History of the Banana Conferences

A Brief History of the Banana Conferences and the inaugural V3con, the Asian American Digital Media Conference

Banana 2 panel

A “Social Media for Social Change” panel at Banana 2 in 2011, featuring (from left), Jehanzeb Dar of Muslim Reverie, Frances Kai-Hwa Wang of Adventures in Multicultural Living, Fatameh Fakhraie of Muslimah Media Watch, Marissa Lee of Racebending, Cynthia Liu of K12-NN, and moderator Keith Kamisugi of KeithPR.

By Gil Asakawa, June 2012

I was an invited panelist at Banana, the first Asian American bloggers conference in November, 2009. It was a small gathering – in fact, co-founder Lac Su didn’t want to call it a conference, he used the term “gathering” – held on the campus of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. Su–who is the author of I Love Yous Are for White People–and co-founder Steve Nguyen (a filmmaker of ChannelAPA.com) had come up with the idea to showcase the diversity of Asian American perspectives online late one night while they discussed the state of the AAPI community.

The gathering was planned quickly, but 20 bloggers showed up, representing the well-known (Angry Asian Man, 8Asians) to the lesser-known but notable (Kimchi Mamas, Big WOWO). Phil Yu of Angry Asian Man was given an achievement award for his blog, which is a must-read for anyone interested in Asian America.
The first Banana conference was a little raggedy, but real. It was an ad-hoc affair that attracted about 50 audience members, many of them also bloggers, and there was a lot of interaction between panelists and audience members. There was only one extended conversation that took much of the afternoon, with panelists fielding questions from Su that ranged from the provocative (women’s perspective in blogging) to confusing (if childhood traumas motivated us). The political bloggers criticized the pop culture bloggers for being shallow, and the lone Canadian on the panel criticized the event’s U.S.-centric worldview.

In the end, it was an inspirational afternoon of thoughtful conversation, and everyone left feeling like we were a part of something bigger than just ourselves and or blogs.

Banana 2 (B2) took the inspirational spirit of the first conference and turned it into a terrific event for a couple-hundred people in Spring 2011.

Thanks in large part to the support of IW Group, the LA-based marketing, advertising and public relations agency that helped produce the conference, B2 was an all-day conference instead of one afternoon panel. The event, which was held on the CBS Radford lot in Studio City, featured seven panels throughout the day with spirited discussions and breakout sessions including a bloggers’ showcase where attendees from across the U.S., Canada and Peru shared information about their blogs and got to know each other. The day ended with a party in a nearby CBS sound stage.

The sessions were live-streamed, and a Twitter feed of tweets about the conference was projected on the wall the entire time, giving both attendees and presenters more ways to interact with the event.The experience was so enhanced and professional, and so well-attended that it felt like the conference had already become an established annual event. It was a quantum leap forward from the first year, yet still had the community, grass-roots feel of the initial “gathering.”

This year, with the Los Angeles chapter of the Asian American Journalists Association as the sponsoring organization, return of IW Group and a name change to “V3 (Vision. Visibility. Voice.),” and current vision led by Jocelyn “Joz” Wang, the conference is widening its horizons beyond blogging to online journalism, social media and emerging communication platforms.As someone who straddles the two worlds of digital media and traditional news, I’m excited to have AAJA-LA’s stewardship of V3, and the new, enhanced dialogue the organization’s involvement brings to the conference.

The all-new and bigger and better-than-ever event, which will be held August 25 at the Japanese American National Museum in downtown LA’s Little Tokyo district, will focus on Asian Americans’ success on YouTube and social media, and discuss issues of journalism in the digital age, bringing traditional reporters and editors together with a new generation of bloggers and other digerati.

Please join us on August 25 for V3 and meetup with Asian America online, offline!