Archive for online culture
I was interviewed by a youth-skewing local TV show called What’s Up? during my stay in the magical city of Medellín, Colombia. This video includes my interview about the impact of communication technology and storytelling, as well as commentary from James Alliban, an augmented reality app developer. Enjoy!
Perhaps my favorite talk at TEDWomen was the one by Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook. I was prepared to give a talk on social media and when I found out she was in the line-up, and basically providing a keynote for the conference, I was worried that my presentation would feel like stale news by the time I hit the stage during the last session of the last day.
I was relieved when it became clear that Sandberg wasn’t going to talk social media at all: instead, she took the harder road – explaining to a group of successful, driven women why women were still underachieving in global politics and business. The video of her talk has caught on like wildfire and now the venerable New Yorker has published a thoughtful profile of her by Ken Auletta that provides some great food for thought about Sandberg and the future of social media. Read the rest of this entry »
In April of this year, I attended Fractal’11, a truly unique conference in Medellin, Colombia, that explored the convergence of fiction, art, science and technology. The event was the perfect forum for me to talk about my winding career path, which began in an English PhD program, meandered through a Web start-up and an international multimedia company and deposited me, quite happily at the Norman Lear Center.
One of the many fascinating themes of the conference (I explored several others here) was the appeal of infotainment, material that serves two seemingly unrelated purposes: to occupy attention agreeably (as the Oxford English Dictionary defines “entertainment”) and to transmit practical information that may just contribute to your survival.
My talk about Entertainment as Virtual Reality focused on the ways in which entertainment – catchy pop songs, video games, movies, opera, toys, etc. – could be understood as simulations, little virtual reality machines that allow us to test our ideas about the world in safe, artificial spaces. Regardless of how distracting a cultural object may be, it is also a powerful transmitter of information about our world, and it can have a surprisingly profound impact on our lives well outside the movie theater, concert hall or American Girls store. Read the rest of this entry »
I was a little surprised by the invitation I received from Hernan Ortiz and Viviana Trujillo to speak at their annual Fractal conference . I couldn’t figure out how they knew that I was interested in all the things their conference was about: science fiction, technoculture, music and the porous boundary between fiction and real lived life. I knew that my current work at the Norman Lear Center was informed by these interests – which I’d cultivated while I was earning my English PhD in a theory-heavy program – but it was hardly obvious in any official bio you might find online.
The conference was in Medellin, Colombia, and so I immediately contacted my friend, who has lots of family in Colombia, and asked her whether it was safe for an American gal to travel alone there. She assured me that things had improved tremendously: Medellin was now safer than it had been in decades, and it just happened to be one of the most beautiful places in the entire country.
Boy, she wasn’t kidding.
Hernan and Viviana were clever enough to include in their original invitation links to two glowing reports about the two previous conferences in 2009 and 2010. Science fiction writers John Kessel and James Patrick Kelly wrote this about the first Fractal:
The festival blithely crossed boundaries in the arts, exploring the literature of the fantastic, music, art, science, technology, and fashion. It was Colombia’s first national science fiction conference. Dedicated to presenting different ways of imagining and creating the future, the conference took its mission from a quote by J.G. Ballard. “I believe in the power of imagination to rebuild the world.”
There were several reasons I was happy to be invited to speak at the Fashion140 event last week: first, it was in the brand spanking new Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center (wow!), and second, it gave me an opportunity to talk about two things that I think quite a lot about these days: fashion and social media.
I’ve given a TED talk on each of these topics – one was about the lack of copyright protection in the fashion industry and the reasons that that might be very good for business and for the artistic craft. (The response I received to this argument from working designers at Fashion140 was exclusively positive.) My more recent TED talk, which I gave in December, was about social media and the transformative impact that I believe it will have on traditional media industries and global popular culture, including the representations we see in magazines, TV, film, games, toys … you name it.
At the Norman Lear Center, which is based at the University of Southern California, I’ve been doing a great deal of research on social media and its impact on the television industry, in particular. As I was combing through data, I kept stumbling across articles about women’s dominance of various social media platforms, including Flickr and Facebook, and Twitter, where 57 % of users are women according to the most recent data from Ignite. I wondered if I could find some global stats and lo and behold comScore put together a very nice report in June of last year called Women on the Web: How Women are Shaping the Internet. In it, they demonstrated that women outnumber men on social media in every region around the world, and they spend a LOT more time on these sites than men do: women spend 5.5 hours per month on social media sites compared to 3.9 hours for men.
