YPulse Mashup: Opening Hellos from SF, and a Doe-Eyed Dip into Convergence Culture
Anastasia Goodstein is conducting the welcome for the YPulse Mashup as I sit here. She's got this tone that reminds me a lot of the teens in the Bay Area I grew up with.
I should start by explaining the reason the Mashup exists. The idea behind this conference is to mash up all shades of people that share a common interest - a sincere love of teen-kind, according to Madame Goodstein.
These include marketers, youth pastors and other unlikely cocktail ingredients. Already I've met widget builders, a number of journalists (both digital and traditional), video game pushers, consultants, manga-lovers (that was a fun conversation), and even a woman whose company is a major lifestyle and team-building brand for cheerleaders.
Another interesting thing about the conference is that presenters aren't allowed to bring their own PowerPoint presentations, meaning we're saved from the polite shuffle to often seen at so many other conferences - rhetorical jibjab that thinly veils a boring, generally unhelpful product pitch.
The keynote on Convergence Culture has begun, kicking off with Danah Boyd of the Annenberg Center for Communications, and Harry Jenkins of MIT.
I swear I'm back in an American studies class. Both seem to have a lot to say about Harry Potter, a veritable force of nature that defied the idea that the killer blockbuster series is dead, and brought young and old together in shared storytelling love all over the world.
This conversation drifts into fan culture, and how a demand for Harry Potter - or any information, really - sees more sophisticated manifestation in the digital age. When Harry Potter VI was held back in China, users actually took an online wiki and translated it over a period of 48 hours in order to get their fix.
Danah Boyd made waves in the blogosphere some time ago by pointing out fairly clear economic and class differences between users on MySpace and users on Facebook. When MySpace launched, it did so on the backs of friend-stuffed users like Tila Tequila, who boasts a huge fan demo of multi-ethnic racer boys and import model wannabes, among others.
Facebook, however, experienced a more terraced awakening. Once exclusive territory for Ivys, it expanded slowly across self-important "good schools" before broadening itself - to preppy co-eds' chagrin - to universities at large. It's since opened to high schools and metros. Now anyone can join.
But the look and feel of MySpace and Facebook betray their roots and, to a degree the viewing experience of their respective users - an experience that reflects major class, education and economic differences.
Interesting stuff. But enough about that. Underlying this discussion is a question we're all trying to wrangle: what is the difference between teens today and teens from previous generations?
I've got my own theories - more on that later. In the meantime, it looks like the point of this convergence culture discussion is that as information grows more fluid and users become more sophisticated, age matters less and specialization is dying.
There's no consistency in what the savvy digital user knows. And that's due in great part to the way we've been able to transfer information on social networks, wikis and even torrents. This also means that certain subcultures, largely left voiceless, suddenly have a powerful platform for airing their views. (Remember the Facebook Newsfeed fiasco?)
So the point is, don't fight these forces. We couldn't anyway.