A Planning Meeting
The ninth story in The Eutotokens of Learning, which is a collection of stories speculating on a future infrastructure for free to the end user distance education on the internet.
Copyright 1998 William Overington.
"Well, ladies and gentlemen, you have all had the opportunity to read the book and consider the implications of making it into a television movie. Does anyone have any comments to make?" "Perhaps I can start by asking a question myself." "Who will play Edith?" "That's the big question for me." "Do you think that it should be someone well known or someone from the theatre whose face is unknown on television?"
"How old is she supposed to be?"
"I've no real idea."
"Clearly she's of working age and probably at least thirty to be in the post that she holds, and she is supposed to have been in her post for several years."
"Mid to late thirties then."
"Well probably, at least."
"Could she be in her mid-fifties perhaps."
"Well I suppose she could, but if we cast her as being in her mid-fifties that might put a very different complexion on the movie."
"Do you think that people are expecting a young and glamorous Edith?"
"Well, I don't know, I suppose that people expect a glamorous movie star."
"What if we do cast her as being in her fifties, does that present any problems?"
"Well if she is, say, thirty eight now, if she stays in her job, as she might well do, she'll be fifty eight and in her job in twenty years time."
"We're making this television movie now!"
"What other characteristics does Edith have?"
"Well, she's got to sing at one stage."
"Do any of the other characters need to sing?"
"Well, yes and no. There is a singer at La flava floro, mostly in the background though she does get to do one number where everybody sits and listens. However, she is just there as the singer so we can cast her just on her singing performance. Of the characters in the stories as such, only Edith needs to sing."
"So, let us issue a call for auditions and see who applies. Let us say openly that we are keeping an open mind as to what age Edith will be cast as being. We will specify that she has got to be able to sing. We can hear all the candidates read some lines and sing a song and then select the one that we consider most suited based upon her ability to give feeling to the part. Edith's age will then be a non-issue. In the movie she will look the age that the actor looks. Her age is not an issue in the stories and I can well imagine that Edith would be amongst the first to object to any age discrimination."
"That seems fair. Does whatever Edith's age turns out to be in the movie affect any other casting decisions? For example, does Jane Hove need to be about the same age?"
"Not particularly. Jane probably needs to be over thirty to have got to her management post. The receptionist at IFDEP needs to be very young and Edith's sister needs to be about five or six years either side of Edith agewise."
"Well, I suppose that she doesn't but it would be less than usual if there was a very wide age gap, though I suppose that less than usual situations occur in real life, so I suppose that Edith and her sister could be quite differently aged."
"You mentioned songs?" "However, it appears that we have been supplied with the lyrics but not any music."
"Yes, I know about that. There isn't any music." "We will need to get a composer to write the music." "We need to employ musicians anyway so we may be able to get a composer at the same time."
"There are some rather unusual properties too." "For example, that reproduction of a Leonardo da Vinci painting." "That will cost a fair amount."
"Well, yes, but it can be in the background for various scenes." "I know, it's a bit extravagant, but, then, if we're going to make a movie, we've got to provide the decor." "As far as I'm concerned we've got to have something there and it's either bare walls or something ornamental and once it's something ornamental, well, I'm not too bothered what it is as long as it looks reasonable: and, yes, the reproduction of the Leonardo da Vinci painting is fine by me."
"Did you manage to check out which painting it is?"
"Oh, yes, the one we thought it was from a book illustrating Leonardo da Vinci's paintings. As we thought, it really could only have been that one from the description given in the book when Jane is looking at it. Still, it was best to check the point out."
"What about the animation sequences for the software unicorns?"
"Yes, at least two, one is for the end credits."
"And the animation of the token tumbling through the air ...."
"And being seen as a galaxy."
"The animation situation is being investigated."
"What about merchandising?"
"The situation over software unicorns is being investigated including some rather nice holograms where the software unicorn is only visible when one views at a certain angle."
"That sounds fun."
"What do you think of the idea that we will build the set for the location of Encouragement of Creativity and Invention Limited as a real place and then give it over for a real life implementation of something very similar to what is in the stories?"
