This past September I was lucky enough to be invited to speak at the Do Lectures in Wales. It was an honor to be there and I wrote all about it. Given the opportunity and means, you should attend next year.
The talk, however, is something about which I've yet to write. 1
I went to Wales with one set of slides up my sleeve and ended up presenting something almost entirely different. This is — now that I think about it — how talks should go. Built on the fly. A sort of performance art erected on genuine experience and knowledge. Improvisation. Or, perhaps not. But, undeniably, because of the rapidly changing nature of publishing, it's almost impossible to repeat the same talk about books with a straight face. I've spoken at several conferences in the last few months and the data in the presentations — by necessity — was updated at the very last minute. Things are moving fast. And it's fun.
At Do, the changes I made were less influenced by the industry, and more because of the conference attendees. I presented on day three. Midway through day one I was altering my slides. The more I listened to these amazing folks describing their amazing efforts, the more apparent became the grossly under utilized infrastructure of contemporary publishing.
I gutted my talk. Gone was most of the technical babble (then resurrected for Web Directions South, a tech oriented event). Added were real life examples of tangible, digitally influenced changes in the publishing chain. Examples that were representative of new ways of funding books, new ways of writing books and new ways of building publishing companies around communities.
Everything in the talk pivots around a single node regarding digital media: we must shift from the question of, "How do we make books digital?" To, "How does digital affect books?" It's the difference between Microsoft Encarta and Wikipedia. And it's the difference between thinking publishing can't work for you, to understanding how it can.
I had a blast preparing for, sweating over, memorizing all those names, and finally delivering this talk. I hope you folks enjoy it.
- Hello there — this is totally tangential to the contents of the talk so I thought I'd throw it down here.
What was really fun about the talk was that it was in English. That may be a strange thing to say, but, you see, I've been lecturing in Japan for these last few years. I've spoken at a number of Pechakucha Night events, a few Japanese Universities, the Apple store, some design conferences and a few companies. These talks have been, mostly, in Japanese. The talk I gave at Do was one of the first English speaking engagements I had in years. Certainly in front of such a talented crowd. Which means — I was pretty damn nervous.
I don't say this to make excuses for anything — oh, no no no. I'm pretty satisfied with how the talk turned out. But what that nervousness made me consider was why I was nervous.
Let me explain: You'd think that presenting in your mother tongue would be a breeze. Not necessarily so. I can speak Japanese well enough where I don't think about the words. So Japanese, for me, works something like this: There are ideas. And those ideas manifest in the right sounds coming from my mouth. No bridge in between. It's effortless. A perfect balance of expression and utility. I'm almost never for want of a word to express an idea. And simultaneously my word choices are so limited that whatever emerges is the right choice (probably because it's the only choice).
In other words, my Japanese vocabulary is very utilitarian — raw and functional. I've found that in speaking Japanese, because of these lexical limitations, it's easier to relax. The talking becomes more about ideas than words. Whereas in English, I find there are sometimes too many words competing in my brain. Does that make sense? For example, I almost used the phrase 'least fricative' up there instead of 'a breeze.' See what I mean? What the hell.
Oh, boy. Anyway — I'd like to think I'm getting better with each Anglophonic (see, there it is again) talk I give. And thankful for all the opportunities to share these ideas with 'yall. In person. Learning all the way. ↩︎