Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Dear Old Mrs Dogger

Though it has been more than a year since you departed this world, I still have moments where I think of you.

Hiking in Runyon Canyon last weekend was one of them. I remembered the sheer joy on your face as you yodeled to me from the back of the car. You knew where were were going as soon as I turned onto Franklin to park. I remembered that day we ran into Cesar Milan with his pack of pitbulls up there. That time that you resolutely decided to not walk a step further and it took several of us in turns to carry you down the hill, then straight to the vet where suddenly you were "fine".

You greeted me every morning without fail as though it were the happiest moment you'd ever experienced. You taught me so much about living in the moment because you embodied the joy of the Now. You were loving and kind to everyone equally. You tolerated the loving tugs of enthusiastic small children on your ears and tail without a grumble, just a deft sidestep. I watched you sleep and dream. I knew all your groans, moans, barks, growls and yodels. You spoke clearly yet without words. You taught me about love and family, about life and death. You provided solace in grief, nurturing in illness, abundance in emptiness. You were my furry bodhisattva.

I'd like to get another dog but as I know it will never be the same without you -- I hestitate. Still, when you entered my life, I had not planned for nor expected you. You were just there one day and it felt as though you had always been. When you fell into a deep puppy sleep in my lap the afternoon I drove us home, my heart opened to receive your love in a way I had never experienced.

One day, perhaps another being like you will join me on the road of life. In the meanwhile I will gratefully accept your presence in my memories and your appearance in my dreams for the precious gifts they are.

14,864 words later...

I have the start of something but I am 35,136 words short of "winning" NaNoWriMo.

I did not hit the coveted 50K. Is it that important to "win" or is it really about just doing it?

I believe that it was important to me to do the exercise because it taught me something about myself as a writer. The discipline of sitting down to write was more important than what I wrote. Like any spiritual undertaking - which in my opinion writing can be - sometimes one must just "sit" with it.

And now I have the start of something I never expected - a vampire story.

Those times I woke up in the middle of the night (thank you jet lag) and just started writing the stuff that was in my head led me to Tedward and Vivienne in places I never imagined nor had any interest in going.

The characters I had every intention of writing about, the Amargosa Sisters, resolutely refused to budge. They were pouting in a corner, not ready to step forward. But crazy Tedward came rushing out telling me all sorts of things about his vida loca here in HellAy.

So on one hand, at least numerically, this has been a ride on the fail whale. But on the other hand, it's been a successful meditation, just me in a chair, and more recently standing at my fake treadmill desk, writing.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

NaNoWriMovember starts tomorrow -- will I be ready?

This has been a tough few days. We have worked all weekend. We are emotionally drained.

I can't really say much here but suffice it to say there's been a situation that I've been having to deal with at work and on top of our regular 12 hour day, there's suddenly a whole lot of other stuff to handle as well.


I am committed to my goal, but what's happening here may well weave itself in a highly fictionalized form into my story.

I wish I had more time to be reflective, to ponder life's mysteries, to really think about things and acknowledge the holidays of Halloween and All Souls tomorrow.

I made some soup here in the office, hoping to nurture and comfort anyone who needs it. Cooking seems to set things right, if just for the small moment of chopping and heating and listening to the simmering broth.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Uh Oh! NaNoWriMo

Call me crazy, but I'm doing it.

There, I've said it so I **REALLY** have to do it now.

I'd planned to do this in September but then I went on holiday (Hello Europa) and then suddenly work fell into my lap (A BIG thank you CGW and the Universe...) and now I find myself yawning at 2:50 AM on a Friday after wrap and wondering WTF and am I nuts??

But yes, I guess I am. Nuts.

Because I am attempting to write a whole bunch of words and eventually create a hypertext web novella. In 30 days. With Scrivener.

Enough of my procrastination!

The story that I began writing 3 years ago and have kept going back to, the story inspired by a collaborative writing project a friend invited me to join, with characters inspired from a photograph by Jane Evelyn Atwood is what I am writing.

So even though I will still be shooting when NaNoWriMo starts on November 1st -- I'm gonna do it. The plan is to devote more time after we wrap and when I get back home on the 20th, so that in that last 10 days I write like a champion.

It'll be an exercise in self discipline. Like getting up for amrit vela, or the "ambrosial period". Early morning for me has traditionally been when my inspiration is at it's best because my mind is always at it's most open, empty and creative in the very early morning or upon first awakening.

Wish me luck!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Bonehead Conehead

Sometimes I just have to point out the things that bother me.

