Welcome to Part 2 of the WCBNRadiovision blog posts! If you missed the other posts, here’s what you missed:

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2:00pm – Piracy is the New Radio!
As far as WCBN DJs were concerned, this was one of the most anticipated panels of the day. Anna Troberg (Leader of the Swedish Pirate Party), Alexa Clay (The Misfit Economy), and Rebecca Gates who came to Radiovision last year if you remember, all talked about internet piracy, and what pirates can teach us about the internet. This panel was packed with so many ideas that I’m not sure I can articulate them all, but I want to get across the impact that this made for me, and why I think this is important for radio.

My favorite note from this panel was this: pirate sites are more like libraries, and pirates are the librarians. Piracy sites are like giant archives of knowledge from users who have created a community around whatever their mode of piracy they choose. Anna Troberg, the leader of the infamous Swedish Pirate Party, gave some interesting perspectives about piracy. She originally worked for a publishing company, and eventually realized that the pirate party just wanted to be understood, and that they weren’t actually after free movies and music. The Pirate Party strives for privacy and equality in everything they do. A major protector of internet rights, they were completely against SOPA and PIPA, and understand these policies very clearly, unlike most politicians. Something interesting about the pirate party is that they actually have chairs in the Swedish parliament now, and are a legitimate political party. Not just a bunch of boys in a basement on computers. They stand for integrity, privacy, freedom of speech, and democracy above all else, and are a more fully fleshed out party than you might originally think.

Alexa Clay, who I mentioned in the last post, had a lot to say about what we can learn about government and democracy from pirates, and how that can improve our economics. While researching her book, The Misfit Economy, she investigated the history of literal pirates, and how they pioneered forms of self-governance, had real profit-sharing models, and created articles of governance that predated constitutional democracies in the west. Pirates could help us reform things like patents and information, especially in regards to thinking about collaborative efforts between companies, such as in the music industry.

A major idea that came up was the idea of doing it together (DIT) that Mark Frauenfelder talked about in the keynote presentation. 100 years ago we were forced to work together to create things, and successfully developed things together as a community. Despite how technology has improved our lives, we need to call back to that time, and work together to create a better-functioning society. In the same vein, Anna talked about how the music industry is stuck in an old model that doesn’t collaborate, and so they don’t know how to solve internet piracy. If they let go of their egos and worked together, they could do amazing things. She used Lady Gaga as a model or social innovation and authenticity. Gaga has found a way to connect with her fan-base in a way that no one has done before. She has created a social network called Little Monsters, and makes you feel like you are the only person that matters on the planet.

The ending thought to this panel was the idea that there are a lot of public resources that are pre-competitive. We can all agree that certain things need to be made, and the open source community on the internet has that right. You can create revenue by customization.

3:00pm – Coffee Break

3:15pm – Tricia Wang
Story time! Tricia Wang told a story about a boy named Han who stood up to Fang Binxing (FBX) by throwing his shoe at his chest. Apparently Han was part of a Twitter community that was against the idea that the internet in China should be restricted (go figure). When he went to a protest in his college town, he ended up throwing his shoe at FBX and ran from the police. You’d think that the police would have killed him, but they didn’t. They “took him out to tea,” but that was about it. The reason? Because the Chinese government didn’t know who was in charge.

Han surveyed, from what I can tell, because of these idea trees:
Shared interests –> Shared identity –> Shared responsibility
Information –> Ideas –> Behaviors

Networks like Anonymous, Wikipedia, and Twitter are unpredictable, and are more powerful than anything with a single leader. These communities band together to create an unbreakable bond, and give the power back to the individuals involved in the communities. Han felt a responsibility to his Twitter community to throw his shoe, and he was applauded. It worked because of a self-healing meshwork. The other people in his group failed to embarrass FBX, so Han logically was handed the responsibility. It was an adaptive trust of the collective.

Ending thought for this was: dancing with handcuffs is better than not dancing at all.

