The murmur of the snarkmatrix…

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El Stock y Flujo de nuestro negocio. – redmasiva § Stock and flow / 2017-03-27 17:35:13
Meet the Attendees – edcampoc § The new utility belt / 2017-02-27 10:18:33
Meet the Attendees – edcampoc § The generative web event / 2017-02-27 10:18:17

The future of media? Bet on events

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.

Now, media companies do actually get this! There’s a reason the New Yorker Festival exists. Ditto the Atlantic’s Aspen Ideas Festival. Media companies sponsor and produce events all the time.

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.

So far we’ve got this TED/Phoot Camp media-making workshop spear-gun. Now, bolt on deadly additions from Iron Chef and the Long Now Foundation’s debates1. Now we’ve got a laser sword media product that is:

  • Live. It’s an event that happens at a specific time and place in the real world. It’s something you can buy a ticket for—or follow on Twitter.
  • Generative. Something new gets created. The event doesn’t have to produce a series of luminous photo essays; the point is simply that contributors aren’t operating in playback mode. They’re thinking on their feet, collaborating on their feet, creating on their feet. There’s risk involved! And that’s one of the most compelling reasons to follow along.
  • Publishable. The result of all that generation ought, ideally, to be something you can publish on the web, something that people can happily discover two weeks or two years after the event is over.
  • Performative. The event has an audience—either live or online, and ideally both. The event’s structure and products are carefully considered and well-crafted. I love the BarCamp model; this is not a BarCamp.
  • Serial. It doesn’t just happen once, and it doesn’t just happen once a year. Ideally it happens… what? Once a month? It’s a pattern: you focus sharply on the event, but then the media that you produce flares out onto the web to grow your audience and pull them in—to focus on the next event. Focus, flare.

Reading what I just wrote, it sort of sounds like a show, doesn’t it? I guess you could say that’s the extreme version of the pitch: It’s an amazing live event that happens… every night! But I don’t really like the association, because it implies so much about format, tone, scale—lots of things. There’s a reason I’m building my perfect weapon out of TED and Phoot Camp, not Jay Leno and Charlie Rose.

At the very beginning I said this was the magazine article of the future, the album of the future, the novel of the future. It stretches a bit here, but I think it’s a fun stretch.

The magazine. Have you heard of Pop-Up Magazine? I’ve never been to one, but man I like the sound of it:

Each evening of Pop-Up unfolds like a magazine. Short reviews, dispatches, and provocations anchor the front, longer features follow in the back.

So there you go. Take it a step further and use your event to literally make your multimedia web magazine. Do it every month.

The album. The template is Radiohead’s Scotch Mist, because I think music demands an inversion. With magazines, we’re adding a live audience; with music, maybe we need to take it away. Instead, put the band in a room, plug them into the internet, and make something on the fly. Plug us into the music’s creation myth—that magic week in the old farm house, banging on pots and pans and dragging the marimba up the stairs. Produce it a little; give it a little structure. Maybe there’s going to be a live performance back in the city on the seventh day. We’re all watching. The clock is ticking.

The novel. I don’t know; I’m thinking of the play Copenhagen. Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg met there in 1941. Nobody knows what they talked about, but Michael Frayn imagines it to great effect. What wonderful things are possible when two strange people get together in a third strange place?

Okay, so this isn’t the novel of the future. Novels take too long to make. But surely if Salman Rushdie met Orhan Pamuk in Mexico City, something interesting would happen, and something interesting could be produced. Hmm… I need your thoughts on this one.

In the 2010s, lots of people are going to make lots of media in lots of different ways—more and more of it for fun and for free. If you want to make a business out of media, I think you’re going to have to start doing something very different. (And let’s be clear: I’m talking about smart, thoughtful, durable media here. The media we all love most; the media many of us aspire to make. There is another model for the 2010s, but it’s a different kind of media altogether.)

I like the idea of the event as a fundamental unit of media, specifically because at its best, it can be generative. And the media it generates—that growing data shadow—is what builds the audience over time. But its urgency—its liveness, human vitality, and, frankly, its risk and unpredictability—is what makes it more than just another link in the stream.

