Thursday, October 20, 2011

Why I Write

I cannot resist the temptation to write about this. It's the national writing day in another country, but when online, those boundaries are blur. I'll join the celebration. Here are my thoughts on why I write.

I write to be and become a self that is nowhere else found.

When my mind thinks in 'writing mode', I become a more organized and hopeful self.

I write to make sense. I write because if I don't, bits and pieces of varied, so far unconnected dots, come to overwhelm me and intrude with every new idea. They have been waiting in line and look forward to coming into the light, shining and giving me a sense of peace and balance.

I write because it's a read write web. The gems I find in my RSS create an anxiety or positive stress that urges me to write or let it die unsaid.

I write in the here and now. I write in a way that cannot be left for later. Just like a landscape will yield a different mood and tone if photographed at different hours of the day, when I blog, I need to be an impressionist.

As much as I write to reach out and connect to others with my links, I also write to shut out all the other voices and be in contact with me. No music in my room, no peeping into the Twitter stream. In my silence I write in the hope of being genuine.

I write for my own selfish reasons. If they touch your own, if they erode a sinew of yours, then go on and leave a comment, o RT or write in your own blog about it (I'd much rather you did that). Otherwise, move on: it's all right.

I write because, whether it ends up online or not, I cannot not write. (Believe me I keep as many drafts as you do, or more).

I write to know where my mind is at and also, most importantly, where it is going. I write to know where my mind is before (before is the operative word) I read someone I admire, because, sadly, that could corrupt my own thoughts. It's a shame not to think for yourself. It's a shame to read somebody jotted down what you merely -lazily- thought about or hinted at. It's OK to find that somebody can articulate it better. I'd much rather comment "well said" than "I agree".

I write because if I left this post for later, you may never see the like of it again. I write and publish to make sure that words will not be marred by my over thinking and prevent me from being faithful to my draft conversation style with you, dear readers, as I do now and today.

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Sunday, October 16, 2011

Onwards and Outwords

This is another chapter in my informal learning of photography. It could be called:

Looking for New Learning Paths.

The sudden come to an end of the Dailyshoot assignments has set me into looking for alternatives to drive my visual creative journey. As uncle Whitman would say,

All goes onwards and outwords
nothing collapses
And to die is different from what anyone supposed
and luckier.
(The word's are Whitman's; the line arrangement is the way I read it today).

I admit I do miss the Dailyshoot. I've learnt a lot with it as well as from the fellow players. Oddly enough, I welcome this end, because it is pushing me further into refining what I value about creating images and proceed to seize my learning in my own hands.

I've been exploring what other former dailyshooters are doing now and I've found the Scavenge Challenge to be a nice twist and trigger for those who found the repetition of the photo assignments was a bit of a turn off. I'm giving it a try.

Here's my first post-processed photo with Picasa. (Maybe one day I'll regret posting this for bad quality, but it's a start, a stepping stone.) The box of photo tricks wants to be opened.

I kept looking for prompts. I found that Gwen came up with a project of her own creation. It is simple and powerful.

Her project is called a 100 Possibilities and it is basically to shoot a book in diverse creative contexts. Variations on a theme was also used by BZTraining , who solved every single dailyshoot assignment with his two dogs. It rendered great results in spite of (or with the help of) his self-imposed rule of the game. The most important thing is, as Gwen states it, to help yourself "push boundaries for a while".

Browsing the project, I came across a poetry quote that someone else provided in full in the comments. Funny that what had actually made me click on it was the image of the magnifying glass, which I thought I would use for one my own photos.

The interesting thing is that Gwen has found a way to prompt herself. She is to find new contexts for her favourite book for a 100 days. Talk about keeping it simple, with a constraint that enables creativity. Her take away from the Dailyshoot is not just about photography, but about autonomy.


Why not? And why not combine it with bits of the poetry I love so much I thought of those long Song of Myself catalogues that could easily become postcards and then, perhaps a video. So in my fledgeling thoughts of mashing up interests that drive my passion, I stopped to think that it couldn't be me the first one to have come up with that idea. After all, Whitman is cosmic.

A quick search in Flick groups for Whalt Whitman led me to a group by students at a university with a link to the full project called Looking for Whitman. The site is full owesome bits of inspiration that can move a brain muscle or two. More about it later, for the project is worthy of a separate post.

