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Media The Write Stuff

Online Hoax = Computer Fraud

Alright. Now maybe we’re getting somewhere. The last time I wrote about an alleged cyber crime I debated the efficacy of the Japanese police regarding a woman who had logged into a friend’s internet game account (with the login info he himself had given to her) and killed off his beloved avatar. A "crime" for which she was arrested and jailed. (See Murder On The Avatar Express)
 
Recently, a federal jury in Los Angeles handed down what legal experts say is the country’s first cyber-bullying verdict, convicting a woman from Missouri of three counts of computer fraud. The woman, Lori Drew, created a MySpace page under the false name of Josh Evans, specifically to communicate with and screw around with her daughter’s "arch rival" Megan Meier, who was only 13 and who had a history of depression and suicidal ideations. Drew spent weeks online as “Josh” courting Megan and making her fall in love with "him." Then, Drew suddenly became hostile and told her “The world would be a better place without you.”
This, prosecutors said, pushed Megan over the edge to suicide.

I’m a mother and I have to say that there have been times along the way when I wanted nothing more than to drop kick some little snot-nose-street-rat friend of one or two of my kids, right the hell into next week. And if I’m to be honest I’ll admit I’ve probably read one or two of them the riot act over the years – something to the effect of "The next time your mother sends you over without giving you your ADHD meds you can FUH-GETABOUTIT!!" We all have our moments of temporary insanity where we say or do things out of anger or frustration that we later wish we could take back. But to be a parent and go to the trouble of making a false account for the sole purpose of tormenting someone else’s child for extended periods of time is just plain over the top.

Sentencing is soon, though I’m not sure it’s worthy of the potential jail time she is facing as our prison systems are painfully overburdened and the cost it would take to keep her in jail would be a waste of needed tax dollars. Instead, along with a journey through federal court hell, her name and face is splashed all over the evening news thanks to a tireless media in constant search of shocking material. She should serve something like ten years of community service, along with competent therapy. Lots of it. At her expense. And a good bitch slap or two if you ask me.

And while embarrassment and loss of credibility in the community can be a fairly stigmatizing punishment, it wasn’t my child who died. The universe is a funny thing. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Call it God, Karma, or Quantum Physics, what goes around comes back around. And something tells me the universe ain’t done with her yet.

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ArtWorks Commerce Media

A Different Look at Creativity Part II: the social media mix

Before we go any further…

I want to point out that what I am describing here is a process, a way of looking at how we create whether it involves groups of people or individuals and what we need in the way of tools and environments to support us along the way. The  concepts and processes are not linear or pretty and admittedly leave lots of room for further exploration and development.

creative_spectrum_somedia A Different Look at Creativity Part II: the social media mix

Let’s get going..

Now that we have the creative spectrum somewhat sketched out let’s see how it can work with the social media. The primary element of social media, in fact its’ keystone is connectivity at levels that far exceed what we could have imagined even a year ago. And… this connectivity has different levels of applicability depending on the users intent and goals.  Before we  look in detail at specific social media let’s try to find what  Creators, Makers and Producers  need to succeed, what tools are most useful to them. The brief list below summarizes common tools and methods, some have been available but limited in their usefulness.

  • Brainstorming – This is one of the fundamental tools of creativity. While it is possible that it can be done alone,  in this context it is considered best used interactively with 2 or more participants.
  • Collaboration -Whether between those working in like media or dissimilar media collaboration is often a tool for generating new outcomes. Often new ways of seeing the same problem/issue or a new direction or concept emerges through collaboration and interaction
  • Critique and feedback -In order for creatives to successfully achieve their vision they need to engage the eyes, hearts and opinions of others as a reality check. Given their goal…does their concept or theory attain the desired outcome?
  • Moral and professional Support – Just as critique and feedback are important to the creative process so is having access to moral and professional support. This kind of support can be everything from a colleague being a phone call away to a regular mastermind group that provides encouragement and professional mentoring. provide  user friendly  tools for dialogue.
  • Background research – One of the early steps in a creative venture is background research designed to find out what if anything has been done before and what the results were.
  • Market research – Separate from background research is the particular type of research linked to the branding process. Market research is important in the concept stage as well as the producer stage, however, the intensity of its use may vary throughout the spectrum.
  • Client/customer support – Good customer support which can include helping customers use their products, to getting usability feedback is very important .
  • Visibility- Visibility contributes heavily to a product’s success…  the more extensive the visibility possibilities generally the better the sales.  For visibility to work it must give the users the ability to be seen by their buyers.
  • Customer/client communication -Being able to communicate in a direct and timely manner to  customers  keep them informed and up to date for new developments is a strong determiner of success.
  • Market connection – Having reliable channels to connect to markets is also very important to ensuring good communication  with users and being able to respond to changes in market preferences.
  • Relationship development – The relative ease with which potential relationships can be identified and developed between Makers and Producers and their markets as well as amongst their colleagues cannot be underestimated. This factor is particularly important now with the decline of traditional interruption based marketing.

