Wednesday, March 12, 2008

24/7 DIY the super hero panel II: Benkler, Seeley-Brown, Mimi Ito

The social life of media objects

Second installment of plenary notes from the exceptional 24/7 DIY video conference.

The plenary session: Yochai Benkler, John Seeley Brown, Joi Ito, Henry Jenkins, and moderator Howard Rheingold. With additional comments from conference organizer Mimi Ito. Go
here for first post.

John Seely Brown: The social life around objects. As we look at this movement, we look at Youtube clips think of it as an object. What makes it gain significance is it’s social life. The things we create have a rich social life. Understand the consequences of this. Everyone here recognizes it should bet do-it-with-others [not “do it yourself,” DIY]. These are collaborative frameworks. What are the social goods that can be produced? This may turn out to be a phenomenal platform to facilitate much richer cross-cultural expression. We do not understand each other well enough or enough about videos about our culture done collectively. Where the action is around WoW [World of Warcraft] is the edge––the social life around guilds. The notion of how to bring that social life to the fore is the literacy of change. Agency is enabled through institutions. What kind of institutional models? I need to innovate a new kind of institution. The current video movement started where we had a multiplicity of distribution. The architecture for that network was built in an era when the power was scare. Supposed my cell phone has a terabyte of memory. What about trickle-powering information into the cell phone, the architecture of the networks would be built very differently.

Yochai Benkler: My roll is rinse and repeat [laughter]. You asked us about best-case scenario, utopianisms. In best-case scenario, I see a deep change in two things. A sense of personal efficacy––the way people understand themselves capable of doing in a world alone or in loose association with others instead of railing against the world. The past 200 years we have seen the rationalization of structuring and harnessing of human action in into well designed and collectively effective outcomes. Fordism, AT&T;, rise of administrative state in benign and malign versions mid-century. The practice of being able to speak was remote and expert, for example the encyclopedia. You, me, the vast majority of people were disabled from participating in it. Together with new practices of loose collaboration people can come to believe that it is possible to achieve something. Move from the periphery counter-cultural movement to the center. Small-dog owners meet up and create dog runs. The Revolutionary Association of Women in Afghanistan organize to counter media images between Taliban and Muhjadeen. We teach textural literary without the expectation that people become Tolstoy or Hemmingway, and we don’t have anything like this in media. We need this in combination with the other layers of social practice. I don’t need union, party, etc. to pull together a particular collective of people. That is the utopian view. The blockages between here and there are enormous. Partly they are about belief and skepticism, strong historical technical architectures, business, degrees of ability. It is a challenging task to build openness in technical systems, standards of accreditation, to make systems more efficient not just generative.

Mimi Ito: This is what is at stake: the fate of our common culture. We’ve always done it [DIY production], its just never circulated in the same world as professional media. I don’t think it has to be adversarial. What we’re deciding now is what we will be living with for a hell of a long time. Binaries are being disrupted, and what will determine common culture is being established. A lot of different voices are at stake in the space. My perspective is to find a respectful relationship between professional and amateur. All of these things are being renegotiated. A tremendous amount of time is being spent on the legal aspect. What do we think is right? How do we start developing best practice?