The cool thing about taking photos is that you have to look at the world a bit different. It’s not just the device you see through, it’s the way your eye sees the world through the lens that sees the world.
Yesterday, before the Networked Narratives Twitter Chat (which I forgot about until it had started), there was a NetNarr Safari activity, which involved taking seven photos over 15 minutes with different visual prompts coming in over Twitter.
I arrived when it was over (or, as we say in CLMOOC, I was right on time), but then decided, what the heck … and so I did it on my own, scrolling back through the NetNarr Twitter feed.
I didn’t leave the room I was in, so my safari was not all that wild. Microphones instead of monkeys. Socks instead of snakes. But I liked how the physical confines of my space forced me to consider the visual prompt (like, two objects that don’t match or one color or some kind of tracks), then look quickly, make a decision, snap the shot, tweet the results and move on.
The downside is it felt one-sided with no interaction with other NetNarr folks (and except for Wendy, whose safari I see this morning, I haven’t seen anyone else’s), since I was late and the Twitter Chat had already started (I was late to that, too, but enjoyed the topic of Digital Art.)
I’ve been trying to make sure I curate and collect some of the poems I have been writing each day for the Daily Arganee in the Networked Narratives space. I worry about poems getting lost. My intention with these particular poems with this particular project is to come to the prompt at a slant, so the poem may not always match up with the prompt. Instead, they are inspired by the prompts.
These come from the annotation activity of an article called New Media Art, a chapter from a collection published in 2006. In Networked Narratives, one of the activities this week is to annotate the article and examine the nature of New Media Art (or whatever title it has these days.)
I was intrigued by some of the early examples of video games as the source for art, and found two examples referenced in the writing that still live on the Internet. Notice how each artists used elements from the game, but remixed and remediated them in such a way to create something new and inventive.
From a description of the original experience, via BookChin
In Natalie Bookchin’s piece, The Intruder, we are presented with a sequence of ten videog ames, most of which are adapted from classics such as Pong and Space Invaders. We interact via moving or clicking the mouse, and by making whatever we make of/with/from the story. Meaning is always constructed, never on a plate. The interaction is less focused on video game play than it is on advancing the narrative of the story we hear throughout the presentation of the ten games.
Velvet Strike was a set of counter-military graffiti sprays for a spray-gun modification in the networked game Counter-Strike. Players could both download and spray images from the collection in-game and also create and contribute new spray paint graphics to the intervention. The project was created in response to the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and specifically the proliferation of militaristic anti-Arab, anti-Muslim Counter-Strike modifications following 9-11. Velvet Strike faced a massive backlash from gamers (particularly in the form of misogynist verbal attacks directed at Schleiner), raising important questions surrounding the uncritical acceptance of violent military fantasy in games and the role of networked multiplayer games as public space.
And then there is something simple, and yet beautiful, about something like this: taking video of the clouds in Super Mario and making the clouds into their own video. That’s what Cory Arcangel did in 2002.
In the NetNarr Twitter stream, one of the students shared a blog post with images of cities he built within a gaming city itself, and I decided to do a little remix. Using game worlds as the setting for Media Art is intriguing.
What I wonder about is this: are there communities out there doing this kind of work of appropriating video games into art still today, in 2018, and how might I learn more about how to teach my sixth graders — who are now video game designers — to do something similar with their own video games designed and published this school year?
I never really thought all that much of how designing a physical space or a physical object is really about the invisible art of telling a story. In Design is Storytelling, by Ellen Lupton, that fact comes to the surface — that the decisions we make in creating tangible objects or immersive experiences can have a narrative arc to it.
This book was a bit uneven for me, but I suspect I am not its target audience, either. (That seems to be museum geeks, designers and business thinkers). Lupton is a senior curator of Contemporary Design at the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum (I didn’t even know that existed) and she brings a real museum-layout-theme thinking to this book. The prose felt a bit stiff to me, but many of the illustrations in here are helpful. (I guess, design IS story.)
She focuses her chapters on overarching ideas of Action, Emotion, and Sensation, and within there, she explores such things as Design Fiction and Narrative Arc of objects and space; creating fictional personas as you plan the design of something, particularly when a problem needs to be solved; and how multi-sensory design might inform the way something evolves over time. She explores building design, and app design, and business layout decisions (such as considering the concept of the Hero’s Journey within a typical IKEA store.) Colors, perceptions, interactions, touch … all these and more are explored here within the frame of experiencing stories.
I’m thinking more now of how museums work to consider layout of rooms and doors, and of the use of media in museums (sound, color, image, signs) that help a visitor navigate the “story” the curators are hoping to tell. I wonder about architects a bit different now, and the way that their work informs our interactions with buildings and space, and what narrative those design choices surface (or hide).
