British audiences are merciless backseat television producers. Shatter a glassy-eyed pubescent’s dreams? Wreak havoc on the sophisticated social dynamics of the Big Brother house? Subject the royal family to yet more street dance? We wield our red buttons with the unthinking authority of an uncaring and, occasionally, outright sadistic God. With televoting an integral part of the contemporary television experience, it seems hard to believe that, as recently as 13 years ago, unhappy, voteless viewers existed in a kind of broadcasting Third Reich. At the heart of televoting’s appeal, of course, is interaction, and its astronomic rise in importance is a direct response to our insatiable appetite for the stuff. Whether it’s a traditional real life vote designed to pull in the ratings, or the opening up of narrative decision-making to boost viewer engagement (a technique employed by youth issue-centric Dubplate Drama), there’s no doubt that we like, and, increasingly, expect, to be involved.
New media has played a critical role in growing popular demand for creative input. All online video viewing is, in a sense, personal and interactive: it empowers the viewer by foregrounding their selections and recommendations. More profoundly, open source media has created an exciting new playground for undiscovered talent and an unspoken appreciation that we are all, in some way, able to create. Still not taking YouTube seriously? Shame, because Guggenheim certainly is. Forget about Mark Zuckerberg: this is the meritocratic, highly expressive, free love heart of the Internet. It’s the thing that makes it completely and utterly great.
Corporations, advertisers and producers have been quick to recognise the Internet for what it is: direct access to public opinion and a vast pool of untapped creativity. The theory behind crowdsourcing is simple: how do you give the people what they want? You ask them. Better still, why not give them the opportunity to design/record/film/you name it for you? It’s good for the brand, good for the output and good for the crowdsourced creative(s) snatched from relative obscurity. Everybody comes out laughing.
Of course, crowdsourcing has its detractors. Not surprising, in the wake of some significant bloopers (‘Will you have some iSnack 2.0 with that?’). 2008′s Faintheart, the ‘world’s first myspace movie’, was a fine example of too many creatives spoiling the feature-length soup, moving an otherwise liberal Guardian reviewer to declare: ‘Democracy doesn’t work.’ But does this mean we should give up on crowds altogether? Don’t be silly.
The fact is, crowdsourcing remains a relatively new creative medium and we’re still figuring out how to do it well. That it can be done well, however, is proven by the existence of successful platforms like MOFILM. Through running ‘Make an Ad’ competitions for a massive portfolio of big name brands, MOFILM amply fulfills its mission to help undiscovered talent ‘Get Creative – Get Noticed and Get Famous’. If you doubt the quality of crowdsourced product, subscribe to their YouTube channel to be persuaded otherwise. In fact, the response has been so positive that MoFilm recently announced the creation of MOFILMPro, which – watch out agencies – links brands directly to previous competition winners.
So where will this decentralisation of established creative production processes end? How long before we say ‘fare thee well’ to the middle man altogether? If you listen to Amazon Studios, feature films will be next to either succumb or benefit (it’s a matter of perspective!) to the tidal wave of interaction, collaboration and creative voices demanding to be heard. The subversion of established hierarchies is exciting for everyone, not least the Art Department. Have you ever thought ‘I could do that better’? Well, this is your opportunity to prove it – just grab your contact book and a camera.