New Yorker: Hollywood and Vine

Clockwise from top: the digital stars KingBach, Tyler Oakley, Brittany Furlan, Joey Graceffa, and Cam and Nash.

(ILLUSTRATION BY ALEX WILLIAMSON via New Yorker)

Did anyone else read the article in New Yorker called Hollywood and Vine, about the emergence of viral video sharing and how frightened Hollywood is becoming of where young people are watching video? I was intrigued, and wondering how folks are using the 6 second Vine app (and the slightly longer Instagram video sharing) to create small movies with vast and young audiences, and then I realized: it’s becoming all about audience and profit.

It’s not about art.

Duh.

But, darn it, it should be. Our media tools have opened up some amazing possibilities, and yet, as writer/reporter Tad Friend follows some famous “Viners” around, he notices that every shot for the Vine flick (all 6 seconds of it) is done with hopes of garnering a larger audience of followers and likers, and that is done in hopes of getting commercial ventures (like Taco Bell and others) to pay the Viners for using products in their flicks. The Viners do voluntary product placements. They reach out to corporations. They aim for the paycheck.

Ack. Gag. Repeat (or loop, maybe).

Is this what we are moving into now? Hybrid media making as hybrid advertising? I am not naive. I know businesses look to trends and then dig their claws in. They entice media makers. They sometimes “remix” (in a bad way) close enough to resemble the original, and hope no one is noticing. And I know people need to make a living.

But I can’t help but be dismayed and worried that the shift into this powerful movie-making culture is really about an “all eyes on me now” mentality, where the art that is made is not made for art, but for commercial sensibilities. This is not a knock of the selfie-generation. Plenty of people are making interesting movies that focus the lens on the self. This is a knock against using the self to sell stuff to those who are watching your self.

I’ll end this bloggy diatribe of a middle-aged, middle-class white male  (ie, probably out of the loop, so to speak, with the culture featured in the article) with this belief:

I want my students, and my own children, to see the possibilities of creating media the way I see it: an ocean of possibilities that allow you to express yourself in new and interesting ways, with (yes) a potential audience that can connect and further your art. Let art be the center of what you do.

Is that too much to ask?

Peace (in the wonder),
Kevin

 

Hour of Code: The Classroom 2.0 Live Archive

In case you are curious, here is the archived recording of a conversation that my colleague, Gail Poulin, and I had about coding and literacy and learning over at Classroom 2.0 Live. It was a lively conversation, with lots of sharing, and connecting into the Hour of Code initiative that takes place this week as part of Computer Science Week.

Along with the media archive, there is a long list of coding resources available at the Livebinder created for the session. While Gail and I had some started links and resources, it was the sharing by everyone in the session from around the world that makes the Livebinder a keeper.

Check out the Hour of Code Livebinder.

Peace (in the share),
Kevin

Compose/DeCompose

Before you read this, read this.

mmm (sips coffee)

mmm (pets dog)

mmm (eats banana)

Are you back? Did you read it? Man, I love when people like Terry do that … pulling back the curtain on digital composing. As I was reading his piece it occurred to me … we work differently. I was reading as he talked about the lists he makes, the lines he draws out, the resources he has at his finger tips, the thoughtfulness that goes into what he composes (in this case, with Zeega). He’s got a system.

He leads with the brain, and reaches for the heart.

Me?

I start at the heart, and aim for the brain.

What I mean is that when I do what Terry explains he is doing (honoring someone’s blog post by remixing it with digital media via Zeega), I dive in and let the muse take me to where it will in a person’s piece. I’m searching for anchor phrases and trying to find the center of the blog post. I hate to admit it — but I don’t think too much about it. I trust my instincts to find where it is I need to go.

Mostly, it works. I think. And Terry’s process? Oh yeah, it works, too. Both of our methods work, and there are probably a myriad of others out there (what’s yours?) but mostly, they seem a mystery to your audience. Doing as Terry has done — showing what he is thinking about as he composes and the tools he is using to compose what he is thinking about — is a valuable analysis, providing insights to the writer.

Here’s a Zeega I did this week in honor of Jim Groom’s fantastic piece about connected learning called Connected by Design. My composing process?

