A more condensed version of the annual look at the triumphs and tirbulations of participatory media took place at MIT this year (too bad I didn’t realize that until after I had booked my hotel at Harvard Square) and had a decidedly more political slant to it than last year’s conference. Maybe something happens the further away you get from the Berkman Center that makes copyright law reforms less pressing than news and politics, although I didn’t manage to see Dan Gilmore floating around anywhere this time, so that doesn’t seem right. Anyway, I’m doing some blogging for the conference again this year. Here you’ll find a more personal take, although I’m trying hard to refrain from complaining about any of the technical problems or annoyances of the conference.
Henry Jenkins started it off with a pretty lively keynote, plugging his new book “Convergence Culture” and delving into the participatory culture of media as a combination of interactive technology and a language of mainstream culture that can be effectively utilized to encourage political and ideological dissent, discussion and, of course, independent distribution. Beth Kantor got some great pictures of his slides. If I weren’t so lazy, I might make an enhanced podcast. Anyway, he was a great speaker and his book really does sound like a good read:
After Henry there was a presentation from a very rushed John Palfrey. He was well-read and well-spoken, and gave a very concise, yet all-encompassing report on the state of participatory media. I’d like to go back and listen to this one again, if only to pick out some of the really great lines he had and give myself an additional moment to disgest them. I also thought the way he handled the question at the end was very dignified (I probably just would have blurted out something stupid like, “you obviously have no faith in crowdsourcing?” It’s not that it was a bad question, it’s just that the problem really does have a way of rectifying itself, and I don’t think that censoring assholes is going to mean there are less assholes out there.
From there we saw a pretty diverse group get up and panelize the who’s, how’s and what’s of participatory media, from the corporate (MTV and Yahoo!), not so corporate (Reason Magazine) and Indie (Four Eyed Monsters) angles. They talked about everything from monetization, such as Aaron Crumley’s description of a future wherein creators are sponsored for their real-life product shots (a question which begs the answer, how real life is your life if you are being paid to live it?) to online governance, as ITP grad Kenny Miller describes the feeling of taking the training wheels off of his very successful the-n.com teen social networking site, to the mediation and distribution of citizen news items, as Elizabeth Osdar decsribes Yahoos! approach to routing both top-down and bottom-up stories to its users. All-in-all this was a very compelling group of people who raised a lot of interesting questions, and I highly recommend listening to it if you have the time:
I have to say that this Kenny Miller seems like a pretty interesting guy. Initially, I was a little turned-off by his referencing of binary competition as a part of our DNA rather than a product of a stereoptyping, while calling participatory culture a “trend” rather than the inevitable result of technology finally catching up to human needs. I think he eventually won me over after off-handedly addressing my favorite bi-product of technological profficiency applied poorly to real life – that is, the content problem.
The Four Eyed Monster guy, on the other hand, may never win me over, although, it may have just been that fact that I was petrified of his giant oz-like head looming over me for the past hour. Really, guys. Now just because someone is on video chat, doesn’t mean that their face needs to be 50 times the size of the live and present panelists.
The last panel was also a lively one, although I can’t say that I find bickering at the panelists’ table very attractive. Unfortunately my ipod died before we got to that part in the discussion, and all I have here is some audio with some people talking participatory democracy. Hopefully the comments from the audience are still intact and audible, as I found a few peoples’ contributions to the “who’s government is actually listening to its constituents in realtime” question very interesting. In Estonia, you can “call in” on congressional meetings, and, in Indonesia, report government corruption via SMS. For some reason these both sound way more reasonable to me than New York’s new approach to vigilante crime-reporting (no, not to the press, to the police). Anyway, here it is:
For more information on the conference and a full list of participants and panelists go here: Or you can, like, log on in Second Life, dude.