This Friday 18 June 2010 (i.e. tomorrow) I’m liveblogging from X|Media|Lab’s Global Media Ideas conference at the Sydney Opera House. And to be honest, I really don’t know why.
Well, I do know why. I was invited to. And I said yes. But my reticence, if that’s the right word, is based on two concerns:
I’m starting to think that liveblogging is a wank.
I’ve previously written that Twitter is useless for covering conferences and, yesterday, that Twitter is useless for political debates. Liveblogging isn’t much different. Just because technology enables something to be done doesn’t mean that it’s useful. Especially this instant-comment stuff.
If the aim is to deliver the conference experience to people who can’t attend physically, then we’ve got streaming video or — gasp! — television.
If the aim is to give people my thoughts about the event, then surely it’d be better for me to take notes and then, later, write something coherent. Not deliver a dribble of instant judgements on what’s being said. Such live streams always tend towards superficial quips, jokes and out-of-context sound bites.
Haven’t we really had quite enough talking about “ideas”?
This event is part of Vivid Sydney, “a festival of light, music and ideas”. Now don’t get me started on the “light” bit. My opinion of people who think that pointing coloured lights at city buildings is somehow the height of creativity can only be expressed using strings of Anglo-Saxon words and references to veterinary apparatus that are completely inappropriate at this hour of the day. Even for me. No, the “ideas” part is sufficiently rage-inducing.
We’ve only just had TEDxSydney, “Ideas worth spreading”. I find the whole TED thing a bit of a wank. They’re an idea-junkie’s equivalent of a Tony Robbins seminar. Quick, high-energy presentations that get everyone’s adrenalin going, mixed with a burst of endorphins from having supposedly learnt something new. From being “inspired”. And then everyone goes back to being the same middle-class consumption-driven tool they were before, desperate to buy their iPad on Day One lest they somehow fall behind. Until the next chance to break out of their dull routine and, once more, be “inspired”.
Maybe it’s time, especially in this whole “OMFG what’s happening to the media?” realm, to start moving beyond talking about “ideas” and get on with the “doing”. Or, even better, some “achieving”.
As Thomas Edison said, Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.
And you know what? Once we’ve achieved something, there’s no need to create a presentation in Keynote — never PowerPoint, oh no! — with big, bold Creative Commons-licensed photos and maybe three big words on screen in Helvetica, in yellow. No, we can just STFU and go and achieve something else.
None of this is meant to be critical of X|Media|Lab. In my experience, their conferences such as Media 2010 have been professionally-run events with a fascinating range of speakers. I’m flattered, I suppose, that they think my presence is of value.
However X|Media|Lab is a commercial operation serving a market that, clearly, is there to be served. Events like TEDx and Media 2010 and this one and Media140 Sydney last year are always sold out. X|Media|Lab makes money — good on ’em! Everyone has a feel-good time. But what do events like this really achieve?
Maybe I’m being too harsh. Maybe The Lab days on Saturday and Sunday are the meat of the event. (I’d link to the page about The Lab if the website actually let you link to individual content pages. Twats.) Sixteen “innovative Australian digital projects” get two days of mentoring from heavies in “the industry”. Good for them.
But I am concerned that the conference day, tomorrow, is billed as “No time-wasting boring panels, just densely-packed, information-rich, clear and helpful, set piece keynotes from digital media luminaries from all over the world.”
If I have one complaint about almost every conference I’ve ever attended, it’s that there’s never enough time for discussion. The discussions are where everyone learns. If it’s just going to be one-way communication, a “luminary” (ugh!) talking at people, then that can be achieved by putting a video on a website. We can skip the pretension of booking a venue at the Sydney Opera House.
Anyway, here is the liveblog page. Things will kick off around 9am tomorrow Sydney time. Just be aware of how I’m currently thinking about this event.