"Well, at first I thought it ridiculous, but, having thought it over I can see that it would have good publicity value for syndicating the movie to television stations around the world. Mind you, they're not getting it free, it would be rented to them and they could have an option to buy it from us at market rates. And the idea has some good points. Certainly the set will have to serve several purposes. How they arrange it once it becomes a theme park is not my major concern, but while we're filming, one of the two entrances will have to be IFDEP headquarters and the inside of La flava floro will have to be in there too. But I'm warming to the idea of the set becoming a theme park once we've finished filming. At least it will minimize the waste of materials. We're going to have to make the sculptures and we might as well make them so that they'll last as it won't cost much extra to do so. However, all those expensive trees are going to have to be simulated within something cheaper. The handkerchief effect is not present on younger trees so it won't make any difference."
"All of them?"
"Well, the one that gets planted in the movie can be a real one, but that's the only real one they get. If they want to dig the other ones up later and replace them then that's up to them. It's not as if there'll be any ecological damage. The simulated ones can be used to form a small wood at the edge of the theme park if they want to do so. They're getting the other trees though."
"What, the two horse chestnuts?"
"Yes, and the Dawn Redwoods."
"But my big concern is who will play Edith, it's a major part and a lot will depend upon having someone good in the role."
"I wonder whether this whole eutotoken idea has any chance of success in the real world."
"So do I, but that's not our concern. We're here to make a television movie. We have an obligation to pay for the legal costs of setting up the independent trust fund, and, yes, it's an unusual deal, but deal it is and I regard it as just an expense which has been costed and accepted as part of our project. If we make money with the movie and a television series to follow on, then I'm happy for them to do whatever they wish with distance education on the internet."
"Well, with all due respect, I think that it is something that we should discuss."
"Alright, please discuss. If we don't air it now it will only be aired in twos and threes at the tea break, so it might as well be aired now while we're all sat down together."
"That's a bit unfair. I would like to hear it discussed too."
"Alright, alright. Please discuss."
"Thank you. Well, I'm a bit concerned as to whether the whole eutotoken idea is capable of being successful in the real world."
"Why does that matter to us?"
"Well, if it is plainly unviable, then we might look foolish in having helped set up something unviable, notwithstanding that it is part of the deal for acquiring the rights to make a television movie."
"My view is that it has a chance of succeeding and so there is no harm in letting the chance be taken."
"I wonder whether it will only be viable because of funding from the movie and because of admission charges to the theme park."
"Look, I've remained quiet up to now, but I feel that the idea is not perhaps as far fetched as some people think."
"No, I think that there is a chance for the idea. Indeed I think that there might well be a chance for it to work without the book or the movie."
"Oh, don't be ridiculous!"
"No, let's listen. I would like to hear the reasoning."
"Well, certainly the book and the movie will help: and certainly the book puts forward the idea of the eutotoken and enlarges upon the concept so that at least the desired goal is known about and thereby has at least a chance of being implemented. The eutotoken is an invention. Once an invention is known about, it may become implemented."
"Yes, may, but may is more than non-existent and now that the idea is published there is the possibility of it becoming implemented."
"Even if implemented, it might not be very successful."
"That is a different issue."
"Well, alright, but why should any sensible business person start a new company to implement the eutotoken concept."
"That's the wrong question ...."
"It's the question that I asked!"
"Well, yes, but with all due respect, I am not suggesting that anyone might start a new company to implement the eutotoken concept. I am suggesting that an existing company might decide to try a eutotoken scheme. Indeed, to begin with, it would not be a eutotoken scheme at all, that would come later."
"Alright, from the top, how do you envisage that a sensible business person might proceed?"
"The thing that interests me is that there are already a number of organizations that offer anyone who requests it a number of megabytes, megabytes mind you, of webspace entirely free of charge, just so that people who visit any such webspace will see advertising messages. So someone could place free to the end user distance education on such a webspace. Now, as the number of organizations offering free webspace to people increases, there may be a need to find a way to attract a greater market share of viewers to the free webspaces, so that the advertisements get seen. It seems to me that the organizations might be able to attract more viewers by having high quality educational content. Given that need, how does one supply it? One way is to reward the authors of the content. One way would be to send them money, another way would be to send them tokens."
"Would authors be willing to accept tokens?"
"Who knows. Certainly if this book is highly regarded, then they might. Certainly, people may well want to know what sort of advertising is to be added to their work and that raises the issue of what the organization is willing to offer. An organization that offers authors the package of ethical advertising only, with advertising only in routing pages and indexes will be well placed."
"Alright, suppose that an organization that offers free web space decides to try this out, what exactly would it need to do?"