3:30pm – Tube Dreams: The Almost Realized Promise of Internet Radio
This panel with Ken Freedman (WFMU) and Sylvain Gire (ARTE Radio) was one of the most powerful panels of the day, and stuck with the better part of the attendees of Radiovision. Sylvain had an amazing perspective on radio, coming from a very artistic vision of what radio should be. What Sylvain deals with at ARTE Radio is pure beauty and art. It doesn’t go in one ear and out the other. It sticks in your ear like a worm. It is free of any format, and is looking towards the future. Sylvain’s image of radio is exactly the kind of thing that I personally strive for at WCBN, and is something I think a lot of DJs here would agree with. The difference is that ARTE Radio is static, and WCBN and WFMU are living and being created in the moment. Both have their merits, and they are both beautiful. It takes dedication and attention, and doesn’t have an immediate response. It’s another way of listening that’s closer to reading than watching TV. You use your imagination in a way that allows you to build images in your head based on silences and space. Radio is an art that leaves a lot to the listener.

As Sylvain said, “Radio teaches you about humanity.” Nothing truer has ever been spoken in regards to radio. Something I can see in all radio people is that we are looking for a deep connection to humans, and we want to get to the root of what makes us human. Nothing is more beautiful to me. One way that Sylvain said ARTE Radio is finding ways to do that is through animation, similar to what Story Corps has done in the past.

What Ken had to say was very interesting, and not what I expected. He talked a lot about how the internet has changed radio for the better, and that radio is slower. The internet allows us to republish ideas, and enhance them. For example, Ken explained how he uses .gif animations along with his playlist to entertain his listeners and “non-listening listeners” as he likes to call them. Ken also mentioned that he likes radio as a foreground form of entertainment, with visuals as a background. His .gif experiment is a perfect example of that, and I’m excited to see where the radio world takes this idea.

Ending thought of this panel by Sylvain: don’t compromise on content, but always on distribution.

4:30pm – Break

4:45pm – Maria Popova
This was an unexpectedly refreshing presentation from Maria Popova of Brain Pickings. She had a lot of things to say about radio, although she doesn’t do radio herself. She wanted to get across the idea that the more colors we have to play with, the more interesting things are. She used the analogy of Legos specifically. The more colors of Legos there are the better, and it’s always going to be more interesting than different sizes. She also mentioned and dissected that most useful things were not trying to be useful. Radio was one of these things. Although Maria doesn’t do radio, she is most definitely a storyteller, and dear to a radio person’s heart. Storytelling is one of the most human modes of engaging, and it compels you to see through it. Above all, it fuels the human curiosity.

5:00pm – New Voices, New Formats, New Business Models
This was one of the most anticipated panels, and for very good reason. Each panelist has made a name for himself in the business is very different ways, and each had a very unique perspective on making a radio career lucrative. This panel was moderated by the wonderful assistant manager of WFMU, Liz Berg.

Jesse Thorn (Maximum Fun) signed up with PRI (Public Radio International) when he was in his mid-twenties, but unfortunately it just didn’t make enough for him to survive on, so he started podcasting, and eventually put his financial eggs in a completely different basket: a podcasting network. Maximum Fun runs on a public radio model, and provides a full-time living for him. Jesse wasn’t happy with how young people were presented on public radio, and wanted to make a change. He talked specifically about how NPR goes for a very specific audience; they target an audience that can pay them, which is educated and white. Because of this, NPR has no incentive to take risks, or change a show. They would rather play re-runs of a previous show their audience liked.

Glynn Washington (Snap Judgement) basically said that he won a contest, which afterward forced him to create an app, stage show, and a radio show all in the same month. Although that’s obviously absurd, that’s how public media works, and that’s what they had to do. Glynn talked a lot about the vocabulary of storytelling. Ira completely changed that vocabulary, and he does it very well, but that’s not how everyone can or should do radio. Another problem that Glynn talked about with public media is that it doesn’t allow for too much diversity. A common complaint that Glynn got was that he had an “urban accent,” which was not what NPR listeners were used to. A major point that Glynn made was that with both radio shows and podcasts, it needs to be like a warm cup of tea for a listener. They need to be able to identify with it, and feel comfortable coming back week after week for more. They don’t want too much change, and they want something familiar. This is how NPR has survived and hooked people so well, and that’s how good podcasts need to work. It is essential to create a community that cares about your program, and also believe that you have the best show on the planet.

