This little video is my response to the Creative Task for Chapter 4 (“Inspirational Week”)
The proposition for the task was this:
Take a camera, be it you mobile phone, a webcam… Introduce yourself to the other StoryMOOCers, telling us who you are where you are from and most importantly: which works inspired your interest in storytelling most up to know. Pick out 1-3 works of art, literature, film, TV, game, a website or else and tell us what’s so special about it that you think it might help inspire somebody else anywhere on this planet.
Back in the late 80s and early 90s, there was a term called “The Computer Widow”. This referred to the wives who hardly ever saw their computer-obsessed husbands, except from the back.
It’s a morbid metaphor, but served a purpose: obsession with computer-based work or distractions took time away from relationships, leaving wives feeling bitter, abandoned and effectively “widowed”. (This also speaks to the predominantly male-oriented computer and web culture that has more and more opened up to gender equity as the years have passed.)
I’m sure there were Ham Radio widows in previous generations, or partners of inventors or hobbyists whose work was obsessive and nature and revolved around a stationary set of tools.
Now that large desktop computers and wired network connections have been largely replaced by ubiquitous wireless handheld devices, our behaviour and expectations are different.
Since I got my first fully web-enabled smartphone in 2009 (a Palm Pre), I began breaking a 10 year habit: instead of checking my email and surfing the web at my desktop PC each night, I began reading online news and managing my email on my smartphone multiple times per day. This has sometimes caused me to be one of those distracted people, reading my emails in the car or in bed at night, but generally, I think it’s been a huge improvement in terms of convenience and access. Now I only sit at my PC once or twice per week, and when I do, I’m amazed at how few messages come through to my desktop Inbox. I’ve been doing all my email reading, managing and deleting from my phone or sometimes my tablet. Those mobile devices have become my access points, and come with me to bed, the bathroom or in the car, and most of the time, this is an absolute convenience. I do think that my wife is feeling much less widowed in 2013, than she might have felt back in 2000. Now, we both compute and communicate wirelessly, and we can do it together at a coffee shop, chatting and commenting (or at least acknowledging each other) while we tap away at our respective work or hobby projects.
For me, mobility has definitely improved and alleviated the technology “widow” factor. Is this the same for others? Does being preoccupied in other locations or on the road make the preoccupation less of a problem? Does it allow busy people to get on with their lives, moving from task to task, or to different social situations, while staying connected or productive online?
Or, does it just allow us to be distracted by cyberspace while risking social dysfunction in real-space?
Fragmented and Unrecognizable Contexts
In the pre-mobile days, the context for an activity was largely recognizable by physical location, or unambiguous use of a particular device. In the analog world, you used a radio to listen to airborne audio, and you used a telephone for person-to-person voice communications. Other people could see that you were on the phone, or hear and see that you were listening to the radio.
Ubiquitous mobile (and soon wearable) computing and wireless communications makes this third-party recognition much more difficult: you may have to deal with lunch mates who are repeatedly distracted by their phones, or send text messages or tweets while they’re supposed to be paying attention to that fascinating story you’re relating about your dog. It’s hard to tell if someone who’s talking to themselves as they walk down the street is schizophrenic, or having a phone conversation on a bluetooth earpiece.
As ubiquitous computing and communications evolve and the boundaries between man and machine become less distinguishable, it’s going to get weirder and ore difficult to recognize when you are being conversed with or interrupted by another person.
Yeah – I’m going through a DEVO phase again. I listen to their music all the time. Their voices and sounds are familiar, like visiting an old neighbourhood.
I get emails from Club Devo,and see snippets of mutated art from Mark M., photos from their irreverent, young new wave days, and so many artifacts of their gleeful, tongue-in-cheek self-promotion. Echoes of the back-of-the-comic ad, junk culture that they enjoy.
Every 6 – 12 months, something bigger than my playlist brings the Devoids to my mind in a more significant way. Something new bubbles up in the media. This time, perhaps it was the unfortunate death of their friend and long-time drummer, Alan. A very sad loss, indeed. Their own “human metronome”, the driver of their complicated, syncopated rhythms, was no more.
Gerry Casale started following my Twitter feed the other day, and it made me feel a little closer to the source. The more DEVO videos or interviews I watch, the more I read, the more they’re like citizens of some weird hometown – the guys who struck out a few years before my generation, and who did all the cool art that I wish I’d done.
