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Gazing

To keep my Communication cred, I keep Henry Jenkins’ Confessions of an Aca/Fan blog in my blogroll. I’ve yet to read his book, Convergence Culture, though I know it is very much in line with the Gordian knot of topics that reigned me into Media Studies during the early parts of my career: cultural production, fan communities, mashups, reinterpreting media offerings, the impact of copyright reforms on such activities. His recent post, entitled “From YouTube to YouNiversity,” really resonated with me, especially the last few lines, where he says,

The science-fiction writer and Internet activist Cory Doctorow has called such groups “adhocracies.” An adhocracy is a form of social and political organization with few fixed structures or established relationships between players and with minimum hierarchy and maximum diversity. In other words, an adhocracy is more or less the polar opposite of the contemporary university (which preserves often rigid borders between disciplines and departments and even constructs a series of legal obstacles that make it difficult to collaborate even within the same organization). Now try to imagine what would happen if academic departments operated more like YouTube or Wikipedia, allowing for the rapid deployment of scattered expertise and the dynamic reconfiguration of fields. Let’s call this new form of academic unit a “YouNiversity.” How might media studies, the field most committed to mapping these changes as they affect modern life, be taught in a YouNiversity?

I recently attended a performance by Mammalian Diving Reflex, a performance group out of Toronto, called Audience Relocation: The End, part of their Diplomatic Immunities thingamers. I passed by Misha Glouberman while I was buying tickets at the box office and didn’t realize until I was reading the performance program that he was one of the performers in it (explaining why he looked like he was in such a hurry). At the end of the show, I commented, “So how does this dovetail with the Camps?” referring to the Transit Camp and Enterprise Camp events I had seen him at. Misha responded, “It feels like my job is to get a hundred people in a room and just get them to start talking to each other.” There’s something in that. There’s something to how so many of the things I have done lately has been about recognizing everyone’s potential for contributing to a collaborative effort. At the same time, I know this is only one part of a community; and even if I were to work in service of furthering these concepts, many others are competing with me for the attention of the collective mindset – and they have more money and command more ad revenue than I ever will. (Do you think Cory Doctorow ever said that to himself at some point?)

Then I go and do dunce-like things like not believe my calendar teling me that my interview for the Semester in Dialogue was supposed to be today, not tomorrow as my brain insisted, and remember that my body, memory, attention span, and other things have their limits, and that I mustn’t forget myself in tending to the prospects.

Had an excellent conversation with Rob of Social Signal yesterday – confirmed some things, not least of which was that the people in this social entrepeneurism creative urban space I’m eyeing tend to be really neat. In some ways I’m learning to strike the delicate balance that Dave Pollard writes about – still wanting to be within the confines of “legitimate society,” but not necessarily wanting it to constrain what I want to do, which boils down to creating value for people that is measured and reciprocated in ways beyond the economic – a nebulous proposition if ever I ran across one, yes, but I’ll get it eventually.

I never believe it when people tell me I’m creative; or, if I do, I have trouble accepting it. I think I have some preconceptions about what it means and who gets to call themselves that. Certainly not someone who writes and reads primarily non-fiction, gets a sense of achievement from making tables for test plans, knits from patterns, cooks eggplant for her roommates and sings on the streetcar. Somehow, being creative seems like it should involve a lot more doing and a lot less talking. (I should take a hint from Sacha, who manages to do a lot and say a lot more about it too. She also recently said that given the choice to do something or blog about it, she’d blog. I don’t know if I’d respond the same.)

Anyway, it definitely involves more reading.

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