KYD Advent Calendar

KILLINGS, daily columns and blog —

2014 columns, Technology

Online festivals and diversity in the digital space

by Connor Tomas O'Brien , February 24, 20141 Comment

DWF

 

Earlier this year, Lisa Dempster, the director of the Melbourne Writers Festival, tweeted: ‘So I think ‪@pausefest looks AMAZING… BUT I have to ask: is digital culture just for dudes? 2/31 speakers are women.’

Pause Fest is an annual real-world festival dedicated to digital culture. I’ve been following Pause Fest with interest, because for the past few months, I’ve been working on something similar, but with a twist: the Digital Writers’ Festival, an online-only festival dedicated to literary culture. Both festivals have been established to explore what is possible when digital and festival spaces collide.

Pause Fest’s gender-skewed program was sloppy and easily-avoided, but every real-world festival runs according to the biases of its directors. In general, these biases are reasonable: if a festival is located in a particular metropolitan area, it makes good fiscal sense to source most participating artists from around that city. In other cases, ‘biases’ simply take the form of daring and novel programming choices: Dempster herself was criticised by the Australian Book Review for including a handful of editors and contributors from the London Review of Books (which, according to the ABR, ‘exhibits little interest in Australian literature’) in the 2013 Melbourne Writers Festival program.

Festival directors are gatekeepers, but most enlightened gatekeepers take on the role because they relish opening the gates, not because they like slamming them shut. Most responsible festival directors are acutely aware of accessibility and diversity issues, and are driven by a desire to transcend those limitations, not to cement them.

Because of this, the digital space has long been enticing for festival directors, because it is potentially infinite (with minimal infrastructure, a website can ‘hold’ many more artists and audience members than even the largest IRL festival venue) and radically accessible (when a festival has no real-world hub, programming an artist from a regional area or from overseas is no more costly than programming an artist from the same town, nor does geography limit who can potentially attend). A guiding principle when establishing the Digital Writers’ Festival was to build events that would be impossible to run elsewhere, and to create opportunities for artists to interact with other artists (and audience members, via Twitter) they would never otherwise meet.

All this said, just as Lisa Dempster’s question about the lack of gender diversity in the Pause Fest program opened up a dialogue about women in entrepreneur culture, it has been criticism of the DWF that has been most instrumental in highlighting accessibility and diversity issues with digital culture in general. During one event at the festival, @paperradio asked a pointed question about class biases when it comes to online writing.

As the festival ran, we were also led to question whether our use of Twitter as the festival’s ‘chat’ infrastructure could inadvertently preclude particular communities from participating, and whether it was correct to assume that a purportedly ‘free’ event requiring a smartphone and a stable 3G web connection was really ‘free’ to everyone. We were overjoyed with the diversity of the regional artists we could include in the program, but realised that in many cases, substandard internet infrastructure outside metropolitan areas could prevent regional audiences from being able to properly stream festival events at an adequate level of quality.

A festival is about witnessing and assisting in the construction of ideal, inclusive, diverse spaces. These perfect spaces are the goal, but are never quite unattainable – and that’s where the promise of a good festival lies. It’s in the attempt to close the gap between ideal and reality (whether that means ensuring there are significantly less straight middle-class white dudes up on stage, or figuring out how to allow those outside major cities to engage with authors and publishers who reside elsewhere) that the real dialogue begins, and everything truly interesting starts to happen.

Connor Tomas O’Brien is a web designer and director of the Digital Writers’ Festival

ACO logo




  • Sam Twyford-Moore

    I’m printing this out and putting it above my desk for the next couple of years: “Festival directors are gatekeepers, but most enlightened gatekeepers take on the role because they relish opening
    the gates, not because they like slamming them shut.”

9508984918_5d8a187fc1_z

Marika Sosnowski

Living Side by Side: Multiculturalism at Home and Abroad

It all seems quite idyllic – people of varying nationalities, religions and cultures coexisting peacefully. It could be a blueprint for the perfect multicultural society. However, there’s something beneath the surface that is troubling to the western notion of modern liberalism. Read more »

9864007066_4a196b364d_z

Tim Robertson

Fear, loathing, and the erosion of civil liberties

The hysteria currently being concocted by Australia’s political leaders is a smokescreen for the more serious threat facing everyone – an attack of the very freedoms and values our nation has been built on. Read more »

308982705_be9f94455b_b

Marika Sosnowski

Back inside: Life on the Syrian-Turkish border

In Turkey, less than 50 kilometres from the border, Syrians have chosen their favourite cafes, have opened Aleppine sweet shops and set up stores in the old city. Read more »

057212e0462005b9_Thumb

Kill Your Darlings

Best of 2014 (Part One): TV, Books, Technology

In the first of a two-part series, our brilliant Killings contributors highlight their top cultural moments of 2014 – in television, books and technology. Read more »

isabelle_cover_grande

Dark Places and Safe Spaces: S.A. Jones’ Isabelle of the Moon and Stars

S.A. Jones’ Isabelle of the Moon and Stars is a powerful and affecting depiction of a young woman struggling with mental illness and emotional turmoil. A book like Isabelle might well be described as the underdog of Australian publishing: a character-focused literary novel published by a small press … Read more »

w527705

Carody Culver

Taking Christmas off the shelf

Ah, Christmas – for some, a time of gift-giving, awkward family gatherings and over-zealous consumption of rum balls; for booksellers, a time to weep silent tears of stress and experience the irrational but persistent fear of being buried alive beneath boxes of the latest Stephen Fry memoir. Read more »

tumblr_naod7i6Sj61tk49ymo1_1280

Kill Your Darlings

Best of 2014 (Part Two): Film, Music, YA Literature, Pop Culture

In the second of a two-part series, our brilliant Killings contributors highlight their top cultural moments of 2014 – in film, music, young adult literature, and pop culture. Read more »

mariah-carey-all-i-want-for-christmas

Julia Tulloh

A SuperFestive Christmas playlist

I know what you’re thinking: lists like this became redundant in 1992, when Jon Bon Jovi rubbed shoulders with Cindy Crawford beneath a Christmas tree for the first and last time. Does the ideal of Christmas music get any better? Perhaps not, but many have tried. Here are a few other Christmassy pop goodies. Read more »

