Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Astute comments from comics

July 7, 2009

Last week I read and was moved by Joe Sacco’s engagingly intense graphic novel “Palestine”. It chronicles Sacco’s travels throughout the the area known as Palestine- the west bank and Gaza. He meet with a number of Palestinans, listening to them and documenting their stories from during the time of the second intifada (around 1993). Unfortunately, I found that his experiences and stories concur with my own experiences – from the time that served in the IDF in the West Bank in the mid-late 70s and from the period of the first intifada (1988) when I was wondering around the same towns that I had served as a soldier, only this time as an artist and witness. I say unfortunate because it is a tragedy of epic proportions- each side making blunder after horrible blunder, enslaving each other to oppression, hate, pain and bloodshed.
One encounter in Sacco’s book that I was deeply touched by occured towards the end of the book In it he recollects a meeting with several people- Israeli Jews, Palestinians, Americans and Europeans. One Israeli is quoted as saying that one state or two states does not matter. What does it matter if the racism of one state oppresses the other. What is important, he says, is if the different peoples there can simply learn to live with each other. A wise comment, almost Buddhist in nature- can we manage to let go of our personal pains and learn to live with each other even with our differences.


The case of the missing conference

October 8, 2008

Last Saturday I attended the Immersive Technology conference that was held at Cal State Long Beach. The premise was interesting I was looking forward to it. The Keynote speaker set the tone and it was good. Henry Jenkins, the director of the Comparative Media Studies program at MIT. He was entertaining and made some interesting points about an idea he calls “transmedia”. Transmedia is about content or a story that is dispersed across different kinds of media such as books, comics, movies, podcasts, etc. Each media’s attributes can address unique aspects of the story that the other medias can not. This can transform any the story by moving it our of  a linear, or sequential path onto something non-linear, more encompassing. The story is no longer a singular component, but rather one section  of a complete universe. In other words, each media can tell some of the back-story that the primary story needs to ignore because of the constraints of that media. Jenkins illustrated this by providing examples from “The Matrix” and “Star Wars” stories. He also mentioned how action figures and toy allow to tap into their own imaginations by creating their own stories.

Unfortunately, after Jenkins spoke, the conference seemed to loose it’s identity and direction. That in itself would not have been so bad if it not gone on the path of platform for self-promotion. Moderators and speakers allowed themselves time to present their resumes, but little time to really address ideas. Moderators focused on their panel and often chose questions from the audience that were asked by their friends, who then spent more time talking about their own resume before getting to the actual question. 

Despite the fact that there were some interesting speakers placed on the following 2.5 panels that I attended, there was little actual discussion about immersive technologies. For example, during a session named after the title of the conference, the speakers were entertaining, but were more concerned with writers’ control of the stories- a subject that is very important in most media. but one that gets muddled quickly when discussing interactive new media- especially the trend to user-generated content. There was no mention of Second Life, or online games such as  World of Warcraft where the users and players are generating the stories and content.  

The topic of the second was a mystery to the people who surrounded me, but the speakers did seem to be enjoying themselves. 

I am not sure that topic of the final panel was, but again, it became self-promotion and marketing, which would be important subjects in the context of  another conference. The moderator spoke at length about her past projects, especially about her design for the targeted marketing video screens sequences that were shown in Spielberg’s “Minority Report”. She than showed us a marketing film that was made for WalMart that illustrates her successful bid to do targeting marketing using mobile phones and video screens in those stores. With the knowledge that our economy is heading for a disaster, I was in awe when I watched how this program was primarily targeting people on the low end of the socio-economic spectrum to purchase large flat screen video monitors for their homes. Again, people spending more than they can afford.

All in all, it was a disappointing conference. SIgh.

Social to the Semantic at Campus Technology

July 30, 2008

Comments on Trent Batson’s presentation
Development of the web
1 to 1 developed to 1 to many developed to many to many
Batson’s sites the next generation portfolio group 

So far nothing new.
Mention of Facebook. Do not need purpose to say “Hi” which is a casual proximity greeting as opposed to writing an email where you need a purpose.  Makes social fabric stronger. Facebook encourages idea of “six degrees of separation” . 

