The Digital Grass Roots

Introduction

The more open source format of Web 2.0 is beginning to reshape the way we perceive and practice creating products in the digital age. Websites such as Youtube, Vimeo, Kickstarter, Pinterest and the like are allowing open source spaces for creative individuals to share ideas, learn from one another, streamline interests, and, the topic of this blog post, create products supported by the grass root collaborative and financial support of online communities.

Collaboration in A Digital Age

Advances in internet and computer technology have vastly increased the ease and ability for individuals to network themselves and their ideas in a large, connect,ed searchable, and relatively free digital environment. Websites such as Youtube, Vimeo, Kickstarter, and Pinterest allow front end access to interactive, user generated content, where individuals can form small to large niche communities that flourish within these internet website spaces. A site like YouTube, hosts videos of self produced user generated content (although recently, major broadcast networks have seen money to be made in posting content via YouTube), which can form immense, organic fan bases. YouTube’s ability to connect producers of content to the fans via comments allows a more interactive approach to the consumer/producer paradigm.

Levels of Intensity

The reading “What is Collaboration Anyway”, addressed levels of intensity when defining the criteria for a collaboration. Not all website platforms allow users to have a strong, interactive experience. These websites have little to no access to back end framework of websites, and only limited acces to front end. A website such as Flickr, just acts as a filtering mechanisms, ordering photos by tags and user interests to better link individuals to content. Users are unable to have any direct content with producers of content, nor the structure of the website itself, and thus collaboration is reduced to only the utility of users aggregate data. This problem with ease of access to the front and back end framework of web platforms, lead the text authors to designate certain criteria to rank Web 2.0 collaborations in levels or intensity, Flickr being a weak example, a site such as Facebook strong, and Linux and Wikipedia as intense examples. The criteria are questions of: intention, goals, (self)governance, coordination mechanisms, property, knowledge transfer, identity, scale, network topography, accessibility, equality.

A Case Study

http://www.bailey-motors.com/

For the past four years, my uncle Neal Bailey has been documenting his DIY process designing and building his own sports car through various collaborative, Web 2.0 web formats. He has garnered millions of views and created a community of followers that give feedback and ask questions about his process. His personal website links his various social media networks, which allows his fans to have intimate and immediate access to his videos and design plans, as well as contact him directly. His eventual plan is to use grass root fundraising to support his overall business plan to get the car produced. By utilizing these various social and collaborative media, Neal has provided for an open source environment for sharing and allowing feedback to his ideas. This transparency in his overall process intends for people to embellish his techniques, improving upon and adding to their own projects, thus challenging the current, top down, specialized and institutionalized producer/consumer paradigm.

Conclusion

Web2.0 technologies are challenging the current business model for producer/consumer relations. Individuals are able to network with people easily, forming niche communities that can spur grass root like movements. I highlighted an example of this by focusing on my uncle Neal, who has used various social media to garner support and feedback for his concept car project. This open source format to project building can be viewed through the criteria listed before as being a somewhat strong collaboration, compared to a more traditional approach to something so technically demanding such as car building. Although my uncle is the sole creator of his car, his transparency and ease of access to his methods show how Web 2.0 technology can help flourish collaborative efforts between not only producers, but the consumers they are trying to make products for.

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