We got a coupon for Coldstone Creamery which was good only at our local store. The coupon said if you purchased a "Love It size" (medium) or larger you'd get a free cone. This seemed like a good way to treat ourselves economically on a summer afternoon and it gave me a positive impression of the company. I had never been there and it seemed a pleasant introduction.

We go inside and ponder our flavor choices. There are lots and they all looked great. The banana ice cream actually tasted like bananas, the dark chocolate was rich and delicious. I was stoked. But then the experience began to turn surreal.

The employee who waited on us seemed confused and lost. We gave him the coupon explaining we wanted the deal it offered and he accepted it. My companion ordered a Love it size. The guy hands him a cone.
"Don't I get ice cream in this?" my companion asks.
"Uh, Yeah." the employee says.
"OK so I'll take a scoop then. But please put it in a cup."
This seemed to confuse the employee even more. Finally my companion got his order in the cup as he requested.
Then it was my turn. I couldn't decide between the two flavors I had tasted.
"Can I get 2 scoops with the coupon?" I asked.
"No. Just the one, but I can give you a half scoop of each."
That seemed fair enough, a small serving was plenty for me.
"OK. Then I'll take that." and told him the flavors I wanted.
He hands me a cone.
I'm confused. "A cone?" I asked. WTH, was I supposed to scoop it myself?
"Here's your cone." he said.
"It's your free cone." the employee said.
I'm thinking, are you kidding me?
I sized him up, he seemed clueless.
"There's no ice cream in it?" I asked.
"No, you have to buy it."
"That's misleading and false advertising. We've already spent over $4 for one scoop his sorbet. What kind of deal is this supposed to be?"

The employee seemed puzzled by my dissatisfaction. I explained to him,
"The coupon says free cone, that generally means some ice cream too." There is an implied serving of ice cream in that cone. Yes, the coupon was worded free cone not free cone filed with ice cream but who goes to a store to get just a cone?

Really. Think about it. You offer your customers an empty cone in an ice cream store and that's a draw?

The deal should have been a buy one scoop get one free or at least a scoop at a discount. The employee should have offered some kind of deal or explanation as to why just an empty cone was a worthwhile exchange.

The employee even had the nerve to try to hand me back the coupon as though he were doing me a favor. "Why would I take it back? It's worthless." I said.

Imagine if you got a coupon for a "free" entree at a restaurant with a purchase. You make the purchase and you get a free plate, empty of food. Same thing.

F minus Coldstone Creamery! Bait and Switch is no bueno. I Yelped this and I sent your corporate HQ my story.  DECEPTIVE ADVERTISING + IGNORANT STAFF = NEVER AGAIN

Friday, July 23, 2010

TTYL - Teens build relationships, find temporal freedom via TXT MSGS

"Dad! No body emails anymore!!"

This is a direct quote from two daughters (spoken in stereo) exasperatedly exclaimed to a friend of mine recently. This caused me to conduct an informal survey of teens and pre-teens about their texting habits and social network usage.

Overwhelmingly texting as communication was the most popular for several reasons: ubiquity ("it's on my phone which I always have with me"), functional privacy ("this way mom/dad can't hear what I'm saying") and perceived privacy ("a boyfriend and girlfriend sent each other photos of themselves which was OK, until their parents found out then they got in trouble").

A mere 20 years ago, the modes of discourse for teens were the telephone, in person speech or more metaphorically and abstractly, the mix-tape. Now it's the cell phone and texting or instant messaging within a social networking platform like Twitter, Facebook or Myspace. The mix-tape has been replaced by the CD or viral video. Although it seems unlikely, teens still communicate face to face, but these situations are frequently punctuated by back-channel chat and commentary "stuff you just couldn't say aloud" i.e.: when a voice call is impractical, impossible or unacceptable.

It is ironic that fearful, helicopter parents seeking control over their children's whereabouts purchased these phones for tracking purposes only to discover that the devices are being used by their children to engage in private, un-moderated conversation.

Confiscating the mobile phone is one of the more popular forms of punishment for the behavioral infractions of misbehaving youth. Over 60 percent of parents admitted to doing this and 64 percent of those same parents admitted that they viewed the content of their kid's phone according to a study by The Pew Internet and American Life project.

But what is it about texting? Why is it such a preferred mode and what has made it so commonplace? Is it the immediacy, the speed that mimics a face to face conversation? Does the text message encourage a sense of intimacy which in turn creates a feeling of limerence?

