The new real

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.

8 Responses to The new real

  1. [...] Awards | Deb Aoki lists some manga the Eisner Awards judges might have overlooked. Meanwhile, Noah Berlatsky and David Welsh ponder the relationship between manga and the awards. [About.com, The Hooded Utilitarian, Precocious Curmudgeon] [...]

  2. Deb Aoki says:

    i think the one major change i’d love to make for next year’s best manga of 2009 readers polls is to figure out a system so it’s one vote per person, so the voting is less suseptible to ballot-box stuffing. still figuring that one out…

    i’m also contemplating opening up the nomination system to readers, since I pick 10 books in each category with an eye toward giving a good mix of what’s out there from the various publishers, but I do miss a few gems here and there.

    wondering if we could do something like a critics choice award, where all the manga and comics bloggers weigh in, much like the various Film Critics Society awards in different cities. that might give it more weight than a readers poll, no?

  3. Sadie says:

    Instead of opening up nominations you may just do a write-in slot. It would be interesting to see if a bunch of people write in a manga that no one thought of! Or have a sort of viewer’s choice category that is nothing but write ins and just see what the most popular manga (regardless of genre)is.

  4. davidpwelsh says:

    The box stuffing is a nuisance, but it seemed like it might have been confined to just a few polls. Maybe there’s some poll program out there that allows you to limit votes to one per user.

    I like Sadie’s write-in slot idea, and the idea of opening up nominations in general. It might be extra work, but the results would be interesting.

    I like the critics’ choice idea too. You could do it in a way that’s similar to PWCW’s methodology: ask a group of critics to submit five or six titles from the past year, then tally the top 10 or however many makes sense. Along the same lines, you could also do a “great comics for manga fans,” stuff that doesn’t fall into traditional manga categories but might appeal to that audience all the same.

  5. [...] also wonders if the whole idea of the Eisner awards may be passe in this era of social networking, while Eisner [...]

  6. Simon Jones says:

    Institutions by nature are conservative, and I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. Academia pursue truth; what they say carries extra weight, ergo they deal with subjects that have been vetted by history, methods that have been proven again and again under the auspices of time. I imagine the Eisners, at least the criterion by which they choose comics, probably follow this same mindset.

    A popularity prize built on online social networks is not the same as receiving critical accolades, or praise from industry peers. I’m not suggesting that one is more important than the other, simply that one does not replace the other.

    That said, a “People’s Choice Awards” for manga would be a fine endeavour.

  7. Jake Forbes says:

    Forgive me — late to the party. :P

    The Eisners, like the Oscars with movies, are a chance for the industry to honor its own. As only publishers can put forth nominations, and manga publishers are only a small percentage of the comics publishing whole, (and of those, likely not all are putting forth nominations for many if any categories), manga represents a small percentage of nominees, even if it represents a larger percentage of the volume of comics sold. I don’t see this as a bad thing, as mangaka have ample opportunities for recognition and accolades in their native market. Should Japanese publishers take to more overtly publishing for an international market, then it would make sense for them to be more aggressively represented in the largest North American comics awards competition, but as it stands, what we are honoring is an English language localization. Viz or Vertical or whoever deserve accolades for selecting and wonderfully preserving the best of manga. If Shogakukan/Viz schedule a simultaneous English release of a new Urasawa series so that it arrives in this market unvetted, then I’d be all for it competing in more categories.

    That said, a separate critics choice and/or people’s choice would be great. Anime Expo used to have some clout in people’s choice voting, but it’s relevance is sort of warped as fandom has evolved. A critics choice award for manga would be easy enough to organize as there’s a pretty tight knit comics/manga critics community, but a fan award — at this point, who would be the “authority” source to give it out? Deb’s great best-of lists are great, but about.com seems to skew a bit old and “criticy” to represent a popular voice. ANN’s founders are from my generation — is that site still the fandom authority it once was? As you get at in the start of your article, I think that most of the manga reading audience is spreading the word through channels so thinly spread that a locking down a “people’s choice” award would be near impossible. Of course we already have a true measure of the people’s choice — sales rankings! And unlike awards, they come all year round, and no one EVER tires of talking about sales rankings. So win-win.

  8. [...] the notion has been in the back of my mind lately, I thought I would throw out a quick poll on one structural aspect of a possible manga awards [...]

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