Andrew Curry writes:

Stream, WPP’s annual tech ‘un-conference’, held by tradition at a former Club Med resort near Athens, has just finished. I’m going to try to catch a snapshot of some of the things I learned while I was there.

3D printing is a slow train coming
We’ve been talking to clients for a while about the potential of 3D printing, or ‘fabbing’, and a discussion led by Steve Sammartino of Grey got into some of the complexities of this. The principle of 3D printing is that you send the code and a machine makes the object locally – possibly even in your home. Costs are falling quite fast, with the ‘hobbyist’ fabricator kit, Maker Bot, now less than $1,000, although the professional machines used by designers are still above $10,000. The other limitations are materials and time; a machine is set up to use one type of material, and making an object, even a small one, is slow. A designer taking part in the discussion showed a tape dispenser made on his printer which took ten hours to produce. Is this a new industrial revolution? Probably not. But over the next decade it could transform the way we repair things, prototype them, and also change the way we think about manufacturing.

The new high level internet domains will be a lawyers’ paradise
You may not have noticed, but ICANN, which regulates the Internet’s top level domains (.com, .edu, .uk, etc) is quite a long way down the road on a radical transformation of the domain system. Instead of the current relatively constrained architecture, it’s proposing to let people buy words instead; ‘.cheese’, say, or ‘.health’, or ‘.yahoo’. In practice, this means that large companies will buy them, if they so choose, since the application costs around $200,000, and preparing the application another $300,000.

The thing is, it’s hard to see who benefits: the internet becomes a sea of noise, and businesses are faced with a sea of unprofitable competition for domain names. Esther Dyson, who led the session, described it as “a tragedy of the commons”. But intellectual property lawyers should do well for themselves. The only saving grace is that the decision hasn’t yet been ratified; pressure on ICANN might yet prevent the change.

What we mean by ‘news’ is changing before our eyes. The idea emerged from several different sessions. Vice presented data which showed that the average age of the US audience for mainstream TV news was 60-something, compared to the far younger audience for Vice News. Peter Hirshberg, the urban data pioneer, suggested that “you really need to be able to understand data to tell stories in the 21st century”. The Guardian, challenged by its editor, Alan Rusbridger, that “the public is not interested in what’s in the public interest”, is launching the ‘Finance Game’, off the back of an anthropological investigation of the City of London’s bankers, to see if this leads to new ways of understanding, researching, and presenting complex stories (and potentially to different audiences). But in his platform interview, WPP Chief Executive Sir Martin Sorrell observed that if – as a society – “we value professional journalism, we’re probably going to have to subsidise it”.

The picture at the top of this post was taken by Andrew Curry. It is published here under a Creative Commons licence: some rights reserved.

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