Control and Freedom

July 26, 2011

This video is from July’s TED conference in Edinburgh where Rebecca McKinnon discusses the balance between freedom and control on the internet.

Where in the past our sovereignty was controlled by nation states, now our digital lives have become such a large part of our lives in general that much of what we can and can’t do on a daily basis is controlled by the kings of the net. What’s more, the criteria they use to do so appear to be much narrower than those we’re used to in the Western world, particularly in terms of freedom of speech.

She concludes that the internet must evolve in a citizen- centric way and ultimately serve the world’s people, not the other way around.

This one really gets you thinking, and is definitely worth a watch!




In an interview with the Times this weekend, Arianna Huffington claimed that ‘self-expression is the new entertainment. In the past, people just sat on the couch watching TV’.

The notion of ‘cognitive surplus’ was originally made famous by Clay Shirky. This is the idea that when applied to other endeavours, the time normally spent watching TV can be highly productive. Shirky also argued that we’re now living in a time when people enjoy producing, just as much, if not more than consuming.

Clay Shirky

A recent report from Trendwatching outlined a whole host of innovative ideas not just from big brands, but also small businesses. A high number of these innovations demand active consumer involvement, as opposed to passive consumption. The Swedish retailer Papercut is offering discounts on a variety of items through its website There is one small catch, however – shoppers must avail of the reduced price within 4 seconds, or the offer is gone forever. Meanwhile, the ‘Google Wallet’ allows android users to make payments for products and services through their smartphone after downloading the app. NFC technology allows payments to be made through shoppers’ Mastercard accounts.

These examples show that consumers are willing to spend time interacting with new technology if the benefits are great enough. With advertising, while consumers still spend time passively consuming media, the amount of time spent interacting with ads, whether they’re outdoor, online, or on mobile, is on the rise.

As technology advances, shoppers are becoming more and more empowered. Nowadays the role of the consumer has changed, and we’re playing more of an active role in our purchasing decisions. The bar has been raised, as greater challenges lie ahead for marketers.




On June 25th I set off for 2 weeks of relaxation in the surf capital of Europe, Biarritz in France, the only catch being, my husband had challenged me to no TV, no newspapers and to my disgust no online activity, everything from Gmail, Twitter, Linked In and shock horror Facebook had been banned. My husband thinks I’m addicted, I like to think I’m keeping up to date, we will beg to differ.

Week one passed off relatively well, I managed to sneak the odd peek at Gmail and Twitter without him noticing, I follow RTE and the Irish Times on Twitter and surely it would’ve been unprofessional of me to arrive back in work and be recommending the News of the World for plans when the publication no longer existed, at least that was my excuse if I was caught!

Week two, I had forgotten my charger, my battery died and I could hardly kick up a fuss about needing to charge my smart phone since I didn’t need it, my husband had a watch to tell the time, a phone for emergencies, a camera to take photos and we had brought books that could supplement app entertainment – I had no excuse. So, how did i gratify my “addiction”, could I supplement it with sun filled days and Rosé on the deck?

Just like Darwin’s species- I adapted to my situation, my mother and sister arrived for our 2nd week, they brought with them the verbal edition of last week’s news and Saturday’s Irish Times. I thought I’d ration out the Irish Times and read a section a morning, however, the truth be had I never got beyond the magazine, as by Monday savouring the now “old news” wasn’t quite working for me as I secretly wondered what the Tweeters were saying about the News of the World scandal and how it was developing online.

So, what was I left with? I was left to forget the news and observe the media in my surroundings. Here’s what I noticed, the small regional airport at Pau has wide open spaces that are crying out for advertising, the seaside town of Biarritz has no imposing 48 sheets, metropoles or metropanels, the bus shelters have little more than a map of the area, McDonalds remains dominant with its usual logo and “500m away signage”, Rickshaws in Biarritz are not advertised on similarly with the Eco Cabs in Pau. I have no French but the recurring frequency of radio ads for Bricolage reminded me of our Harvey Norman equivalent. Lastly, I also noticed that the effects of the recession are also echoed in France most notably in the restaurants, whereby we have a variety of recessionista deals on offer to suit your budget or appetite needs.

So, despite it all I could survive without my media as week 2 attested to, however as I walked through arrivals in Dublin Airport after a very relaxing trip, I couldn’t help but notice the 3-D style airport formats that Bewley’s Hotel had all along the arrival tunnel, as you walked you felt like you were going in the door of the hotel- quite a dizzying effect. So as I landed on Irish soil once again I knew I was sucked back into the world of communication and felt a Tweet, comment or blog itching to comment on the Bewley’s formats and having done it now I feel gratified. Is media addictive? – possibly, Is it essential? Absolutely!




Sport and its parallels with business is a well-trodden path. Many a time a sporting hero is put in front of a business community to say with a bit of extra practice here or a change of diet there, followed by a good old ‘Where’s your ****** pride!” moment from the captain and we can all be world beaters in our chosen fields. And the bit of glamour and feel good vibe that being in the same room as a sporting god generates, bolsters any of us with a sporting inclination.

At our Ignition5 last week (27th June), Aoife presented the Action for Happiness project from the UK ( and there are other examples like the random acts of kindness where a collection of small positive acts collectively make for a greater good. This is where sport can really come to the fore. From teaching our children how to work and play with others, to the individual joy of successfully completing a simple sporting task, be it a pass or a tackle, a block or scoring a goal. And indeed as supporters, witnessing any of the above can bring equal pleasure to the fans on the sidelines. Random acts of sporting achievements certainly have a direct relationship to the happiness of those emotionally invested in the sport. This effect gets amplified on a national level when the random acts of achievement, are delivered by our men and women, playing at the highest levels. Rory Mcllroy’s recent exploits are the most recent in an amazing list of achieving from Irish sports men and women, all the more welcome as an escape from the recession stress elsewhere.

Harry Eyres recently wrote about one of his obsessions: tennis. I enjoyed his description on why some matches between certain players were more enjoyable than others, fundamentally because he sees tennis as a dialogue where the interaction between two players makes for the enriched experience: “Tennis, like reality more generally, is relational. Some relationships and conversations are easier or more pleasant than others. Or, to put it another way, we are naturally drawn into relationships and conversations with some people rather than others.”

All very interesting, but what parallels are there between sport about communicating today? To me a few things: Firstly at it’s best, it’s inspirational (another plug for Ignition 5), secondly doing the simple things right can bring a joy/enhanced experience/ meaningful connection to our audience and thirdly, and most relevantly in our social media world, listening and reacting to our conversations is what can separate the wheat from the chaff.

Put it all together and I’ll show you some pride! Come on Rory!



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