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Questions With Tiffany
On February 16th at 6:00 p.m. the Fresno Memorial Auditorium will be graced with a lecture from one of the most fascinating women in technology today: Tiffany Shlain. The tagline on her e-mails read, "Films, Lectures, Awards", and from anyone else this would be pretentious. But when you've founded the Webby Awards, directed a few critically acclaimed films, and you travel around the country giving sold out lectures, you can get away with that sort of stuff.
Ten years ago, when the internet was still in its infancy, Tiffany founded the "Webby Awards", which quickly became the industry's equivalent of the Oscars. She also founded the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences, which serves as the Webbys judging body. The Academy features such members as Francis Ford Coppola, David Bowie, and Beck, among others. The Webbys also feature a "People's Voice" award for each category, which last year garnered more than 200,000 voters.
Tiffany has directed eight films, two of which were Official Sundance Selections. Selected as one of Newsweek's "Women Shaping the 21st Century", she frequently appears on Good Morning America, CNN, and NPR as a technology expert.
Tiffany was kind enough to let me pick her brain a little bit, in preparation for her visit here to Fresno.
Your Current film is "The Tribe", which was an Official Selection of the Sundance film festival for 2006. Can you tell us a little bit about this film and how the reception has been?
The film is about the American Jewish experience told through the story of the Barbie doll. The response has been fantastic. From a great review in the NYTimes, to sold out screenings, to people going to our website to order the film. We are so happy. Your readers can find out more information about it at www.tribethefilm.com.
You strike me as the sort of film maker who doesn't just make films for fun, but rather because you have a point you want to make. What did you want to accomplish with The Tribe?
I am interested in unraveling complex ideas in unorthodox ways. For The Tribe I wanted to open up a dialogue about what it meant to be Jewish today as well as opening up a dialogue about faith and identity in America. My last film that was at Sundance in 2003 (Life, Liberty & The Pursuit of Happiness) I wanted to open up a dialogue about reproductive rights.
Myspace.com was nominated for a Webby award last year, but it didn't win. Since then, it has gone on to become the 15th most popular web site in the world. Do you think this is reflective of a change with the way we use the web? What do you think about the Myspace phenomenon?
Absolutely. Their growth has been amazing to watch. Myspace speaks to the next generation of young adults who really grew up online.
There's always been concern about protecting the openness of the internet. Most recently this has come up with the big telcos asking Google to pay up for preferential treatment on their networks. How secure do you feel the openness of the internet is, and what steps can be taken to maintain that openness?
A constant dialogue about openness with the public.
What do you think about the gender gap in the technology sector and do you think that as computers become less of a technological tool and more of a social tool that that gap will lessen, or is that just playing in to old gender stereotypes?
I think you will see that gap lessen as more people use the web as a tool.
Your lecture on February 16 will be titled "Using the Web for Social Change". Can you give us a sneak preview of some of the things you will be talking about?
The web has radically changed the way we live and work. I will pinpoint how it has changed our lives and examples of how we can harness this power to make social change.
What's next for Tiffany Shlain?
My family, The Tribe, The 10th Annual Webby Awards in NYC, a new film that is brewing...lots of good stuff.
More information about her upcoming lecture can be found here.