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I Hate Social Media.

Thursday, March 15th, 2012
 

I have just returned from my first trip to Austin and SXSW Interactive.  I work at a media production company on the digital content side.  I worked at a major television network for 8 years.  I love content.  I love art.  I love entertainment.  I hate social media.

I went to South by Southwest for fun… tagging along with people from one of the most forward thinking production companies in the entertainment industry.  I thought I was going for the parties, the alcohol and the meat (yes, there was a lot of meat!), but instead I have learned something so much more important.  In a world that has become so fragmented, disconnected and technological, are we all substituting social media for art and innovation?

I am working to produce the album and help manage the career of an amazing musician.  He is an artist.  He likes to hole up in his house and watch Jack Bauer and write songs until 6 o’clock in the morning.  Do you know what he has been doing lately?  He’s been learning how to use Twitter.  Is he working to write, create or make music that is the beauty in the world and what gives humanity to our race?  His songs hit my soul every time I listen to them – even after the hundredth time.  However, until he figures out how to captivate an audience in 140 characters or less, no one else will ever know or listen.  And, yes, of course SXSW is in fact, also a music festival, but with acts like Bruce Springsteen and Jay-Z headlining this year, is it really going to be possible for the struggling lesser-known musicians to break through without first having an online social media presence? Can they even get booked or an audience at one of the less visible stages in one of the darks corners of the city unless they have already created any internet buzz? We’ll see, but I venture to guess, no.

Don’t get me wrong.  I use Twitter, I use Facebook (I will not use Foursquare because, well, that just creeps me out) and I post my pictures.  I use it to show everybody in my life what I am doing.  I do not underestimate the power of social media and the effects that it has had on our culture.  It has created celebrities, it has created relationships, it has created art, and it has become a forum for social activism in a society that has become very lackadaisical about any action to help a cause.  It is easy.  In order to feel empowered and help the Kony 2012 movement, you click a button.  There are not stakes, there is only information.  But where is the passion?  The interaction?  We have become so intent upon sharing our lives, are we forgetting to stop and live them? And what happens to those people, artists and causes that can’t seem to figure out a way to grasp and or figure out how to adapt? Are we really okay just keeping those voices quiet?

SXSW Interactive is a Mecca for nerds, geeks and the cultural influencers to find out what is happening in the digital world; where they should invest their time, money and energy.  I am one of those cultural influencers. Do you know what my favorite panels were about?  Space.  I’m not kidding.  In my career I have worked with countless actors, musicians, and directors, and while I still get giddy while drinking a beer next to Willem Dafoe in the Austin Airport, do you know who I was the most excited to see?  Astronaut Ron Garan.  Why? Because he reminded me of a time when we cared about innovation, science and moving our culture forward in ways that we could not have even imagined as possible.  Do you know what I learned?  The space program has been responsible for medical imaging, firefighting equipment, and the very satellites that are used to watch the television content we all love so much.  Do you know what I learned is the scariest part – because we as a culture no longer care, those programs are coming to a halt, and soon may be stopped.  Space – could be our future, it could save our species from extinction as our population growth continues to use all of our resources, but what are 10,000 people getting together to talk about at a conference? The new app that will tell everyone in your life what time you wake up and go to sleep.

Make no mistake, in the same way that I hate social media, I see its value. I am not advocating for shutting down Facebook (gasp).  I know I have connected with people that I love having in my life that I never would have without it.  Throughout the panel on space people were tweeting to get the word out about what they were learning.  I decided to watch  Downton Abbey – which I now love – because I had to know why everyone was talking about a show that was on PBS.  Social media does give the musician a way and a forum to reach his fans, and for them to interact with him.  That is special.  It makes people feel special, and the value of that should not be underestimated.  I just have to ask – can we please also focus on other things?  The new app Highlight is not going to create any new scientific breakthroughs.  I wish it would, but it won’t.  While it might create jobs, it is not going to create the many new industries that our economy desperately needs right now.  A SXSW panel that I sadly missed because I was at aforementioned favorite space conference: “Social Media is a Bubble and SXSW is a fad”.  Can we please make this bubble pop already?  Move on to also putting together a conference of 10,000 people that come together and talk about how we can make NASA interesting and how people can actually discover great new music again?  Please?

