[iDC] The Social Machine of Events
john at johnsobol.com
Wed Feb 1 20:01:19 EST 2006
On 1-Feb-06, at 4:04 PM, Trebor Scholz wrote:
This is the fundamental problem, not just for new media activists but
for all activists seeking to transcend the stranglehold of literate
capitalism, which prescribes social expectations within the covers of a
book. As speakers, we talk as if our audience were disembodied absent
readers. We act as if we were alone, scribbling in a garrett or typing
on a laptop, and not enacting ourselves in the living, sweaty,
twitching presence of actual people in need of food, smoke, love,
meaning – not abstractly but here, now, this very moment. Paperism is
the literate condition that privileges knowledge products over
knowledge processes, seeking to turn every event into an artifact, a
disembodied, decontextualized book on a dusty shelf rather than a
communal psycho-kinetic collision. New media activists – situated as we
are within the post-literate realm, have particular reason to reject
literate epistemological parameters. That we haven't quite figured out
how to effectively replace antique top-down ideals at conferences and
festivals with collaborative catalytic networks isn't surprising, for
we remain stuck in our highly literate skins. But I do think that we
are getting there, even if Digifest, the festival I myself co-directed
for several years in Toronto, suffered miserably from the ailments
Trebor so aptly describes. (Despite which I must stick up for those
presenters who are worthy of our collective attention, who are neither
predictable, phony nor dull but who speak with confidence, clarity and
inspiration. They are few and far between but best of all.)
> Event formats sculpt their content.
Literacy features fixed schedules, fixed topics, fixed locations, fixed
relationships (i.e. speaker-audience) and fixed events. Oral and
digital cultures feature fluid schedules, fluid topics, fluid
locations, fluid relationships and fluid events. The problem is paper.
And the mindset that it inculcates in its dependents.
> Results of events matter a great deal.
> Likewise, pre-event discussion is critical!
The key here is the the recognition that context is everything.
Literate epistemology is acontextual. It is oblivious to the who, the
where, the when, the how much, the how long, the why. But we are people
not books and these things matter to us. Before. After. During. Context
design is far more important than one's lineup of speakers if one's
goals extend beyond serial monology, or securing future funding.
Knowledge shared within the most potent contexts is most likely to
So who do we turn to to learn about experience design, about
context-dependent knowledge sharing, about collaborative
meaning-making? The event management principles historically – and
currently – employed by oralists, have been honed over countless
millennia. I suggest we pay attention to those principles and event
design strategies for starters (example, sitting in a circle where
people can acknowledge each other's presence rather than in blind
impersonal rows like books.) Not for nostalgic reasons, nor simply
because they remain effective, but because oralists and digitalists
share crucial dialogical values that exist in stark opposition to the
literacy's monological hegemony, and that require – for their mutual
benefit – intelligent and proactive alliances.
Do I ever like this list!
bluesology • printopolis • digitopia
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