Terry did a fine job of laying out the process for making a small bit of media art, using words and image and gif and video, and then adding another layer by pulling it all into Popcorn Maker (now hosted at the Internet Archives) for a soundtrack.
I wondered how I might take what Terry created, and using his idea of adjacent thinking, remix his piece with Popcorn Maker into something slightly bent, with a poem and new music.
Remixing is easy with Popcorn, even if the platform gets funky and wonky at times. Just click on the remix button (two buttons to the right of the volume knob on the lower corner of the project page).
That button re-opens the entire project in a new space, with all of the original media intact. Now you can remix with new media or re-arrange the existing pieces, or add text and images on top. You don’t need to be logged in to remix but you do need to have an account with Internet Archives to save it and share the remix (and supporting the Internet Archives is good idea, anyway, I think).
Again, Popcorn Maker is a bit wonky at times. A little laggy. You need to wrestle with it. Sometimes it does funny things. But it works, and so I spent some time adding a new poem outside of his project, changing the soundtrack and adding bits of this and that. The idea was to be inspired by Terry’s work and bend it a bit through interpretation.
And you know what? You can remix my piece, too, adding another layer up or down or maybe sideways .. use that little remix button. It’s there for a reason. Wouldn’t it be cool to have a series of these remixes, all riffing off another? What would that look like? Sound like? Would there be common echoes across the pieces?
Let me help you get started (I think this will work and you won’t even need a login to play with the remix — does not really work on mobile devices because it is still flash-based, which is why Mozilla abandoned Popcorn Maker):
I am always intrigued by what happens to a piece of writing when it moves across different platforms. Sometimes, we use the term “transmedia” to describe a piece of media or writing that unfolds in different spaces, all in the service of a larger story. I’ve done different experiments myself with this, and have yet to be completely satisfied with the results.
As part of a continued conversation about digital writing and digital making with a bunch of online friends, I wanted to try to make a poem “jump” from space to space, allowing it to unfold in pieces. I used my own blog as the starting point and ended up over in Mastodon as my ending point, and in between, the poem moves from Flickr, to Twitter, to Vimeo, to another writing blog space.
Here is the poem:
A poem jumps … (blog)
… leaps into the unknown … (twitter)
… words as anchors to thought … (flickr)
… as thought gives anchors to words … (youtube)
… where one ends is where one begins … (blog)
… a poem jumps. (mastodon)
Sometimes, the links to move forward to the next line of the poem are in the comment bin. Sometimes, they are part of the post. I was not trying to be tricky with it. I wanted the path to be clear to anyone bothering to try to read the piece.
The most difficult part was coordinating the links to become live at nearly the same time, and it was sort of like setting up dominoes. If one piece with links wasn’t live, I could not have the link to connect with the previous and the next one. I worked backwards, and then sideways, re-posting some of the pieces a few times to ensure it all worked.
At one point in the poem’s construction, my plan was to have the path go through the comment bin of either Anna or Sheri’s blogs, but when I tried, I think they either have comments on moderation (which is understandable) or maybe my posts got sent to moderation (due to embedded links) and they were not visible, so I could not get the link I needed to keep the poem moving. I became impatient, not knowing if Sheri or Anna might even be around to see and release the comments. This become an invisible logjam.
I eventually went an alternative route (and reached out Sheri and Anna to let them know to ignore anything I had left behind), although I feel as I missed an opportunity to use another person’s comment area as part of the poem’s architecture. The poem would have been stronger by moving through other people’s posts, I think. This was a missed connection, so to speak.
What I wasn’t so successful at here, I think, is really harnessing more of the possibility of each platform in some way. I did make the Flickr jump visual and the Video is a video of word animation, but maybe I should have added an audio component, for example, and the Twitter jump might have been better with additional tags, spreading the poem further. The two blog jumps — here, at this blog, and at another, where I write poems — are just places with links (although I did add a visual to the first jump), and maybe finding a way to add an interactive element (of some sort) would have been interesting. Landing on Mastodon made sense for me, as I write small poems there every day with a few others, but you would not know that by the landing point.
Small projects like these are learning adventures, though. As a writer, I wonder how a piece can make that leap, in ways that allows platforms to inform and deepen the meaning of the words. As a teacher, I wonder how this might be taught in the classroom with young writers, and maybe .. why.
