Bruce Sterling on vernacular video

Paul Raven @ 25-01-2011

For those who’ve not already seen it, here’s Chairman Bruce delivering the closing keynote speech to the Vimeo Festival back in autumn of last year. Lots of paradigm demolition work towards the end, but things start off with a discussion of The Dick Van Dyke Show…

Lots of takeaway points in there:

  • every medium will get its own Kent’s Cigarettes moment, where everyone looks back at its nascence and realises some massive and heretofore overlooked ethical compromise in the sponsorship or funding of said medium. “It seemed OK at the time!”; moral complicity through consumption/creation habits
  • network culture has to push through its current youthful banality and “ennoble its own vernacular”; there’s no utility in grafting the classical terminologies of a dead medium (cinema, film) onto one that bears little or no true resemblence to it (web video)
  • “obsolesence before plateau” (every early adopter reading this will have been through this at least once; heck, my own father was a sort of pioneer of OBP, and I learned it at his knee)
  • the three certainties of futurism are Greying, Climate Change and Urbanisation (“the future looks like cities full of old people who are afraid of the sky”)

And then the last third or so is the sort of terrifyingly plausible slingshot futurism you’d expect from a cynical sf author turned pundit.

A friend of mine remarked a while ago that he couldn’t understand how Sterling gets so many speaking gigs like this: “he just turns up, tells a seemingly disconnected story about the past for half an hour, and then spends the next half hour telling the audience that they’re not as smart as they think, that their business model leaks like a sieve, and that the only thing we can be sure of about the future is that it’s going to screw over pretty much every worldview we currently hold dear!”

That’s a pretty good summary of why I pay such close attention to the guy. 🙂


Bruce Sterling on atemporality

Paul Raven @ 09-02-2010

I’d be remiss in my fanboy duties if I didn’t repost this video of a keynote speech from Bruce Sterling at last week’s Transmediale Futurity Now! conference in Berlin.

Appropriately enough for a conference in Berlin, a city where history lays heavily in layers of physical and psychological flotsam and jetsam, Chairman Bruce is talking about atemporality – that curious and disorientating sense that modern media gives us of all times being somehow equal.

Atemporality is “a calm, pragmatic [and] serene skepticism about the historical narrative”; it’s “a philosophy of history with a built-in expiry date”; it’s the end of post-modernism, and the end of The End Of History. But enough with the sound-bite pull-quotes – it’s only 25 minutes long, so settle down comfortably and get your mind expanded.