Friday, October 29, 2010

After The Burn - What lessons learned?

So, Burn2 is over.

House of Cards had a wonderful group of visitors; over 700 uniques for the official Burn and still counting. As far as I could see, being at the Playa every day for 4+ hrs at a time, the Burn was quite well attended. Not too bad, when you consider the dearth of publicity for this event and the sometimes-incredible glue-lag engendered by second-class servers.

Here's the impressions I took away from this Burn:

1. The builds were consistently better and more interesting than the SLBirthday event, and much more consistent than the last Burning Life event. Perhaps this was due to most people having to pay for a plot, which I thought analagous to paying for studio space. I also saw people work a lot longer and harder on their builds.

2. Because of the smaller size of the event, people could actually take their time and investigate builds, rather than rush from place to place taking snapshots in order to "see it all." Rather than the "hey I got a build, let's have a party!" crowds who tend to hang out with their friends at one or two builds, I saw most people taking the time to tour most of the builds.

3. That a small, 32x32m plot with 351 prims could be turned into a huge area with a lot of interesting stuff by use of space, lighting, sound and texture and a build could be fascinating and interesting to many people without elaborate scripting or other tricks.

4. The lack of any kind of support from Linden Labs was to be expected, even though this event should have been on the Showcase pages. It was a nasty bit of sour grapes that LL, having been spurned by the Burn organization over issues of nannyism and the like, chose to turn a cold shoulder to this event and bury it. Their loss. However, giving us crappy, old servers for this event after making us pay for them instead of donating them smacks of Halliburtonesque rip-off and does nothing but harm to the happy-smoke and bullfud LL is streaming out lately.

5. I was sorely disappointed to see so little blog coverage for this event. True, the Burn org was somewhat to blame for this in not understanding the need to provide advance entrance and information to the press. Press and machinima makers need lead-time, and having a Press Day with somewhat confusing and involved procedures for getting a Pass only 3 days before the opening was kind of retarded.

I did expect to see at least the "Invited Artists" blogged a lot, along with such heavy hitters as Ub Yifu, soror Nishi, Bryn Oh, Wizard Gynoid and the rest. Last time I Googled (and then Binged, comparing search engine hits), there were perhaps 4 blogs doing any coverage past one or two builds. Shameful. In my quest to support newer and 'smaller' artists, I spent 3 10-hr days blogging and mapping most of the builds at the Burn because I felt that it was important that someone did it.

I do understand that because of the abrupt change in leadership and direction, things were a bit hazy and fuzzy for this event. The Burn org did have "tour lists" I was informed... three days later, after I'd spent my time mapping the Playa. I guess that's nice; would have been nicer if I knew about them in advance.


It's bothered me a lot lately that the very people who profess to love SL for its artistic community and are a part of that community are so... indifferent, it seems, to the need to do some basic PR. I don't know if it's the "we are artists, PR is beneath us" attitude that is prevalent not only in the virtual worlds but in RL, but it is the equivalent of painting in your bedroom and then whining when "no one values my art." If they don't know it's out there, they won't see it or think about it.


Here's the lesson of 'web 2.0', which is really a lesson we learned 30 years ago in punk, when we were blocked from distribution or publicity from the Major Dinosaurs, couldn't book big clubs because no one would book punk bands and crisscrossed the country and continents with cartrunksfull of 3.98USD singles (at a time when 45rpm singles sold for 0.99), mailings and hand-done posters and 'zines:

DIY - Do It Yourself

It's clear that LL does not have our interests at heart. It's clear that, given our own lack of speech and efforts to publicize and speak about our work in virtual worlds, stories about the lowest and most titillating facets of this new universe will be the most-repeated stories, coloring our efforts at legitimacy and respectability. If you leave it to them, all you're going to get are Prok-like stories ranting about the money-business of SL and stories about "omg furreh nun sex with kidz" and the like.

If you continue to rant at LL for 'yer doin' it wrong' or for focusing on a purely-Kmart-level of business concern, you're attached to the platform and platforms don't last. Unless you want to be a Word .doc or something (and even that format has been changed so many times, old versions of Word can't open new Word files and new versions can't open old files) you're going to be left behind.

Likewise, the political infighting between "what grid is da best grid?" is just so much more high-school factionalism and serves only to dilute the efforts and strengths of a community. Wake up and smell the future. There were some small politics between, say, the Punks, the New Romantics, the Jazzpunks, the Artpunks and the rest, but at heart we all pulled together because we had an identity as a community of musicians and artists, and we supported each other's efforts as a unified front. We did it good enough to get the Majors to beg for a signing by Talking Heads, B-52s, Gang of Four, Ramones, Duran Duran and the rest. Everyone had their own leitmotif and area of exploration, but we all knew we were part of something worthwhile.

You're part of a network. The network is not the machinery or the platform. The network is people. We make our own network; we don't depend on LL or any outside force.

Don't wait on LL, or Time-Warner, or a label or a magazine to do your job for you; to 'discover' you; to court you for your amazingly creative efforts, to bring some interest to your work, to legitimize you. Do it yourself.


sororNishi said...

Very true, yes. I am certainly guilty of being a bit slack on my own PR. ... worth a read too in this connection.

Lee Sharp said...

Well, I was always of two minds about Burning Life. Creativity was there, yes, but it was always in service to the corporate myth-making of LL. Always the reminders of the great prophet Philip and his sojourn in the desert, communing with the Creative Spirits. So what does he bring back? A vision in which we copy a real life event, one which has itself become an Institution. So, a simulacrum of a spectacle. This, in a world in which people can fly? LOL, can I haz vizion?

So, yes, forget the platform and Do It Yourself. Of course, virtual art requires some sort of platform, but by all means don't confuse THAT with corporate structure.

P.S. Isn't a "playa" a second cousin to a sink hole?

Iggy O said...

It's a shame that LL was so damned catty about the event. Renting you space on "crappy, old servers" is more than poor customer service: it's childish.

I only wish I'd had time to cover more of the artists' work. I get negative incentives to do anything with VWs in my annual evals, unless it's writing scholarly articles or actually using them in a class: time is a tyrant.

In any case, the Burn went well and I'll be eager to more of your work next year...somewhere. I've my doubts that there will be too many more Burns in SL at all, or much else for that matter, unless the company goes back to what made the venue so special.