I’m not gonna lie, I have been spending the greater part of the last few days honing my karaoke game. Turns out I can spend endless hours on the web broadcasting to a radio/tv empire with no listeners or viewers and feel pretty damn good about myself all the while. Who knew?
But all for God and ds106! -or is that the other way around? Regardless, this was not entirely me screaming into the void, there was a reason. Chahira and I got back in the Karaoke groove to put on a little event for the Summer Campus group she was helping to run at the University of Göttingen, and it was really a blast.
And it got me thinking we joke a lot about nobody listening on ds106radio, nobody watching on the TV, nobody reading the blogs, etc. But there is a subtle power in that idea, it removes some of the obstacles of entry, it ensures the community is fairly personable, and it keeps the relationships at a human scale. I think a lot of folks that play around with the radio are there because it is about the relationships you build as a result of sharing your story and all the music, images, comedy, sadness, and joy that comes with it. In fact, these karaoke sessions are a particular expression of that personal experience, and while I joke that I have done no work but practice for karaoke, understood another way the karaoke is the work. Sharing around these songs and the experience of opening up, as Rajiv Jhangiani said at OERxDomains21 in his utterly brilliant keynote, is crucial to creating a shared experience that forges a sense of connection.
I am always prepared for there to be just a few people at any event I’m part of, and in that regard I have come to refuse the idea that somehow less is a failure. Scale is the white whale we all seem to be chasing when it comes to online interaction, some abstract valuation (like capital) of followers and friends as a sign of worth that reproduces all the worst elements of the systems many of us thought we were trying to escape with this new media. I find it fitting that 10 people read this blog, and about right that 5 people might want to Karaoke on a Wednesday night. And these five people just happened to span the globe from Germany to Columbia to England to Canada, and maybe beyond even that. And if 3 people on any random Thursday morning happen to listen to me on the radio I consider myself rich as kings.
The chasing of influencer status within a network may be the death knell of generative relationships that provide a sense of meaning and purpose to our short and fragile existence. I don’t think the web is anathema to that reality, but I do think the sense that scale is the measure of success does. I’m not overstating things when I say ds106radio (and increasingly the TV) are proof that the web does not need to always scale to be valuable: seems we have forgotten the power of small spaces to commune and create a sense of purpose outside the maddening rush towards networked thought leader status.
I kind of like the idea of the web returning to islands in the stream apart from our corporate overlords that everywhere dictate how we interact with the culture they keep re-selling us. I want a space within the web but outside the virtual malls the social media landscape has become. I keep returning to the idea of more green spaces on the web and, at least for me, ds106 fits that bill quite nicely. No one really polices that space*, and that is why I love it. What’s more, getting back into the flow of student work from Paul Bond’s Joy of ds106 has reminded me of the deep creative impulse that working within a small, focused community makes possible—and the fact that comes in the form of blog posts in a feed reminds me that there were other streams, blog islands in the stream, that offered an alternative to the data meat market that is social media, and all the irreparable harm it causes us to dream at the scale of the corporation selling us our lunch.
*Although there is a #protocol