Roman Mars (99% Invisible) is pretty different from the first two panelists in that he doesn’t get funding in a traditional way for his podcast. Every year he has to do a Kickstarter to raise enough funds to create a podcast. The reason that he did a podcast instead of something else is because the internet calls for it. That’s where people will pay for it, especially with a Kickstarter. Roman talked specifically about how he needed a leg-up when he started, and was not self-sufficient. This may sound scary, but it’s an important step for radio and podcasting. For someone to pay you, they need to take a pretty big leap of faith that you’re going to be successful, and that listeners are going to like you. You need to do the best you can to prove that you can do it. He mentioned also that although the system can be a bit evil sometimes, it helps us get by, and without it we might not know what to do, and we would have to work together a lot more to sustain ourselves.

The fortune cookie wisdom of this panel? Fail early and fail often.

Thanks for reading, and I hope that some small nugget of this conference has inspired you to become involved with radio, whether it’s listening, DJing, making a podcast, blogging, whatever. If you have a passion, make something of it. Radio people are some of the most warm, giving, and friendly people I have ever met, and I can’t wait to go back to Radiovision next year.


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I think it would be an understatement to say that I learned a lot from Radiovision this year. The quality of the panelists was beyond extraordinary, and the attendees blew me away as well. Each person at the conference brought something unique to the table, and ultimately created a beautiful vision for the future of radio with the ideas and enthusiasm I saw. There were journalists, podcasters, public radio producers, and DJs at college stations. Some people were in the industry, and some were along for the ride, but the collective pool of information was overwhelming. I think not giving a panel-by-panel account of the event would be criminal, so that’s what I’m going to do. Hold on to your shorts.

Radiovision Schedule
10:00am – Keynote: Mark Frauenfelder
I think it was a very wise choice to have Mark Frauenfelder start off the conference. Mark is the founder of Boing Boing and Make magazine, and has a very DIY attitude about pretty much everything.

He described how technology has changed over time, and especially the mindsets and tools that people have when creating things. For the past few 100 years it either takes a lot of time or money to create something yourself, but now we can get things cheaply, quickly, and most importantly, inexpensively. Anyone can build a computer, or a birdhouse, or a go-cart, or whatever themselves, as long as they have the drive. Another thing that could have stopped past DIYers would be the sheer fact that they didn’t know how to build something. That is no longer a problem, thanks to the internet. There are thousands upon thousands of subcultures dedicated to creating anything you can possibly imagine. Mark gave the example of cigar-box guitars. That hasn’t changed much in the past 100-years, but just in the past 2 years there have been online communities that have revolutionized the way that individuals can make homemade cigar-box guitars.

What does this have to do with radio? A lot. DIY is about self-expression, which is about telling a story about yourself. If there is anything I learned about radio in the past few years, it’s that radio is all about storytelling. If we take a DIY approach to radio, we will make better stories. Also, the obsessiveness to make something, and craft it to perfection, is something that radio professionals all have. The most important thing that I got from this though was that Mark said that DIY is about a necessity that you create. I find radio a necessity, and I think everyone at Radiovision agrees with me. If we can make radio content a necessity, we will be creating something truly beautiful.

After his presentation, DJ Trouble from WFMU came on stage for questions from herself, and from the audience. There were many things discussed, but a few things really stood out to me. One was that true DIYers are no longer afraid of failure, and getting over that is essential to creating really cool things. Maybe you’re afraid of experimenting over the radio, but if you get over that hump, you will be on your way to creating radio art, in whatever medium you choose. Another point is that DIY today is based upon relying on other people in an online community. If the radio community did the same thing, we could learn so much from each other. We could solve problems we couldn’t before.

11:00am – Joe Richman
Joe Richman created Radio Diaries which has aired on NPR multiple times, and he made a very powerful presentation for us that included the first radio diary he did of a woman named Melissa who was a teenage parent. He literally gave her a recorder, and let her keep it for the duration of her pregnancy and afterward as well. The sheer rawness of the recorders were very moving, and brought me to the realization that more often than not, we are looking for deep connections with other humans. Creating a connection with listeners is something that all radio people are looking for, whether it’s with music or stories, and being reminded of that is important.

11:15am – Break
Although this was a short break, and I had a very good conversation with the woman behind me, and a few people in the lobby. It never ceases to amaze me how friendly radio people are.

