Thursday, June 5, 2014

I'm nicer in person, honest

There's a profile of Harry Lee / Lost Levels in Polygon, and I'm quoted heavily, but kinda as more of the crass anti-corporate provocateur foil to Harry's deeper philosophical positions.

(Which is obviously just a writerly device because hey, I work for NYU, considered by some to be one of the most destructive forces against public education and local communities ever imagined. I'm a fucking sellout! Though I guess I was asking to be cast that way, especially when I gave that soundbite that the Ken Levine talk was boring. But it's okay if it was boring, because the purpose of booking Ken Levine was to sell tickets and introduce people to basic questions in procedural narrative. Does that make it a good talk? Roger Ebert would've said yes, because it did what it was trying to do; I would say no, because we should always make higher demands of discourse.)

(Anyway.) I think I'm okay with playing that role in the article, because it gets the point across that there's more than one agenda and Lost Levels isn't one particular thing. I just wish more agendas got more represented in the article: like Harry tweeted, Mattie Brice, Toni Pizza, and Ian Snyder, are Lost Levels co-facilitators who deserve credit for their valuable work, and it's as much their stories (and everyone who came to the event!) as ours.

Also, I think much of my criticism on GDC in the piece (e.g. it's expensive and the expensive talks are rarely good) orbited around one main point that got only paraphrased briefly in it:

I know GDC is a big expensive thing for lots of complex reasons, and GDC does a lot that Lost Levels will never be able to do without institutional backing, and I appreciate that GDC changes in the ways they're allowed to change (the Advocacy track, hosting Critical Proximity)... what I question is whether GDC's scope and expense should translate directly into its current cultural prestige.

There is a lot of peer pressure to go to GDC or else you're "missing out." At which point I might say, "you're not missing anything, it's mostly just about people standing around on a beige carpet, waiting to go eat over-priced food," which is true but it doesn't really convince anyone that they're not at least a little inferior for not scrounging the resources together to go anyway. I've also realized that when I say that, I end up making the person feel a little petty for feeling like they're missing out, when actually those are totally understandable feelings.

There's two ways to try to fix this: (1) expand access to GDC and buy everyone airfare / food / hotel and/or (2) make GDC uncool, dismantle its prestige, and expose it as the place for doing business-y career-stuff that it mostly is.

Why should GDC be so sexy to an indie philosophy that has such a complicated relationship to money? Why don't we all just go somewhere else?

I've heard through backchannels that GDC (or at least some in GDC management) are okay with what Lost Levels does, and they understand that "assimilating it" would subvert the perceived independence of Lost Levels. As Naomi points out in the article, Lost Levels kind of functions as a safety valve that still largely preserves GDC's prestige and status.

I think I'd like it to do more, but I'm also conscious that's all it may ever be.

Like, we get a lot of feedback that we need amplified sound. That makes sense: it's hard to hear people, and Lost Levels will only get bigger with each year. But if we spend a lot of money on that sound permit and renting equipment, and a lot of time trying to raise that money, will that fundamentally change how Lost Levels functions / what it is doing / what it is saying?

My personal opinion is "I don't think so," but I don't think it's my place to answer that question.

That's the idea behind cycling the facilitators, so that Lost Levels can belong to the community, so that it can keep changing and becoming something else. Abdicating and sharing power is possibly the most radical thing we can do, and as organizers it might be the only thing left for us to do in our tenure.