Ah limerence! A feeling that teens (girls especially) are familiar with. Limerent bonds manifest as intense feelings of attachment and preoccupation with the object of affection. Intrusive thoughts invade, cognitive obsession grows. Teens of both genders have reported that texting and participating in virtual social networks have an addictive quality. The need to remain connected is strong and "reachability" is highly valued. They report feeling a need to "keep up" with what was happening currently. They felt lost not knowing what people were doing or where they were while participating in a voluntary break from Facebook for a 24 hour period.

StudentSpeak Webisode 2 from Spotlight on Vimeo.

Texting also allows teens to multi-task. "It's a lot easier to be doing my homework or watching TV while I am texting." Texting also allows them to carry on multiple conversations, "I'll probably be texting five or so of my friends over the course of an evening." These interactions can range from homework questions, quick social check-ins "hi!" and complaints "my sister's being a B*tch". They have their own acronyms idk, gtg and lingo. Teens carry out conversations with one another without being expected to reply within a short amount of time, as in a mobile phone conversation where reception can be shoddy. Texting offers a flexibility and freedom from temporal constraint.

Teens communicate in this way all day long, even falling asleep in the virtual company of their correspondents -- effectively texting themselves to sleep. But the sound of a voice is just as important as one 17 year old boy told me, "I'll text a girl, but if I'm interested (in her) I'll also call her and talk on the phone too." Thus reinforcing a bond, with every call or 1 txt @ a time.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Monster Media - the Social Economics of Vampires and Zombies

It seems one can track the socio-economic trends in popular culture by the appearance of either Zombies or Vampires showing up in our consciousness.

Right now we seem to be in Vampire overdrive with the Twilight series and HBO's True Blood though Zombies have been making a steady showing in films such as Zombieland and in remixed versions of classic literature with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Either way, the monsters are among us, either sucking us dry or eating us alive.

Vampires are the monsters of our intellect. They suffer our existential dilemmas, some even our guilt and shame. They are the ultimate prisoners of body consciousness. Trapped in an eternity that mortals always tend to romanticize because we are (as yet) incapable of living for centuries. In Freudian terms, vampires are the super ego made manifest. These graceful dandies drive fast cars as they struggle to control their carnal desire for human blood. You can find a comprehensive history of vampires here.

Zombies on the other hand can be seen as manifestations of the id. Zombies are dim-witted, staggering louts, poor conversationalists. They are anonymous, remorseless, endless in number, viral. They are all about self-gratification, excess, engorgement, acquisition of more. And oddly, any organized authority is unable to stop them. Zombies are only defeated by a rag tag band of individuals teaming up together to wipe our their scourge - one gore-spattered shotgun blast at a time. What better Zombie movie has there ever been than George Romero's Dawn of the Dead where a shopping mall is the common ground. Zombies frantically search for food in a lusty frenzy while the living are holed up, determined to cling to their last outpost of humanity? A cinematic Zombie timeline is here.

Zombies and Vampires are us, transformed version of humans, our monstrous selves. Writers and artists have used them as metaphors for our political, social and economic fears. They stand in for despotic regimes, our psychological terrors, fears of the other and fear of intimacy, for miscegenation, sexism, xenophobia, communists, homosexuals, consumers. Our fears concerning sexually transmitted disease, mental illness, technology and class division have all been addressed by these fantastic creatures of our mind who define and create by destroying others. If one looks back over the 20th century, it's possible to view the boom times through a filter of Zombies (1950's, 1980's) and the bust with Vampires (1970's, 1990's) so the trend would appear cyclical and somewhat predictable. Which ever genre has the upper hand, there appears to be no end to our monster mania as long as we remain human.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Mashup vs Remix - a tale of two text types

What are the similarities and differences between these two moving image commentaries? Below are some definitions and interesting examples.

A Remix - is an alternate version of an original source, a newly created version from source material. Elements are re-assembled in a new way.

A Mashup - is a version using multiple sources sometimes with little or no relation, often lampooning or referring to another text or source. It is a derivative work with properties of intertextuality where a texts' meanings are shaped and informed by other texts.

This bricolage idea of use what you have is not a new one, but with the easy availability of multiple texts and technology, the remix and mashup are moving from messages passed between peer groups into broader realms of social commentary and education. Aided by the speed of social networking, they can move from one phase to another in a matter of hours.

