Archive for December, 2010
I’ve been utterly smitten by Arcade Fire ever since I saw them live five years ago at Austin City Limits. I’d heard their music on the radio for a year or two but I didn’t care for the Springsteen bombast, the cloying Irish folk undercurrent or Win Butler’s brittle voice. But live was another matter. It wasn’t just that the band made some effort to actually perform for an audience (all too rare these days); it was the audience’s response that I found intoxicating. In Los Angeles we have, shall we say, spoiled audiences who find it gauche to show any inkling of excitement about a musical performance. But even this chilly bunch was set afire at the Shrine (the old Academy Awards venue) by this wacky Canadian collective.
So I thought it was appropriate that Arcade Fire used interactive technology to continue that powerful exchange with their audience in their music videos. Their latest, The Wilderness Downtown, allows viewers to enter data about the location of their childhood home: images from Google Earth are integrated into the song “We Used to Wait” to haunting effect. At the end, you can scribble a message to children growing up in your old hometown. I knew exactly what my advice would be . . .
I gave a talk at TEDWomen last week called “Social Media & the End of Gender.” Before the event, I was having a really hard time giving people the cocktail party version of my argument — there were just too many steps between “social media” and the “end of gender” to fit in a 30-second summary. I began to worry that the talk wouldn’t work: that I needed more than the paltry nine minutes allotted me on the TED stage to lay out what I thought was a rather groundbreaking connect-the-dots idea.
Thankfully, I was wrong. That audience — mostly composed of women who are hyperactive in the social media sphere (so much so that the event was plagued by bandwidth issues) — understood exactly what I was talking about. Social media will help wipe out banal assumptions about gender? And transform our media environment? Of course! You bet. We all knew that!
Thankfully, The Atlantic’s Nicholas Jackson got it too. He mentions in his piece that my talk “was greeted with less skepticism than it seems she was anticipating.” (Got that right.) He proceeds to do an excellent job of providing all the examples that I didn’t have time to lay out and to flesh out portions of my argument that ended up on the cutting room floor.
So the video’s not up yet, but I encourage you to read his piece and let me know what you think!
I’ve just returned from the first ever TEDWomen. My expectations were incredibly high — the speaker list included big-shots like Madeleine Albright, Nancy Pelosi, Arianna Huffington, Angelique Kidjo, Naomi Klein, Donna Karan, and perennial TED stars Eve Ensler and Hans Rosling. The shocking thing is that it was not in the least bit disappointing. And the surprise appearance of Hillary Clinton, a real hero to many women in the room, just added more luster to the proceedings.
If anything, the whole event was TOO much. After the final panel, I spoke with Pat Mitchell, who did a fantastic job steering the proceedings (in four inch heels, no less). I told her that the one thing I was hearing from everyone I talked to was that the event was overwhelming, both emotionally and intellectually. Why did they pack so much in?
Mitchell said that the organizers — primarily Mitchell and long-time TED staffer (and digital media visionary) June Cohen — felt it was essential to knock it out of the park. They needed to include as many speakers as a regular TED, but in half the time, and they had to have more live-streams than any other TED in order to prove that TEDWomen wouldn’t be perceived as a ghetto for girls in the rarified TED universe.
“Isn’t that typical for women?” Mitchell said, as her husband held her hand tightly. “We always feel like we have to do more.” TED has had a terrible record at achieving anything like gender parity in its line up of speakers over the years, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Mitchell and Cohen’s efforts help crack open the boy’s club. My TEDWomen talk was about the surprising impact that women will have on global media, due to their majority presence in the social media space. I’m wondering if something parallel might be happening in the TED universe, where being a networked over-achiever is de rigueur. Could it be that future TEDs will look a lot more like TEDWomen? We can only hope.