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Monday, March 13, 2006

A Great Big Post About A Lot Of Different Stuff


Where to begin, where TO begin?


Since Friday so much has been going on here at Casa Del Karmazenuk that it's been well nigh impossible for me to get ten minutes to sit in front of the computer to post about it. However I'm on vacation this week, so I've got the time now.

I guess the best place to start is with an update on The Unearthing, so here goes: I got my corrected copyright certificate for said same in the mail on Wednesday, so Friday I finally got around to mailing off the certificate along with three 5x7 pics of myself to Publish America. Wanna see?

Scary how unphotogenic I am, isn't it? Anyway, that's the news about The Unearthing. On to other news!

News Part Two is an article from The BBC Online Service which is the best place to get all your news online, IMHO.

The article is by writer Dan Gillmor, and is the first part of a series that I will be following here. The link to the article is here and the full article appears below:

'Technology feeds grassroots media'

By Dan Gillmor

It is not an impact on the epic scale of an asteroid smashing into the Earth and killing off the dinosaurs, but the collision of technology and media is having profound effects on a more modern ecosystem.

Media are becoming democratised, and a global conversation is emerging.

The tools of production - used to create digital content such as blogs, podcasts, wikis, discussions, multiplayer games, mashups (I'll describe each of those in more detail below) - are increasingly powerful and easy to use, yet decreasingly expensive.

Distribution is also becoming less expensive and easily arranged. The internet is a global platform, and the most important one for the future. But mobile-phone networks are part of the overall communications ecosystem, too, and for many on this planet a primary means of contact.

The democratisation of media is also, fundamentally, about the people we once called mere consumers. Their role is evolving from a passive one to something much more interactive, but they are blessed (or cursed, depending on one's viewpoint) with an unprecedented variety of voices and services.

The democratisation of media creation, distribution and access does not necessarily foretell that traditional media are dinosaurs of a new variety. If we are fortunate, we'll end up with a more diverse media ecosystem in which many forms - including the traditional organisations - can thrive. It's fair to say, though, that the challenges to existing businesses will be enormous.

For my part, the most exciting aspect of this change is in the emerging conversation. Bottom-up media tools are conversational in nature, even though they can be used in a top-down mode. (It is more accurate, actually, to think of these tools as "edge-in", deployed and used from the edges of networks.)

Let's look at several of the most important tools in today's evolving media sphere.

Blogs
Blogs, short for weblogs, are getting the most attention, and for good reason. They are all about a web that is "read-write" as opposed to the mostly "read-only" medium of the 1990s.

What is a blog? Nothing more than an online journal in reverse chronological order on the page, that is, where the most recent updates are at the top. They typically have hyperlinks, or web pointers, to other sites.

Many blogs also solicit comments from readers. The most important aspect of a good blog is its humanity: It has a distinctly human voice, even if the postings are being done by a group instead of an individual.

Remember: The conversation is an essential part of the process.

Wikis
A wiki is a website on which anyone can edit any page. This sounds like an anarchy, but it doesn't have to be: the
Wikipedia project - an online encyclopedia with more than a million articles in a number of languages - is far from perfect, but it's a remarkably valuable addition to the reference universe.

Wikis may turn out to be most useful inside networks, such as at corporations, where people can work together on project planning and other common interests.

At the University of Hong Kong, where I've taught part-time for the last few years, my co-lecturer and I have gotten excellent results in planning class projects with wikis.

Podcasting
The word "podcast" is a combination of two concepts - broadcasting and the Apple iPod music player.

That's a mistaken word pairing, given that podcasting is about the ability of almost anyone to create audio content that typically has a small audience for any individual program, and then sending it to any digital device, portable or not.

The actual human voice has its own power over the written word. We get different nuances from audible speech, and they can often tell us things the printed page cannot.

Video podcasts will be the next generation of this genre.

But given the difficulty of creating and editing a video that anyone (other, perhaps, than our families) might want to watch, it will probably be some time before this medium takes off. (I may well prove to be wrong about this.)

Web mashups
In Silicon Valley, the current rage is called "web 2.0" - a reference to the web as a computing platform in its own right.

As more and more companies give third parties a way to combine their web-based data and services with other companies' data and services, clever folks are mashing things together in remarkable ways. For example, check out ChicagoCrime.org, which puts government-provided crime data on Google maps and lets people drill down into detail.

