#NetNarr: Considering the Rise of the Twitter Bots

Bot List

So, I am on another meander .. trying to parse out the possibilities of Twitter Bots as a means of digital writing. And wondering, is it? I don’t rightly know. Thus, the meander.

I’m on this line of inquiry thanks to the Networked Narratives crew, and one of the paths revealed during the recent “studio tour” with Leonardo Flores, whose work with generative Twitter Bots sparked some interesting annotation discussions.

Certainly, Twitter Bots — which are programmed to release writing or images or something from a data base at random or programmed times — are numerous (as I found when I started looking for them with new eyes) and funny and entertaining. Some bots mesh together ideas from other sites, creating a hybrid tweet. Others are original material, parsed together in odd ways. Some bots take on personalities from history, using archived texts as source material. Others are like programmed memes, making political fun of something through satire and sarcasm. Some are stories, unfolding in small bits over time.

Right now, I am following Mia Zamora and Alan Levine’s suggestion at Networked Narratives to “follow some bots” and see what happens over a few days time. I created a Twitter List of various bots that I have found (and feel free to follow the list if you want or you can ask Flores’ HotBots Bot to recommend Bots to follow based on your question or theme), and find myself dipping into the narrative stream now and then. It’s not a great strategy because the bot tweets are all mixed up, like a book whose pages have been put into disorder.

What I am wondering about in the larger picture, though, is this: can I make and launch my own Twitter Bot?

Yesterday, I started working on a Twitter Bot to send into the NetNarr twitter stream and  I think I can pull it off, but I have been struggling with what would I want that bot to say to the world? What database might it mine for words and ideas? What message? Is my act of making a bot share writing out to the world an act writing?

More to come …. tomorrow, I will write about my bot experiment.

Peace (generate it),
Kevin

 

App Review: StickNodes

A few weeks ago, for the #CLMOOC DigiWriMo Pop Up Make Cycle, the focus was on animation. There are all sorts of apps that allow you to animate now, and StickNodes is one of my favorites (I paid the $1.99 for the Pro version). It’s an update on an old freeware that I used to use with students called Pivot Animator. When we shifted to Macs, I had to move away from Pivot (it is a PC-only freeware) and tried Stykz for a bit.

StickNodes Pro is pretty easy to use, and has a lot of powerful features for animating stick figures. It’s also pretty darn fun to use. You can create and then export your animation as video or gif files, which can be hosted elsewhere.

Here is one of my early experiments: Stickman Walking. (I had uploaded it into Vine, which you can no longer do)

 

No surprise that there are tutorial videos on YouTube for using the app. Here is the first in a series done by this person.

Give it a try. Or try some other app, and let us know. We’re animating this week!

Peace (in the frame),
Kevin

When #CLMOOC Met #DigiWriMo

(A collage of “grounds” from the Look Down to the Ground Collaboration)

We’re wrapping up two weeks of Pop-Up Make Cycles that the CLMOOC Crowd (past participants who have stepped up to facilitate the Connected Learning MOOC this past year) organized for what used to be Digital Writing Month (but may be no more). We invited people to share photos, annotate and curate on the Web, make and share animations, discuss Digital Writing in a variety of formats, produce inspirational images and messages, and more.

It’s probably not the ideal time of year to hope that many, many people will take the CLMOOC up on the invitation to make, create, share. Still, that’s the beauty of the Pop-Up Make Cycle idea (first launched by Joe Dillon and Terry Elliott, I believe). It comes. It goes. It’s an open invitation.

Two of the pieces I am proud of making:

and

Do I wish more folks participated? Yes. But then I remember something we said early this past summer at all due to a different focus for the National Writing Project, when it seemed that CLMOOC might not happen in 2016.

A few us (participants and past facilitators) chatted and decided: Yes, CLMOOC will indeed happen, and those few soon grew to more than a dozen people who volunteered to become the CLMOOC Crowd (my name for it). We agreed that “small” is perfectly fine. The “M”  in this mooc does not have to be “massive” anymore. It just has to be “meaningful.” So, “minimal” works, too.

And you know .. this is the Open Web. Anyone at anytime can access any of the ideas. You’re invited. You’re always invited.