Aww but mostly I just want TED mixed with Phoot Camp mixed with Iron Chef mixed with Long Now. I want to go to it, and I want to watch it online.


1. The Long Now debate format is so cool: Take two debaters, Alice and Bob. Alice goes first, presenting her argument. Then Bob stands up, and before he can present his counter-argument, he has to summarize Alice’s argument to her satisfaction. So it’s basically an exercise in empathy and good faith. If Alice agrees that he’s got it right, then Bob proceeds with his argument—and when he’s done, Alice has to recapitulate it to his satisfaction. Then, they fight to the death respond to questions. (Back to where you were.)


Tim Carmody says…

I like positioning the generative-web-event as being somewhere between a seminar, a TV show, and a magazine.

Like a seminar, or workshop: it’s brainy, and collaborative, aimed at creating knowledge, not just reciting it;

Like a TV show: it’s live! It’s happening now! Or, rather – it was happening then. We’re going to show you something that’s going to gain and capture your attention;

Like a magazine: you’re not capturing a random viewer, who is just trying to tune in to whatever catches their attention at that moment. You’re connecting with subscribers, and trying to gain and hold their attention. Too much of the web, of social media, is like flicking through the channels, with too much of the bad aspects of that and not enough of the good.

This is a really cool idea. I want to see these things too! Make me a member! Let me subscribe!

I like that recipe! (And I feel like I ought to put a link at the top of the post that just tells people to read your comment — what a good summary.)

Short comment: I agree completely!

Medium sized comment: You can actually generalize it from creating to doing—hammer hits nails, shovel moves dirt, thread pierces cloth, blood get pumping, bodies dance, food is eaten. Anything which requires full presence, which can only barely be tweeted or projected or recorded, which takes time beyond thought to be completed. The magic of a rock concert—which has increasingly been re-recognized as the most potentially revenue-generating unit of music for few years now–is not the all enveloping sound and light, it’s the fact that you finally get to dance with the singers of that song. All the media that’s produced as a result is magical because its evocative of the possibility that you were either there or that one day, you too will get to dance like that. At some level, albums were just expensive trailers for the real deal. Right now we treat author signing events as trailers for the reading experience, but what if it was the other way around? A few weeks ago I went to go see Michael Lewis in conversation with a friend of his, and it was so much more enjoyable because I had already read the books. I was able to ask a detailed question in reference to something in the middle of the book. My favorite author events have always been like that–exciting because they’re a conversation, not just a stage-crafted preview.

Long Comment
You read about this stuff in the history of science. Seminars turn to workshops, workshops evolve into summer schools, summer schools end up producing actual science. That physics Nobel speech I linked to a few comments back details this kind of network of conversations easily morphing into real productive work that then yields publishable, consumable material. The media is both a byproduct and an invitation of these creative events, the compelling structure that sucks people into the field. Erdos’s whole life and oevre was a movable feast of events whose byproducts enticed new followers who ached and strived to get invited to an evented and make their own byproducts. There’s a quote from Freeman Dyson that I used to close all my networking workshops with back when I was an evangelist for undergrads joining the research community.

At its best work is a sustained lifelong conversation. The more satisfying and enjoyable work is, the more it partakes of the nature of conversation. Science at the working level is mostly conversation. . . .That is the way science is done. When I am not talking to friends down the hall, I am writing papers for friends around the world. Scientists are as gregarious a species as termites (From Eros to Gaia)

(Remember, the web was invented at Cern to make this global great society even more global and fluid!!!) The barrier of entry to that particular conversation was and is very high (Dyson being one of the greatest critics of the fact that it averages out to being more than a PhD) but more and more conversational fields are being created with lower and lower barriers to entry.

I personally think that the future of media is an adaptive and constant presentation of Opportunities for Engagement. The publisher that finds the best opportunities, presents them the most compellingly,and targets them the most precisely, wins.

Ha hahaha. I love your level of detail slider.

I agree strongly w/ this observation—

“My favorite author events have always been like that–exciting because they’re a con­ver­sa­tion, not just a stage-crafted preview.”

