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Social Media and Informationalism blogger and author of The Play Ethic, Pat Kane an Interview PlayEthic.com


Tell me about Play Ethic?

The Play Ethic (www.theplayethic.com) is the blog that took over all my projects, books and other websites! The title of the blog comes from a book I wrote for Macmillan in 2004. I use it to explore, comment on and collate all my interests in the topic of play in modern society. It’s such a huge subject, its very nature is sprawling, connective, messy and fertile, so it quite easily captures so many strands of my activity, in music, consulting, writing, researching and activism.

Your blog tagline is: “The power and potential of play in web/tech, organizations and pop culture”- what do you see as the biggest trends in this area?

In web/tech, it’s clear to me that the deeply playful way in which people use their platforms and social tools, and the increasing ‘game-ification’ of our everyday experiences (shaped by the maturing of the gamer generation), is forcing quite a shift in people’s sense of themselves. I’m fascinated by the impact that a rising constituency of self-shaping, self-motivated players is having on organisations – not just the old ones that try to employ them (or maybe better deploy them), but the new organisations that are springing up, to contain and use the passionate commitment that so many of us have to a networked, digitalised and simulatory lifestyle. I reference pop culture in the title of the blog because it’s the zone to watch for play militancy! As a musician, I know and love the spirit that says, ‘just do it, get it out there, see what happens’.

Tell me about your book, The Play Ethic.

I go into a bigger explanation of the Play Ethic book here http://www.theplayethic.com/what-is-the-play-ethic.html It’s a rather compendious volume, into which I probably poured too much of my interest in play – personal, intellectual, and professional – but I’m pretty proud of it for bringing a different idea of the meaning of play into the British mainstream. That is, play as being about an inventive, energetic and experimental engagement with the world, right at the centre of your life, rather than play as just a trivial compensation for a hard-day’s labour. I develop this insight through theory, reportage and personal testimony.

What was your first blog?

Ha! My first blog was a tentative little post on Blogger – though as I’ve been a journalist for many years, I picked up speed and confidence pretty quickly. I can even remember the graphic design that Blogger provided – a kind of abstract, dark-blue block, set at an angle, with the text on its face. The sense of power to publish, and to control what you say, grabbed me from the very beginning.

What is the biggest tip you would give to a newbie blogger?

Two things mainly. Firstly, I’m in no way a coder or a designer, so I would say get onto a robust and fixable blog platform, that has a good support community/service, and is easily customisable in terms of graphics. It gives confidence to viewers if they see that you’ve been trying to create a brand or a feel around your blog. And then secondly, I think Jeff Jarvis the new media commentator has put into a crisp phrase my own blog ethic – “do what you do best, and then link to the rest”. Readers (whether they be casual, obsessive or possible clients for your services) turn to the blogosphere for idiosyncrasy and specialism – you go out there hoping to find someone who is as pernickety about, and as wrapped-up in, your chosen topic. You don’t go to blogs for complacent, well-crafted, general musings, but for people who simply have to write what they’re writing, and have chosen this free space (rather than the more gate-keepered space of mainstream media) to express it.

What do advertisers do that you wish they wouldn’t?

I don’t have much relationship with advertising on any of my blogs. I’m a little bit defensive of the free analytical space that a blog provides, its low-or-not costs meaning that your critique can range widely and freely on anything. I’m something of an 18th-century pamphleteer about blogs…

What do bloggers do that you wish they wouldn’t?

My own preference for blogs is that people use it as a kind of essay format – a place in which they can develop their thoughts free of deadlines or paymasters. I think the rise of real-time media updates in social networks is a good development – it takes the phatic ‘twittering’ away from blogs (other than as an RSS feed), and allows them to become more classical spaces for self-expression.

Where do you see growth in the blogging field?

Again, I think micro-blogging (a la Facebook and Twitter), particularly conducted through rich portable media devices like the iPhone, has taken some of the burden off traditional web-based blogs to be these instantaneous places of self-expression. For me, blogs are now an opportunity for you to step back a little from the cybernetic loop we can so easily get caught up in with mobile, locational and real-time media. However I think that micro-blogging can itself develop a little more, up and away from the “140” character limitation. My presentation at the Media140 conference in London http://www.theplayethic.com/2009/05/twitternewsmedia.html suggested that a ‘meso-blogging’ might be possible. (Which allows for my kinda blogging to be ‘macro-blogging’, I suppose). If we’re not just reading newspapers on street corners, but now producing news on street corners, are the devices, networks and platforms were using really up to the task yet? I’m using and trying out everything in this field (AudioBoo my favourite), but I still think there are slightly richer on-the-move blogging experiences to be had than the ones afforded by a telecom engineer’s casual addition to the design of his device…

What new ideas are advertisers coming up with to take advantage of new trends?

As Clay Shirky says, we’re in the space between the death of the bad old things and the birth of the good new things – meaning that online advertising is not yet an complete replacement for the kinds of ads that a collapsing old media used to serve up. And perhaps they never will be. I wonder whether the whole relationship between someone who makes a product or service that they think might have users or consumers, and the deeply demanding conversations and transparencies that characterise online behaviour, means that advertising will have to completely rethink its function – and by association, the manufacturers and service providers themselves. Add to that recession and eco-crisis, and it may be that online advertising and its clients will have to become part of the toolbox of living sustainably. lightly and well – clearly seen to be adding to the solution, not wasting and problematising our precious time.

What do you do to improve the world?

Bring up strong, ethical, dynamic children. Try to be honest in what I write and analyze.

What do you do that is green?

I don’t drive, so I use public transport 95% of the time to get around.

What is one thing about you that not many people know?

Move along, people. Nothing to see here.

What’s your favourite book?

Finite and Infinite Games by James Carse. A small work of absolute genius.

What is on your iPod?

Lots of lovely NPR, BBC and alternative radio podcasts and video-casts, which entertain me hugely on my many hours on public transport.

What are your contact details (email, company, blog, facebook, myspace, forums, etc)?

Pat Kane
Director, The Play Ethic
Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @theplayethic
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/patkane
Facebook: http://tinyurl.com/patkanefacebook

What events do you go to?

I’m really enjoying the current rash of social media and technology talkfests, unconferences and get-togethers around the country at the moment, particularly in London and Glasgow/Edinburgh. I call them all ‘soulitarians’ – trying to match their ethics and passions to their skills and systems.

How do you prefer to communicate?

I’m half-man, half-iPhone at the moment. A battery that lasted longer than 6pm, and I would then believe that the future was now (to misquote William Gibson) evenly distributed.

Who would you recommend, and why?

Some great voices out there on the web, guiding us to a new enlightenment via social media – Clay Shirky, Bill Thompson, Steven Johnson, Joanne Jacobs, Kevin Kelly, McKenzie Wark, Alexander Galloway. Also, I’m interested in the politics of the network society – any of the joint writings of Antonio Negri and Micheal Hardt are well worth reading (if a bit tough philosophically), and Manuel Castells remains my guru in all this stuff.

What is one thing people can do for you?

They can respond to blog posts, they can forward on anything interesting I’ve written to friends.. in short, they can join me in realising the great possibilities of the Net!

Thanks to Pat Kane, Social Media and Informationalism blogger at PlayEthic.com and author of The Play Ethic!

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