Here’s what I think as I mull on that last point — the why would one even bother to do this? It becomes clear that in the process of doing this, you are forces to learn more about each platform as you consider its use as a jump point, that the considerations about possibilities make visible the limitations and the advantages of each platform space — and maybe open the door to unknown workarounds — that only surface when you see the collection of platforms as one larger compositional space, like an artist sees a canvas.
Inside a post the other day, Sheri shared a previous project of hers, in which she used a sketchbook to draw a line into a story of art. I was intrigued by her call at the end of her story (which is part of the Sketchbook Project) for others to join her. Even though the call was from five years ago, I tried to answer it with words via Storybird and its poem creation tool.
Last night, I was still thinking of Sheri’s work in her sketchbook and mulling on the idea of lines as connectors. So I went back into Storybird and decided to use it to create a longer piece — a picture book this time — of how lines connect to writing, connect to people, connect to us. I started the book with the same image/artist as tapped for the above “magnet” poem, and built out from there.
Storybird is interesting because of the way it upends the traditional writing — where words often inspire image. In Storybird, image and art inspires words. You choose a keyword or a specific artist (as I did here, with Flapperdoodle as artist) and Storybird generates art for you. In the case of its poetry section, you choose an image and then are given a bank of words. This is something Anna noticed when she did a poem there.
drawing a line between a few #modigiwri dots…here’s a Storybird poem inspired by @grammasheri‘s quote that inspired @dogtrax‘s Storybird poem, which inspired my use of Storybird, and then Storybird’s constraint that I couldn’t use my own words inspired this… pic.twitter.com/7TBE5AlaR3
Constraints both hem us in — we can’t do what we wanted to do — and force us to edit or revamp or find a workaround, and sometimes, this is what gives a piece a different feel. Constraints force us out of our comfort zone. That’s not always a bad thing. Anna’s poem is beautiful, despite her narrow options for expression.
I admit that I did not have much of a plan when I started Where the Writing Comes From, other than finding art with lines and being inspired by Sheri. Still, the story emerged as I imagined a narrator wondering about her writing, and then she shifts from herself as the center of her story to another as a larger narrative, seeing how worlds intersect with each other, and ending the piece with her writing the story I have been writing about her.
This is becoming a regular story of mine, and probably yours. An app that I really liked using for writing and making digitally, and on which I relied upon regularly, seems to have gone dead on me. Its name is Legend, and it was an animated text app that Terry Elliott turned me on to long ago.
And I loved it on my iPad, for its simplicity and its design and the way you could easily find Creative Common images via its Flickr connection and then layer short text on top of the image. I used Legend for poetry and for quotes, and for merging words with motion and image. It was my go-to app for many things.
And now Legend is gone from the App Store. Vanished without a trace.
I was having some troubles with Legend on my iPad the other day, and I deleted the app in hopes of re-installing and re-booting it, and soon discovered that the app itself was nowhere to be found in the iTunes App Store. It’s not even a mention anymore in my “bought” apps file bin in iTunes. It’s like it never even existed, and its loss saddens me.
But, of course, I should know better.
In this world of digital writing and composition (and art, and whatever else we want to call it) the only technology that really stands the test of time with any consistency is a piece of paper and a pencil or pen. All else is mostly temporary, so be sure to back your stuff up and keep an eye on the horizon for alternatives.
None do what I want it to do. None feel quite right. Some have limits on loop time (either going too fast or too slow). Some don’t give you much access to images beyond your own files (which has value but requires deeper planning than I am usually doing for this kind of work.)
I’ll keep exploring. I am checking out Legend on my Android phone … hmmm … seems like it now has an entirely new name now (Animated Text), and has advertisements within it … and no longer has access to Creative Commons images. Dang.
This exploration is another reminder to myself, and maybe to you, that nothing lasts forever in this shifting environment of operating system updates, app development, and that our own means and venues of digital writing is always in flux and motion.
Peace (animated with image),
PS — I’d also like to say that I could probably do what I want with animated text via Keynote or Powerpoint (and I have) but I appreciated the ease of making animated texts with Legend and other apps. Maybe another post for another day is about what we give up as writers — creative control, freedom to make change, a vision from start to finish — when we allow our tools to guide our writing process.
