The new real

April 10, 2009

I’ve been using some various social networking platforms for my day job. I haven’t been using them very aggressively, because the platforms are free, and I’m enjoying the opportunity to see how these things evolve. How many people find them naturally, and how do they use them to meet their own needs?

(For me, there’s also a certain amount of diffidence in play. A lot of these platforms are big with people a generation younger than me. While that certainly doesn’t preclude people from other age groups from using them, I don’t want to seem like the old man showing up on the playground trying to start a kickball game, because that’s creepy. I can form theories on what people younger than me is cool, and I may well be right, but I think the chance that an incorrect surmise would backfire is a lot worse than the peril of appearing stodgy.)

This does relate to comics, I promise, specifically to the discussion of the Eisners and the possibility of a manga-centric awards program. At the Hooded Utilitarian, Noah Berlatsky expands on what Simon Jones was suggesting the other day. More accurately, he was flipping the argument and wondering if the Eisners need manga more than manga needs the Eisners:

“So you would think, maybe, that the industry might want to celebrate that. Maybe comics might want to use their awards show as a chance to point out to the world how things have changed, to embrace new readers, to paint itself as dynamic and exciting and forward looking and inclusive.”

Berlatsky’s piece is really interesting to me, and think what he says is applicable to any of what I might call the brick-and-mortar awards programs, whether they’re focused on movies or plays or books or television. They don’t evolve quickly or consistently, you know? Some years, they cast a wide net from mainstream to obscure, predictable to unexpected, and some years, they’re utterly central-casting. The Eisners seem a little more fluid, because the nominating committee changes every year. I think that’s a good thing, and I rather like that the categories can shift a bit based on what happened during the nomination period. But it doesn’t always guarantee results that are forward looking and inclusive, or at least not forward looking and inclusive in the same sense that I use those terms.

And this takes me back to those social networking platforms, which emerged very much as a way to bypass brick-and-mortar ways to find information and communicate. The brick-and-mortar outlets weren’t fluid enough and didn’t evolve fast enough to meet needs, so the audience took things into their own hands. And that’s a really good thing, in my opinion. At their best, venues like blogs and Facebook and Twitter let people cherry-pick what works for them, what’s fun and useful and informative. And if more old people are showing up with kickballs, that doesn’t mean the core audience has to listen to them.

So I think when I said that Deb Aoki’s great new best-of ballots at About.Com might need “tweaking,” it came from a misguided notion of making them more brick and mortar. Thinking more carefully about that prospect, of trying to put some kind of “official” spin on things, I’ve decided that would be counter-productive. The polls are wide-ranging and inclusive right out of the box, and I don’t think there’s any benefit to be gained from putting them behind a podium. And they will evolve with each passing year as more people hear about them and vote, because I think that’s just what happens when someone puts something good and useful on the internet.

And since everyone’s voting from home, we can all drink as much as we like with no risk of embarrassing pictures from the ceremony showing up on Flickr.


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