Re-Imagining Rosie for Today

Today is the last day of a summer camp project I am facilitating, which is connecting inner-city middle school students with the Springfield Armory, a National Park Historic Site. (The project is funded and supported by our Western Massachusetts Writing Project, Mass Humanities, The National Writing Project, the Springfield Armory, Veterans Education Project and the Springfield City Schools … it’s a complicated endeavor, to say the least).

The middle schoolers (who come from a Social Justice-themed school) are now hard at work on a research project, in which they have taken on the “persona” of someone from the Armory’s past (our focus has been women and immigration), and represent what they know through a multi-genre effort. One piece is writing, and another is more art-related.

To show students what we are thinking when it comes to multi-genre, another teacher and I both created some texts. She wrote, and performed, an amazing rap song (she used to work for Flocabulary, I found out) about women in the workforce during World War 2. Meanwhile, I decided to use what we learned about Rosie the Riveter in a presentation by a historic re-enactor to create two different projects about Rosie.

My premise was, what would a Rosie icon look like today?

First, I wrote a Poem for Two Voices, and had students come up and read it with me. In the poem, the two voices were Rosie 1.0 (the original icon) and a Rosie 2.0 (a modern day icon).

Rosie Poem for Two Voices preview

Second, I created a comic strip in which woman are auditioning for the job of Rosie 2.0, and what happened when a strong, active woman gets the part. (OK, so I didn’t reference the Trump administration, but I imagined them being the voices off in the wings).

Rosie Comic1

Rose Comic2

I am excited to see and hear what students are making today. We’re seeing board games, comics, rap songs, journals, stories, poems and more. It’s been fun and interesting, and educational (Shhhh. Don’t tell the kids. It’s summer camp, remember.)

Peace (listen to Rosie),
Kevin

Another Collection of Comics

DigCiz Comic Collection Screenshot

I made more than 40 comics during the DigCiz conversation, as a way to close-read blogs posts and writing, and close-view some of the video discussions. As always, some of the comics work and some don’t, and some need context to make sense. Some may not make sense at all, no matter your context. The “slideshow” button at the top of the page is the best way to view them, I think.

See the collection

Peace (in frames),
Kevin

 

Better the World: Reflecting on #DigCiz Discussions

Person by person

As I mull over the last few weeks of conversations

I’ve been using Vialogues to “slow-watch” weekly video hangouts of folks in the #DigCiz conversation. This “writing in the margins” has helped me slowly think about the topics — to push back, at times, and to agree at others. It often has taken me days to get through an hour-long discussion video. It has been worth it. You are invited, too, if interested.

Thanks to folks like Daniel, Terry, Sarah, Wendy and others who have added to the side conversations along with me. I still wish more of the hangout folks would have spilled into the margins, too, and extended the conversations (as Maha did). I appreciate, too, how Autumm and Sundi have worked to gather voices and perspectives together, and how they have nurtured the discussions in various places.

I have valued of all the points of view.

This whole four-week #DigCiz discussion has really raised important questions, particularly in the role of the individual in a larger data-driven system. Some lingering questions:

  • What rights and responsibilities do we have in that system or that platform?
  • What expectations should people have in those spaces, such as Facebook or Twitter or whatever?
  • Can we change those platforms if they don’t work for us?
  • Do we have agency?
  • How do we best teach young people ways to navigate the terrain with optimism and engagement?
  • Where do we go from here?

We’ve all done much chatting about these concerns, and more, and about how we address civics in the digital age. So, how do we take what we talked about and move it into action? Isn’t that always the conundrum? (See comic at the top for one way I tried to grapple with the question and found myself thinking of Annie Lamott’s Bird by Bird).

I am reminding myself, too, that we all need be more mindful that we can make a difference, one interaction at a time. I was asked by a friend about the following comic …

Think small
The point I was trying to make (and maybe fell into stereotype of academic folks, which is a bit unfair) is that we can all easily get bogged down in jargon and vocabulary and lose sight of the reason why were are engaged in conversations in the first place, which is to better connect with others and better understand points of view.

As a K12 teacher often in the midst of university folks through work with our writing project, it seems as if I am surrounded by vocabulary — you can almost hear some folks planning their next education journal writing or book project as they talk and interact — and I was seeking to remind myself that deeds and actions are important. Talking only gets you so far.

Words matter, of course. But where you take those words is a reflection on who are you and what you really want to see happen. Think small, but get it started. In the end, it has to do with being kind to each other and being open to differences, whether you are online or offline.

Perhaps I remain a bit naive about the possibilities of making the world a better place …

Peace (in the margins),
Kevin

Visual Literacies and the Emergence of “Picting”


visualliteracy flickr photo by alisonkeller shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license

The term “picting” is new to me but it makes sense. In a recent piece at The Journal by Cathie Norris and Elliot Soloway entitled Picting, Not Wriing, is the Literacy of Today’s Youth, the question of whether the visual nature of literacy in the (literal) hands of youth — mostly via cameras on mobile devices — has overtaken the written literacies.