It didn’t surprise me that women were flocking to social media sites – there’s quite a lot of academic research that explores why it is that women tend to be more social than men. But I must say I was shocked that this trend wasn’t just appearing in rich, first world nations, but in every region around the world, where, I had thought, women’s access to the Internet, and the hardware and software that they need to participate in social media, might be pretty limited.
Me and my colleagues at the Norman Lear Center worked with cartoonist Lloyd Dangle to create this sweet little short film about creativity and collaboration in the ivory tower. Part of an ongoing project at the University of Southern California, this film sums up some of the obstacles that scholars and scholarly institutions face in an era of swift technological change.
Everybody says they want to use new technology to save the world, but contemporary scholarly practice is based on some very old ideas about the importance of original, individual authorship and the strict commitment to narrow disciplinary practices . . . . things that don’t mesh so well with the mind-boggling global knowledge networks that are emerging in both the private and public sectors right now. The Lear Center plans to play a key role in USC’s effort to encourage more interdisciplinary collaboration among scholars: we’ll be posting lots of resources on the topic over the next few months and you can follow our Twitter feed as well: USCCreativity.
I had the great fortune to be invited to the ASTRA conference in Sydney, Australia, this week. ASTRA is the organization that represents the subscription TV industry there and it was fascinating to not only discover Sydney (it’s absolutely gorgeous) but to get a fresh look at an industry I understand pretty well in another petrie dish over 7000 miles away. (You can find tweets about the conference using #astra2011.)
The subscription industry in Australia is quite young – it’s only been around for 16 years or so, and several people told me it is much more progressive and modern (and friendly to women) than the Free TV industry in Australia, which parallels our broadcast industry here in the states.
I got a good long look at the changing demographic in the Australian TV industry when I climbed on stage to give a talk about social media and women at the popular Women in Television Breakfast. When I heard the title, it never occurred to me that there’d be a room filled with almost 600 women.
I was very excited to attend the Free Culture Forum in Barcelona last October: the event was quite unique in its effort to bring together a broad range of scholars and activists from all around the world to work together to develop guidelines for sustainable models for creativity in the digital age. There were some pretty noisy fights, let me tell you, but at long last, we’ve produced a great brief which, so far, has been endorsed by 69 organizations and key players in the field. Please take a look at the document and be sure to watch this fun video about the Forum and its annual entertainment showcase called the oXcars.
I’ve been traveling quite a bit lately in order to give talks about the fashion industry and it’s unique remix culture. I had a lot of fun at the Free Culture Conference at New York University last weekend. I was on a terrific panel with two women who are exploring fashion’s free culture from some pretty surprising angles. Lana Swartz is a PhD candidate at USC right now, but her master’s thesis at MIT was about tight-knit, counterfeit luxury fashion communities online. Lana raised some marvelous questions about “fakeness” in fashion and brought to light a fascinating community of fashion obsessives who know so much about the originals they fake, that their copies may (arguably) feel more authentic than the real thing.
It was a great pleasure to meet Nora Abousteit, who spoke about the evolution of BurdaStyle, a very successful ”open source” online pattern sharing community. I was especially interested to hear her story because I had read a few articles about the false copyright claims that commercial pattern makers have long made. “End users” — sewers — are frequently warned that they may not make for commercial production any garments based upon the patterns they’ve purchased because those patterns are copyright protected. But if you look at the court records, there seem to be no cases of this sort that have been pressed. Why?
I often get calls from cable news networks, but they usually want me to weigh in on the latest trashy celebrity non-news: When they have stories about Paris or Lindsay, they think of me.
Well, I always say no.
But this week, I finally had the chance to talk about some of my own research on MSNBC. I thought for sure they would want to grill me about the provocative thesis I presented at TEDWomen: Social Media & the End of Gender has raised quite a few hackles on the TED.com site, and the last time I checked, the talk had received more thumbs down than thumbs up on YouTube. So I prepared myself for attack.