When I first saw the description of the latest MacArthur-sponsored event on SLNN, I sure didn't like the sound of it, but I didn't think it would be as bad as it was. I put a comment on SLNN; it was eaten by the server, not censored, I'm told. In the SLNN account, which was merely based on the same press release/inworld notecard/email that we all got, it talked about "credibility of reporting in virtual worlds". Naturally, I and others wondered what the credibility of the panel itself was, when not a single one of them even spends any time in virtual worlds, let alone has any sort of recognizable byline. Rik Riel blogged it as well, and I decided to refrain from comment.
And predictably, Network Culture Expert Jonathan Zittrain simpered to me, after I asked the question about the panel's own credibility, and what that said about the possibility of needing to embed and immerse, well, gosh, now the discussion has gone "meta" questioning the panel itself, wasn't this oh, just fabulous? Indeed. About how new media so quickly always reflects back on itself, I could add. A bit later, I was somewhat hectored from the podium for asking about credibility in virtual worlds, when the panel was "supposed" to be about all kinds of new media. So, shoot me, I just read the MacArthur's own literature spammed to me in about 3 different media:
"Tony Curzon Price of opendemocracy.net previews an upcoming conversation in Second Life this Friday on “Credibility and Reputation in the New News.” The discussion will explore questions about the credibility and accuracy of news and information in virtual worlds. Tony will be talking with Jonathan Zittrain, Professor and Internet Scholar at Oxford University. Kathy Im, of MacArthur’s General Program will moderate." (Emphasis added).
Good thing for me I had my Conference Bingo card at the ready, and I put a double-bonus-pointer at c3, for "meta discussion".
What this event actually proved to be, in reality of virtuality, as it happened, without intending to be so, was a textbook case study of insolent Internet culture, and just bad tech -- bad tech that comes from bad management of people, basically -- and a rigid orthodoxy and unwillingness to be flexible -- like immediately moving to text typed-chat if there is any recurring problem with Voice. Anybody spending more than 2 minutes on getting everybody heard in a meeting scheduled for an hour HAS to be willing to dump Voice and go to chat.
For me, this was another one in a series of disappointing MacArthur events. Disappointing, perhaps because I have very real-life high expectations of something this nature. I marveled, for example, on the meeting on avatar rights that not a single campaigner for avatar rights, or writer about avatar rights, let alone victim of avatar rights suppression, was visible on the platform -- there was something deeply wrong about that, as there would be if you flew to, oh, Tanzania, and gave a panel with only an Africanist from North America and a couple of international human rights NGO bureaucrats and a member of the Tanzanian government. The local NGOs would go wild -- and they'd be *right* to go wild.
Credibility on reporting in VWs? And new media? Paging Peter Ludlow or Mark Wallace, who have books about this subject and many miles of credentials inworld and out. Or paging even Hamlet nee Linden who has a book out. As an afterthought, Daniel Terdiman was tacked on at the last minute, not advertised, but then he said he couldn't come for 'technical reasons'. Given that he was standing there AFK inworld as GreeterDan, he must not have a $14.99 working headset from Radio Shack or can't figure out how to get the Voice dials to work -- something up with the vaunted tech reporter who purports to give advice to others on their entrepreneurship in SL.
I wish I could give a full report on what the panel did say, but of course, they zeroed in and out so bad, and I crashed so many times or had everything freeze, that I missed some, though it was better than other revents simply because it was not a full audience. Re-vents, because they aren't events you can experience live. They are choreographed in advance, and you are meant to watch them on the rewind only to actually hear them. They are about the venting that takes place in the backchat -- mainly.