—and even more strongly w/ the corollary, which is that static, staged recapitulations of what’s in the book are almost insulting at this point.

Also, I think the novel turns into a cross between one of the Avantgames, the Tactile Dome, and an Austen-esque Grand Ball.

As creative pots go, events can certainly provide one of the richest experiences possible for new media. But, as you mentioned, the primary problem is attention, not generation of great content.

While amazing content will certainly capture more (right?) people interested in consuming it, I would add that the multi-disciplinary model touched on is not only great for creating it, but also for outputting it. Remixing the (great) content into different media formats: the magazine article, the album, the novel – even the web photostream – generate different attention requirements, different consumers, and even different views on the same content. This plethora of choice – even if some are recitation – allows the consumer to pick the media preference that satisfies their scarce attention. It doesn’t solve the attention problem, but maximizes it to the individual through choice.

Making the content the intersection of different mediums is where media will have the greatest reach. The same content expressed through different venues may also produce interesting results that far surpass the original vision. The peek into the creative process, be it an event or writing a book is just another form that the content takes (and also attracts different people interested in that aspect).

While I embrace events – specially as described – as an option for my media consumption, I think the future of media is more directly linked to the diversity of the content’s presentation.

Matthew Battles says…

Once again, the delightful experience of having one’s inchoate notions & yearnings brilliantly expostulated by Robin!

It’s clear that people will pay for proximity, for intimacy, for collective effervescence. The bands had this figured out all along; you’ll notice that very few musicians fret about piracy & drm (except for the ones who’re nothing but bloated brands—Aerosmith is the ultimate exemplar). It’s because all along the money for them has been in playing & performing.

I’ve had an urge to try putting on a show—I want to call it the Circus of Serendipity—in which writers & performers & crafters & intellectuals do their various things for an audience, while backed by a live band (I’m thinking klezmer, b/c I know an awesome klezmer band, & b/c it fits the circus notion).

But this notion of coming together & making something, that’s really exciting. It’s where Saheli’s point about the gregariousness of scientists really hits home. It makes me think of the republic of letters of early modernity, where conviviality was a fundamental part of the work not only of sharing but of producing knowledge.

The novel’s a tough nut to crack in this regard. High modernity got lots of mileage out of the image of the artist as miglior fabbro marooned on the island of his brilliant estrangement. Curiously, novels are the convivial form par excellence, or anyway a kind of apotheosis of conviviality. That Bakhtinian orchestration of languages…

I wonder if there isn’t a model in kind of thing Britain’s Punchdrunk theatre troupe is doing with their production based on Hamlet, called Sleep No More. They sort of “explode” Hamlet inside an abandoned school building; the audience walks around and picks up threads of the action here and there. It’s not a tableau vivant, but a mobile spectacle of theatre action.

It’s being produced right now here in greater Boston by the American Repertory Theatre.

SO: imagine a troupe of performers, a team of writers and illustrators, some photographers; maybe throw in strolling musicians. Cook up a scenario and blow it up in some complicated-but-contained space. Invite onlookers/witnesses/participant observers (ooh—give the witnesses the cameras). And then afterwards, the deliverable: a graphic novelization of the proceedings, using the photographs made by witnesses, &c….

It’s being pro­duced right now here in greater Boston by the Amer­i­can Reper­tory Theatre.

Aieeee! That’s it! That’s what I wanted! I want to go to Boston right now!!!

I’m with Saheli. So. cool.

But I like your mod, Matthew: it’s not just drama. New creative activity is unfolding.

AND, P.S., I like how you just brought architecture into the mix, too! The now the building of the future is an event, too.

Actually, that’s “Macbeth” that ART has adapted.

It would be a fascinating technique for Hamlet as well: I imagine the audience would feel something like R&G in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead.

Promenade theatre isn’t particularly new, but I think that Matthew’s extension of the idea, that is having a deliverable item to propagate the work, is where at least some live performance needs to go. In order to survive, a given live theatre must find ways to tap into the audience that exists beyond its immediate geographical vicinity.

