“Over the weekend I attended The Future of Entertainment 3, a conference organized by MIT’s Comparative Media Studies department. The two day event featured back to back roundtables focusing on issues related to social media, audience participation, and “spreadable media,” a term CMS director Henry Jenkins coined as a more appropriate way to describe content than “viral.” (Viral connotes an inexplicable element the “infected” have no control over. It suggests you can “design the perfect virus and give it to the right first carriers.”)
From a post on Jenkins’ blog last year:
Our core argument is that we are moving from an era when stickiness was the highest virtue because the goal of pull media was to attract consumers to your site and hold them there as long as possible, not unlike, say, a roach hotel. Instead, we argue that in the era of convergence culture, what media producers need to develop spreadable media. Spreadable content is designed to be circulated by grassroots intermediaries who pass it along to their friends or circulate it through larger communities (whether a fandom or a brand tribe). It is through this process of spreading that the content gains greater resonance in the culture, taking on new meanings, finding new audiences, attracting new markets, and generating new values. In a world of spreadable media, we are going to see more and more media producers openly embrace fan practices, encouraging us to take media in our own hands, and do our part to insure the long term viability of media we like.
Indeed, our new mantra is that if it doesn’t spread, it’s dead.”
I just did a guest post over at Justin Boland’s Pizza SEO:
I’ve been blogging since the dark ages of 1999. My oldest and most popular blog is Technoccult, which I’ve been doing since 2001. My most important tips are non-technical and platform independent, and I’m presenting them first. The second part of this article covers WordPress tweaks and plugins, which is what Justin actually asked me to write about.
If you don’t read any of the hints, just keep this in mind: Do everything you can to make reading your blog easy, and avoid annoying your readers. Write a good blog, retain your readership, and it will grow. Your readers will e-mail and IM your URL. They will link to you on their blogs. They will link to you on social media services. That’s how you build traffic. Search engines are always making changes in how they rank stuff, so question SEO wizardry and focus on reader experience.
There was one seriously humiliating moment that made me decide to start a magazine. The story goes like this: when I was 21, I landed the covers of both Gothic Beauty and the 50th-anniversary issue of Skin Two, which made me think that I was a hot shit photographer (I was not). High on the feeling of appearing in print, I set my sights on what I considered the next level: the fashion glossies. I called up their Manhattan offices leaving hopeful voicemails, never to hear back from a single one. But by some strange twist of fate, when I called up Flaunt, one of their founders, Long Nguyen, picked up the phone. He introduced himself and told me that he was stuck in the office working late on a deadline, and very agitated as a result. Naively, I began to tell him my story of being a young photographer dreaming of a shot to submit my work to their amazing magazine. Well, he totally shot me down. “Listen,” he said, “do you know how many people call us every day and try to get published? Dozens. Hundreds. You think you’re something special? You’re not. Do you know how much crap we’re forced to look at every day? You can’t even imagine.” We stayed on the phone for awhile, and he belittled every attempt I made to get them to even look at my work. Anxious to get off the phone with me, he cut off my pleas with a request for my phone number. “OK,” I said, “it’s 2-1-5…” Before I could finish, he cut me off again, crying out exasperatedly: “OH my GOD, you’re not even in New York?!” He pretended to take down the rest of my number and hung up, leaving me deflated and humiliated. My dreams of being a part of a really cool magazine were crushed. That’s when I realized how much I loved magazines. I’d show him. I’d show all of them! In hindsight, the whole thing’s really funny. I still love Flaunt.
This article was original written for Key 64‘s Guns, Dope, and Fucking in the Streets PDF zine. I have no idea when the zine will see the light of day, so I’m running this here now.
If you have a fixed idea of what a “typical gun owner” looks like, the coffee table book Armed America may surprise you. If your main exposure to “gun culture” is the mainstream media, or magazines like the American Rifleman or Guns and Ammo, you could be forgiven for thinking all gun owners are rural, middle aged white men who dress in cammo and are desperately worried about protecting the families from gun toting “urban youth.” Armed America, a collection of photographs of gun owners by Kyle Cassidy, includes Montana survivalists and young urban black men, but also tattooed punk rockers, single moms, and American families who couldn’t look any more normal without being creepy.