The image above seeks to represent a complicated idea — the merging of digital writing … through image. As part of a new push to explore Digital Writing (via the hashtag #MoDigiWriMo), I asked folks to share a wordless image to capture their view on digital writing. I know, strange, right? I then used the shared images from Terry, Wendy, Anna and Sheri to craft small poems, and then short musical interpretations of the image.
The final photo here is an attempt to merge all of the image/poems together, with a message of wonder and listening. I am happy with how the image came out, complicated as it was to create, and, as part of the MoDigiWriMo philosophy of sharing process notes of making art, this is how I went about it (mostly on my iPad):
1. Image to poem via Pablo extension
2. Poems merged as collage via Photogrid App
3. Collage texture and color via Prisma App
4. Collage broken into pieces via Fragment App
5. Shadow silhouette layers via Fused App
6. Paired silhouette via Photogrid App
7. Shared via Flickr
I also began wondering if I could (but never wondered if I should) remix the four musical interpretations into one single composition, knowing the juxtaposition of sounds would be strange, weird, and challenging. I did it anyway, using Soundtrap as my mixing tool, creating this layered cake of sounds.
The result is odd and disjointing, yet I find it intriguing (more so with headphones, where the shared landscapes are more likely to emerge). The one track that initially seemed out of sync was Sheri’s, so I ended up dividing it into smaller pieces, shifting it around as layers, finding the nooks and crannies for it.
There are moments of confusion in the track. But there are also moments of melodic and harmonic symmetry, where each piece seems to fall into the others. Sort of like how we write sometimes, digitally.
About six years ago, in 2012, my friend, Anna Smith, and I had a conversation. A chat about Digital Writing. Through digital writing. With meta-explanations of how we write digitally, pulling back the veils on our process notes. Others, like Terry, joined in. We wove this all together, somewhat through our blogs and through the National Writing Project’s Digital Is site, and curated the conversation through a site called Jog the Web.
Like many other tools, Jog the Web is now dead, and with it, our curation conversations. Digital Is is gone, too, morphed into The Current. Someone came along and ate most of our breadcrumbs.
Maybe this observation is where we are at now, with digital writing tools. We write in many places, across many platforms. We make media over here and post it over there. We add comments and then forget where those comments were left, so any response is hardly seen. We’ve distributed ourselves with technology to the point where we can’t hardly find ourselves anymore.
Spurred on by Anna’s recent wondering and Terry’s reactions (and his deep-dive start into new explorations), I began to go through different places to find our old stuff. I wish I had done a better job of backing up our Jog the Web (which was really quite useful, as you could “walk” through our posts in a sort of timeline-like effect. Oh well.)
This effort will have to do. I won’t pretend these are in completely chronological order … maybe it doesn’t matter anymore.
I responded with my own screencast, but sought to go a bit further with using the tool for writing as much as for capturing writing, and supplemented the work with a comic showing what I did and how at my blog:
This led us to put out a public call for others to join in the conversation. We did this via Digital Is and the post now lives at The Current. We wrote: “One of the many potentials of the shifts in envisioning writing in multimodal spaces is the chance for new conversations — for stretching out thinking beyond your own physical space and joining in discussions about the changes now underfoot.“
At some point, I made a vlog video about digital writing:
Not long after, Anna posted this video reflection:
Not content to let her video site, I moved her video into Vialogues, which allows for annotation. You can still annotate her video today. (Take that, Jog the Web!)
At some point, we shifted over to Voicethread as a platform for interaction, and Terry joined in the mix (he may have been in the mix earlier. I don’t recall). He is also in the mix now. Which is cool.
And I added the obligatory comic reflection:
Following another line of thought — one that has rumbled deep enough into the present for many of us to mostly abandon the “digital” of “digital writing” and just call it “writing” — Anna pondered the question of “Where Isn’t the Digital?” She played with an infographic, too.
My infographic response, as a sort of argumentative push-back:
I had written about this topic, too, with a post about the “naysayers.” Complete with comic.