I love this passage from the book “We are DEVO!” by Jade Dellinger and David Giffels):
In his book Fargo Rock City, rock critic Chuck Klosterman wrote that “Listening to (Eric) Clapton was like getting a sensual massage from a woman you’ve loved for the past ten years; listening to Van Halen was like having the best sex of your life with three foxy nursing students you met at a Tastee Freeze.” To extend that metaphor, Devo would be the equivalent of auto-erotic asphixiation, the sexual technique of partly hanging oneself during masturbation to achieve a more intense orgasm.”
(Having been to one uninspiring Clapton concert, I think that Klosterman likes Clapton a bit too much.)
Yeah, so DEVO is an acquired taste – not the flavour (or party favour) of the week.
But, yeah spuds, challenge me please. Make me think, or make me argue. If you can get me to write or think about what you’re saying, well, you’ve found that devolved nerve ending and twanged it nicely. And I thank you.
Clapton and all the 2nd-wave Brit rock gods, as incredibly talented as they were musically, never made me think about a damned thing. But the DEVO experiment got my attention, and they’re still doing it.
I must admit that I’ve sometimes asked myself a question very similar to this. I’ve asked myself “Am I losing my short-term memory?” or “Am I losing my ability to concentrate for long periods of time, or to read long passages of text in one sitting?
I do believe that over the years of web surfing (which I’ve been doing since 1994 or 1995, when the first browsers became widely available), my ability to concentrate or my pattern of reading – the way in which I consume words – has been modified by the activity of surfing online. I do feel as if the hypertext, hunt ‘n click web has modified my behaviour. I can feel that I’ve become more of a browser than a reader.
Has Using the Web Trained me to Click Instead of Read?
It’s a fair question, as if the online world of information is like an endless, all-you-can-eat buffet. I may be in line to put together a meal from beginning to end, but the act of gathering what I need comes in little chunks, with possibilities for distraction at each new connection point. I’ll take a little bit of one site, a little bit of the next, etc. etc. Skip, skip, skip. Click, click, click. It’s more like an endless stream of consciousness, and it’s easy for me to get drawn off-course from an original train of thought onto something completely different. I think it must be the combination of my own curiosity and the seemingly endless array of links to other destinations.
But There’s a Physical Difference to Reading Online too…
I have always read, and I still love to read – novels, magazines, comics and graphic novels, and now more than ever, news and current events. But, I find reading from an LCD display to be much more difficult than reading from paper. Consistently more difficult.
I read a lot of text online, but it doesn’t mean that I’m no longer capable of reading a novel 0n paper. I love reading paper books and magazines (and even the occasional newspaper) – I’m just not quite to used to it as I was before.
So, I think the physicality of reading off a back-lit display of pixels (i.e. teeny little Light Emitting Diodes), combined with the click ‘n browser nature of hypertext brings me to a McLuhan-esque “Medium is the Message” realization:
I’m not getting dumber because of the Web, but I do think that the Web itself makes me read in a shallow way.
Active Participants Over the Last 7 Days (“Active” is define as any contact with the EDCMOOC Coursera course site): ~ 17%
EDC MOOC News (Blog Aggregator) Unique Visitors: ~10%
Visitors to the EDCMOOC News page come ~65% from the USA and ~ 8% from the UK.
Other stats about this MOOC:
For about 70% of the group, this is their first MOOC. About half are currently enrolled on only one MOOC.
About 24% of respondents from the USA, ~ 9% from the UK, ~ 6% come from Spain, and ~ 3% from both India and Greece.
About 60% of respondents come either from “teaching and education” or report themselves to be “students”. Just over 60% of the entire respondent group have postgraduate level qualifications, and a further ~35% have a university or college degree.
In the videos I’ve seen so far in Week 3, the idea of humanity is brought to the foreground primarily by the absurd or hyper-extended context in which each story is framed.
As a metaphor for what I mean, imagine you place a small area of light grey colour on top of a large black background. On black, the light grey will look much lighter than it actually is. In fact, people might interpreted it to be white.
That’s what these videos appear to be doing: creating a non-human, artificial or alien (spoiler alert!) tone or context, which brings out our internal concept of humanity in sharp relief. Unfortunately, they also bring out my cynicism in even sharper relief.
This somewhat shallow Toyota ad riffs on the idea of what today’s viewer would consider “CG” – a 3D representation that approaches the level of an interactive 3D video game, such as “L.A. Noire”. The message is insultingly simplistic: “Toyota is the real deal” [*snore*]
What I find more interesting is the fact that most younger viewers will totally be able to agree as to the “unrealistic” 3D graphics in this commercial. They’ve grown up in the era of HD and awesome frame rates.
I was born in 1966, and I suspect that my generation will be less likely to find as much fault with the quality of the “unrealistic” renderings. Maybe my generation would pass on the real deal Toyota, and drive our chunky, pixely KIAs or Yugos around in 3D land and still have a great time. I guess Toyota is pandering to the 25 year-old driver in this case, and I’m somewhat irrelevant.
