Dave Winer posted yesterday about how he is a media hacker. Gareth Branwyn (of cooltools and streettech which were the ancestors of engadget and gizmodo) defines media hacking as:

Media Hacking is a term I use in Jamming the Media to refer to amateurs who produce various forms of media, making use of available technologies and resources and trying to overcome limitations, in much the same way that computer hackers do. Early hackers preached a “question authority” and “yield to the hands-on imperative” philosophy that’s shared by most DIY media-makers. Media hacking is any form of do-it-yourself media manipulation done with little money, lots of passion, and heaping doses of good ol’ Yankee ingenuity.

This is what I have been interested in for the last couple of years. The tools are becoming a commodity. The platforms are becoming more accessible. ‘Regula Folks’ are getting more involved. What used to be called “audience participation’ is sometimes more interesting than the show itself. Mmmm… Participation.

WordPress, Bubbler, Mambo – 7-8 years ago these kinds of content management systems were nonexistent. You could write it from scratch (in ASP or PERL), or use Vignette, or Cold Fusion. We didnt know how bad life sucked back then, but after I set seanbohan.com up in 15 minutes… oh man did life suck back then. It was a pain in the ass to make and keep up a personal website. People didnt suddenly realize they had something to say when these tools were released into the ‘wild’. A barrier to entry was removed. It became easier.

Some of the best ads I have seen in the last year were part of the MoveOn.org competition during the last election cycle. Sure some were created by Pros. But so many more were created by people with passion. They now have access to the pro, or prosumer tools (cameras and software) they could only imagine a few years ago. They didnt have an Avid in the basement. They didnt have to rent a camera for thousands of dollars.

Secondly, look at a lot of the virals and “non sanctioned” ads out there (links to come). These are being created by people who are creative and want to show off their stuff, or who are passionate about a company. What happens when they get pissed at a company and start using these tools against them like the MoveOn campaign???

Holy crap. What blogs did for citizen journalism and comment, Podcasting has done the same for citizen radio. Put the tools out there and see what happens. Drop the barriers to entry, write the software to make it easy (thanks Dave) to transport your content and then the real challenge is on the part of the user… do you have something to say?

NetNet – media hackers are putting the tools the big boys use into the hands of the little guys, stepping back and watching the fun, the chaos, the signal and the noise. This innovation isn’t under NDA or the threat of a cease and desist. It isnt locked down by platform or by operating system or language or how you access the net (AOL has blogs!). These guys are innovating and watching how their innovations change, mutate, grow, expand and fork.

We need to add ‘participation’ to the definition of media hacker. Guys like Dave and Adam and others are hacking these platforms and structures and are giving the rest of us opportunities to participate.


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