And I am thinking of a new 3D Printer Maker Club we have started at our school with our sixth graders. How can we get them to think beyond “making an object” to making objects as part of “telling a story” somehow? It seems to me, and it clearly visible is to Lupton here, that we can and probably should think of story as deeper and richer interactions with the designed world, and it all starts with narrative intentions.
I followed a link to a Twitter Analysis tool via Networked Narratives as part of an examination of our digital lives in the spheres of social media. This all connects nicely to the Digital Audit of this month’s CLMOOC. Convergence is nice.
The Twitter Analysis tool provides a useful visual glimpse of a single user’s interactions in Twitter. Mine is no surprise. I do a lot of sharing and writing and working in the early morning hours (like, eh, right now), and I will often use various devices and platforms throughout the day.
The NetNarr folks — Alan Levine and Mia Zamora — also shared out a larger networking analysis tool, which CLMOOC has used before, to show various interactions. The TAGs Explorer for NetNarr is here and open to check out. I am one of the open participants, but both Alan and Mia have university students in classroom experiences as part of NetNarr.
All this analysis of our Twitter activities remind us the where we tweet, and when we tweet, and how we tweet, and hopefully leads to discussions or reflections on why we tweet.
For me, it’s simple. I am a better teacher and a better writer, and a more thorough digital explorer, thanks to my connections and interactions on Twitter. Despite all of its messiness and despite the concerns over privacy and harassment, I still find Twitter to be one of the many places where my tribe hangs out on a regular basis, and shares, collaborates, makes, and reflects together.
I recently finished a free online course through FutureLearn entitled “Transmedia Storytelling.” I wasn’t all that impressed, but perhaps that is due more to covering ground I’ve already covered on my own in the past than the course itself, which is a mix of videos, articles and a comment strand. (Look: the course was free. I’m not really complaining. But FutureLearn ain’t no NetNarr!)
What I really wanted to see was some transmedia digital story projects showcased as exemplars for how digital stories can jump from platform to platform, creating an overarching arc of story while still maintaining independence on the platforms. Unless I missed them, I didn’t see nearly enough of those kinds of projects.
There was quite a bit of information about what transmedia is, and why it is an interesting new twist on the age-old elements of storytelling (which began with oral tradition, moved into print tradition, and now seems to be coming back to oral tradition with digital media, according to the course instructor.)
I had the vague sense that the course was aimed more at business folks, who are learning how best to market in the digital age through digital immersion of content. That was never said outright, but that was my inferential take on some of the material presented.
Perhaps as Networked Narratives explores digital stories more deeply, I will try my hand at another transmedia composition. I’ve done a few before, and always felt like they pushed me to think differently as a writer. Writing across platforms and spaces, with threads to tie all the pieces together as a whole, requires deep thinking and extensive planning.
The other day, I wrote about my week of semi-digital hibernation, as part of a Digital Audit activity with CLMOOC. I mentioned that I weeded out a lot of folks from my Twitter stream. That got me thinking a bit more deeply: why do I follow those I follow? And what makes me unfollow them?
Anyone who seems to have an affiliation with the National Writing Project. I am a sucker for friends and colleagues in the NWP network spaces, and have a NWP Twitter list going with nearly 800 people. Even though I clearly don’t “know” them all, I feel affinity for their work and ideas. A follow makes me feel connected to the larger network.
If you write that you are a sixth grade teacher, I’m going to likely follow you. I may want to steal some of your ideas, or celebrate you and your students, or just glance over your shoulder. I am always looking to learn about teaching.
If you are someone who dabbles in digital media, through the lens of learning and experimentation, I am likely to follow you, particularly if you are sharing out your creative process and interesting art. I like artists and teachers who push the boundaries, and are not afraid to write about success and failure, and the next project on the horizon.
If I am in an open course, like NetNarr, I will likely follow other folks in that network. But I might unfollow you later. It depends on how strong the connection is that we make.
Why might I unfollow someone?
If it is clear you are merely using me to buff up your Twitter list, most likely for marketing of some service, I will unfollow you. I don’t want to be part of anyone’s marketing campaign or part of someone’s Legitimacy Reputation. (ie, Look who follows me? I must be legit.)
If you have nothing written in your bio on Twitter, I am probably going to stop following you (if I followed you in the first place). Using a few words to stake your claim to a space is important. Link me to a webpage or blog. That said, if the words don’t resonate with me? Probably unfollow.
