diy day

The netpublics group at the annenberg center for communication at USC threw an interesting party this past weekend. Ok, I guess it was a conference. But in addition to academics, it hosted journalists and new-media “makers,” which was what made it worthwhile, the attendees all connecting (sort of) as a netpublic!

There was a lot of information and a lot of comedy, too-- both engendered mainly from excellent, really revealing, disconnects. I mean confusion you could see on people's faces. It was a good thing, a credit to the organizers. They managed to put on a conference that left people wondering... that's pretty rare.

The mostly young new-media makers seemed a little self-conscious. There was the best-offense-is-defense approach: “I thought you academics might be a tough crowd... so I’d like to talk today about failed talks I’ve given in the past.” There was the you-look-like-my-parents approach: “So you guys, you just, like, hook up a camera to your computer with a cable and there are totally these sites that will host your video for free. You can do it!” There was the utterly defeated: “If you haven’t watched this anime series-- well, you haven’t-- anyway, the remix plays with character and chronology—the long-haired girl is actually a boy-- um, the relationships might be sexual-- in any case, the editing is just amazing, playing with the thrash metal soundtrack-- yeah, it’s really unbelievable, for example, check it out, it’s raining in scenes where there was no rain! [silence] Well [audible sigh] okay, here it is...”

The academics at times seemed equally off balance in their responses. There were the overly focused: “This just seems, I dunno, flippant. Can any of this remix really stand in the place of political-minded deliberation?” There was the Old World: “I don’t dare say it, of course, but, truly, what would Marx think of this Make magazine?” There was the over compensating: “It’s just amazing video you’re making, really powerful corporate deconstructions. How have you so far managed to elude the big-brand henchmen?”

The effect was both optimistic and reserved. It was very 2.0 in that it was wary. There were whole stretches of the day that felt suspended, like David Letterman would be coming out between "acts" to ask: “Was that something?” But there was also definitely the excitement that comes of grasping at the future together. The future we were imagining, I think, was not so much in the material presented-- anime, machinima, remix-- but in the way people involved in those genres seem to be thinking. And it’s the mentality switch at the heart of participatory-convergence culture that speaks to all the questions about whether any of the actual work we were seeing matters, whether any of it can make a difference in the so-called real world. Any revolution worthy of the name is a revolution of the mind.

02 May 2006