Monday, June 21, 2010

Where're you gonna’ be when the asteroid hits?

I’m speaking metaphorically, of course. And the asteroid is a mega-change in culture that’s coming.

Of course, we’ve all been seeing something coming since when? the 60s? Whenever. The Information Age, the age of Aquarius, globalization, post-industrial capitalism, whatever. It’s been heading at us at a mighty clip.

I don’t think the current asteroid is something else. Is it the Big Tipping point coming? The one where we can’t go back? Heck, we already can’t go back.

What’s the pattern? I don’t know how to connect the dots. But here’s some of them, in no particular order.

OTW: Organization for Transformative Works – A non-profit dedicated to preserving fan culture, with archiving projects, legal advocacy, a peer-reviewed scholarly journal, and a blog.

Fan culture, yes. But the institutionalization of fan culture in this way, yes, that’s new.

QCO: Question Copyright Organization – A non-profit dedicated to free culture (on the model of open software, another dot in the pattern). Restrictive copyright laws are harming culture, taking private would should be public.

When copyright disappears, what happens to the difference between fan culture and professional culture?

Face-o-Matic: A deck of cards created by cartoonist and animator, Nina Paley. Half of them are the upper parts of (cartoon) heads, half are the lower parts of heads. The idea is to mix them up and see what you get. She created them to get people into drawing faces depicting emotion. Could you use them in a game? Think of them as a metaphor for all of culture. (I bet Nina’s got a million ideas like this.)

Graffiti: The stuff that started on walls and subway cars in Philadelphia and New York City. Since then it’s spread around the world. The interesting thing is that most of it is done for free and some of the best stuff is in little known places where only other graffiti artists can see. Them and the homeless people who live there.

Manga, Anime: Cartoons out of Japan. Cartoons aren’t new, of course. But in the West they went into eclipse after WWII – perhaps more so in the US than Europe. Not so in Japan. There they went on the rise and they’ve been spreading out all over the globe. Vectors of a new culture? Like jazz before WWII, rock after WWII, and hip-hop (well) after Vietnam?

CLAMP: A group of four Japanese women creating manga and anime as one artist. Started out in manga fan culture and went pro.

For the Love of It Amateuring and Its Rivals: A book by Wayne Booth, distinguished professor of English literature. This book is about his experience as a mediocre cello player. Tells how those experiences have been as important to him, if not more so, than listening to the finest musicians in the world.

Is the professionalization of expressive culture, and its protection though copyright, killing culture and killing us? Return to our participatory roots or die.

12/8 Path Bands: Charlie Keil’s crusade to seed the world with groove bands where musicians of all skill levels can interact on a mutually satisfactory basis. Forget recorded music. Make your own.

Big Friendly Jazz Orchestra, of Takasago High School, Japan. I’ve listened dozens of clips on YouTube and they range from good to superb. Why are all these young Japanese women so interested in jazz? For this isn’t the only band like this. Charlie Keil tells me they’re like this all over Japan. What’s going to happen when the well of classic American pop runs dry?

Curation Culture: (Cue Steve Rosenbaum) This is about making money from media-oriented websites. You don’t have to create the content, you can curate it. Collect the stuff that has the voice you want regardless of who made it where they made it or when.

World Tourism Foundation/World Tourism Network: A scheme to create a new intermediary in the travel business that will wipe-out Orbitz, etc. The for-profit Network gives 50% of it’s top-line revenue to the not-for-profit Foundation, when then awards grants to the chambers of commerce, visitor’s bureaus,’ etc. that serve as entry points into the system. (Yeah, I know, it’s complicated. There’s a post about it somewhere around here. Something about getting rich and doing good while giving half of it away.)

The Academic Blogosphere: The traditional academic world is dying (the asteroid is headed straight for it). Journal culture is a disaster. Online preprints rule in the sciences. And blogs get the word out to everyone. Maybe. We don’t have it figured out yet, but things are moving.

Will this allow more “amateurs” and independent scholars to get in on the action?

What of Culture Criticism? The MSM bewails the demise of movie reviews and book reviews. But have they just migrated online, and everyone’s getting in on the action?

Online Education/Training: Vocational education is going to wind up here. Will the community colleges cope better than the 4-year schools and universities?

The interwebs are important, very important. But they’re only a medium of communication and organization. What’s interesting is the emergence of new organizations and institutions and the blurring of boundaries between pros and amateurs. Somewhere in here there’s a tipping point. When it goes, there’s going to be a new game in town, lots of new games, lots of new towns.

No way to predict when it will happen – though the pundits and gurus will tell you otherwise, and some will get you to pay them a mint for their year-old prognostications. All you can do is get your board in the water, climb on, and start paddling when the wave looms up behind you.

I figure this connect-the-dots has about 2,345 more dots, plus or minus 138.

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