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World Panopticon Media Class Now For Real

Oct. 27 2008, Published 7:07 a.m. ET

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In Vernor Vinge's Rainbows End, the novel that won the 2007 Hugo Award, the Internet has essentially morphed into everyware, in which distributed, integrated computing makes everyone into a de facto journalist, Hollywood producer, and information analyst. In little fits and starts we come closer every day to that ideal (or dystopia): weblog companies with micropayment systems for their anonymous commenters, new non-monetary currencies, YouTube stardom. Today, we get one step closer in the future's ad hoc, micro-freelancing world that Vinge calls affiliancing: Getty Images, the powerhouse image sales bank, has decided to devote editors' resources to cruising the massive amateur photo-hosting site Flickr, and making whatever amateur images they like available for purchase by their clients. So now all net-based photographers are news professionals, linked together in a larger commercial super-structure, without any meddlesome negotiations or additional overhead. It's nearly the future!

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