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

 

#NetNarr: Using StepWorks to Make a StoryPoem

NetNarr StepWorks

This is all rather early in my exploration of an interesting storytelling site called Stepworks (which Alan Levine tweeted out about and which I then followed and became intrigued). I spent some time diving into it yesterday (and got some help from the kind developer of the site via email), and during the day, I made a little something for the Networked Narratives course.

Go ahead .. read my story/poem about Networked Narratives.

Erik Loyer, the site developer, did put together a video tutorial that is worth watching and using as a learning tool. He walks the viewer through each step. I watched it carefully. It was very helpful.

But I figured I would learn and remember better if I made a tutorial of my own for others in NetNarr to follow, if they wanted. It might help anyone who wanted to make their own (and maybe, collaborate later on together? Anyone?). Diving into something new for storytelling … that’s NetNarr, right?

My own next step is to remix some of Erik’s scripts for sounds and see if I can’t add the audio element to my story/poem. Erik says a video is coming down the road about how to do that, but he suggested I look at some of existing files and see what I could do on my own. He’s got that NetNarr spirit!

Here, then, are the steps, which I followed after watching Erik (and emailing for some help):

StepWorks1

Stepworks2

StepWorks3

Stepworks4

Stepworks5

StepWorks6

Stepworks7

Stepworks8

Be sure to share your story with us! Use the #NetNarr hashtag on Twitter.

Peace (in steps of the story),
Kevin

Interactive Fiction Invitation: Come Play Some Stories

Interactive Fiction Story Trees

The other day, I wrote about my sixth graders planning out and learning about Interactive Fiction. They are in the midst of creating their own stories, using Google Slides and Hyperlinks as the backbone technology for composition and publishing. A few students are nearing the end of their projects, so I figured I would share out a few for you to play, if you want.

So strange to say that — Playing the Story — but I do it all the time with my students in this writing unit, to enforce the mindset of a different kind of narrative writing and reading. It makes the story a game, of sorts, and puts them in a different kind of position as writers of the story.

Peace (follow every path),
Kevin

Slice of Life (Day Eight): Designing Interactive Fiction Story Trees

(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.)

Last week, I wrote about my students reading and mapping out Interactive Fiction novels (Make-Your-Own-Ending is another term for the books), and now they have flipped and are becoming the writers of Interactive Fiction. We use Google Sites and the power of Hyperlinks to move the reader through the story. In fact, I did an entire mini-lesson yesterday about the innovative power of Hyperlinks, which are the digital architecture of the Internet.

Interactive Fiction Story Trees

First, though, is task of the creating of Story Trees and Decision Branches where choices will become part of the story. Yesterday, many students were finishing their Story Trees up, and talking about what is going to happen at different branches.

The project is called A Mystery of Ruins, and the theme of the stories are about an archeological dig or an explorer coming across the remains of a lost civilization or culture. They have to write in second person narrative point of view, use good descriptive writing, have at least five to seven branch points and three different endings, and no violence or death.

Interactive Fiction Story Trees

What I love seeing in the development of the Story Trees is the thinking out loud, and the connecting of story points, and how the narrative will be weaving this way and that way, and how a writer plans for the reader to be in charge of the story.

Interactive Fiction Story Trees

This is a very different kind of writing for my students, and many are deeply involved in their narratives, and are eager to get writing as soon as class starts each day. That is always a good thing.

Interactive Fiction Story Trees

Peace (branches here and there),
Kevin