Slice of Life: 100 #NetNarr Comics (or more) over 100 Days

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

I’ve been part of the Networked Narratives “course” as an open learner (there is a real course happening at Keane University, with professors Mia Zamora and Alan Levine, and open folks like me are satellites), and each day, there is a daily digital prompt called The Daily Arganee. It’s built off the DS106 Daily Create (I do those, too) and I love the daily challenges.

When the Networked Narratives was in planning stages, and Mia and Alan were talking about creating alternative personas for online interactions, I decided to dust off two comic characters from a previous project: The Internet Kid and the Horse with No Name. I wasn’t sure how two characters from the Wild West would work, but I was happy to see them again, after nearly a year of quiet.

Daily Dda100

Every day, for 100 days, I put Kid and Horse into a comic riffing off the Daily Arganee idea, and it was a blast. But now that the NetNarr course is moving into new direction, with worldbuilding and game playing, I have decided that the Kid and Horse need a rest, so today’s comic is the final one (for now).

I had imagined I would be doing more storytelling, unfolding in comics over many days, but it turns out, I got caught up in the one-off comic from the daily inspiration. That’s not bad, but not quite what I had hoped. I did one stretch of comics as story, of the Kid and Horse rescuing the NetNarr World from the Digital Alchemist, releasing the comics slowly over a single Saturday, and have done other assorted Kid/Horse comics in the last few months.

Kid and Horse Tumblr view

I have not had all that much reaction to the comics — a few re-shares and hearts and reaction from a small circle of friends on Twitter, plus one cool imaginary cow friend from Australia — so I settled into the mindset of, I’m writing this comic for my own amusement. You know, that worked. I was amused.

Not every comic worked as humor every day, and more than a few rely on the context of the Digital Arganee prompt. They might be headscratchers out of context. I purposely did not spend much time on them — I read the prompt, opened up my comic app, went with whatever strange idea bubbled up in my mind, made the comic, send it to Twitter/Tumblr and moved on. Seriously, some days, that process took me all of 15 minutes.

I am sure the Internet Kid and the Horse with No Name will return for some future project. For now, after more than 100 comics, they have earned their rest, and apparently, Horse is booking a flight to Australia to see his friend, Jolt, another animal pal in the Networked Narrative atmosphere with a bit of attitude and enlightenment. Even imaginary characters can connect.

Some other day, I’ll be sharing out all of the comics I made during this part of the Networked Narratives course. Given the quantity, it might just be a Flickr Album or something simple. Last time around, I created an ebook as an archive.

You can also view the Tumblr site where I shared every day. It’s also archived with the original comics from Western106, where Kid and Horse were first born.

Peace (framed with friendship),
Kevin

Hashtags as Roots of Resilience

A hashtag home #CCourses

(Note: I wrote this piece quite some time ago, thinking it would be submitted to a new publishing site. That got stalled. This piece sort of floated in my Draft bin. Time to release it. — Kevin)

A funny thing happened on my way to the Rhizome sometimes last year … the hashtag got switched. Now, normally, this would not be a big issue. But I have come to realize more and more how much I rely on the columns of my Tweetdeck app (sorted by hashtags) as a place to keep connected to various projects. So, when someone switches a conversation from one hashtag (say, #rhizo16) to another (say, #resilience16), I suddenly feel disorientated. Lost.

And I depend on the kindness of strangers. A few rhizo folks had made some initial tweets with both hashtags (which is quite generous because together, they take up a good portion of the 140 characters to begin with, you know?). In the end, in an ironic twist, neither took hold, and there was no Rhizo16. To be fair, it had nothing to do with hashtags, as far as I can tell.

It’s happening again right now for me, with National Poetry Writing Month. Do I use the new hashtag #GloPoWriMo (for GLOBAL Poetry Writing Month? Or do I use the old one #NaPoWriMo?). I have been using the GloPoWriMo because I like the concept of the world as writers of poetry. But I often think, what’s going on with NaNoWriMo and who decided, let’s shift to something new?

Still, the experience had me thinking of the concept of common hashtags in terms of the theme of resilience anyway because I know this is how I stay connected to an online course, or mooc, or activity, or movement, or whatever it was over time. I’ve just added a second column for Networked Narratives, as an example, as that class moves into another project phase with a new hashtag.

All this shuffling and worrying about lost contact also reminds me of the importance of naming a hashtag at the start. Add a year designation and suddenly, the clock is ticking on its timelessness. Make the hashtag murky with lettering and it becomes a meaningless jumble of the alphabet. Make it too short or too common, and other problems crop up.

I’ve noticed, for example, the #NWP hashtag (for National Writing Project) sometimes gets accidentally intruded upon by some music sharing tag. So suddenly, there will be a wave of posts that veer away from teaching and writing and into something completely different. It’s disorientating, in an intriguing way. Maybe we are the intruders on their hashtag, not the other way around, right?

Or maybe the hashtag becomes an impromptu shared space.

Then, there are the hashtags-within-hashtags, which can take on a life of their own. For example, within the #CLMOOC hashtag, there is a #SilentSunday hashtag. #CLMOOC represents the echoes of the Making Learning Connected MOOC while #SilentSunday is an activity of sharing an image with not context each Sunday (although, it too, is shared with other people doing other kinds of Silent Sunday-ing). It began as an activity in the CLMOOC but now has its own orbit, living on long after the CLMOOC summer ended.

Interesting.


flickr photo shared by Théo La Photo under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license

In Tweetdeck, I often struggle with the question: Do I delete this column with a particular hashtag? If I do, and activity suddenly kicks in, will I miss it all? Yes, probably. Maybe I’ll hear some activity around the edges of the hashtag. But once I delete it from my view, I am not likely to return it there. (So, if people from last year are still using #rhizo15, I have no idea what they are talking about.) A good example for me is the #ccourses (connected courses), which I sort of regret removing and may add back in. Although activity can be sparse at times, it often provides interesting resources. That’s what I call “Hashtag Regret.”

Many of my hashtags have had a long, fruitful life in my Tweetdeck. I toggle around areas of interest. Reading across the top row, I see (other than my own timeline):

Given the whole history of the hashtag, and how it was never a planned structural element of Twitter, it is such an intriguing design element that plants roots and seeds, and connects people together in interesting ways. (Rhizomatic thinking, there)

Of course, some people use fake/invented/momentary hashtags to make a joke or a point about something or to note sarcasm or take a political stance. #ImwithHer #techquity  The Trump Presidency has given rise to this witty art form, using hashtags as social commentary and political action. Trump, of course, invents his own.


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

And I had never thought too deeply until now about how hashtags are at the very core of our social interactions on Twitter, and now on other social networking platforms, too. Like “tags” in photos or blog posts, hashtags are connectors that make the Internet a social gathering space.

Without hashtags, we might as well be yelling into deep space. With hashtags, we have the possibility to connect.

#Peace (it’s tagged),
Kevin

A Strange Concoction to Consider: Fan Fiction and State Testing


aafad 225/365 under new management … flickr photo by lamont_cranston shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license

We’re into state test prep season (our ELA test is a few weeks away) and our state of Massachusetts is in the midst of some pretty significant changes to what we call MCAS. The state claims to have moved away from PARCC, but that’s not really the case with its MCAS 2.o or MCAS Next Generation.

Everything MCAS is moving to computer-based testing over the next two years, which is already posing a logistical challenge at my school, and the kinds of texts and questions and tasks being asked of my sixth graders are also changing, becoming more complex on many levels (reading across multiple texts and genres, paired multiple choice questions, etc.)

As I work with my young writers on learning how to approach what is known as the Narrative Task, I find myself amused at how the whole concept seems like a riff out of the Fan Fiction textbook. This is something we were exploring in Networked Narratives, too.

Let me explain …

The MCAS Narrative Task is built on the concept of reading a story, or a passage from a novel or larger piece of text, and then writing the “next section” of the story, with consideration of some concept — mostly, we’ve been seeing a focus on character and setting in sixth grade but fifth grade has been about shifting point of view.

So, for example, in a sample we did last week, my students read about a girl and a nanny, in a rainstorm, rushing to meet an unknown aunt. Their assignment was to continue the story, with the characters and setting, and determine what happens next. And yesterday, I had them plucking minor characters from novels we are reading, or have read, and write a new story.

In other words, just like fan fiction, you take characters that exist in literature and bring them into an imaginary space (or world) that you create, with a story that you write, and you bring them to life in ways that you choose. That’s fan fiction, in a sort of nutshell, right? For example, let’s pluck Hermoine and Malfoy from Harry Potter series and send them off on an adventure. Or what would happen if Katniss Everdeen bumped into Luke Skywalker? (At least, they’re not siblings. Or are they?)

We’ve been talking about Fan Fiction in Networked Narratives, as a way that writers find spaces to write, outside of school confines, with interests that bring them into a larger, but slightly hidden, online community. Fan Fiction has many elements of what we term Connected Learning.

Now, granted, some fan fiction gets a little … adult, in content. I don’t think the state folks want to see any slash fiction (note: not necessarily violent and not about the GnR guitar player, but a genre in which two characters from different books meet, and likely hook up) in my students’ writing samples. But this notion of taking a character for a walk into your own story has its roots in fan fiction.

Which makes it odd, and interesting, that the idea behind fan fiction would be the underpinning of the Narrative Task on a state test.

Peace (a fan of it),
Kevin

 

Slice of Life: The Social Media Illusion

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

My pre-teen son confided in me that he had gone back into his Musically app the other day, for the first time in a few weeks, only to find out to his surprise that he was Number One on their charts of users. Musically allows you to create short lip-sync videos with all sorts of filters. It’s fun, but I personally find it a bit too much. People heart you. It’s one of those sites.

“It sort of freaked me out,” he admitted, on seeing his username at the top of the chart. “I hadn’t even made anything (new video) in a long time. I don’t know how it happened. Did something go viral?”

He said he even double checked it was his (since he uses a fake name to protect his identity … good boy) and that led us into a whole discussion about the role of followers and why social media is built on this aspect of users needing more and more confirmation or hearts or likes or whatever from an unknown audience. And how shallow that entire system can be, even if it feels good at the time.

This led us to talk about places he knows online where you can “earn” new followers, too. I’m still not clear on this — do you buy followers somehow? What are you giving up? Your data? Your information? Your eyeballs for intrusive ads? Something, right?

“Maybe I should delete the app,” he wondered out loud.

We were in the car during all this, so I told him I would look at the app later. When I did, I realized that he had been duped by an April Fool’s joke by Musically, in which every user who checked the charts found themselves Number One.

Pretty clever, and also, pretty interesting for a social media app built on users and followers to play on the desire of its own users for more and more followers as a joke on those same users. There’s something strangely meta in that circle of thought.

My son was amused when I told him about Musically’s April Fools joke. He seemed a bit relieved, as if there had been a huge weight to bear when you suddenly realize you have become the top dog in a social media chart.

He was also a bit wistful that his day at the top of the charts was all just an illusion. But really, given the landscape of social media and teens, and what constitutes popularity in such fleeting ways, isn’t most of what we do in social media merely illusion, anyway?

Peace (thinking),
Kevin

PS — “Dad, a whole bunch of kids at school got pranked by the same joke, and thought they were number one. We all did. That’s funny.” — the boy.

Slice of Life (Day 27): Lifting Lines and Making Poems

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

I’ve been know to lift lines, to steal words from other people’s blog posts and write poems as comments, and leave the poem as a gift from a reader. I admit it. I am thief.

That’s what I was doing yesterday morning – lifting lines. I do it as an act of close reading, of paying attention, of remix. I do it to honor the writers, whom I hope won’t be offended when I wrangle a thought and remove it from context, in order to spin something new from their writing.  I do it, for myself, to write.

Yesterday’s line-lifted poems have now become today’s Slice. I hope you follow the links back to the original posts. Thank you to all the Slice of Life bloggers who didn’t know they were giving me paths to poems. Your thoughts became inadvertent inspiration for me as I rambled around the Slice of Life sharing.

(Note: see below for a podcast reading of the poems. The audio is part of an exploration of voice with another adventure altogether known as Networked Narratives.)

Slices aren’t always eaten,
they are nibbled,
chewed, discussed,
enjoyed, often with a side
of surprise, joy, and possibly
sadness and surely, compassion.
We train our microscope towards
a single small moment
in hopes it transforms into
a telescope of the larger human experience.
Go on, then.
Nibble away.

from http://www.teacherdance.org/2017/03/solc17-2631-slicing.html

You act out the poem,
as if you were dancing
inside the lines, as if
the iambic pentameter
was a rhythmic beat
for your feet, as if
the seats in the hall were all full
with an audience, instead
of just me, as I read, to you,
with your eyes closed,
watching the ghosts
of the past come alive
on the stage, too.

from http://tworeflectiveteachers.blogspot.com/2017/03/slice-26-0f-31-sol17-finally-ten.html

I hear the smile on your face,
a million soft melodies
of love, and as I tune myself
into harmony, we sit here, quiet,
the silence merely a resting point
between
the notes.

from — https://wheresthejoy.wordpress.com/2017/03/26/sisters/

She dug in her heels,
carved indentations in the dirt,
hands clenched on the rodeo rope
and no room for give,
while on the other side of the arena,
me, the bull, refused to be slack,
my horns pointed upward in exasperation
as she danced around me,
the crowd, holding its applause,
wondering how the standoff might end.

