## Getting ready to give my new talk tomorrow Nerd, Know Thyself at UXWeek. Emotional self-awareness is what the web and the economy need most. I’ll be giving a longer keynote version at Web Development South in Sydney this Fall. If you’d like to book it, get in touch.
Doug Rushkoff honoured me by asking me to be one of the 10 people giving an opening provocation at the very inspiring conference he and Venessa Miemis convened the other day called #ContactCon. It’s was a conference focussed on what people could actively do to concretely fulfill the promise of the Net.
Our role as opening provokers was to give people some inspiration about what the Net needs. I knew I would focus on emotional and a connection on people since that’s what my performance work centres on. I only had four minutes to make an impression and move the room.
I also knew that the other speakers, like Scott Heiferman, (founder of meetup) and Eli Pariser, (founder of MoveOn) whom are all wonderful and whose work I admire weren’t performers. And while people spoke about the importance of making the Net human I wanted to make the room feel human as I made my own points. I wanted to shift or sculpt the social space in the room. Later that day, Doug called it “repasting the room” when he thanked me for my performance
Usually, if I had more time, I’d then use the openness and emotional connection in the room after what I did to shine focus on people in the room and to draw their stories out. I explore some of how I do this in shows, and how these “mechanics” of conversation or tummeling work in this other talk I gave at Google and teach people how to do it in UnPresenting.
And some people asked me afterwards as I discussed social and emotional engagement if its necessary to be heavy and sad to pull a focus like that. No I don’t believe so. I think you have to be genuine. You have to work with what’s truthful for you right then. Believe me, it’s a lot more fun for me when it’s hilarious. In time, this story will also be hilarious. At least some of the time.
I’ve written all this to give some context as to why I did what I did in this provocation. It was a chosen performance. Usually this opening up of the room happens in a performance or “talk” of mine. Because there was no time for it I got responses all day long, many in the bathroom from other women (a sure sign you’ve hit a nerve). I choose to open myself up and be vulnerable and honest in these moments but it can be tiring. It’s been a difficult and profound year for me personally, a year of biblical kinds of loss. I’ve moved from place to place with one suitcase for over a year. I’m ready for home and settledness.
This video doesn’t give context. I’m not sure it conveys how it felt in the room before, during or after I spoke. I did shift the feeling in the room which was my goal. I’m proud of that. I’m proud that I can be publicly honest about something difficult. I do know that institutions, even the ones we helped to build, fail. And I do know that outsourcing a sense of self to them also fails us.
Occupy Wall Street points to the institutional failure and shift that has only just begun. I am learning every day how to self-create and collectively create what is needed to feel home in a life of change. This is a huge opportunity for those who make online and off. The goal is not to have something static forever. I’ve learned the hardest way that we really don’t have control. That kind of making is an illusion. We want to be ourselves and feel safe and feel together. I know I do.
There has been a real backlash against openness as the word “oversharing” implies. As CNN noted, I think an “oversharing” accusation is often another persons way of saying “what you are saying is making me uncomfortable.”
Handling out feelings and learning how to be in public space together is what much of my work is about. I believe it’s a lot of what the shifting economy is about too. As I told Umair Haque in our TummelVision conversation: “We’re not going to think our way out of this economic/cultural place. We’ve got to feel our way out.”
The End of Shame conversation happened because it was the one Melissa most wanted to have and it was one of the bright moments of SXSW for me this year. It was a room of incredibly smart and interesting people who taught us more than we shared. And we know how to share.
I want to talk with you.
I help make a world where we can be ourselves together in the funniest way possible. To book me for your university, conference or company to do this, get in touch here or say hi on twitter (@heather).
I'm a relentlessly honest writer and geek comedian best known for creating a kind of interactive performance by mashing up theatre, stand-up and the Net. I created the show "I Look Like An Egg, but Identify As A Cookie" in which I've made over 50,000 cookies with audiences. The popular culture blog Boing Boing calls me "brilliant" and "one of our favourite comedians."
I perform at places like SF Sketchfest, contribute to CBC Radio, consult and keynote at companies, universities and conferences about how to how to make social spaces for people to connect online and off. Here's my Google Talk for a taste. More about me>>
"A set of wits equal to any major player on Comedy Central." - Austin Chronicle
"Different from what most people think of as stand-up" - A great recent interview with The Hairpin