Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Pressing the Reset Button

My friend and colleague Gerd Leonhard is right about many things happening at the moment. We're living in times which are moving forward logarithmically (8 is next to 4 not 5). And everything I trained for is either obsolete or simply plain wrong. Technology helps me to adapt, but I'm concerned how people close to me will fair, in a world that is increasingly harsh, bitter and very confused.

It reminded me of a video that I saw ages back (turns out it was made in 2002) when Chris Anderson came to explain to the TED audience why he was switching the business model of TED from for-profit to non-profit, turning away from the Internet bubble which had just burst and picking up the pieces. He explains his background in publishing and what he had to do to rethink things.

I feel in a similar situation. I built a reputation for myself by building talented teams in Hilversum, many of whom were world class storytellers. I also did quite a bit of storytelling myself in the form of radio, later TV documentaries. I came from a technical background, but realised rather quickly that communication is all about people and stories not the technology. For a while at least, Radio Netherlands, built a reputation for engaging with global audiences and discussing a wide variety of things that were going on around us. A lot of it was beautifully crafted, some of it was unique, and the people who made it were the best in the business.

A lot of history went into the skip
And then the business went away. Not overnight. It just went into a long slow fade. Many didn't see it coming. The tragedy of those involved in international broadcasting was the fact that few made time to collect and preserve what they were doing. We all assumed that it would be kept. And that someone else would select and sort it. And all of this so that other generations would be able to explore, learn and compare. In fact, we were wrong.

The teams have long since broken up. And now on-line archives are closing down. On November 1st 2013, Radio Netherlands pulled the plug on many of its on-line archives, so the only way of knowing there was ever an international broadcaster in Hilversum is by perusing the entry for Media Network in the WayBack Machine. The irony is that it is more difficult to find some material after the Internet gained  mass appeal than before. Out of personal interest, I kept an archive going with the best of that particular programme. But other equally interesting material hasn't been so fortunate. It's gone. Some has been stored away in the vaults of the Netherlands Sound and Vision Archive. But it is now out of context for the audiences for whom it was intended. So will it ever be accessed again? Because if it's not accessed or curated, how long before it's chucked out or simply crumbles? In fact, where's the evidence that it was ever made?
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