Poems with Bud: An Image Inspiration for Every Day Writing


Pencil Sculpture flickr photo by listingslab shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

I hope you have places to write poems. For me, this month, it has been over at Bud Hunt’s blog. Years ago, he and I used to riff off images he left there, pictures to inspire poems.  He’s doing it again this year, and even as it seems as if he and I are the only ones writing at his site some mornings, still I write. He does, too. The image above was what greeted me this morning. Neat, right?

Bud and I know each other from our work in the National Writing Project. Thank you, Bud.

Here are the poems I have been writing so far this April, as a way to curate the first half of Poetry Month. You’ll have to follow links to his blog to see the images that inspired the poems, and then, as long as you there, you might as well write, too, right?

.. even I don’t remember
where I put
those letters, those poems
from November,
when the snow did linger
and my frozen fingers
refused to write;
words now lost
forever.

— via http://budtheteacher.com/blog/2018/04/16/npm2018-prompt-16/

 

–You told me
you sent me
a message on
the wires —
a telegraphed
story that tells me
you’re tired —
but all I can see here
is the moon
on an angle,
a light in the night
as the evening
expires.

via http://budtheteacher.com/blog/2018/04/15/npm2018-prompt-15/

 

Some words,
just disappear:
whispers of cloud
designed to become
invisible after reading;
each writer, needing
only a single lover
as audience, and
blue sky beckoning.

via http://budtheteacher.com/blog/2018/04/14/npm2018-prompt-14/

 

Blink,
and you’ll miss
it;
the bug on
the brain like
the words on the
tongue of that poem
I began when
I was writing a song
about you.

via http://budtheteacher.com/blog/2018/04/12/npm2018-prompt-13/

 

When the everything
around us descends
into a strange, feverish dream,
the best we can do is take cover,
drink liquids,
and wait it out,
for the world
to break.

via http://budtheteacher.com/blog/2018/04/12/npm2018-prompt-12/

 

Each second
I forget
to love you
is an eternity
of time that can’t be
returned.
Still,
I try.

via http://budtheteacher.com/blog/2018/04/11/npm2018-prompt-11/

 

… later, when we
returned, you
put your fingers
on the spaces
where my toes
would go, and
traced the movement
of my feet
in the sand,
and when I gave you
that look, the one I give,
you shook your head
and told me:
I would never understand.

via http://budtheteacher.com/blog/2018/04/10/npm2018-prompt-10/

 

The writer’s morning
begins
not with food
but with words,
stories on the grill
and poems, poured out
on the plate.
We drink from experience,
nourished
with the knowledge
that our next piece of text —
elusive as anything , yet
lingering on the tip
of the tongue —
may be in the batter,
on the grill,
about to get flipped
onto our plate.

via http://budtheteacher.com/blog/2018/04/09/npm2018-prompt-9/

 

I hid my camera
from your eyes,
from your stare
from the glare you gave me
when I took the shot,
from the way you made me
hesitate, I’m not sure now
how it is you made me feel
as if this public space
were no longer mine,
but only yours,
and yours alone.
I took the shot,
and walked away
but your eyes, your eyes,
your piercing angry eyes,
they still settle down
into my bones.

via http://budtheteacher.com/blog/2018/04/08/npm2018-prompt-8/

 

You wonder
how it is
that the world
has to be seen
on an incline,
how you have
to bend your head
to bend your eyes
and quint to find
the reality of any
given moment.
Down here,
it’s all perspective
and nothing looks
quite the same.

via http://budtheteacher.com/blog/2018/04/07/npm2018-prompt-7/

 

No one had to tell you
the world’s a stage;
you just knew.

We watched you move
from stagehand to actress,
all guised up in the cloak
of another.

