Viola; porcupines, spaces, and edits

We’ve been reading Viola in preparation for this week’s New Media Seminar. So much of it is swirling around in my head; the way Facebook edits “our year,” edits our life, the way we rely on the unseen data space, the way we move through nonlinear formats in our linear ways. All this has been on my mind.  (And let’s say that is the reason this post is so… unedited.) The re-directing of my thoughts towards the question (below) was helpful in steering me down a different path of connecting the dots in Viola’s work.

Given this framework, I suggest we also understand the parable of the porcupine and the expository sections of the essay as equal outward expressions of the same underlying thing. What is that/the thing?

The thing that is the parable of the porcupine, the mantra, and the geometric diagram (after much thought) is spacial, but not necessarily specifically temporal which compels me to propose it is a type of movement; not to be confused with progress, but a different type of movement… perhaps simply motion. This interpretation is (of course) founded in my preoccupation with space and time and place, (or, movement and location), but I feel there is an argument to be made for the way we perceive movement and are perceived to move.

Being able to move through and with technology opens up new conceptual and literal doors; however, the motion can still happen without the technology. The porcupine made it across the road in the dark.

I also read echoes of Barthes in this text—the space, altered by the words on the page does not apply to computers and Viola reads that as freeing. I have always found the movement of my mind to my finger to the motion (or movement) to the key, the sound it releases and the immediate projection of the known sign on the white (blue) screen is powerful and  empowering. I am back again, to the power of motion.

Bonus question: Is data space a sacred space, a secular space, or something else altogether?
This text and question lead me to focus on the power of the mediated mantra. I first experienced it’s power around 2006 while interning for a documentary film team.

The space made by the sound of words emitting through the air, occupying the space around total strangers, and the way it connected to the intimate, self-reflective moments of introspection I had in the mantra trailer as a 20 year old trying to figure out what to do next… this is powerful and I would dare to say sacred. However. I am not sure what the implication of deeming the space sacred over secular is… does it alter the form of the space to suggest that it’s function is bound by the separate spheres of sacred/secular?
Perhaps it is a third space… similar to Foucault’s heterotopia or Marc Auge’s nonplaces… something between the here and now serving as a space between… I would assert, a space for movement.

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Kay and Goldberg… today.

An instrument created by ASPECT graduate (he says “sound studies”), the Artiphon.

And a lesson on how to raise 900,000 on kickstarter:

Examples of the application of nonlinear explorations in the classroom:

And final thoughts on content production:

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Internal Reviews and Scholarly Integrity.

As a qualitative researcher, my work often demands that I complete Internal Reviews through Institutional Internal Review Boards (IRBs). Doing an IRB is not easy, often lacking in a solid foundation and changing the “rules” from case to case. I have found, however, that it is very helpful in putting the researcher in the right mindset as they enter the field. Much damage can be done from a simple interview and the power relations between “researcher” and the individual being researched is often oppressive, despite the interviewers best intentions.

Human Subjects reviews are so complex largely because they were created for one discipline but have penetrated the silo walls and the same standards are used for the humanities, sciences, medicine, etc. At Virginia Tech, the mission statement reads as follows:

Mission Statement

Virginia Tech is committed to protecting the rights of and ensuring the safety of human subjects participating in research conducted by faculty, staff and students of the University and for research in which Virginia Tech is engaged. This commitment is vested in the Institutional Review Board for Research Involving Human Subjects (the IRB), and is guided by the ethical principles described in the “Belmont Report” and in applicable federal regulations.

While it is not always easy to navigate the red tape, I find that it is worth it for the sake of prevention.

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Ted Nelson

Reading the work of Ted Nelson in my own workspace led to the following:

20150305_090029 20150305_090053

I outline major papers in the same way, as seen here:

sept. 1. 14 blog post

[listing key themes from readings on neoliberalism…]

Aside, there is something very wonderful about Wunderlist… for those of us who have lists of lists. Surprisingly, nothing was lost when I went from literally marking things off my list to hearing a bell “ding” when an item was removed from my list. I would like to think this is the type of organization and use of the instruments that we are working towards.