Given Robin’s spectacular success with Kickstarter, I’ve been thinking a lot about how one would apply such a fund raising model to theatrical productions, drawing from patrons with a wide geographic spread while giving those patrons who cannot physically attend a performance something that feels like an important product of the work.

I think you just described The Factory. I think we’re all describing The Factory.

Matthew Battles says…

btw: I use ampersands because I love their scribal legacy, & because Snarkmarket has the best ampersands in the business.

“I use ampersands because I love their scribal legacy”—if Snarkmarket had a sophisticated system for awarding “comment points,” that would get a +1.

Or maybe an &1…

Tim Carmody says…

“&1” is what Petrus Ramus would say when he got fouled playing medieval basketball.

That’s right, I said it — basketball was invented in the Middle Ages.

And it was ROUGH. Just ask Abelard.

Also, ampersands have a ridiculous name. INTERCAL uses silly names for most punctuation characters, such as “two-spot” for :, “big money” for $, “rabbit-ears” for “, and “whirlpool” for @, but their name for & is “ampersand”, with the footnote: “Got any better ideas?” 😛

Regardless of the tools, methods and processes involved, I keep wrestling with the existential question of “what is the ultimate purpose of this media?”

Are we generating it:
1. For profit?
2. For attention?
3. For education?
4. For helping humanity?
5. For the evolution of civilization?

I have no answers 🙂 I think I’m just growing weary of having to assign purpose to art, and the increasing belief that the forms of [artistic] media (poetry, literature, painting, photography, video, etc.) are less meaningful, less marketable, less ‘social’, if they do not have a broader intent.

PS I love TED but cant afford to go to the next one in SF and was bummed I heard about phoot camp after the fact…would have been awesome to go! 🙁


I understand that it seems that profitable “ideas” is an oxymoron.

I worked for a company in the “creative business” where I observed brilliant ideas come in conflict with the goal of profitability. In my opinion, this is not an impossible hurdle to overcome.

Live events are the model to examine for the answers, because live events deliver something that people still spend a lot of time, money, and attention to attend – even when they have the option of just watching when or where convenient.

I’ve also worked in the live event business. And I’ve observed that live events satisfy needs that “one-way” communication does not. And these needs are made even more intense because of the isolation of today’s communication technology.

Live events fill the need for CONTEXT that provides a reason for diverse stakeholders to find mutual benefit from COLLABORATING. The scarcity of REAL TIME compels participants to “show up” and visualizing fellow participants response to the content accelerates the impact. The camaraderie experienced has the potential to develop a sense of community that transcends geography.

Live events are limited by the capacity for the number of people who can attend and the duration of that value. The good news is that virtual technologies creates possibilities to add value by overcoming these limitations. And this is really exciting. We’re working on these possibilities. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you are interested in learning more.

Katherine Warman Kern

Well, this won’t be surprising coming from me, but it sounds like a game is actually the best format for achieving this.
You don’t want people to come together and just “play” — blah, boring, aimless. You want people to come together and collaborate on missions, produce some kind of an outcome or result or product that is the result of having an interesting goal, challenging limitations, and creativity-producing constraints.
Obviously, what we want is for a Ted conference or Foo Camp style event to be run as a Go Game. (
Collaborative, mashed-up teams of interesting people which results in media documenting the completed missions.

But are Avantgames not your preferred brand/genre name? I mean, do you prefer Games-Like-Jane’s, or Avantgames, to refer to your kind of games?

Matthew Battles says…

I’ll take your &1, and raise you an et tu…

Jane, any chance of making Hamlet into a game? Seriously, there must at some point have been staged some theatrical that was also a game, where the outcome differs each time it’s played. Now there’s an event!

In The Savage Mind Lévi_Strauss the Gahuku-Gama of New Guinea, who had adopted soccer—only they always played until both teams reach a predetermined tie score, turning a game into a ritual.

Even in the formal structure of the Broadway musical, there are examples of pieces where the audience can alter the outcome: “The Mystery of Edwin Drood,” based on the unfinished Dickens novel, has the audience vote on both the identity of the murderer and which pair of characters end up in a relationship, with songs prepared for each outcome.

Tim Carmody says…

I think that the best video game version of Hamlet would be Lego Hamlet.


