Collaborative Futures, 2nd Ed.

CF_coverThe Collaborative Futures book is back for another edition and is smarter, sharper, and more insightful than ever.

Last spring I was fortunate to become involved in an amazing experiment in composition and collaboration.  A friend and colleague of mine, Mushon Zer-Aviv locked himself up in a hotel room with 4 other collaborators and came out 5 days later with a the first edition of Collaborative Futures. Many conversations and an intensive editing sprint later (with a fresh team of collaborators), yields a much more comprehensive and finished work.

While the original team was in Berlin, I sent Mushon a copy of my essay on the history of version control systems – Versioning Dissonance. In this essay I discuss the significance of the distributed version control phenomenon, and speculate on the crossover of these collaborative modalities from software to other forms of production. An excerpt from my essay underlies the chapter on Multiplicity and Social Coding.  I didn’t make it out to Germany, nor did I communicate synchronously with the sprinters. 🙁 However, through my friendships and participation in the larger NYC free software/culture,  collective communications campus,  and Eyebeam communities, I was a participant in an ongoing conversation around these important themes.

This book is a really cool accomplishment on multiple levels. It’s creation myth is legendary, the content is compelling, and its a technical triumph. The first edition was admittedly a bit choppy and also neglected to address some critical perspectives that were introduced into the new edition. I am really happy with these substantive improvements, as well as the fabulous new cover art, web site, and distribution formats.

Special thanks to everyone involved in this project for inviting me along for the ride.

Now Playing: Nothing but the whole truth

sword-justice-not-blindI recently learned about a fascinating  trend in litigation that is quietly transforming courtroom testimony, and is spreading fast and far – video depositions.

I talked with a consultant who helps attorneys process video depositions. In the courtroom, attorneys are juxtaposing live testimony with segments from depositions.  Video clips of witnesses reinforcing (or contradicting) themselves are far more powerful than merely reading back the transcript. The courtroom has always been about performance, but these videos have taken this to a new level, as savvy lawyers manipulate appearances and emotions. Increasingly all depositions are being recorded, just as they are transcribed.

Apart from the ways that courtroom proceedings are being transformed, I am also intrigued by the software that is undoubtedly in development to support these operations. In addition to conventional A/V support, working effectively with hundreds of hours of video involves archiving, indexing, distributing, editing, and clipping.  At about a day or two of testimony per witness, and dozens of witnesses per trial, the numbers add up pretty quickly.

As cases accumulate, and multiple associates begin working with and analyzing video, law firms will quickly recognize the desirability of networked, collaborative, video annotation environments.  Some large firms (and their vendors) may have already begun developing solutions. However, the consultant that I spoke with was storing video locally on a laptop hardrive and tracking it with an Access database, so opportunities are knocking. Without a doubt many of the tools that will be highlighted at the upcoming Open Video Conferene (OpenCast, Kaltura, and CCNMTL’s Mediathread come to mind) have overlapping feature and requirements.

Once again the organizational digital divide looms, and I am deeply concerned that only the high end corporate law firms will be able to invest in the competencies and capacities to make this work.  Meanwhile, the impact law firms (along with journalists and social scientists), will be playing catch up, handicapped by this powerful new differential.

I wonder how quickly this practice will spread?

Oyez, Oyez, Oyez!

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