Tag Archives: Cambridge

River view

Here’s my view this weekend.


I’m at the MIT reunion — the 25th year reunion for the Class of 1988 — and I’m staying in a graduate student dorm. Yesterday poured rain for most of my drive here, and this morning started gray and damp.

But this afternoon is the kind of afternoon that makes one want never to leave.

Immersed in the environment

Continuing my Cambridge/Boston nostalgia trip: I ate lunch at Legal Seafoods. When I was an undergrad, my parents were apparently concerned that I would not eat properly. So my dad gave me a credit card, and instructed me to eat at Legal Seafoods once a month. He’d eaten there when bringing me up to school for the first time, and been particularly impressed by the clam chowder.

As I remember it, I said I didn’t want to go to a restaurant alone, so I was allowed to bring one person with me for my nutritious meal of the month. My favorite items were the bluefish pate and the ice cream bon bons. I took various friends to dinner in turn. I don’t think my visit did much to affect my health and nutrition, but they did create in me an appreciation for fresh fish.

When I came back to the area for grad school, I didn’t eat at Legal’s very often, but now and again my dear friend Sharon and I would get lunch there, chowder and a sassy beer from the tap.

So today for lunch I ordered a cup of chowder, a salad with goat cheese, apples, and avocados, and a pint of Harpoon I.P.A. The chowder was fine, although a couple bits of grit snuck into my cup. The salad was uninspired. But the beer was cold and crisp, a lovely compliment to a chilly fall day.

Of course, I’m not actually enjoying much of the lovely, chilly, sunny day. I’m in a theatre in the basement of a building on the MIT campus (Bldg E15, for those in the know), for day two of Futures of Entertainment. Now I’m settling in to listen to people from Linden Labs (makers of Second Life), Multiverse.net, and MTV talk about virtual worlds, online spaces, and immersive experiences. Just before lunch we had a spontaneous countdown, from ten to one, bidding tongue-in-cheek farewell to Web 2.0 (this morning’s panel talked about MySpace and fan-based communities) and welcoming in Web 3.0.

Like many people, I have opened an account in Second Life and created a self, but haven’t done anything with it (her?). In fact, she’s only half designed, wearing some weird combination of default clothes and appearance. At some point I’ll get back to her and finish the setup, and go through the training area to learn how to make my way around. I’d like to understand more about what’s available in these kinds of environments — it’s a rapidly changing space, and there’s no way to know what will happen. As with much in this conference, I’m pleased to listen, watch, and learn.

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.