Recently my friend and collaborator Josephine Dorado invited me to speak with her Social Media Mashup class at The New School, which I was delighted to do. The conversation (on Seesmic) ranged across a variety of topics, including improvisation vs. structure (in my work and live visuals in general), visual performance tools, and how my own background as a theater/comedy actor has impacted my live visual work. Now that the class is moving on to another topic, I’m posting this here for anyone who’d like to keep the conversation going, e.g., ask me all the heavy, technical questions I said I’d answer later. Thanks again, Josephine, Barb, Tom, Debbie, andrihatesjazz, Cecelia, Antoine, Rick and all you lurkers. Happy holidays!
As I said earlier today, I’m writing, writing, writing my thesis paper stuff, which, thank god, is not as painful as my writing process used to be just a few months back. It’s an engaging challenge putting my motivations for Kids Connect as clearly as possible…without using bullet points. Here’s one of my objectives, which will form the template/questionnaire for the thesis paper itself. Your feedback would be much appreciated. Here are some guiding words on clarity if you need them. If you prefer, add your thoughts on my page on the ZoomLab wiki.
Objective : teach read/write media literacy and cultivate a critical stance to mass media
Why: One of the primary goals of Kids Connect (KC) is read/write media literacy. What does this mean? To be literate is to be able to read and write. A full understanding of media (new, mass and otherwise) necessitates practical know-how of audio and video recording/editing, creation and synthesis. [Quote Mark Twain about reading the river]. In order to be critical of media, you must be able to distance yourself from it. A practical understanding of the craft of media creation and manipulation cultivates that distance. Moreover, a one-sided conversation is a lecture. Few young people are learning how to master the written word, to produce a compelling argument in nouns and verbs. It is vital that young people learn to write media, to raise their voices over and around the constant shouting match and join the discussion.
How: In the first two weeks of workshops, students learn to shoot video with cameras of various quality, record audio with a variety of microphones, go on sound walks and video walks (experiential exercises in listening and seeing), composition and framing, editing and compression. Each technology is approached through exercises with storytelling, improvisational and/or experiential frames. For example, convey a given emotion through a sequence of still images. In the subsequent weeks, these skills are built upon in exercises exploring expression of identity, neighborhood and community experience. Example: take photos, audio and video of your home in your neighborhood, edit together a gestalt, share it through Second Life. Furthermore, we introduce our students to the world of live visual performance. They learn the techniques of live visuals and VJ-ing: how to mix and synthesize live, streaming, and pre-recorded media, how to express emotion and narative through abstracted light and sound, and to do this collaboratively over networks.
They’ve [Some have] already given up on the written word [for formal purposes, e.g., an argument --thank you, Anton]: we teach them the new multimedia communication skills they passionately desire.
Evaluation: How can you tell if someone has developed read/write media literacy? By seeing what they’ve expressed through various media. At the end of the workshops, we will have a large collection of work by our students to examine, as well as many hours of teaching experience to consider. We’ll sift this for patterns and I will write it up in my thesis paper.
Eight 13 – 15 year old New York City students + five 19 – 21 year old Amsterdam students + 1 co-director + four assistant teachers (later, two and a half) + nine guest teachers + two Amsterdam teachers X (five weeks here | eight days there) + three-ish administrators + a whole lot of help from other people, especially Andres , == quite a lot of work. Kids Connect workshops concluded on Friday. I’m stunned and delighted at the relatively huge quantity of free time I have now. Back to three squares + eight hours sleep + a social life (! surprise) + a whole lot of thesis writing to do, not to mention the proposals for the next Kids Connect workshop ~= relatively not as busy but quite busy and it’s a good thing I like being busy. I gave Carl and IDMI a little posable man as a token of our thanks (I find it amusing that his IKEA name is “Gestalta”). Carl got quite a giggle out of it. I’ve got three minutes left on the remorseless Pester before it’s back to writing thesis stuff…what to say. Hmm. My friend Adam Kendall gave me a DVD of some of his work the other night at the Speigel Tent EyeWash show. I have yet to watch it but it’s a beautifully crafted CD and jewel case so it allures me. Perhaps in 10 minutes or so Pester will give me a break to check it out….au’voir.