I pulled the strings
to open the curtains
and claimed my seat
in the very front row

Eyes on the surprise
that someone from me
could become
someone like you

and then, there was
the applause,
my hands still ringing
with wonder.

via http://budtheteacher.com/blog/2018/04/06/npm2018-prompt-6/

 

You are the side
that sticks
with me, all day
long. You unwrap
me from my emotions,
yanking me from
some deep sleep
wandering, and remind me
to stay put, right here,
until my weathered edges
disintegrate.

via http://budtheteacher.com/blog/2018/04/05/npm2018-prompt-5/

 

On this side
of the lens,
the world
remains golden,
a hue of
other days,
fading away.
Nostalgia tumbles
from the sky,
the truck’s plow
clearing a path
for today.
We live
in metaphor.

via http://budtheteacher.com/blog/2018/04/04/npm2018-prompt-4/

 

I’m waiting
for the poem to
arrive; Godot is
late again.

Out here
in the open,
I just can’t hide,
I’m waiting
in the rain

via http://budtheteacher.com/blog/2018/04/03/npm-2018-prompt-3/

 

Someone
hid the button
on me,
words disguised
as instructions.
No, I won’t
hit to play —
not tomorrow
not today.

via http://budtheteacher.com/blog/2018/04/02/npm2018-prompt-2/

 

I’m so tired
of frayed
wires .. static
clinging to
my ears.
Can’t you
hear?

via http://budtheteacher.com/blog/2018/04/01/npm-2018-prompt-1/

 

So, that’s half a month (or more) of poems, every day. Thanks for reading. I hope you write poetry this month and beyond.

Peace (beyond stanzas),
Kevin

A Whale’s Lantern: The Oral History of a Musical Collaboration (part two)

This is the second of two parts of a post about an online musical collaboration project known as A Whale’s Lantern that has been taking place on the Mastodon social networking space (part one is here). Musicians are randomly paired up, and asked to create and record original music and songs. Those songs are then pulled together for an album on Bandcamp.

This oral history project took place in a shared document after the first iteration was completed. A second round, with many more musicians, is now underway, with a new album scheduled to be out before the end of April.

Yesterday, the reflections centered on participants first reactions to the call for collaborations and how they made and nurtured connections with their collaborators. Today, we focus more on the making of music, with both the challenges of online connections (where musicians are not in the same physical space) and the possibilities of this kind of creativity.

You can listen to the first album at Bandcamp. Buying a track will support the artists and the federated and open Mastodon network.

Collaborations

Veronica: I linked my old demos to Robert and he liked them, so it was kinda naturally decided to work on one of them.

Matheus: I am usually compose alone, so yeah, I was very afraid of making mistakes and letting my partner down.

Wendy: I had direction of ‘animals from another planet’. C minor and dark. The first track I produced was sounds from my clarinet rather than a song.

Laura: Kevin had the kernel of the song, but it changed and I heard more than he put in that first outline. I wasn’t sure how he would react to having all new lines in the chorus and bridge sections.

Robert: As soon as the stems arrived  … I was with the art.

Laura: What you write can be deeply personal, and collaborating, especially at a distance, requires trust. I am glad Kevin trusted me to sing. That meant more than he could know.

Matheus: I believe I was the youngest of all of the musicians who were involved in the project, so I was worried I would not be able to reach their level of knowledge or skill.

Veronica: For this particular album, it is fair to say that mainly he (Robert) did all the work, giving a slightly different shape to a song that I simply wrote some time ago.

Mascha (collaborating with Matheus): After exchanging a few emails, I sent him a chord progression and some other guitar recordings with effects on them and then, over the course of the project, we both added tracks and parts etc.

Matheus: I let Mascha come up with some of her ideas before I suggested anything. I think that was a wise decision since the first melodies she released were very original and shaped pretty much everything I came up with later on.

Robert: Veronica’s song that most resonated with me was Blueness. My priority was blending supplemental instrumentation in with the initial folk feel of Veronica’s vocals and melodies, to reflect and expand in the mood.

Mascha (with Matheus): We really started from nothing and co-composed the entire song via email and whatsapp, which was a very interesting experience.

