12 August 2010
On Chris Hardwick, Nerds in General & Collaboration
I can't quite remember how it started. I got awfully into podcasts several months ago, and I think I heard that Chris Hardwick (at the time, to me: that guy who sometimes reviews gadgets on Attack of the Show) had one, and so I gave it a try. I liked it, and subscribed to his 'blog, The Nerdist. Not too long ago, Signor Hardwick started casting about for 'blog contributors and, having something of an idea at the time, I submitted a proposal. It was not accepted (but not NOT accepted [but we actors understand what that means]) and I thought, oh well: Can't fault a guy for trying. (I've since had a much better idea for a pitch. Still mulling it over, though. [Spicily.][I'm kind of hoping you actually didn't see what I did there....])
So this cult of Chris: I'm in it. There's a lot that appeals about the dude; he's funny (helpful quality in a comedian), intelligent and kind. He's self-professed nerd, which means my likes match his likes pretty durn good. The thing that really grabbed me about him, though, is what he chooses to talk about and how he talks about it in his interviews with various celebrities on the podcast. Hardwick has a lot of fun, makes (occasionally crass) jokes, is well-supported by fellow podcasters Jonah Ray and Matt Mira, but the key for me is that he seems to love most of all to talk about people's ideas. Not just their work, mind you, but the work they'd love to do. To my mind, there's nothing more telling about a person in the moment than that, and frankly nothing more interesting to me.
About a week ago, I acquired an invitation to join the alpha stage of a new little project by Chris and collaborators Rachel Masters and Athena von Oech (of Red Magnet Media) called "The Node." The Node is an idea that Hardwick had been hinting at on his podcasts for some little while, realized. Essentially it's an online social network specifically for nerds (or whatever description you'll apply). Now, I flinch immediately at the idea of another social network. Thank you Friendster for reminding me of birthdays, MySpace for making me feel I could manipulate my own web presence, LiveJournal for...uh...being there when I just didn't get it at all, and Facebook for at least initially making me feel safe to come out and play again. Thank you, and done. Great. No more.
EXCEPT: The Node has a proclaimed purpose. It's an exciting idea. Something Chris calls "nerdsourcing," referencing the term crowd-sourcing, or utilizing a group of folks of varying (including no) acquaintance to accomplish something concrete. The purpose of The Node is to facilitate this kind of collaboration between nerds or, as Hardwick puts it, people who are unabashedly obsessive and creative. In other words, we're hoping here to create a little online community of folks who will make cool stuff and happenings together, not just post pictures of their pets (yes, I posted a picture of my cat). Will it happen? I hope so, but we'll have to see. And I use the word "we" because I think I'm in, dogs.
When I look back over the work I've done over the past several years, the strongest and most consistent component has been creative collaboration. Now, I always pretty much chalked this up to my being deeply entrenched in theatre projects, and theatre being sort of the ultimate collaborative art form. On considering it lately, however, I've realized it all has more to do with collaboration being a huge personal priority. Not necessarily for any logical or pragmatic reason, I value collaboration a great deal. It's like having a built-in audience at every stage of creation, and means that whatever you made is something greater than yourself just by the nature of its making.
There's a lot going on for me right now that shares this theme, from directing the next Zuppa del Giorno show, to revamping The Action Collective with Friend Andrew, to an untold-of project or two. So far, The Node seems to be facilitating mostly a lot of excited nerdly chatter, and one or two ideas for real-world nerdsourced projects. I'm trying to dream one good one up myself, though my first contribution to the pitch pile might simply be from a necessity that arises out of my current work instead of some nifty new thing. I can't, in other words, give as much time to The Node as I might otherwise (though I'm stealing time left, right n' center). If it sounds like something in which you might be interested: Hit me up, dawgs. I can invite you in. Such is the power of an alpha nerd. *barks quietly, pushes glasses back up snout*