This British Telecom ad makes the point about human contact by showing a family that interacts exclusively via text and social media. They don’t even seem to know how disconnected they truly are from each other, until BT points it out of course. Poor buggers.
This ad is basically “reach out and touch someone” all over again. (Does anyone remember that ad campaign from the 1970s?) Poor consumers. At least this commercial has a message promoting some kind of “more human” connection to it. The idea is that real-time voice comunication – the good ol’ phone system – is more human than texting or social media. I tend to agree with this sentiment, although ironically, I’d be using my social media as much as anyone, for the sheer convenience.
Most of the telecom commercials I’ve seen portray families that seem to need infinite minutes, massive data plans and constant texting. It always shows family members enjoying their digital lives, away from each other in separate rooms, not conversing or connecting or even acknowledging each other.
World Builder is a bittersweet fantasy. My initial response during the first few minutes was “Self satisfied 3D modeler plays God creating his perfect little 3D world = adolescent male power fantasy = So what?”
But as the story unfolded to it’s final conclusion, it revealed a sweet moral of self-sacrifice, a dream-wish of happiness and freedom given from someone who has freedom to someone who hasn’t any.
The idea here is that technology can be a tool to humanize and liberate, and in this video, liberation and freedom are placed in the service of love and compassion, instead of in the selfish pursuit of pleasure or power.
The MOOC I’m taking, E-Learning + Digital Cultures, continues to unfold in front of me, gradually showing me new perspectives and more detail. But it’s not for the impatient…
For me, being in a MOOC has felt like being seated inside a vast, unlit stadium where you can hear other attendees whispering and you can see their messages on the walls, but otherwise, they remain invisible. Getting acclimatized – even feeling welcome – does not come right away.
A few weeks later, this is still more or less my experience, but my eyes seem to have adjusted to the darkness now – I feel like I can see better and interpret more than before.
Gardner Campbell’s Open Ed 2012 keynote address hit me like a bolt to the brain… [It] made me feel inspired and energized to explore my own spaces between art, technology and learning.
In the Week 2 resources, under “Perspectives on Education”, the video of Gardner Campbell’s Open Ed 2012 keynote address hit me like a bolt to the brain: his passionate advocacy for truly open learning, his challenging definitions of what he felt it should be, and his support and appreciation for the interdisciplinary responses of his students – all of these factors made me feel inspired and energized to explore my own spaces between art, technology and learning. I think I may have found a new inspiration – someone to study more closely.
When I was in the Emily Carr College of Art + Design in the eighties, I learned about media theory (e.g. MacLuhan), multimedia and hypertext (e.g. Ted Nelson), and visual literacy and visual perception (e.g. Tom Hudson, Rudolph Arnheim, Johannes Itten). Some things I learned from reading books or watching videos, but a lot of information I got first-hand, from seminars, workshops and special research projects. The people I learned from in-person were all artist-educators who were actively exploring ideas through their own art practice or educational research, often using consumer tech on shoestring budgets.
Back in my days as a multidisciplinary art student and research assistant, my greatest personal challenge was to interpret and synthesize all the raw information, and later, decide how to express my experiences. Many of my extracurricular readings covered topics in AI, cybernetics, user interaction, and theories of learning and education. I was all over the place conceptually, and loved it. Science educators like Seymour Papert and Alan Kay caught my interest for their explorations with interfaces and user (student) interaction. I read about the MIT Media lab, and all its explorations into media, technology, art and science. I read articles from the ISAST Journal “Leonardo”, and learned about PhD-level multidisciplinary art and science research projects. A good deal of the theories and terminology was just over my head, but I had found an interesting, fertile territory to consider, in the intersections of art, education and technology. Convergence was just starting to happen, and it was a fascinating thing.
My multimedia instructor, artist Gary Lee-Nova, helped me understand the relationships between modern analog and digital media, perception and society. Gary talked about author William Gibson and the idea of cyberpunk way before it was popular. Research, exploration and personal development were fun back then.
My mentor back in art college, Dr. Tom Hudson, opened my mind to modernist Bauhaus art education patterns, and under his guidance, we updated and reinterpreted them by using desktop computer graphics programs to research visual literacy and drawing systems.
After graduating from Emily Carr’s four year diploma program in 1989, I opted to pursue computer graphics, animation or commercial design as my career path, instead of art education. Tom had, at some level, hoped I would continue pursuing art education as a career. I did teach computer graphics in night school for a few years, tutored art privately, and was an Artist-in-Residence in the Vancouver School Board, but I never went into education in a more formalized way, like by pursuing a degree.
