowadays he is defined by the kind of experiences he has (decadent, unrestrained, medicated) rather than who he is or what he does.

As a result, right now he is just FAMOUS. He is pretty much just a professional celebrity, and that is a pretty terrible thing to be. Because being a celebrity mainly means that people look at you all the time, and report what you do to others.

The people that have most in common with celebrities, therefore, are maximum security prisoners. Constantly observed, logged and restricted in movement.

Hollywood is no Alcatraz. It is a place of almost unrestricted money and pleasure (as well as a place where a lot of creative people do a lot of great work.) But when you reach the Charlie category of celebrity, Hollywood is a cage. A Gilded Cage, but a cage nonetheless.

Alcatraz - good location for a rehab facility?

And over the long haul, doesn’t pretty much everyone want to break out of the Gilded Cage?

An interesting question…and by no means an easy one to answer.

Politically, this is one of the most interesting long view questions out there. Until a couple of decades ago it was relatively usual to see the arc of history as a long march to political freedom, through economic and military hardship.

This has fallen out of favour during the last few years…though current events in the Middle East and the fate of Gaddafi are an interesting crucible to see where we are going next.What is certain is that the assumed link between wealth and political liberality is by no means certain. In fact it is not uncommon to see ‘progressive’ politicians like Tony Blair openly question the old paradigm of liberalism – effectively to assert that in a modern inter-dependent economy and society, it is out of date. In his infuriatingly readable memoirs, he asserts that it is about the social quality of your experience of life, not your absolute freedom.

Personally, I would say that freedom never goes out of date. It’s just the conversation that changes (as explored by my friend Ben Wilson in this excellent book.)

Good question, good book.

This conversation was always a lot simpler when it came to the Internet. The argument was that online users would always break out of the cage, no matter how gilded.

Having worked with AOL through its heyday as an ISP in the UK, I watched this in slow motion as its ‘Walled Garden’ approach became an anachronism in the digital economy – no matter how much content or how many services they created, no-one would accept life in the Gilded Cage.

Here we find ourselves, in 2011, gasping with anticipation at the launch of the iPad 2, giddily in love with Apple and all its shiny things. Apple is the most admired company in the world for the sixth year running, and the second most valuable.

And yet isn’t Apple’s model just another Gilded Cage? It is beautifully designed, wonderfully tactile, intuitively mobile, but isn’t Apple’s ecosystem basically a prison of corporate control and cross-sell?

Like many sane people, Charlie Brooker both loves and hates Apple


I’m just a month into my relationship with my iPhone, so for me the jury is out on the overall experience (it isn’t until you have at least two Apple devices that they really start getting to work on you.) But there is certainly something irritating, and, dare I say it old fashioned about their attempts to fence me in.

Certainly at the moment, the online world seems to be a balance between user freedom and the feel of the experience. New fault lines are breaking out, with Google appearing more and more the standard bearer of freedom and functionality, vs the curated experience of Apple.

Does this mean I think there is a crazed Charlie Sheen inside every Apple user, desperate to escape? Do I believe Steve Jobs is cowering in fear at the insurgency to come?

Of course not. Ultimately the technology user won’t choose between experience and freedom. They will demand both. So in the long term, I can’t see the Gilded Cage of Apple looking as secure in 10 years as it does now.


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time to go back to the future

these are negative times we are living in. conservatism is up, investment is down. innovation is drying up, and even apple are reduced to trying to make us want stuff we clearly don’t need. the future is a bleak wasteland. i’m excited.

why? because it seems like it is always intense discomfort with the now that creates our most exciting leaps into the future. but it always seems to be preceded by an desire to look backwards. i remember the same thing happening when i was young, in the early 1990s – and it seemed to be follow by an avalanche of innovation – cultural, technological, everything. i think the same thing happened in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and looked what happened then.

i think now we are in the phase of looking back. of collecting our thoughts. of trying to rediscover our identity – where we have come from. what we NEED is for our leaders – artistic, business, political, technological, to start telling a compelling history of that past, of how we arrived where we are. because i think it is only when you get that sense of perspective, that you start feeling optimistic about the future.

where did this though come from?

firstly from reading a biography of lincoln, ‘team of rivals’ (much recommended by me and by Obama, another man who really needs to get people excited about the future again.) lincoln’s genius was to simply tell the american story, in a way that was simple and accessible and almost mythical, but made people instinctively excited about the potential of the future. david cameron sure as hell ain’t no lincoln. the way things are going, neither is obama.

david cameron sure as hell ain't no lincoln

but mainly it comes from one of my favourite scenes in the movies – the mall scene in bill & ted’s excellent adventure. definitely one of the formative texts of my world view (sadly.)

here it is, in al its glory. see beethoven discovering synthesizers. joan of arc discovering aerobics. and socrates trying to get laid.

beethoven discovers synthesizers

this scene reminds me that however drab the current moment might seem, it is so much easier to see the potential in the things around us when we have just a little perspective.

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where is my total recall ‘instant beauty’ TV channel?

in which it is obvious that only the bad bits of Total Recall have come true, and that if people will listen to birdsong, they will definitely watch Eyjafjallajökull erupting

you may not remember Total Recall quite as well as I do, but one of the scenes that sticks most in my mind is one where sharon stone and arnie argue over the tv remote. she wants to set the tv (which, this being the future, takes up much of the apartment wall) to an incredible sunset, arnie wants to watch rolling 24-hour coverage of industrial unrest on Mars. she of course turns out to be an evil conspirator in the wiping of his memory, but i was with her on the channel choice.

ok, if we can't agree what to watch, i'll just shoot it.

what spurred this journey into the sci-fi adventures of the 1980s was watching this quite stunning time lapse video of the eruption of the unpronounceable Icelandic volcano by Sean Stiegemeier…reminding me that this event was not just an inconvenience to aviation, but one of the most spectacular and beautiful phenomena in the natural world.

why, oh why does my TV, with its several thousand channels, not simply have one that i can visit to access beautiful, real imagery of the world whenever i want it. in this always-on, on-demand broadcast world that we live in, why does every single channel assume that what i want to watch is a ‘programme’, preferably lasting half an hour and with the pre-recorded sound of ‘humans’ laughing forcible inserted into it.

i don’t know if it still exists, but when digital radio was getting started in the UK i know they were experimentally transmitting a station called ‘birdsong’ (you can guess what the programming schedule looked like) – and it was strangely very popular. in fact various online services were launched off the back of it. check it out. it will make you happy.

http://www.birdsongradio.com - ok, you can have enough of it, but it's nice

surely there is a gap in the market for a broadcasting equivalent? possibly funded by an advertiser or a collective of advertisers with a stake in travel, beauty and inspiration? all you would have to do is to collect what exists already, from all around the world, and put it on the big screen.

i would watch it, at least for a moment, every day of my life.

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