Now lets take a more focused look at  these in relation to the Creators,Makers and Producers. A word of caution…this is at best an approximation and for simplicity sake implies that the spectrum overlap areas will also include overlap in social media usefulness.

Creators

Since this part of the spectrum leans heavily towards the conceptual  ( see part 1)   tools that will be the most useful are the ones most likely to enhance creative thought. Their primary needs are:

  • Brainstorming
  • Collaboration
  • Critique and feedback
  • Moral and professional Support

Makers

Again as described previously in part 1, this group starts to interact with the market while at the same time providing feedback to the original creators of the recipes and templates they are refining. Their primary needs include:

  • Visibility
  • Relationship development
  • Market and background research
  • Moral and professional support
  • Customer communication
  • Relationship development
  • Market connection

Producers

This part of the spectrum’s needs are quite different than the others in that it is heavily market focused. The primary needs of Producers are:

  • Visibility
  • Relationship development
  • Market and background research
  • Customer communication
  • Relationship development
  • Market connection

In summary  the Creative community needs the following environments and tools:

  • Interactive to easily sprout and nurture creative thought and interact with peers
  • Relationship building to enable easy relationship development with their markets peers
  • Market focused to help build and maintain visibility and disburse brand messages

The next step…

is to take a look at social media to see what tools are available and which type of  media works best for Creators, Makers and Producers respectively. Let’s first look at what constitutes Social Media by definition…Wikipedia describes it as

“Social media are primarily Internet- and mobile-based tools for sharing and discussing information among human beings. The term most often refers to activities that integrate technology, telecommunications and social interaction, and the construction of words, pictures, videos and audio. This interaction, and the manner in which information is presented, depends on the varied perspectives and “building” of shared meaning among communities, as people share their stories and experiences.”

Organizing Social Media

  • Blogs and Microblogs web site that allows individuals or groups to produce an ongoing conversation, microblogs limit uses to small bursts of information.
  • Interactive/Social networking networks that allow users to interact directly either in real time of very close to it.
  • Social network aggregation sites that gather all of the social media messages and content and categorize it for reading
  • Events networks online networks that allow users to organize users around specific subjects and schedule live on-site meetings.
  • Wikis a web site that allows collaborative editing of its content and structure by it’s users
  • Social bookmarking sites that allow users to save, recommend and comment on web content
  • Opinion sites consumer evaluation, review of products and services
  • Photo and Video sharing sites that provide a means of sharing organizing and sharing photographic and video content with users
  • E-commerce sites that allow users to sell products they created or are re-selling

Matching the needs with the tools

Now lets organize these according to how they can help the creative community with an eye on the specific needs Identified earlier.

Brainstorming – Collaboration

Microblogs / Presence apps Twitter, Pownce and Jaiku
Photo sharing Flickr
Video sharing YouTube,
Interactive Networks shapshifters, deviant art, Behance network. Likemind, Ning
Wikipedia wiki’s, forums and membership sites

Critique and feedback

Blogs & micro blogs Twitter, Pownce and Jaiku
Wikis PB wiki
Photo & video sharing Flickr,YouTube
Social/Interactive networks shapshifters, deviant art, Behance network. Likemind, Ning
Wikipedia wiki’s, forums and membership sites
Opinion sites epinion,ask

Moral and professional Support

Social/ interactive networks Facebook, Myspace, LinkedIn, deviant art, Behance network Likemind, Ning forums
Event Networks Meetup

Background research

E-commerce Etsy, e-bay
Wikipedia
Microblogs / Presence apps Twitter, Pownce and Jaiku
Social bookmarking Delicious, StumbleUpon,Digg, Mixx, Reddit
Event Networks Meetup