A Fair(y) Use Tale by Eric Faden - a remix illustrating copyright law, derivative but not lampooning. It's a great example of remix explaining Fair Use and Copyright law. Note that he cites his sources at the end.

The measurements for fair use involve elements of criticism, news reporting, teaching and parody. Keep these in mind as you review the following pieces below.

Once Upon a Time in Afghanistan - Jason Stakeman's remix incorporating mashup techniques intended to educate the viewer about the war in Afghanistan as well as comment on American foreign policy and culture. It compares the US invasion with the westerns of John Ford.

Edward vs Buffy - a remix by Rebellious Pixels/Jonathan McIntosh lampooning the romance genre in a mashup style and commenting on male/female relationships.

And another by Rebellious Pixels - a remixed commercial for a popular SUV.

Here's a mashup lampooning the Twilight series and the music video Wanted Dead or Alive that was created to market fake engagement rings by Ms. Taken.

Here's a mashup of a mashup - the Hitler video parody. Using a clip from the 2004 German film Der Untergang (Downfall), these videos number in the hundreds at least. Seeing Bruno Ganz as Hitler rant about current events and setbacks seems to have an endless appeal. The film's director Oliver Hirschbiegel seems to get the spirit in which they are presented, while Constantin Films, the production company, has requested the videos be removed.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Open Source – The End of Scarcity means More

IBM has estimated that the amount of digital information will double every 11 hours in 2010.

That’s an abundance of unlimited content, access, and information. Something barely imaginable. It is frightening and exciting at the same time. It is a huge paradigm shift for a culture used to a previous world driven by scarcity, preciousness and exclusivity.

The potential here is best understood in the context of education.

At Itunes U any number of amazing and free lectures from places like MIT, the Sorbonne, Cambridge and UNC Chapel Hill can be downloaded.

It’s a remix of the traditional idea of education: get some experts, people eager to learn and start a discussion. Where it takes place is less relevant, though to draw students the content must be strong and the sense of Bakhtinian sobornost – “togetherness” or “true sense of community” must still exist.

More control and choice for learners creates a P2P environment where students are both learners and teachers as well as creators and consumers. Knowledge flows freely rather than being stockpiled.

A unique example of this is happening at Purdue University. They have designed an app called Hotseat. It functions like Twitter for the lecture hall and in fact was developed with the idea that students were already texting anyway -- why not create a faculty endorsed distraction to focus that back channel discussion? With this app, students are commenting on the commentary and asking questions. Student to student sharing has been embraced by Purdue rather than seeing it as a threat for it’s potential to encourage cheating and non independent learning. In this way, redundant academic work becomes more vibrant and open. Hotseat is remediative - a new way of showing an old media form. Ie; the "class discussion" experience.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Spectacular Society: why the open source movement could lead to a conscious revolution for social justice

Kite running in Afghanistan is a dangerous sport. Lives are endangered in this endeavor so distracting that Afghans have plunged to their death from great heights or been gravely injured chasing their beloved kites, as precious and revered as baseball and apple pie for Americans.

Guy Debord, the author of “The Society of the Spectacle” suggests that mass media offers a distraction by showing a fake reality to obfuscate the degradation of capitalism. After being subjected to a few minutes of the reality TV series “The Real Housewives of New York” in a physician’s waiting room, one might suspect he was on to something.

Could distraction be the metaphor for our involvement in international conflict? Is the pursuit of war a massive spectacle to distract the ordinary citizen? The phrase, “Go fly a kite” comes to mind. In other words, beat it, so the important work can get done.

Victor Klemperer’s writing regarding the language used by the Nazi regime illustrate the importance of observing how those in power manipulate language. Ironically after surviving the oppression of this regime as a Jew he went on to serve in the Volkskammer of the former German Democratic Republic, one of the most oppressive states of the 20th century.

Repeated negative images, news of death and failure, unemployment, the continuing spill of oil into the Gulf all cause us to suffer from “compassion fatigue”, burn out, secondary traumatic stress disorder. Where political events and our private lives in the post 911-era intersect, it appears that scaremongering and schadenfreude create compassion fatigue which in turn is remedied tidily by spectacle.

The disconnect caused by spectacle has also engendered a sense of desperation for contact. We are so obsessed with the need to be ‘in touch” that we repeatedly reach out to our colleagues and family members via text message and Facebook. In a dislocated, spectacular world, our constant seeking of reassurance that everything’s “okay” drives us as intensely as the Afghan kite runners.