And then .. I’m not sure … Where did the conversation go? We always meant to bring it to an ending point but I don’t think we ever did. There may be loose parts that I have lost. Probably so. But Anna and I, and Terry, and others, have continued to explore writing digitally over the years with CLMOOC, and DS106 and others. I even once made a Modest Proposal about Digital Writing (as part of an online conference session). I wrote: Digital Writing …
is more than just words typed on a screen. A simple blog post is not really digital writing;
potentially crosses mediums, so that words might mix with sound might mix with video might mix with other media;
narrows the gap between writer and reader by giving more agency to the reader than traditional relationships, and so, the writer must plan for that changed relationship;
can have deeper associative properties, particularly when thinking of how hyperlinks embedded within the text might connect one text to another, providing options and trails that move away from the main text itself;
may or may not harness the possibilities of the underlying yet mostly hidden “writing” — the computer code of the page that we read that has been represented as text but is actually not text;
provides for possible collaborations beyond the writer, and sometimes without their permission or notice, such as the margin annotations on a website page or a remix of media.
Maybe we will keep going forward … maybe you will join us?
A version of the old Mozilla Popcorn Maker (a remix tool for media that “borrows” media from different online sites) is now hosted at Internet Archives. It’s not quite as seamless across media sites as it used to be, but it works. Thanks to Terry for finding it and sharing it out recently. I made this simple and quick poem in Popcorn. The embed doesn’t always play right (sound gets lost …)
Despite the inference in the title of this post, I don’t imagine the movement towards Open Educational Resources battling it out on the stage with profit-driven spaces like Teachers Pay Teachers. I am not sure it even has to be one (profit-based) versus the other (free-based). I just want to put both models side by side, to see what I can see.
Both have some validity, although I lean more strongly toward OER, for sure. Personally, I try my best to share out project ideas and lesson plans and other resources as freely as I can (see: Video Game Design for the classroom), in the optimistic hope that somewhere, a student might be engaged in something that will light that light (you know the one) or spark a discovery that unveils something new. Ever hopeful, ever the optimist — that’s me.
It’s why I engage in connected communities and why I learn from others while hoping others might learn a bit from what I am doing. I can’t think of a time when I paused and thought, Maybe this should be behind a paywall so I can get a little honey money from the idea.
The success of a site like Teachers Pay Teachers, however, shows another model. That, of turning teaching ideas into cash. What is TPT? The site’s About Us explains and makes perfectly clear: this is a business:
Teachers Pay Teachers is an online marketplace where teachers buy and sell original educational materials.
Now, look, I have paid to download resources from TpT and I found it mostly to be a seamless experience. I found and bought some good resources that helped me in the classroom. Sure, I wish I didn’t have to pay for what I needed, but I also understand the notion that teachers work hard and deserve to make a living (maybe if teachers were paid more fairly, and respected more in society, this would not even be a discussion). When I hit the virtual check-out line at TpT, I figure I am helping support a colleague somewhere and getting a quality resource.
And there are sometimes free resources at TpT. Sort of like nibbling on samples in Costco. They hope you will open your wallet for more.
I dug a little deeper as I was writing this post and boy, I quickly realized just what a huge business model this TPT really is and how it is growing profit maker — prob not so much for the teachers, but for the company overseeing it. The folks at TPT apparently host a periodic conference that appears to teach teachers how to sell themselves and their work (read this teacher’s post-conference reflections) There are a ton of videos on how to launch into the sales site. They have job openings for teachers as marketers, and more.
I was thinking of TpT in reference to an interview I once had with Howard Rheingold, for the Connected Learning Alliance, and he asked me about TpT because he had featured another teacher using TpT. It struck me as odd, then. Howard was exploring ways teachers use social media and resources to connect with other teachers. I could not equate what she was doing — selling to other teachers — with connected learning principles of openness.
Elsewhere, recently, I found another teacher wrote of TpT:
Selling my teaching materials on this popular website has made me a better teacher and has changed my life! — via blog
Um. Yuck. Sorry, but my hackles got up just perusing it all, the way the business model is seeping into the education model, built on the noble concept of teachers helping other teachers. A conference to help teachers sell themselves and their lesson plans? Yeah, that goes against my philosophical and moral outlook of education as a special kind of societal job, with the greater good baked in there.
Maybe that’s just me.