If you only retweet, and barely ever share your own writing or learning, or never engage in conversations or discussions, then I am unlikely to follow you. Life’s too short for too many silent interactions. But, I usually give some time for you to get acclimated to Twitter before making that decision. I know new folks have be immersed first.
Most companies and organizations, even educational ones, don’t stand a chance with my follow button. But if they do, they best be clear about the work they are doing to advance student learning or digital writing, without a public on eye on “selling” their services. I know that goes against the grain of why companies are on Twitter. Too bad. Find another way.
I’ll follow some bots, if they are interesting and creative. What I hate is when I follow a bot for a time, and then suddenly, that bot starts pushing inappropriate content out through “retweeting.” Unfollow. Block.
There are probably more reasons why I stop following people. These are the ones that stood out as I continue my work on scaling down my Twitter followers and following streams.
How about you? Why do you follow or unfollow? Have you even ever thought about it? (I hadn’t really, until recently. I found myself just clicking follow all the time, it seems, without any thoughts about why I was following someone.)
I am reminded of my CLMOOC friend, Algot, who has mostly shifted to writing in the Mastodon social networking space. There, just about every time someone follows Algot, he writes a personal and individualized note of thanks and welcome to that person, explaining his hope that he will be up to the task of engaging them in interesting thinking and conversations. How cool is that?
Alan recently shared this interesting thinking document about the course’s intentions and direction (albeit with his warning that all is still in development).
Via Alan Levine
Essentially, Networked Narratives is an exploration of digital writing and composition and connections, with elements of an open learning community (me and others) and a college class course offering(s). What I like is the expansive invitation to explore what digital writing is and what digital spaces can be, and more.
At the end of the last iteration, last May, I created this small digital piece, which Mark Corbett Wilson kindly re-shared out on Twitter the other day (I’m glad he did, since I forgot all about it):
Grodeska uses the term “CivicTech” and I think there is a fair amount of overlap between “Civic Imagination” (the idea of imagining a better future and then taking steps to make it happen) and “CivicTech” (which is the idea of making sure we use digital tools wisely and with agency to affect change in the world.)
It’s the hardest thing to move from ideas to reality, from talk to action, and it takes time and planning and a shared vision. Our local writing project site has shifted into connecting Civics with writing, and with teacher leadership, and both of these blog posts may come in handy as educators ponder on their role in the mix of public discourse, and student engagement and leadership.
Someone else shared this video out in the #DigCiz stream, and I appreciated the bend towards “human concern” in a world seemingly overrun by corporate interests, and the way those corporations are influencing the political realm that is impact us as individuals. How to effectively counter that push is the question facing many of us as voters and constituents.
I’ve recently read, with interest, a book by Virginia Heffernan entitled Magic and Loss: The Internet As Art, and it seems to mesh quite nicely with some of the exploration that had been done in the Networked Narratives experiment. As the title suggests, Heffernan proposes that we view the Internet itself as a huge canvas of realistic art, and then she dives into elements like design, text, images and more to explore these ideas through a networked lens.
In the chapter on Design, she notes that because the Web is both a commercial space and a collaborative space, it has become a messy sprawl of links, images, advertisements, and more. As a result, the experience of many users is far from ideal.
“The Web is haphazardly planned. Its public spaces are mobbed, and urban decay abounds in broken links, ghost town sites, and abandoned projects. Malware and spam have turned living conditions in many quarters unsafe and unsanitary. Bullies, hucksters and trolls roam the streets. An entrenched population of rowdy, polyglot rabble dominates major sites.” — Magic and Loss, page 45
Heffernan then goes on to develop the metaphorical supposition that this messy reality of the Internet gave rise to the closed and contained experience of Apps, which pulled us away from the Internet and created a sort of Gated Community. She talks about this as the “online equivalent of white flight.”
“The parallels between what happened to Chicago, Detroit, and new York in the twentieth century and what happened to the Internet since the introduction of the (Apple) App Store are striking.” — Magic and Loss, page 45
Is this true? Does the metaphor hold?
I guess I had never really considered the connections but she raises some intriguing points. So, as we talked about the nature of “civic imagination” in Networked Narratives and built our own “Arganee World,” we also considered what we meant by public spaces. A further point of discussion might have been how to “design elements” can play a larger role in the permanence of online spaces, and is connected directly to how much a user invests in the experience.
I guess one of the larger questions remains: What do we give up when we move into any gated community? What do we trade for our security? There is a certain beauty in the chaotic mess of the Internet — the expected discovery or connection — as well as some real ugliness — trolls and negative comments and attacks — and we cede some authority to app developers when we move into the app on our mobile device.
During one summer’s CLMOOC, we explored the idea of the Internet as Public Sphere. I wrote about it here and here and here.