Editor's Letter — September 2021:

Participation and Transparent Process

In this month’s Editor’s Letter, Eugene weighs in on our changing relationship between the process and the outcome. We’ve now increasingly been open to the idea of bringing people along for the ride and letting them experience the journey of imperfection and challenge. But what does that mean for expectations when we let them see it all?

 

Back when I was at HYPEBEAST, I quickly realized the disconnect between products on shelves and the process to get it there. Everything out there carries countless steps and design decisions that influence the “final product.” I felt that discounting the process was a missed opportunity for creators to tell a bit of their story in how they arrived at an outcome. This interest led me to start an editorial series called “Process.”  Unfortunately it looks like the tag hasn’t seen a new piece of content since 2015 or so (incidentally, 2015 is the year I left). A transparent process is and continues to be a driving force between what I deem to be the difference between a good (but still forgettable outcome) and one that can exist, grow, and build into something much more important.

 

This idea of transparency in the process creates a sense of trust by first offering vulnerability. I appreciate it when people share the decisions and challenges that go into creating something because it humanizes decisions and opinions. Furthermore, that sense of sharing brings you into the world of the creator. In the past, most of the process was an afterthought as a marketing story or through private conversations. But now, that narrative looks increasingly different and interactive.

 

A few episodes ago on Making It Up episode 183, we spoke about Kanye West’s album release for Donda. What was most fascinating around this was the constant evolution of the product. Early versions were shared to Kanye fan Discords for feedback. In the past, you would expect a near-final example of an album because of the physical process of pressing vinyl or burning a CD. Now you’re able to swap out digital files, continually tweaking and refining what we do. For many of us who work digitally, the final product is rather a version within a potential changelog.

 

The whole release of the Donda Stem player further reinforced this idea that we all are in on the product. Having access to the various layers of a song enables a new type of creator experience where your own perspective is now part of a broader goal of empowering you, ever so slightly, to be a player in somebody’s world.

 

But this leads me to a bigger question. If we’re all participants, and the responsibility of the outcome, whether through group design or social governance of a brand, becomes the norm, do we dull the point-of-view? Do we begin to accept that the product is not necessarily the product , but rather an all-encompassing experience that includes all the steps along the way where we played along as able participants?

 

Since the beginning, we’ve felt that MAEKAN was to exist off of the back of a shared interest in this media experiment. It still continues to be that. I don’t think at any step of the way did we lose our way, yet one of the biggest decision makers was largely left out of the picture. Money. We never had any sort of direction forced upon us because of a massive financial influence from tens of thousands of members. But community participation as part of the creation process still feels valid.

 

The concept of Community, with a huge capital C is the foundation of everything. And to exist and grow is to ensure you have their support. We all want a bit of connection, hope, and ownership, the intersection of Community and transparent process appears to be our answer. We’ve traded in perfection for our collective participation. But as the proverb goes, “it takes a village [to raise a child.]

Eugene Kan

Editor-in-Chief

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