Implausipod E0011 – Media, Mailbag, and Paths Not Yet Taken

Introduction:

This episode covers a number of short segments, starting with some thoughts on the WGA/SAG-AFTRA strike actions and what that means for Media Consumption (and commentary), as well as a dive into feedback and mail that the channel has received over the last year, addressing questions from the most important part of this show: the listeners.

https://www.buzzsprout.com/1935232/episodes/13422668

Transcript:

 Welcome to the ImplausiPod, a podcast about the intersection of art, technology, and popular culture. I’m your host, Dr. Implausible, and in this episode number 11, we’re gonna dive into the mailbag a little bit and discuss some questions that have been asked since we’ve launched the channel, including media, and how to discuss it in 2023, and future directions that we might be taking here on the channel.

So are you sitting comfortably? Then let’s begin. See, I wanted to start with a riddle here. If movie A makes a billion dollars in the first three weeks of its release, and movie B makes half a billion dollars, then how much longer are the studios, which take 50% plus of the profits of those films able to at the strike?

It’s an interesting question, and I kind of want to know because outside of a full media boycott, I don’t see the strike ending anytime soon since SAG-AFTRA joined the Writer’s Guild in the middle of July 2023. There’s been a lot of work stopped, obviously, but a lot of that’s for future production, stuff that won’t be showing up for months or even years. 

And we as humans can be collectively very bad at delayed gratification and also linking the consequences of current actions to future outcomes. I mean, not all of us and not all the time, but something-something climate change too, right? So we can see how this could drag on for quite some time. And while it’s dragging on, it’s going to impact a lot of individuals that are outside of the guilds that are striking; workers whose income is also tied to their labor in and around Hollywood, and currently have few options for meaningful employment.  So in order to have solidarity with all those workers, haven’t been consuming any media.

As we hinted at in episode eight, in the era of the audience commodity. If every post is promotion, whether it’s on YouTube or in a blog, or here on a podcast, then talking about current or recent shows is still gonna drive business and engagement for those struck studio.  So I’m not gonna talk about it now. The WGA and SAG after leadership is not calling for a general media boycott, but I can still not watch things if I don’t want to or don’t want to talk about ’em. So I’m not gonna, I mean, I kind of do, as we had discussed both Westworld and The Peripheral on the show before, and there’s a couple other series that we have that we’re taking a look at that we’d like to publish on once the strike is over. But that in any current or future media commentary is going to have to wait. And by current, I mean like the last five years or so. ’cause that’s directly involved with the struck studios.

So what does that mean for the podcast? Well, for the coverage of shows like the Peripheral in Westworld, they’ll just have to wait. I’ll record some episodes based on my notes, but as you’ll notice from listening to those episodes, we weren’t really doing a recap – that isn’t the goal of this show. There’s a challenge with doing the kind of analysis we’re doing and linking the themes of the episodes to the broader literature that’s out there on a live week-to-week basis.  Now, I think the process has improved here, and we might be able to do that at some point in the future, but I’m not interested in doing recaps. There’s hundreds of places you can get those, and I think that is not the strength of what we can bring to the table here. I think for The Peripheral we’ll be able to get those up and get those out before a season two happens, ’cause by then the strike will obviously be over.

And for Westworld, I’ll admit, when it was announced that it would be canceled and there would be no season five, a lot of the air went out of my enthusiasm balloon for getting those episodes done. I was feeling pretty deflated, to be honest, and it took a little while to get back going again.

But the current events that have been happening with the advance of large language models and generative AI and their focus in the general public in the discussion. Right now, the linkages between Westworld and that are so strong that I do wanna still cover it and come back to it. I was looking at some of my old episode transcripts for stuff that had been recorded but not released yet, especially for episode four, which I had titled “Creativity”, and seeing the discussions around creativity and the AI, the generative tools we have and whether they’re creative or not, um, I, I think we need to talk about it. So we will focus on those themes of the episode, and we’ll come back to the episodes proper at some point in. Observant listeners will notice that I did say “current” media, so that’s one of our mailbag questions.

So why don’t we shift to that right now?

(Parents don’t let your kids have unsupervised access to ProTools.)

