« Perfect Crowd in Prague | Main | London in Prague - looking back... and looking forward »


Charlie vs. Dead White Men

Charlie has been born out of web 2.0, in 2007. Ten years before Charlie, in 1997, Richard Barbrook says "that the rapid spread of personal computing and now the Net are the technological expressions of the desire of many people to escape from the petty controls of the shopfloor and the office". He continues: “Despite the insecurity of short-term contracts, they want to recover the independence of craft labour which was lost during the process of industrialisation. Because of rapid technological innovation, skilled workers within the hypermedia and computing industries are precisely those best able to assert this desire for autonomy”.

Ten years later Web 2.0 seemed to be the yellow brick road leading off from the path of the boredom of the shopfloor and the office. And not just for those working within the hypermedia and computing industries but for the many researchers, account people, planners working in agencies named after Dead White Men. These men may have originally had strong visions, but these visions aren't necessarily shared by people working in agencies today.

Let’s take the market research industry as an example. Many creative and entrepreneurial researchers began leaving big research agencies before Web 2.0.  After leaving they tried to establish smaller versions of big agencies, using the same hierarchies and structures but with fewer people. Eventually, they started to send their junior people to clients for presentations while sitting back and supervising and perhaps retiring all together. Structures and people – whether in the field department or the coding department – were needed to get jobs done.

Then along came Web 2.0 and the word is spreading that the emperor really is “naked:” the market research industry might not be much of an industry any more. Who needs a field department when there are global online research panels or even Facebook? Who needs the latest breakthrough research concept testing methodology when you can work with creative people, not on a concept test, but on developing a real product or service?

We (the clients) need creative people (complete with faces, talent and knowladge) not market research agencies. We are already following the good people, to their own agencies and we will continue to follow them even if they move from one big agency named after a dead guy to another agency named after two dead guys. This is the push. The pull is the desire for autonomy, the need to be free and fulfill one's own vision  – and the need for genuine collaboration with other people.

It is less lonely out there than it used to be. Web 2.0 connects the creative researchers online and builds connections that can be then taken off-line, whether to a café or a workshop. As it turns out, collaboration and friendship can replace structures and hierarchies.