  • I read Jim’s post quickly once after finding it in my Twitter feed (via #ccourses)
  • Went back, read it again
  • Opened up Zeega
  • Picked phrases and sentences that resonated with me. Interested that he had also chosen some phrases and ideas from others, using those as anchors in his text. So I am anchoring my anchors in his anchors. Recursive anchors?
  • Considered fonts. Spent more time in fonts than anything else. Not sure why. Seemed important. How does shape of letters inform our composition? Not satisfied with fonts but gave up on it after a time.
  • Used the Zeega search engine to find animated gifs as background (struggled here for a stretch … what’s too busy? what’s evocative? what pushes up against the words?) Thought, what about still images? Fell back to animated images. Seems more Zeega-like.
  • Did a search for “connected” on Soundcloud. Replaced one track with another when I noticed the Stereo MCs in the mix. Like the shuffling hiphoppiness of the track. Connects to the freeflowing ideas of Jim’s post (in my mind, anyway).
  • Published Zeega and posted and shared with Connected Courses.

Peace (in decomposing the composition),
Kevin

Stories as Landscapes

storygridstory
What if a Story were simultaneously hemmed in and also open to roam the  landscape? What if the Story were merely small echoes of some larger narrative? What if  the Story were not one Story, but many Stories?

What if …?

During Digital Writing Month (which took place throughout November), the narrative of how we tell stories often got upended a bit as we explored how technology is changing the shapes of stories themselves, as us, as writers of those stories. How fitting, then, that Simon took the concept of the #25wordstory (a Twitter activity to write a story in 25 words or so) and slotted it into a spreadsheet grid, and then opened up the grids for others to add to.

I dug in yesterday morning with gusto, and quickly began writing all over the place, shifting from grid to grid, extending stories out from single anchor words so that the narrative arcs move in all sorts of directions. Truthfully, these became more like story fragments, little puffs of ideas floating in and among the rest of the stories. We pushed out beyond the margins. Added images and charts. Made links to places outside of the story.

So, what does this all mean for writing in the digital age? I can’t say with any certainty what it all means, to be honest, but there is something there in this kind of transmedia-like storytelling — an associative leap that writers make when both writing on the same page as someone else on the other side of your world and when you carve out stories in unknown territories. A spreadsheet as story? A spreadsheet as a map of the territory? Yes, once you get past the idea of what a tool is designed for you (spreadsheets-numbers) and open up your imagination to what a story needs to thrive.

The spreadsheet has become the Story itself, made up of smaller stories, made up of words and ideas, made up of Us. You come, too.  Write in the grid, but push against the confines of those grids. Simon kickstarted the Story. Now, take the Story to where it needs to go. Take the Story with you. Leave the Story with Us.

Write the Story …

Peace (beyond the territory),
Kevin

 

Hacker Feminist Barbie: Pushing Back at Gender Stereotypes

So, this is interesting … coming out of a controversy in which Mattel pulled a book from its Barbie collection in which Barbie is cast in a role as a computer engineer, but the story is framed as Barbie being someone who needs help from the boys to get things done, like the actual coding and programming. Lots of push back, as there should be, and then a few folks set up this site that allows you to hack and remix the Barbie book with your own writing.

I like that kind of push-back. You should give this a try, too. I am thinking of how to bring this into the classroom during the Hour of Code, perhaps. Maybe …

Here are two of the pages that I hacked …

Hacker Barbie

Hacker Barbie2

Peace (in breaking the stereotypes),
Kevin

 

Playing with Light

Playing with Light

This weekend’s writing prompt for Digital Writing Month brought me right back to the Making Learning Connected MOOC Make Cycle, in which we were asked to play with light. So, too, is the call for this weekend’s digital exploration, so I went back to find a nifty online tool called Glow Doodle, which uses your webcam to create arcs of light.

In the pictures above, I used two different flashlights, playing around with the light trails that they made in the image. I’d like to experiment a bit more with it when I have time. It’s one of those “whoah” sites whose applications beyond the “cool factor” I am having trouble wrapping my head around.

Still, the “cool factor” is pretty strong. Give Glow Doodle a try and see what you think.

Peace (in the afterglow),
Kevin

A video: