Chris Kelty, a prof. from Rice, leads a panel of Internet cult leaders. He asks if we want these celebrities to become leaders. [I am totally out of my demographic]. Ryan North (Dinosaur Comics). Randall Munroe (xkcd). Moot (4chan). [Live-blogging. Highly compressed. Many mistakes. Even sketchier than usual. ]
Ryan denies he has any leadership beyond superficially. Randall also doesn’t want to lead anything. He’s humbled and horrified that there are other people like him. Moot says he merely provides a place for people to express themselves.
Randall denies that the comic is based on his life. Ryan “tries to have it both ways with his comics.”
Q: Ryan, you’re the creator of Project Wonderful, an auction-based ad system that has revolutionized advertising on the Web. So, which Dinosaurs characters are based on your ex-girlfriends?
A: Sometimes. Unadvisably.
Randall: It can be bad if you write about a fake relationship while you’re in a real relationship…
Q: Are you fighting any preconceptions?
Ryan: People don’t know how to respond to someone writing comics on the Internet.
Q: When have you been most afraid about what you’ve created and the consequences thereof?
A: Right now. [applause]
For some reason, Moot pantomimes a barrel roll.
Ryan says that he doesn’t explain his jokes even when people get them wrong.
For reasons I don’t understand, Randall has the entire audience do a barrel roll. Later, he says that he expected controversy when he did a comic on the meth addicts of cunnilingus in order to set the outer edge of edginess within which he can operate. But there was no controversy.
Ryan adds that he’s surprised by which of his comics are controversial.
Q: Why are so many of the cultural producers men?
Ryan: Online I could be a 12 yr old girl if I wanted to, and perhaps I have been. I don’t think there’s anything inherent in the Internet that selects towards men.
Moot: It’s a conspiracy. We can’t talk about it.
Kelty: A comic like yours does more to entice people into that world than anything the universities do. You seem to be trying to do this. Can you do more than a comic?
Randall: It’s hard to be preachy and funny at the same time. The causes of the gender imbalance are complex. It’s by far the most complicated thing I’ve ever studied, and I’ve studied quantum mechanics.
Q: When you meet someone in a bar, is it more weird and awkward when they know who you are?
Randall: The weirdest is when they seem to be friendly, and they’ve read the comic and don’t like it.
Ryan: It’s nice when you start on an even ground.
Moot: I’m a huge fan of anonymous posting. It evens the playing ground.
Q: Was society crying out for the communities you’ve created?
Moot: 4chan was based on 2chan. Eventually, someone else would have come along and done it.
Q: 4chan has a different community than it started with. During the panel, moot, you’ve both distanced yourself and identified yourself with. What parts of the community do you like?
Moot: Hard to articulate. Started out for anime. The random board grew. The “let’s raid someone’s life for no good reason” is terrible, but a lot of that has migrated elsewhere. I don’t control 4chan but I am at the reins and can say what we do and don’t want there.
Q: What will you be doing in 10 yrs. The same thing?
Ryan: I can see it. My drawing doesn’t change. It’s hard work but I enjoy it.
Randall: Me, too.
Q: Ryan, do you feel more constrained or liberated by the form of your comic?
Ryan: There’s a lot you can do with the narrative form even with a repeating graphic.
Moot: I spend most of my time on the Net reading news. It’s important to be connected to your world. Not just BBC, but community sites.
For reasons I do understand, people ask many insider questions I don’t understand.
Huge applause at the end. Even huger for the organizers of the conference. And why not? ROFLcon is now a meme as much as conf. On its way to becoming a movement?
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