How can you argue with this video? These kids are cool.
Kids Connect is going very well. Our students are learning a lot, they like us, we like them, it’s an avalanche of busy and all good. Tomorrow we’ll open a window (read: video conference) with our counterparts in Amsterdam; we put the above video together in VJ-U today with Benton Bainbridge, who thought it’d make a great welcome when they join us on the Kids Connect island. More later, stories and pictures now:
Things are going very well.
We students and teachers are making lots of stuff for the island.
I made something today that gives me great pleasure. I took a photo of one of the Lawrence Weiner manhole covers and made it a 3D texture in Second Life. Click the pic for full effect.
Last week, Josephine and I attended the Games 4 Change conference, put on by the Serious Games Initiative (among many) and hosted at Parsons. It was an energizing experience that gave a definite boost to Kids Connect. We met other educators (many from Second Life), program directors, game developers, and one futurist; saw several really good panels on serious games, funding of, grassroots organization with, benefits of, big media interest in, building alternative spaces in, and reaching new audiences through; and — a subject I’m keenly interested in — the realization/evolution of the 3D Web through virtual worlds like Second Life. We met Barry Joseph et al from Global Kids (the first educational initiative in Teen Second Life) who not only gave two excellent presentations on panels but also gave generously of their time to share their learning experiences in Second Life with Josephine and me. A lot of this is covered in one their Holy Meatballs’ stories, which I’ll call What (Not) To Do When Starting an Educational Island in Teen Second Life (pdf) and it’s an essential read for anyone starting to teach in SL. We’re going to ask the Lindens to put our island next to theirs so our students can skip right over without a teleport. We may collaborate on some projects in the future, too.
Tomorrow is the first day of Kids Connect workshops in New York. It will be a somewhat messy start because of some typos in the mailing but no matter — most things start messy.
Today’s Second Life recommendation: check out Svarga (teleport link), an artificial ecosystem where all the plants, animals, rain, clouds, sun and terrain communicate with each other, grow and evolve procedurally a la The Game of Life. See Pathfinder Linden’s photoset of Svarga and the New World Notes post about it.
Things are trucking right along. Thanks to Stu Steele and Keni Yip from Polytechnic’s Computer Science Department, we’ve now got an excellent PC lab for our Second Life workshops. Josephine and I had a wonderful meeting with Pauline Oliveros, Will Swofford and Vonn New from the Deep Listening Institute and we all got very excited about having a Deep Listening workshop for our students next month. They’re all very keen to explore Second Life and its (mostly untapped) potential for aural environments. Yesterday Jos and I met with two teachers from Scotland, Sean and Katie Farrell, and it looks like they’ll be joining us in New York next month to teach SL skills to our students in person and (I hope) help us build the Kids Connect island.
Talking with Pauline, Will and Vonn about deep listening, aural environments and perceptual shifts, the shape of the Kids Connect island continued to coalesce and I thought of more exercises we could do there. Example: we ask the kids to make an audio recording of their home and/or neighborhood and take pictures of it. Using Photoshop or Gimp, they stitch the photos into a panorama; using Audacity, they edit and enhance their audio recording. In Second Life, they turn the audio and panorama into an audio/video installation, a slice of their lives for their counterparts in Amsterdam or New York to experience. This is not a new idea, of course. See:
- a panoramic photo with sound of the Sydney Opera House, as seen from a ferry (requires Quicktime)
- the one-minute vacations: field recordings from around the world
On a related note, if you want to understand why some people stray from the mainstream and end up in the so-called “avant garde” read the profile of Morton Feldman in the latest New Yorker.
