Friday, January 28, 2011

Sell this!

Have come across a couple of things over the past couple of days in thinking about the use of the Web/social networks and our relationship to them and each other.
First is this link as the article deals with self-perception, perception of others as sellers, the shift from being simply in relationships with others to having those relationships leveraged for numbers, as the writer of the article states, of LOL’s and likes that seem to determine some type of truth about individual as the poster or poseur as the case may be. Or at least the total number of clicks seem to grant some kind of meaning to us as users/people. I particularly like what this article says about the constant selling of ourselves. How does this effect our perception of ourselves or how does it cause us to want to generate other versions of ourselves which may or may not be actually true. Or we become so split managing our multiple “personalities” that any effort in deciding what is true gets subsumed to managing that personality/profile.
There's another way to talk about this which is captured nicely below via Sherry Turkle interview with Colbert. (While Colbert's style tends towards the aggressive, I think he's asking some of the right questions, it's not the right forum for Turkle to actually elucidate her thinking. But she gets in a couple of noteworthy points despite the chuckles.)
"We have lost respect that some argument do take the long form. Some arguments do take a book." And this idea of length and time is a grounding motif throughout the rest of her conversation with Colbert. In a somewhat serious question Colbert asks why not make this book about technology 140 characters long so people can absorb it. In particular Turkle suggest that in general people are "...begin[ing] to ask simpler questions so that they can give simpler answers because the volume and velocity [of the messages] ramps up..." More time is being spent on volume/speed than depth/marination. Turkle has a particularly resonant point with the article above toward the end of the interview in responding to Colbert's statement that aren't we all better connected and knowing each other because we are connected all the time through social media, like Facebook. Turkle nails it: "People are performing on their Facebook profile." And because we are constantly connected, Turkle suggests that there is actually performance exhaustion in needing to be constantly "on" in the several levels of meaning that word indicates. On= not missing. On=connected On=computer booted up On=that you are tweeting/facebook statusing interesting/likable items. On=stage. On=the constant public display of some true/false/half-true/half-false representation of ourselves as we desire to be seen and known. Not only do we have the opportunity to craft how others think about us but in crafting our online performance through a series of quotes there is the opportunity to craft how we think about ourselves which is probably not true.
Not only is there performance exhaustion but I wonder if there is not fear of being disconnected, of missing, of no longer being "on". Colbert, either purposefully or not, captures the standard response that any attempt to disconnect, albeit temporarily, or take a step back out of the information stream requires that individual to stop being on for a certain reflective period of time. If this performance idea is true, I think it is, then any attempt to reflect on this type of use also requires a break in performance or selling. There's the idea of having to selling a performance so that the dichotomy of sales and acting are not that far apart. If we are all simultaneously selling and acting towards each other, will we notice when actual communication and interaction stops? Or will we have committed so fully and so deeply to our own perceived roles to have sold ourselves to ourselves?

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Sherry Turkle
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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Makoto Fujimura

Makoto Fujimura

I've watched this video about seven times now and did a short presentation on it for Eng. Comp II. The problem with the presentation was that I thought the students knew what their assignment (writing an outline of a version of a gospel out of the 4 gospels) was and they didn't. So the presentation was modified suddenly at the last minute but I wanted to throw up some of the better snippets. Mostly because Mako's (as he is referred to in the video) painting(s) are tremendous on every level and more people need to spend more time staring and thinking about his works.

This video shows a different way of looking/interacting/reading/seeing (at) the Gospels
(This bit was pitched to the student when I thought they knew what the assignment was.) Anyone has access to the same materials as the artist’s/Mako’s raw materials and therefore could, w/ everything else being equal, theoretically/conceivably make these paintings or similar paintings. The materials are something that we all have access to. To a certain extent this is where words overlap where we all have access to the words/text and the method/how they are utilized/context is what gives their meaning or their truth. In this assignment you are taking prepared materials (the Gospels) and manipulating them into different shapes or lines based on what already exists in the text but that you are causing to realize or bring to the surface in a similar way as the possibility(ies) of the paint in a porcelain bowl is not realized until it meets the canvas as guided by the training/expertise/vision of the artist.

What's interesting about this video and illustrations of the text is that while these images are not necessarily direct portraits there are specific aspects/reasons that Mako states on why these paintings were rendered the way they were. Non-representational does not (have to) mean random or chaotic in the negative sense.
There is order and purpose, guidance and practice, hope and creativity even in non-representational works.
And where Alissa Wilkinson's comments come in about Christianity as the big capital C Christianity where we have historically avoided the education process of learning about art and its connection to truth and worship and belief. I do think we need to a better job at this.* NT Wright has some good stuff to say about this as well if you look him up in iTunes U-especially the Seattle-Pacific Univ. talks.

One of the things that I think is not necessarily overtly obvious but is implied is that Mako has spent a lot of time thinking about these texts and there is an informing relationship between the two entities. He states that Mark is/ when thinking about the texts, this painting is what is realized. One of the nice things about non-representational art is that if it is really quote unquote good it will resonate with you/your experience/your readings because of its abstract nature where abstract is not meaningless but in the idea of being “abstracted out” to a more universal sense or audience which is who the Gospel is for; that is, the world. Which I think is poignant because the Gospels themselves exist as abstracted items that are applicable to any human being regardless of background/experience/etc.

A language to bring people home.

