Dear Data: Personal Connection through Data Collection

Dear Data: To Draw is to Remember

Infographics done right fascinate me, particularly if they tell a story from the data. Cold data analysis … does nothing for me. In the amazing book Dear Data, graphic designers Stefanie Posavec and Giorgia Lupi document a year of postcards between themselves, sharing personal data in hand-drawn styles. Their 52-week journey of documenting and share is a reminder of how we might be able to uncover insights into ourselves, and each other, by paying more attention.

In fact, over at the Connected Learning MOOC community, a number of us are using Dear Data as a launching and inspirational point for sharing Data Postcards in the coming year. Some of us sent out Resolution Data postcards in January and “love” is the theme of February, and we are using Lupi and Posavec’s work as our starting point, to some degree.

This is my workspace the other day, as I was working on my data postcards, which I sent to different parts of the world. I sort of cheated by not doing every one by hand, but this is how I got it to work for me.

Making Data Postcards for CLMOOC

The two developed weekly themes that they built their data collection on, from the opening theme of “clocks” to observing urban animals (week 34) to a week of distractions (week 44) to a week of goodbyes (week 52, of course). Along with sharing the postcards, the two write about their experiences, from the difficulties of coming up with data representations to the celebration of sharing to insights they gained about their personal worlds through such an endeavor.

I also appreciated the insights at the end of the book, where the two outline some suggestions for others, such as:

  • See the world as a data collector
  • Begin with a question
  • Gather and spend time with your data
  • Organize and categorize it
  • Find the main story that the data tells
  • Share the data and the story

We don’t need to leave it to our machines and our computers and vast programming ventures to gather our world. We can do it ourselves. Lupi and Posavec show us the power of connections between people, and how to humanize the data, as a means to strengthen insights and understanding through a very visual means.

What’s your data?

Peace (it’s not just numbers),
Kevin

 

#NetNarr: Mapping the Field of Possibilities (a poem response)

Mapping Out a Field of Possibilities

Earlier today, I shared out an invitation to annotate a video by Leonardo Flores and the Networked Narratives folks who hung out with him. (You can still annotate the video). It helped that we have a two-hour winter weather delay this morning, so I immersed myself in the NetNarr experience. As I was thinking about how best to reflect on what I learned and heard, I wondered if (given Flores’ interest in digital poetry) I could use my own comments to create a poem about the theme of the Studio Visit, as I knew it, from afar.

I did create a poem. You can read it — Mapping Out a Field of Possibilities —  over at Notegraphy. What I think, for me is interesting, is that the discussion about the use of “twitter bots” to “scrape” text from tweets and create something new raises all sorts of questions about what is writing when algorithms are in place, and who owns the writing (and does that even matter on a digital canvas?).

Here, I made myself into a sort of “human bot,” scraping through my own annotations and musings (along with quotes from others in the session that I had pulled out into the margins) to make a poem. I am not a bot. I just played one here sometimes. So, would the poem be any different if I had been a programmed Twitter bot and had done the same thing? Such interesting things to wonder about, right?

Another point: I would have liked to have had more time to add other layers to the writing — to create audio linked on top of the words, perhaps, or maybe, shifting the poem’s stanzas into Zeega for a multimedia compositional experience or maybe layering links to the people whose words I, eh, remixed for the poem, an associative anchor to people from the poem. I might still do something.

As it is now, the poem is experientially flat, even as it is read on the screens. The poem is merely words on the “page.” I’m not suggesting that this kind of writing is not exciting or interesting or valuable (certainly, it is) but I continue to be curious about how to push writing into new directions.

How about you?

Peace (it’s a poem),
Kevin

 

#NetNarr: Annotating a Studio Visit with Leonardo Flores

Studio Tour

Part of the “spine” of the Networked Narratives adventure is a series of “studio visits” with practitioners and others of digital media and digital storytelling. But these seem to likely happen during my teaching hours. Not so worry. I am using Vialogues to annotate yesterday’s studio tour with Leonardo Flores, as the crew chats about digital poetry and electronic writing.

You can annotate the video, too. Just come over to Vialogues, log in and as you watch the Hangout, add your thoughts to the margins of the video. It’s all about the conversation.

 

Peace (in the margins),
Kevin

 

Slice of Life: Filmed, In Progress

(This is for the Slice of Life, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write each Tuesday — and all through March —  about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

Last night, my wife and I joined about a dozen other folks in a small film editing space to view an early draft of a documentary film being made by a neighbor and an artistic partner (see their Kickstarter campaign that got them off the ground). Almost a year ago, we went to the same space, and watched a very early promotional trailer. Our friend is a professional filmmaker who has won awards for her work, so it is no surprise that the movie — which is about arming teachers in schools with guns — is a captivating piece of work.

The topic of the film remains rather jarring. Arming teachers with guns? It’s happening, and may spread now that Trump and the NRA are in power, and the movie — now tentatively entitled G is for Gun — focuses on some communities in Ohio. It’s powerful, in that teachers from both side come from the same desire: to find a way to protect their students. How to do that is the dividing line in the narrative, of course. Actually, one of the more disturbing and absurd elements of their research is that schools don’t have to tell parents if teachers are being armed with guns in schools. That information can be kept from the public, and even from the police (who don’t like the idea of arming teachers, by the way, for fear of something going terribly wrong if they arrive at a school for an emergency).