"Well, they hopefully have someone keeping an eye on what people are putting on their free webspace, so all that would need to be done would be for that officer of the company to send an email to the webspace author awarding a few tokens for interesting content. A record of the number of tokens awarded would be kept and a small sum of money put into a fund to supply goods and services in exchange for the tokens. Perhaps one hundred pounds to start. In the event that the advertising revenue increased as a result of the token scheme existing, then the organization might like to put some more money into the fund out of the increased revenue."
"Who would administer the fund."
"Oh, one of their own officers, it would be entirely an internal fund solely under the organization's control."
"So how much are these tokens each worth?"
"Oh, it would float, maybe a few pence, maybe a pound or two, the value of each token would be the value of the fund divided by the number of tokens left unexchanged. Bearing in mind that issuing of tokens would be a continuous activity and that the fund would hopefully increase steadily, some sort of stable value might result."
"What bothers me is this. Why would people spend a lot of time and effort preparing learning material in exchange for a few tokens?"
"Well, I don't know whether they will or they won't, but it might be the case that if the work that they put on their webspace was regarded as their portfolio, then they might be able to request that they exchange a specified number of tokens for the organization arranging and paying for assessment of their portfolio by a qualified assessor from a duly accredited academic institution and a certificate being issued if it is up to standard."
"What sort of a certificate?"
"Oh, a credit such as one can obtain for twenty to thirty hours study at a community college."
"Ah! Just as I was beginning to think that perhaps you were suggesting a reasonable sized step that an organization offering free webspace might take at little cost, you introduce this need for a worked out scheme."
"No great problem. All that any organization has to do is to take a copy of our discussion and show it to the industrial liaison section of their local college and ask if something could be worked out and what it would cost. It might be a few hundred pounds to start off and then ten pounds per candidate or something like that. If it is more, then it may not be that much more."
"Though, of course, the existence of such a certificate scheme would not be essential to get a token scheme going."
"That's right. It is just a question of providing something that authors might find worth spending time and effort in order to obtain that could not be obtained elsewhere or could not be obtained elsewhere except at disproportionate cost."
"Well .... a framed hologram."
"Or a collectweight."
"Yes, as you say, a collectweight."
"Collectweights do have the advantage over eutotokens that they do not have the legal implications of eutotokens."
"Well, yes, for the purpose of getting started that is true, and for purposes as identified in the book over encouraging people to participate in particular projects, yet the eutotoken is the potentially far reaching invention."
"Oh, I agree. If a full eutotoken scheme as in the book is implemented in real life and it is successful then it may well have major beneficial effects. A successful eutotoken scheme could dramatically alter the direction of free to the end user distance education on the internet."
"I think that if an organization did decide to try out a token scheme to try to gather content a lot will depend on the total package that is offered, including whether it tries to require authors to assign copyright, as well as issues such as value of tokens and what sort of advertising is allowed and where the advertising is placed."
"Well, alright, suppose that some organization tries the idea out, how does that lead to the eutotoken scheme becoming implemented?"
"Simply if one organization starts to issue tokens and gains increased viewers for its advertising as a result of high quality free to the end user distance education, others may feel that they too need to issue tokens. It then becomes a matter of having lots of different types of tokens or having fewer types of tokens with tokens supplied in bulk by an outside organization. Naturally, the outside organization will be seeking to make a profit, unless of course it is a non-profit organization like the one in the book."
"Which is more likely?"
"I have no idea. Even if I knew which were more likely there is no guarantee that the unlikely will not in fact happen. Once businesses start looking seriously at the possibility of token schemes as a way of attracting high quality content to their webspaces in order to attract viewers in order to gain more advertising revenue, who knows what wonderful systems may be produced."
"A key issue would be the credibility of the company issuing the eutotokens. Credibility that the eutotokens that are issued will be honoured."
"Look, this is all fanciful, I'm concerned with the bigger picture of the television movie."
"You weren't so concerned with the bigger picture not to get mean about those Davidia Involucrata trees."
"Now hold on there!"
The meeting descends into roars of laughter. The chairperson looks somewhat embarrassed.
"Do people think that I was being mean about the trees?"
"Alright, alright. They get the Davidia Involucrata trees, small ones mind! And the paving will have to be replaced with gravel for the time being."
Laughter and happy jollity.
"Well, as long as you're all happy about the trees, perhaps we had better break for tea and resume later. We've made good progress so far, but my big concern is still as to who will play Edith."