After 20 years working in the commercial sector, bringing visual design services to software/hardware developers and business people, the exciting theoretical, creative aspects of my thinking felt as is they had atrophied and needed some dusting off. My Modus Operandi had become one of speed and economy: skimming the surface of the pond of ideas to get from questions to answers, and from initial request to practical deliverable, as quickly as possible. Any education I took from my graphics career was of a short-term, tactical nature. I learned what I needed in order to fulfill a particular short-term goal. In that kind of mode, there wasn’t much time or interest in theory.
Now, I’m employed in Vancouver’s largest vocational college, helping teachers to adapt their experience and materials into online courses. In a higher education institution, my perceptions and reactions have had to adjust to a more deliberate, thoughtful form of delivery: integrity over speed, and quality over quantity.
Now, it feels like I’m rediscovering the joy of the interconnectedness of ideas – a multidisciplinary approach to things. I’m fascinated to see some of the topical connections between Seymour Papert, Alan Kay and Gardner Campbell.
I can, and should, now enjoy taking a deep dive into topics, instead of just skimming the surface.
Themes explored this week included technological utopianism and dystopianism, and the idea of technological determinism.
I watched these videos:
Video: “Day Made of Glass 2” (Corning)
The “Glass as lifestyle” approach is somewhat corporate wishful thinking, IMHO, and relies too much on groovy futuristic sci-fi touch interfaces to make the glass medium look exciting. Tinting windows? Sure. Use my bedroom window to help me decide what to pull out of my closet that is only a few feet away? Fat chance.
A massive sheet of glass in the middle of a demonstration forest would never be that clean and perfect.
I’m sure it would also be dangerous for the wildlife (dead birds having crashed into it all the time = scary discoveries for young girls).
In the classroom, students are just well-behaved passive recipients of the Teacher’s initial presentation, with nobody raising their hand to ask a question or ask to go to the bathroom. In classrooms today that use interactive whiteboards, students are often encouraged to come to the front and move images around as part of the lesson. Why do presentation and participation (at the beautiful touch-table) need to be presented as a group activity? In the Corning classroom, students are depicted and treated mainly as one group/collective. Is this a (subconscious) corporate wish for collective harmony? It’s okay for the kids to pick their clothes or to colour Dad’s dashboard full of hearts – that’s harmless kid stuff – but beyond that, personal expression or individuality seem muted in Corningland.
The glass-based solar array on the school roof was a nice image, but they could have done more to humanize their mission, and embrace corporate social responsibility. Like, why not show a kick-ass interactive graffiti wall donated by Corning to some local Community Centre?
Also, why are the young girls private school students? Is that a value judgement about an educational utopia? Does that mean that Corning’s utopian vision would only be available to the upper class and rich medical specialists like the Dad? That would leave something of a dystopian “plexiglass” reality for the lower classes, I guess… 😉 Definite technological determinism there, not to mention class-ism.
Video: “Productivity Future Vision” (Microsoft)
In Microsoft’s vision, paper seems to have disappeared, replaced by flexible touch-sensitive surfaces. Hard for me to accept that. Paper will still remain cheaper than plastic, for at least the next 10 years and more ecologically friendly, forever. I noticed that keyboards are still around in Microsoft’s future vision, at least in the office when one is preparing the annual report (or whatever that dude was doing).
Apparently, nobody at home or work is concerned about any repetitive stress issues from having to do all those large arm motions to swoosh images around on all those massive interactiuve surfaces. How many overweight CEOs are going to throw their back out trying to clear all the virtual files off their ginormous desk-walls?
This idea that all surfaces will be interactive and high-res is completely fantastic – a utopian vision and obvious excuse to demo Microsoft’s Surface technology. It is technologically skewed towards the vendor-manufacturer’s wet dream of an ideal consumer family.
Themes explored this week included technological utopianism and dystopianism, and the idea of technological determinism.
I watched these videos:
This animation showed symbolically how cultures elevate and then scrap technologies, hoisting them to a high level of dominance, only to turf them in favour of the next big thing. The animation design style mimicked Javanese paper cutout shadow puppets, which was a very compelling choice, and lent a sense of tribal, primitiveness and other-worldliness to the characters.
This live-action comedy-drama uses the metaphor of magic paper bags and sticky notes to illustrate behaviours, interactions and expectations in social media (Facebook, primarily).
“Thursday” is a charming animation showing the tension and inter-relation between human modern electronic culture, and the natural world that continues around (and in spite of) it.
The design style of the animation evokes video games in its pixely appearance and representation of space (isometric projection and side-scroller” look and feel).
Thursday seems to be saying that we live in a vastly technological society, but the natural world is vaster still, and more persistent. The little mother blackbird adapts her song to the tunes she overhears in people’s cellphones and alarm clocks, steals a bit of wire to build her nest, and shelters her chicks in a satellite dish. Nature adapts.
Mankind borrows echoes from nature, putting little bird-like chirps into its mechanical tools – as an ancient comfort perhaps? Generally, it’s man who seems to be living with blinders on, surrounding himself with mechanical proxies for nature, and cloistering himself away from it in his dark, hive-like internal cubicle farms. Not until our human protagonist sees “the big picture” from space (and later when he contemplates the little crashed bird on his windowsill) does he seem to reconnect to his natural world.
Ultimately, the theme I saw here was freedom and survival of the natural world, alongside the structure and abstractions of the human digital culture. I think the true main protagonist of this little film are the birds.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been studying the history of British Basic Design movement, and especially, the Bauhaus.It has made me see my own path in art and design in a new way.
Revisiting what I see as the most elemental teachings in colour, visual language, and design has invigorated my curiosity, but it also caused me a lot of confusion. The reason for my confusion was that I was having trouble connecting what I was reading about various artists, methods and art/design approaches from different eras with my own values and personal experiences. Admittedly, my readings and reflections have been a bit unfocused, but share common themes.
Here is a progression of the subjects I’ve studied recently (in some order):
Subject / Source
What I Took Away From it
Foundation-level colour studies. Sources: “Colour: An Introduction” (Hudson/OLA, 1987), “Eye and Brain” (Gregory, ), “Elements of Colour” (Itten, 1970).
Refreshed my knowledge of mixing, contrasts, perception, additive vs. subtractive theories, and in developing personal visual language. Some of Tom Hudson’s colour exercises overlap into explorations of 2D visual language (point, line, shape, texture, etc.) similar to Kandinsky. Ongoing goal is to complete 8 units of study.
Led me from colour to shape (Itten’s primary and secondary colour-forms) and online and offline reviews of Bauhaus history. Renewed my interest in structure of Bauhaus Basic Design program in the 1920s, and the later UK Basic Design curriculum developments in the 1950s and 1960s. Also researched master colourists Josef Albers and Hans Hoffman, and revisited colour theory models by Chevreul and Munsell, and modern “colour solids” like the RGB colour cube.
Foundation-level visual language. Sources: “Mark and Image (Hudson/OLA, 1989), “Point and Line to Plane” (Kandinsky, 1926).
Kandinsky’s inspired descriptions of his personal philosophy of visual language. Many of my earliest teachings with Tom Hudson echoed Kandinsky’s ideas.
The Bauhaus, its Teachers and Impact. Sources: “Bauhaus” (Editors: Jeanine Fidler, Peter Feierabend, 1999), “Kandinsky” (Taschen, 2000), plus online resources.
The social and political landscape of Europe in the 1920s and ’30s, and the differences in philosophy between the Bauhaus’s Directors and major teachers (e.g. Itten, Gropius, Moholy-Nage).
UK Basic Design developments in the 1950s and 1960s. Sources: Articles and collections, online and offline.
Renewed investigation of my past teacher, Tom Hudson and his role and working relationship with Victor Pasmore, Richard Hamilton and Harry Thurbron. UK Basic Design seemed to adapt Bauhaus approaches, yet applied them to the current cultural context. I pondered this a lot, trying to project it forward to the present day, onto online and digital media, instead of industrial tech of the 60s.
Influences of Basic Design and Modernism on Foundation and Visual Design programs. Sources: Google searches.
Ongoing ad-hoc study. Most US approaches to “visual literacy” that I’ve seen seem to focus on developing skills in discernment, decoding and judgement (analogous to “reading comprehension”?). Richard Wilde at School of Visual Art (New York) leads courses in visual literacy for his design students. I’m curious to see to what degree developing vis-lit via creation (i.e. “writing”) skills are taught in higher ed, and in high-school art/design instruction.
Current issues in computer-based graphic design, multimedia and web design. Sources: Google searches.
Ongoing. An online review of graphic design curricula from various institutions will help me understand transformation of issues and themes in previous “modernist” design education, through to today’s highly computer-driven tools and processes. Also curious about how much digital tech (e.g. desktop and tablet computers) is being used in art/design instruction instead of traditional tools in high school and higher ed.
For me, new knowledge – new information – will only transform my ideas and help me grow if I can use it in some direct way. It must be practical in some sense.