Lego Shakespeare. We could do them all — every play, every genre. In Lego.

Lego Henry V. Lego Julius Caesar.

Our other great set of myths (the Star Wars movies) has been appropriately Lego-ized.

Shakespeare is ready.

O. M. G. You are so right. You could make a terrific Hamlet set w/ existing parts… [schemes]

I think the kind of place this kind of media event should happen is a museum: a place built for flexible social experiences with objects and other people. That’s the complicated-but-contained space Matthew is talking about, I think, particularly a history or science museum.

Matthew Battles says…

Yes! Let’s throw a game in a natural history museum.

Matt, have you ever been to the California Academy of the Sciences?

Yes! I remember going on a pilgrimage to the National Archive (hey, if a journalist can’t make secular pilgrimage there, where can they go to reflect?) and the Museum of the American Indian, and wanting to make a similarly epic and body-navigated space that also used fictional license. I mean, think about it, historical museums as we know them are constrained by some sort of weird journalistic/scholarly allegience to “the truth” and “reality”—often missing out on the powers of theater and fantasy to explore the truth with the visceral, literary powers of imaginative media. But they have this tremendous ability to make the story surround you, forcing you to literally walk the narrative and discover the plot for yourself. Wouldn’t it be great if the National Archive’s exhibition on civil rights movements (very good, as these things go) included a speculative game in which you imagined yourself being part of your own, new movement? Catan meets community organizing, with food and couches and projectors as the playing board?

The funny thing is I remember coming home from DC and telling Robin about it at a masquerade party, and him scoffing that if it wasn’t online and immediately scalable and globally accessible, it wasn’t worth troubling over. I wish I could remember the devastating wit with which he dismissed my enthusiasm for location-specific new media, because it was very effective! 😉 But really the limiting factor was space. I actually called around to find out figures on rentals, and was terrified by the numbers quoted to me. That was before the real estate crash and kickstarter. So . . why not?

You are all orbiting around such a significant notion that I hesitate to even chime in and start trying to”name”it. There is a beautifully cyclical, back-to-the-future, quality about what you are envisioning. Like Black Mountain College updated and on steroids. Being in essence the elevation of the creative dialogue among peers to within a nanometer of the Platonic ideal. Conversation as real-time generative action…not just defining, but actually creating the very future of the culture as you go. As if Picasso and Matisse were able to share their fecund, mutually beneficial, aesthetic/intellectual competition with a wider circle of participants in real time. Or as if Charles Olson and Robert Creeley’s brilliant, impactful, years-long poetic exchange was compressed into a week and stretched to include a host of writers and poets, the influence of whom had previously been played out over years of creeping, 20th century time.
You are human “accelerants”, fueling the flames of a glorious conflagration! And you make me optimistic about the future.
I have had the most concrete experience w/ this potentially explosive dynamic recently. I happened on Robin’s brilliant short story, “Mr. Penumbra’s Twenty-Four-Hour Bookstore”, purely by chance via twitter. And I was thrilled to death to be presented with the Kickstarter facilitated opportunity to be a small part of his next creative endeavor. The experience created a sense of genuine engagement. Attention riveted!
Emotionally and intellectually invested.
Well done.

Matthew Battles says…

No, I haven’t been to the California Academy of the Sciences—much to my chagrin… In college I worked in Chicago’s Field Museum, which had been the seat of my childhood paleontological schemes. Don’t know how I dragged myself out of the place.

Hamlet out of existing Lego parts? Sounds like bricolage… brickolage! (that joke must get old in Lego-Structuralist circles…)

The idea of doing museum collections/assemblages/curiosity cabinets that tell fictional or speculative stories is very attractive! I’m reminded of the artist Rosamond Purcell (google memory module at work: couldn’t remember her name, but remembering its association, searched “restoration composers” to jog my memory). In one show she used an engraved illustration as a source to speculatively recreate the 17th century wunderkammer of Olaus Worm. Of course Purcell’s projects (others include assemblages of rotted/insect-infested books, and with Ricky Jay, assemblages of decomposing cellulose dice) have a nonfictional component, albeit one bent to artistic rather than pedagogical ends. Surely there are examples of museology torqued towards the fictional…?

