Technology as Art/ Art as Technology


Will, drop my brass panties – you feel my text up flickr photo by LastHuckleBerry shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

“… we can try out completely different ways of (art) expression.” — Douglas Eck.

Douglas Eck – Transforming Technology into Art

In another video from an interesting series I have found on digital storytelling, Douglas Eck looks at how technology is transforming art, but also notes the human influence on technology. Eck work at Google, on a project called Magenta that is centered on brain thinking, neural networking, technology and art.

Eck’s observations about the role of humans in the world of technology-created art rings true to me (or perhaps I am naive enough to believe it), but I also know the future is an expected place where AI and VR and AR and other advances just over the horizon offer possibilities and pitfalls. Who knows what places like Google are going to unleash into the world of storytelling?

Peace (telling its story over and over again),
Kevin

A Month of Six Words, Gathered Together

During March, I wrote a Slice of Life every day, and framed it around a six word slice — six words to capture a moment or the say. I often added some context after or before my six words … because I guess writers can’t resist writing. I then gathered my collective six words to make this video, as an act of curation if nothing else.

Peace (more words than I can muster),
Kevin

 

At Middleweb: Student Inquiry and Civic Action

My latest post at Middleweb is an interview with Steve Zemelman, as we chat about the topic of student civic engagement and civic action in and beyond the classroom. With the student-led marches and with Parkland students emerging as leaders of a gun control movement, this seemed like a good time to focus on Steve’s new book, From Inquiry to Action. Steve and I know each other through our connections with the National Writing Project. His book offers a wealth of ideas for classroom teachers.

Read our discussion over at Middleweb.

Peace (and movement),
Kevin

Get Your Alchemy On (The Lab is Open)

NetNarr Alchemy Lab

For the past two months or so, a group of us open participants in the Networked Narratives have been working behind the scenes on the construction of an immersive, virtual Alchemy Laboratory of Stories. (Officially, NetNarr is a university course being taught in the US by Alan Levine, and in Norway by Mia Zamora, with some intersections with Maha Bali in Egypt, and with open doors to the open learning community — that’s where I am).

Many folks in various online communities (including CLMOOC and DS106, and some NetNarr students) have contributed time and resources, and media projects, that are now part of the NetNarr Alchemy Lab experience. In fact, there are nearly 50 media objects created by nearly 20 people in this Alchemy Lab project.

Pretty cool collaboration.

I’ll reflect in writing more about the experience another day, but for now, I want to invite you to come tour the lab we built through open invitations to create stories in a networked way. You can view the Alchemy Lab in a browser, or on mobile devices, or with Google Cardboard devices. Layered links will either surface media projects or will give you a link forward to projects. The exit (on the ceiling) will bring you to yet another place where we invite you to make some digital art and share it, too.

We hope you enjoy the experience.

Follow this path to the door into the lab

Peace (and convergence),
Kevin

PS — special props to Wendy and Sarah and Todd for coordination and planning, and to Susan for her wonderful artwork, and to Niall for his technical prowess and advice.

Song Share: Things I Couldn’t Keep


Rusty Bolts flickr photo by junkyardpatinafan shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license

A song, for and inspired by Terry Elliott, as well as some other swirling things in my mind I couldn’t keep in the box.

Things I Couldn’t Keep
(for Terry)

(you know) A life goes by in the blink of an eye
and the stories that we tell
Remind us of days — they slip away
I’ll hold on … as tight as hell

(he said) Son, here’s a box of things you’ll need
to navigate the stars
A collection of bolts, sprockets and tools
to remind you … of who you are

A cardboard box — Things unnamed
A quiet voice — An act of faith
His story’s running deep
All these things I couldn’t keep

His treasures, what others throw away
what he knew was still good
the coin of man with steady hands
It’s a life … never understood

For forty years, I watched him walk
watched him pack it all away
Odds and ends into coffee cans
And memories … tucked far away

‘Don’t ever say I gave you nothing,’
my grandaddy speaks through him
I hold on tight to hand me downs
It’s my turn now … to begin again

Peace (singing it),
Kevin

 

View from the Seats: Watching Ready Player One

via Warner Brothers

Ready Player One could have been worse. A lot worse. It also could have been better. A lot better. Split the difference? It was an entertaining movie with, as my older son noted afterwards, “more holes in the plot than you could poke a stick through.” My younger son, who has read the book by Ernest Cline at least six times in the past two years, added, “The book was better.” I was more charitable with the movie than my three boys were, it turns out (which is usually the opposite).

We watched Ready Player One in 3D in the XD theater and that was a good move, as the immersive storytelling element of the movie — part of which takes place in a virtual environment known as The Oasis — was made livelier by the 3D experience. And Steven Spielberg sure knows how to pack a visual punch, and to allude to all sorts of 1980s pop culture elements.

If you don’t know the story, Ready Player One is about the world in the future where the collapse of energy and food resources has people living in the Stacks — literally, mobile homes and cars and such all stacked upward — with the only real ‘escape’ from the apocalypse is virtual reality in The Oasis gaming world, where endless smaller worlds can be created around themes. The story revolves around our teenage hero — Wade Watts — as he tries to find the hidden Easter Egg left behind by the creator of The Oasis. Finding the Egg will mean gaining ownership and direction of The Oasis.

