media140 Perth: tweeting beanbags & digital futures

I was invited to give several keynote presentations at media140 in Perth recently, on a range of topics associated with online community and social media, across three streams: Digital Business, Digital Me and Digital Family.

I had a ball and was energised by my terrific fellow speakers, attendees and the conference crew (especially the gorgeous team of volunteers tweeting, blogging and sharing proceedings throughout the event). These guys are what it’s all about.

Though the menu of contributors was diverse, some unsurprising thematic spines emerged across the three days:

  • our evolving strategies to negotiate the fuzzy lines of public and private personas
  • the social, cultural and legal implications of pouring life minutia (and our kids lives) into the hands of private companies who productise minutia
  • the cumulative impact of a life lived transparently
  • the rise of social commerce and its potential to reboot 19th and 20th century consumptive models
  • the problematic dominance of facebook and its effort to become a singular, destinational, container web (aka, the AOL effect)
  • the ascendancy, and shortcomings, of online reputational services like Klout (Klouchebag made an appearance or two)
  • social media fatigue and the fact we’re getting better at discretionary choices around where and how to invest our time against objectives
  • that our digital futures are defined by mobility, portability and continuous, embedded storytelling and experiences.

There was lots of brain food to nibble on, but I particularly enjoyed:

Gary Hayes –  Executive Producer, Multiplatform TV, ABC

Gary gave a detailed overview of the work the ABC are doing in the multiplatform space, and how they’re transforming from broadcaster to community catalyst.

He discussed the exponential growth of ABC content across mobile devices, market pressure to ensure all content is inherently interactive and sociable, and the normalisation of the ‘second screen’ effect, where we’re consuming content on a principal anchor device (usually a TV), while riffing, reacting and remixing that content on a second device, like an iPad.

Gary also emphasised the still present friction between broadcaster and conversational, co-creative audiences who expect greater social investment in their content. It remains a fascinating space to watch, particularly for those of us who are interested in fandom and its relationship to content. Imagine an empowered community of fans who could not just share and interact with their favourite content, but invest in it, crowd fund it and support it to maturity. What if fans could have truly owned a stake in Firefly, and its cancelled kin?

(Sidebar: I had no idea how multi-talented Gary was until catching up with him in more depth at media140. Composer, photographer and then some, I salute his renaissance skillz!)

Tama LeaverLecturer, Department of Internet Studies, Curtin University

I’m a fan of Tama’s work and his presentation about the volume of information (especially visual) parents are posting about their kids online was as engaging as I expected.

Interrogating a reality where your child has 5000 baby photos on Facebook, he discussed the fact that as a parent, he’s making online reputataional choices as surrogate for his children. While you might make the best, most informed choice at the time, you need to know that choice can be undone by your children when they’re old enough to take charge of their digital destiny.

We’re sharing creatures, particularly around emotionally powerful events like parenting a child. Our digital publics don’t generally accommodate the nuance of this sharing, so we need to be extra vigilant and preserve kids choices in future as best we can.  One day they may ask you to delete 5000 baby photos – and this is perfectly reasonable.

Tama also unpacked emergent social graces and do si do’s between adults around the documentation and socialisation of digital artefacts featuring their kids. Increasingly, we’re having conversations with friends, other parents, even our schools and clubs, about our personal preferences for sharing information concerning our kids.

Even if you’re operating under certain protocols, the architecture of certain networks (like Facebook) means that someone else’s choices may mean those protocols are breached – a photos of your kids taken by another parent at a party might be tagged and syndicated to thousands before you know it exists, while you’ve taken care not to post your own pics.

Tell people what your limits are, and ask them to respect your decisions. These are the BBQ conversations of the 21st century.

Tama joined those challenging the notion of digital natives, parsing the difference between cumulative, lived wisdom and understanding what a button does. He stressed the importance of allowing your kids to have pseudonyms (which in turn signals a different value for ‘real names’). This is a point I also raised (as if we planned it…).

Laurel Papworth – Community Manager, Author and Social Strategist

Laurel gave an absorbing presentation on the future of money in a world forged on social rather than insitutionalised capital.

She reminded us that all currency is virtual – that it’s foolish to dismiss new currencies like BitCoin or facebook credits, when ‘money’ is largely a series of 1’s and 0’s whose value and importance is prescribed often arbitrarily by elites or vested interests. It’s only a recent system, taking the long view.

Vast virtual economies exist, and new takes on very old communal models, such as peer to peer loans (where we leverage our social worth to the network), social gifting, peer trade, collaborative consumption and reputational equity are our future. Imagine a universe where the theft of a profile is a crime of economic magnitude.

Laurel pointed out there’s a pervasive, almost instinctual hunger for alternative mechanisms to assign worth and frame wealth; accelerated in the wake of the global financial crisis and the Occupy movement against the gaming and criminality that provoked it.

Community management is already diversifying into directorial, executive, strategic, analytic, tactical, editorial and governance specialities. I wouldn’t be surprised to see roles like Social Banker, Community Loan Liaison, Chief Community Finance Officer and Social Finance Strategist in the not too distant future.

Matthew Allen – Head of Department, Internet Studies, Curtin University

Matthew, another scholar I admire, presented a graceful exploration of the ways distributed and embedded media is changing learning and challenging our 19th century educational paradigm.

These are rich times for collaborative, reflexive learning, supported by community and network scaffolds.

Critically, he also cautioned about our tendency to hero technology as the cause of new behaviours, rather than recognising that new arrangements can activate or empower dormant existing behaviours and practices.

Read more about Matthew’s presentation on his blog.

Kate Raynes-Goldie – PhD candidate, game designer

Finally, I adored the presentation of new privacy game, The Watchers, from the talented Kate Raynes-Goldie (Kate and I also bonded over the fact the X-Files was our mutual internet rite of passage, but that’s another story).

Understanding that telling is never as effecting as showing, or doing, Kate and her team at Atmosphere Industries have developed a vivid, imaginative game that teaches critical privacy literacies to young people.

They collaborated closely with kids on the project, so the gaming universe, visuals and narrative feel authentic and respectful, not patronising and out of touch, as so much ‘privacy theatre’ aimed at young people does.

Privacy lessons stress networked and ripple effects of decisions; life isn’t linear and nor are the teachings embedded in game pathways.

You can view the game trailer here, and if you have young people in your life, encourage them to check it out. Huge kudos to Kate, it looks totally gorgeous (and the live demo went off a treat).

Follow Kate’s work at www.k4t3.org

My own presentations were on:

I’ll break these down in detail in separate posts for easy bookmarking and reference.

Thanks to everyone who attended for diving in with me – and for the awesome questions!

My fondest memory of the event was the tweeting beanbag of Northbridge Piazza, where the Digital Me and Digital Family programs were held.

The beanbags are out in force for piazza events and were popular with the media140 brigade. They’re perfect for cosying up with the iPad and getting into a zen, second screen state (mmm, cosy).

Communities have their own language, culture, systems and signals of meaning, in-jokes and other social codes.

And if you’re really lucky, opinionated beanbags to exemplify them.

Follow Piazza Beanbag on twitter. Tell him I said hi.

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