Laura: Timing wasn’t really a problem at all. I think for Kevin, not knowing exactly what I’d do with the guitar foundation, it was the waiting, until I returned the next stage of the song.

Mascha (collaborating with Michael):  Michael sent me a few of his song sketches and I chose one to work with. The acoustic guitar part in the song is still from that first sketch. The idea for the lyrics evolved from me reading a  Wikipedia article on the distant future of the universe.

Michael: Mascha had some lines she invited me to add to. I tried to keep as close to the original as possible, but also try to help it to fit the melody and rhythmic pattern of the song that was developing.

Considerations

Kevin: Every interaction we had was positive, and constructive, and I never felt as if her musicianship overpowered my ideas for the song.

Mascha: Working with Matheus was very pleasant. He’s really good at giving feedback and evolving ideas.

Matheus: Even though she (Mascha) was very busy, she took the time to answer to all my looong e-mails and messages, giving all the feedback I needed. She deserves a medal for having that much patience with me.

Veronica: Robert tried very hard to keep my vision of the song.

Robert: The easiest part was enjoying the process! Veronica’s capturing of moods is refreshing!

Mascha: Since we (Michael and Mascha) started from a lyric-less song that he had already written, the “come up with a song”-part of the collaboration was quite quick.

Michael: Early on, I decided that finishing the song was way more important than pushing any  particular vision of how I thought it should be. I would suggest ideas if asked, but was willing to let Mascha decide what and how she wanted to contribute, and I would make sure keep from complicating the effort .   

Mascha: I think Michael and I have quite different communication styles, so that was a bit difficult to navigate – I’m very happy that we were able to sort things out, though.

Wendy: The easiest part was jumping in and my two collaborators said, ‘sure.’

Veronica: It’s easy to get lost in the communication via text. At one point, I was realising the difficulty of remote collaboration and thinking: “Hell, that would’ve been way easier to explain in person. …Maybe.”

Wendy: The difficulty was the invisibility of my collaborators and the work of others. I had no sense of what other people were working on. Hugh took my first track and did an amazing remix.

Kevin: Articulating what we were hearing in the mixes — in different headphones and speakers, many miles away, in email conversations — is challenging. I think we were open enough and support enough of each other that it all worked out fine.

Laura: The tables would have been turned 180 degrees if I was the one who had written the underlying chords/skeleton. Then I would have felt the pangs of time and distance.

Matheus: Another thing is that I’ve never recorded anything before, so my tempo was off way too often. The last straw was the Udu (which is the main percussive instrument on the song). The problem with the Udu was that, well, I’m not a percussionist, which means I have focus really hard in order to keep the beat flowing.

Robert: The accents on Veronica’s notes are different in nuance than what people often do in my city, and it was refreshing playing the bass line to be tripped up by “wait, this part at the root feels different than what I initially heard it as,” and then staying true to the space and time of the source music.

Michael: If we had developed the foundation melody jointly, I think there would have been a musical communication that developed through the process of  improvisation and negotiation. Since we began from something I already “completed”, the communication and negotiation of a shared vision had to happen in responding to how the other person had changed the song in ways that we didn’t expect, or didn’t match what we thought was “right”.

Matheus:  It was really nice to see the song developing and in the end it became something that wouldn’t be possible if I had tried making it alone. It was a really eye-opening experience and I felt great through the whole process. I would like to thank Mascha for bringing us together and for being such a great partner. I hope to be a part of the next edition of this project! And bravo to all the other artists, who did a wonderful job with each of their songs!

Thanks for reading and for listening. Now, go make some music! Keep an eye out for the second round of songs for A Whale’s Lantern in a few weeks.

Peace (singing it),
Kevin

A Whale’s Lantern: The Oral History of a Musical Collaboration (part one)

 

How best to harness a federated networked space like Mastodon for creativity? Many of us are still figuring out what it means to have our toes in an emerging platform spread out across many “instances” and homes. A Whale’s Lantern, a collaborative music-making venture that unfolded over the final months of 2017, emerged, as so many interesting ideas do, from inquisitive inquiry and open invitation.

