Bruce Sterling on vernacular video

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. 🙂

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