Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Bruce Sterling's SXSW Wrap Up


Bruce Sterling delivered his traditional SXSW closing speech/rant to a packed room. Sterling is a futurist, author, and frequent contributor to Wired and other publications, and has been involved with SXSW Interactive since its early days. Sterling was skeptical about the quality of online work these days, saying video is the pits, and that most of the things online that are user-generated really suck. While I can't quite disagree with that observation, I have to disagree with its spirit. I'm not sure this is about making good things, it's more about expression. And franky, some of us express ourselves poorly, like I am doing now. Nonetheless, it is an outlet in which many derive all sorts of social capital, notoriety, esteem, community standing, and a host of other values.

He referenced Lev Manovich (author of The Language of New Media) and Yochai Benkler (author of The Wealth of Networks). While he went on and on about Benkler's recommendations for creating a wealthy network (self-selection, trust construction, norm creation), Sterling finished up by referencing that Benkler's own Wiki was by no means successful.

Sterling said he doesn't see this Commons model of production going away any time soon, even with the questionable quality and other problems. On the contrary, he sees more traditional models being unseated by the Commons. For example, Craigslist, a non-profit endeavor, has single-handedly upended the entire newspaper classified system that generated the majority of revenue for those publications.

So, another SXSW Interactive is in the bag, and now I will be switching gears for the music festival. The Interactive was great this year, bigger than ever, and full of more information than I'll ever be able to process. I learned about Ning and Twitter, things I will talk about with my students, and I met people from Pluck, Salon, and a variety of other Web design and development operations. People are always so friendly and interesting here, and I am sad to say goodbye to it for this year. Once again, I would like to give a shout out to all my students, past and present, that I ran into or saw here: Elaine Mingus, Lou Rutigliano, Jonathan Horak, Aarin Brewer, and Kristin Nicely (came in all the way from Richmond!). So, glad to see such enthusiasm and continued interest in this area.

1 comment:

Jordan Viator said...

Cindy, I tend to take your point of view as far as online video/content is concerned. Much of it, as many people will argue, is some form of crap (for lack of a better word.) I completely see the thinking behind Sterling's view, and realize that people must be skeptical of information that is out in the world, especially the viral material.

However-- I think the idea of user-based content is, like you said, the spirit of expression. True Wiki information is not always correct (refer to Kerri's story of funny, false boyfriend posting), and true YouTube has much nonsense in its site, but the point is that people can do and say what they want, how they want it.

I think the real issue tends to be the lack of media savvy users on the Net. I take for granted that people are aware of credibility issues and so forth, when in fact they are not. I'm not quite sure how this problem will be assuaged in the future, but I have a feeling as computers take over more aspects of life, the understanding of the medium will eventually reach the entire population. In any matter, I currently consider Wikipedia and Craigslist close friends, and don't foresee any changes in those relationships any time soon for myself!

By the way, it cracks me up about the movie on Helvetica. Who would have thought that much history was in a simple font.