John Sobol’s take on today’s media cultures is unique. His unusual professional fluency in oral, literate and digital media gives him a holistic perspective that cuts through the hype to demonstrate exactly how and where different communication technologies yield different values, different social relations, and different risks and opportunities. His useful insights are based on a lifetime of professional cross-disciplinary practice and a busy imagination.
As an oralist, John is a professional saxophonist, performance poet and public speaker with over 1,000 gigs to his credit in a dozen countries since 1979. He has traveled widely to apprentice, record and perform with renowned artists and elders from diverse oral traditions. He worked as a story producer for CBC national radio and ran his own record label called Word of Mouth. He co-curated the Monologue/Dialogue performance art festival, created Canada’s largest spoken word gathering at The Banff Centre for the Arts, and toured an acclaimed one-man show called Two Million Years of Technology. He has performed around the world (Seattle, Bangkok, New York, New Orleans, Stockholm, London, Prague, San Diego, etc.) and appears on a dozen CDs and LPs.
John’s literate credentials include 6 books published including his most recent, Friend or Foe (Groundwood Press). He has published hundreds of articles in magazines (Canadian Geographic, BorderCrossings, Shambhala Sun, Downbeat, etc.) and newspapers (Montreal Gazette, Toronto Star, Georgia Straight, Montreal Mirror, etc.). He has also written scripts for many television series (seen on Bravo, History, Nickleodeon, CBC, PBS, Vision, Odyssey, etc.) including award-winning programs such as the animated Pippi Longstocking series and the documentary The Genius of Lenny Breau. He also wrote the libretti for two large-scale multimedia operas, The Salome Dancer and MyAudia.
As a digitalist, John co-founded a pair of youth-oriented digital startups, Globalhood (a digital playground for at-risk youth in downtown Toronto) in 1999 and The Media League, in 2013. He was the Manager of Brand and Digital Strategy at the Canada Council for the Arts from 2014 to early 2017. Prior to that he was a senior consultant at both custom software firm The Jonah Group (2010-11) and interactive agency 76design (2006-2009). He was the Co-Director of Digifest, Canada’s leading festival of digital art and design (2003-2005) produced by the Design Exchange in partnership with Harbourfront and the Ontario Science Centre. He curated and produced Canada Goes Wild!, a national design showcase at the Aichi World’s Fair in 2005 and he was commissioned by Apple Canada to pilot the New Media Circus digital fair. From 1998 through 2005 John was an Associate of the Convergence Consulting Group. John has planned and completed dozens of interactive projects for cultural and business clients and has provided digital strategy to executives at CBC, Telefilm, Heritage Canada and the Canadian Association of Broadcasters, among many other clients. John has also published extensively on digital culture, including his books Digitopia Blues – Race, Technology and the American Voice and You Are Your Media – Making Sense of the 21st Century.