11:30am – Radio Free Radio
The was a great panel that consisted of Pejk Malinovski (East Village Poetry Walk), Francesca Panetta (Hackney Hear), and Ellen Horne (Radiolab), moderated by Jim Colgan, all talking about the ways to expand radio into different mediums. Pejk’s perspective was very different from the other two in that he is much more about specific content than stories, but his East Village Poetry Walk idea was eerily similar to Hackney Hear. East Village Poetry Walk is a program that allows you to walk around East Village to specific spots, and when you arrive at the location, you can listen to audio that corresponds to it, such as information about poets who lived and wrote there, and their poetry.

Hackney Hear does something similar, but with specific GPS locations that you can have as an app on your iPhone. There is a fluid stream of stories and sounds, which has a completely immersive quality. Unfortunately this is only available in the UK right now, but hopefully soon it will come to the US. Hackney Hear does something that I think all radio people try to strive for, which is to put your sonic creation at the forefront of someone’s thoughts, and dip them into the world that you craft with your sound. It’s pure art, but with an essential human element to it. The most profound thing that Francesca said, in my opinion, was about how Hackney Hear lets her think outside the broadcasting box. National broadcasters don’t want to take risks, because it might affect their pocketbooks. That doesn’t inspire creativity, and the best content is the stuff that you take a risk on. Being innovative means taking risks.

Ellen Horne had a much different perspective being a Radiolab producer, and specifically producing the live Radiolab shows, such as “In The Dark” and “Symmetry.” These shows required a strong visual quality to them, something that podcasts and radio shows simply don’t have. It added a performance element to the show, and more importantly created a strong connection to the audience that they didn’t have before, or at least not in such a visceral way. This physical sense of radio is something that I’ve thought about a lot before in the context of WCBN, because something we strive for is to provide our listeners with a sense of a physical place, and the understanding that we are real people. It’s very admirable that Radiolab puts so much effort into this same idea, and I hope I can steal that.

12:30pm – Tim Pool
Although this was only a 15-minute presentation, Tim Pool has a lot of interesting perspectives to give us. Tim was a rogue journalist that made a lot of news during Occupy Wall Street last year, and continues to use his rogue journalism techniques. He wanted to get across to us that all of us can have an impact, and that we can take power back. With phones and Twitter and Facebook and YouTube, we can make a difference simply uploading things and tagging them properly.

12:45pm – Boxed Lunches with a Brief Presentation from Kenyatta Cheese
Lunch was a lot of fun, mostly because I got to chat with so many cool people. I unknowingly chatted with one of the presenters for the piracy panel, Alexa Clay, and we had an amazing conversation about The Sex and Tell Show, and about her book that she’s researching for, The Misfit Economy. I also got to talk to a girl from Ithaca College who is going to get her college station’s first freeform radio show next semester! There is hope in the world for freeform! VIVA LA FREEFORM!

Kenyatta Cheese, if you remember from last year, is one of the creators of KnowYourMeme, and was at Radiovision last year. Instead of talking about the language of memes, Kenyatta shared with us a new project he’s taking on where he legally hands over his person-hood to a corporation for 100 days. They will think for him, make his decisions, and he will have no individual rights. Kenyatta will be unplugged for 100 days, and will have to survive without a credit card, or personal identification. He will have to pay his rent in cash, and cannot attend anything himself. The corporation will send representatives to be Kenyatta, and try to be a better Kenyatta.

I don’t know about you, but my mind was blown over this concept, let alone the fact that Kenyatta is actually going to put it into practice. This sounds like a Charlie Kaufman movie to me. But anyway, I think all of this has an actual purpose as far as radio goes though: thinking like your audience, and being a better corporation. Something I’m sure Kenyatta will take away from this is how corporations think about individuals, and how they think individuals can act. Usually corporations end up being really annoying and spamming us with lots of things and taking our money in weird ways. If they acted like a person, as this weird thing in the 14th amendment Kenyatta mentions says they are, we would probably live in a different world.

Well, that ends Part 1 of Day 3, but I’ll be back with another post soon, so keep your pants on…seriously guys, keep your pants on. HEY, stop that. What will the children think?

