The Discovery Incubator

With all the tie-dyed patrons, barbecue vendors, art displays, and street musicians at the opening of the new multi-media Discovery Incubator last weekend, it was hard not to feel like you'd accidentally become an unpaid extra on the set of Slacker II. Although the Discovery Incubator itself could prove to be a landmark of activity, Austin's techno-bohemian community is already rallying (ironically enough) behind the capitalist ingenuity of re-packaging the obvious - Austin's Details-enforced Gen X stereotypes and the landmark business they spurred. Imagine a mall of generic Quakenbush's, Origin Games, Arlyn Studios, ACTV, Kinko's, and Eden Matrix neatly collected in a converted grocery on the Eastside and you have the Incubator.

In one visit to the Discovery Incubator, it's possible to enjoy a cup of coffee and test a new flight simulator while listening to local artists record their first record and music video. And when it's all over, one could potentially critique the whole affair on the Incubator's World Wide Web page without leaving the building. More likely, patrons will initially use the computer-by-the-hour Incubator to write college papers, experiment with new software, or attempt to self-publish books, music, or video. Notably, the Incubator's musical services are anchored by Timbuk 3-percussionist Courtney Audain's 48-track digital recording studio with a plate glass view, the East Austin Recording Studio (EARS).

"The Incubator is a full-production facility, from the music to the video and web distribution," Incubator owner and Eastside real estate broker Brad Kittel says. "There's no excuse for labels giving an artist seven cents for selling a disc. We're encouraging the creation, production, and marketing of artists that are looking to network their services and control their own accomplishments. Talent can be developed at the Incubator without bureaucracy."

On a larger scale, Kittel says he hopes the expansion of the Incubator "mother ship" could lead to "pod" sites of multi-media communication all over the city and country that would make Austin a leader in a communication distribution network capable of widespread political exchange and change. And while such lofty goals currently reside in the "believe it when we see it" phase, already the virtual reality games and espressos at the Incubator seem like a lot more than the "Kinko's with personality" description Kittel says he needed to try to lure bankers and investors into an idea that lacked Kinko's' operation history.

"The idea's so new and difficult to describe, we just have to get people in to play around," Kittel says. "People are spending two or three grand on computers they'll never use because they're scared of the technology. It's now an embarrassing stigma to be computer illiterate, just like illiteracy itself was a few years ago. We're offering a place where people can come and learn in comfort."

And with all the hippies, neo-hippies, and game-playing children getting acquainted with the technology at the grand opening, what's to say Kittel's vision of self-distributed communication couldn't actually come to fruition, when someone feels comfortable enough to create their own Slacker II from scratch at the Discovery Incubator? Even at the Incubator's early stages, the equipment and extras are
certainly in place. - Andy Langer

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