Market research

Blogs
E-commerce Etsy, e-bay
Social/ interactive networks Facebook, Myspace, LinkedIn, shapshifters, deviant art, Behance network Likemind, Ning
Wikipedia wiki’s, forums and membership sites
Event Networks Meetup

Visibility

Blogs & micro blogs Twitter, Pownce and Jaiku, blog catalogue, good blogs
Photo & video sharing Flickr,Youtube
Social/ interactive networks Facebook, Myspace, LinkedIn,  deviant art, Behance network, Ning
Event Networks Meetup
E-commerce Etsy, e-bay

Customer/client communication

Blogs & micro blogs Twitter, Pownce and Jaiku,
Photo & video sharing Flickr,Youtube
Social/ interactive networks Facebook, Myspace, LinkedIn, Ning site
Event Networks Meetup
E-commerce Etsy, e-bay

Market connection

E-commerce Etsy, e-bay
Blogs & micro blogs Twitter, Pownce and Jaiku
Social/ interactive networks Facebook, Myspace, LinkedIn, Ning site

Relationship development

Blogs & micro blogs Twitter, Pownce and Jaiku
Social/ interactive networks Facebook, Myspace, LinkedIn, Ning site
Event Networks Meetup

Part 3…..

will will take a closer look at just what and how Creators, Makers and Producers can utilize social media from Facebook to Twitter to YouTube.




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 A Different Look at Creativity Part II: the social media mix

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Art Commentary ArtWorks Media

A different look at creativity

In previous articles I discussed some of the broader issues and benefits related to Social Media/Networking and how this new tool could benefit artists. The first article “What’s up with Social media” I introduced the concept of “ambient intimacy” and how the growth of social networking via the Internet has increased our ability to build relationships with our buyers. In “How to use Social Media”I talked about how social media gives us the ability to engage our buyers, build relationships with them and eventually develop a tribe organized around our art and our values.

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ArtWorks Media

How to use your winter to help your sales


Marketing Monday

begins today, born from conversations with a couple of artists over the weekend. They  asked me if I had an thoughts about how they could use the winter down time to help build their businesses and their sales. The consesus was a winter long series focused on different aspects of marketing would be helpful. Here is a tentative list of subjects we came up with:

  • Beginning the branding process– a brief outline to help give direction to the process along with some homework.
  • Learning to use the 80/20 rule to get more productivity and sales.
  • Getting familiar with the internet – Learning how to use the internet to increase your visibility and build connections with your following.
  • Developing a show strategy– Finding the right shows with the right buyers and leveraging your existing contacts to bring you more sales.
  • Developing a stay in touch strategy – learn how to build a keep in touch strategy that works on vitual auto pilot.
  • Identify and develop other income streams – Relying completely on art fair or gallery sales greatly increases your vulnerability to economic shifts, find out if this strategy is for you.

There will be more as I think of them and please feel free to request expansion of a subject or even a different one.

Today’s Monday  Marketing tips start with Branding

Start the branding process
Now is a perfect time to step back and take a look at how your buyers see your and evaluate if it matches with how you want to be seen. A brand is not a logo or collection of graphic symbols instead it is the sum total of who you are, your values, your ideas, your personality. Branding is all about transferring value from your products to you, so that YOU are the value associated with attracting  buyers instead of your products. If done right your buyers will think of you first when they have a need or problem that you can solve because you will be foremost in their minds.

Briefly the steps to branding are:

  • Know your vision and claim your vision. I wrote about this in an earlier article.
  • Know your competition and claim your difference– As an artist your competition can range from other home decorating products to other artists. You need to not only examine who would buy from you but also who would best be served by going to your competition and why.
  • Know your target market and claim your perfect customer – Successful small businesses know who their best buyers are, how they spend their time, how they make their buying decisions and where they hang out. They also have taken time to develop a profile of who they like most to work with. Refining all this information is important because it helps you develop a following of people you don’t have to sell to, who instead are eager to buy whatever you offer in short they are your ….Tribe.
  • Know what makes you unique and claim it– As an artist your uniqueness is personal and emotional and in large part seated in your own value. Your uniqueness sets you apart whether you are vying for a gallery representation or to stand out among other artists at an art fair. It is the value you provide to your buyers above and beyond what others offer.
  • Know how to spread the word about what you have to offer and claim your happy tribe- Knowing how you will attract the perfect buyers you described earlier is very important to your success. You will need to know which of the myriad of choices will work best for you and you must know that discovery of the right combination will take time and testing.
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ArtWorks Media

Spreading the word…with a new connection.