It turns out, in the United States anyway, the typical gun owner could be just about anyone. According to the introduction of Armed America, 39% of the US population owns guns. Chances are, even if you did have a stereotype in mind for the “typical gun owner,” you actually know a few people who don’t fit the stereotype. Guess what? Those people aren’t the exception: they’re the rule.
So with such a large and diverse range of people owning guns, why is the gun culture – the magazines, shooting clubs, lobbying organizations, etc. – seemingly so homogeneous? Partially because most people who happen to own guns don’t make a lifestyle of it. Partially because some gun owners are quiet about it because they belong to communities that frown on firearms. Cassidy told ESPN.com “There was a guy in California I really wanted to photograph. He eventually declined. He said, ‘It’s like you’re asking me to pose with my pornography collection.’ It was something he just didn’t want to be known as owning.”
And partially because the established gun culture’s authoritarian and socially conservative agenda alienates many unapologetic gun owners. There are many proud gun owners interested in fighting for the 2nd amendment, promoting individual gun ownership, reading about guns, and socializing with other gun owners. Ostracized by the established gun culture, they are creating their own.
Take the Pink Pistols, for example. According to their web site they were established in 2000 to sponsor shooting courses for sexual minorities, and help them get concealed carry licenses. There are now 45 Pink Pistols chapters in the US (and one in Canada), and each group sponsors monthly shooting outings.
They even gained a bit of notoriety with a bizarre mention on Fox News. On the June 21, 2007 episode of the O’Reilly Factor, “gang expert” Rod Wheeler warns viewers of the “Pink Pistol-Packing Group” – a dangerous lesbian gang active all over the country. In an article on their web site, the Southern Poverty Law Center note that while Wheeler claims there are over 150 active lesbian gangs in the DC area alone, other crime experts say there are only 150 to 175 gangs TOTAL in the entire DC area. According to SPLC, Wheeler now claims he wasn’t referring to the law abiding, gun advocacy group known as the Pink Pistols, but to some other group using the same name (that no other law enforcement agency in the US seems to have ever heard of).
The alternative gun culture now has their own voice, a zine called The American Gun Culture Report. AGCR provides an alternative to culturally conservative, authoritarian gun magazines. In the introduction to the first issue, AGCR editor Ross Eliot writes “Supporters of censorship, unaccountable court systems, secret prison camps and torture have claimed gun rights as their private issue far too long. It’s time to take it away from them.” AGCR publishes views from the likes of socialists, libertarians, pagans, and queers – anyone alienated by the mainstream gun press.
The pages of AGCR feature articles on “unexpected gun owners” such as Eleanor Roosevelt, analysis of the political positions espoused by the mainstream gun press, accounts of discrimination at shooting clubs, impassioned defenses of gun ownership, and much more. Eliot, who describes himself as a “non-doctrinal socialist,” says he publishes many things he does not agree with. “I’m not the best writer or editor,” Eliot says, “But I’m putting together a magazine I want to read, which is why I’m not pushing a specific social agenda.”
The zine was conceived one day in mid-2005 when Eliot was reading an issue of Guns and Ammo in the break room of the factory he works in. He says the magazine was “pissing him off” and he decided it was time for an alternative. He’d never made a zine before, but “There was this huge void not being filled, so I figured I might as well fill it.” Ross published the first issue in 2006 and the second in 2007. Both are available from zine and book stores across the US, or from their web site.
Eliot bought his first gun, a Mossberg 12 gauge shot gun, in late 2004 because “I was feeling more and more socially irresponsible for not having a gun.” The Rwandan Genocide changed how he viewed social violence, he says. “It was the most effective genocide in recorded history, about a million people were killed in three months. There have been have been much larger genocides, but this happened with unprecedented speed, and it was done with machetes. One person with a gun could have made a difference.”