from — https://raisealithuman.wordpress.com/2017/03/25/let-me-count-the-reasons/

The real work lies in the weeks,
months and
years ahead;
It won’t be enough to stand
and watch,
to complain
and shout.
Armchair pundits can’t call the shots
on Monday morning.
Change happens between neighbors:
handshakes and discussions
on porches, shopping lines and
at mailboxes.
Change, happens, but slowly.

from — https://barbarasut.wordpress.com/2017/03/26/back-in-the-political-arena-today/

This slack-jawed teen,
stretched out with his headphones
and eyes closed,
ponders the world from above,
strapped into his seat, secure and safe,
never knowing that, for now,
the earth is forever in motion,
and not just spinning for him,
for gravity will yet pull him closer to us,
eventually, perhaps not without a fight,
even as his soundtrack plays to the audience
of one.

from — https://vanessaw2007.wordpress.com/2017/03/26/sounds-in-the-airplane/

Then came the retainer.
So I empty my pockets
and hand you my coins,
the last remains of a life’s fortune,
as you pull me in close,
and whisper a fortune’s worth
of words.

from https://schoolinspirations.wordpress.com/2017/03/26/metal-mouth-milestones-solc-26-of-31/

Here we are, living the writerly life,
building homes out of poems;
shacks, out of words;
fires, out of feelings.

Each day, every day,
we sharpen our thoughts,
pencil into the machine, the soft hum of gears
set in motion as we wander our imagination.

We live the writerly life,
for without these stories,
the walls would be barren,
and life, more lonely.

from http://couragedoesnotroar.blogspot.com/2017/03/day-26-first-rate-teachers-sol17.html?m=1

Finally, since we have been talking about Voice and Audio in the Networked Narratives course, I decided to record myself, reading the poems.  Nothing fancy here. Just me, reading.

Peace (in poems),
Kevin

#NetNarr: So This is What It Sounds Like


Union Lane flickr photo by Mark_Bellingham shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license

Last week’s (or was it two week’s ago?) theme in the Networked Narratives was “writing with sound,” and participants were asked to record “found sounds” and then upload them for sharing, ideally at the Young Writers Project site. I had uploaded sounds of my guitar and guitar pick, my dog’s tail wagging and pouring coffee. The second task was to try to use other’s sound to create something new.

Here’s mine:

I used shared sounds from four different NetNarr folks: Geoff (voice, as he was tapping trees for sap), Rissa (walking), Masooch (tea and waffles) and Stryii (train station). Thank you, all.  The piano part I added myself, just to give a little something melodic under it all.

I mixed it all in Soundtrap, an online music recording platform.

It is a cohesive story? It is not. Not really. But I love how Geoff’s voice clip starts it, and then the walking among people leads to something cooking in the kitchen, and then the walking away from it all. So it works more as a collection of sounds than a solid story.

Peace (sounds like),
Kevin

Slice of Life (Day 21): Feeding the Bot

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

I would love to have a larger database of terms to use with a Twitter bot that I created for Networked Narratives, and I am hoping you might have some words to feed into the bot. The creation of a Twitter Bot was an offshoot of an earlier activity, in which I taught myself how to do it. (A Twitter Bot is an account that has certain random settings and posts either on a schedule, or when it is invoked by other Twitter users. You can read more about how I set mine up here)

My PeaceLove Bot is set up rather simply: it tweets with the message What’s So Funny About Peace, Love and ______. The blank space is what gets filled by pulling from a database of terms. That’s where you can come in and help me. I want to expand the database of terms.

Add to the PeaceLove bot

Use this Google Form to add a phrase that can be added to the Peace, Love & ______ phrase of the Twitter Bot, which now will be posting twice a day (instead of every six hours, as I had it set before).

Thanks! The bot thanks you, too. If you are curious, you can view the database already in place. Some came from suggestions. Most came from my own head.

Peace (and love and),
Kevin

Slice of Life (Day 20): CodeBreaker StoryTeller

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

This one will be a bit difficult to explain to an outside audience, but as part of the Networked Narratives course (I am an open participant, which means I can come and go as I choose – the course is about digital storytelling – there are folks in a real Graduate Level course at Kean University, too), there has been hints of secret codes, hidden within video frames and inside course messages. For a long time, weeks actually, I figured, I’ll let someone else crack the secret codes.

Code break doodle

No one did.

And then, this sort of gently taunting tweet came along the other day from two mysterious recurring Twittery characters (who are part of the larger story of the course being “hacked” by outsiders), and I decided, OK, time to get cracking.

