Peace (ain’t it the truth?),
My students recently finished up working with a visiting artist — a woodcarver named Elton Braithwaite, who has been coming to our school now for 22 years — and their two pieces of collaborative carvings are very impressive. One has a tree theme. The other, a book theme.
The pieces have yet to be painted, so I took pictures of both carvings in their unpainted state, and began to play around with app filters (inspired by a friend of mine, Simon). One filter app I used (on the tree) is called Olli and the other (on the read) is Painteresque. The gif maker site is called Gif Maker.
I wanted to see the same image, fading in and out with filters. This approach worked better in another space, where Simon and I and others are sharing writing and art and more. The fade there was more natural. But here, I just used the online gif maker and layered the photos. The transitions are more abrupt, and a bit too quick (maybe I should have tinkered more with the settings on the gif creator).
It’s still kind of neat. The tree one works best, I think, for the app brings to the surface more of the textures of the carving piece. It’s a more natural piece of art. The read one is sort of distracting with the filters I used — at times giving it a sort of metallic sheen that goes counter to the concept of this being a carving on wood.
Peace (in the carving),
My wife and I visited the Mead Art Museum on the grounds of Amherst College yesterday, and its special exhibit was all about the intersections of science and art, in a field (I did not know about) known as “dimensionism.” The exhibit is entitled Modern Art in the Age of Einstein, and I found it fascinating and inspiring, and later in the day, I worked on my own artistic remix of some of the ideas my mind gathered from there.
This piece has multiple layers and multiple filters and frames as well as the layered small poem. The main visual layer is a from Marcel Duchamp’s Rotoreliefs, two spinning spiral wheels in motion on record players, explained in the art gallery this way:
When set in motion, the disc appears to transport the two-dimensional object into a wobbly three-dimensional cylinder that moves in four-dimensional space-time.
It’s fun to think of where art and science collide, and how poetry might also gain a toehold into our perceptions of these areas of overlap. Here, I hope your eyes are drawn to the center, the dark space of time, even as the shadows of my own hands taking an image allow you to step back to see the scene from another angle.
Peace (in the make),
My friend, Rob, who plays bass in my band, shared a story of 9/11 with me. He was in New York City at the time of the attack, watching it from a rooftop and then going to try to help amid the confusion. He moved away from the city afterwards, unable to remain in the space where the disaster unfolded.
After our talk over a band dinner, he sent me some writing he had done, as a way to continue to process and remember. He said I could use his writing as I wanted, so I made a found poem as a way to honor his sharing of his story with me.
This video version of the found poem — I Am Witness — uses Keynote for some simple text animation … and the music is something I composed and created in an app called Thumbjam as a soundtrack for the poem. I shared versions of this project at the new yap.net site, as I was working on finalizing a few things, and I appreciate the feedback from there.
Peace (may it come),
The Mozilla Foundation recently put out its 2019 Internet Health Report, and I kept meaning to dive in a little deeper to understand some of the trends of online activity, if only to better comprehend the world in which my young students are moving into (or are already immersed into).
You can access the report, too. They analysis focuses on some main areas:
Each of these sections has a series of short pieces on subtopics. I dug deeper into the sections and explored some of the following articles:
- Who Babysits Your Children’s Data?
- Breaking Free of the Addiction Machine
- Recognizing the Bias of Artificial Intelligence
- Affordability and the Internet of the World
- Technology’s Inhumane Underbelly
- Deepfakes Are Here — Now What?
- Show Me My Data
- How Do Big Tech Companies Make Their Money?
The study also makes three key policy suggestions for moving forward to a better Internet:
- Give local governments and organizations more control over the Internet as they are more apt to have individual experiences and the public good in mind
- Revamp the whole way advertising is delivered in view of how surveillance and psychological tools for hooking people into games and apps has taken root in so many advertising design elements
- Purposefully consider the rise of AI through the lens of ethics and responsibility
Overall, the report surfaces some positive trends around privacy and responsibility, but also notes a continuing worry about censorship and the coming AI innovations on the horizon. I found some elements of the report intriguing, and worth a deeper dive, as it seems to provide information and balance, too.
Peace (inside the net),
Our AI handpicked sentences for you! Does the story flow well? — this was the message I received on Lumen5 after I put a poem into motion in the digital story platform
You decide. I said, yes, to let the experiment happen. This is the result:
What is this? It’s a poem that I wrote in response to something Terry Elliott created, in response to something I wrote to him, about a poem I saw. Looping, everywhere. I took my response poem and put it into Lumen5, which is a cool site for making digital stories, and let the algorithm choose the images, and set the pacing (I did have to choose the music, which is too bad.)
The poem, as original text:
Replace me, writer,
with a machine,
and our fields
may go fallow
of words may be
but it is only in
the unique experience
of being human
that we nurture
Lumen5 chose images that I probably would not have, such as a typewriter instead of a computer, and the human body model is just kinda strange, I think, but I see it probably hooked its search on the word ‘genetic’. It also bundled words together that I might not have (which is the first message I had received, about AI picking my sentences). There’s something further off about the digital version but I can’t quite place my finger on it. Maybe it’s just me, the writer, losing my agency. Perhaps a casual viewer with no back-story would not even blink at the digital rendering of words.
Somewhat related (perhaps only in my head), a DS 106 Daily Create that I had submitted weeks ago went live yesterday, asking folks to try out the machine-learning Talk to Transformer site. (I explored the platform a bit here and then extended my work here) You type a phrase and the algorithm continues it, tapping into a vast and growing database of texts.
Yesterday, in Talk to Transformer, I typed the first line: This machine writes poems …
And this is what it kicked out and the response is rather intriguing:
What’s it all mean? I don’t rightly know. But it is increasingly intriguing to wrestle on the screen with algorithms and writing, to suss out the elements that make us human and what makes us programmers of words. Or not.
What is writing anymore, anyway?
Peace (mining it),
The first time I heard the term — Feldgang — I scratched my head. I had no clue to what it was, and it was Terry Elliott who used it to as he captured a walk on his farm.
Since then, I have seen Terry use the term quite a bit, from the wandering and noticing and documenting of the world via #smallstories and CLMOOC (and its various offshoots, like a community annotation read of The Art of Is happening now) to the way he plunges into books and texts with artistic annotations and doodling to surface ideas that might otherwise have been lost or unnoticed. It encompasses writing, reading, annotation, art and remix.
Way back in a piece from 2013 still archived via NWP’s The Current, he wrote about the art of the Feldgang, citing Otto Scharmer’s work on leadership, Theory U. Scharmer uses “feldgang” in this analysis, stretching the original meaning of the word from “field walk” to something larger and smaller, all at the same time.
Scharmer, in a 2003 piece called The Blind Spot, notes, too, his childhood days on his family farm and the walks he and his father took to notice nature, and changes underfoot on the farm, and he writes of extending this Feldgang approach as a social observation concept that forces a pause in the world:
Very much in the same spirit, this study is a about a field walk across the social fields of our contemporary society. And just as we did during the Feldgang, once in a while we will stop and pick up a little piece of data that we want to pay closer attention to in order to better understand the subtle textures, structures, and principles that are involved in the evolutionary dynamics of social fields.
So, go on: plunge in with the world, and record your observations. Notice the fields. Surface the ideas. Step back and see. A Feldgang is a moment where observation and reflection come together, the quiet, a pause in the noise of the day. We all need more of that, and less of the other.
Peace (listening for it),