A little distraction is probably okay, within the realm of normal even. But how can we be assured that we aren’t completely disconnected from human suffering and injustice? One way is by reclaiming the message we’re given. If everyone can possess the means to reshape the images and messages sent to us, then meaning can be re-framed and the hegemony of those who have power over our language can be challenged.

New meaning can be recreated, communities formed and social change created. In this way, much like the open source software movement, open data and information access can be the tools of compassionate social change.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Mind Mapping - Tinderbox, Scrivener and Neo Victorian Computing

I'm developing narrative that I hope to eventually turn out into the metaverse as an open source collaborative project/experience. It might be a hypertext, a space in Second Life, a web series, or it could become any number of things. Ultimately, I believe it's the narrative that matters and the experience of it, not the distribution method. To this end, I am exploring mind mapping software (which I admit sounds nefarious and cyberpunkish) in the form of Tinderbox and Scrivener to organize my non-linear thought paths.

I'm not sure which one I like better, the free demo for Tinderbox is limited by number of entries and features in demo mode but at this point I'm just not able to financially spring for it at $200+ for the full access. This is also partially why I downloaded Scrivener, which is only slightly more affordable by about $50. Initial use of both however as not yet swayed me one way or the other.

I am inspired by images. I have had photographs send me off into my imaginative deep end - diving into places where I step back after a frenzy of creativity and marvel at where this stuff came from. The world I am creating this codex for has origins in a lot of science and pseudo-science and multiple cultural influences. I want to keep these images, web links, PDF's and clips organized and also be able to see other ways I can mix them together to form the canon. For now I'd like it resident only on my computer, until I am ready to release, which is why I have not chosen a wiki as my main tool.

The creator of Tinderbox, Mark Bernstein has a blog which caught my eye, particularly his thread about Neo-Victorian computing and he defines it as

Built for people 
Built by people 
Crafted in workshops 
    This has a resonance for me because these seem to be the same characteristics held by the open source movement. Built by those who will use it. Created in small work groups by individuals. Democratic (as in the irregular chaos of a democracy). Inspired - people want to make things work better. An example of this is which Ton Roosendaal talked about as a community that evolved around the software with people from all over the world wanting to improve upon it.

    Thanks to Jonny Goldstein for this mind map image on Flickr.

    Thursday, May 27, 2010

    Alternatives to Facebook -- what are the options?

    Maybe you've just had enough. Perhaps your profile's been hacked, or you can't sort out the byzantine privacy settings options, maybe one of your "friends" mentioned a sex organ in status their update, (Once was enough to get me to "unfriend" you...) Or maybe you just long for something different.

    Well dear reader, before FB Quitting Day May 31, 2010, here are some of your choices. Old and new soc nets (social networks) for your review.

    Diaspora - the latest new, new thing. It's the sweetheart start-up developed by four charmingly geekalicious young lads from NYU and crowd funded by Kickstarter. It's not actually a social network yet. But they're working on writing the code to make it an open source alternative. They aren't the first ones out there per this link I found. (However to be honest, the Linux, Apache, MySql and Php talk starts to get a bit too techy for me and my brain melts just a little. Anyone care to enlighten me?)

    Friendster - 'Memba them? I first heard of them in 1994 and even then it was a little late to be an early adopter.

    Then there's Whspr, another recent entry into the soc-net-o-sphere which I mentioned in last week's Noo Yeek column.

    Posterous - is a blog/soc-net hybrid you can see mine here. I know it's a bit light on the content, I'm just trying it out.

    Ning is an option that I have used for an alumni network or maybe Orkut, a soc-net that is integrated into your Google-verse.

    And another exile from soc-net Hipster-ville that might get a resurrection from the Facebook "diaspora" (oh those boys are clever name choosers!) is MySpace which seemed to loose steam and members once it was purchased by Rupert Murdoch.

    I doubt people will leave LinkedIn or stop using Twitter due to privacy concerns since those are more readily controlled in terms of whom they broadcast to and yes, while Twitter isn't quite a social networking site, (really microblogging) it is a soc-net tool.

    The meta narrative is privacy online. What is is, who controls it, how is it filtered and layered? Clearly the cows have long since left the barn, so it's really verbum sap sat. Everything you post on FB (or the internet) becomes part of the whole. They know a lot about you, because you give it to them, everyday. As one of my Facebook status updates read this week, "all your Face are belong to us".

    Thank you Hank Grebe and for such a great image.

