Keynote: Baratunde Thurston
This morning, while I kept myself busy working from the only functioning wifi I could find, Baratunde Thurston walked by. He looks super down to earth and I’m excited to catch his session this morning! Thurston is a futurist comedian, writer, and activist, and today he’s talking about how digital storytelling doesn’t need to be boring.
Baratunde discusses his regular use of ‘irrelevant and imadertia’ in casual conversation…a phrase that was non-existent…thanks, mom! But he also discusses the professional moves his mom made in order to leave her children in a good place when she passed. She was always ready for ‘the gram’, in reference to a photo of his mother as an activist. In discussing the learning materials he experienced as a child, he references This is Apartheid…just some light reading. Clearly his mother was a very influential woman in his life and his learning journey.
23 and Me told him he was less Neanderthal than his sister, and this is an incredibly power argument he now holds against his sister, but she was quick to point out that he was way whiter than him…the author of How to Be Black…which I don’t believe is referenced in the book…because How to Be 81.6% Black was definitely a less catchy title.
- Within the book, he wanted some scientific validity, so he had 3 black women, 3 black men, and 1 white Canadian male as a control.
He explains how it was odd for him to create an analog product. He explains the process of trying to insert some digital into the analog, optimizing for social and online distribution. He chose an interactive process for writing the book, which recorded his writing and editing process. This software allowed for interactive chat, which he muted (to avoid spelling corrections and overall distractions), but when he was finished writing the book, he reviewed all of the chat logs and found it interesting to read through other people’s stories and reflect…including some folks confused about their own race and heritage, such as one gentleman concerned about his relationship. She was Chinese…he was 1/2 Jamaican and 1/2 Regular Black, so their kids would likely be Dominican…or something. Of course!
All stories usually begin before you think it begins, so Baratunde says we should all rewind. Our stories usually are part of a previous story.
The topic of toasters came up, and he compares this to the epitome of wealth…we purchase a single-purpose appliance, designed to make bread hard. In purchasing a toaster, he went to the Amazon, and purchasing journey yielded a 1* review with a great story of Scott, a man who just wanted a toaster to make GOOD TOAST. Scott was so upset that he wrote this review…where he asks very philosophical questions, like “why 3 times?”. This is a guy who has had so many toasters, he could be a Toast Scientist.
What a story! Whenever you’re feeling down, just go to Amazon and read some reviews. Here are a couple of my favourites:
After the Amazon review story, he discusses the process of creating critical stories, and provides the examples of working on The Daily Show. Critical stories that needed to be produced daily. He discusses the 2016 presidential debates and the process for attempting to live tweet and produce these debates. It’s a process. A very well-orchestrated process…that yielded hilarious (and accurate) results:
The big thing that Thurston wants us to take away from this session is: In the future, we’re all Dominican…or something!