We spent a whirlwind week in London, where my eldest son is at school this semester, and we took advantage of the time (and the beautiful weather) to see as much of the city and beyond as we could. We did tons of walking, wandering through old buildings (like the church prison tower in Oxford that was built in 1040) and new buildings (like the Shard, which gives you panoramic views of all of London) and more. We headed out of the city on two different days (Oxford, one day; and Kew and Windsor, another). We rode the Underground all over the place.
I kept a travel journal, as I often do for special visits, and notice how I resort to doodling in the margins, too, as a way to remember the visuals of the experiences. No one else can read much of my handwriting and the sketches need context for anyone else, but this is for me, anyway. I’ll remember.
This week’s Studio Visit in Networked Narratives was with Anne-Marie Scott, and I put the video archive into Vialogues for those who want to join me in another round of slow-listening and commenting in the margins. Anne-Marie will be watching the discussion, so feel free to leave her questions there.
This is a helpful video with John Greene about reading deeper, and understanding, digital information and digital media. Greene, author (The Fault in Our Stars) and vlogger (often with his brother), digs into how we can understand what’s behind the veil of what we read online, and to understand the move he calls “lateral reading.”
Greene’s key question of inquiry that we must always ask ourselves: Who made this and why?
He explains that we have been taught to read “vertically” — starting a text at the top, reading across line by line, ending up at the bottom. Like a book. Unless it’s manga (sorry, had to get that in). Reading “laterally,” he explains, means opening new browser tabs, checking information out against the original, jumping from the main text to complimentary text.
He suggests we become more active readers, checking information out before diving in with belief. Understanding who is funding sites, and why, is key to understanding how design and algorithms influence our thinking and understanding.
What a writer Susan Orleans is. In The Library Book, Orleans shows her skills at weaving a deep dive into a topic (public libraries), history, crime (the fire at the Los Angeles library), and her own personal story (she writes this book for her mother, who is dying as she begins this book and has died when she ends). Orleans’ talent is such that you don’t even notice the way she has artistically structured all of this — you only know that you are in deep, and you don’t want to stop reading.
This is more than a book about libraries. It is a book about the heartbeat of shared public spaces, about the ways a community gathers together, about shared experiences, about the power of stories to guide us forward, about how we preserve the past to guide us into the future and navigate the present. It is all that, and more.
The Library Book is also an ode to our geeky hearts, those of us who loved libraries as kids, who still love libraries as adults, and if you are lucky like me, those of us who are married to a librarian. (I quickly passed this book to her). Orleans’ narrative focuses on the fire that nearly destroyed the main library of Los Angeles, and then weaves her stories of the people, the books, the experiences that connect to the library, before pulling back on the larger picture of how libraries function in our communities as vital cogs beyond literacy.
You don’t need to love libraries to enjoy The Library Book. But it helps, and if you don’t appreciate libraries before reading this book, you certainly will afterwards.
We just wrapped up a professional development partnership between the Springfield Armory Historic Site and the Western Massachusetts Writing Project. I was one of the lead facilitators, and it was such a great experience to use the Armory itself as our classroom as a way to explore history and primary sources. The course was supported through a grant by the National Writing Project and the National Park Service.
After all the participants shared lesson plans and resources and topics — ranging from the role of light rail transportation at the Armory, to the use of the Organ of Muskets poem that was inspired by a visit to the Armory by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, to use of The Things They Carried to invite a veteran oral historian into the classroom, to deep research into local history of a community — we asked the teachers to write a reflection. Part of what we are doing is gathering resources for a future website to showcase the potential of exploring local history.
I’ve been taking my time, listening over a few days to the classroom conversation that the always-intriguing Chris Gilliard had with Networked Narratives the other day.
Chris is insightful in his look at how technology impacts our lives, bringing to the surface not just the privacy issues but also the concerns of how our data might be used against us (and is being used against us) by companies and governments. Chris is wary of the digital landscape but also is optimistic that users can force changes for the better (or I infer his hopefulness, which maybe just is my own reflection that the ship can still be set right).
The video is in Vialogues, allowing for conversation in the margins. Thanks again to Karen for joining, and hoping others will, too.
I want to thank Sheri for remixing my video about remix that I shared out this week. Her visual interpretation of the video is wonderful, and useful, capturing my points from another angle. Even more, her exploration of remix at her blog is a valuable insight into what we are talking about when we talk about remix as an act of appreciation of another’s work of art.
Networked Narratives hosted a Twitter chat the other while folks were watching this video — We’re Building a Dystopia Just to Make People Click on Ads by Zeynep Tufekci — and so I popped the video into Vialogues for slow viewing and commenting.
Thanks to Karen and Terry for jumping in with me, so I didn’t feel so alone in the digital landscape of manipulation engines and algorithmic targeting of my data.
You are invited, too, to watch and react. Tufekci is insightful, connecting algorithms of advertising to the creeping elements of an authoritarian state. It’s not that much of a leap, unfortunately.