An End Thought: The irony is not lost upon me that if anybody were to read this, it will be through, and because of social media.  I know you have to use the tools that are available to you. I also don’t claim that I am going to stop using social media to get the word out about the next project I am working on, nor do I have a true solution, because I am not providing any useful alternatives. However, I also believe that until we as a culture have these conversations, nothing will ever change. Thank you for reading – I have to go check my Facebook and Twitter feeds now.

 
 

CES: Retrospecticus

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010
 

_MG_7671photo credit: © 2010 CEA

I was lucky enough to be one of the 110,000 people in Las Vegas for the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show this past weekend, and I had a somewhat unexpected reaction to what I saw.  I expected to be surrounded by a dazzling array of innovative (if not bizarre) consumer products, on display for the world to see and fall in love with.  What I encountered was thousands of products that showed little to no original thought, and a collection of giant companies continuing to refuse to work together to improve the lives of their customers.  Here are a few observations: (more…)

 
 

Facebook Beacon Got Pwned!

Monday, December 7th, 2009
 

bart-simpson-generator.php

I got this email from Facebook the other day, and a couple of thoughts struck me as I read it (the bold is my emphasis):

Facebook is sending you this notice of a proposed class action settlement that may affect your legal rights as a Facebook member who may have used the Beacon program. This summary notice is being sent to you by Court Order so that you may understand your rights and remedies before the Court considers final approval of the proposed settlement on February 26, 2010.

This is not an advertisement or attorney solicitation.

This is not a settlement in which class members file claims to receive compensation. Under the proposed settlement, Facebook will terminate the Beacon program. In addition, Facebook will provide $9.5 million to establish an independent non-profit foundation that will identify and fund projects and initiatives that promote the cause of online privacy, safety, and security.

For full details on the settlement and further instructions on what to do to opt out of, object to, or otherwise comment upon the proposed settlement, please go to: BeaconClassSettlement.com.

If you have never heard of Beacon, or the lawsuit against it, check this information out. Not only did they have to shut the service down, but they have to now do the corporate equivalent of Bart Simpson’s chalkboard punishment? This is really great news, but I wonder how effective a deterrent/punishment the ruling really will be. It is one thing to rule in favor of the customers in a large class-action lawsuit and award massive damages in order to prevent a company from engaging in invasive or abusive behavior. But this strikes me as a slap on the wrist, and the punishment of having to fund a non-profit company that essentially duplicates the EFF‘s incredible efforts will probably be about as effective as having Steve Ballmer write a two page essay on why monopolies are bad. I doubt Facebook learned a lesson here, in fact the lesson learned might very well be “next time, don’t get caught”.

As more and more ‘private’ information is moved online, it is going to be those companies that demonstrate an unswerving loyalty to the privacy and security of their customers who will be allowed to continue doing business. You had better believe that the day Google is caught exposing or misusing user data, it is going to find itself in deep, troubled waters. Personally, I don’t really put anything on Facebook or other sites that I would be embarrassed or endangered by, were it to leak out. But this case has served as a reminder that you can’t really trust any company to put your rights and expectations above their own need to turn a profit in order to survive.

 
 

I’m About To Do The Scariest, Stupidest Thing Ever:

Friday, April 3rd, 2009
 

Sketch By Alex Noriega

In just a little over one week I will hopefully be wrapped on doing VFX for Terminator: Salvation. When I do finish, I will be quitting. Not just quitting my job at the company I work for, I’m quitting VFX entirely. I have spent the past 7 years of working long days (and often long nights) doing CG for films and commercials, and then spending my ‘free time’ at night and on weekends making short films and videos for this site and others. It is almost impossible to write, plan, film, edit, and distribute something while sitting in an office for 8 to 16 hours per day, 5 to 7 days per week. I’ve done it over and over, and every single time it was hell on wheels. I have finally reached the point where I must stop one or the other, at least for a little while- or else I will go insane!

I listen to NPR on the drive to and from work every single day. I read the news. I know how incredibly unsound a decision it is to quit a well-paid, stable job in the face of the worst economic collapse in decades (if not ever). But I have been saving money for years, and have recently decided to use that money to support my dream instead of putting it as a down payment on a house as I had always planned. I came to Los Angeles in 1998 to go to film school. I went to film school to make movies. I graduated and have been working on other people’s movies ever since, with my own projects crammed into the spare hours left over. So now, despite the economy, I have decided to make a run at this ‘Directing’ thing full time, while I still can. The plan is to take at least 6 months (if not several years) off from working a day job to focus on doing what I came here to do.

