Open Source Culturematics Producing Open Data #startofplay

This is a development of the way I’ve been thinking for a while.  And what I wrote yesterday about organising all this stuff is part of it too.

So I talked at a gaming unconference on Saturday about Culturematics, open sourcing their development and opening up the data that they produce.

This is what I believe/wish I said:

Culturematics are Grant McCracken’s term for ‘little machines that make culture’ the sort of thing where you ask “what if…?” something and then you go out and do that something, you do it, you write about it, you do it again and write about it again etc. etc..  Tuttle is one of these (even though so many people thought it was a networking event, it’s actually a little game in creating culture) and so, more obviously was Tuttle2Texas and PLATE.  But I think Dave Gorman going out and finding all the Dave Gormans is one too and is Danny Wallace’s “Yes Man”   

So we know what these things are, some of us do them, some of us enjoy seeing them or taking part in them.  I met an unwitting culturematic maker today – he’s made a blog about rectangular out-painting on walls.  And in a sense, every blogger is doing this too – what if I wrote about stuff regularly and posted it on the internet with a comments section for other people to ridicule me?

The question then is what happens if a) you apply open source project principles to developing the process and b) you make open all the data/content/text (whatever) that gets made in the process?

a) opening the process development – look at it as if it were an open source software project.  My understanding is that most OS projects start with someone writing something that they find useful and putting it out there.  Over time other people use the software and decide that they want to alter it in some way, to add features or to make it interoperable with other software or whatever improvement they want to make.  So how does that apply to a traditional creative project? Well there are lots of different processes, over time we’ve categorised them according to the type of product that will come out – you know if you’re making a film or a book or a painting to hang in a gallery and because it cost lots of money to produce one or other of those, it was highly unlikely that you’d start something just exploring an idea and then decide it was going to be a book, no a film, no maybe it’s just a book after all – ah no maybe it’s actually a photographic exhibition…. with a book…. and a film of the “Making of…”  But that’s how we can work now, even if it drives us mad.  It would seem even more insane to start involving other people in this and allowing them to take what had been done (on the process) and then fork off in the direction they wanted to go.  Insane, but exciting.

And that’s where the open data bit comes in and kicks you in the teeth.  Take a simple project, what if once a day for a month I take a photograph at random from my Flickr collection and write a paragraph about it and then make a book out of the pictures and words?  OK so I can see how I would do that, create a blog, make everything Creative Commons Attribution licenced and post once a day and then export the blog to blurb or lulu or whatever and make a book out of it.  That’s fine for me.  What if someone comes along in the middle and goes “that’s a damn fine idea, I’m going to translate it into French”.  So they do.  That’s OK, it fits with the licence and all the stuff is up on the web already.

But what about if I’m making a film and we’ve written it, openly and collaboratively as described above (even assuming that can be done, I have my doubts), do we start shooting and posting everything online immediately?  And let everyone see inside what we’re doing? And take our stuff and maybe make something better with it than we could have? This is the point where most sensible people say “Yes I’d love someone else to make their content open like that, because it would be easier for me, but if you think I’m going to do that myself, share what I’ve been doing freely before I’ve made anything finished myself, you can take that idea and stick it where the sun don’t shine.” 

Maybe the sharing has to be once the “main creator” has had a chance to publish what they were doing.  Perhaps the opening of the data can only be at the end of some phase of the project.  Otherwise it would be a bit like working on an open source project that the original author had never actually compiled or run. I do think it has to be open from the start, it’s very difficult to open up something that started as a closed project.  But I could be wrong.  I’m thinking here particularly about the difficulty of working with the film footage that is still in the can from Tuttle2Texas.  

Sensible people would hate this.  But as a fully-paid-up member of the non-sensible club, I’m left thinking “It’s not for everyone, but it would be interesting to see what happened”. And it would certainly feel a bit like the ever-elusive “Real Creative Collaboration” I think, as usual, I’m looking for some willing playmates to have a go.

Making Sense of All This Stuff

I have been creating stuff on the web for more about fifteen years. That thought alone depresses me – on the one hand it seems overwhelmingly huge, there’s so much of it out there accumulated over five thousand days – but on the other it all seems trivial and insubstantial, a whole load of blether, some pictures of shoes people have left behind and videos of me saying “Hi, my name’s Lloyd Davis and today I’m …”.

I want to take stock and put it all in some order.  It’s one of those things that really needs doing.  I think I know pretty much what I’m doing here now – there’s writey stuff, there’s visual stuff and there’s audio stuff and sometimes it all gets mixed up but that’s about the size of it.

If this were someone else’s stuff it wouldn’t be nearly as difficult, I’d just methodically go through all the sources compiling a database of it all, with as much metadata as is available, but at least dates and times, right?  And then design some processes for going forward. But everything I look at has an emotional charge. “Oh my god, what was I thinking?”

But let’s stick with it.  Let’s have a look at what I know I have.

So I have writing archives here on, and that includes several other discontinued blogs and the same goes for blogger and posterous.  There’s a little bit at storify and then I suppose there’s also writing of a sort in twitter and facebook.  Tumblr doesn’t have any original content in it, I don’t think. Ideally, I’d also like to be able to pull in any comments I made on other people’s blogs, but that’s going to be tricky.

I have over 10,000 pictures on Flickr but I think any other picture-sharing sites that I used in the past have been subsumed into that.  I think…  I have videos on YouTube and Vimeo but also Qik and Bambuser, possibly Ustream (?) and then there’s my Seesmic archive.  Everything that currently goes to Instagram gets backed up to Flickr as well as FB.

I have audio from my first podcasts on Libsyn, backed up to S3.  There’s also a bunch on Audioboo and I’ve an album on Bandcamp.

I hate the way that these are all differently integrated – ideally, I mean in that ideal world where I had a team of people to sort this out for me, I’d have everything also hosted independently and from today I’d not be using any of these services as the primary channel/home for anything.

I want to get there.  I’m just trying to work out where there really is and what is the best way to proceed.  But if you want to be as discouraged as I am, try downloading a few seconds clip from that you recorded in 2008.