Week 9: Grace R Morrissey – Relationship status: It’s complicated

As much as we are seduced by the idea of an equal marriage between professionals of all stripes working the new media and fans/participants/users in the online space, the reality of the relationship might be more complicated.

Interdisciplinarity means a broader base of creative perspectives for a project but this broader base can also just mean getting more experts on board and making the creative backroom an even more exotic place for the general cohort of users.

All three of the featured projects this week employed a level of interdisciplinary, technical wizardry that is definitely out of my league, speaking as a communications professional with a reasonably good level of technical competence with media technologies.

The dirty truth is that perhaps, we’ll always need these technical shamans — professional game designers, filmmakers and programmers — to be a “dominant” in the relationship in order for us to elevate our message above the clutter.  Maybe technological meritocracy in participatory media is just something we’ll have to learn to live with.

We can perhaps imagine transforming the Monopoly board game into an online game that raises social consciousness about issues of personal data and online privacy — like they did with the award-winning “Data Dealer” online game in gamesforchange.org — but we certainly need a game design whiz to execute the idea well and without glitches.

Media Storm seems to operate from a completely different perspective as Scribe Video Center, the community-based video outfit we explored during the first week.  They offer cinema-quality video narratives to clients and their professional crew can work on the whole process, without having to go as much into the intricacies of community diplomacy like the Scribe video folks.

The Still Water project can actually be a launching pad for all sorts of projects that subvert and fill the cracks in the Internet commercial hegemony.  One of their projects, ThoughtMesh, is designed to go around the tyranny of Google searches. It even dabbles in the alternative real estate industry.  But you need a decent grasp of programming lore to even begin participating as a creator in this project.

The good news is that, maybe, there are really certain optimal ways for users to be participatory.  Users don’t need to be at the helm of creation all the time for meaningful participation to happen. The most obvious example is the “games for change” concept. The game designers need us, the gamers, for their games to actually lead to real change. We vote with our game chips.

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