Image: Hanzhou Lee, Creative Commons

A Look Back At Turnstyle

on Thursday, Oct. 20th

(Image: Hanzhou Lee, Creative Commons)

Five years is a long time in tech.

Not that Turnstyle News has always been about tech, although when we first started developing the site a big part of it was about the intersection of tech and culture. We kept that Venn diagram going, leaning a little this way, a little that, and along the way kept finding the strange ways that the two worlds collided.

On this, the last active day of publishing at Turnstyle, I’ve put together a little look back at what we were. Year by year.


Here’s some funny business, both ironic and ha-ha: one of the first pieces we did was about a comedy show the back of a comic book store in Los Angeles. That show—the Meltdown—would go on to have its own Comedy Central TV show. The irony is that, like Turnstyle, the show took its last bows this week. Hosts Jonah Ray and Kumail Nanjiani have seen their careers soar since starting what became LA’s hottest comedy spot. We were there at the humble reboot which became a phenomenon.

But that’s not all we were up to in ’11.

We also had an interview with an obscure YouTube recording artist who would go on to be a household name, hit up the Sundance Film Festival for the first time, looked at how advertising messed with the teenage brain, explored remarkable worlds of photography, explored the data behind online dating, and talked with the creators of the cinemagraph.


It was the end of the world as we knew it… actually, it was the year we got really obsessed with indie film. And why not? The internet was completely changing the way films were funded and distributed. Blogger Jonathan Poritsky came on board to help us cover the SXSW film festival and was our source of intel on the New York film scene, then he ankled for Austin. I guess Jon really liked it there.

The struggle to carve out some diversity in Silicon Valley was on top of our minds this year, setting up a thread that our editor Nishat Kurwa would follow for her tenure (before leaving us for Marketplace in 2015).

Our trip to Sundance was a trip, and we got to talk with the director of the psychedelic indie sleeper An Oversimplification of Her Beauty, while witnessing Elisabeth Olsen’s star be born in the amazing Martha Marcy May Marlene before having the chance to interview her later that year.

We also delved deep into crowdfunding, looking at the explosion in video game Kickstarters—like the one for Republique. Fun fact: we just got our final backer reward on that game last week.


This was the year that somehow we got even more interested

We brought Lucas McNelly onboard to do a series about film crowdfunding, and met Seed & Spark’s Emily Best at SXSW.

It was also the year that a theme which would be with us for the rest of our tenure popped up. The reemergence of virtual reality. We got our first taste of the Oculus Rift that summer, and then weeks later experienced experimental room scale VR in a developer’s living room. These tastes rocked us, and had us thinking about how cyberpunk had become ur post-modern mythology.


The VR obsession continued, and expanded, as we started to see connections in the arts world with the growing immersive theatre scene in New York and LA. The word “immersive” has since become so buzzy that it’s almost hard to hear, but we knew long ago that it was a signal of real change. This was also the year that trolling started to take its toll on social media, a phenomenon that hasn’t gotten any better in the years since.


By 2015, for various reasons, we were all in on immersive.

The next wave of camera technology—light field capture—is bound to revolutionize filmmaking in every dimension, while on the live performance side of things daring innovators are dreaming up wild experiments. Like putting Hamlet in a van. (The Hamlet-Mobile, coincidentally, rides again this month and next.)

All of this we saw as the birth of a new medium, one that was about more than the technology. Where the pioneers are aware of the way that technology and culture intersect.


While it’s unlikely that anyone will look back on 2016 as the brightest of years, it certainly will be one of the most important. Social media matured to the point where it became an inescapable black hole. Virtual reality finally saw the major hardware launches enthusiasts were waiting for, and the industry as a whole looked abroad to China as the land of opportunity.

Yet we still had fun: with escape rooms that come in boxes, and video games that made light of a grueling political season.

It’s not really an ending…

Turnstyle may be turning into an archive today, but the spirit carries on. That’s true for the work that we’ll continue to do at Youth Radio, and in my own ongoing exploration of the immersive arts.

It also lives on whenever you ask yourself this question: how is the technology around us shaping who we are as people? What we believe to be possible and true?

Questions that have no final answer, but must be asked anew with every fresh discovery.

See you in the future,

Noah Nelson
Head Writer
Turnstyle News 2011-2016


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