Please do not feel bummed, depressed or not cool that you weren’t at South By. Last year I returned from balmy Austin with a sun burn and an unusually bad attitude towards conference-related events. As previously mentioned, I couldn’t stand the miles of pasty white boys dressed in black baking in the hot Austin sun. Mix in corporate-sponsored tables of free alcohol and regurgitated breakfast tacos lining the sidewalks and it was like homecoming at Midwestern state college. I returned exhausted and unwilling to attend another event that suggested it could forecast the future.
I want to suggest another alternative to the venture capital validation of the white-boy punk genius: The National Conference on Media Reform happening in Boston from April 8-10. There’s a political component of activism here, which means we’re talking about creating actual change not relying on Angel-backed start ups to solve our problems. NCMR is put on by Free Press, an organization you should know if you’re interested in the diversity of independent media ownership, public media or just open access to the internet.
Here are my top 8 picks for this year’s NCMR.
1. The panel “Beyond Pronouns: Creating Real Stories About Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming People”. Ok, just to put into perspective how amazing this is, SXSW didn’t even have one gay or lesbian-focused panel this year. This one even has panelists from our community including Feministing, WAM and GLAD.
2. I’m so excited to see Sarah Jones. She’s one of my favorite artists because her one-person/many persona plays boarder on stand up, satire and performance, brilliantly combining kitsch humor with activism. Jones was the first artist in history to sue the FCC for censorship, resulting in the reversal of the agency’s censorship ruling, which had targeted Sarah’s hip-hop poem recording, “Your Revolution” posted below.
3. A queer pop singer/song writer who undeservedly gets compared to Ani DeFranco (she’s a better musician and sounds nothing like her), Erin McKeown joined the Future of Music Coalition to advocate for legislative changes that benefit independent creative people. She’s speaking twice and maybe performing.
4. Elana Levin from the Writers Guild of America, East, a labor union that represents professional writers working in film, television, digital media and radio, has said digital content is a priority for WGA East and they’ve actually followed through on this by honoring the some of the pioneering women at the forefront of web-based dramas. It may not just be rhetoric.
5. Lest you think policy and activism are boring, there’s a dance party and it’s not led by OK GO. Instead it’s a female-heavy, queer heavy night of beats that will leave you feeling Born To Be Alive, not totally depressed.
7. A topic rarely explored at conferences (and yet somehow it remains close to my heart) is the intersection of comedy and activism. I’m looking forward to the panel so aptly titled “How Satire Can Be Used To Fight for Reform”
8. I’m not sure it gets better than “How Online Fan Communities Are Organizing to Save the World”. It’s where I’ll be after my early morning panel on Saturday.
The full schedule is here. If you can make it, I’m pretty sure it’ll be one of the best events of the year.