No too long ago I received an e-mail from digital apple juice, an art focused blog network, asking me if I was interested in writing for them. Of course I said yes so that means that the content created here will be spread quicker and over a wider network than we currently have. They will be creating a dedicated column for our feed which will either be titled ” The Working Artist” or ” Art Works”…we are still brain storming.

What is amazing and yet not so much when you consider the context, was their editor ran accross this blog on a social media site! I doubt seriously this would have occured without the internet’s ability to remove geographic barriers. In fact I doubt it could have happened even a year ago because the net was still not fully up to the level of interactivity it has now. So if you have any doubts that social media can be a useful tool I hope this example will help you put your hand up in the crowd. Of course intention had something big to play as well because I spent most of last week making connections all the time keeping my intent to evangelacally spread the word about the importance of art in our lives.

So click on the image above and check them out…you will find a lot of useful information on the site. Here is how they describe themselves:

We are a group of Academics and Professional Artists and Photographers who have thoughts and opinions about the digital computer world, and we have in common two things—we all use Apple computers, and we all produce in the digital world.

First, we talked among ourselves about equipment and software, asking one another about the ins and outs of particular hardware and software.  Then we talked about ideas. We had thoughts about the ways our lives have changed in the last fifteen to twenty years as we evolved from typewriters to word processors, from film to digital photography, from snail mail to email, from paint and easel to high-end inkjet printers, and don’t forget telephones over IP.

Our workflow’s have changed, and as that has occurred, even the way we think about creativity has changed.  Those of us who are teaching realize that the way we approach teaching has evolved and bears little resemblance to the 1970’s or 1980’s.  How many of you can remember the purple ditto sheets once used for class handouts?  If you can, you are telling your age.  If you remember mimeograph machines you aren’t quite as old. I don’t see slide projectors much anymore either.

So we asked ourselves what we wanted to talk about?  The answer is simple; we’re always interested in new software and new hardware, but it is the process of production and the end product that most concerns us.  Simply put, it means we want to write tutorials about processes and techniques that will serve to guide one another and serve equally to advance the knowledge and skill level of others who are working their way through various software’s. That’s the beginning.

We want to talk about the creative process in graphic design, photography and in the fine arts and how the computer and the digital camera have influenced them.

We want to talk about the end product–the artistic Statement– and we want to talk about new, emerging artists who use the computer or the digital camera to produce their works of art.  We welcome inquiries from those whose creative processes use the computer or the digital camera.  It may be possible that you can share your work with us, and we can expand all our experiences, both for others and ourselves.

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Art Commentary ArtWorks Media

Yes WE can…Co-Create a Vision!

hands_creating-400x260 Yes WE can...Co-Create a Vision!

“Millions of men have lived to fight, build palaces and boundaries, shape destinies and societies; but the compelling force of all times has been the force of originality and creation profoundly
affecting the roots of human spirit.”

-Ansel Adams

I got the quote above in an e-mail today and added it to the feelings that have been circulating in my thoughts since last night. For many years I have firmly believed that we all are creative, that we all posses the spark that can turn dull into bright, boring into interesting and night into day. For most of my life I have walked with the wonder of the world of the possibilities that exist everywhere and have been quitely puzzled as to why more don’t see their potential, why most think they need the perfection of the masters before exposing their creative gifts.

On election night, bearing witness to yet another amazing shift I was struck by generational differences, differences in seeing the world, differences in self confidence, differences in turning dreams into reality. You see my generation ( boomer) like so many before us grew up not knowing that it was possible to follow your dream, that success was only defined in terms of money, only interms of left brained linear thinking. Except for the lucky few of us most were repeatedly warned that “you have to be practical” or “you need to get a real job” and even those of us who had supportive teachers and mentors were constantly reminded of the futility of our dreams. Watching the young and old faces in the audience last night I felt blessed to see the energy of the young re-igniting the fading dreams of the old, with each “…yes we can!” I noticed also the unspoken appreciation of the newer generations for the work and foundations put in place with blood, sweat and tears. I saw a generation that no longer seemed to worry about “…being practical” because they knew the importance of being true to themselves, they knew their paths were self created and self navigated…there was a belief and energy present I have only seen glimpses of in my life time.