    Friday, May 21, 2010


     New and unique  = Newique

    Bitter Yellow flowers, I think they are some kind of daisy. (Does anyone else feel that this color yellow has a bitter taste/smell?)

    Tactical Philanthropy 
    It sounds like Soldier of Fortune meets the Chronicle of Philanthropy!

    Temple Grandin speaking at the TED conference about different kinds of thinkers.
    Cowgirl shirts are awesome!

    Transparency Now
    Let's make it clear...essays on the media and popular culture

    And two new places to post items online
    Posterous and Whspr

    Whspr is in beta and is going for the people who are fleeing Facebook due to privacy issues. There's even a Quit Facebook Day on May 31, 2010.

    Is anyone else using these? Or others? The Huffington Post has a blip about this here.

    What if work were fun?

    This is something I think about often. In my previous jobs I had fun at work when I accomplished things that were difficult. I had fun when I rallied my crew together to make things happen, or when we were all just a little punchy on a Friday afternoon as we prepared for the week ahead. I had fun when I got to bring my dog in and she helped out by greeting everyone who came into my office with a tail wag. But this is not the norm. People just don't have fun at work.

    Why not? How cool would it be to work in a place that lets you bring your well-behaved pooch to the office? Or feeds you lunch in a great cafeteria for free? Where you can have a treadmill desk or a take a spin class in the afternoons? A place to plug in your electric vehicle? On site daycare and preschool? A "quiet room" where you can just unplug for a few minutes? Yes, there is a small percentage of businesses that have cultivated a sense of fun in the work environment, usually in the name of team building and creative thinking due to some kind of expensive corporate consultancy coming in to boost productivity. It's rare that the fun concept is an everyday part of business culture. I'm not talking the recreational eating, once a month birthday cakewrecks in the break room that are served up to us as "fun". I'm talking about your job being one of the joys in a fulfilled life where your office is a place in which you and your colleagues do your best work ever. Every day.

    I am betting that this is coming. I believe that more workplaces will add fun to their corporate culture. It's a way to draw in and retain good employees. People will be happier at work, therefore healthier and more productive, more creative and dedicated to the company's mission. Not just picking up a paycheck.

    Employees are coming into the business world now who are digital natives. They are media literate, content savvy and are fully conversational in the new media technologies. Multi-modal discourse is the norm for them as is a sense of playfulness in the workplace. They are the people I want to work with.

    Why is it important? Because as Douglas Rushkoff said at SXSW this year, it's program or be programmed. We need to be digitally literate if we are going to be relevant. We have to be able to know how to read and view the texts that are presented to us. Foundations and corporations are putting up hundreds of millions of dollars into creating curricula for education to teach this new media literacy which is needed now for our participatory culture in the workplace of fun.

    This clip gives a really good explanation of what media literacy is all about:

    Wishing you fun in your workplace, Happy Friday!

    Wednesday, May 19, 2010

    "Towards a more robust discourse of meaning in the media"

    I'm still exploring the open source/new media education thread at EatTheOther...

    Open source media paves a new way of communicating ideas collaboratively so that the old models of journalism and documentary narrative no longer apply. The monopoly of a handful of media moguls is crumbling. Bloggers, citizen journalists and aggregators have disrupted the system of distribution and now provide ever expanding alternatives to the traditional distribution streams. A new, New Journalism is on the rise with social networking creating a linchpin culture of leaders within this movement.

    One of these cultural linchpins is the Brave New Foundation’s Brave New Educators (BNE) project. BNE’s mission is to engage people in a narrative to provide context and meaning. By using access to primary sources of moving imagery we practice constructing meaning and use these sources to create a new, unique and evolving sense of perspective in a digital form narrative.

    BNE creates an incubator for social change by engaging educators and their student scholars with the catalysts of shock, shame, fear, and anger – the elephants in the room that people avoid.

    Though critics may suggest that this bricolage methodology is documentary filmmaking 2.0, however documentaries don’t fully engage their audience. They tend to present an “ain’t it awful” scenario, leaving the viewer feeling disengaged and disempowered. The difference with the experience of Brave New Educators is that the activity of remixing exposes the creator to the negative material while allowing them to move through it and create their own narrative from it, thus empowering students and giving them essential tools for critical thinking in a media convergent society. These multimedia, hypertextual digital texts are light years from the traditional, dry college essays. Students in the BNE pilot program reported that while they found the material surprising, shocking and disturbing, it was the act of engaging with material they found uncomfortable that helped them gain new perspectives and create their own narrative.

