Wednesday, January 26


Conceptionary - was something I kind of thought about today. It relates broadly to what I feel I am doing.  Which is very conceptionary actually,  connecting things in broad general terms. So let's look closer.

The term as used with regards to 'dictionary'.
A Conceptionary is defined in a University of Calgary (Dr Hill 1978) paper as an encyclopaedic & dictionary like collection of broad terms and connections within the framework of a subject. Mapping the keywords, concepts and related fields.

HTML to Wikipedia
With the possibilities that HTML has brought about we see this in practice within the Wikipedia site - allowing rapid searching of broad subject matter with endless arrays of possible outward connections. With the translation aspect and the inclusive participation in terms of content provision - it must indeed be the beginnings of (if not already considered to be) One of 'man's' greatest acheivements.

Conceptionary Industries
I will further suggest that the term should also be coined for the new sector of industry that has been slowly coming to fruition over the last few decades. I would propose that it include the processes where there is application of time, energy and/or cost employed to develop a "concept". That although this is often seen as a Tertiary or Quaternary activity, it should be seen and audited in a separate but related way.

Computer Effect
If we look at many internet and computer based industries, even those involved in manufacture, we see a separate field of "birthing-ideas" emerging. Whereby individuals, teams or large networks, work on an idea to the beta level. Ideas for manufacturing and design may be done remotely from the actual primary, secondary and tertiary processes, yet drawing the physical (and quaternary) resources to render the final products or services. It has become a fact that many established 'manufacturing' companies no longer make their products, choosing instead to outsource suppliers. They slowly move from secondary to tertiary industries ( and conceptionary too)

Distinct area
The reason I see this as a quite distinct skill area is that increasingly this is how services and products are developed through to the point-of-sale or monetization stage. This has been the case with many Large scale websites, which were funded through the 'conceptionary' stage with venture capital, to the point of being sold on to new companies as viable businesses. Or in some cases launched on as Alpha products to paying consumers. Many of these companies began as very small initial ideas and have grown to become valued by the billion dollars in terms of stock. (Although the process has obviously been in existence [even pre-Industrial Revolution] - it was formally part of the overall 'industry' - whereas now it is fast becoming more outsourced and separate).

Growing Trend
The reason I see this as a growing trend is that we are at point where all the previous forms of industry are able to provide an abundance of possibilities and resources and all that is required is the conception of the idea to provide the future products and services. We also see the gradual decline in employment numbers within all the other sectors - certainly in the Western Developed Nations.

Although there has been one tendency for large corporations to control production from start to finish through conglomeration, there has also been specific specialization buy-outs within many industries. So that if we examine many business sectors there are now fewer players with a much larger share of the overall market. Think of the Electronics, Music, Motor-Car, Pharmaceutical and Aeronautical Industries over the last fifty years.

Emerging economies and markets

However if you look over the last ten years, due to the growth of emerging Far East manufacturing (China, Taiwan, Korea, India) many of the largest corporations are finding new competition from many smaller newer and more flexible companies. Companies with a high in-house "Conceptionary" skill base such as Apple have been able to rapidly expand into new territory.

Conceptionary activities on-line
On-line services such as Google, Facebook, Bandcamp, Microsoft and Soundcloud seem also to be strongly based around Conceptionary processes. To a degree the main service provision is output via databases and software interfaces. The main public interaction is not direct or (at present) revenue based - financial profits are gained via other means (advertising / information) or via Venture Capital.

Each encourages third party input to further the process - which is itself a conceptionary idea: widgets, APIs, uploads and subscription etc.

Apple is a prime example
Apple could be considered a very good (if not the best) example of a "Conceptionary Company" building ideas is a predominant part of their success. Much of the manufacturing of components maybe under third party contract.

Although Apple began as a DIY computer and Software system company - they have through the Vision of (CEO & Founder) Steve Jobs moved into Music Sales (iTunes) and Telecoms (iPhone) and set the future touch-paper for Education and Publishing (iPAD). Moreover the brand's awareness is itself a result of the same conceptionary process creating a strong product-family identification. Apple had from fairly on (the Newton logo excepted) a very strong 'core' (intentional pun) concept of it's corporate identity - logos and typefaces. Apple enjoys a fanatical loyalty from it's customers and has remained one of the top US companies.

Conceptionary Businesses
Although there are overlaps with other industry sectors - I would say these professions and businesses rank as conceptionary:

  • Design
  • Writing (not journalistic in general)
  • New Software Development
  • Technology & Product Innovation
  • Music composition
  • Film Storyboarding /Scriptwriting
  • Architecture
  • Creative Arts (Graphics Photography Electronic)
  • Research (may bound quaternary activities)

This is not an exhaustive list there maybe others areas missed here. There maybe many of the above which in certain circumstances may belong to parts of other sectors particularly Secondary and Tertiary Industries - where they are part of large developments & in-house projects or contracts.

The Conceptionary roles maybe carried out by a few main characters, supported by Tertiary staff. The main players may enlist the help of many others with an interest or expertise in related fields, to reach the beta and alpha phases of a project. In many instances a single individual may fulfill most of the function - perhaps bringing in help as the project in question reaches particular points of development.

Creative Commons

CreativeCommons activity may also constitute conceptionary in that the works manifested may be done for altruistic reasons - or as part of a long term conceptual idea. Much of the work is creative and experimental. Although it does not necessarily qualify as an "industrial" activity in our conventional notion of industry - the sheer volume makes it considerable for comment. It maybe that it does indeed represent some unforeseen future activity that will easily qualify as part of industry.


In the broad view of CC one must also mention individuals/companies/foundations/institutes that release GNU/GPL and other forms of open software - releasing free versions to the public & non-profit organizations. Allowing companies to use it under the license for a fee. Usually the real 'meat' of these activities is Conceptionary with tertiary activities as a secondary but necessary addition.

This contains my own thoughts and ideas - I will come back to read comments and add further links. I cannot claim to have created the term - I chose it as the closest to "birth/idea" with an 'ary' ending - to fit with the other Industrial Sectors (Primary/Secondary/Tertiary/Quaternary) - (fifth place/wave/column) that simple. The earliest useage - I found through a Google word search was from Dr. Hill (University of Calgary) - which is great for Audio Terms by the way. I just wanted a new way of thinking about what many of us are doing separately on an Industrial Scale.

Why did I think and write this? Because I like to try and think outside the box.

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