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MiT5 2007

Media in Transition 5 conference at MIT, Boston, 27-29 April 2007


Finally getting around to processing some of the recordings of the papers that I've given at conferences this year has coincided for me with exploring in a little more detail the Slideshare service for sharing Powerpoint presentations, and so predictably I've fallen in love with the audio synchronisation tool they're calling "Slidecasting". Very nice interface to a handy little tool, and I've now uploaded Slidecasts from the ICE3 conference at Loch Lomond in March, from the Creativity & Cognition conference in Washington, D.C., in June, and from PerthDAC just the other week. It's interesting - for me, anyway - to listen back over these recordings to see how much my conceptual models for analysing produsage have developed over the past few months, as I've researched and written the produsage book. Unfortunately I seem to have missed out on recording my presentation at the MiT5 conference in Boston this April - this has probably been my favourite paper of the year so far, perhaps because it's also been the most speculative one. Ah well.

Each of the conferences also enabled me to present my work on produsage to a very different group of scholars from those that I tend to see at my usual conferences, and I had some very positive feedback after each of the presentations (some of which made it onto the recordings as well). Unexpectedly, posting these presentations to Slideshare has also had an interesting side-effect: my presentation from PerthDAC was featured as "Slidecast of the Day" on the site, and had over 1000 views in less than a week as a result. Nice little bonus - the other two Slidecasts didn't fare quite as well, so I'm embedding the ICE3 here as I'm also quite fond of it. Full details on another page...

I, for One, Welcome Our New Cylon Overlords

Boston (with apologies to Kent Brockman).
So, over the last few days I've found myself inadvertently in the centre of some degree of controversy in the online Battlestar Galactica fan community. This was sparked by my report from the BSG panel at MiT5 last weekend. People more closely aligned with that fan community have posted some very insightful thoughts here on my blog, but in the meantime the discussion has moved over to where I think it properly belongs - the Battlestar Wiki blog. Additionally, audio and video from the original presentations has also been posted. I wish the community well in deliberating the implications of the papers presented at MiT5, and in its outreach endeavours to female fans of BSG. As a BSG fan myself (going right back to the movies several eternities ago, much as it pains me to admit this) I'm also likely to drop in to the wiki every once in a while to see how it's developing - it would be nice to see a few more spoiler warnings for those of us in televisionally challenged regions who haven't yet succumbed to bittorrenting the whole lot, though! (In fact, the BSG wiki reminds me quite a bit of the Perry Rhodan wiki I mentioned here a while ago - here's hoping that the BSG series in its new incarnation will be blessed with a similarly lengthy run...)

Settling In in Boston

MIT Stata CenterOther than during the MiT5 conference, I realise I haven't really blogged that much from Boston yet - I think I'm still getting over the jetlag from the flight here... It's certainly not as if there wasn't plenty to talk about. This is my third time in Boston, although the last couple of times I was here only for a few days and a few hours, respectively - but at least, I already have something of a general idea where things are and how I get there. It will still take me a while to find my way around MIT, though - if QUT's campuses occasionally seem maze-like, they've got nothing on MIT's sprawling expanse, even if some of the architecture here hadn't been built deliberately in flagrant disregard for architectural orthodoxy.

Media in (Continuing, Accelerating?) Transition

We're now in the last plenary here at MiT5 - a summary session drawing together the many threads of research and practice explored at this conference. Suzanne de Castell is the first contributor to this panel, and she notes the increasing fluidity of previously more solid cultural forms. We have moved beyond text as our primary mode of representation in multiple ways, and have left behind the cultural logics of print; this is challenging especially for the educational environment. Remix, in particular, with its various aspects of plagiarism, reappropriation, adaptation, and inspiration, is a particularly important issue for education to address; we must move far beyond cut'n'paste in our embrace of remix approaches, and education is going to be instrumental in this context. We must also pay particular attention to what is being held on to, and what is being left behind - Suzanne notes that much of the input into what are seen as valuable remix projects is still highly gendered and canonical, ignoring a significant number of other sources. The concept of remix itself must be adjusted by looking at the remixing practices and approaches in cultures other than the male-dominated Anglo 'high' culture. Knowledge is always situated, always accountable to its communities, and always under ongoing construction.