    Collaboratively involving others in a collective organized movement is a work of activism. Remixed narratives ignite the thought process and become a catalyst for collaborative change. In this way, ideas function as viruses, jumping from place to place until they go viral and create a wave of participatory culture that has the power to effect real change. This sharing and collaboration produce an innovative hybrid in the truest democratic form – organized chaos. The wisdom of crowds is founded on diverse opinions and ideologies. The new media is the catalyst for that.

    Thursday, May 13, 2010

    Re-blogging, like re-tweeting, only bloggier

    Here is what I call a "conversation starter" I wrote that was published today on EatTheOther - which is a blog built around the intersection of digital literacy, education and the hypertext mash-up.

    The argument for new media in education - how the digital literacy movement is changing the way we think about things.

    With the explosion of new methods of distribution for both static and moving images as well as hypertexts, a significant paradigm shift has occurred in communication. Anyone with access to the internet can create , report, comment, remix, distribute and culture jam a variety of texts and discourses in an eclectic mix creating complicated notions of culture, tradition, value, gender and political views. These views challenge the traditional canon by allowing practitioners of these methodologies to become skilled curators of a digital world. Participatory and collaborative engagement in non-linear or chronological fashion allows content creator s to construct narrative threads, provide context and therefore create meaning for human expression in our personal lives, business communications and creative endeavors.

    Humans are natural born storytellers. We create mythologies, our narratives to make sense of our world. Narrative forms are determined by the technology available at hand. From Homer the blind poet, to the medieval minstrel, to the craftsman working over his Gutenberg press to the teenager in her bedroom remixing Twilight clips for friends on her laptop – we are compelled to make sense and meaning in our lives. The message is the same, it is merely the scope that has expanded concentrically. Books made it far easier to transport ideas, film and television allowed us to express these ideas globally and the internet is taking that further still with the hypertext – allowing the content creator to utilize multiple media to explode narrative and expand understanding. Never before have we been able to present differing views on the same subject in a simple way at the same time. The vector of new media rejects the hierarchical structure model for a changeable, open and idea infused units of information transmitted from one party to another in an interactive currency of ideas.

    This commodification is in direct challenge to the old, closed model wherein the currency of ideas is based on scarcity. The commodification of these ideas has contributed to the current clash between those in power seeking to sustain the commodity paradigm versus those who subscribe to the open source modality of representing and understanding the world. The topography of this open sourced contemporary discourse is a richly diverse one, creating deeper complexity in each iteration. This is the crux of the open source movement. If the user group decides that the idea is owned and utilized by the group in a participatory way, then the idea cannot become monetized.

    Wednesday, May 12, 2010

    Pina Bausch's Nur Du

    Once upon a time, before blogs, when we just barely had email, I used to write reviews for a small, scholarly magazine, P-FORM. It was based out of the former Randolph Street Gallery in Chicago, IL. The relationship between RSG and P-Form was a symbiotic one and the magazine served as a place for artists to engage in scholarly documentation and discourse of performance oriented art.

    One of the pieces I wrote for P-FORM was this review of a Pina Bausch Tanztheatre Wupperthal performance at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles. The PDF I have of the actual article is of such poor quality that it is unreadable and my copy of the magazine seems to have been lost in the sands of time - or moves from one apartment to another. Therefore, I post the "as printed" text of the review here below. The photo above accompanied the review, it was from their press kit. I don't know the photographer's name or I would give credit here.

    I'm so glad I was able to see Pina's work performed while she was still living. It was like nothing I'd ever seen before when I first encountered her work on television while living in Berlin.

    Kudos to Brendan deVallance for putting his P-FORM material out there on the internet and the RSG Archive housed at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (my alma mater) for holding on to such a significant chunk of Chicago art history and no doubt at least some of the P-FORM material.

    Pina Bausch Tanztheatre Wupperthal
    “Nur Du” (Only You)
    The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Los Angeles California
    October 10-12, 1996

    American dance audiences and critics have often dismissed Pina Bausch and her Tanztheatre Wupperthal for, as they see it, her display of violence against women, portraying them as helpless victims. Twelve years ago, when Bausch and the Tanztheatre Wupperthal first came to the United States, American audiences found the work shocking, brutal, and Teutonically avant garde. Today audiences might find the work puzzling at most.

