Summary Perspectives

moderator: Nick Montfort, Writing and Humanistic Studies, Center for Future Civic Media, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT
author: Jose van Dijck, University of Amsterdam
author: Suzanne de Castell, Simon Fraser University
author: Fred Turner, Department of Communication, Stanford University
author: Siva Vaidhyanathan, School of Law, University of Virginia
published: March 20, 2014,   recorded: April 2007,   views: 1623
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Description

In the final session of the 2007 conference, panelists distill their experiences and impressions from the preceding days and offer suggestions for future events.

Suzanne de Castell describes witnessing examples of remixing “where you wouldn’t need more intelligence than a monkey to generate music, images and various forms of written expression, and seen other examples where people delve deeply into media forms and become transformed by studious engagement.” Only these more rigorous efforts achieve serious educational value, she says, encouraging remix producers and especially teachers to “work far beyond cut and paste…to help us form better and more intelligent and more humane selves. De Castell also pleas for colleagues to “hold firm to contexts and communities” while they remix in the present, and to respect and reach out to indigenous and first nation colleagues “who help us see limitations in our own ways of thinking and working.”

An encounter with a Cambridge cab driver holding down two jobs to pay for his son’s Xbox reminded Jose van Dijck that “people need a first life to afford a Second Life.” As much as conference attendees celebrate Generation C -- for its creativity, collectivity, collaboration and courage – van Dijck cautions “not to forget about the other C: consumption, commoditization and control.” While the excitement of these times may remind participants of the ‘60s, van Dijck sharply recalls that in the 1970s, “co-creation and collaboration were quickly appropriated by commercialism and consumption.” Future conferences should take up the blurring of the public and commercial sphere, and between public and private life,” she recommends.

Beyond the stated themes of the conference, Fred Turner found “four other trajectories hovering around,” including a focus on the history of corporate transformation, such as distributed labor in game worlds; military culture, especially as it pervades games; the increasingly complex mediation of political life, as the web meets mass media; and the question of race, where “racialized self presentation” is potentially “hardening race distinctions.” Turner suggests developing “theories of how networks connect to institutions like the government.” As the 1960s revealed, “performance of new styles doesn’t necessarily mean social change.” He also recommends serious study of which parts of the past matter, especially when it comes to the history of machines and collaborative styles. “We may see some of our world owes less to hip hop than to research labs at MIT and World War 2, which were enormously collaborative, enormously playful and enormously technocentric.”

During the conference Siva Vaidhyanathan saw fellow participants discussing the ways regulatory structures govern “how we share, distribute and chop up culture,” and the changes in political economy brought about by conflicting corporate and public ownership and control -- including new methods of surveillance. “We’re not charged for using Gmail, or Myspace or YouTube. But is free speech and free beer the sum total of freedom?” asks Vaidhyanathan. His colleagues are searching for new modes of searching and indexing information, through better processes of tagging and web categorization. He witnessed “deep concern out there about norms and ethics,” and debates about whether we are indeed entering a new age. Vaidhyanathan asks, “Are we actually waking up from the era that stands as an historical anomaly? Was the era of corporate proprietary culture with one-to-many distribution an historical blip we dealt with for an 80-year period and we’re now getting back with how people have always dealt with each other? Isn’t remix culture just culture?”

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