Why pop culture is stuck in the recycle bin: A conversation with remix provocateur Kirby Ferguson
Kirby Ferguson
September 19th, 2012
01:42 PM ET

Why pop culture is stuck in the recycle bin: A conversation with remix provocateur Kirby Ferguson

Editor's note: Rob Salkowitz is an author and business analyst specializing in the future of entertainment, media and technology. His latest book is "Comic-Con and the Business of Pop Culture" (McGraw-Hill, 2012). Follow him @robsalk.

"Star Wars." "Raiders of the Lost Ark." "Kill Bill." What do these canonical works of nerd-cinema have in common?

They’re rip-offs!

That is, they pay “homage” – through the wholesale appropriation of scenes, characters, plot structures and even shot-framing - to the objects of their directors’ obsessions. Still, they are all recognized as vastly influential, popular, and, yes, original works.

So maybe they’re not really rip-offs: they’re remixes.

This process of “innovation through imitation” is how most creativity functions, according to filmmaker, TED-talker and cultural provocateur Kirby Ferguson, maker of the wildly popular series of web videos “Everything is a Remix.” And, he points out, the artists and inventors who break through with new ideas that capture our imagination are frequently folks who have obsessed endlessly over the details of whatever genre, style or body of work that captured their fancy.

In other words, they’re nerds. And that’s what made them great. FULL POST

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Filed under: Brainiac • Fandom
Of geeks and girls
Steampunk and otaku represent at Geek Girl Con 2012, but so did plenty of engineers and scientists.
August 13th, 2012
06:02 PM ET

Of geeks and girls

Editor's note: Rob Salkowitz is an author and business analyst specializing in the future of entertainment, media and technology. His latest book is "Comic-Con and the Business of Pop Culture" (McGraw-Hill, 2012). Follow him @robsalk.

The term “geek girl” has had to carry a lot of unwanted baggage lately. Intended as a positive self-identity for women and girls with well-developed interests in nerdy pursuits ranging from pop culture to science and engineering, it has become a flashpoint for gender friction within fandom and the target of suspicion among self-appointed guardians of subcultural boundaries.

That’s too bad, not just because girl geeks are as deserving of respect as their male counterparts, but because the emerging persona of the capital-G Geek Girl has the potential to expand old conceptions of both fandom and gender and get us past some of the current silliness.

This positive potential was in full display last weekend in Seattle at the second annual Geek Girl Con (GGC 2012). The program featured celebrities spanning the gamut of nerdom, from comics writer Gail Simone to game designer Corinne Yu, television producer Jane Espenson to Rat City Rollergirl Kitty Kamakaze.

Cosplayers, gamers, Browncoats, makers, steampunks, manga fans and enthusiasts of all stripes were all represented among the crowd of about 3,500. The event seemed busy but not overcrowded, thanks to the move to the more spacious digs of the Washington State Convention Center.

Though much of the programming focused on pop culture favorites like sci-fi, manga, videogames and comics – topics that generate predictable excitement and visibility –several panels featured women in rocketry, robotics, software design and engineering, with special emphasis on helping girls and young women overcome social stigmas against pursuing these areas in school and at work.

Over the weekend, lots and lots of young women came up to the microphone to say, “My friends and I are the only girls at school who like x, y and z. … We just don’t know how to get people to understand us.” Seeing those girls get spontaneous applause from the audience and a panel of respected role models is reason enough to stand up and cheer for GGC. FULL POST

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Camp 'Breaking Dawn' and the 'Twilight' of the boys club
Take a good look, publishers. These ladies are buying comic books.
July 24th, 2012
11:59 AM ET

Camp 'Breaking Dawn' and the 'Twilight' of the boys club

Editor's note: Rob Salkowitz is a business analyst and consultant specializing in the future of entertainment, media and technology. This is an excerpt from his latest book, "Comic-Con and the Business of Pop Culture" (McGraw-Hill, 2012) which focuses on the nerdy audience at the largest comic book trade show in the Western Hemisphere. Follow him @robsalk.

I don’t think it will come as a big shock that, for most of the history of comics fandom, conventions have not been distinguished by high numbers of females of any age. That began to change in the 1990s, when strong and emotionally authentic female characters like Xena: Warrior Princess, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and the cheerful Goth-girl personification of Death in Neil Gaiman’s popular "Sandman" series activated the recessive fan gene on the X chromosome.

The trend accelerated with the mainstream popularity of manga, which had developed numerous styles over the years to appeal to all genders and was sold in bookstores, beyond the boys-club direct market comics shops. The rise of the Internet poured gasoline on the fire, creating spaces for feminerds to come out of the woodwork and share their passions. Many of today’s best online comic and fantasy-genre news sites and discussion groups were started by, and remain powered by, women.

Today, there are increasing numbers of proud girl geeks of all ages; I count myself fortunate to be married to one. Crowds at conventions and even some comics stores now reflect a much more equal gender balance. As for the comics industry itself, not so much. But that’s a different conversation. FULL POST

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Digital comics work it in San Diego
Artist Dave Gibbons signed autographs and promoted his digital comic book at San Diego Comic-Con in the Madefire booth.
July 19th, 2012
01:48 PM ET

Digital comics work it in San Diego

Editor's note: Rob Salkowitz is a business analyst and consultant specializing in the future of entertainment, media and technology. His latest book, "Comic-Con and the Business of Pop Culture" (McGraw-Hill, 2012) focuses on the nerdy audience at the largest comic book trade show in the Western Hemisphere. Follow him @robsalk.

Last year at Comic-Con, digital comics were the headlight approaching in the dark tunnel. This year they are the train bearing down on the industry at full steam. Amid estimates that nearly 30 million Americans now use iPads or tablet devices of some kind, comics and graphic novels have emerged as the killer app for this hot new platform and everyone from the industry’s top publishers to feisty startups and independents are looking for a way to get in on the action.

Against that backdrop, even with all the various entertainment, movie and videogame news pouring out of San Diego this year, it was the announcements coming from digital publishers and platforms that has the greatest potential to shape how we enjoy the stories and characters we love in the months and years to come. Here’s a roundup of some of the top stories in digital from this year’s show: FULL POST