I recently read somewhere that according to stats (so it must be true?), it would take three lifetimes to read all of the Internet content available today. Why do we stay on the same circles of friends then? Is it because they are the best curators we have found or because we are sometimes a bit lazy to push ourselves away from our comfort zone?

And yet.

Today, as I set my mind firmly into going away from the recommendations of my Twitter stream this morning, convincing myself that I am trying to pursue what I'd like to do with my creativity, I land on a project where Jim Groom, who is in my trusted network of curators and inspirers, has played a part.

Wait a second. I was on his website last night to create my first MacGuffin assignment! How come I've been going round in circles? My intention was to sail the vast open web, to go elsewhere, far out. This doesn't seem to follow the logic of serendipity. Six grades separation maybe?

I'd call it an online dream.

Over a month ago, I know Jim read and liked something I said to Alan about the mysterious nature of our connections, about the Internet being like a dream, only it's a real one.

Jim responded via Twitter:

  1. Jim Groom
    jimgroom @fceblog Dream a dream for me :)
-- this quote was brought to you by quoteurl

Come to think of it, it might have been a disguised assignment...


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Messing with the MacGuffin

I have found this digital storytelling ds106 assignment interesting enough to stretch myself into learning some Picasa.

Wikipedia defines the MacGuffin as "a plot element that catches the viewers' attention or drives the plot of a work of fiction." For this assignment forever change the plot of a movie, tv show, etc. by changing a single line of dialogue. Put this new line of dialogue below a screen-cap of the moment in the movie you're changing. Credit to Tom Woodward for posting an example of this idea in the #ds106 Twitter stream.

The moment I saw a few examples I got the idea for my own. I would have loved to have the fluency to create this as fast as a tweet, but I needed to get my fingers muddy in an image editor. Today I found the moment to play so here is "some art dammit!". Or so I hope.

What if...

Call me romantic for thinking Francesca had pretty good reasons not to get off the car and let Robert go away instead. I like the movie the way it is. I love watching that long, almost silent scene again. As if Meryl could surprise me by twisting the plot and doing a MacGuffin of her own creation.

My MacGuffin version is a stretch of the original assignment, for the words in the caption are not a change of any of the bits spoken. Granted. But hey, who hasn't thought of or even protested those words while watching The Bridges of Maddison County?

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Friday, October 14, 2011

Curation Between You and Me

The curator is as important as the information.

At least, that's the conclusion I can draw from my reading and bookmarking habits. It's a pattern: whatever is shared by one of my trusted learning buddies has far more chances of getting my attention, of being saved for later or getting links in my blog.

Nothing new under the sun in that first paragraph. What I wonder is:
a. How did that happen?
b. How valuable is that?

a. It happens one link at a time intertwined with bits that tell me who the reader is and how close we are in views. Or not. The healthy tension of disagreeing is a fertile learning ground. I like and welcome a complete opposite view that makes it necessary to understand my own in depth.

b. Value of curation. Lots of course. I'd say it has an "economy value" and a "rainbow value". When the same link starts pouring your Twitter stream as if it were a call for a fire brigade, it is good to see the different shades of colours in the views people you trust have about the same issue. It is instant. You get the main synthesis in 140 or even the questions that will need careful exploration in blogs. But the synthesis on its own might create a lasting impression in your view of the topic even before you decide to click on a well thought out analysis. This is how bias can shut your own voice up. Yet, I can confidently say I do not become my network, although I share many views. I just build my identity in their presence.


What concerns me now is the "economy" value. By economy I mean the time and effort saved by not finding the information yourself. The value you can ascribe simply because of the source of information. A lot has been said about the time it takes to create a (personal?) network. But when you don't have the habit of reaching out and following new people not followed by anyone else, you risk getting a choir full of echo. You easily become interested in what concerns the (massive?) network.

A detail I do not want to forget. Curation is mediated by tools. The tools we use come and go depending on the priorities of business people that have little to do with the idea that learning is a serious job. Anyway, we cannot even agree what learning is, so it is not fair to expect Delicious or Facebook or Twitter to facilitate it for us or help us to sustain it.

When we evaluate a new link or tool, when we need to assess it again after using it for years, how do you know to what extent the curation is done by the network, the tool or you?

In the meantime, who do you believe is doing it?

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