Extreme length allowed Feldman to approach his ultimate goal of making music into an experience of life-changing force, a transcendent art form that wipes everything else away. To sit through performances of the two biggest works‚ÄîI heard Petr Kotik’s S.E.M. Ensemble play the five-hour-long “For Philip Guston” in 1995, with phenomenal purity of tone, and the Flux Quartet play the six-hour-long “String Quartet (II)” in 1999, with tireless focus‚Äîis to enter into a new way of listening, even a new consciousness. There are passages in each where Feldman seems to be testing the listener’s patience, seeing how long we can endure a repeated note or a dissonant minor second. Then, out of nowhere, some very pure, almost childlike idea materializes. Most of the closing section of “For Philip Guston” is in modal A minor, and it is music of surpassing gentleness and tenderness. But it inhabits a far-off, secret place that few travellers will stumble upon.
Some things I’m planning to get or build or get built in Second Life, in no particular order, some of them for Kids Connect and some not:
- very easy-to-use picture and video viewers so the kids can just upload some images — or link to some video files — and chuck them onto an object to be shown immediately.
- an area densely filled with pretty things to be used in a live visual performance, whether by inworld snapshots or just going fullscreen and closing all the onscreen windows
- a (probably blog-based) system that will take emailed snapshots and pull them into a live visual performance. This one’s specifically for use at SHARE. Example of how this would go:
- SL Residents read about SHARE and the SHARE SL project on my land
- on a Sunday night, they login to SL, go to their favorite places and take snapshots, emailing them to secondlife at share dot dj OR a Flickr post-by-email address.
- Visualist(s) at SHARE runs a Max/MSP/Jitter patch that grabs these snapshots (from email or RSS — this might be easiest to demo by using a feedreader like NetNewsWire that can auto-download images to a specific folder that Max can poll) and incorporates them into their visual performance.
- a few buildings that are conducive to group meetings and classes
- a dark building with winding corridors that lead the visitor to various rooms with video art/live visual displays
I would love to get help with these — I’m a novice with Linden Scripting Language and I don’t want to spend time and effort making something that someone’s already made much better. If you know some good builders and coders in SL, please let them know about Kids Connect and Share. They can get some info on my land inworld.
My allergies started two nights ago. The allergen index is high and the predominant pollens are oak, birch and maple. I always forget this stuff so for future reference and so on and so forth. That is all.
In other news, I’m performing a work in progress at Share this Sunday. Writing the Max patches for it has been quite satisfying. The big challenge is writing the video step sequencer*. I’m finding the logical stuff just as fun as the video manipulation.
We’re hosting DrupalCamp at Poly this weekend. Anton and I are hosting/representing IDMI, but I’ll probably be spending a lot of time hiding and working on my patches. :-/
And furthermore, there’s great stuff going on at Issue Project Room this Friday but I can’t go. Perhaps you can go. Think about it.
* Mom and Dad, this means something that plays through a bunch of videos in sequence automatically. It’s trickier than it sounds, especially if you want it to be dynamic, e.g., play them in random order or with crossfades.
Written yesterday. I’m at the New School, doing an all-day webcast for the India China Institute’s big conference, which brings to mind Ross’s recent post about educational webcasts and archiving. The New School Online is a great initiative and it gets the job done, though I wish they’d chosen open source technologies instead of Real and the need for a CMS grows as each event gets added to the hand-coded archives. I’ve yet to learn how much traffic they actually get, but I figure it’s small yet growing. As each month (not year) goes by, more and more activities — economic and cultural — make use of telecollaborative tech like streaming video meetings, wikis and such. One of our selling points to parents for Kids Connect is that their children will have a leg up in the small, loosely organized, distributed businesses of tomorrow* by playing and experimenting with video performance and virtual (Second Life) collaboration. I’m going to get a prototype working environment set up in Second Life as soon as possible. I’m looking forward to Ross and other educators asking hard questions and shredding my assumptions so our workshops in SL can be truly valuable, not just buzzword inclusion.
Speaking of truly valuable places in Second Life, check out _blacklibrary, a cultural center slash micro-publisher. They host fiction, non-fiction, games, graphic novels, and art including sculpture. They’re going to distribute my comic.
* And no, that’s not THE LAND OF THE FUTURE with food pills and shiny jumpsuits — it’s…well, 10 minutes from now.