Maybe. I don’t know.

I look at my own teenage sons, and my own adolescent students, and I pay attention to the ways they use Snapchat and YouTube and who knows what other apps to document their world, but are they telling stories? It’s more like the visual elements of their mobile lives are connector points, or documentation hubs of their identity (or projected identities), than telling whatever we want to call a story. Read the comments at the article, and you’ll see a discussion about “story” unfolding along this query.

The authors cite research that does back up, however, how young people are more apt to “compose” with images  – and use writing only as secondary literacy points — than the other way around. Unless they are in school. Then, the equation flip flops. In school, writing is the key literacy skill and visuals are often add-ons.

I think that is generally true (that we value textual writing over visual composition), and while more of a balance would make sense, I still think the teaching of writing and of composition and of “composing” with media is a key anchor of learning in our schools. Whether young people are taking and sharing images with intentional design and composition strategies can probably be debated.

I believe that young people still need to learn and to use those more traditional skills (ie, writing with text) to inform the way they interact and write into the world, whether that writing be visual or not. Note the image I used at the top of the post. The elements of design are becoming more and more important for all of us, so teaching and learning visual literacy makes sense.

I was reminded of the work that Nick Sousanis is doing around the visual narrative. You can read his piece from Digital Writing Month, in which he explores elements of visual narrative with a unique insight.

from Nick Sousanis: Spin Weave and Cut

 

And I was reminded, too, of the way my friend Kim Douillard, a writing project colleague, sees the world through her camera, and shares out visual themes for others to try across many social media streams, every single week. Kim views what she sees through her camera as narrative points, and understands how a picture can be composed. I try to learn from her.

Image by Kim Douillard

 

Not everything we write is story, although a common definition of ‘story’ is often debated in writing and teaching circles. Still, the idea that narrative does run beneath all that writers do is an interesting concept, for sure. See Minds Made for Stories by Thomas Newkirk for more on this.

I wrote this as a comment response at The Journal’s piece:

Writing with text is important. So is visual literacy. Also, add in the ability to speak and listen. Explaining something with video? Yep. That, too. The best approach for us educators is always to find ways to fuse these elements together when working with young “composers” of media. We should teach students how each (writing, visual, audio) on its own transforms a message (if not tells a story) and how each can work in tandem with the other to make a more powerful statement on the world. It is intriguing how visual the world of young people has become and there are many ways to tap into that (graphic novels, comics, infographics, etc). I still maintain, along with others, that the art of writing is still at the center of all these literacies.

What do you think?

Peace (looks like),
Kevin

 

Amplifying the Work of Others

Ampen don't Dampen

Ampen. Don’t Dampen.

My friend, Terry, wrote this phrase elsewhere in a discussion about “hospitality” and his words stuck with me, for its spirit of generosity of others. I hope I do that with my close reading activities, with quote pulling, with comic making, and with the remixing stories of others and sharing back.

By amplifying the work of others, we amplify the thinking of ourselves, for when you choose what to focus on in the work of others, you share a bit of yourself, too. This approach is also a way to counter the selfie-centered heart of technology. Turn the lens on someone else, and make a connection.

Peace (amplified),
Kevin

PS — Is ampen a word? I don’t think so. A quick search came up empty. Is it important? Nope. I still love invented language, and ampen to me signals a variation of amplify, but with softer and kinder tones.

Thinking it Through: I’ve Got Comics On My Mind

Digital identity dispersion effect

The conversations around the #DigCiz hashtag have certainly gone into different directions this past week. I’m still trying to create comics based off discussions, and blog posts, and tweets, and whatever folks are doing. The comic above, for example, was in response to wondering how people represent themselves different in different digital spaces, and how our multiple identities are both connected an disconnected.

There’s been more wrestling with language, too, and what words one uses to describe connector points. Communities. Networks. Conversations. I don’t even know anymore. Let’s just talk and worry about what to call it some other time.

Networked community or community network?

We circled back to a talking point from a few weeks ago, too, on whether online sites should be open for readers to engage the writer, or closed to the readers to protect the writer. I fall on the side of open.

Open or closed?

Interestingly, hashtags themselves became a topic of conversation, and what it means when discussion centers around a shared hashtag. Who owns it? Are there rules?

See ya at the hashtag

And what happens if you break the rules? (if there are any)

Break the rules, pay the price

There was the theme of “hospitality” that many of us grappled with this week. I see it as, how do we welcome newcomers and encourage latecomers, and connect with those already there. Whatever “there” is. Or wherever. See? Language!

Build it but they won't come

A discussion of what does the host give up of their identity and authenticity to make the guest comfortable led to this:

A messy world

This is what I hope will happen …

Ponder the positive

… but then, not long after, I was critiquing Google and other companies for siphoning up our data even while pitching educational sites to kids. Sigh. So much for pondering the positives.