I agree; this format is really appealing. How might you additionally make it an event, though?

I’ll broaden the question. Exhibits are definitely not events; there’s nothing live about them. Art openings and museum openings are technically events… but they usually manage not to feel like it. They’re low-key. They’re inward-looking. They’re not generating media.

I’m 100% sure that this “format” is ripe for reinvention, and a lot of that might have to do with the data shadow. To be fair, SFMOMA has been doing some neat stuff in this regard—but it could go much further.

Re: assemblages—now I’m imagining an exhibit where you’re invited to bring an object and leave it behind, and it gets placed and “rationalized” into a growing scene by a gang of designers and storytellers. On the web, they post pictures and stories about the new objects that come in every day. (Some Significant Objects DNA here!) And you get updates via email about the unfolding fate of the object you added.

Matthew Battles says…

Ha! Yes, the moveable museum! When an object enters the “museum” it’s shorn of prior associations; emerging newborn, it’s worked into the emerging rationale. And then at the end of it all, the story told, the book sold, each item go up for sale on eBay with a freshened telos or raison d’etre.

Considering extant curated collections already *out there* in museums reachable by train or foot: remix them by drenching them in Jane McGonigal’s game juice: send teams out with the objective of tracing storytelling paths through collections among different museums. From museum to museum, pick and choose objects to cite (by pix or prose or what-have-you). Points for number of collections implicated, intellectual/artistic/geographic boundaries confounded, affinities discovered. You need a pretty museologically-rich environment—i.e., Manhattan—for such a game. Alternatively, given the digitization of many collections, it could be done online without a subway pass or a pair of sturdy shoes. For that matter, the web site of the British Museum probably furnishes more than enough matter for an entertaining bricolage.

Ah, see, there are people already doing imaginative things with museums and objects, like the Ghosts of a Chance game at the Smithsonian American Art Museum (where objects players made were accessioned into the collections!) and the Odditoreum at the Powerhouse. And then there’s things like the Manchester Hermit , who lived in a tower for 40 days and pondered objects. But we need more and more theorized. Exhibits aren’t events except when they are.

Pop-Up Magazine does a great job of diversifying physical and spoken presentations, and I like the idea of creating events that make people not just want to go home and do something but make something on site (MakerFaire is a good example).

In co-hosting an Ignite Bay Area | Women Innovators event soon, I’m interested in making the presentations powerful beyond just the speakers’ ideas. Do you have any recommendations for incorporating creation into a 3-hour event?

Somewhat related: I’ll admit to pirating most of the media I consume. I try to give back to recording artists by going to shows and buying merch, but I haven’t found a way of doing that for films I love. So the logical next thought was: Why don’t indie movies go on tour? Grab the director, an actor or two, a band from the soundtrack and stuff them in a van for a tour of screenings and parties (and merch sales) beyond just traditional film festivals. No idea whether that scales well enough to work as a business model, but I would love it 🙂

Ha! I was just thinking this because of the community screening of the origami documentary I saw last Tuesday, Between The Folds, which I’m still buzzing about. It was just shown on a projector on a screen at a community center in Oakland Chinatown for free: after all, we were all supposedly getting it piped to our houses for free on PBS in December later this month. But even though it was just a DVD being played on a mediocre home projector on a mediocre screen, the experience was SO MUCH MORE awesome than watching it on TV. Before hand, the guy behind me was playing with a 7x7x7 non-Rubik’s cube, and sharing a ton of cube-puzzle lore that was super interesting. (The bigger they get, the curvier they get, to keep the edge cubes from falling off, like the keystone of an arch; etc.). Afterwards, people from the documentary had a Q&A, then they showed us their work, then they had us all fold Pandas together. (Pandas!) There was a group of students from a deaf school, lots of senior citizens and families with kids, married couples on a mellow date, us mathy hipsters. It really felt like community. In fact, it turned out there were multiple connections between various people there. It was great!