    In Nur Du, countless references are made to American cultural stereotypes as defined by Hollywood and our fast-paced, narcissistic consumer culture. Nur Du is littered with images of America, some right on, others misunderstood. Much is made of film-noir iconography, which doesn’t communicate to us the way it can to Europeans. Yet, the influence of technology on American culture has been completely ignored. This can be explained by a crucial difference between the US and Germany. America is a technological first-world nation. An estimated ten percent of our citizens are hooked up to the Internet and that number grows exponentially. Germany, with its tradition of broad social benefits (state subsidies for arts and culture, health care, and lengthy vacations for workers) and the fiscal burden of re-unification have kept that country a non-technological first world nation. Economically speaking, this reduction of buying power has prevented Germany from joining the US as a cultural/technological equal.

    The set of Nur Du is a grove of gargantuan tree trunks that call forth a primeval wood. Props include the ubiquitous chair, used in clever, simple ways. The women wear long and flowing or A-line knee length dresses in pastel colors or red, black or white. The men are clad in slacks and jackets that appear one size to large giving them a casual, slouchy look. All the women dance in high heels or barefoot, the men wear oxfords or are similarly unshod.

    To the song “Sugar in the Morning”, a long line of chorines flip their heads in time to the beat of the music, their hair swirling from side to side and their hands making equally fluid motions. Aida Vainieri enters with a mic on a stand and a clear plastic box, like those used in carry out restaurants. She stands in front of the mic and speaks in a high pitched voice to someone or something, possibly a cat. This is punctuated by her vigorously licking the inside of the plastic container in front of the microphone and making yowling sounds. It is pleasantly perverse. In another scene Nazareth Panadero enters and crosses down stage left where she pauses and recites the names of the cast members, heavily rolling the R’s in each. “Rrregina, Rrrruth, Rrrrainerrrr, See? I can do it. He cannot.” She continues, relishing each R sound. “Andrrre, Barrrrbarrrra, Marrrrrigia, Nazarrreth, Ferrrrrrrrrnando. I can do it. He cannot!” and with that she abruptly exits.

    Fernando Suels and Rainer Behr enter from stage left. Behr has a plastic bag around his neck and Suels carries a bucket. Behr pulls the plastic up over his face and Suels slowly pours water into it. The magnifying effect of the water through the plastic is hilarious. Like a Jerry Lewis gag, Behr, now encased in his own personal fishbowl blows a few bubbles for effect.

    Later, Panadero enters again. She stands and glares at the audience. She hunches up her shoulders and says “big shoulders”. She pulls back her head and says “double chin”. She makes herself appear larger than life. “I feel really thick. Thick skin. Rain and storm can come and nothing can happen.” she growls. Portraying an imperviousness that is at once comical and tragic. Referencing her earlier scene she finishes with, “I can do it. He cannot.” The effect of one sight gag after another reinforces a cabaret or variety show format.

    Over time Bausch has defined her aesthetic and many of her signature moves crop up in Nur Du. Crawling across walls and over other performers, the chorus line up, the repetitive hand and body motions derivative of everyday activities, absurdities and Tourette’s-like movement are classic Bausch. The numerous solos seem out of context and somewhat gratuitous, as though placed to ensure that her dancers (each and every one) get their moment on stage.

    Nur Du is an exercise in endurance viewing. The last dance and activity of the evening, a solo about exhaustion performed by Dominique Mercy, has him flopping across the stage and by this time (11:45 p.m. after an 8:00 p.m. curtain) the audience is as exhausted as the performer.

    Welcome to Planet Pina. Her performers are like benevolent aliens come to communicate their message of mystery. They witness and testify American culture through a visceral filter of otherness and angst. With layers of irony and beauty, the sometimes ugly interaction between men and women is portrayed in a timeless fashion. There is no lesson here, no pedantic should or could but merely a demonstration of the pure sense of human movement and depth of emotion. Free from techno gadgetry, there are no TV’s, rear projection or special effects. Rather like Joseph Beuys, it is simple lighting combined with chalk, fur, sand, water, and leaves which compose the romantic scripture of Bauschian ciphers and mysteries.

    These are the references I used in writing this review:
    Birringer, Johannes
    Pina Bausch: Dancing Across Borders
    The Drama Review, Summer 1986

    Yablonsky, Linda
    Dance: Ensemble Work (Bill T. Jones and Pina Bausch)
    Art In America, March 1995

    Pina Bausch on the Internet
    In the German language
    Specific to Bausch’s performance of Nur Du in Austin, Texas

    And finally, here's a link to some video of Nur Du.

    At the intersection of art and new media, a place where the convergence emerges.