I am not naive — I know there is an argument to be made for teachers leveraging experience to make a living for their families. And the teacher quoted above might be suggesting that getting plans and resources ready for sale might have forced her to think more deeply about her teaching practice.
Legal Aside: if you develop lessons in the school you teach, who owns the intellectual property? The school or you? Can you sell it? Do you need permission? I don’t even know. Some lawyer somewhere has already figured it out, I am sure.
Meanwhile, the Open Educational Resource movement (OER Commons is one of many sites) that we are exploring in EL30 is like another planet altogether. Which is not to say that the Open Educational Resource movement is not about quality, too. It is. It’s also about learning together, of sharing together, of collaboration, of considering the greater good.
The question of how to access (if you are looking) and how to distribute (if you are sharing) is a topic of great interest in many circles, particularly at the University level where the costs of textbooks are opening doors to alternatives for professors and students alike. Difficulties around how to license materials, and how to ensure adequate citation of used work, or the act of remixing the content of others … these are all questions to be considered and barriers yet to be overcome.
But in the battle between open and closed, free or profit … I am all about the open sharing of experiences to make the world a better place. We all will need to be helping each other over that “river” (another reference to Laura’s post)– from here to there.
I like that along with learning about the potential of the peer-to-peer Distributed Web concept in our EL30 course, with Stephen Downes, he is also providing us with ways to engage with the DWeb concept. One of his suggestions is to use the Beaker Browser, which is a peer-to-peer browser using a technical underpinning called ‘dat‘ and which allows you to quickly and quite easily make and publish a website within minutes.
Dat works on a distributed network unlike cloud services, such as Dropbox or Google Drive. This means Dat transfers files peer to peer, skipping centralized servers. Dat’s network makes file transfers faster, encrypted, and auditable. You can even use Dat on local networks for offline file sharing or local backups. Dat reduces bandwidth costs on popular files, as downloads are distributed across all available computers, rather than centralized on a single host. — from Dat Documentation
The developers of Beaker Browser provide a powerful overview of the mission their own project:
The Web enabled communication, collaboration, and creativity at a scale once unimaginable, but it’s devolved into a landscape of isolated platforms that discourage customization and interoperability. The Web’s value flows from the people who use it, yet our online experiences are dictated by corporations whose incentives rarely align with our own.
We believe the Web can (and must) be a people-first platform, where everybody is invited to create, personalize, and share.
I dove in, downloading and installing Beaker, to see for myself how this “one-click publishing” worked …
You can view the simple site I made on Beaker, which is mostly html-based with a few tweaks. However, because Beaker runs off the peer-to-peer computing power, my browser will have to be up and running, and accessible from the Beaker dat network for you to view the site I made (that’s the peer-to-peer computing element).
This is one drawback of peer-to-peer, as far as I can tell.
Another issue is that the ‘dat’ protocol doesn’t run in any other browser, other than Beaker. Which makes sense, since the peers are sharing the networking power. So the link down below to my site is one you would have to first copy and paste into a Beaker Browser, which is free and easy to download and use. The Beaker Browser also functions like a regular browser, but is a Distributed Web platform. What this means, if I understand it, is that there is no central server — the networking power and protocols are shared across users of Beaker itself.
This need for Beaker to view sites is a second drawback.
Also, my blog platform here clearly does not like the ‘dat’ file at all and likely sees it as insecure. Every time I try to force it be a link off this page, Edublogs tries to wipe it clean or remove any linking whatsoever. It’s just not ready for Beaker.
View my site: dat://82729c0bd3dd16984f7499e69b12e02f2bb45922c41fbff8609a84899d063fdb/
Playing nice across platforms and hosting services is a third drawback.
Here’s what my Beaker published site looks like right now:
Even with the three drawbacks of Beaker that I noticed — Beaker has to be up and running for anyone else to use and access its shared computing power, Beaker is the only browser to recognize and launch dat files, and platforms don’t recognize dat links as secure — I like where Beaker is going within the Distributed Web, and I am glad to have learned about it by using it in EL30. The people working on Beaker call it experimental, and it is quite likely that what I see as drawbacks now might actually be key advances in browser functionality down the road.