Developments in Visual Art

The penultimate plenary here at MiT5 has started, and I'm afraid I walked in a little late and missed part of the introduction to Reproduction, Mimicry, Critique and Distribution Systems in Visual Art. The first speaker is Michael Mittelman from ASPECT, who founded the group out of a frustration with the lack of availability of contemporary video art in useful formats. He began by collecting such works and documentary videos about them, but then also began to develop DVDs collecting such works and offering optional voiceover tracks of the artists speaking about their works. Such DVDs needed to be affordable and comfortable, and are designed for home use rather than simply for use in exhibition spaces, which are traditionally very ill suited to longer-form video content. However, galleries make a percentage off low-volume, high-cost DVD content; they are poorly equipped (and generally disinterested) for producing such DVDs in higher volume for a home market.

Web2.0 Critiques

(I'm afraid I accidentally deleted a couple of comments here last night - please repost them if you can!)

It's the last day of MiT5, and we're in the first session of the day. Mary Madden from the Pew Center is the first speaker, on Socially-Driven Music Sharing and the Adoption of Participatory Media Applications. She notes that the term Web2.0 is imperfect but convenient for summarising many of the current developments in the online world. Tom O'Reilly defines Web2.0 as harnessing social effects; it may not be a revolution, but there have been important changes. We now need to think critically about how and why it emerged as a major force in the first place.

Tools for New Media Literacies

The last MiT5 plenary session for today is on Learning through Remixing, and Henry Jenkins introduces it through examples of remixing as pedagogical practice in earlier times. This can perhaps be described as a process of taking culture apart and putting it together again, in order to better understand how it works.

The first speaker on the panel is Erik Blankinship, of Media Modifications, who build tools for exposing and enhancing the structure of media in order to make them more understandable to all (and he demonstrates this now by using a few redacted clips from Star Trek: TNG). Some of these which will also be online soon at, and another example for this is showing clips from The Fellowship of the Ring (the movie) next to the text of The Fellowship of the Ring (the book), and even a comparison of the Zeffirelli and Luhrman versions of Romeo & Juliet with the original Shakespeare text (which allows the viewer to compare how differently the two directors interpreted the text, and even to created hybrid versions with the 1996 Juliet and the 1968 Romeo interacting with one another). Fascinating stuff!

From Battlestar Galactica to BSG Studies?

There's a whole panel on Battlestar Galactica here at MiT5 - how could I resist? Melanie E. S. Kohnen is the first speaker, presenting on Battlestar Galactica and the Reimagination of Contemporary American History. She begins by noting the connections between the BSG story of a surprise attack on the twelve colonies, and the 9/11 attacks (although strictly speaking, in a full analogy, it would have been only the people within the Twin Towers who had survived). Different from the black-and-white positioning of the U.S. adminstration, however, the question of who is on which side is problematised strongly within BSG; it is almost impossible to determine who is human and who is Cylon in the BSG story. Melanie now describes the BSG scenario after settlement on New Caprica, where humans under Cylon rule are caught between collaboration and resistance (through suicide bombings and other oppositional actions) - this is personified in the opposition between Baltar and Roslin in the show.

Copyright, Fair Use, and the Cultural Commons

The next session here at MiT5 is another plenary, on Copyright, Fair Use and the Cultural Commons. It is introduced by William Uricchio, who begins by noting the historical development of the concept of copyright, and the initial argument for copyright as promoting the rights of authors but also ensuring public access to knowledge after the termination of the initial 14-year period of copyright protection. Today, of course, copyright has been almost infinitely extended, paradoxically at a time when the circulation of information has become faster than ever before.

Barriers to Access, Multiplying

We're starting the post-lunch session here at MiT5 with a paper by Marlene Manoff, titled Volatility, Instability, Ambiguity: The Evolving Digital Record. She has been working in collage art for a long time, and notes that recently viewers of her work are increasingly asking whether the artworks were created through digital means (they weren't). This is a sign of a wider trend towards a growing ambiguity of digital objects, also forcing us to see traditional objects in new ways and challenge the nature of cultural objects. This is also a form of interpretation and re-interpretation of existing objects, and the emergence of digital media has led to a concern about the dehistoricisation of media; a failure of archives to connect new to existing work. The digital record, in fact, is particularly susceptible to distortion and manipulation, and this is increasingly a focus of research.


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