Monday, March 13, 2006

A Special "Thank You" to Aquarello

Ten years ago or so I joined The WELL, an online teleconferencing community which was at the head of the pack at the time. One of the heated debates that would keep coming up here and there in various topics was whether or not there could actually be a "virtual community." I queued behind Howard Rheingold, who ended up authoring a book on just that subject, believing that with a healthy balance of online interaction with offline gatherings (the so-called "WOPS", or WELL Office Parties) a community could be achieved. But to that equation I've added my own addendum, which is that it doesn't suffice just to get together with on-line personalities off-line, there has to be a genuine reciprocity and a willingness to befriend that marks the shift into community. Otherwise what's the point?

When the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts opened its doors, I was doing programming for a local arts organization called The Friends of Ethnic Art and, enthused by folks like Howard Rheingold, I put together a program of four lectures in their screening room devoted to the concept of Internet and the Arts. This was before the World Wide Web took off and so the concept seemed suspicious, foreign and, to most folks, highly unlikely. It was probably one of my most prescient moments. Even I had no idea at the time what was about to unfold. I invited Howard to be my first lecturer and to talk about virtual community and he responded enthusiastically and refused payment. He taught me something very important at that time: that when it comes to the virtual, you must give it away. That the underlying tenet of the online life was its democratization. That has stuck with me all these years.

Since that time and with the advent of blogging, I don't think there's any question but that virtual communities have sprung up in various neighborhoods around the net. The blogathons alone prove a healthy discourse between participants where the best of minds is being given away and shared freely. But even there reciprocity is sometimes lacking, as those who love to be read and to receive commentary on what they have written, forget to do the same for their compatriots. Granted that sometimes there is nothing to say and saying nothing is better than saying something stupid or superfluous; but, in my mind, reciprocity remains requisite. It's not enough to hold court at your own site.

Having recently retired due to disability, blogging became a way for me to discover a new persona with which to function socially. I no longer had a job. I no longer had a water cooler. But I have a love for film and a great respect for film commentary and an even greater curiosity in how film affects others. It has been nothing but delight to have the time to sit down and read so much of what has been written by others on film. And, of course, as with any reader, I have my favorites, sites that through their design or the sheer virility of the written word, captured my attention, my imagination, and my respectful imitation. It's been a blast to interact with folks who have been writing about film a lot longer than I have and who have been into self-publishing way ahead of me. All that being said, I have to admit that I am something of a Luddite, and that learning curves are truly rough on an old dog like myself. That's why it is with humble gratitude that I thank Aquarello for teaching me via email how to embed links in text, something so obvious to everyone else, and a point of embarrassment to myself. Now with that skill under my belt, I look forward to one day putting up pictures as well. Imagine!! PICTURES!! So much to learn from such a grand virtual blogging community!! And especially from someone whose site Strictly Film School is one of the first I go to when I want to research auteur directors and their obscure product. On the basis of such a friendly, welcome gesture; I add Strictly Film School to my links! And thank Aquarello from the bottom of my heart.
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