What if the magazine article of the future, the album of the future, and the novel of the future are all the same thing?
And what if they’re all events?
Start here: TED is one of the surprise media successes of the last few years, but not by chance. Their insight was that a conference can be a machine for making media—media that can build a big audience on the web. They invested in media production, and it paid off.
But TED is just a starting point. They’ve done a remarkable job, but—this always happens—it’s almost too big at this point. Too homogenizing. You could squint your eyes and recognize a TED talk by its red-blue glow. And—snark aside—it has a real weakness.
To understand it, get out of Long Beach and head into the woods north of San Francisco. Last month, Laura Brunow Miner invited a small posse of photographers out for a long weekend that she called Phoot Camp. Like TED, Phoot Camp produced a lot of media. Like TED, it’s now reached many more people online than it ever could have in person.
But here’s where Phoot Camp has an advantage. TED is an act of recitation: smart people stand on stage and explain the amazing things they’ve been up to. Phoot Camp was an act of creation: things came into the world that would not have otherwise. (And really, if nothing else, you ought to go peek at some of them.)
I’m making a big deal out of it, but I guess it’s a simple difference. TED is a conference. Phoot Camp was a workshop.
Hold that thought for a second.
The great virtue of events today, in the dawning 2010s, is that their value seems durable in a way that the value of super-abundant copies of digital media does not. They provide “embodiment,” to use Kevin Kelly’s taxonomy—and that’s something you can still charge for.
But the 2010s demand more than that.
First problem: None of these events have become machines for making media. I mean, yes, there are videos of the New Yorker Festival that you can watch online. But the event is designed and produced primarily for the people who attend. It’s no Phoot Camp.
Second problem: Even if these events all get wise in 2010 and bring it TED-style, they’ll still just be recitations. What we need are generative events. Here’s why.
A specter is haunting the internet, and I think it’s even scarier than the challenge of getting people to pay money. It’s the challenge of getting them to pay attention. I think it’s only going to get worse—which is to say, better, because we as internet users and blog readers and tweet slingers will have more cool, weird, interesting stuff to look at all the time, and it will just keep coming faster and getting cooler and fragments and—ack!
In this environment, I think generation beats recitation. I have a whole meta-riff on this—in some ways it’s as much a moral case as a practical one—but really, more than anything, it’s just that media is already full of recitation. So, for the moment, I think you get a real competitive advantage if you can show and share the process of creation. It’s an opportune time to make music without a mask.
So! If you’re suiting up for battle in this Hobbesian media world, and you get to bring a weapon, I think the event is the weapon to carry. Now let’s actually design it.Read more…