Peace (and connect),
Kevin

 

Before The Video Games …. There Are Storyboards

Game Design 2016

We’re in the early days of our Video Game Design Project, in which my sixth graders are learning how to use a narrative “story frame” to design and publish a video game via Gamestar Mechanic. As a writing teacher, my aim is to show how story can become the backbone of a video game, and how the reader “plays” the story that the game designer has written. It’s all about expanding the notions of Digital Writing, and how games are emerging as the place for inventive storytelling.

Game Design 2016

This week, students have been brainstorming their “story frames” and that work is done before they can start designing their games. I want them to have a “map” of where they are going before they starting designing with blocks and avatars and rewards and more. I am always pleasantly surprise by the detail of their brainstorming and their imagination.

Game Design 2016

Our theme this year is “the Hero’s Journey/Quest” — a topic we have been building off since September (in the past, these games were all science-themed, but this year’s shift to Next Gen Standards for our science teacher created a bit of a problem for us, so we’ll try again next year).

Writing and Game Design Compared

We connect game design to writing process and we do a lot of writing in this unit, from Game Developer Reflections to writing persuasive Game Reviews (as podcasts) to using their “game worlds” as setting for short stories, and more. I aim to use their engagement in game design to spark their interest in writing across genres.

Writing in Game Design Classroom

As a mentor text, I dissect my own game for them. My game – called The Odyssey of Tara — is a riff off The Odyssey, where our hero — Tara — has to make her way home, fighting monsters and battling obstacles along the way.

Odyssey of Tara video game

I’m looking forward to playing my students’ stories.

Peace (jump dodge run),
Kevin

 

 

#DigiWriMo #CLMOOC: Making Simple Animation with Para Para

 

Here are steps to making and sharing a simple stopmotion animation with Para Para Animation (part of Mozilla’s Webmaker family … I think …) Warning: The site is kind of funky at times and not always completely stable. And I am not sure how well it works on mobile devices. Just warning you. But I have used it with students and they LOVE it for the simplicity and easy entry point. You will, too.

Here is the Para Para Animation Site

Using ParaPara Animation1
Using ParaPara Animation2
Using ParaPara Animation3
Using ParaPara Animation4
Using ParaPara Animation5
Using ParaPara Animation6
Using ParaPara Animation7

Well .. good luck. Share your art out at #clmooc or #digiwrimo or wherever you find yourself.

Peace (framing it one at a time),
Kevin

 

Our Text: A Kinetic Poem Found in Comments of an Open Document

CLMOOC DigiWriMo Slow Chat

I was reading and commenting and enjoying the discussion that has been unfolding in both the body and the comments of this Open Document/Slow Chat format centered on the nature of images as digital writing as part of the CLMOOC Pop-Up Make Cycle last week. You should read it. And contribute.

I was wondering how to make sense of the various threads, and decided to try my hand at a Found Poem. I narrowed my reading to just the comments off to the side. As I dug around, some common themes and phrases began to emerge, and I assembled and then re-assembled them in another document, tinkering with the flow — adding a few words here, changing some endings there — until a poem emerged. Of sorts.

Now what?

I decided, in the interest of Digital Writing, that I wanted to do something different with the poem, so I opened up Keynote and began constructing the poem as Kinetic Text, using the animation feature within the slideshow to have parts of the poem appear and disappear. I could have gone fancier, I suppose, but I wanted to keep things simple so the words would not get lost for the flash. (I’ve done this kind of piece before. See my resource at Digital Is.)

See what you think:

One of the themes of this second week of the CLMOOC Pop-Up Make Cycle is animation, and animated text certainly is a challenge. It’s an intriguing way to compose with technology and words and presentation.

Peace (here, and then not),
Kevin

#CLMOOC #DigiWrimo: Sifting Through Words From the Margins

Out from the Margins

For the CLMOOC Pop-Up Make Cycle for #DigiWriMo, we invited people to help annotate an interview of Troy Hicks about digital literacies. The Edutopia article by Todd Finley is a few years old, but holds up remarkably well, I think. We have been using the Hypothesis annotation tool, which allows you to collaboratively add comments and media in the margins of a web-based article. It’s a great way to “think out loud with others” in the margins of the Web. It’s also invisible, to some degree. You have to have the Hypothesis tool activated or you have to have the direct Hypothesis link to see comments.