John Kennedy’s inaugural speech was the first time I saw that glimmer, it was followed by Martin Luther King’s “I have a Dream…” speech. While these and other landmark events were key to getting us to where we are today I don’t remember the depth of empowerment that I witnessed last night. That empowerment was inviting us into a new journey alone and together, a journey of co-creation and collaboration, a journey to bring out the best in each of us by giving everyone their own candles to light their path, a journey in which we freely share our light without attachment, without preconditions. This is the shift that occurred last night on the shoulders of a generation that asks “what if..?” or “why not…?” or “what this look like…?” because they know no different.

This is the basis for Open Source Art…empowering everyone to see their own creativity and sharing the result so that we may all grow, so that all may  experience the light, the joy and the reward of creating. Open Source Art is about bringing down the Ivory Tower of intellectualized art and replacing it with it with art that comes from the heart and celebrating the tiniest baby step forward of shy creative.

Finally, I was reminded of Persephone’s journey especially because we are heading into that time of the year, a time many creatives suffer being stuck, a time in which they struggle  heavily often in isolation with self doubt. Their struggle has often been intensified by clinging to a belief that they should not be feeling the way they do. Last night reminded me that nothing has to be the way it is and there is no right way to be creative…there is only our way. Last night reminded me that those afraid of letting their creative side show need not be afraid of judgment, and like Persephone they will emerge from the darkness bringing beauty and change to all of our lives…because in the end we are all artists, shaping our world as we see it and no matter our skill level challenged with the mission to bring beauty into the world… YES WE CAN!!

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Art Commentary Digital Lifestyles Media The Not-So-Daily Edition

Murder on the Avatar Express

I bought my first computer in April of 93 after my typewriter broke. A trip to the local electronics store and two thousand dollars later, I walked out with a Compaq 386 windows 3.1 jam packed with 2 megs of ram. I could have gotten 4 megs but as the salesman noted, "Nobody will ever need that much memory."

Fast forward fifteen years. Today, we can do virtually anything online. Our computer is an office. A school. A university. A shopping mall. A tennis court. A baseball stadium. It allows us to see and speak to people around the country and around the world. You can be at work and watch your nanny and your child at home. Computers can speak for the mute, type for the handicapped and remind you to take the roast out of the oven. You can create your own universe, your own countries, cities and neighbors. You can live a whole nother life in a whole nother virtual world and interact with all sorts of people and their avatars and like reality, you can get virtually screwed.

Por ejemplo: A 43 year old woman in Japan was arrested at her home in Miyazaki and jailed some 620 miles away in Sappporo, for virtually killing a virtual online husband from whom she was virtually divorced, in an online game called Maple Story. The virtual murder took place last May. When the 33 year old man discovered that his online avatar was dead, he called the police.

The woman has not been formally charged but if ultimately convicted, could spend five years in prison and pay a fine of $5,000.00. "I was suddenly divorced, without a word of warning." she is quoted as saying. "That made me so angry," Using login information she got from her virtual husband when their characters were happily married, she logged into his account and killed his character. There is no evidence that the woman plotted any revenge in the real world.

That he gave her the log-in info suggests that she didnt hack at all but merely logged in. Actual hacking is a different story. And while computer hacking is a crime, Im going to assume that the Japanese police have more important things to worry about than a dead avatar, hacked or not.

And I gotta believe that somewhere in the virtual land of Maple Story, there is a virtual lawyer with a bad virtual tie, a virtual divorce court, and a virtual judge sporting a vitual set of mismatched socks under his virtual robe. If the woman was really smart, shed have sued her virtual husband for virtual alimony and virtually half of everything he owned, and called it a day.

 

Read The Story on CNN

 

 

Graphics © 2008 Madbadcat Graphics
Blue Avatar with Gun ©Rudolf Tittelbach | Dreamstime.com
Composite & Design: Madbadcat Graphics

 

 

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Digital Lifestyles Media Photography

PhotoVoice

It is well established that if you give someone a fish, they’ll have dinner for one night. Teach someone to fish and they’ll have dinner for the rest of their life.

In 1998, Edinburgh University Social Anthropology students Tiffany Fairey and Anna Blackman established two projects which sought to integrate participatory photography into their MA dissertations. These projects, the Rose Class project in Nepal and the Street Vision project in Vietnam, encouraged and inspired refugees from these areas to capture their everyday lives on film, with cameras supplied by the two projects.

