Open Media Boston

metro news from the ground up


Although I think Peter Miller's piece above has much merit, and hence was happy to run it here in Open Media Boston, as the lead organizer of the Digital Media Conference I must take exception to his typification of the event as somehow anti-"digital grassroots" or even anti-technology.

I also want to make it quite clear that even though we sited the DMC in tandem with the Organizers' Collaborative's Grassroots Use of Technology Conference, the two conferences were separate events with different constituencies - although there was definitely some overlap between the two.

So, despite the fact that DMC organizers like myself are very much part of the digital grassroots and obviously support efforts like GUT-C, we were primarily aiming our event at members of creative industries that are losing their livelihoods in this digital age because of the growing expectation that they should work for free for corporations that can afford to pay. Some of these people are not part of the digerati, feel very alienated by the rise of digital technology that is involved in (if not always directly responsible for) taking their jobs away, and were not shy about expressing their opprobrium at either of the joint conferences. This, unfortunately, led to the belief by some GUT-C attendees that everyone at the DMC was anti-tech and anti-progress. Which is far from the case.

To the contrary, while striving to identify the problems facing writers and other creators, DMC organizers also went out of our way to discuss the importance of creators organizations making common cause with grassroots technology organizations - rather than siding with the same publishing and music corporations ultimately responsible for the structural problems under discussion - as creators organizations have sometimes felt compelled to do in recent years.

If proof is needed, I recommend viewers check out the audio and video coverage of the two main events at the DMC here on Open Media Boston - the opening panel and the lunch talk by Fred Johnson.

If you listen to the full presentations, you will find a fairly broad spectrum of opinion on digital issues, but you will find no one trying to put the digital genie back in any bottle and you will certainly find no one who is anti-tech let alone anti-digital grassroots.

It's also worth looking at what I wrote in Open Media Boston about the conference before the fact.

To quote that advance piece, I said, "I’m not interested in turning back the clock and sacrificing an increasingly participatory digital media at the altar of professionalism - any more than I’m interested in letting undemocratic multi-national corporations continue to dominate global media production as they have done for the last several decades. I want to see serious discussion of how hundreds of thousands of professional and semi-professional writers, photographers, film makers, videographers and graphic artists can have some reasonable expectation of being able to survive and thrive on the fruits of their labor. And retain full control of rights to their work. I also want to see a real push for a vast expansion of public funding for media production and media arts – which is barely on the policy radar yet at a time when billions are being dumped on giant financial services corporations that manufactured the ongoing economic crisis, while little is being given to help working people make ends meet in hard times that we by-and-large did not bring down on ourselves. Yet such reforms should absolutely be on the policy agenda at all levels of the political system.

"I don't think that it would be healthy for our society to simply agree that the creative professions are suddenly no longer worthy of support. And that journalists and producers and artists are going to end up being reduced to something like the lot of medieval court jesters - seen but not taken seriously. Or paid."

These are the issues that were foremost in the mind of the DMC organizers in this year's first small underfunded outing. We hope to put together larger DMCs in the years to come, and perhaps as we build for the future conferences our pro-tech and pro-grassroots orientation will be easier to discern. For now, rest assured that if the DMC came off as anti-tech and anti-grassroots to some GUT-C attendees that was absolutely not the spirit with which we approached holding the event.

Jason Pramas
Open Media Boston

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