Inevitability of Generativity

19 03 2010

One of the main issues in Jonathan Zittrain’s book The Future of the Internet is the generativity of the Internet and new technologies. Zittrain defines “generativity” as a system’s capacity to produce unanticipated change through unfiltered contributions from broad and varies audiences. Essentially, using technologies in ways other than their intended original purpose.

Zittrain likes to focus on Wikipedia, but let’s take a look at some other generative technologies in interactive media.

Machinima is an excellent example. Machinima consists of recording video game characters within the game, then dubbing over alternate audio to make a new video. Red vs. Blue is a machinima that gained immense popularity, spawning 100 short episodes and three mini-series. World of Warcraft has also proved to be a popular platform for machinima videos.

YouTube is another great example. The site may have originally been founded just for the purpose of hosting videos, but has grown into a video mogul. The selection of types of videos hosted continues to grow. On YouTube you can find scenes from television and movies, trailers, music videos, sports highlights, video blogs, user-created content, video comments, webisodes, and more! It has also been a contributing factor in helping viral videos spread and become popular.

Zittrain suggests that the Internet is changing, and we are moving towards a non-generative digital world. But I would have to disagree. One of the greatest features of generativity is its spontaneity. It is never planned or expected. It just happens.

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