Somewhere around 1999, I first saw a URL in a movie trailer. That confirmed for me that web technology had reached the mainstream. Clay Shirky points out that really interesting social capital applications emerge not when new technology is created, but when that technology is so mainstream as to be boring. He cites U.S. “citizen voter” applications designed to document suspicious voting practices, but is quick to emphasize that these were inspired by their low-tech predecessors in Africa.
Recently, I noticed something equally mainstream about a new class of technology: its appearance in movie and TV credits. As this screencap shows, the credits for @bbcgoodnews (which, I’m pretty sure, features @notrusshoward) include Twitter usernames.
Which got me thinking:
- Whether it’s thanking someone, or simply footnoting to give credit (literally) where credit is due, Twitter’s model fits the way we endorse others. We didn’t put emails into movie and TV credits, because email is private. But asymmetric-follow social networks like Twitter handle celebrity well, and acknowledgments build social capital for both parties. You don’t need someone’s permission to give out their Twitter name the way you do their email.
- The ubiquitous @ has become as universally understood as the “www” was when studios first embraced it — and Twitter is the ICANN of those names, handling assignment and investigating fraudulent behavior. Notice the Twitter name above — “bbcgoodnews” includes both the organization (BBC) and the show name (Good News). There’s no structured standard the way there is for DNS (goodnews.bbc.co.uk) but there surely will be.
- PageRank-like algorithms within media will become possible: some future IMDB could scrape video content to determine who gets thanked the most, in a form of new media social capital leaderboard. While there might be a hundred Russell Howards in media, there’s only one @notrusshoward (particularly if he’s verified officially), so the Twitter account serves as a unique identifier around which relationships can be analyzed.
Websites changed movie promotions dramatically, putting trailers only a click away and letting studios share more than a thirty-second clip with their audiences. But early web-based marketing was still one-way, promotionally focused, and built on monetization. By contrast, the two-way social web changes change how shows are created and credited, with producers getting their inspiration from audiences, then curating and augmenting that input into future shows.