Knowledge sharing for fun & profit:
My new Photoshop Action is selling well. I’d like to get the page & instructions translated into Japanese. Japan has a huge economy; the sub-region around the 2nd-city of Osaka has a bigger economy than either Canada, Brazil or India. But… there are still big barriers; a viable localised front-end for PayPal & PayPal-friendly Japanese banks are still “coming soon” (maybe never), while the popular Yahoo! Japan auction-payments system won’t accept accounts from outside Japan.

Payment matters aside, it strikes me that creatives selling “tools for creativity” may be a key future market area as the creative industries grow around the world. As far as I know, there’s been no research into creative industries’ pre-production training & tool-provider sectors. How big are they, compared to the actual production & distribution? Very big, I’d imagine. Could creatives get themselves a share of that market, to help them finance their creative work? I’m not talking about simply selling a service, like an artist starting a sideline in picture-framing. I’m thinking about how we create saleable tools which share skills with other creatives, in a way that enables us to go beyond running little local workshops for five people at a time.

I’m talking about a form of highly codified teaching/enabling, I suppose; and one perhaps best suited to some form of interactive code-based product. Admittedly, the idea has already been explored in practical form by a few artists in the recent past – such as Modified’s glorious-but-failed frEQuency99 project, the now unavailable nGen project, paper-airplane software, ParaNoise, and I’ve written here before about the crying need for some semi automated comic-book construction software (Japan has ComicStudio but no-one’s yet translated the full program into English.)

Of course, in the old days a typographer might publish a thousand copies of a “how-to book” on his approach, maybe do a little teaching at night-school. But he’d reach less than 1500 people, stay within his national borders, and not make a significant amount of money to invest in personal projects. Today he could make, say, a specialist stencil-producing plug-in for Adobe inDesign; it would juggle his package of custom fonts, templates and automated scripts to output huge typographic murals ready to be taped to a wall, cut out and spray-painted. The scripts would be generative but would follow his basic design principles. Or he might create a typography-based ‘digital-projection kit’ in software, for doing turnkey illumination of buildings from different eras. Through these kind of non-physical products he might reach about 250,000 people or more, and be paid accordingly.

I suppose I’m suggesting knowledge-sharing products (not to be confused with the ho-hum tedium of ‘e-learning’) that would better suit “one-man band” creative production (poetry, stories & novels, paintings, gardens, comics, photography, crafts, video-art), rather than “the big band” producers (films, theatre, architecture, advertising, publishing, toy-production, music production) that need a group of equally-weighted talents to achieve success. In the latter, codified skill-sharing is more likely to happen in closed Guild-like training, in apprentice systems, or embedded in closely-guarded ‘proprietory software’ – the risk-reward ratio isn’t usually sufficiently compelling for them to spread specialist time-sensitive knowledge to ‘outsiders’.