What would happen if relative strangers in an openly networked space made music together, virtually and collaboratively, and then published the album togetheron Bandcamp?

Mascha put out that call on Mastodon in late September 2017, and the collective writers of this article responded. A few others were also involved in the early days of collaboration, but for a variety of reasons, including life itself, made deadlines difficult for some collaborators. So eight potential pairings, aiming for eight songs, ended up as four collaborations with four songs (with hopes that those who could not collaborate for this venture might join in future projects).

We are now nearing the end of the second iteration, with a new album due sometime this spring. I’ve been teamed up with an amazing musician and producer, Luka, who is finishing up our track, which he created music for and I wrote lyrics for, and did the main singing on. He may be adding other cool flourishes as well. I get a listen every now and then, and it’s so neat to hear how he is building our song.

This particular oral history, documented through a shared file (and slightly edited for length) of A Whale’s Lantern is an aim to celebrate how it all first came together in the initial gathering, and how it might be a model for other creative collaborations in the federated Mastodon network. You might even call it a jam session of reflections and memory.

In this first part, we share ideas about Invitations and Connections. Tomorrow, in part two, we share ideas about Collaboration and Considerations. Embedded songs are connected to the participants who wrote/performed on them.

Invitations

Mascha Bartsch:  I posted the toot, so I was just very excited to see whether anyone would actually sign up.

Kevin Hodgson: I’ve done plenty of collaboration projects, including music, but those always stemmed from projects where I mostly knew and interacted regularly with participants. Here, I figured it would be relative strangers, and I felt a little uneasy but excited.

Veronica: The first time I saw it in September, I thought: “Cool idea! But I’m kinda away from the music right now.” Then I thought: “Hey! I can do that! I’m not particularly skilled but I can do that!”.

Robert Vavra: I saw the potential to contribute … Naturally, I jumped at the opportunity.

Michael Silverstone: I didn’t actually see it, but I heard about it from Kevin.

Wendy Taleo: I didn’t see Mascha first toot. I saw Hugh’s toot that had #musiccollab in it. I checked out that thread and saw Kevin and Laura there who I knew from my open study over the last couple of years.

Matheus Violante: Well, I was new to Mastodon and I am still very inexperienced when it comes to music, so I was like “You know what? It’s time to try something new!”.

Laura Ritchie: I thought: yes, this (Mastodon) is a nice place to be, and why not?

Matheus: I saw the post as an opportunity to integrate with the community and learn how to compose a song with a partner.

Michael:  I’m always delighted to see what happens when working with other motivated people who can do things that complement or go beyond what I can do, so naturally, I was excited to be part of a project like this.

Connections

Mascha: I think that it’s important to be aware that collaboration does not always work and that you might be paired up with someone you don’t click with or someone who is unresponsive … I had a pretty relaxed attitude towards the entire project (and my collaborations).

Kevin: I knew that Laura as an amazing musician. So I felt sort of intimidated. Not by her personally. She’s not like that. But by her chops. She’s in another league. So my worry was that I would not be able to contribute in the ways she could contribute.

Laura: I knew Kevin, but we have never met.

Wendy: No concerns really, it would either work out or not. When I looked at Hugh and Lukas profiles it was a bit daunting….they did this for a living.

Mascha: If it works out, great, if it doesn’t, not much would have been lost (except a little bit of my time, but that’s a bearable risk).

Michael: I thought it would be easy to generate ideas and hold a musical conversation. That part proved true.

Veronica: I filled the form and got terrified instantly: “I’ll be paired with a REAL musician and I might let them down.” But I submitted the form anyway and I’m really glad I did.

Robert: My only concern was finding out how to fulfill an artist’s vision that I’ve never met and hadn’t felt the mood of in person!

