Culture Club: The Ego and the IP
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Culture Club: The Ego and the IP

Culture Club is Torontoist’s (brand new) Canadian pop culture column. We’ll be waxing philosophical about the trivial, the titillating, and the mundane on a bi-weekly basis.

Sean Ward talks pants (and blogs) at Toronto Blog Stars event. Photo by Nick Kozak/Torontoist.

When Kara DioGuardi criticized one of the contestants on American Idol two nights ago (not that we were watching or anything…), she said something that struck us as abnormally astute for the televised talent show: she proclaimed that Tim Urban, fresh-faced homeboy from Duncanville, Texas, should stop acting like he’s already famous. According to the gospel of DioGuardi, a contestant should only “act” like a star once he or she has become one.

This reminded us (well, sort of) of a story that Sean Ward, local blogger and comic book creator, shared with us at an event last week. While Ward was “consulting” for a band (yeah, we don’t know what that means, either), he was able to impart some career-changing advice to the band’s lead singer. The singer, who had recently purchased a pair of flashy “rockstar” pants, had concluded that he would only wear said pants when he became famous. Ward, trouser consultant extraordinaire, said “nuh-uh, you wear those pants right now, young man.” Actually, he didn’t say that. But the sentiment was there. Anyway, the moral of Ward’s story was this: if you want to “be a superstar” you have to start behaving like one first. And wear those terrible pants.
First things first, though: we’re sure you’re wondering why we spent our precious time listening to a lecture about adults playing dress-up. The reason? The siren song of the Toronto Blog Stars. TBS promised to tell us how we could achieve “social media success,” and we thought we’d see what all the racket was about. Featuring Casie Stewart, Lauren White (AKA: Raymi the Minx), and, yes, Sean Ward, we spent nearly three hours on a Thursday evening scribbling things like “I think I am a superstar, I think I am a superstar,” in our notepad, and pretending to tweet about the event while playing Brickbreaker on our phone.
Casie Stewart, unknown to us until we signed up for the event, talked about dumping her Queen West friends (they didn’t blog, and they didn’t support her blogging), getting “free shit” by hocking it in her blog, and getting in trouble for tweeting on the job (for the record: not the job she has now). Oh, and she also landed a sweet gig at MTV Canada and is acting, now, as their digital marking coordinator. Raymi the Minx was, well, Raymi the Minx; she told us she’d always wanted to be famous, and now that she’s kinda sorta made it, she wants to make money from blogging (the woman wants cash, not swag—ya hear?), and we believed her. Sean Ward’s presentation, as we’ve already divulged, began with shiny pants, and meandered from musings about “the artistry of your personal brand” to “just who is a superstar?” Hence the Brickbreaker.
Free, simplistic BlackBerry apps aside though, we’ll admit: we get it. We get what Ward’s saying, and what Casie and Raymi demonstrate every day in their personal blogs. The fame game is no longer a meritocracy; everyone—and anyone—with a computer, an internet connection, and the ability to mash a coherent sentence together can feel what it’s like to be almost famous. And when it comes to personal blogging, fortune favours the self-obsessed: if you’re not convinced that the world really needs to know what brand of socks you’re wearing today, or what kind of cheese went into that sandwich you ate for lunch, we probably won’t care, either.
No one knows this better than Peep Diaires author and Broken Pencil Magazine publisher Hal Niedzviecki. “In my book Hello, I’m Special: How Individuality Became the New Conformity I talked about the way in which our fame obsessed society encourages us to act like rebels-without-causes: people who are ‘against’ the mainstream, people who ‘stand out,'” Niedzviecki told us in an email. He continued:

As a consequence, many, if not all of us, today, have this sense that to attain what we all want—celebrity, stardom, attention, notoriety—we have to act like we are against the system we so very much want to be a part of. This is a complicated process and, increasingly, seems to require a bevy of attitude and style consultants who help us hit just the right notes of disdain and desire.
At the same time, as I track in my recent book The Peep Diaries, the ‘new conformity’ has moved to the internet and increasingly that’s the forum where we seek fame while maintaining our veneer of rebellion. Online we can create entire personas and attitudes that reflect not who we are, but who we want to be. On the ‘net, to become somebody you just have to act like somebody—and the more willing you are to act like that person (a better more exciting you) the more attention you will get and the more you might actually become who you think you want to be.

In other words, if you want to be famous on the internet, you’d better not listen to Kara DioGuardi. The blogosphere was built on the backs of Great Pretenders; the rules that apply IRL (that’s “in real life” in Tweetspeak—we picked up that discursive gem at the Blog Stars event) don’t register online.
Shiny pants, on the other hand, will clearly serve you well in all of life’s real—and virtual—adventures.
Karen Aagaard served as a researcher/intern on Peep Me, the yet-to-be-released documentary featuring Niedzviecki and his peep theories.
Hat tip to TorontoMike for, er, “noticing” the Toronto Blog Stars event in the first place.