October 20, 2012

Radiovision 2012 Day 2 – Radio Unnameable

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[left to right] Paul Lovelace, Jessica Wolfson, Bob Fass, Ken Freedman

I think that Radiolab episode about the pace of cities, and the actual footsteps of the people, was correct; NYC moves at least three-times faster than Ann Arbor, and is probably that much more productive to show for it. I think where we live really affects the way we perceive things as well. Let me explain. In a normal day in Ann Arbor, I am able to pass multiple coffee shops that are not Starbucks. In the heart of Manhattan though, not t

rue at all. Even finding a place for some cheap food is difficult (not counting street meat).

As one who thinks about sound probably more than she should, I think it probably affects the people in the radio profession as well. There’s a different atmosphere that the radio is a part of. A different sonic process, part of which there is just so much more sound. That’s a good and bad thing, simply because I like a little

quiet, but as far as radio goes, it makes sense that some of the best radio in the world happens in this city. Aural splicing seems like a daily living situation for the people of NYC, but that could just be my naïve observation.

That said, let me tell you about our day, shall I? First we went to Rockefeller Plaza where we went to the NBC

Store (for a friend of mine who’s obsessed with Friends), and to NINTENDO WORLD. I will not write NINTENDO WORLD in anything except caps and I’m not going to apologize. It was absolutely wonderful. There was a Pokemon Center, and a little museum of Nintendo systems and handhelds, as well as some figurines and boxes from past games. I ended up buying a plush doll and a keychain, but it took a lot of restrain to not buy ALL of the things.
Afterward we got some lunch and split off. Half of us to Strand Bookstore and the other half to the Museum of Sex! I like to think I was doing research for The Sex and Tell Show, but whatever. It was super fun, and I learned a lot, and I can’t wait to talk about it on another show. Let’s just say that everyone has a lot of fetishes, and animal sex is fascinating.

At 7pm was the first official Radiovision event, which was a showing of a documentary called “Radio Unnameable,” revolving around Bob Fass, who is essentially the father of freeform radio as we know it. WCBN? It probably wouldn’t exist without him. I have so many feelings about the movie, but most of it boils down to the fact that freeform radio is beautiful, and is such an essential form of media for every person, whether they know it yet or not. Bob Fass was able to communicate with so many people, and garner a gigantic fan base, all of which connected with each other and helped each other out in the time of Vietnam. I think we need to take that urgency and dedication that he had (and still has), and apply it to WCBN.


Anyway, it was a great first day, and I can’t wait to see what tomorrow will be like.

October 18, 2012

Radiovision 2012 Day 1 – Roadtrip!

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As road trips go, sometimes interesting things don’t happen. I don’t know if going to the Dutch Pantry in the middle of nowhere Pennsylvania is exciting, but I do like that I got to eat sweet and sour chicken with mashed potatoes for $4. I also like that I got to start the day off with Roos Roast coffee because Michael fortuitously lives down the road.

One of the more interesting things about the trip was the music selection. I don’t have an iPod converter for my car yet, so I told everyone to bring CDs. For me, that mostly means things from when I was in high school, and a few mix CDs that I brought specifically for the trip. Here’s a sample of the music we listened to:

  1. Pink Floyd
  2. Beastie Boys
  3. Katamari Damacy Soundtrack
  4. Awesome bebop jazz
  5. Lots of mix CDs
  6. etc. etc. etc.

We ended the day eating at a pizza joint that also had a lot of Mexican food and beer. That’s kind of the long and short of it. I also had the pleasure/discomfort of driving in Manhattan traffic around 8pm.

See you tomorrow!

October 17, 2012

Countdown to Radiovision 2012

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Tomorrow starts our second journey to New York City for the 1-year-old Radiovision Festival hosted by WFMU. Last year, if you remember, a small group of WCBN DJs trekked out to Brooklyn for the first ever festival, and we’re doing it again this year. Also, yours truly (Heidi Madagame) will be the official liveblogger of the event, so I encourage you to follow my Twitter handle @futfreestailo for up-to-the-minute updates. At the end of each day I’ll review what happened during the day as well, with some of my thoughts.

Besides driving 12 hours to New York, nothing much is happening, but I’ll still take some pictures for you. Stay tuned!