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Digital Lifestyles Media Photography Reviews

Photofunia.com

It never fails.

Just as I get rolling on something I need to finish, someone emails me something which completely catches my attention and takes me away from whatever it was that I was doing.
(what was I doing?)
 
Distraction du jour: Photofunia.com.
There are several online tools which allow you to have fun with images, Dumpr and Gooifier are two free sites that I’ve used in the past, but Photofunia, also free, offers a more sophisticated selection and I like their interface better. Using face detection technology and offering 50 different templates which allow you to apply funny, creative or artistic effects on your images with just a few clicks, Photofunia can help you transform your everyday photography to something you can have fun with and even frame and give as a gift. The results are that good. There is no need to have any deep knowledge of photo editing. No program download or registration is required. Just upload your picture or graphic, select your desired effect from the comprehensive assortment of image thumbnails, and viola! Then, just click and save.
 
I had such a good time with this program that I sent my kids all the funny and cool photos I made of them on Photofunia. After about the seventh or eighth photo, I received an email back from my 19 yr old son who is away at university. That, in and of itself was a miracle.
 
"Dear mom, Get a hobby. Love you. =)"
 
"Dear Bobby, I found a hobby. Have you found a job?"
 
I haven’t heard back…

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Digital Lifestyles Media Photography The Not-So-Daily Edition

Photojojo can set your creativity free

No kitsch here. Photojojo.com is an original, exciting breath of fresh air. The slightly irreverent tenor and decidedly different ideas and photo projects make this site required reading for photographers and other artists in general.

This self-described "newsletter" of photography has projects with detailed how-to projects (at least enough detail to get you started), as well as some quirky cool photo accessories and services to purchase. The sell isn’t hard, and all the items seem to fall into the category of "things you might have missed" and are appropriate for our digital photography age.

If you want to open your horizons, visit Photojojo.com and spend a few minutes or a few hours exploring.

One of my favorites… Tim Hughes reviewed project of photographing vacation icons. To see the article, go to www.photojojo.com and click the Newsletter tab at the top. Scroll to the bottom of the page and find the search box, type in "souvenirs" and click search… in the results, select Michael Hughes’ "Souvenirs" – Bring Your Vacation Souvenirs to Life. Photojojo reports on a fun and funny way to document your next vacation, or even your hometown… one I would not have thought of. Of course, after viewing all these great photography ideas and inspirational how-to articles, you have to go make photos of your own. Good shooting!

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Digital Lifestyles Media Reviews The Write Stuff

Review: Young At Heart

While preparing dinner at my kitchen counter the other day, I saw a commercial for an Eagles concert at the local Hard Rock indian casino. I immediately conjured a visual of what they looked like back in the seventies, when I was in high school and listened to their music. (which I still do, and which my kids grew up listening to on my car radio set to classic rock and NPR.) I glanced up from my chopping block fully expecting to see long hair and an attitude, and there on the TV screen was a group of old men. My age-peers.
 
Do I look like that? I grinned as I usually do when the old rock bands from the 60’s, and 70’s come into town and play at either the racetrack or the indian casino. My husband and I always opine that you know you’re considered "Classic" when you no longer play the stadiums but rather at the racetracks and the casinos. Still, the music is gold, as are the memories they ignite.

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Commerce Digital Lifestyles Media Panels & Gutters & Zip Ribbons Sequential Art

San Diego Comic-Con 2008: Part 2

My professional agenda for Comic-Con was fairly simple: Soak in the visuals, get a general feel for the industry and do some basic networking.  With this in mind, here are some useful tips I learned along the way on how to take advantage of the convention:

