DigiDetox Comics 8: Distraction Interaction

Distraction Interaction

Kevin’s Note: I signed up for a month-long Digital Detox project out of Middlebury College and enjoyed the email updates throughout January that got us thinking about our digital lives, and offered small steps and actions to take. I made comics about the concepts as a way to read deeper and think a little more critically about the ways digital devices and platforms are part of our lives.

Peace (focus!),

CLMOOC: A Poem, Reconsidered

Annotated SmallPoemI had this idea of going back to a poem that I wrote, rather quickly, for the theme of Memories for CLMOOC’s month of poetry, and think a bit deeper on why I wrote what I wrote. To be honest, the comment annotations are small — you can get a closer look here, if you want.

My hope was to uncover some of my intentions with the small poem, to surface some of my moves. I would not call this poem anything extraordinary or special or even one of my best poems this month, but there are elements of personal story and intentional rhyming, as well as regrets about the ending, that made this poem worth a second look. For me, anyway.

Read more about what we’re up to this month with CLMOOC’s Poetry Port.

Peace (dig in),

Grappling with Algorithms and Justice (Oh, the Humanity)

Last night was the second online session of an inquiry group project called The Grapple Series – hosted by the National Writing Project, Western Pennsylvania Writing Project and the CMU CREATE Lab — that is looking at the impact of AI and technology on our lives. The theme last night was algorithms and justice, a pairing that made for interesting conversations about how blind trust in both often lead to disastrous consequences.

We explored some interesting reading and video pieces before gathering in our online session. The articles explored the issue from multiple angles, but the overall connecting concepts are clear: algorithms are created people, and people have bias, and so algorithms have bias, too, and when algorithms are embedded with bias, it impacts our notions of justice in the world.

Sometimes, this is literal — as in the case of computer software being used to designate length of parole. Sometimes, it is more nuanced — the way search engines bring racial stereotypes to the surface. Sometimes it is not yet known — the way facial recognition is changing our sense of privacy in the public sphere.

The Grapple gathering began with a large discussion and writing about justice and algorithms, and then broke into smaller groups, where we engaged in deeper debate about the role of algorithms on society.

We also teamed up to create our own paper “algorithm” for fighting off the common cold, and while our group went a sort of silly route (Should a teacher call in sick or not?), the short flowchart activity reminded us how often we can fall into Yes/No binary decisions that can leave the humanity aspect out. Another small group did integrate ideas of humanity into their algorithm, and I found that quite interesting.

I appreciate being able to work through and “grapple” with these complex questions rippling through society. There is no real solution — the algorithmic genie is long gone from its bottle. But we can be aware, and make some decisions about how what information we share and how we are being manipulated by technology.

Here are resources shared before our session, if you are interested:

Peace (ain’t no code for that),

CLMOOC: Gifting Poems to Friends

Greg Poem LinesI spent some time yesterday, writing poems for friends. They were unexpected, I should think — for me, who wrote them on a spur of moment as part of our work this month via CLMOOC, and for my friends, who were probably surprised by the poems. (Learn more about what we’re up to and how you can submit words and get a free poem in return)

First, above, is a small poem that is less me than Greg. I grabbed a few lines from a poem that Greg had posted yesterday on the daily theme of “simplicity,” and the only thing I added was a comma, after moments. In doing so, though, his lines became its own separate poem, a sort of koan.

Second, this poem is for Ron, whose work as an artist is always interesting to me. He makes picture books and does daily artwork and sketches, and is always up for another connected adventure.

CLMOOC Poem for Ron

Ron and I know each other through CLMOOC and DS106 and other adventures. His poem began in digital format, but then I wanted a more static version, too.

Finally, this poem is for Raymond.

Poem for Raymond CLMOOC

Our paths crossed years ago in CLMOOC, and I bought his small book of poems, a book that inspired the poem. We still interact now and then, and although I think our political views are quite different, I enjoy understanding Raymond’s perspective and reading his poetry.

Peace (gift it forward),

CLMOOC: Poems from the Days Before

Each morning in February, I have been turning to the above calendar of prompts for poetry as part of a month-long CLMOOC connected writing project. (See more about what we’re up to here, and add a few words to a Poem Request form and get yourself a poem.)

Not every day’s poem is a keeper, although I do have a site where I write the poems every morning, and I post them over at Mastodon and on Twitter, this month. Here are five recent poems that I think are worth a second look.