June 18, 2012

NXNE – La fin du festival – 6/16/12

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It’s the final day, guys. It’s been an amazing week, and this last day is no exception, although it took a winding route to get there.

I started off this day the slowest possible, and honestly didn’t get out of the apartment until around 5pm. The night before I didn’t come back until around 4am, so I woke up late, ate some breakfast, and dedicated the morning to writing blog posts and catching up on social media, which was a much needed break from going to shows. I meant to go to Art vs. Science in the Yonge-Dundas Square, but ended up zonking out while on my computer, and missed the show. By the time I got out of the house, I told myself I was going to go get some coffee, blog a bit, and then go to the Oberhofer show at 6pm in the square. Instead, I walked around for 30 minutes trying to find a coffee shop that wasn’t in a food court, and ended up going to Cold Stone Creamery and getting ice cream instead to finish my blogging.

Oberhofer was fantastic, and the atmosphere of the square was through the roof. There were beer tents, free Ben & Jerry’s ice cream samples, contests, and tons of food. The crowd wasn’t overwhelming at this point, and I actually got to see most of the show with my own eyes, which is pretty surprising because I’m simply a very short woman.

After Oberhofer ended I ran home to eat some dinner, drop my laptop, and came back to see Of Montreal, which performed at 8pm. This was a much bigger crowd, and it quickly because twice as big as the last event, and there were tons of kids that were shorter than me which was awesome because it meant I could still see. After a bit though, while the band was setting up, much taller men decided to stand in front of me, so I had to maneuver around. As the concert started I was able to catch the screen, and glimpses of the stage, but decided about halfway through the concert that it was simply overwhelming, and a bit claustrophobic, so I moved to the back. Oddly though, I saw my friend Amanda, who I had seen at a few other events including July Talk and Army Girls. We chatted for a bit, and I headed back for some air, which was no small feat I tell you what.

Throughout this whole endeavor, this is a long string of things that were happening on stage: moving rainbow graphics behind the band, men in pig masks and nude colored spandex fighting a strange man in a beard, alien bat women with giant breasts flying around stage, super heroes and a burlesque dancer crowd-surfing across the square, etc. etc. etc.

After Of Montreal, I made the taboo decision to not see Flaming Lips, and instead went back to the apartment, changed into something dapper, and took the subway to Lee’s Palace to see July Talk. Does that name sound familiar? It should, because I saw them on Wednesday at The Horseshoe Tavern, where I met Amanda actually. I can safely say that this was one of the best decisions I have made, because they had another amazing show, and brought more of the amazing chemistry and theatricality that they had on Wednesday. Peter and Leah, the front-people, were so happy to be there, and the happiness was totally infectious. Lots of people were dancing (maybe me mostly but who cares), they were having fun, and I felt completely renewed from the claustrophobia I felt at the Of Montreal concert.

After the concert, I saw that the front-man, Peter, was near the bar area, so I decided to say hello and chat a bit, and to my delight he was super friendly, really down to earth, and really excited to be performing. I also got to meet the front-woman, Leah, and chat with her a bit. I have to admit, I was a bit nervous, but when I approached her, she recognized me from the audience, gave me a hug, and thanked me for coming. Turns out she had read my post from Wednesday, which was a nice surprise!

I later danced a bit more, and decided to head home, but not before I had two more delightful encounters. One was when I was walking down College St. and saw a man wearing a WCBN shirt (the gray one with the yellow skull), so I yelled to him and it turns out he’s from Ann Arbor and we had given him a VIP pass through a giveaway! And then later when walking down Spadina, I was stopped by a young man on a bike, and he asked me about where some good shows were that night, and immediately a group of probably 4 other people gathered around and we started to chat about NXNE, the shows that night, July Talk, and whatever else we could think of.

I was totally astounded by the outgoingness of pretty much everyone I encountered, and I hope that I can continue to have amazing conversations and experiences like this right in Ann Arbor, where we have a huge hub of information, music, art, and all kinds of people.

June 17, 2012

NXNE – Pt. 4 – 6/16/12

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This day was the final day of NXNEi events, and I have lots of feelings about it, mostly sad feelings, but also super amazing, floating feelings, like I can go off into the world and do good. Maybe I sound off my rocker, but that’s how great it’s been.