  • Bring a highlighter. You’ll need it to track the three-ring circus of panels.  Comic-Con often has an online schedule in advance of the convention, so it’s possible to do some pre-planning.  But it does change/update daily.
  • Know exactly what you are going for, and make it a tight goal, instead of "be discovered and become famous." Research how to meet those goals, and who at Comic-Con can help make them a reality.  If you are looking for work, check out who is hiring and get information on them in advance.  Find out who is looking for the content you are trying to deliver.  Are they offering portfolio reviews?  Will they be exhibiting? This will save you a great deal of time and energy.
  • Network. It’s the obvious one, and it is really easy.  But it’s not just shaking hands after panels or in the exhibitor’s hall.  That guy waiting next to you in line for the Watchmen Trailer may be a fellow artist, filmmaker, or potential client.  Get to know your fellow attendees.
  • Self Promote:  A business card should be mandatory, a giveaway product is even better. There is a "freebie table" where both companies and individuals give out free promotional items.  They do accept drop-offs, however they are vetted for quality and appropriate content.  This is not the venue for cheap photocopies on neon paper.  Instead think of color prints on good paper/cardstock, comics, buttons, CDs/DVDs, etc.  Keep in mind this isn’t a portfolio drop-off.  Portfolio Reviews are done on site, and it would be wise to attend those and give out your portfolio through social networking.  Instead think "product."  For those into guerilla networking, there were some artists, filmmakers and even studios giving out flyers and CDs of their work to those stuck in the various lines.  Some left piles of these fliers in specific spots to be picked up.  Gutsy, but quite a few turned into litter.  Be prepared to cast a wide net.
  • Be aware of the "line-fu." In order to get to the panel you want to go to, it’s best to be in line an hour in advance, especially if you want a good seat.  For popular panels, increase that to an hour and a half to two.
  • Take notes. It feels like you are in class, but your short-term memory will thank you.
  • Take a backpack or some other large item of holding for both your purchases and giveaway promotional materials available.  Make sure it’s something that you can carry all day.

Now to the meat of the convention…the panels!  It is here that I found the wealth of industry experience and information.  Panelists were very helpful, however many times they were asked what I refer to as "what-is-zen" questions such as "how do I get published?"  "how do you write?"  "how do you make your comic a film?"   These generic questions often lead to generic answers.  Instead, do some research on your own on the generalities.  There are many resources online, for example, with the basics on how to write a novel, film a movie, or make a comic.  Come armed with a direction or specific questions to make the most of the technical expertise out there. Immediately on the Thursday panels (Entertainment Weekly’s Comic Creators, How to Write a Pitch, Graphic Novels) that I attended, the love/hate relationship between comics and movies popped up. There is no beating around the bush.  Movies have been extremely profitable for comics (just ask Mark Millar of Wanted), and Hollywood is also reaping the financial rewards of fresh visions (The Dark Knight anyone?)  As a result, there is a tendency by newcomers to tailor their graphic works for film, using cinematic conventions and subsequent visual limitations, instead of working within the looser comics framework.  The resulting hybrid becomes less than either in its totality, and editors treat it as such. Another side effect of the comics/movie relationship is the danger of how the public views your work.  Mike Mignola, at Entertainment Weekly’s Comic Creators, stated that when people think of Hellboy, they think of the movie first and not the comic which differs in plot. Underscored at both How to Write a Pitch and the So You Want to Do a Graphic Novel panels was that everyone has an idea.  But, what editors and publishers want to see is whether you can follow through and have a finished product.  Evidence of past finished work, or a full manuscript or draft will attract their notice.  Even when doing a simple Q&A at a panel, you will receive more attention.  One of my friends at an author’s panel has several unpublished novels.  When he asked how best to proceed, he was literally showered with tips from the panelists.  Also, your idea should be able to be verbalized into a short pitch slightly less than a paragraph.  When the How to Write a Pitch panelists were asked what was a good example, Rob Levin of Top Cow responded, "Snakes on a Plane".  The graphics novel panel, organized by the independent comics publisher Larry Young of AiT/Planet Lar had a very mixed panel of authors/writers of various styles.  When asked about structure, Steven Grant (Badlands) was more freeform in advising to let the story dictate the structure.  However, on the same panel were Adam Beechen and Manny Bello (Dugout, Hench), whose background was film, and they admitted that they were fans of the three-act story. Another one of the major themes in the panels is being open to diversification.  J. Michael Straczynski, whose own background runs the gamut of tv (writer/producer, Babylon 5,) comics (writer, Spider-Man, Silver Surfer and several graphic novels), and film (the upcoming Changeling), emphasizes how healthy it is to keep working and active and to not limit oneself to a particular media.  If you are a writer, mention whether it’s an article, a comic, a script, a short story or a novel.    He further added, to speak with your own voice.  Often writers try to write how they think a good writer should write, usually by imitating their favorite authors.  Instead, write like you would speak your own story. It will ring more true and make a better impact. Next time, I’m going to bring a bigger notepad.