Steve Roggenbuck

Just up at Rhizome: Steve Roggenbuck, an internet bard at last. The latest in a series of interviews with artists "who have developed a significant body of work engaged (in its process, or in the issues it raises) with technology," this piece has Roggenbuck talking to Laura Davidson about social media, motivational speaking, success ("'success' to me is making peoples lives better"), the powers that be in technology, and how he got his start. A clip:

LD: You seem to be implying that you equate view counts or retweets as a measure of success for a piece of work. Do you consider your work "successful" only via internet metrics or do you think about the importance of your poetry on other terms?

SR: "success" to me is making peoples lives better. i do care about quantity as part of that, i want to reach a lot of people. but the quality of the impression is also important. and there's a lot to consider in "quality" of impression. does the piece simply make a person smirk once, or is it really going to shake them, make them reconsider their life choices, or really shape their identity? numbers can be misleading; some sites are optimized to get clicks and even shares, but their content is kind of just filler, it doesn't have much effect on you. the most accurate measure of success i have is the folder of screenshots i keep where people have told me, "your outlook has changed my life," "your work has meant so much to me," etc.. in those cases i know my work has mattered because people felt strong enough to tell me directly !

LD: Did touring for an extended period allow you to decide on future plans and what you want your focus to be? Was it during this period that the idea for Boost House[2] came into being?

SR: yes! i noticed from all those different settings on tour, i really like doing my work in party-like environments, places that are busy with activity and many friends at once. if i'm doing work alone in a quiet space, i sometimes get lonely. i like to have my social life interwoven into my work experience, and vice-versa, so i'm never lacking either. in mid-2012 i came up with the idea of starting some kind of vegan co-op house with my writing friends, and gradually the other details of boost house came after that :)

LD: Are you worried Google will monetize or sell your videos while you end up with no intellectual rights?

SR: it's frustrating that youtube can identify when i use copyrighted music, and they put adverts before those videos, to give money to the record labels, etc. i've been trying to warp the music i'm using now, sometimes reversing it or slowing it down, so i can keep them ad-free. ultimately the only people who "own" the work is the viewers tho.. once it has reached them, and they've seen it, it's moved them, impacted their day or even their personality.. that's the artwork i think. the video is not the actual artwork for me. something like that. the impact the videos have had on people already is real and significant, regardless of wat happens to the actual videos now, they could all get deleted, and their impact is still seeping pretty far into the world :)

Originally Published: October 28th, 2013