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Hobos With Shotguns And Grey Area Music Distribution

Report part 4 of 5. South by Southwest (SXSW) is a set of film, interactive and music festivals and conferences that take place every spring (usually in March) in Austin, Texas, United States. It is a conference that attracts media, web and design people from all over the world. This is a recap of the sessions I attended.

Neither Moguls nor Pirates: Grey Area Music Distribution
Bricolage has been a driving force in any culture since the dawn of times, from the dadaist’s and Hell’s Angels to the beatniks and the punks. This act of re-appropriating and building upon existing media artefacts and cultural expressions has by the media industry been considered to be “piracy”, but – as panelist Sam Howard-Spink from NYU puts it: “piracy has been defined as any activity that the media industry disapprove of”.

This panel on the subject Grey Area Music Distribution discussed the issue of Piracy from a business, legal, cultural and anthropological perspective. The panelists were four professors (listed here) that gave examples of cultural practices that could be considered to be in this legal grey area. An example: Record Brother is a blog that is dedicated to making recordings that have previously never been digitalized available to an online audience (see e.g. this post on a 1956 recording on the History of the Democratic Party narrated by Henry Fonda). Likewise did the British soul movement of the late 1960s dwell in a legal grey area, a movement that helped create a musical strand beyond rock music. This tradition is currently being cinematised in the Northern Soul film.

The panelists also talked about the emerging economies (Brazil, China, India etc) where the rules are quite different and where CDs are a luxury good and not a commodity available to the general masses. The recently released book Media Piracy in Emerging Economies is a great book on the subject.

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Transmedia: What’s the Magical Formula for Successful Design?
This presentation was a crash-course of the do’s in transmedia design: giving the audience ways of participating with your content, multiple points of entry, seamlessly interconnect platforms and channels, gaining a momentum of audience participation, meaningful content and rich storyworlds. Anthea Foyer from transmedia consultancy The Labs urged the audience to share examples of successful transmedia productions on Twitter (view these tweets here).

Enabling New Experiences & Creating Serendipity Through Check-ins
The content of this presentation didn’t really live up to the title of it. Instead, social media pretty-boys Pete Cashmore (Mashable) and Dennis Crowley (Foursquare) wasted a good 30 minutes on guessing each other’s age and trying to figure out whether that hand in the Gap commercial belongs to Crowley or Naveen Selvadurai. Total waste of time.

Keynote: Felicia Day
This year’s only female keynote speecher was Felicia Day, an actress, writer and producer, most widely known for her work in web video and social media and the creator of the web series The Guild, telling the story of a group of online gamers.

Design Intersection – Cultural Sustainability and Civic Engagement
This conversation was moderated by Beth Ferguson, ecological designer, public artist and social entrepreneur at Sol Design Lab and Mouna Andraos from design agency Living With Our Time.

From the program leaflet: Our focus is the designers’ role in combining cultural sustainability and civic engagement to find creative solutions to some of the world’s toughest problems. Innovative strategies, systems thinking, distributed production, open design and creative risk-taking are yielding meaningful outcomes regarding climate protection, clean mobility, renewable energy, waste reduction, and social equality. Effective utilization of social media, web based maps and the internet have made much of the world dependent on mobile communication devices, which need a constant supply of power to keep roaming. Balancing their impact, new tools such as the Kill-a-watt, energy monitor mobile apps and solar charging stations visually link users with their home/work energy consumption. Others, such as Green Map, livingprinciples.org or Treehugger, put an environmental and social perspective on local resources and developments, motivating action that benefits the commons. Designers and social entrepreneurs are forming strong communities of practice and collective identity as desire shifts toward sufficiency and well-being. Entities willing to take a creative risk and a leadership role in adopting holistic design processes are becoming the leaders of our future development. Providing tools for educators to restructure the pedagogy is essential for preparing future creators to face the challenges with sanguine, innovative solutions.

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HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN The Game: A Case Study
Hobo With a Shotgun is an independent feature film starring old-timer Rutger Hauer. The filmmakers teamed up with indie game designers to create the game with the same title, building on aesthetics from 1980s’ NES games such as River City Ransom and Double Dragon II. What is most interesting with their work is that they used an off-the-shelf game engine called GameSalad that requires no coding skills with its drag-and-drop interface. Could be worth testing! They also introduced me to Fantastic Arcade, an independent games festival coming up fall of 2011. The Hobo With a Shotgun game can be purchased on iTunes store but don’t bother if you’re not a fan of 8-bit aesthetics and incredibly hard gameplay.

Read more about HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN The Game: A Case Study.

Further reading from SXSW
Rebooting Iceland and Block Party Capitalism
Theatre on Skype and Bloggers vs Journos
Music Visualizations And a Critical Perspective on Crowdsourcing
Hobos With Shotguns And Grey Area Music Distribution
Collaborative Creativity And Flight Delay Predictions