The game design element of the novel is what lured me into the story years ago, and my youngest son loved the book when I passed it along to him. The movie captures some of that tension between real life, outside of technology, and the digital life we create and make for ourselves inside the spaces we inhabit. The use of avatars and digital identity, of ethics of shared virtual space, of commercialization of online experiences, and of the imagination in building worlds all emerge as themes of the story.

Elements of the game itself get buried in the movie by all of the 1980s pop references, though, and the potential to use the intricacies of game experience to drive the plot (sort of like Wreck-It Ralph did pull off) falls by the wayside in favor of a more typical good/bad battle.

I did appreciate that one of the underlying messages, made a bit too obvious by the end, is that collaboration and cooperation for a greater good are more powerful than profit and personal gain. The corporate loses. The collective wins.

Also, the new rule created by Wade and his friends in the end that The Oasis gets shut down every Tuesday and Thursday, in order for users to break from the technology and reconnect with friends and family (cue end scene of Wade smooching with Artemis, the real heroine of the story), seemed rather relevant to our modern times. Imagine if Facebook or Twitter decided that two days a week, no one could use the site?

Me, neither.

Peace (with popcorn),
Kevin

Six Word Slice of Life: Songs in the Head

(For this month’s Slice of Life Challenge with Two Writing Teachers, I am aiming to do Six Word Slices most days, with some extended slices on other days.)

Context: The last few days, I’ve had three different musical projects in my mind, all different yet all interesting. The first is a collaborative song I am working on with someone I don’t know, through a partnership via the Mastodon social network as part of a second round of a music project known as The Whale’s Lantern. Participants get paired up with others and the task is to write and record a song. My partner is Luka,  a professional musical engineer and musician from the other side of the world (from me). We’re getting to a nearing point with our song, which we are writing and recording remotely. The second is a Christmas song that a friend and I wrote many years ago, but he has always wanted to have it produced rather professionally, so he has been working with a local music producer, and a demo that the producer created of our song (I wrote the lyrics) is stunning. We’re going to see if the two of us can do the main singing on it, but I am skeptical about that. The third is a personal tribute to a CLMOOC friend (who may even read this) who lost someone close, and shared some writing, and I felt inspired to write a song for him, with his words but also expanding the theme of the song a bit. I obsessed over it yesterday for hours, finally getting a demo down. Three songs, tumbling in my head.

Six Word Slice of Life Songs

Peace (sounds like),
Kevin

Six Word Slice of Life: Postcard Remix

(For this month’s Slice of Life Challenge with Two Writing Teachers, I am aiming to do Six Word Slices most days, with some extended slices on other days.)

Six Word Slice of Life Postcards

Context: This month, in the ongoing CLMOOC (Connected Learning MOOC) community, our postcard theme (we send postcards to each other all year long) is Remix. I decided to remix the audio of a Hangout we had over the summer in which we chatted about the art of sending postcards to each other. On postcards I sent out earlier this month, I included a URL to the audio remix, and then shared out this video (which is really just visual audio). It’s been neat to get some reaction from the folks who received my postcard, and also from others in CLMOOC who read updates from the postcard receivers, and react.

Peace (in the post),
Kevin

Six Word Slice of Life: Quiet Wriot

(For this month’s Slice of Life Challenge with Two Writing Teachers, I am aiming to do Six Word Slices most days, with some extended slices on other days.)

Context: There’s something magical about watching classrooms of students, working hard at a piece of writing. The quiet focus, and deep attention, of the young writing talent is evidence in the quiet. Yesterday, my students were working on a “story remix” activity — retelling a story from another character’s perspective (in this case, Rikki Tikki Tavi) — and I just marveled at the way so many them were so quickly lost in their writing, nearly oblivious to the time on the clock. Forty-five minutes after starting their stories, I brought them up for air, as we wrapped up our writing session.

Six Word Slice of Life Quiet

Peace (write it),
Kevin

 

Six Word Slice of Life: Voting Rights

(For this month’s Slice of Life Challenge with Two Writing Teachers, I am aiming to do Six Word Slices most days, with some extended slices on other days.)

Context: I still remember the day after the election of Trump, and my middle son coming down the stairs, with unmasked disbelief in his eyes. “How could this happen?” he asked, and I rambled out some answer that along the lines of, “I don’t know … we don’t really know the heart of our country … I don’t know.” (Now, of course, the news of Russian interference and social media hacking and other odd elements help somewhat explain the trend towards Trump, but not really the election itself … not completely … we know this corrupt fool is still supported by many, too many). Today, my middle son turns 18 and is ready to vote in elections, local and national, and for that, we celebrate. I would not say he is overly politically active, but he is politically aware and intelligent, and what we need is more aware and intelligent voters. Happy birthday, kid. The world needs you.

Six Word Slice of Life Voting Rights

Peace (like candles and wishes),
Kevin