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Technology diffusion and the Hollywood business model

The Hollywood business model combines talent, fame, distribution networks and familiar messages. Another simplification is that Hollywood is a fame factory and fame is an easily understood business model.

Fame begets fame. Sometimes it arrives very quickly. In comparison it is usually slower going with technology diffusion (see Footnote 1).

With technology diffusion it can take years, decades or centuries before the benefits of a technology are fully realised. It took the iPod years, the internet decades, and electricity centuries. This time delay is a reality we recognise as intellectual property lawyers specialising in commercialisation projects.

business_model_duduk

Can the Hollywood business model help to commercialise or diffuse technology? Yes, there's lots of evidence and examples. It is the commercial justification for product placement in movies and television programs (see Footnote 2).

The question brings us to a marvellous case study. It is the story of the duduk. Measured against its 1,500 to 3,000 years of use in the Caucasus, Anatolia and the Armenian diaspora, the duduk has become an overnight success because the Hollywood business model has diffused it globally.

The duduk (pictured right) is an ancient Armenian musical instrument. It is a double reed instrument. The closest to it in sound is perhaps the oboe.

It is undeniable that a musical instrument is a type of technology. There are lots of books which trace the diffusion of musical instruments across the globe, including the piano or guitar and of course the use of these and other western instruments by Africans in America to invent Jazz.

How has technology diffusion and globalisation taken place for the duduk? Listen to this radio documentary, it is a superb 9 minute radio program on the duduk. It's on DailyMotion, a video website. Listen to it as a study in how the Hollywood business model can help in technology diffusion. Keep in mind that the biggest diaspora community of Armenians lives in Los Angeles (there are about 500,000 Armenians in LA), and the very "suburb" of Hollywood has for decades been Little Armenia.

Major movies have featured the duduk in their soundtrack, perhaps firstly Martin Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ (1988). It was followed by The Chronicles of Narnia (The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe), The Hulk, The Siege, Ararat, Dead Man Walking, The Passion of the Christ, Syriana, Alexander, The Crow, Gladiator, and Kingdom of Heaven. In recent years to that list can be added Vikings (TV series) and Alexander's Lost World (2013 six episode TV documentary).

Australian television producers, especially for the ABC and SBS, use the duduk as background music in programs. Hollywood fame has made the duduk part of global culture. The 12 July 2010 Four Corners program was on Australia's involvement in Afghanistan, complete with a duduk in the soundtrack.

Fame begets fame, especially in Hollywood, and sometimes for technology.

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Graphic credit: Shot Blue Marilyn (1964) by Andy Warhol

Footnote 1: Technology diffusion defined

  • Technology diffusion is a subject within the larger field within engineering or management, known as technology management. Companies which live off technology development require diffusion of their technology. An obstacle is that: "A new technology defuses into use for several reasons, and the rate of diffusion varies. Accordingly the rate at which a new market grows depends on many factors." This is one of key principles in Frederick Betz's great book, Strategic Technology Management (McGraw-Hill, New York, 1994).
  • Diffusion is also needed for earnings by developers of information technology and Web 2.0 companies. IT companies have long applied a three part strategy of creation, diffusion and licensing. We might even refer to this as the "Silicon Valley business model" involving relationships with customers and alliances between competitors.

Footnote 2: Statistics on product placement in Australia

"Last year US research company PQ Media estimated that Australian companies spent A$137.8 million placing products and brands in TV programs and films in 2005, up 25.4% from A$110 in 2004. Australia is the third-biggest product placement market in the world." Source: Julian Lee, "Vegemite rehearses for Hollywood debut", The Sydney Morning Herald, 21 June 2007, p. 27.


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