strategy+business Winter 2013 : Page 76

B E S T B U S I N E S S B O O K S 2 0 13 / D I G I T I Z AT I O N 76 one of the key forces shaping the media environment.” Just as big data forces us to reconsider our privileg-ing of causality over correlation, spreadability is forcing major culture creators, such as entertainment compa-nies, to reconsider how much control of their content they should cede in order to see it more widely distrib-uted. Armies of fans of anime —Japanese animated cartoons—voluntarily subtitle and recirculate their fa-vorite videos in multiple languages, providing valuable exposure to the animators. Independent video makers generated more than $10 million worth of publicity for Mentos candy as a side effect of posting popular vid-eos of people dropping Mentos into Diet Coke to cre-ate a geyser. The underground circulation of profes-sional wrestling videos revealed hitherto unidentified “surplus audiences,” which prompted World Wrestling Entertainment to launch a new cable channel devoted to past matches and to sell DVDs of classic matches. Jenkins and his co-authors also cite example after example of fans who produce cultural value for nonmonetary rewards, such as social recognition by their peers. For instance, fans of the Harry Potter books and films created Dumbledore’s Army, a worldwide on-line community that effects real change in the physical world. Its members sent airplanes full of medical sup-plies to Haiti after the devastating earthquake of 2010 (spreadability multiplied by socialstructing). Spreadable Media debunks the notion of “influenc-ers” that was popularized by Malcolm Gladwell. Citing research by network scientist Duncan Watts and others, its authors argue that networks and communities of co-influencers are more important than keystone individu-als: “Any new system must respect the importance of surplus audiences and the role active audience members play as grassroots intermediaries shaping the experience of other audience members.” They also cite the impor-tance of “produsers,” a word coined by Axel Bruns to define those who combine the functions of producers and users of media. “Produsers,” write the authors, “play curatorial and promotional roles, selecting and promot-ing content and creating metadata, improving the pros-pects of the material being found by future users.” Spreadable Media is convincing in its argument that “successful creators understand the strategic and technical aspects they need to master in order to cre-ate content more likely to spread, and they think about what motivates participants to share information and to build relationships with the communities shaping its circulation.” Toward that end, the book provides de-tailed advice to content producers, such as using “trans-media touchpoints” to listen to what fan publics are tell-ing them about their products, rather than using social media as just another channel for broadcast promotion. If you are in the music, movie, television, or game busi-ness, this book is a must-read. Taken together, the signals and lenses described in the three best business books on digitization this year provide us with a clearer understanding of the positive and negative social, economic, and political changes Independent video makers generated more than $10 million of publicity for Mentos candy by posting videos of people dropping Mentos into Diet Coke. that socialstructing, spreadable media, and big data could create in the near future. We are already seeing tectonic shifts in politics that are being caused at least in part by socialstructing. The influence of spreadable media can be seen in transmedia and mass-media prod-ucts, which include hashtags and other spreadability affordances emanating from entertainment companies. And most wide-reaching of all, big data is influencing more and more aspects of life—surveillance and sales, public health and financial markets, politics and sci-ence—which is why Big Data is my choice as the Top Shelf selection for digitization. + Howard Rheingold has been exploring digital culture for 30 years. His books include Net Smart: How to Thrive Online (MIT Press, 2012), Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution (Perseus, 2002), and Tools for Thought: The History and Future of Mind-Expanding Technology (2nd ed., MIT Press, 2000). He has taught at Stanford University and the University of California at Berkeley. strategy+business strategy+business issue issue 73 73 best books 2013 digitization

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