In 2005 Arin Crumley and Susan Buice decided to immortalise their courtship on video. Pre-iTunes, the digital world was mostly built around music propositions. These were the years of myspace.com, of bit-torrent sites. A world where a lot of the digital spaces were still yet to be invented. No one had heard of thefacebook unless you were a preppy, Ivy leaguer in college. In parallel, the weirdos, the pseudo-artists, the unsigned, were on myspace, the world of the outsiders: a Gothic, Metal, House, Techno, Tattoed land of digital escapism. And youTube was the confession chair, the Second-life space of kids that were dying to be somebodies, to share with somebody, but were still living in the heartland, in the West country, in the soul-less urban centres.
A testament to their makers – a video-grapher, an artist – “Four Eyed Monsters” got into Slamdance and Sundance but had no distribution because no one could make out who the audience of this “cinéma d’auteur” film was. Crumley and Buice decided to document the pains of finding distribution via video format. As they built this online, Apple released iTunes and a new version of iPod that could play videopodcasts came to market. The rest was a fast highway towards the thousands of souls that found their v-blog and expressed themselves by posting personal video messages back to them. Their audiences had been found but where were they?
One of the things that makes this film distribution ordeal interesting today is that it became one of the most significant crowd-sourced and geo-located online/offline projects the film industry has ever seen: for every piece of digital ID – like an email address, the film producers asked for a post code. The purpose was to organise real theatre releases to conform with how film distributors value films: then, and still now, it is all about “bums on seats”. So when the production team located geographical density of fans, say, around the 60 or the 70 people that were dying to see the film at their local movie theatre, the producers would contact the cinema owners and organise a one-night-only screening.
Density is one of the most valuable objectives in digital marketing, because it allows one to extract other inferences that can potentially be cultural traces of a given location, or its economic power.
In 2012 a new evolved version of this trend has appeared: it is something that I have started to call the Connected-Density. Evolving from the original trend, Geo-Density, which is when a group of consumers want to engage with a given brand, creating a many-2-one interaction, the Connected Density is the effect of when citizenscome together for one purpose,one favoured brand, a common goal, and begin to connect with each other and to formulate common objectives, one destiny, and a powerful voice. Examples of this are beginning to appear on Twitter and the postcode handles, people who happen to live in a given city neighbourhood and begin to tweet topics of interest for those living in the area, a citizens’ board, a community dialogue. Moreover, and specially propelled by the recent Diamond Jubilee and London Olyimpics street parties, people otherwise oblivious to their neighbours are increasingly keen to connect digitally and offline. Street communities are emerging as strongly knitted citizens that want to join forces. The greatest example is the Transition Network in the UK, now enjoying some USA locations.
“Towards the end of 2006, Transition Town Totnes (TTT) had been running for close to a year, with co-founders Rob Hopkins and Naresh Giangrande running awareness-raising events and dreaming up the core elements of the Transition Model. Around this time, other communities that were concerned about climate change and peak oil were beginning to take notice. The initial slow trickle of enquiries about Transition was beginning to build up and for those listening carefully enough, the rumblings of a tsunami of interest could be heard in the distance.
Around this time, on the “Life beyond oil” course at Schumacher college in Devon, Rob met Ben Brangwyn. He’d been studying relocalisation efforts around the globe, and understood just how special the emerging transition model was in terms of inspiration and replicability. And how urgently it was needed.
In response to that urgency, and now joined by Sustrans director Pete Lipman, they jointly founded Transition Network, with a simple mission – to inspire, encourage, connect, support and train communities as they adopt and adapt the transition model on their journey to urgently rebuild resilience and drastically reduce CO2 emissions.”
This societal trend links very intimately with the Hyper-Local trend because it is the effect of it: when people care for what’s around them, the take action and connect with others that, jointly, will provide the vital force needed to widen the effect.
In a year when the Groupon effect online is deteriorating, the emergence of Connected Density is going to create mini-Groupons: the collective purchasing power of a few but empowered citizen force, united by their density within a given location, becoming the overwhelming majority for hyper-local causes.