Futures of entertainment

Today and tomorrow I’m in Boston for the Futures of Entertainment conference at MIT. This conference is looking at "developments such as user-generated content, transmedia storytelling, the rise of mobile media and the emergence of social networking." (Find liveblogging by members of the Convergence Culture Consortium here.)

This is conference month for me: Last weekend I participated in PodCampPittsburgh, a two-day conference "for people who create, enjoy or are interested in learning more about the following: blogs, vlogs, audio podcasts, web video, content networks and new media monetization." In the end, the weekend was mostly about putting video and audio media on the web and trying to make money from it, but there was talk too about content in general and more.

There’s so much to say about both these events, and about the trip in general. I’d like to take the time to put my thoughts together, but that would mean delay, and I’d rather get some things online quickly. So here’s a rapid-fire list of unconnected thoughts.

1. It’s tempting to compare this Futures of Entertainment conference with PodCamp: the topic areas overlap significantly, in that they both include online media. But they’re really quite different. PodCamp was an UNconference, in that people could and did spontaneously generate sessions, where this conference is a series of panel discussions by big industry leaders like Flickr, DC Comics, CBSNews.com, and more. Last weekend was lots of how-to, this weekend is big thinking about what new media means, where it’s all going, what we know and don’t know.

Last weekend I spent the whole time meeting people and making connections. So far today I’ve spoken briefly to only one person, and have otherwise been listening and making notes. I feel nearly at cognitive overload, soaking stuff up and processing it, thinking how to apply it to projects I have on hand and will be starting in future. I’m still processing the stuff by last weekend, so partly I may be just cumulatively full for the moment.

Another unexpected difference: PodCampPittsburgh invited sponsors, and so despite even though the conference was free to attend, there was great free food throughout the event and lots of swag. Futures of Entertainment, also free to attend, has no corporate sponsors but some academic sponsorship, so we had a small (nice) continental breakfast this morning, some terrible MIT Catering coffee throughout the day, fend-for-yourself lunch, and a little wine and cheese event on campus tonight. I don’t mind that there’s no free lunch here, but I think some networking/discussion opportunity has been lost.

Then again, we’re not being hit on the head with particular sponsor messages, which is nice. It’s a different vibe. (I am tired of the Flickr and YouTube worship, incidentally.)

2. When I stepped out of the Government Center T station last night, walking to my hotel by Faneuil Hall, I felt a rush of joy at being back in Boston. This morning, taking the T to MIT, I was positively elated, smiling at strangers and skipping through puddles. All day I’ve felt that I’d like to move back here. I think that feeling will wear off, and what it really means is that I should visit here more often than only every eight years.

3. An area where the two conferences are alike: Mac users seem to outnumber Windows users. By a lot. I believe this is due to Macs having a combination of better online and media generation tools and greater cool factor.

4. At home in Butler, I frequently find myself explaining what blogs are and why they’re neat. Here, everyone knows already. I am among my people. That’s kind of nice, but then again I feel like I have more to offer the folks back home. Again, this probably means I need to take more trips and see what’s out here, and take it home with me.

5. The MIT campus is prettier than it was in the 1980s. It’s still kinda ugly though.

6. After PodCampPittsburgh, I felt it was urgent that I get moving and get into online media. Today, in the middle of this conference, I’m practically in a panic about it. I’m having trouble staying in my seat, so great is my desire to run back to the hotel and work. But then, the information here is so interesting and valuable I also can’t leave, for fear of missing key pieces. This may also help explain why I’m not talking to anyone: I’m so tense I’ve temporarily lost my ability to socialize.

7. The Media Lab’s open wi-fi is terrific. But having a constant connection to the web during a panel discussion is beyond distracting. I’m having to shut the computer so as not to miss things.

OK, must get back to listening. Will post more later.

4 thoughts on “Futures of entertainment”

  1. Steve, I’m sorry to have missed meeting you too. It sounds as if there will be a couple of events at MIT in the spring that I’ll need to attend, so I’ll make a point of looking you up when next I’m there.

  2. regarding your item 6, I know what you mean! And I’m so far behind, having only just started blogging. Wish I could have made it to podcamp, but I’ll definitely try for August. In the meantime, it’s a shame there’s no online forum/blog/whatever for Pittsburgh New Media types – with more get-togethers of different types…

    Scott

  3. Scott: Certainly the new PodCampPittsburgh community site seems like a good location for centering discussion.

    The “pod” label makes the community seem focused on podcasting, but I think other new media topics would be welcome.

    It’s too bad the domain confluence.com is already taken (by a Pittsburgh company, actually), because media convergence in Pittsburgh could easily grab hold of the “confluence” concept. But maybe there’s a variant that would work….

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