Monday, March 31, 2008

Warhol and McLuhan?

The connection seems obvious, but hard to track down. Found a few blog posts with casual references, one pretty good post on the place of Warhol and the Velvet Underground in The Medium is the Massage.

Saw about an hour and 15 minutes of Ric Burn's documentary on Warhol tonight, and Burns came straight from the airport to talk with the 60 or so of us who had gathered. Apparently the whole work is 4 hours--worth checking out.

The McLuhan-Warhol connection that seemed potentially surprising was Warhol's "return to business" after he was shot. He had started out as a commercial artist, abandoned the commercial for the Factory and the art scene, then came back from his near death experience to recognize that "Culture is Our Business," the McLuhan book title from 1970.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Geoff Sirc at Grad Student Conference

The NDSU graduate students put on their annual conference this weekend, and invited Geoff Sirc to to deliver the keynote. He provided his usual fascinating reading of contemporary composition (iTunes reviews) in the context of classical rhetoric and engaged education. I'm terribly aware that this little post has none of the rhythm or groove displayed by the iTunes reviewers.

I used to have students write Amazon reviews, but it was always interesting to see how much the classroom assignment interfered with the nature of online writing. I also suspect that many of the fine and interesting examples Sirc showed us come from people who enjoy playing with language, people who are comfortable playing with language. When I give my students an opportunity like this, I find out that many struggle with those notions of play, voice, creativity. Heck, I struggle with playfulness, as much as enjoy it. Lots of good reasons to use an itunes / amazon review assignment, but it needs to be supported by the teaching of creativity (possible!?) and probably some of the kinds of voice / sound pedagogies suggested by TR Johnson.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Virtual Peace Garden in Second Life

This post comes from my short-lived Word Press Blog. I thought I had copied it to Ten a Day, but I can't seem to find it in the archives. I've also added some material since that initial post.

I've been imagining a "Virtual Peace Garden" for Second Life as MEmorial to civilian harm and loss in global conflict. My site would be a "peripheral" MEmorial, attached to the physical International Peace Gardens located on the Manitoba-North Dakota border. I decided I had better do a bit more research on the IPG first, however. Here are some things I found out.

1. The garden just celebrated its 75 anniversary, July 14, 2007.
2. The IPG has been under-funded for a number of years now, but during the last legislative session in ND, the state decided to increase its commitment to the gardens--5 million for this year, $32 million total (although the Canadians are going to chip in half, as I understand the agreement).
3. A 9/11 memoiral was erected in 2001, with beams from the WTC transported to the IPG by Canadians, erected on the US side.

I found out a variety of other facts, but in general, I was impressed with the vision the Director and the governments have for the IPG. My own plans for the Virtual Peace Garden seem, in fact, parallel to their vision of increasing the traffic and function of the site. A new interpretive center and conflict resolution center (Camp David style) are in the plans for the IPG. The park is currently open only 3 months of the year, but the goal is 12 months. The IPG plan probably isn't quite as ambitious as my own vision: turning both the physical and virtual IPG into a kind of mecca, a pilgrimage site for peace activists from around the world. By building in Second Life, I would make the Virtual Peace Garden more accessible than the IPG, but with any luck, a community forming around the virtual PG might be inspired to visit the physical PG.

What would a visitor to a Virtual Peace Garden do? Leave notes and objects, meet and talk with others interested in peace and justice issues, perhaps someday visit "rooms" within the virtual museum. I have been working on a MEmorial for the Lost Boys of Sudan*; I could envision a virtual room for southern Sudan, for Darfur, for Rwanda, for The Democratic Republic of Congo, for Somalia, etc., rooms that might collect video, photos, and text. Audio tours could be recorded. I don't know how to build anything in SL, so I would need to find good technical support for this kind of project. I'd also need to find a job that would give me the time to do this kind of work. The VPG could also host Rallies and other events. Conflict negotiation students welcome!

Greg Ulmer, primary theorist of Electronic Monuments / MEmorials, talks about the work of virtual memorialists as the work of "consultants without portfolio" and "unsolicited consultations." I do wonder how the IPG board of directors would respond to my "unsolicited consultation" and I wonder what compromises I would need to make if I functioned as a consultant with portfolio? Seems like I need to keep pushing my project further, define it more clearly, and then see about contacting the Director.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Clinton Global Initiative University

I just read about the in The Clinton Global Initiative University in the Chronicle of Higher Education, and then checked out the website. I was particularly interested in the idea that universities might start scholarship funds for refugees, but was disappointed when I got to the website and found no real help or means for doing so. They offer some Tips for Universities but those are pretty vague and general.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Mash-up Ideas for ASAH

I submitted some ASAH ideas to the NetSquared Mashup Contest. The Mash-up contests asks non-profits like ours to identify various data sources and web applications relevant to our project, and then envision how the data and the interactivity of the web might be brought together in compelling ways. In a nutshell, I envision an old-school mash-up of data that might simply constitute a montage for the documentary, but also an interactive component on the website where people might be able to interact with photos, videos, and maps to get a better feel for the history, geography, and current humanitarian needs of the region.

Please take a look and see what suggestions for improving this mash-up you might have.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Clay Shirky: Here Comes Everybody

I read a very short but positive review of Clay Shirky's book Here Comes Everybody in Wired, so I thought I should check it out. Seems to be available now, but more importantly, perhaps, I found this video of his book talk at Harvard. My immediate reaction upon listening was "This is plagiarism!!" Talk about fully absorbing McLuhan but not citing him! Maybe the book does, and I checked around--he cited McLuhan in an essay from 2000--but I really haven't heard anybody else evoke things like the communications epochs and communication as prosthetic / extension without at least dropping McLuhan's name.

Of course Shirky has moved into analysis and details well beyond what McLuhan was able to do in the 1960s through 80s, so I will need to check out the book this summer. A trend that continues to strike me as interesting is the appropriation of McLuhan by the popular press commentators (Steven Johnson, Clay Shirky, Chuck Klosterman) but general dismissal among scholars. I have some ideas as to why this happens, but I'll need to come back to those later.

Watch the video, and leave a comment--come here, everybody!