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.