Now add to this the idea that everyday folks can start annotating maps and other kinds of information on their own. The possibilities seem endless.

Those are just a few of the concepts in the new world of media.

In coming months, we'll talk about how people inside and outside of the media business are putting these tools to work. We'll also look at some of the difficult policy questions, such as copyright and privacy, that will need resolution. For anyone who cares about the future of media, these are complicated times - and great fun as well.

Dan Gillmor is author of We the Media, a book about technology and the development of grassroots journalism. He is also director of the Center for Citizen Media.

And finally, I'll close off with my review of the Sisters of Mercy show, from Saturday night:

HOLY SHIT WAS IT A-FREAKING-MAZING!!!

Okay, I guess I should go into more detail than that...

My wife Angel and I have lists of things we HAVE to do before we die. One of hers was swimming with dolphins, which we did in November 2004 on our trip to Cuba.

One of mine was most definitely to see the Sisters of Mercy live.

Following Angel's wisdom I showed up to the Metropolis early--almost four hours early. There were already five people in line ahead of me.

I did a lot of people-watching, both of the forming line and the people going by on the street. I was and still am surprised by the sheer number of young people coming to the show. Okay, granted 35's not as old as I thought it was when I was twenty, but there were kids in their late teens and adults in their late 40s there in line. And Punks, Goths, both old school and new, everywhere. And a lotta punk chicks in short skirts and pantyhose. MMM...punk chicks...

...Anyway...

By the time the doors into the venue opened at six thirty, the line was almost two blocks long, and judging from the conversations I overheard while in line, about one third of those people were Followers; hard-core Sisters of Mercy fans who will follow the band on tour. I heard one cluster of Followers talking; they were from Europe, and were heading back the next day in order to be at work on Monday.

Now, Angel is herself a Backstreet Boys fangirl, and yeah, she'll go out of her way to see the shows, but she won't go to another freaking CONTINENT to do it!

I gotta say, though, having seen the Sisters of Mercy live, if I had the money I'd be a Follower, too.

We got in at 6:30. I bought a T-shirt and took my place in the balcony. An hour later (the show started at 8:00) I said to myself "Fuck it; I paid to see the Sisters of Mercy, I'm gonna SEE the Sisters of Mercy!" and went down to stake my place in the pit in front of the stage.

I'm SOO glad I did!

The opening act was an Emo band from Los Angeles, The Warlocks. They were also FUCKING AMAZING. My friend Tammie recently introduced me to a band called INTERPOL; I found that the Warlocks, though heavier, edgier, were very similar stylistically, and DAMN did they do a good live act. Needless to say they're on my "Must Get" music list. And they have a hot chick who plays guitar, so that's also always COOL.

...mmm...Punk Chicks...

But as great as the Warlocks are, I was there to see the Sisters of Mercy. So I was rather impatient. But finally their set ended, the roadies took down their equipment and started setting up for the Sisters' show.

And then it happened.

The Sisters of Mercy took to the stage, opening with First and Last and Always, the title track from their first "label" release. They were ROCKING OUT! I was less than twenty feet from the stage and HOLY FUCKING SHIT was it amazing!

How to describe the Sisters of Mercy in concert? Well, first off, they don't do a lot of bullshit theatrics. In the words of Andrew Eldrich, the driving force behind the Sisters of Mercy, "...We used a lot of smoke, very few lights, stepped right back and just made a space where you could lose yourself (but more probably find yourself) in a tide of colour and noise..."Yeah.

But this show was fast-paced, hard-edged and all-out euphoric. The band played to the audience, not to each other. There was no pointless banter or rabble-rousing. No stupid costumes. No melodramatic stage-antics. Just them and the music and the smoke and the lights.

...and I swear that at one point Andrew was looking right at me behind those black mirror rectagle glasses he wore (Another must-have for my sunglasses collection).

They are a phenomenon. And they were fucked over by their record label ten years ago or more, otherwise they would be fucking GODS today. But they're recording a new album, soon. Hopefully. And if they do, with all the young people they have following them, there's hope.

The Sisters did a two-hour non-stop set, and then did two encores. Shit, was it a great show. Shit was it too short. Shit, did it seem like an eternity of musical ecstacy.

All I know is, come hell or high water that i'm not going to wait another fifteen years before I see these guys live again.

I am a Follower-in-training.

Andrew Eldrich, 20 feet from me.

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