Semantic technologies
Network theory
Can databases be semantic? so they search for meaning and not just words and word strings?
Resource Definition Framework (WC3)- categorize by meaning and not just 

Semantic Browsers; build ontologies. Corporate initiatives to classify their own information-
OWL (Ontology Working Group)

 This talk is a lecture about what it is and not a dialogue about how to use it and how it is used. 

Tuned out. Smart man who likes to talk. No real information, but I suppose a good introduction to those who have not heard about it. No real discussion about applications and serendipity of searching and looking for information. No discussions about other fields besides the corporate. No mention of museums. No examples of mashups. 

I made a comment on serendipity (library, museum) and artificial intelligence hoping to initiate a discussion. The speakers comment was “yes there is artificial intelligence”and any other speeches. But no dialogue and no discussion. 

It still seems to me that the best presentations are discussions of ideas and not speeches. Present information and then collaborate.

On a friend’s passing

July 17, 2008

I just returned from a friends house where we finished the shiva (7 days of mourning) for his wife. This was very emotionally difficut week for the whole community. Chanui was a loved, respected wife, mother, friend and person. She had an infectuous smile and incredibly clear blue eyes with a sparkle that touched the soul of anybody that can in contact with her. Last Saturday at services at the synagogue, another friend commented that there was a “tear in the force” – very apt. During the following days of mourning, services were held in the house they were renting as their own house gets remodeled and there was always 40-80 people. Nobody wanted to let get go, we we all needed to and could only do so within the safety of the community .

A Rave on Collaboration & Learning

April 21, 2008

Lately I have been working on several interesting collaborative initiatives here at work involving dance, engineering, animation, biology, anatomy, physical education, physics. The seeds of these projects came out of several experiences. readings and observations. When thinking about the power and potential of collaborative projects, I cannot help but to think of the story of the blind men and then elephant. Each individual feels one specific part of the elephant, and describes the elephant based on that feeling. But none of them can actually feel the complete beast. I can also think of other relevant models, such as building construction. It is very, very difficult for one person to build a multi-story house completely by themselves. Foundation, framing  are possible,  but  raising a roof  really requires assistance. Also, if one thinks of the specialty trades involved- framing, electrical,  plumbing, cabinetry, etc. one begins to see the strength of the collaborative effort.

The same is true in academia and private sector workplaces. When I first became involved with Interactive Multi-media (now ofter referred to as “new media”), one person could do everything- design, graphics, programing. Interactive projects were able to fit on a disc. Within a relatively short time, projects became more complex and began to require specialists in video, audio, graphic design, interface design and of course programming (Macromind’s “Lingo” for Director was one choice). The same process happened with the Web. In 1995, one person could build and design a web site. Although still possible, Web development now requires a host of technical and design skills- database. back end design and taxonomies, GUI, image, video, audio, etc.

Rather that look at this as being a daunting enterprise, this is really quite exciting. The need for collaboration creates richer rich-media, with better quality graphics, audio, video and interface that really can engage the visitor in an interactive experience. The social network of Web 2.0 that has evolved out the growth of this technology and process continues to promote collaboration and cooperation.

This spirit of cooperation is (or can be) reflected in both academia and the workplace, Blackboards are often interactive whiteboards, research is done online using tools like GoogleScholar as well as databases of articles from  professional journals. Cut and paste is digital that does not require scissors and glue (tell the digital natives about these thing sof the past). Not only the tools are new (and rapidly changing), but the approach to the process of research and creativity reflects the tools. Cross-discipline is not only interesting, but required. In some ways, it harkins back to some of the ideas developed in the Bauhaus, where form and function were promoted as necessary and important. All good design required communication between the artist/designer and the fabricator. This required the artist/designer to have a basic understanding to fabrication and the fabricator to understand basic design theory. Many of the designs and objects are still in use and produced today.