This made me realize a few things. A) These screenings actually happen all the time; for this slice of community these events have always been a great way to access culture. PBS has apparently been doing this for *years*. I sort of knew this, yet I had allowed them to sink out of my awareness–it’s very easy to get stuck in your little social networks slice of eventspace, and then its more cliquishness. Matching people to events efficiently is still a worthwhile project. B) Cheap projectors have made every space a venue for film and digital media. I knew this before, but again, reiteration is always good for silly flesh mind.

A friend directed me to this post the other day… gotta say, great read. Click on my name, I think you’ll find my site pretty interesting (TED for men basically).


“TED for men” initially sounds a little like “peanut butter for cats” — huh? is that even a thing?


Check out our 2010 lineup (top right hand corner of the site). I think you’ll get the idea.

I just came across this post and love it. well done Robin. An upcoming event that embodies a lot of what you layed out is the event taking place at sundance this year. They are creating a film that will be recorded and edited live by participants around the world and then have the final product premiere at sundance.

this is what the setup will probably look like

I read this essay several times over a few days before responding, because I wanted to get it right. Everyone is falling over themselves talking about how poignant this is, but I don’t feel like Robin is actually proposing something. He sums his perspective up best in the last line: he wants to go to it and watch it online.

I’m a serial event organizer, and I’ve got news for you… it takes tens to hundreds of hours and a lot of money to produce a day or two of high quality “content”. It’s easy to show up to something interesting, but to actually program and manage the logistics for these things is a full time job. Burn out, creative differences, and over-saturation are very real issues that you’re simply not addressing.

I live in Toronto, Canada — a city spoiled by the sheer number of events that cater to the tech, business and social marketing community. I would not be exaggerating to say that there are multiple events every night of the week. There aren’t just BarCamps… that was so 2005! We’ve got ScotchCamp and SproutUp and Rails Pub Nite and Founders & Funders and oh my god just make it fucking stop already.

Even a large and vibrant community would find this supposed participatory media Eden completely and utterly exhausting to attend, much less put together on a consistent schedule.

Please, prove me wrong but I think you’re farting in the wind until you organize one major event for every three you attend.

This is a fair point, and I appreciate your perspective as someone who actually DOES this—who actually organizes events.

There are plenty of events here in SF too, of course—but not the kind I’m talking about. Either they’re entirely social, or they hew too much to the “heyyy let’s set some guys up with a projector and hear about their product” format.

So yes, producing something like this is a lot of work—and the format I’m proposing is even MORE work than usual. Because I’m talking about real production values, and about a work-flow that doesn’t end when the last attendee has wandered out the door.

But I’ve got to wonder—is it really THAT much more work than, say, conceiving, commissioning & designing a monthly magazine? Or running a high-volume blog day-to-day?

The answer might be “yes,” simply because working in the physical world involves a specific kind of friction. Things must be gotten to places; plane tickets must be purchased; cats must be herded. But I’m not sure.

But here’s another angle that I think is really, REALLY important: I think it’s a shame that all this work goes into these events that sort of live and die in this tiny little time-frame. You’re exactly right: tens to hundreds of hours of prep work for a day or two of live content. So I think it’s inexcusable not to design that content such that it can be captured and shared online and actually find an audience. So this disqualifies perfunctory recordings of panels; it probably disqualifies panels altogether! But precisely BECAUSE it’s so much work, I think it’s important to find ways to extend an event’s life, to draw it out, give it a bigger footprint in time & space.

I think everyone is falling over themselves talking about how well Robin farts in the wind. I mean, as long as you’re farting wouldn’t you WANT to fart in the wind? Isn’t that kind of sheer range what makes a solid fart legendary? I mean, look at this fart, I mean, post; over a month old, and still raising a stink.

It’s farts on windless days, in windowless rooms, that you need to worry about. Could a strong gust of wind blow a fart back in your face? Is that the concern? I don’t think it could.

I love your post. As I like to say, you have to create “happenings” to show people its happening. Especially if you are in the business of selling ideas and want to create a story meme that can travel.

You’ve just given me a week’s worth of nutrition to digest. Thank you!

Music creation/composition as event. I’ll see what I can do.

The snarkmatrix awaits you

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