I spent today at PodCamp NYC, which was quite an interesting event that I decided to attend at the very last minute last night. The "unconference" gathered around 400 podcasters and other interested folks to talk about issues facing podcast producers like intellectual property rights, monetizing their work, and increasing your listening audience. As a new media and politics guy, I was interested to see what the "podcast community" looked like.
It was worth attending just to hang out with people that I know online or in Second Life, including Mark Wallace, CC Chapman, Prokofy Neva, Nancy Scola, Johnny Ming, and Rhiannon Chatnoir. The virtual worlds, Web 2.0, media convergence folks are all kind of the same crowd, with podcasters being for the most part more grassroots and diverse.
These kinds of events are great for getting me to think more intensely about issues of new media, politics and virtual worlds, and engage with others thinking in similar directions.
Social Media Convergence and Virtual Worlds
I got here ass-early for a panel on "social convergence and virtual worlds" with Joseph Jaffe, Greg Verdino, Mark Wallace, John Swords (SL: Johnny Ming) and Adam Broitman (pictured). I think the panel had too much of a Second Life focus, which is too bad since lots of cool stuff is happening in other virtual worlds. And there are a whole host of broader technology convergence issues that could have been discussed.
For me, the contrast between podcasting and Second Life is between individual expression and community-based creation and engagement with media. Podcasting is largely a hyper-personal phenomenon, where you have individuals creating audio and video content and using the internet to reach a niche audience. The feedback loops to the podcast creator are fairly constrained, mostly done through comments on a blog or phoned-in requests.
Second Life also allows powerful means of individual expression. But SL also provides powerful tools for group collaborative creation and editing, such as team building of sims. And more importantly SL provides a more direct source of engagement with your "audience." Avatars vote with their teleports, if they like something they show up, if they don’t you see it in your visit stats. And they can interact and comment in real time about any content you create, whether its performing a poem at a poetry slam or putting up an art showing of your cat pictures.
For podcasters, who usually see little to no profit from their hard work, the main means of "payment" is through popularity and support from listeners. In SL, that is very direct, with avatars being present and showing their appreciation through clapping, compliments, tips and other "gift economy"-type activities.
"New Media Playground" with CC Chapman
After a delicious and filling Korean lunch with Mark Wallace and John Swords, we went to CC Chapman’s talk on the "new media playground." CC is such a bright and energetic cheerleader for these new media tools and leveraging them for personal fulfillment and gain.
I didn’t hear anything new that I didn’t really know, but it was an inspiring peptalk about putting yourself out there and engaging with people through whatever media you prefer.
Bum Rush the Charts: Case Study of a Word of Mouth Campaign
Christopher S. Penn moderated a spirited discussion on the "Bum Rush the Charts" campaign last March focused on using new media to get a particular podsafe song to the top of the iTunes charts on a single day. It was an interesting exchange about how people felt the campaign went and how to do it better if they do it again. It seemed to me that there was little consideration of what was the bigger overall message that was being communicated by this campaign. Was it to say that the RIAA is bad? That people should buy more independently produced music? That traditional "winner-take-all" top-40 rankings are BS? It was all very unclear.
I brought up how I wished that there was a stronger message about challenging the traditional consolidated channels for music distribution. And that in general there is an important lesson to be learned about how current media are produced and distributed, and that alternative avenues should be supported better, that consumers should have more choices, and artists should be able to reach broader audiences.
Politics and New Media
This was a cool roundtable discussion on the impact of new media on politics and how political campaigns are integrating (or not) blogs, podcasts and other Web2.0 tools into their activities. The panelists were all skilled political operators who had been involved in past political campaigns as consultants or staff or political bloggers. It was cool seeing Nancy Scola there, who helped run the Second Life event with Governor Mark Warner that I blogged and videoed awhile back. One question asked was "how do use new media to create a genuine conversation between politicians and citizens?"
I noted that in the 2006 Minnesota gubernatorial campaign that there were a series of online debates facilitated by Steven Clift and his e-democracy group. Each gubernatorial candidate was able to post his own video summarizing his platform, which people could respond to and comment on and even post their own response videos to. Then each candidate was invited to respond to the other candidate’s platforms, and to answer any questions posed to them by the public. Participants at this discussion seemed quite interested in this use of new media technology.
The conference ended for me with a fun dinner with a bunch of the Second Life folks at a nearby pan-asian place that I know called Home on 8th. It was like hanging out with old friends, which was fun since I had only met in real life most of them that evening. Quite a full and stimulating day.
I finished the evening at a West Coast Swing dance that was happening just down the street from the conference. It felt good to just get out of my head and move my body after several hours in stuffy conference rooms. By midnight, I was physically and mentally wiped. I stumbled home and fell into bed (of course publishing this blog entry first.)