Anyway …

After we watched the 40 minute film, the discussion took place, and it was pretty interesting to be in the midst of a sort of “writers’ circle” as we critiqued and complimented the aspects of filmmaking, talking about point of view, balance, filming techniques, voice, lighting, flow of story, and more. I watched my friend and her partner take in the comment, making notes, asking follow-up questions, pursuing a line of inquiry. They would glance at each other when some comment from us, the audience, hit a nerve, or shake their heads in tandem when we raised a point they had clearly already been raising, or discussing, during the editing process.

The event reminded me of the kinds of discussions about writing we nurture in our classrooms, and how — if you are lucky as an adult — you might find yourselves in the midst of rich conversations about art and writing, and filmmaking, too.

Peace (on film),
Kevin

Google’s Story Experiments in 360 Degrees


PLANET BREMEN flickr photo by jonasginter shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license

Google’s shift into transforming video stories with 360 degree perspectives dovetails nicely with the push into virtual reality storytelling, and some of the talk scattered around Networked Narratives (and more likely to come). This release — Pearl — tells the heart-warming story of a father and daughter, all set inside and near a car, and the viewer can move around the setting of this car as time passes on.

What I find fascinating is how this kind of video/story experiment begins to push the agency of the storytelling to the viewer, who can move around the “car” here, or just keep the eyes focused outside the windows. The story unfolds, but where the lens is looking all depends on us. I think that is intriguing.

Watch Pearl (I am embedded it here but I think you might need to go to the video on YouTube). I see they have other stories now published, too. I like Pearl, though, for its emotional connection (see? Story overrides tech, even as tech complements story)

And watch the Behind the Scenes video of the Making of Pearl.

Peace (with stories),
Kevin

Graphic Novel Review: Dog Man

Well, I could not not read this, right? I mean, Dog Man! I am Dogtrax in social media spaces. And Dav Pilkey! Who doesn’t love the hijinks of Dav Pilkey? (not counting the teachers in his books, who complain about kids making comics all the time).

In a nutshell, Dog Man is a comic story being made by two comic characters (Harold and George) in Pilkey’s comic book. If you know Captain Underpants, then that makes sense. If not, go forth and read Captain Underpants (there are worse things to read, including the daily newspapers with headlines coming out of Washington DC).

Dog Man is a police officer with the head of a dog and the body of a man (and don’t ask how that happened) who always seems to save the day, from either the villian cat (Petey) or animated hot dogs (the edible kind, which sort of gives away the resolution of that particular story … sorry).

Pilkey has great fun with sight gags, and word play, and general mayhem and silliness that makes Dog Man a fun read, mostly for the elementary age (but my middle school son enjoyed it). What more can you ask of a book? (other than some deep underlying theme of the human condition … yeah .. you won’t find that here in Dog Man.)

Peace (it’s ruff),
Kevin

#NetNarr: Getting Elemental with Poetry

NetNarr Element Poems

Part of the “assignment” this week for the Networked Narratives course is to document the four Elements, as part of a larger discussion about Digital Alchemy. As usual, I decided that the idea of eight images of the elements (four literal, four interpreted) wasn’t what I wanted to do. But I did wonder if I could write four short poems, based on the elements of earth, wind, fire and water.

Using the app Legend, which animates text against a visual background, I got down to work, trying to hint at the elements but trying to write about something larger. I hoped the visual would connect to the element, as well as some key phrases. The constraints were length: Legend only allows a short amount of text, and the resulting animation is only six seconds.

But I was happy with each of the poems, which I think mostly captured what I was trying to accomplish in terms of the elements as inspiration for writing.

I posted each short poem on Twitter, via the #Netnarr hashtag, but then realized I really wanted them to be stitched together, so that all four poems of four elements became one digital composition. I turned to Animoto as the easiest way (I could have done it in iMovie) but also because I knew they had “elements” themes. The “air” theme seemed right, particularly when I found the “rain” song to go with it.

Networked Narratives is a hybrid course – part of a Keane University offering AND an open invitation to anyone. Come join the fun, with Mia Zamora and Alan Levine leading the way.

Peace (braving the elements),
Kevin

#NetNarr: Worldbuilding in Writing Notebooks

WorldBuilding Collage

In the Networked Narratives adventure just now unfolding, there is some talk down the road about “world building” and as my students were just finishing up an entire unit on video game design (telling a Hero’s Journey story inside of a video game structure), I decided to riff off the idea with some daily writing activities in their notebooks.

Day One’s prompt was to map out an imaginary world, either in the form of maps or an atlas, and to name landforms and water forms within their world.

WorldBuilding2

Day Two’s prompt was to use that Imaginary World as the setting for a short story, sending a character on an adventure through the new world they had conceived the day before.

What struck me was how closely many of the student’s maps and atlases of their new worlds resembled Earth. I expected more of them to take more creative license with the prompt. However, the stories were imaginative, conceptualizing a strange and imaginary place for adventure, and I wonder if their ability to “tell” stories (something we work on all year) gave them more freedom to explore the unknown elements of an unknown world.

BONUS: I made this prompt into a prompt for the Daily Digital Alchemy the other day. Give it a whirl. Create a world.

Peace (somewhere, there’s a world),
Kevin