Surprisingly, Eliot has received no negative responses to the zine from the left, even though he distributes it at anti-war protests. “The only negative response is from the mainstream gun press and their audiences.”
Eliot says he hasn’t really considered writing for the mainstream gun press, citing the plight of writers like Dean Spier Dean Speir who were blacklisted from the mainstream gun press after criticizing major advertisers. Instead, he’d rather grow AGCR to the point where it can compete with mainstream gun magazines.
Update/Correction 9/28/09: Dean Speir commented below correcting both the misspelling of his name and my description of him as “blacklisted.” The error is my own, and not Eliot’s. Speir writes:
It’s important to note that calling my absence from the “gunzines” a “blacklisting” isn’t really accurate.
I spent the better part of three years trying to get a gunzine byline, and discovered it was pretty much a closed shop.
Then I got my foot in the clubhouse, and everyone wanted whatever I could provide.
But once “inside,” it became apparent that, like the special interest ‘zines which appeal to the automotive, boating and photography hobby-ists, there was precious little critical writing being done.
And after 12-13 years of trying to get something other than “puffery” in the “mainstream gun press,” and with the advent of the Internet as a more direct conduit for free expression, I retired, bloody but unbowed.
Is there one published who wouldn’t touch my byline with a 12-foot Chechnyan? Absolutely! Harris (Combat Handguns) in NYC.
But I still get inquiries from other Editors wondering if I’m working on anything that might interest their readers.
For the past nine-plus years, whatever fit that category, is self-published at http://www.thegunzone.com, free of advertiser interference and nervous editorial oversight.
And competing with, or ignoring, the mainstream may be their only choice. The Pink Pistols actively try to build bridges with the established gun culture. The August 2001 issue of Guns and Ammo featured a short article about the Pink Pistols and concluded “Once again, maybe we need to shrug off the things that don’t affect shooting and gun rights and step up to the firing line with our fellow shooters.” Nearly seven years later, that hasn’t happened yet. Not that it matters much for the Pink Pistols or the American Gun Culture Report. They’ve proven they need no acceptance or approval from the mainstream to build successful communities.
As I read the dense, long reviews and letters explaining the merits of this or that tool, it all seemed comfortably familiar. Then I realized why. These missives in the Catalog were blog postings. Except rather than being published individually on home pages, they were handwritten and mailed into the merry band of Whole Earth editors who would typeset them with almost no editing (just the binary editing of print or not-print) and quickly “post” them on cheap newsprint to the millions of readers who tuned in to the Catalog’s publishing stream. No topic was too esoteric, no degree of enthusiasm too ardent, no amateur expertise too uncertified to be included. The opportunity of the catalog’s 400 pages of how-to-do it information attracted not only millions of readers but thousands of Makers of the world, the proto-alpha geeks, the true fans, the nerds, the DIYers, the avid know-it-alls, and the tens of thousands wannabe bloggers who had no where else to inform the world of their passions and knowledge. So they wrote Whole Earth in that intense conversational style, looking the reader right in the eye and holding nothing back: “Here’s the straight dope, kid.” New York was not publishing this stuff. The Catalog editors (like myself) would sort through this surplus of enthusiasm, try to index it, and make it useful without the benefit of hyperlinks or tags. Using analog personal publishing technology as close to the instant power of InDesign and html as one could get in the 1970s and 80s (IBM Selectric, Polaroids, Lettraset) we slapped the postings down on the wide screens of newsprint, and hit the publish button.
While on that flight, Brand came up with a solution: to publish a magazine in the vein of the LL Bean catalog-which he’d always admired for its immense practicality-that would blend liberal social values with emerging ideas about ‘appropriate technology’ and ‘whole-systems thinking.’ He decided to run NASA’s photograph of the planet on the cover and to call the publication the Whole Earth Catalog (WEC). The first WEC, published in July 1968, was a six-page mimeograph that began with Brand’s now-legendary statement of purpose: ‘We are as gods and we might as well get good at it.’