Someone, perhaps it was Terry Elliott or Daniel Bassill, remarked in the margins of the Edutopia piece that writing in the margins like this is just the first step. It’s like raw note-taking. We’re readers reacting to ideas, and to each other, in a sort of rough take on what we are reading. (And in fact, I find myself completely wandering away from the main text at a certain point and only find myself reading and responding to the comments — I am removed from the anchor text completely.)

Out from the Margins: Kevin

In the interest of some of the ideas there to somewhere else (like here), I began to try to find connecting points in the annotation texts. Here are a few, along with some of my thoughts and reflections. Maybe others will do the same.

Out from the Margins: Terry

Part of the discussion unfolded around the concepts of technology as another tool in the box, and the focus on the teaching and learning, not the digital means to get there. I agree. Let’s focus on the writing, not the Digital Writing, even though this question of what Digital Writing is continues to vex me (in a good, reflective way).

Out from the Margins: Daniel

Daniel does a lot of great work on the topic of mentors in urban cities (like his own Chicago) and the benefits of after-school programs, and his reminder to us that we teachers need to be finding ways to draw ours students into meaningful learning experiences rings true for me. I am not always successful with this. But the reminder that every students has their own set of needs and inspirational points is something to keep in the back of our minds at all times.

Out from the Margins: Karen

Karen is talking about the nature of the digital reading experience here, and where the digital reading might enhance or inhibit our engagement with a text. This connects to Digital Writing (there’s that term again) in that a writer has to keep some sense of audience in mind (perhaps some may push back and say, the only true audience is Self), and so knowing that we are still in a transition time of digital texts is something worth considering when writing with technology.

Out from the Margins:Charlene

I really appreciated this comment from Charlene, about seeing the potential of our students (and helping them see the potential of themselves) even within the world of constraints. She mentions time here, but I would add others: reliability of technology; workarounds for pushing technology to do what it is not designed to do; and so forth.

Out from the Margins: Troy

And finally, a regular reminder from Troy …. just because you write in a digital space doesn’t mean that you are harnessing the agencies of technology for your own writing. Understanding the potential of technology, used in the service of your writing and compositional goals, means pushing past those limits and making something potentially new. An essay written in blog form is just an essay on a screen.

Want to join us? The conversation is still unfolding and you are invited. Come read and write in the margins of the article. Pull out what seems important to you. Extend the conversation. You are invited.

Peace (dragged into view),
Kevin

#DigiWriMo: Remixing Love and Hope

Remixing Love and Hope

My musical/songwriting and Western Massachusetts Writing Project educator friend, Michael Silverstone, wrote and recorded and shared out a beautiful song about love last week called To Give Our Love. I paid for the download via BandCamp and then asked if he would allow me to remix his song. He said yes, although at the time, I didn’t know what I was going to do with the song. I just knew I wanted to do something.

After mulling it over, I realized that his song about love and my demo song about hope (Hope Remains) might provide an opportunity to entangle our sounds together, and so I worked to try to find elements his song and elements of my song. It didn’t work quite the way I wanted for a variety of reasons: he went into a real studio, so the sound of his song is bright and professional — I used my iPad as a demo recording, so the sound is narrow and confined, tight. The key signatures for each song are different, as is the pacing. But — and this is important — neither had drums, so meshing them together was a bit easier. When rhythm is in the mix, the remix is more difficult.

Even so, after my first attempt, upon listening, it was clear that the transitions between his song and mine didn’t work. The jolting differences between the two tracks were too much. It needed something in the transition moments. Later in the day, I had one of those “aha” moments: What if I brought in the voices of poetry and speech to fill in the gaps? What if the poems/speeches were on the same theme, but provided transition points between the music?

So that’s what I did, chopping and remixing audio poems and readings by Martin Luther King Jr., Maya Angelou themselves and a poem by Emily Dickinson (alas, not read by her but still …) and cast myself as a sort of knitter, pulling threads here and weaving threads there, all in an attempt to get at something larger than either of our songs.

And it mostly worked. Take a listen.

This kind of Digital Writing — composing without the written text in front of you, using only the sounds of text as the means for making something new with echoes of the old — is always a challenge. But when done right, it brings to surface themes that might otherwise be out of focus. We listen as writers, using sound as words, and we hope the listeners “read” the remix. (Note: Michael wrote in appreciation for the remix after I sent the final to him. That made me happy, that I honored his songwriting with something new).

What will happen if this audio remix file is taken a step further, and brought into some other site, some other media? Maybe we’ll see … you are invited to play with the track, if you want. It is downloadable. (be sure to credit Michael Silverstone, though.)