Question one: what exactly am I doing here? Is it media archeology or contemporary anthropology? And that’s a fantastic question, and the answer is yes. And if media archeology is understanding new and emerging media through close examination of the past (to use a Wikipedia definition), then that’s absolutely part of what I do, and that’s kind of where my practice is.  It’s a lot of what I did in academia in grad school through my dissertation work that was done there. I was doing field work studying innovators and creators of new technologies and how they’re engaging with the media in their environment.

If contemporary anthropology is the study of the modern human condition and how we deal with modernity, then “also true”. So yes, it’s both. It’s the difference between the study of the artifacts or the study of the actors. And if we’re looking at it from like an ontological lens or a flat ontology, then we gotta be studying both. Then we’ll talk a little bit about that in some of the episodes that are more academically focused going forward.

So does that answer the question about what the channel is about? Well, maybe. I have an idea of where the channel is going in my mind’s eye, but it’s gonna take a little while to put together the pieces and all the various streams of it. So bear with me. It’s gonna be a fun ride. And I think that leads into :

question two, which is what path are you on?  Where is this going?

Well, there’s a number of different paths that we have, a number of different streams. Some of them we’ve touched on like Appendix W and cyberspace, and the media review and the communications and theory discussions that we’ve been having in the last few episodes. Now, some of these overlap, some in more obvious ways than others, but they all converge in an interesting point, and my job is to bring those together for you.

Some of those paths, Appendix W and “Our Dystopian Present” are gonna be ongoing. The Lost Basics of Communication Theory will be coming up time and again as we need it. And other paths, the roads not yet taken, including about 95% of the stuff that I’ve written about academically, which includes innovation, makerspaces, game studies, and cultural archetypes will all be added into the mix where appropriate, and this will become apparent in the upcoming weeks and months.

So the follow up question to that, that I received, question two B, if you will (No pun intended): then why not organize it in a different manner? Why not do seasons or focus it on a specific niche? And the answer to be somewhat oblique is that the medium is the message; that history doesn’t quite work that way – it’s a little bit messy.  It isn’t necessarily serial happening in distinct chunks, and it isn’t necessarily massively parallelizable either. (Sorry, that was a bit of a struggle to say, but I think we got it out.) The point being is that I can’t do six different podcasts on different things each with their own specific focus as just my time and energy isn’t finite, as is finite and it doesn’t really work that well.

So we’re gonna bounce around a bit. So if you’re interested in a wide variety of topics, then please stick around. I’ll do my best to untangle the threads and show how they line up on the blog, or on the YouTube channel and we’ll do periodic updates about where we’re at and what upcoming episodes on various streams are, but it’s just, it’s gonna be the way it is, and that’s just the way that I work.

All I can hope is that you find it interesting and informative and perhaps even entertaining. So the next question I got:

Question three is why am I doing this? What are my sources of inspiration? (There’s another question there, but I’ll leave that unanswered or unaddressed for now.) But I think sources of inspiration are really important.  It can be a motivating factor, but it can speak to our underlying reasoning, ideology, and sometimes the goals that we have working on something and not just as a particular project or a particular person, but culturally and societally as well, which is why a lot of what I look at, whether it’s media archeology or cultural anthropology or communication studies, whatever you want to call it, is focussed on those sources of inspiration.

Because it’s a way to chart where we might be going, especially when we’re headed off into something unknown. And the future is always a bit of an unknown, right? It’s uncharted territory. There are “strange new worlds” out there. So in order to figure out where we’re going into the future, the one thing that we can do, the one thing that separates us from the animals and from the AIs is our imagination, and to use that to the fullest extent that we can.

So I think my sources of inspiration are fairly obvious. I wear them on my sleeve. I’m a Gen Xer. I grew up in the seventies and eighties with, you know, two and a half channels of TV and a library card and an active imagination. So the things I found inspiring in my youth, whether it was history or gaming, or sci-fi or, music or comic books, are still things that continue to inspire me in some way as I’ve grown older.

The challenge when looking back at those sources of inspiration is to not fall back into nostalgia, but to use that as a springboard for where you’re going future. And that’s really what we’re all about here. However, in the interest of fun, I thought I’d just recap what some of those sources of inspiration were.

In the seventies, it included pretty much any sci-fi TV show I could get my hands on, and again, this was on a couple channels of broadcast tv, so it wasn’t necessarily everything. It included some Star Trek, the original series, as well as some more obscure shows like Space 1999, the StarLost, and Six Million Dollar Man.