Everyone whom I have talked to about this has been surprisingly supportive- not a single person has tried to caution me or otherwise convince me to change my mind. In fact, this decision has almost been more nerve-wracking given how little opposition I’ve heard. I am mildly terrified, but also more excited about it than anything I’ve done in a long time. My VFX skills are not going to disappear, and I have an open door at my current company to return, should I burn through all my savings and need to come crawling back for more.

What does this mean for The AV Club? First up is the completion of Team Apocalypse, a new pilot we have been working on for quite a while now. And then more Psycho Bob episodes. And after that, more web series, music videos, short films, spec commercials… anything that seems worth making! So stay tuned to this site- there will be plenty of new content, news and updates as this exciting chapter begins!

-Andy Cochrane

 
 

Michael Moore To Slackers: Rise Up!

Wednesday, October 1st, 2008
 

Michael Moore‘s newest film “Slacker Uprising” is available for free, in its entirety, online.  I have not watched it myself yet, so I make no claims about it, but if you’re interested, there it is.  I am not writing this post to talk about the film however; I wanted to pass this missive along, which Moore recently posted on Facebook.  Due to the transitory nature of Facebook links, I’m pasting the entire thing here to make sure you get a chance to read it.  Michael, if you find this post and have a problem with that let me know where I can reliably link to the text so that everyone can reliably find it.  Without further ado: (more…)

 
 

McCain Suspends Campaign!!! …Really?

Thursday, September 25th, 2008
 

So McCain certainly seems to be running around like a crazed man the past few weeks, doesn’t he! Add this one to the pile of examples that his is not fit to lead: his campaign has yet to skip a beat despite his claim yesterday that he was suspending it to ‘save the economy’. I have a few thoughts on this, but first the good stuff:

But, what – exactly – did he “suspend”? His surrogates are all over television, attacking Obama. His campaign ads are still running and his Internet fundraising is still operational. McCain’s press crew is fully operational. He spent the day with Rick Davis, his lobbyist campaign manager. And all of his campaign offices are still open and fully operational.

And now comes word via Jonathan Martin at The Politico that McCain will spend the evening doing interviews on ABC, NBC, and CBS.

(more…)

 
 

McCain: Reformer?

Wednesday, September 24th, 2008
 

John McCain spent the majority of his 2000 and 2008 Presidential campaigns telling us he was an “outsider” and a “maverick” and a “reformer” who would kick the Old Boys out of Washington and fix this country. If you bought this, I have some links for you to peruse- your man McCain is “flip-flopping” like a dying fish on a dock. I was told during the 2004 campaign that a flip-flopper cannot be trusted and should never be elected. Is that still the case? (more…)

 
 

“My Bailout Proposal” by Emp. Palpatine, Age 63

Monday, September 22nd, 2008
 

Yes master
Creative Commons License photo credit: inzaki

Yes, I know, references to Palpatine are pretty much a geekstep away from Godwin, but read this quote from Section 8 of the draft proposal for the upcoming bailout plan:

Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency.

Because, honestly, folks, if there’s anything this crisis needs, it’s less accountability.

 
 

It’s The Economy, Stupid!

Monday, September 22nd, 2008
 

Bear Market
Creative Commons License photo credit: azrainman

Some delightful Monday afternoon reading for you all. Please pass the second link along to anyone you know who is convinced that McCain will fix this mess [hint: he was part of the small group of corrupt politicians and policymakers who legislated this disaster into existence]. First up, via the fantastic resource Electoral-Vote.com, a nice little comparison of the two Presidential Candidates’ responses to the crisis on Wall Street so far: (more…)

 
 

READ THIS RIGHT NOW:

Friday, September 19th, 2008
 

Immediately read this article in the NYT (for some reason dated tomorrow) about the severity of the financial crisis.  We are apparently within days of the potential utter meltdown of our entire economic system.  Sober, scary times have arrived.

WASHINGTON — It was a room full of people who rarely hold their tongues. But as the Fed chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, laid out the potentially devastating ramifications of the financial crisis before congressional leaders on Thursday night, there was a stunned silence at first.

Mr. Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. had made an urgent and unusual evening visit to Capitol Hill, and they were gathered around a conference table in the offices of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

“When you listened to him describe it you gulped,” said Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York.

As Senator Christopher J. Dodd, Democrat of Connecticut and chairman of the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, put it Friday morning on the ABC program “Good Morning America,” the congressional leaders were told “that we’re literally maybe days away from a complete meltdown of our financial system, with all the implications here at home and globally.”