Stay tuned tomorrow for Part Two of the Oral History of A Whale’s Lantern project.

Peace (singing it),
Kevin

At Middleweb: Mistakes Were Made


Broken Glass flickr photo by spi516 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

Hmm. I guess I never posted this. Another mistake.

I had wanted to share this column I wrote for Middleweb a few weeks back, about reflecting on where things have gone wrong in my classroom. This is a necessary ballast to stories I often share of where things go right in my classrooms. Reality is messier. Kids are unpredictable. And I don’t always know what to do.

Head to Middleweb to read Mistakes Were Made

Peace (fixing it, slowly),
Kevin

Trading Privacy for Profit When You’re the Product


Processing 06 flickr photo by crstnksslr shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

Funny. This post is NOT about Facebook. But it could have been …

We had a disagreement brewing in the kitchen the other day. My wife and I, and our three boys (the oldest, in college, and the youngest, in middle school). The whole family. The dog watched.

We were arguing about privacy, and technology, and the split between my wife and I (we both try to guard our privacy from apps and technology companies, and we both teach our students to do the same) and our sons (who shrug their shoulders, and accept that they give up their data to use technology) seemed striking to me.

At issue was MoviePass, a subscription service that allows you to pay a low price and access movies throughout the month at the theater (only 2D movies), one per day. It costs $6.95 a month (oops, now back to $9.95 a month), and we thought about getting it for our middle son for his 18th birthday. But as I looked deeper into the service, spending time digging into how the app and system works, I started to wonder how the company was pulling off such a thing — the price seemed to low for them to make any real money.

Too good to be true?

Yes, I think so.

A little research found that the MoviePass app sucks up data off your phone, about your location and other using habits, and uses that data to sell info about you, and makes money. Of course. Now, that makes sense. The moviegoer is the product. Sound familiar?

We told our son, no on MoviePass, which led to our heated discussion in the kitchen of parents vs. children, with our older son saying he bought and installed MoviePass and, and uses it regularly at college, and while he calls the gathering of data “kind of creepy,” he accepts that trade-off for movie access.

“Everyone is gathering all of our data, all the time, anyway,” was the response from the older boy, to which I nearly lost it, because while this is true (I’m looking at you, Facebook), it doesn’t mean we have to accept it. We can NOT use an app or technology. We CAN find alternatives, of different flavor maybe and perhaps not of the same range, but we can find alternatives.

Trading our personal information for convenience is a false bargain, I told my kids, when companies make us, our lives, our data, their “product” but even my kids seemed to have already tuned me out and accepted that this stance is a Lost Cause of the Modern Age. Perhaps this is another generational battle, with the old folks holding on by our fingernails to some sense of privacy.

I was listening to a piece on NPR with folks from the Pew Internet division, which does all sorts of interesting surveys, and the researcher noted that there is indeed a difference between older and younger users of technology. But not like we think. He noted that younger users do worry about privacy with technology but they are more apt to keep tabs on how their data is being used, and more apt to change privacy settings. They are also more apt to accept the devil’s bargain of data/privacy for access. Older folks complain and worry but do little other than not decide to not use the technology, or abandon it. They don’t monitor their activity as much as younger people, until something hits the headlines.

… younger people are much more active online, much more forgiving of some of the circumstances when their data are captured and used in some ways to deliver products and services to them. But they’re also more vigilant than their elders in monitoring. They watch what’s posted about them, they watch what pictures their name is tagged in, and they’re very concerned about the way that they present themselves online. So they curate their identity and their reputation very aggressively. — Lee Rainie, director of Internet and technology research at Pew Research Center

I don’t think this push against privacy intrusion for profit is all a lost cause, but it does feel like an uphill battle so much of the time and we can’t wait for Congress to take action (because we know how that story goes).

We did not get MoviePass, but instead, we paid what it would have cost us for a year into a gift card to the movie theater for our birthday boy.

“I’m just going to get MoviePass myself anyway,” the boy announced.