Kim_cover_web_

Julia Tulloh

Kim Kardashian, butts, and the internet

We’re used to seeing her butt, and we’re also used to Kim doing crazy publicity stunts. Her entire life is a publicity stunt in itself, both the means and end of a crazy, money-making, power-acquiring trajectory. Her very fame is built on the playful and shameless self-exposure captured in the Paper shoot. Read more »

tumblr_naod7i6Sj61tk49ymo1_1280

Kill Your Darlings

Best of 2014 (Part Two): Film, Music, YA Literature, Pop Culture

In the second of a two-part series, our brilliant Killings contributors highlight their top cultural moments of 2014 – in film, music, young adult literature, and pop culture. Read more »

Exodus-Gods-and-Kings-Poster-Bale-and-Edgerton-691x1024

Rochelle Siemienowicz

Problems with God: Exodus: Gods & Kings

This is the thing about retellings of old and beloved foundation stories: it’s impossible to come to them fresh, without trying to compare and contrast with previous versions for veracity and style. It’s usually the modern incarnation that comes up short. Read more »

Screen-Shot-2014-10-01-at-11.22.21-AM

Matilda Dixon-Smith

Can too many parts destroy an adaptation? The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1

It’s a relief to feel the weight of fidelity lift off an adaptation film, as Mockingjay: Part 1 becomes a meta-exploration of fame, franchise and future. Read more »

057212e0462005b9_Thumb

Kill Your Darlings

Best of 2014 (Part One): TV, Books, Technology

In the first of a two-part series, our brilliant Killings contributors highlight their top cultural moments of 2014 – in television, books and technology. Read more »

3991099211_8397c745fe_b

Connor Tomas O'Brien

Taking up space: The legitimisation of creepshotting

There is a relationship between catcalling and creepshotting. Both are practices that involve the reduction of strangers to objects to be gawked at and commented on, which is what makes the ‘Men Taking Up Too Much Space on the Train’ Tumblr blog interesting and complex. Read more »

IMG_0086

Connor Tomas O'Brien

Pictures of pictures: Monument Valley and the rise of the in-game photographer

Presenting screencapturing a game as a form of camera-free ‘photography’ gives rise to a conceptual issue. If the ‘photographer’ is moving through, and capturing, a world created entirely by others, then who exactly should take the credit for any images created? Read more »

tumblr_naod7i6Sj61tk49ymo1_1280

Kill Your Darlings

Best of 2014 (Part Two): Film, Music, YA Literature, Pop Culture

In the second of a two-part series, our brilliant Killings contributors highlight their top cultural moments of 2014 – in film, music, young adult literature, and pop culture. Read more »

2447663467_2d543e6c87_o

Danielle Binks

Young Adult literature: genre is not readership

YA is not a genre – it is a readership. It may seem like pedantic nitpicking to focus on this distinction, but so pervasive is the mistake, amongst even established literary channels, that explaining the difference has become increasingly important and indeed necessary. Read more »

00page

Danielle Binks

Disability or superpower? Deaf identity in YA

‘We actually need more stories about deaf and hard of hearing characters and for their experiences to be shared in stories. Often, young readers believe they are ‘alone’ in their deafness and do not realise that there are many others like them.’ Read more »

tumblr_naod7i6Sj61tk49ymo1_1280

Kill Your Darlings

Best of 2014 (Part Two): Film, Music, YA Literature, Pop Culture

In the second of a two-part series, our brilliant Killings contributors highlight their top cultural moments of 2014 – in film, music, young adult literature, and pop culture. Read more »

mariah-carey-all-i-want-for-christmas

Julia Tulloh

A SuperFestive Christmas playlist

I know what you’re thinking: lists like this became redundant in 1992, when Jon Bon Jovi rubbed shoulders with Cindy Crawford beneath a Christmas tree for the first and last time. Does the ideal of Christmas music get any better? Perhaps not, but many have tried. Here are a few other Christmassy pop goodies. Read more »

drake-cover-650

Justin Wolfers

Drake’s climate change epiphany

Or: ‘Heat of the Moment’ as an epiphany in which Drake realises the urgency and importance of acting on climate change Read more »

057212e0462005b9_Thumb

Kill Your Darlings

Best of 2014 (Part One): TV, Books, Technology

In the first of a two-part series, our brilliant Killings contributors highlight their top cultural moments of 2014 – in television, books and technology. Read more »

??????????????????????

Stephanie Van Schilt

Lady Bosses on the Box

An increasing number of female-driven comedies, dramas or melodramas are popping up on our screens. Through the filters of fiction, the worlds these heroines inhabit directly reflect our own. This is the age of the lady boss. Read more »

105768385_5672eae965_z

Stephanie Van Schilt

Bananas without pyjamas? Budgets cuts and the next generation of ABC kids

From my humble beginnings watching kids’ programming, I learnt that ‘Your ABC’ was indeed, our ABC. The protests and public outcry which followed this week’s announcement of cuts to the ABC demonstrate its crucial role in fostering a sense of community for Australians. Read more »