Peace (the muse calls),
Kevin

#DigiWrimo: Unfolding Conversations in the Margins

Writing in the Margins: Annotate Troy

The CLMOOC Crowd has opened up a conversation about Digital Writing in the margins of this interview of Troy Hicks, and you are cordially invited to come on in and add your thoughts, questions, observations about digital literacies. Troy has graciously joined in the conversation, too. We’re using a tool called Hypothesis (see below on how to use it) to crowd-annotate and crowd-discuss the theme of Digital Writing and the teaching of digital literacies.

Won’t you join us?

The annotation activity is all part of the CLMOOC Pop-Up Make Cycle for what used to be Digital Writing Month. Along with the Crowd Annotation, there is a call for the Alt-CV/Alt-Resume by Sarah and a collaborative photo project by Kim in which you are invited to take an image of “down on the ground” and share it out. And more activities are to come.

Here are a few tutorials about using Hypothesis that might get you started so that you can add into the conversations of the margins with Troy Hicks.

and here.

Peace (here and there),
Kevin

Slice of Life: Texting Amy(Bot)

sol16(This is a post for Slice of Life, a regular writing activity on Tuesdays through the year. Hosted by Two Writing Teachers, we look for the small things in life to write about. You write, too.)

I can’t help but think of Slice of Life when I read Amy Krouse Rosenthal. In fact, someone in Slice of Life may have recommended her first book – Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life — and if that was you (was it you?), thank you, you. I love that book, and have read it more than a few times (which is not something I often do with books. I am a one-and-done kind of reader, unless something resonates, and then I am loathe to lose that book or lend it out to anyone).

So, imagine my happy surprise to be wandering through our city library and there before me was a brand new book by Amy. It’s called Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal. Just like her other book for grown ups (she writes children’s picture books, too), this one is a gem, filled with wonder of small moments and an underlying sense that this Amy is one warm and endearing person who sees the world through a lens of insight and humor. (She’s the kind of writing who bakes an apple pie and ships it FedEx .. just for being the 100th person to respond to a prompt … that’s a writer who cares about her audience).

Check out her talk about her rather impromptu collaborative project The Beckoning of Lovely

The gimmick of this book is that is a “textbook” — sections are set to resemble those college tomes of yore, titled “history” and “science” and “math” — but the writing is focused on life itself (one math equation is all about love), and Amy’s life (her remembrance of an uncle beloved by many brought me nearly to tears), and the shared essence of all our lives. Oh, and the other part of the gimmick? There are moments in the book where you are invited to “text message” with a bot set up by Amy and her friend. Really.

Texting RoboAmy

I know it’s weird but I found myself enjoying my texting with the AmyBot very much. Part of me wondered, will Amy read these texts some day? Does it matter? The responses were whimsical and lovely, and some led me to her website where I could hear her reading or see images of other readers or take a poll (I chose Curly) or … listen to her selected music as I read the last section of the book, which ended on the theme of endings, with a very creative assortment of endings of other novels.

In the midst of the CLMOOC Pop-Up Make Cycle for Digital Writing Month, this kind of book – the ones that offer an invitation to the reader to engage in digital media — makes me wonder: is THIS digital writing? Even though her book is paper and bound (in my version anyway), the author’s extension and invitation to engage with our phones and on the web as we read her words, to add to a collective gathering of other readers in a community setting and to be part of the “story” that Amy is telling … that seems to have many of the hallmarks of what I consider Digital Writing. I’d love to know what you think. You can leave a comment at this post. I don’t have a KevinBot set up for this.

Here at Slice of Life, we try to do what Amy does. We see small but envision big. The moments that too often slip past our vision — those are the ones I try to write about when I write my Slice. Others do, too. What you realize that only when you start to actively notice the world, in all of its smallest pieces curving in an arc around all of us, is the point when you realize how consequential everything really is. Nothing deserves to be forgotten, but we forget so much. So much of our lives gets lost.

Amy’s books can feel at times like short-attention-theater. She brings us into a moment, and then it is gone. Poof. But the outline of her moments are small works of art, painted with a sense of kindness and wonder and generosity. How lovely is that? How much do we all need more of that? Much. We need much much more.

Thank you, AmyBot. Thank you, Amy.

Peace (it’s me, world),
Kevin