"Art is always transgressive but done in love not just in images but in words."
The idea of being transgressive carries a bunch of weight with it. In the OED the first definition of transgressive is "Involving transgression; sinful" breaking a law. It's a very OT word a word of law; where there is lots of wrath and pain sort of implied in the breaking of it. However the second meaning is one that fits this video where transgressive is defined as "passing beyond some limit"(OED). That we are not bound simply by the history or routine of a text/thought process/method but are able to take that text and in our freedom as people bend/manipulate that text to do/say/show different things. There is the necessity to be careful with how we go about that because, and especially when dealing with something that is traditionally and rightly so, seen as sacred. But sacred doesn’t mean untouchable. Something can be both truly beautiful and beautifully true. Anyone could take the materials that Mako has at his disposal to create non-representational paintings. However it takes skill, practice and respect and deep respect and knowledge of the text to create a work like this.

*So I'm trying this out in the library this semester where a handful of students who are really creative and artist-based have their work displayed in the Library throughout the next semester. They are really excited about it and I'm pretty stoked as well. We've not really done anything with this before so it's going to be an interesting experience.
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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

E-books and journalism

1) Meredith Farkas of Information wants to be Free has a lengthy but apt/pointed post about E-Books and some issues related to them.
My favorite bit and my biggest beef thus far:
"Those books don’t disappear unless a patron loses them (in which case we usually recoup our costs) or we choose to remove the book from the collection. We can ILL those books, we can put them on reserve, and there are no further costs for that book (unless it requires rebinding) beyond the initial purchase. But take a look at our eBrary collection. We pay lots of money each year for access to tens of thousands of books but we don’t own anything. We cancel our subscription and those books are gone. Books get added and disappear from our eBrary collection depending on their current deals with publishers, meaning that something a student used for their research two months ago may not actually be in our collection when they are looking to cite something from it." (emphasis added)

2)Via Rory Litwin over at Library Juice, came across Michael Bugeja's article which discusses the recent massive changes in the role of journalism.
"Journalism used to focus on what citizens needed to know, whether they liked it or not. Now it focuses on what the audience wants, explaining the spike in celebrity and entertainment news . Social networks and search engines give away that news for free in return for personal information and then vend those data to companies whose cookies are as hidden as terms of service."

There's an interesting connection here between these two thoughts where the potential for access becomes more important than a responsible ownership both of objects and ideas. Is it possible that part of this turn toward(s) celebrity/entertainment news is pushed along by the fact that we are getting more and more used not to owning physical stuff (Netflix being a prime example) (where owning requires a commitment to care and development) that we have proclaimed trust in those who would simply provide access without considering the consequences. We become hung up on our ability to access different platforms (data plans are a good example) and believe that we need these things to function well and by doing so propagate the idea that we need these things to function well. I read something a while back that stated in terms of being a librarian it's more important to know where things are rather than simply being able to find them. I want to be able to lay my brain/hand on the exact section without looking at the catalog if a student asks a general question. I want my students to be able to own their ideas and defend them and while they are allowed to borrow/access others' idea(s) they need to be able to cull and cobble and frankenstein their thinking together so even if their initial creation is awkward and ugly there's at least something to work with. The assumption of access is an assumption of failure.

Not to brag but...

So this sweet stack of books represents all the Christmas and birthday goodness visited upon me via relatives and family and the HTML Giant book exchange which I seriously made out on in terms of what was received. There are books from Anthology Used Books in Scranton PA as well as the Strand while Amazon also has an appearance.
My goal is to write up some more extensive book reviews but we'll see. Time is now a precious commodity with the semester starting.
Real quick-like:
1) The Orange Eats Creeps was one of the most far out, trippiest, mind-blowing language trips I've taken in a while.
2) DFW's Brief Interviews with Hideous Men was more hideous than I could have imagined. It's easy to get desensitised to this work if you only spend time listening to the available audio interviews or think about the movie. There's a significant icebergian amount of material underneath those stories that makes your brain start to do loops after a bit.
3) Fate Time and Language is really hard slogging. Really hard. First time I've read Taylor and my first thought after finishing the Fatalism essay was "I'm glad that was short because I'm going to have to go read that again a couple dozen more times." It's a good thing to work at knowing it's just a bit of work.
4) Here's a picture of my bonsai tree. It's currently in a state of rest.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Really good article

Stephen Burn has an excellent article in the NYT's recent article series "Why Criticism Matters" entitled "Beyond the Critic as a Cultural Arbiter". The article strikes a good balance between the role of the masses as readers and the individual trying to steer public taste. I very much agree with his closing thoughts as I think they apply well to the role of the library especially for academic libraries where the goal is no longer gatekeeper or even perhaps sifter of information but to make sure that certain resources are easily available and in keeping with Mr. Burn's ending point to attempt to make more visible "... major works that are not always visible in mainstream networks." That is, highlighting those works that fall below the student's radar, in a variety of ways.

Library Juice Press, for whom I do occasional volunteer copy-editing/indexing work for has a new book coming out that I worked on and am particularly excited about. The book is entitled Archival Anxiety and the Vocational Calling by Richard Cox. Dr. Cox teaches at UPitt's iSchool where I received my MLIS and I had the distinct privilege of taking several classes with him. He is an interesting and dynamic lecturer and that aspect extends to this book. Granted the title may indicate that if one is not interested in archives or libraries that one may want to steer clear but that would be a mistake. This book is composed of a series of essays by Dr. Cox and truthfully convey his passion and enthusiasm for archival work and the importance of correct and rigorous archival thinking especially in an age where most individuals creates many hundreds of thousands of records a year. In this book Dr. Cox not only details the history and development of his vocational calling but also examines the seeming lack of an calling across the archival discipline by examining some of the conflicts and interactions between the major bodies of the archival community. Again this may seem less than scintillating reading but please be assured that Dr. Cox manages to convey these stories with a sense of urgency and stage-like drama so as to make for fascinating reading.
I recently got an iPhone 3. It's pretty sweet but won't let me easily post to Blogger. So I've been throwing up images to Tumblr which can be viewed here: