Disruption IS

Disruption is as Disruption does…it is unexpected, challenging to the past and not expected by most.  This semester was a disruption of sorts for me.  I walked in feeling like I would be in my comfort zone.  My undergraduate thesis was on 2.0 technologies and how they effect and are effected by culture, so I arrived thinking I already had it all in the bag.  But then my world was rutenbecked.   Some of the authors were familiar but I was unfamiliar with some of their more seminal works.  Some authors had not hit my radar and they completely transformed my understanding of emergence, technology and the world at large.

Needless to say I was effected deeply by the readings and grateful for a syllabus that I will revisit; but what made the experience truly enriching was reading my colleague’s blogs.  It was interesting to see how many different perspectives and stories could be generated by each bought of readings, fascinating to see who focused on what and what was left out of the discussion.  It was also great to watch our blogs transform from formal essays to earnest discussions that got more casual and fun as the semester progressed.

But what was probably the best part of this class was the group discussions.  I really enjoyed bring the conversation to the 3D world where we got build off of each others thoughts and share our perspective in different ways.  The subject matter was challenging: Stream of Flows? Media Ecology? Heidegger? Ong? I began to see my perspective shift as it was enriched by all of these big thinkers and our subsequently deep discussions.

What was truly disruptive for me though was not so much what happened in the class but what happened outside of it.  The Arab Spring had already inspired me both as a global citizen and as student of emergent media.  But when it started to happen here in America with the OWS movement I became totally immersed in how emergent media was making a revolution possible.  All of our readings seemed that much more relevant.  Watching the old guard of technology and politics try to hold down the new with restrictive copyright laws and the erosion of our civil rights only proves to me that we are at the beginning of a dramatic, disruptive, cultural shift.

After taking this course I feel stronger as a student of media and culture.  And I feel stronger as an agent of change, more convinced than ever that I have tools at my hand to help bring about a new era.

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manifest the rest of me

I didn’t realize how much I liked manifestos until I started reading/writing them.   I think like other revolutionary words, like feminism and activist, manifesto tends to get a bad rap in our contemporary society.  I’ve never shied away from the other two words and during this semester I completely embraced the third.  A manifesto is empowering.  It is not a list of complaints it is a list of demands and when done right, accompanied by solutions.  We need more manifestos in this country.   And we need more readers of manifestos.

I was fortunate to work with great teammates for this project.  Greg, Cora and I were all on the same page when it came to our thoughts about freedom.  One thing we really enjoyed unpacking was how interconnected all the various topics and assertions had become.  It was hard to pick them apart and isolate them.  And it was hard to separate the ‘now’ from the ‘what could be’ while writing.

Right before our group presentation Greg and I were downstairs getting some coffee.  He turned to me and said, “Geesh, I didn’t realize what a revolutionary I was!”  That is the power of the manifesto; it gives you the freedom to say what you truly think, the power to tell it like you want it, the power to manifest your own inner truth.

I look forward to taking this manifesto further.  I think I have few of them in me.

If you’d like to see our slide presentation it is here:  FreedomManifesto


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the wisdom of the holodeck

It is always interesting to mash up and remix the bits and bytes around us.  The captured response to our last two books in Emergent Landscapes is both a collaborative effort and mash-up review of both books.  How’s that for an emergent media book review?

Being a big nerd girl, I really enjoyed reading Hamlet on the Holodeck by Janet Murray.  It starts out on the Star Trek holodeck, drop’s references to Adous Huxley and Ray Bradbury’s “feelies” and explores storytelling in the digital/cyber realm.

Can digital mediums provide human narratives? Murray argues yes, attesting that the bards of the future will have more tools than ever to weave stories of the human condition.  Furthermore, the digital narrative is an interactive narrative, one in with the author and their readers can interact and inform each other.  A seminal book, Hamlet on the Holodeck was written in 1998 and already feels dated.  Murray must be pleasantly surprised to know that her future-casting has already started to come into fruition.

And then of course the 2.0 Classic Wisdom of the Crowds by James Surowieki.  Through a series of colorful examples and stories Surowieki reveals that under the right circumstances, information can be aggregated by tapping into well, the wisdom of the crowds.  He points out that when circumstances are right crowds can be more intelligent than even the smartest among them.

This “disorganized decision making” has three main components:

  • coordination
  • cognition
  • cooperation

Cora, Robin and I decided to each explore one of those through a collaborative video project (above).  Here is another example of digital storytelling that would make Murray (hopefully) proud.  In this example we read a book, conducted online research, watching videos of lectures and reading articles about him after it was written) and then we decided to work together to make a piece that explores disorganized decision making.  We used found footage to weave together a stream of conscious triptych laying them over Philip Glass’ 100,000 people.  The results capture our response to both books.   And here, on the digital reading rainbow, “That’s One To Grow On.”