Sigh.

Peace (and protection),
Kevin

 

Slice of Life: Stories on the Wall

(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.)

Like many teachers, I try to display student work throughout the year, both as a way to get some of our stories read by classmates and to showcase some exemplary work. I often will take names off the work, for various reasons, and my closet door often becomes one of the classroom posting sites. Students line up near the closet at the end of class, so it becomes a prime viewing spot.

I had placed a bunch of stories written as part of a lesson around remixing stories from a different character perspective — we used Rikki Tikki Tavi as our core story — and it was a few days later that one of the writers was reading the stories during a lull when he gasped, and shouted out that he recognized his writing. (The stories were typed, so handwriting was not a visual give-away).

“Hey, that’s my story! I wrote that! That’s my story!”

His friends all came over to look and read with him. Then, they started to read and re-read the others.

Student Writing on Display

Peace (displayed, read, celebrated),
Kevin

 

Upon Reflection, Part Three: Creating a Virtual Gallery of Digital Art

Alchemy Lab unofficial object tally

As I write this, a week after launching the Alchemy Lab of Digital Objects, I am looking at stats for the immersive space. The space has been visited nearly 300 times and objects within the lab itself have been “clicks/viewed” nearly 700 times. Not everything worth writing about is data-driven, but at least, the numbers show us that people are giving the Lab a look, which is satisfying.

start here and go there

The other day, I posted the first of a series of reflections about digital storytelling and media creation. Yesterday, I posted about collaboration, participation and the platform technology. Today, I am reflecting on what might happen next with the Alchemy Lab after writing about the experience of making a vision become a reality (even if the reality didn’t quite reach the vision.) We had nearly 20 people, making nearly 50 digital media pieces in the Lab.

A side note: the building of the Lab is part of an open project within Networked Narratives, a course being taught in the US by Alan Levine and in Norway by Mia Zamora. This is the second iteration of NetNarr, and I am part of the “open wild” of Networked Narratives — which means I don’t have to do any homework I don’t wanna do, and I can ignore Mia and Alan whenever I want. It’s great!

First, tour the lab:

In this post, I want to think out loud about further possibilities.

When we constructed the Alchemy Lab project, we wanted a “doorway” in and a “doorway” out. This entailed a lot of conversation early on, about how such doorways might help the narrative flow of the project. Again, we struggled with a cohesive storytelling narrative. In the end, we created a website entry point and, if you click on the E on the ceiling of the Lab, you can find an exit point to another website.

Here, Wendy set up a checklist of objects, in hopes that a visitor might realize they might have missed something and gone back into the Lab. We also set up a MediaJumping Padlet site, inviting visitors to the Lab to remix or make their own art. We’re still hoping ..

Made with Padlet

 

Todd also shared a bunch of links and an invitation to keep creativity flowing, with links to DS106 and CLMOOC and more. The idea is that the Lab is merely a stepping stone, leading to other collaborations and creativity projects.

Some of the chatter behind the scenes once the Lab was released was about reaction of offline work colleagues to the shared Alchemy Lab, and that had me thinking about how I can best share this project with my sixth grade students.

What might 11 year old writers think of Mr. H’s crazy project? More than that, how could I have my students contribute to a similar project? Luckily, we have the originals of everything we used — from Susan’s artwork, to the ThingLink 360 account, to the signing up forms, to the Twine invite, and more — and all can be adapted.

I am thinking of trying to get my students into the Lab before we head off on April break next week … and reconstructing the lab during our unit on poetry. What about if they choose an object, write poems about it (and maybe create media), and then rebuilt the lab as a space where Every Object Is a Poem?

Maybe. Just maybe.

Peace (in the make),
Kevin

 

 

 

Upon Reflection, Part Two: Creating a Virtual Gallery of Digital Art

Meet Voltar

Yesterday, I posted the first of a few reflections on the collaboration and thinking, and making, that went into the building of the online NetNarr Alchemy Lab of Digital Objects. This post is the follow-up, with more reflections on things that seemed to work and things didn’t seem to work (as well as I would have liked). One more post tomorrow will look at potential next steps and following up with the Alchemy Lab experience.

