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What Do You Do?

At SXSW Interactive 2006, an acquaintance of mine asked, “What do you do?”
This was not an intro question trying to find out who I was and what I did for a living upon first meeting, but a derisory question meant to belittle by someone who had known me for over a year or two by that time and knew my profession.
I was a bit stunned, “You know what I do. I am a web designer and mobile blogger.”
The Acquaintance stated, “No, I am asking what do you do? Have you written a book? What conferences have you spoken at? etc.”
What the acquaintance was really getting at was who was I and where did I rank in web hierarchy. I am here to tell you that I did not add up in the acquaintance’s book. I did not matter in this person’s world because I had not aggressively carved out a territory to have, to hold, and to defend in the new internet bubble known as “Web 2.0”.
I was a bit bewildered by the whole conversation and later it offended my flat hierarchy punk rock ethos. I may have forgotten about it, except it happened a couple of more times over the course of the year with several other professional acquaintances.
Since I have finished my Master’s program nearly a year ago, I have felt a great deal of pressure, both internally and externally, to carve out a territory, be it web design for developers or mobile design or mobile practices or … or … I have spoken to / met with 3 tech publishing house acquisition editors about the possibility of writing a book. I have spoken at two conferences and a few university speaking engagements on web design and mobile practices. While I love speaking and teaching, the very idea of writing tech book leaves me cold.
But most of all, I have been examining my motives and desires. During the third editor meeting last week, I stated out loud, “I love creating web sites and art, I am not sure I want to write a book.”
My non-existent business manager would have given me a good talking to and possibly a swift kick in the rear, but I don’t care. It is true. I most desire to create.
Be the creations art, photography, ideas, web design, a web app, a great meal, a blog post, or a coptic bound handmade book, I want to make things. I want to share ideas. I want be a blessing to others.
All the carving of territories that is currently happening in web design & development makes me nervous. No, not really nervous, it makes me shy away. Watching the internet that I have loved so dearly the last 13 years go from a wild place with lots of crazy ideas – a place of innovation and sharing – to a place that is slowing hardening into a place of hierarchy and territories, I want to pull out of it and go paint.
Seriously. I have an pdf application on my desktop to apply for a grant for a local studio space for LA area emerging artists. This is not a good response, as in 1994 – 1996 I purposely left the art world and all of its competition for the love of creating web sites.
A better response for me now is that while I don’t care about competing for a specific slice of a web territory, I will create regardless. I don’t care if the topics I could write a book on or in an article or speak on are currently or concurrently have 3-4 other higher profile web professionals jockeying for the slot as “The Expert ™”. I will create. And I will share.
To this end, I will be blogging more of my ideas about the web design / dev and mobile worlds, not to carve out a territory but instead to celebrate a range of ideas. Sharing them with the internet. Hold me to this, I have been posting lots of photos but more ideas need to be flowing from this space.
Next time someone asks me, “What do you do?”
I create.