I had to stop and start the online video Youtube conversation with instructors Mia Zamora and Alan Levine a number of times, and use a screenshot grab to get the secret code embedded in the video. I stared at it for a long time, and then began to see a pattern, and worked from there.

This was the code:

Code2

The result? Well, I made this audio version of the message (which, again, will sound strange out of context of the NetNarr community, but which indicates the start of a push towards the second half of the course, which I think is about world-building and civic imagination.)

I tackled this simple code by hand, determining it was based on an alphabetic shift of letters, but later realized there are plenty of online sites that will do it for you, too. Still, I was glad my initial foray was on paper. There was a certain level of satisfaction that I did not require technology to crack the code.

Now, there are all sorts of other strange codes coming into the NetNarr stream, too, with numbers and letters and I have no idea how to even begin to figure those out … any ideas?

Peace (coded for the world),
Kevin

#NetNarr: Writing with Sound(s)

Netnarr doodling

NetNarr Doodling for Doodleaday

This week, at Networked Narratives, the focus is on using sound for writing and writing for sound. There are a few suggested activities (including gathering sounds from your surroundings), but I figured I would dig back into some past posts where I did focus on sound, both as a writer and as a teacher encouraging my students to write with sound.

Here are some annotated links:

  • Sound Stories — for the past two years, during Digital Writing Month, I have been teaching my students how to use Garageband to create Sound Stories. Their task is to weave in sound effects into a short story, and then work on the recording and engineering and publishing of those stories. The results are always intriguing.
    Sound Stories under construction
  • The Rhizomatic Play — In DS106, a focus is often the creation and production of Radio Plays. We took that idea during a Rhizo online collaboration and created a very complex production, featuring participants (as writers and as voices) from all over the world.
  • No Words/Only Sounds: I also tinkered with a sound story, but tried to use no words at all, and let the sound effects tell the tale. It was an intriguing compositional process, let me tell you. But worth it.
  • Musical Conversations: In CLMOOC, a friend and I worked on converting language to music, and then creating a collaborative musical composition of our “conversation.” Another interesting use of sound.
  • Image Conversion into Sound: There is this program called AudioPaint (for PC only) that will take an image and convert the bitmap into audio. It’s strange and odd, and makes you think about the relationship of digital work across media. Here, I wrote a poem, which I made into an image, and then re-crafted it into sound.

What will you make with sound?

Peace (sounds like),
Kevin

Slice of Life (Day 15): The Odds and Ends of a Blizzardy Day

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

Since it was a day of the Blizzard of 2017, I figured a slice of many pieces might be a better indication of the day behind us now.

Blizzard Window

First, the snow arrived, and came down hard, and we were out shoveling quite a bit. Yes, I was not happy to see snow in March. But sitting by the window with my book during a respite of shoveling, I could not help but notice how beautiful the snowflakes were, stuck to our large window. On a plus side, we never lost our power, which was a worry all day long.

Earlier in the morning, I had spent some time finishing up a collaborative project for Networked Narratives with my friend, Wendy, using an app. We had invited three other collaborative friends, but the complexity of the app, and the strange barriers to collaboration in collaboration mode (or so it seemed to us) had us throwing our hands up, and finishing the piece on our own. It would have been more powerful with more voices, though. What we were trying for was a piece of quilted parts, told as a network of folks, in a single screen, so that all of our parts would be woven together. The app didn’t quite live up to the vision.

Doodled clmooc

Have any of you been doing the DoodleaDay Challenge? It’s, well, a doodle shared every day, via Twitter with the #doodleaday hashtag. I’ve been popping in and out of it, but the prompt yesterday was to use images to make letters, and I could not resist a CLMOOC (Connected Learning MOOC) icon.

As I mentioned, I spent part of the day, reading. The book I had started and finished was the new one by Neil Gaiman, Norse Mythology. Like most Gaiman, it is excellent. Although it is strange to have both Gaiman and Rick Riordan exploring the same mythological terrain (Riordan with the Magnus Chase series), it was also an intriguing companion piece. And well, Norse mythology has some pretty wacky and strange stuff going on, and that is right up Gaiman’s alley.

Brackets

Finally, the day off from school gave the boys and I, and our dog, a chance to fill out our NCAA men’s brackets. Our dog’s (Duke is his name) bracket gets filled out by pushing his nose into one hand or the other of our son, who hides kibble and asks “this team” or “that team”? It’s pretty amusing. He chose Florida to win it all. It might happen. You never know.

This morning, my back aches a bit, but I know I have at least one more shoveling job to do before the sun comes out, and makes ice from the snow in the Blizzard ’17 aftermath.

Peace (and warmth),
Kevin