Later- More on learning and web 2.0 as well as links to a couple of fun sites.

MOW 2008

April 20, 2008

Here it is a week after my return from the 2008 Museums on the Web conference and I have not written (yet). First- the location. Bonaventure Hilton in Montreal. The entrance to the building is on the street level, but the lobby is somwhere above 8- it was difficult to tell. There big piles of snow all over and the weather hovered around 40 degrees. It was cold. But, Montreal is a neat town to wander about it- all sorts of surprises, like murals, good graffitti and a child’s wading pool, filled with ice, sitting dejectedly behind a chain link fence in a lot on a busy Montreal street corner.

The conference was amazing. Of course, I am a fan of the conference, but there seemed to me a lot of electricity in the air. This year. There were about 660 people there from 27 countries and most of the people that I spoke to all agreed that this is not so much as a conference as a community. Newbies, oldbies, museum folks, educators, designers, and lots of geeks shmoozing and sharing. I heard some and some some very interesting things and people this year, including (this is a selected list from what I remember right now, sans-notes):

  • Michael Geist of Canada, the opening plenary speaker who spoke about “Hands on the Web”. I do not have my notes nearby, so will have to write about him later.
  • Patrick Schmitz and Michael Black from UC Berkeley doing really interesting work with taxonomies and real language searching tools for the Hearst Museum at UCB. They have created this neat searching mechanism in a faceted browser that allows the user to go through the collection in a way that promotes serendipity in discovery, like in a library.
  • Ray Shaw of Think Design, always a pleasure to meet and hang out with him. Always good ideas.
  • Other Web 2.0 papers by Gail Durban, Jonathan Bowen and the gang from the Canada Science and Technology Museum Corporation- we are all describing the elephant (reference: the story of the blind men and the elephant)
  • Michael Wilson’s  (Natural History Museum of LA County) neat little interactive hologram where the user chips away at a virtual rock that reveals a dinosaur bone. When the bone is completely revealed, another hologram of the dinosaur with the found bone is displayed. Very cool.
  • Dina Helal’s stuff at the Whitney
  • David Schaller and Steven Allison-Bunnell and  eduweb who did a great workshop on developing educational games and demonstrated their game “Wolfquest”
  • The folks at the Exploratorium always doing cool stuff
  • Paolo Paolini’s talk about creating an international Web 2.0 type collaboration for students –
  • Shelly Bernstein’s great work with Facebook at the Brooklyn Museum
  • Allison Farber’s Living History project at Museum of Jewish Heritage (done with Ray Shaw)
  • Bruce Wyman of the Denver Art Museum showed me this cool project that he built involving a horizantal, flat screen monitor that emulates the multi-touch input screens being developed in New York and Microsoft (and I am sure at other places). Really clever and fun.

There were lots more interesting conversations and fine people, but that is what remember now. Oh yes, my own presentation “Now that we have web 2.0 tools, how do we use them” also went well. I was expecting 20  people, but had over 100. It was pretty cool- it was really SRO- there were people sitting in the aisles and standing in the back. I gave a short presentation on my ideas about specific learning theorists (Papert’s Community of Learners, Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence, Schank’s Narrative as Intelligence and Robinson’s work with promoting creativity in schools and the work place). I look at these ideas as  being directly related to the social network of web 2.0 and promoting collaboration by engaging learners of different styles. I then opened up the presentation for discussion. We had great dialogues about practice, theory, application, technology and  issues of intellectual property. It was really encouraging to see the liveliness of the discussion and to receive such good feedback.

My visit to BACMA

March 31, 2008

I finally made it to the new BACMA wing of LACMA yesterday. It is pretty fun. There is a room dedicated to Jeffery Koons that seems to be channeling Warhol (in the next room), but his 15′ metal sculpture of an inflatable balloon dog is pretty happy and the large, shiny easter egg is very beautiful. There is on Tansey in the exhibit ( a long time favorite of mine) as well as a room of a couple  Richard Serra’s that are really delightful. You really need to be inside of it too. Also, there is a fun Chris Burden installation of city lights that you can wander in, but the 40′ long (more or less)  Koon’s toy fire truck has a fence around it, which I think is a waste of sculpture. I mean, it is just crying to be climbed on. Oh well. 