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There is no net in The Talent Cloud.

Adam Rubin came to our class with a big smile and a lot exuberance.  He apologized for being a little late telling us that “he had just finished blowing up a school in St. Albans.”  Eyes momentarily left the magnetic gaze of  laptops, “Did he just say he blew up a school?”

And while he was speaking metaphorically our school systems are so antiquated (designed to produce citizens of the Industrial Age rather than those living and working in a Networked Society) that if we could afford to,  it would be easier to blow them up and start over again.  Adam’s company 2Revoluitons would like to do away with our traditional model of education in America.  Rather than focusing on schools he proposes that we focus on how we learn as we travel through our “Human Capital Continuum” which focuses on the learning that we do form birth to age 26.

Can we restructure the way America learns?  Adam and his team at 2Rev think so.  They are hoping to connect all the educators from pre school to college and get the planning together to restructure the way we learn.  And like Rich Nadworny he also has a pool of talent that he draws from.  “The Talent Cloud” (his trademarked term) is an interdisciplinary group of freelancers that 2Rev calls upon to “do what you love for good.”  Both what he does and how he does it are proof that more and more we are living in a networked society.  But I’m not so certain America is ready for this kind of employment.  Having owned my own business in the past I can tell you that being a free agent isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.  You have to buy your own health insurance. You must pay all your taxes (which means you better get an accountant).  There is no unemployment, there is no net of any kind.  What if someone gets sick or has a baby and can’t juggle there various employment clouds?
While I think it is smart for men like Rich and Adam to run their businesses this way, it is a privileged structure.  It assumes that the rest of the country will catch up and organize this way.  That people will make enough to support themselves and that we will all have access to insurance and safety nets. Certainly our country is a long way off from universal health care, socio-ecoomic equality, we’re probably not even going to see the Social Security we’ve all been paying into.  Is it fair as a business owner to run a company that is actually an assembly of freelancers which the company bares no responsibility for?  I can’t help but feel like we need to “blow up workers rights” and make adjustments for a networked society so employees have rights no matter what capacity they are employed.  Otherwise we will all be working without a net and will be vulnerable to the “Job-Creators”
Our country is in shambles and our rights are vicariously perched on the precipice of a brave new world.  We have to figure out what education and employment are going to look like the near future.  Hopefully the innovation that 2Revs puts towards changing the educational landscape will also transform what it means to work.  If Adam’s enthusiasm for change is any indication than I will look forward to living and working in The Cloud.  But as we transform our American landscape we need to be mindful that there needs to be a net of some kind. Each one of us can at any moment fall prey to vulnerable circumstances.  Whether this will be woven into the market place or maintained by the government is anyone’s guess at the moment.

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Noteworthy Nadworny

It was a great opportunity to meet one of Burlington’s leading business innovators, Rich Nadworny, Owner and Digital Strategist at Digalicious.  A couple of themes are beginning to pop up during the Emergent Landscapes Speaker Series: many of the speakers have made recent shifts in their lives.  They’ve either shifted how they do business, moving from non-profit to for-profit endeavors; or, they’ve shifted how business is done (i.e. not hiring employees instead using free lancers or “Talent Clouds.”) Nadworny seems to have made a career shifting how business is done, not just for himself but perhaps for the rest of us too.

Digalicious business strategy exemplifies how business is being done in a networked society.  They “build marketing strategies for the digital space.”  Rich works with talent from all of the world making web his office.  This way he can pick just the right team for any given project.  This kind of hiring flexibility gives him an advantage over brick and mortar firms that must maintain one workforce.

Rich is an inspiring fellow.  He’s been working with interactive media for over 16 years.  You can tell he’s gone through life as a lynch pin, always leaning forward to see how he can participate and engage with others.  Some of the advice that he gave our class includes:
Ask yourself “What value can I provide?  What difference can I make?
Reinvent something that already exist.
Don’t start too big
Keep asking questions rather than having the right answers.
Ass kissing and being soft is not strategy. (my personal favorite)
And above all…have empathy for others.

He told us that one of the best ways to expand one’s network and learn new things is by attending conferences outside of one’s own field.  He mentioned a conference in which he was inspired by an organization called Design For America.  He was so inspired by all the heard work and innovative design that these college students were employing to combat social justice issues that he managed to inspire us too.  Now our class is working on an application to bring a DFA design studio to Champlain.  He brought added value to our series by bringing us this opportunity and we all look forward to brining yet another avenue for innovative design to our school.  I would say the evening was a complete success!

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You know what I’m going to talk about but you’re going to read it anyway.

It must be eery to be Michael Castells, watching the world unfold just as he predicted.  And  @Jeff, it must have been excruciating sitting on these readings while we discussed OWS.

The entire time I was reading Communication: Power and Counter-Power in the Networked Society I was completely impressed with how perceptive Castells’ theory of the workings of conter-power is shaped by mass self-communication.   Castells totally pulls a  Heideger when he suggests   “the technology of self-communication is also the product of our culture.”  Our culture, which “emphasizes individual autonomy”  has created a social construction in which we can all express our opinions as individuals.  He explains that “the more an individual has a project of autonomy (personal, professional, socio-political, communicative), the more she uses the Internet. And in a time sequence, the more he/she uses the Internet, the more autonomous she becomes vis-à-vis societal rules and institutions.” By which I would like to believe he means: The more of our cognitive surplus that we use doing the projects that we care about the less persuaded we become by societal rules and institutions until we become Anarchist.

(sorry, that just felt really good to write and y’all know how much time I spend on the internet working on My projects of autonomy)

In all seriousness though I think Castells’ conclusion:

“ social movements escaped their confinement in the fragmented space of places and seized the global space of flows, while not virtualizing themselves to death, keeping their local experience and the landing sites of their struggle as the material foundation of their ultimate goal: the restoration of meaning in the new space/time of our existence, made of both flows, places and their interaction. That is building networks of meaning in opposition to networks of instrumentality.”

illustrates, with frightening accuracy, the OWS movement which are now taking place all over the world.  As it began online idea of an uprising was spread by the “content creators” of the “digital melting pot”  and was able to spread largely due to mass self-communication tools.  An interesting twist on Schradie’s point in The Digital Production Gap is that while the movement was not spread by a full democratic spectrum as she suggests (and the movement was originally criticized for not being inclusive) it found a way to build bridges of communication (i.e. Mike Checks, General Assemblies, and the use of Wiki’s to present information which are shared on the streets as well as online) which strive to create a democratic structure.  And just as Castells predicted we’re seeing policing of this communication space in regards to this movement as well.  Yahoo suppressing emails who’s subjects were tagged “occupy wall st”  Twitter not trending any of the hashtags relating to OWS in America and misinformation being spread by saboteurs etc.  And now that the movement has been going on for over a month we are seeing a wide variety of contributors from all education levels and walks of life participating in a melting pot of decent both online and off becoming more autonomous as we become vis-à-vis to societal rules and institutions that have kept us from our struggle to free our collective minds.

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Michael Jager: a total inspiration!

We were all inspired by our last presenter in the Emergent Landscape Series: Michael Jager CEO of JDK Design Studio.  He started out approximating how many weekends he had left in his life and urged us all to live ours out with artistic urgency.  His speech was sprinkled with design tips like “don’t just sprinkle hip shit on top of ideas” and “human connection – no matter what you do, it’s what is at the heart of it.”  He generously shared stories that helped make his design firm successful and urged us all to just get in there and do it.

We (Cora & Rachel) were so inspired we decided to take his creativity project, hand jobs (quick sketches dashed out by hand) and utilize it in our captured response.  A stream of conscious brainstorming session led us to the theme of the lesser know stories of Little Red Ridding Hood. Did you know in one version of the tail, the Wolf makes Little Red eat her own grandmother?  These hidden stories provided just the tension that Jager suggested made good starting points.  He had also mentioned William Burroughs Cut Ups a technique by which written pieces are cut up and rearranged to reveal new works.  We combined all of these to create our own mixed medium mash up, making a new visual interpretation of Little Red Riding Hood.

The goal of the project is to “connect in an interesting way” (MJ) through continual collaboration.  We have passed these images back and forth and worked on each other’s pieces many times over.  We started with sketches and collage, scanning them in and working them into digital pieces, we passed each other images, which we transformed, printed out, altered, rescanned and passed back.  As Jager suggested, we did so with a level of urgency, without worrying about what the finished project should look like.  What we are sending out for this project is just the beginning.  We want these images to be reworked and reworked and add new images into the mix to see how far we can take them.  We don’t know what will come of this and that is the point.  We are making art just for the sake of doing so because, curiously enough, we don’t get the opportunity to do enough of that in our MFA program.

Michel Jager disrupted us in the most substantive way. He reminded us to be more punk rock and DIY with our work.  He challenged us to find new interesting ways to connect and to tell interesting stories.  This project is the result of that inspiration.  We look forward to seeing where it goes, but we really don’t care where it ends up.  We think Jager would be dig it.

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