Visit the NetNarr Alchemy Lab to see what has emerged.

Read the first post.

Platform

Where it worked: Early on, we had a vision of an immersive virtual lab that visitors could wander around in, like a museum. None of us had done much with immersive media, but it was Wendy who found and then suggested we try out the new ThingLink 360 platform. Many of us have used ThingLink before — it allows you to layer information and links and media on top of an image — so this seemed like a good fit. Mostly, it was. Susan created the artwork of the lab — I am still in awe of what she did and how quickly she did it — and Niall was able to stitch the images together into a useable 360 degree image that ThingLink accepted. The immersive lab means that you wander around the lab, as you zoom in and out, and it works on browsers, and on mobile devices, and with VR devices like Google Cardboard. Some of the embedded media works better than others.

Where it didn’t work (and what we did): One thing I noticed early on as I moved individual media projects into the Lab is that things got rather crowded with the layered icons from ThingLink. Also, some media objects I could upload directly, and they worked fine, and some I had to host elsewhere, and embed, and some I had to create a portal that moves the user from the Lab to the site outside the Lab, which was not ideal. We also find that some of the media that works fine in one platform (like a mobile device) doesn’t always work so great in another platform (like a browser). I’m not sure of a solution to this problem, so we sort of accepted it as a condition of our construction. On a technical side, for some reason, my Chrome browser won’t play ThingLink 360 (but I am certain is something on my end … perhaps my video card is too old). It works great in Firefox and on mobile.

Participants and Makers

Where it worked: This project began with a group of open participants in the NetNarr ecosystem, but soon spread to folks in the DS106 and CLMOOC communities, and beyond. We shared various invitations widely at the start, hoping to get more people involved. We really wanted a slew of students in the NetNarr classes to come in with us — to bridge the network of the narrative — and sent out personal invitations on Twitter to them. These are those who made art for the lab: Niall B, Todd C, Charlene D, Sheri E, Simon E, Roj F, Terry G, Kelli H, Kevin H, Sarah H, John J, Alan L, Keegan L, Algot R, Ron S, Wendy T, Clare T, Susan W and Lauren Z. That’s nearly 20 people involved in making digital art. Pretty nifty.

Where it didn’t work (and what we did): We didn’t get many NetNarr university students, which points to how busy they are in their learning lives at the university, or maybe some wariness of invitations from folks they only know through Twitter hashtags, or something else. It still seems like open NetNarr folks are on the outside, looking in, as opposed to being part of the fabric of NetNarr. I am not blaming Mia or Alan, because it makes me wonder how courses can tap into the open community more, and in meaningful ways.

Collaboration

Where it worked: This whole project could not have been done without a handful of folks behind the scenes: Wendy, Sarah, Todd, Susan, and others. We had an open Twitter DM Chatline going nearly constantly through six weeks or so, and we also did two different Google Hangouts (on the same day) because of time zone differences. I am in the US. Wendy is in Australia. Sarah is in Scotland. It all made the organization of things easier (so many of us) and difficult (communication unfolded over time zones). We self-assigned the work, I realize, with me building the Lab in ThingLink, and Wendy keeping the invitations and table of objects organized, and Sarah providing technical support (sometimes, with help of Niall) and as a sounding board. Todd gave us encouragement and ideas, and Susan gave her art and spirit.

Where it didn’t work (and what we did): There was no hurdle that we didn’t overcome. This may come from mostly knowing each other over the years through other collaborations, and it points to the value of developing creative relationships over time.

So, what now? Please enjoy the Alchemy Lab, and maybe add some art when you get to the Exit point (you can leave the lab by looking up at the ceiling). The collaboration and making of media doesn’t have to end with the Lab. Bring your alchemy out into the world! And who knows … another collaborative project is always right around the corner.