Theme: Negotiate

A writer
always negotiates
the correct word
the right phrase
the perfect order
of story, set into motion,
though such terms
never fully placates
the mind, which demands
devotion to craft,
an unending ocean
of revision and draft

Theme: Kindness

it is a bit like
flying blind;
this being kind

Theme: Love

For, despite
the commercial
value of such an
designated day
of purchase power,
remember, too,

love becomes us

Long after
the shelves clear,
we’ll still be
holding hands
and whispering
secrets together

Theme: Friendship

The bracelet snaps
my attention; she points
and explains that she’s
the purple, and her companion,
the pink, the two of them
twined forever on her wrist,
twisted forever together
with fingers, in friendship;
all while she’s reminding me
of this in her quiet voice,
as if I had forgotten, but
I had not

Theme:  Peace

Meet me where
the river releases
eddies, small clusters
of currents over
roots and rocks,
where we’ll race our
fingers over water
of mountain glacial melt
and time’s perpetual tears,
where we’ll glide our fingers
over the swirling surface,
until the tension becomes
calm; the circles, smooth;
the place where
we practice peace

I hope you find time to write some poems, too.

Peace (left all around us),

Slice of Life: A Story, Nearly Done

(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.)

Back in December, I was struck so hard and so suddenly by an idea for a short story that I remember I literally leaped out of bed, sat down at the keyboard and started writing it for an hour. The narrative just untangled its way out of me. I could see the whole story clearly — the premise, the characters, the flow of it.

It was right around the same time that I saw a notice in our local newspaper that it was relaunching a popular Short Story Contest again after pulling the plug on it a number of years ago. I once got an honorable mention in that short story contest, which gave me about three seconds of fame among my friends in this literary city where I live.

The story that sparked me in December, I decided, is one I will submit to the contest, with the deadline looming in the coming days. Since that initial burst, I have been weaving my way back into the text, making revisions and tightening the story, expanding the characters. I’ve shared multiple drafts in a writing community that I am part of (called Yap.Net, which is a free but closed online space for writers and media makers sharing draft work), and have been helped in many ways by insightful readers in there.

Last night, I left the story for my wife to read. She’s a writer and teacher, too. She was asleep when I got home from band practice last night, but I see some of her notes in purple ink on the print-out of the story, including a helpful insight that I had missed about flowers and seasons and number of petals.

It’s interesting to be close to the end of a story, to know that soon, I need to call this revision cycle quits and be satisfied. To be honest, this revision process on this piece has been longer than I normally would have done for any of my writing, which I so often do in quick bursts. I’m proud of this story, even if it’s not a winner, and thankful for those who have helped make it better in the last few months.

Peace (writing it),

DigiDetox Comics 7: Inside the Algorithm Factory

Inside the AI FactoryKevin’s Note: I signed up for a month-long Digital Detox project out of Middlebury College and enjoyed the email updates throughout January that got us thinking about our digital lives, and offered small steps and actions to take. I made comics about the concepts as a way to read deeper and think a little more critically about the ways digital devices and platforms are part of our lives.

Peace (pushing back),

Braiding a Poem by Breaking It Apart

Poem Braid fo Greg

I saw a post from my CLMOOC friend, Greg, about the writing of a poem for our month of writing poems. The poem is called Inertia of Art (Create) and in his reflection at his blog, he talks about his process of writing poetry — which is very different from mine. His process involves a lot of internal wrestling and frustration. Mine, just sort of flows. I can’t explain or understand it, most of the time. Often, I don’t even know what I have until I’m done (and it may be that what I have when I am done is badly-written poem).

As I was reading Greg’s reflection, and then his poem (somehow, I did this in revere), some of his phrases began to jump out at me, and I began a new poem – braided with the threads of his, so that his lines — now removed and isolated from his writing — began to inform my own new poem, braided within his. See the image above for how it turned out.

This morning, I thought about Greg’s regular recording of him, reading his poems in his voice, which he does for both accessibility of text and to connect with the poet’s voice. I decided that the poetic braid needed another dimension — audio  — his voice and mine, reading this new poem together.

I had to go deep into the Source Code of Greg’s blog to find his embedded audio file. I then downloaded it and spliced his words apart in Soundtrap (but any audio editor would have sufficed), then recorded my lines, in-between his. The result is a two-speaker poem, braided together.

Peace (in poems and partnerships),