But … the slip was momentarily … for the idea of remixing and collaborating and making stuff with others still keeps me involved and engaged, and hopeful, and I hope you find a way in, too.

Open for Jamming

Peace (framed),
Kevin

 

Graphic Book Review: The Shape of Ideas

I have long been a huge fan of Grant Snider, who puts out regular Incidental Comics that makes you pay attention to the creative mind and imaginative sparks that come with writing. This collection by Snider — entitled The Shape of Ideas: An Illustrated Exploration of Creativity — is a perfect curation of some of his work, ranging along themes of Inspiration, Improvisation, Exploration, Frustration and Elation.

 

I see Snider as a visual poet, using visual and word puns to challenge the viewer to think about what it means to find and nurture ideas that often seem elusive. His graphic art reminds us of the “work” that goes into making art.

He even left the last page of his book as a blank art canvas, as an invitation to draw. I love that.

While there is some repetition of ideas here, Snider’s exploration of the creative mind through comics and graphics will surely make you contemplate the wistfulness of creativity, and perhaps inspire you to make your own. I’m happy if my purchase of his book allows Snider more time to make art. I also support him through Patreon.

You can even glimpse some of the art in his book through a link off his site.

Peace (elusive and wandering),
Kevin

#DigCiz: Making Comics as Keyhole for Thinking

Earth Responds

I’ve been trying my best to engage in discussions about “citizenship” and digital identity and more with the #DigCiz work now underway (see the schedule and join in the discussions). And I have appreciated all of the chatter and the debate (the word ‘citizen’ has sparked a lot of pushback).

I’ve also been on a comic kick each day before heading off to work. I’ve been mostly using my “slow-watching” of the video hangouts each morning to gather ideas for a daily comic. It’s my way to paying attention to what others are writing and saying, and then filtering my thoughts through what I hope is a humorous (although sometimes, sarcastic, but hopefully, never mean) lens of comics.

Echo chamber pop

Here are some comics from the past week, and some thoughts behind them as I process the #DigCiz discussion points:

Unrealistic expectations

This comic came about from thinking in terms of how we expect our various social media platforms to be more and to do more than they are designed to be and do. In some ways, our expectations are unrealistic, and then we are disappointed. This is not to say that Twitter and Facebook and others can’t do more than they are doing (particularly around policing the hate), but I think we also need to cognizant of the reality. But if Twitter wants to vacuum the house? I’m OK with that.


Outside looking in

I hesitated on posting this one. I didn’t want it to become a harsh critique of the discussion and folks behind the discussions, folks I admire and enjoy engaging with. But I was wondering how others could be invited in, too, since the #DigCiz crowd seems very University-based, and already a close network of people.


Who owns what

Again, who owns the platform? We often think we, the user, is in charge, but the reality is the flip — the platforms often own us, and our data, and our information. Why? Notice the dollar sign? That’s why.


Ideal social media user (company perspective)

This was one of my favorites of the last week or so. I think it was an effective look at how corporations are using our children as click-bait for advertising, and how the interactive features of technology allow for such easy access, and easy sharing of data and privacy and more. Young people are vulnerable!


What the Kids Say

And yet … there’s something pure and loving about young people, too, and perhaps we need to pay attention to that notion of play and compassion and collaboration when thinking of how we adults can interact.


When Google is your teacher

There was a link someone shared that I followed about a new Google site for teaching digital citizenship, and I found it strangely ironic, given how much Google taps into our what we do with our time to target us for advertising (and making gazillions of profit as a result). The adblock question in the second frame still cracks me up.


Citizens of the world

Here is the crux of one conversation: how do we help people see their online selves as part of the larger world and move beyond the “follow” into action in their own worlds? Or do we? There was a strand of talk about how people have the right not to engage in the public sphere, too, and that true citizenship, if that’s even the right word, is voluntary and meaningful, not forced.


Listen to the writing

Listen more. Yell less. That’s an idea.


Peace (framed and skewered),
Kevin

A Collection of Comics: The (New) Adventures of the Internet Kid

Daily Dda17

The other day, I wrote about reaching my 100(plus) comic for the Networked Narratives Daily Arganee prompt with The Internet Kid and his friend, Horse with No Name. I just uploaded all of the Kid comics that I had created for NetNarr into Flickr.

If it interests you, here is the Flickr album where they now reside:

NetNarr -- The Internet Kid and Horse comics

There are comics in the collection that require some context, which is what the Daily Aragnee prompts are about so I am not going to give context for each comic. Phew. But you can check out the Internet Kid’s collection of prompts, and the Horse’s collection, too, at the Daily Arganee site.

I also wanted to put out a few comics that I liked …

Daily Dda67

Daily Dda77

Daily Dda80

Daily Dda63

Daily Dda37

Daily Dda44

Daily Dda29

Rope wrangling

World4

Peace (shine a light),
Kevin