Media in Transition 5: Summary Perspectives (MIT Communications Forum)
Nick Montfort, SM '98, Assistant professor of Digital Media in MIT Program in Writing and Humanistic Studies ; Suzanne de Castell, Professor, Faculty of Education, Simon Fraser University; Fred Turner, Assistant Professor, Department of Communication, ; Stanford University; Siva Vaidhyanathan, Associate Professor of Media Studies and Law, University of Virginia
; Fellow, New York Institute for the Humanities and Institute for the Future of the Book; Jose van Dijck, Professor of Media and Culture, Department of Media Studies, University of Amsterdam
Description: In the final session of the 2007 conference, panelists distill their experiences and impressions from the preceding days and offer suggestions for future events. Suzanne de Castell describes witnessing examples of remixing "where you wouldn't need more intelligence than a monkey to generate music, images and various forms of written expression, and seen other examples where people delve deeply into media forms and become transformed by studious engagement." Only these more rigorous efforts achieve serious educational value, she says, encouraging remix producers and especially teachers to "work far beyond cut and pasteto help us form better and more intelligent and more humane selves. De Castell also pleas for colleagues to "hold firm to contexts and communities" while they remix in the present, and to respect and reach out to indigenous and first nation colleagues "who help us see limitations in our own ways of thinking and working." An encounter with a Cambridge cab driver holding down two jobs to pay for his son's Xbox reminded Jose van Dijck that "people need a first life to afford a Second Life." As much as conference attendees celebrate Generation C -- for its creativity, collectivity, collaboration and courage _ van Dijck cautions "not to forget about the other C: consumption, commoditization and control." While the excitement of these times may remind participants of the '60s, van Dijck sharply recalls that in the 1970s, "co"creation and collaboration were quickly appropriated by commercialism and consumption." Future conferences should take up the blurring of the public and commercial sphere, and between public and private life," she recommends. Beyond the stated themes of the conference, Fred Turner found "four other trajectories hovering around," including a focus on the history of corporate transformation, such as distributed labor in game worlds; military culture, especially as it pervades games; the increasingly complex mediation of political life, as the web meets mass media; and the question of race, where "racialized self presentation" is potentially "hardening race distinctions." Turner suggests developing "theories of how networks connect to institutions like the government." As the 1960s revealed, "performance of new styles doesn't necessarily mean social change." He also recommends serious study of which parts of the past matter, especially when it comes to the history of machines and collaborative styles. "We may see some of our world owes less to hip hop than to research labs at MIT and World War 2, which were enormously collaborative, enormously playful and enormously technocentric." During the conference Siva Vaidhyanathan saw fellow participants discussing the ways regulatory structures govern "how we share, distribute and chop up culture," and the changes in political economy brought about by conflicting corporate and public ownership and control -- including new methods of surveillance. "We're not charged for using Gmail, or Myspace or YouTube. But is free speech and free beer the sum total of freedom?" asks Vaidhyanathan. His colleagues are searching for new modes of searching and indexing information, through better processes of tagging and web categorization. He witnessed "deep concern out there about norms and ethics," and debates about whether we are indeed entering a new age. Vaidhyanathan asks, "Are we actually waking up from the era that stands as an historical anomaly? Was the era of corporate proprietary culture with one"to"many distribution an historical blip we dealt with for an 80"year period and we're now getting back with how people have always dealt with each other? Isn't remix culture just culture?"
About the Speaker(s): Nick Montfort's digital media projects include the blog "Grand Text Auto," where he and five others write about computer narrative, poetry, games, and art; "Ream," a 500"page poem written on one day; "Mystery House Taken Over," a collaborative "occupation" of a classic game; Implementation, a novel on stickers written with Scott Rettberg; The Ed Report, a serialized novel written with William Gillespie; and the interactive fiction pieces Book and Volume, Ad Verbum, and Winchester's Nightmare.
Montfort edited The Electronic Literature Collection Volume 1(with N. Katherine Hayles, Stephanie Strickland, and Scott Rettberg, ELO, 2006) and The New Media Reader (with Noah Wardrip"Fruin, The MIT Press, 2003). He wrote Twisty Little Passages: An Approach to Interactive Fiction (The MIT Press, 2003), and, with William Gillespie, 2002: A Palindrome Story (Spineless Books, 2002), which was acknowledged by the Oulipo as the world's longest literary palindrome.
Montfort received a Ph.D. in Computer and Information Science from the University of Pennsylvania. He earned masters degrees at MIT (at the Media Lab) and Boston University (in creative writing - poetry).
Host(s): School of Humanities, Arts & Social Sciences, Communications Forum
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