I’ll be writing one more post …

Peace (immerse yourself),
Kevin

Upon Reflection, Part One: Creating a Virtual Gallery of Digital Art

The Lab

Ideas and Inspirations

This all began when I had a crazy, inspired thought that I decided not to keep to myself (because how much fun would that be?): What if the (open and university) folks dabbling in Networked Narratives together created a collaborative piece of transmedia artwork together?

I had recently been thinking more about transmedia storytelling — about how to try to tell a story that unfolds across different digital media and mediums, each piece with the ability to stand alone and yet each piece also part of the larger story. A course I took via FutureLearn gave me some ideas, and I have tinkered with the concept before with the now-defunct Digital Writing Month.

I pitched the idea out to create an Alchemy Lab space filled with objects that could be used to inspire stories, and some of my friends — Wendy and Sarah and Todd and Susan and Niall, and others — bit. Phew. This did not seem like something one could go into alone, so I was quite happy to have partners. Ok. So, could we actually pull this off? We did, sort of, although not quite like the original vision. We centered on the term of “Mediajumping” in the early stages of our invitations to folks to collaborate.

The Lab

Visit the NetNarr Alchemy Lab to see what has emerged.

Some background: Networked Narratives is a university course being taught in the US by Alan Levine and in Norway by Mia Zamora, and the NetNarr course has an open participation element to it, which I am part of. This is the second iteration of Networked Narratives.

This post is part of a series of reflections on the last six to eight weeks of work behind the scenes as we wrangled a vision of collaborative digital art and storytelling into reality. It’s also an attempt to remember what we did, and workarounds we had to find, to make the Alchemy Lab exist.

Storytelling and Narrative

Where it worked: The original idea is that a virtual lab would become a source of a larger story — the Narrative of the Network — to be told by many people, with many different media. Originally, I wondered if we could “hand off” the story, in chapters, to the next participant in line. We have done this concept in CLMOOC with projects such as The Search for ChalkBoard Man and the DigiWriMo StoryJumpers project. Sometimes, it works. Sometimes, it doesn’t work because the common narrative threads get lost as the story moves. Sarah, in particular, really wanted something more logical, more story-centered. The use of the term “Mediajumping” in our early invititations allowed for an open invitation for folks to create with the tools they had available, and to follow their interests.

Where it didn’t work (and what we did): I don’t think we figured this out, for the “story” that emerged was more of the Lab as the anchor point for media. We decided to allow people to choose items from the lab and build media and stories around the items. The overarching narrative is that you have found a hidden lab. I pondered if we could leave clues, like easter eggs, in our media that would point a larger story. The scope and scale was too difficult to pull that off. In the end, we let it go as a media-oriented lab experience, and hoped that smaller pieces of stories might emerge. Some did. Some did not. Will someone take the smaller pieces and stitch together something larger? I don’t know.

Media Creation and Sharing

Where it worked: Susan’s artwork of the lab (which Niall stitched into a 360 image) was stunningly beautiful, and inspirational. We knew we would have to find a means to disperse the story and the objects, so we created an collaborative document with a table, and asked folks who had signed up (via a Google Form, via an interactive story invitation in Twine) to choose an object and create. I had hoped for a wide variety of media. There were 46 items made.

Where it didn’t work (and what we did): We have a lot of GIFs in the lab, and we celebrated whenever someone added something different — like a time-lapse video poem or an interactive website. If this were our full time jobs, we would no doubt have had more variety, and I am happy with what folks made and shared. I found myself penned in a bit from time to time with how to make media, and tell a story, all with a single object as inspiration. But our unofficial tagline of “every object tells a story” still seems inspirational. I think the idea of telling a story through small media pieces like gifs and images is something we grapple with.

I’ll share some more reflections tomorrow in a second post, in which I look at topics of platform, participants and collaboration.

Peace (reflected),
Kevin