1. Project Butterfly: Escaping the Net

And the best event that I went to at NXNEi was the first of this morning, called Project Butterfly, where two representatives from The Palmerston Group talked about how in our increasingly technological world, we are basing a lot of our social interactions online, but what we might think of as a “social person” online, doesn’t translate into reality. For example, a company might have a Twitter account, post lots of tweets, etc. but that doesn’t mean that they’re actually interacting with any of their audience. They are simply are hyper-connector. Or if you look at a friend online who might post a lot of things on Facebook, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are a social person, just that they try very hard to make it seem that way. What the presenters primarily discussed was what a truly social person was like: empathetic, outgoing, emotionally intelligent, confident, self aware, a good listener, compassionate, etc. It’s not about being the center of attention, but about making a real, honest connection with someone. It’s about emotion over promotion. You do that with these factors:

  1. Be interesting and interested
  2. Be accessible
  3. Actively caring
  4. Be a resource
  5. Spark Energy
  6. Understand Your Audience

2. This Dude Abides: A conversation with Rob Heydon on Ecstasy-inducing Independent Films

After the Project Butterfly panel, I grabbed a cupcake from one of the tables outside, and made my way to Rob Heydon’s Q&A about how he directed Ecstasy, and what problems he came across. I actually figured this wasn’t going to be a very useful panel for me, but there weren’t many other panels I wanted to go to at this time, so I figured I’d learn a bit more about the film that I enjoyed yesterday. Turns out I was pleasantly surprised, because Rob Heydon had a lot to say about the nature of art, and being a true artist. Something you might not guess just by watching Ecstasy is that it was made on a very low budget for such a hyped film, and it took 12 years for Rob to actually make it, due to paperwork problems, people changing their minds, illness, etc. In fact, because they ran out of money at the end of the movie, Rob took on a lot of duties himself that he normally would have had someone else do, like post-production of the music. He also had to resort to guerilla camera techniques, and flat-out breaking the rules.

Rob had a lot of advice for filmmakers, that which is easily translatable to any art form. Here are some of the key points:

Among other things, he also talked about how critically important the emotional support from his family has been, and how if you really want to do something, you need to be around people who will support you. If you can’t, of course, that has to come from inside yourself, but there’s no reason you should surround yourself with people who don’t believe in you. There was also a question from an audience member which I think is so important for any artist to ask themselves periodically: If you had all the money you needed, what would your dream project be? Ask yourself that, and then go do it anyway. If I took away anything from Rob’s Q&A, it’s that money is not to key to good art. Creativity is the key, and money can sometimes limit us from being truly creative.

3. Social Media in the Classroom

After my mind was blown by Rob Heydon, I stood in the center of the lobby for the 15 minutes between panels trying to figure out what to go to, since the panel I actually planned on was cancelled. At literally the moments when the doors were closing, I sidled my way into this, without any expectation, and without any real way to apply the subject matter. Despite all of that, I was really blown away by the educators on the panel, and the kind of innovation that they’re applying to their classrooms.

They explained the ways that they are implementing social media within their classrooms, and how they are seeing monumental changes in the growth of their kids. One teacher had all of his students write in a blog that would show up on each others’ RSS feeds. He said that the freedom created by that, and the lack of pressure of the situation, caused the kids to write amazing pieces of work, that inspired other students to write more things, and so on. It helped them inspire each other, which is so much more powerful than a teacher telling you to be inspired.

They all made sure to emphasize that just because you might not understand social media, doesn’t mean that it’s evil, and it doesn’t mean that it won’t help your students. One of the major flaws in the education system, in my opinion, is the massive amounts of limitation that they put on students, which completely limits the creativity that they can obtain. A principal on the board recognized this, and has created a free hour in his school where the kids can experiment in creating whatever they want, however they want. He has photo and video cameras at their disposal. They can play with instruments and create punk bands. Whatever. Regardless of the details of these teaching experiments, I think that all educators, parents, humans can learn from this rational way of thinking about education: let kids play while they learn, and they can do awesome things. Also, if you want to hear more about this, check out this podcast that a couple of the panelists created.