Granted, the last one wasn’t obscure, but I think collectively they all managed to freak out my impressionable little mind. I also recall reading Novelizations of the Star Trek series by James Blish and other authors, as well as whatever I could get my hands on in the local school library as I got a little older and started reading on my own and included a lot more comic books, including a treasure trove of Mad magazines that were donated and, uh, anything else that had some visual appeal. A lot of Asterisk books too. And the occasional Marvel comic too, though those are few and far between: often, just something to keep me occupied on a road trip.

Into the Eighties, I started playing Dungeons and Dragons, so I started reading a little bit of fantasy. But I wanna be clear here: a lot of the fantasy from the seventies and eighties was _not good_, so maybe we need to go into that here one time. But in any event, I still consumed a lot of sci-fi and the comics started getting better in the mid eighties. I was reading a lot more of it and buying stuff with my own money. I. So able to do that on a more consistent basis, even though there wasn’t that much in the way of sci-fi comic books, things like Micronauts and ROM, but you know, Heavy Metal and Epic Illustrated was out there as well. The saving grace was that there was some amazing science fiction being written. Not all of it cyberpunk, but uh, some great stuff there too.

Then into the nineties, we finally started hitting our stride with some decent video games and comic books, some amazing music, and the introduction of the “New Weird” on television, including shows like the XFiles.  And gaming. Gaming had exploded: between the unholy constellation of doom and quake and magic. The gathering early MMOs like UL and EverQuest and Warhammer, gaming, both analog and digital, made up a significant portion of my entertainment, but always with a community, a friend group, or online with other individuals.  It was never a solitary endeavor.

In 2005, I entered academia grad school, and the challenge now is to bring all these disparate threats together. And that leads into:

Question four. If I am doing that, if I’m bringing this all together, why am I making it so hard to find? Why is this podcast not available on iTunes or Spotify or Google Podcasts?

And for part of the answer, you can just check out episode eight. If we have issues with the business practices of some of those players, it would seem hypocritical to engage with for distribution of the product, and that’s especially true when. And how they have commodified music and how they basically pay out to the artists. When it comes to something like iTunes, the issue there is the Walled Garden of Apple’s podcasts to basically make me as a non-Apple user excluded from using it. And while the increased reach would be good, there’s still issues there, right? So maybe that one will get resolved. The Spotify one, most likely will not.

You’ll still be able to find the podcast on the carriers that do carry it, as well as through the Buzzsprout link or on the website once we get that linked to the Buzzsprout page.  In addition, we’re trying to put as much of the information, including the transcripts available on the blog as well.

I’m a firm believer in the POSSE principle when it comes to content creators, and that’s, uh, short for “post on own site, syndicate everywhere”. Which is basically ensuring that the content creator has ownership of that material and it doesn’t get locked behind a walled garden or something that the creator doesn’t have access to. So to that end, we’ll keep doing it on a website that I’m have direct access to, even though it might be hosted somewhere. So the smaller excerpts of the content should be available on multiple sites. We’re not gonna be using a newsletter service like Substack because again, there’s some issues there. And Medium as a paywall is not necessarily great for content either, and I’m kind of opposed to it.

But the forums that we do have some control over, we’ll keep on putting out content on. Now, not every podcast is gonna end up being a YouTube video, but I would like to move some of the content there as well. We’ll keep on working on that. That’s a new skill to learn and we’ll, and I’m looking to get that up on a more regular basis as the audio production elements are starting to get more regular and comfortable.

And finally, contact, you can reach the show at Dr Implausible at implausi dot blog. The link should be in the show notes. We’d be happy to hear from you. If you have any questions or suggestions for topic ideas or something you’d like to hear about, by all means let us know. Reach out.  Otherwise, if you see Dr. Implausible on a social media site, it’s probably me though. We’re not on any of the Facebook owned sites. And that brings us to our final question:

Question five, what’s next? And that is a fantastic question. As we’ve stated, we won’t be focusing on any of the current media during the W G A and SAG after job actions, but we may look at some of the older media, including Appendix W and the cyberpunk literature that have informed our dystopian present, as well as any number of the implausibilities, which have jumped from the pages of science fiction to be manifest in our reality.

But I know the three most recent episodes of each spun off a whole host of follow-up topics, so the snowball sample grows, but sometimes I just gotta follow my bliss and see what strikes my fancy. So I’ll dig into the big bag of topics and I’ll see you in a week or so. Until next time, have fun.