(Image credit: Openclipart.org and Mozilla Foundation)
I watched with great interest the latest video from Stephen Downes, who is facilitating the online E-Learning 3.0, or EL30, as he walked us through the concept of the shift from a Centralized Web (central server, many users) to the Decentralized Web (many servers, many users) to the prospects of the Distributed Web (no servers, many users).
A piece by Dietrick Ayala, of Mozilla, entitled Introducing the Dweb, makes this distinction, focusing on the potential shift in power over information and networks:
In centralized systems, one entity has control over the participation of all other entities. In decentralized systems, power over participation is divided between more than one entity. In distributed systems, no one entity has control over the participation of any other entity.
I’m still getting my head around it.
But as I ponder this move to a more peer-to-peer-powered networking design — where our own computing power become the backbone of networking, through shared resources like CPU and memory and more — I started to think about what this might mean for the issues of access and equity.
In other words, right now, there are still many places in the world — some more deeply in need than others — where basic access to the Internet and to mobile and computing devices is difficult, meaning the people — the students, is how I think of it, as a teacher — are in danger of being left behind with learning possibilities, job opportunities and networking options. I say this, though, knowing that people need to have a choice to engage in networking, and I don’t mean to assume everyone should always be doing this. But having no options when you need options … that’s an access and equity issue that has been with us for some time.
Not far from where I live, here in a relatively affluent part of the east coast of the United States, there are communities who have long been fighting the state government and the conglomerate cable/Internet providers for digital access, made tricky for sure by the rural and isolated places they live but not insurmountable. The battle, years long now, has centered on the loss of potential for residents in these small towns, and their children’s futures. Meanwhile, where I live, just 3o minutes away from those rural towns, I have high-speed access (as long as I pay for it).
Does a shift to a Distributed Web help these situations?
In the first diagram, of the current centralized system, if you don’t have the means to connect to the central server, then the network is worthless. Same thing with the second — the decentralized system — although it is possible your ability to connect is increased because more people are running more servers (in a federated sort of way) so it is possible your options for access are greater.
I think the Distributed Web, as Stephen and others call it, may offer greater possibilities for more people in need of access. Is the Dweb more equitable in this regard, on a global scale? Maybe, I think, and here is why, based on how I am beginning to understand how the Dweb works (with the caveat that this is relatively new to me).
If the future iteration of the Internet, as we know it, is built primarily on secure peer-to-peer computing power in a fully distributed mesh — where our resources are shared and our collective networking grows stronger and more secure with more users in the system (and this is where the technical aspects are beyond me right now, so I am writing this in faith that either blockchain systems or something else will be the underpinning of security) — then more people will have access to more networking, and more opportunities.
This doesn’t solve the problem of machines and devices or interface systems into hands of those users, but the Dweb seems to be concerned less with the high-powered, huge-memory computers, since we will all be sharing resources together. I might have an inexpensive device and it won’t matter, because others elsewhere will have the computing resources that I can tap into.
Of course, this is all speculative. I can envision ways this goes off the rails — around issues of privacy, of data breaches, of insecure connections, of monetizing the computing power. But I am optimistic, as I listen to Stephen and read about others, that there is a path towards something better.
How we get there — and how we make sure everyone comes along, regardless of culture or race or socioeconomics — is still a question, and I am appreciative that EL3o is pushing my thinking forward, while still remembering the mistakes of the past.
In exploring different resources, I came across this document from the p2pforever site — which seeks to collaboratively document examples and resources around Dweb architecture. It is a sort of manifesto of sorts, or some guiding principles, and this thinking seems to resonate with my thinking on equity and access issues.
They suggest that these elements in the design of future iterations of the Web:
We should improve and preserve the Web.
The Web is a genuine social accomplishment and we should look after it. Don’t let lesser platforms win out.
Devops is oppressive!
Many people can’t publish websites or apps because they can’t run servers. Publishing should be accessible to all.
“View source” is critical to an open Web.
The more code that users can read, the more code they can review and learn from.
“Modify source” is the p2p Web’s great power.
A Web that can be made and remade by its people can better serve their needs and produce a more diverse & exciting world. The Web should be a truly “live” society.
Minimize change, maximize impact.
The p2p Web should still be the Web. Make it better, don’t remake it.
Don’t forget resilience.
A web based on protocols, not platforms, is a safe web. Don’t put data in silos but have various platforms use the same protocols to interact.