4. Bringing Digital Stories to Life: Transmedia Meets Theatre in ZED.TO

This last presentation was something I’ve been wanting to go to for awhile since I checked out the website a few months ago. The idea of ZED.TO is that there is a fake company called Byo Logyc that is developing this whole new line of not just pharmaceuticals, but also dating practices and health management. They market themselves as apocalypse prevention, but the whole idea of the project is that it will lead to an apocalypse. This might all sound like a strange zombie movie, but the most amazing thing is that this story brings together not only the creators, but the audience as well. The company has a Twitter account that the audience can interact with personally, and there are live events that anyone can go to and become part of the role-play as well. In fact, the entire presentation was a role-play, which sent my inner/outer geek sailing through the roof. It’s the ultimate transmedia experiment, and I can’t wait to see where it goes from here.

After NXNEi ended, I went back to the hotel for a bit, ate some dinner, and then headed out to El Mocambo to see These Electric Lives, but accidentally went to the main floor instead of the upstairs, so it turns out I saw Christien Summers instead, but they were on my tentative list for Saturday so I guess that’s cool too. Christien Summers looked like they were having a great time, had a fun aural and visual aesthetic, but the crowd was just a little too sober, and a little too small at the time. After I realized my mistake about which floor I was on, I headed upstairs to see Secret Broadcast, who also had a bit too sober of a crowd. I think my favorite part about them was the interesting chord progressions they took, but that’s a music dork for you. KOVAK was after them, who was one of the only UK bands I think. The lead singer sounded great, and had a great hold on the audience, and she and the guitarist especially were the highlights of the band, not to say that the drummer who broke his bass pedal wasn’t pretty baller as well. Unfortunately, still too sober of a crowd. It felt almost no emotion from the crowd, and there was pretty much no one dancing. The singer even asked everyone to come up and dance, but they just created a big U around the stage.

That was the moment when I got fed up with the apathy, and headed over to the Free Times Cafe to rest my ears and feet. Before the festival began, I would have told you that I probably wasn’t going to stop at the Free Times Cafe at all, since I normally don’t listen to singer-songwriter types, but throughout the festival, this is probably the venue I’ve been to the most. The people are nice, the waitstaff are great, and all of the artists have been really stellar in one way or another. That said, the first artist I saw was Sigrun Stella, who lives in Toronto, but is originally from Iceland, where apparently she gets radio play. There were a few mishaps with the performance–forgetting her capo, forgetting the words, etc.–but nothing dire, and nothing that Sigrun didn’t simply laugh off and make a joke of, which was really refreshing. The crowd was huge, and everyone seemed to be having a really great time. Before Sigrun performed, I got to talk to Mo Kenney, the next performer, who happened to sit across from me. She hails from Halifax, and had flown in that day to perform, and also bring some records to Sonic Boom from her record label. Mo was super down to earth, and really chill, which I think is also the reason that her performance really blew me away. Like I said, I don’t usually listen to folk or singer-songwriter stuff, but she really had something special and intimate about her songs and her performance that brought me back to something in my childhood, although I don’t know what yet. Afterward she had some stickers to give out, and also some 45″s, which I bought one of, so you’ll be hearing that soon.

After Mo Kenney’s set, I walked over to The Hideout to hear Bella Clava again, and this one has a bit of a story. So after I posted on the blog about the first Bella Clava performance that I saw, I received an e-mail the next day from the female singer/keyboardist, Caitlin. She saw the post, and was interested in getting a bit more feedback about the performance, and how it could have been better performance wise, since I had mentioned that the music was really stellar already. Via e-mail we had a great conversation about some performance practices and about the psychology of performing, which was really refreshing to be able to talk about. I also think it’s interesting how well it applied outside of a classical context, which is where my bread and butter is. After e-mailing a bit, we agreed to meet for a drink after her performance at The Hideout, and we got to talk more about their band, how they were formed, how they all think about being performers and that kind of stuff. And also, if I may say so, this performance was even better than the first, and the crowd was totally into it as well.

After such an intellectually and musically stimulating day, I’m growing more and more fond of NXNE, which says a lot because I was already pretty enthralled with the festival at this point. The opportunity to talk with artists and innovators in so many different fields, and across all different kinds of experiences and backgrounds is astounding, and something I hope will continue for a long time in Toronto, and will spark more festivals like this in the states even.

Stay tuned for my account of the last day of NXNE!