Listening to Richard Branson

March 27, 2008

On my way home from work today I listened to a very interesting interview with Richard Branson. The interview was a podcast from the TED conference of March 2007. Branson is raconteur with a self-depreciating manner that belies the talents and skills that have made him a very successful businessman (and a multi-billionaire).

His talk is inspirational and covers learning, education, exploration, business and social responsibility, (something that he calls capitalist philanthropy). Branson is open about dyslexia that forced him to leave school at the age of 15. His teacher at the time said that he would be either be a millionaire or in jail when he grew up. He talks about loving to learn and having an insatiable curiosity about things. He can learn only about things that interest him- if it does not, well forget it. This problem has not prevented him from succeeding in business. He identified one of his most important practices is to hire people who know more than him and let them do their thing- his job is to inspire, guide and learn. He has learned to learn with his dyslexia and knows when to ask and how to ask. He says that there are still some continuing problems caused by his condition such as that despite the fact that he runs several multi-national corporations, he is still confused about the difference between “gross” and “net” incomes (he does tell about how one of his lawyers has used a visual metaphor to help him to remember the difference).

Branson also discusses how his mother wanted to insure that her children would grow up to be self-reliant, such as when he was 5 years old, she would drop him off in the middle of a field several miles from their home and let him find his way by himself. He says that he believes that children need to be coddled, showered with love and encouraged.

Another idea that he brings up is capitalist philanthropy, which seems very similar to the idea of social capitalism that is promoted by the magazine Fast Company. This idea is that successful people need to be successful by treating people and the planet right. He states that in essence the world is small and that a person’s most valuable asset is their reputation. This means that the best road to success is to be honest and treat partners, collaborators and employees with respect and dignity. Karma. And with great success comes great responsibility to give back to society and the planet.

The interview is 30 minutes long and is worth the listen.

Some Thoughts on Stories

March 27, 2008

In Tell Me a Story: Narrative and Intelligence, Roger Schank discusses the importance of personal narrative in learning. Everything that we learn and do has an associated story. Sometimes the story is about process, sometimes it relates to something more ethereal such as the environment or atmosphere that surrounded the learner at the time that they learned something. When the content needs to be remembered and applied, the individual will process and recollect the occasion that they learned and then interpret and adapt it to the situation at hand. Learning becomes a personal narrative based upon the recollection and adaptation of stories and events.

If this is so, how does it relate to day-to-day learning and creative experiences? How do we adapt this idea to a practice a practice of truly engaging learners and learning?

Perhaps that one method of learning happens in a way that is related to the Plato’s allegory of the cave of shadows- in an indirect manner. By this I mean that in order to teach a particular subject, especially a theoretical one, an instructor creates an assignment or learning adventure in which the learner addresses the through an indirect route where they are challenged to find their story by the process of the self-reflection that often happens when learning something new- especially a new technology.

First Post

March 14, 2008

Welcome to dagreenstuff, my blog to reflect, review and rant (from time to time). My primary interests are exploring the stuff, which usually relates to creativity, learning and education, art and the connections that link this all together. I am currently reading a brilliant book called “Out of our Minds” by Sir Ken Robinson. Although the book is sometimes described as being about Human Resources, it really is a critique of the schools, academia, and society. He argues that contemporary schools and education are designed for a system and society that no longer exists, based upon the early industrial revolution and that a new model must be designed for now and the future. I find that his work is similar to that of Dr. Seymour Papert. In “The Children’s Machine”, Papert postulates that if a doctor and and teacher from the late 1880’s were transported to a modern surgery and classroom, the doctor would be lost, but the teacher would feel right at home. Other professions have changed and adopted to new methods, knowledge and process, but schools are desperately lacking. Robinson writes that some of the most important skills for the future are creative thinking and collaboration.