One thing you find in the rollercoaster of early research, as you start to plough through the seminal works on your reading list, are strong, entrenched positions. Particularly in my area of interest – alternative models for social media networks. And of course, it’s all part of ‘the process’, the 360 degree view you’re encouraged to undertake to raise your awareness of the ‘knowledge’ in your field before you start to focus on, hopefully, one day, adding your own grain of contribution over what has been assembled by others.
And early on, you become aware that the struggle for ‘open’ and ‘free’ in technology and the social web is still very much ongoing and unresolved. Particularly the debate about content, who owns it, and whether it can be monetised. From Google starting to limit free news access, to doubts about Google’s own role as the catalyst of openness versus the ‘evil’ Microsofts of this world. In one corner we have content providers resigned to giving their content away in the hope that freemium model can be wrapped by advertising or paid for by a tiny fraction of readership; and in the other, content-providers trying to find some other way out. Despite the fact that we have now already had years of benefiting from a ‘free web’ and point to point, uninterrupted communications, that have further exploded with the emergence of the social web.
I’m still sitting on the fence on this one. Like most people, I fell in love with the Internet because it freed me from location and real-life networks and enabled me to learn from open content and connect with my various tribes, wherever they were, for the price of my ISP connection. On the other side, as a content provider with my side-project, Malta Inside Out, I know that quality, hyper-local content does not grow on trees, costs real money and brings value to others.