Ideas and discussion from BxB2010 Summit

Why Media?

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At bxb2010 we were asked why we were in local. With some reflection I can say that the local part was always in me. I have a strong sense of home and a sense of a larger family – a family of the people who live around me. I worked for a local politician for a time. When I was a child I started a library in the back of my third grade classroom. I just like to share with the people around me.

I have this affinity for institutions, too. In college I latched onto theories that supported the importance of institutions in affecting economies, social movements and political outcomes. It is a bias of mine. I’m not sure why that is.

But the more I thought about it, the strange part of it was not the local obsession, it was that I decided to do media. Media is such a soft institution. It is malleable and changing rapidly due to the proliferation of open systems, new devices and new masters. The nature of media is more than ever communication and not broadcast.

Why is it that I like that? I was standing in a really long security line at the airport. Ten minutes in, I was starting to worry about making my flight. I instinctively grabbed my iPhone, but instead of playing Angry Birds I went to Twitter. I was connecting on some level to the people I’d just left. I was connecting to my friends and colleagues at home. I was broadening too – pulling myself out like a canvas over a frame. The media was intimate, and it was washing over me. And when I looked up10 minutes later (not much farther in the line), I realized I had forgotten I was in a line at all. I had even forgotten I was human. I had connected to the borg. It was hypnotizing and should have been scarier than it was.

My identity is local, and my affinity is to express it through sand-boxing an institution, but I chose media for the intimacy and beauty.

That iPhone I pulled out of my pocket felt so beautiful in my hands. the screen looked painted on. The painters were geniuses as well. That Twitter app just pulled me in past the screen to the social connections. The network effect was all that was left. Once deeply affected by the beauty – and it takes all of 10 seconds to give in to this beauty – I can let people stretch me and alter me. I have gone deeper. I have quickly entered a dream state not dissimilar to the feeling I would get davening every morning at my Jewish elementary school. Swaying back and forth. The text and cadence designed to induce the quiet and beauty of a dream.

The rhythm of life running an online publication is all clanging and buzzing. In editorial it is all energy surging behind the scenes. The tech department feels like a fraternity, a secret society of high ideals and rituals. Never-ending cycles. Iterations bring us round like a whirling dervish. The business development energy is more like visiting the base camp of a grand mountain-climbing expedition. The enthusiasm and fear. The maps are out, and the planning is done under a dim flashlight in a small tent as a storm passes over us. Sometimes It feels like we are all on top of the mountain admiring ourselves for what we have done given the difficult topography.

These are the feelings of the media. The experience of making it and molding it. They are not the dreams or the reflections. Those are the states of using new media. Those are the feelings of the product. I am a foodie in the media, and I am an executive chef. I can’t really imagine my life without it. That is why I do media.

Ben Ilfeld is a co-founder of The Sacramento Press

Written by bilfeld

September 27, 2010 at 7:12 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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