The WEC lasted four years (along with some special editions since). During that time, the magazine published a flood of articles about species preservation, organic farming, and alternative energy-but it was also a resource for ‘tools’ as wide ranging as Buddhist economics, nanotechnology, and a manure-powered generator. Comprehensive in this way, the WEC was a catalyst, helping transform a set of disparate individualists into a potent community. As Lloyd Kahn, the catalog’s shelter editor, says, ‘The beatniks had a negative, existential vibe. They weren’t into sharing. But the hippies came along and wanted to share everything. Whatever they discovered, they just wanted to broadcast. The WEC was the very best example of this.’
It is now 40 years later and the WEC’s avalanche of influence continues to flow. Cyberculture, the blogosphere, companies like Apple and Patagonia, websites like Craigslist and worldchanging.org, sustainable building, ethical business practices, and the gamut of alternative-energy industries were all shaped by its pages. Its ecological legacy spans everything from new cattle-grazing techniques to major environ?mental legislation. What follows is an oral history, compiled from 30 hours of interviews, that takes a look at the Whole Earth Effect-the long-lasting impact of this short-lived journal, as told by the people directly in its path.
The new issue of Trevor Blake’s OVO Magazine has many names familiar to Technoccult readers and/or Esozone attendees (and some not so familiar): Anonymous, Dmitry Babenko, Johnny Brainwash, Klint Finley, Witta Kelssling-Jensen, Vincent Al Ken, Ruggero Maggi, Mail Art Paul, Willi Melnikov, Thom Metzger, Emilio Morandi, No Institute, Wes Unruh, Carlos Valdez and Edward Wilson.
In my article I explore the politics of alternative currencies, which is sadly more relevant now than I realized when I wrote it in October.
For those not in the know, OVO has been published by Trevor Blake since 1987. Trevor says of his work:
When I started publishing OVO I was just a self-important hayseed living in a small town making a dumb little zine among thousands of others. But OVO did accomplish a few things in the first fourteen issues. OVO was the first to publish several essays by Hakim Bey that later appeared in his book T.A.Z. The Temporary Autonomous Zone. OVO published work by Mike Diana long before his work drew the attention of State and Federal employees. Photographs of body piercing appeared in OVO two years before the Modern Primitives issue of Re/Search. The phrase ‘phone tag’ appears in print for the first time in the first issue of OVO. ‘Liberating Wednesday’ by PM, author of bolo’bolo, appears in OVO for the first (and only) time; this is nearly a decade before and fifty-two times more radical a suggestion than ‘Buy Nothing Day.’ Crop circles and the Men in Black are referenced at a time when they were still obscure. The first appearance of Ride Theory in print occurs in Ignatz Topolino’s contribution to OVO. And OVO was aware enough of the outer edges of scientific ethics to mention gene patents in the same year they first were granted.
I am honored to be a contributor to such a worthy publication.
The tone of this article is annoying (tin foil hat jokes? how original), but I liked reading what the editors had to say:
Hidell and D’Arc represent different wings of the conspiracy theories movement. “She’s more into the speculative paranormal end of things,” he said. “I’m more of a meat-and-potatoes politics, international relations and secret societies kind of guy.”
Together, they attempt to publish a “provocative, unpredictable mix” of conspiracy theories. “We try not to have a house conspiracy style,” he said.
Hidell admitted that he doesn’t believe all the conspiracy theories advanced in the pages of Paranoia. For instance, he’s a little skeptical of Icke’s theory that the queen of England and the Rockefellers are really shape-shifting Satanic reptiles from outer space. But then he adds this about Icke: “For all we know, he’s putting all that in purposely so people think he’s just a nut and he can keep publishing.”
The second installment of my column for Alterati is up:
Does alternative culture still exist? Coilhouse, an excellent web magazine that calls itself ‘A love letter to alternative culture, written in an era where alt culture no longer exists’ obviously doesn’t think so. Neither does Warren Ellis, who wrote on the topic in his Suicide Girls column. I disagree, but we may have to challenge our notions of what alternative culture is.