Because in the end, we can only connect so much.


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thoughts on performing in higher education.


We recently did a workshop on improvisational acting. I am not an actor and honestly have no desire for that type of spotlight or stage. Performance always makes me feel dishonest—the act of separating oneself for displayment has never appealed to me. In general, I would have been frustrated by such an activity. With papers to write and grade, books to read, conferences to prepare for, spending time making sounds and chasing my peers in a circle wouldn’t seem like a thoughtful use of a Monday evening. However, because the activity was framed within the role of the future professoriate, it got me to thinking about how we perform (the term perform leads me to broaden my scope of thought rather than the term “communicate” which was the term actually used by facilitators and the syllabus)? In what ways is learning performative? Assessment, diversity, inclusion, power? This is not to say performances are not authentic—but rather, that we must be aware of how these things incorporate elements of performance. How can I make this space open to everyone? How can we learn to communicate beyond the roles we believe we are supposed to uphold? How can we learn to perform in ways that empower?


Below is a short lecture by the wonderful Judith Butler. This line of thinking is highly influential on my own reflections regarding the classroom space:



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Doug Engelbart: effectiveness and usability.

The 99% Invisible podcast focusing on the work of Doug Engelbart and the differences between his technological creations and those of Steve Jobs led to questions of effectiveness. Even before watching the clip of the monome (see below) the discussion was reminiscent of conversations regarding musical instruments.

Image result for monome   Image result for monome  Image result for monome

What changes when we think of computers as effective instruments? Do we have a goal or function for the instruments we use? If it is to create more collaboration and effectiveness within groups, should we not address the affect of such instruments as well. Thinking of technology as instruments was very helpful– thinking of both the pragmatic functions as well as the (more) unseen possibilities seemed to change the way I have previously thought about my phone, kindle, computer, etc. Rather than focusing on the compulsion to check emails and take photos, I am now thinking: what can these instruments do, create, change, etc. for me? This is a much more empowering way of understanding my relationship to the plastic objects I am in constant contact with.

In the readings, the importance of human intellectual effectiveness was stressed. Streamline, simple functions open doors and broaden possibilities. In my reading, this is all in relation to production. What if production is not the (conscious) goal or ideal function of the instrument?


[I guess my “nugget” from this week is found in the discussion of the monome!]


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Alan Turing and “imitation”

Here are a few thoughts (and a “nugget”) from Alan Turing’s article “Computing Machinery and Intelligence,” a short piece I am reading for the New Media Seminar at VT.

I found Turing’s writing captivating. While there has been a recent surge in Turing stories and adoration (with many thanks to the widely acclaimed, Imitation Game) his words still seem new and cutting edge. Particularly striking was the absence of binary’s or difference– rhetorically he merged biological and organic metaphors (I am thinking of the onion) alongside discussions of computing and calculating. Personally, that is very difficult to do, even in our technologically adept age. Evolution, behavior, and childlike behavior were all interesting used to explain computers and their possibilities. Throughout the reading and in situations afterward, I kept returning to the emphasis placed on the concept of “think” and “machine.” I thought specially of the ways in which machines computers are openly accepted into human bodies for the purpose of surviving, for instance, cardiac pacemakers. These machines function within the human body  but do not “think” rather, I believe it could be said they mimic or imitate.

I also thought of the messiness of thinking– the brainstorming and mistakes, trashcans full of wadded up papers and empty white out canisters. What does the possibility of thinking machines propose for the messy, dirty, incorrect moments of thinking which lead to new ideas? Are we creating machines to produce? On that note, in what ways do we conflate produce with think and how is this embodied and accepted in different ways in different bodily shells (human vs. machine?)?  This line of thought came after reading both the Lady Lovelace Objection which states, “[T]he Analytical Engine has no pretensions to originate anything. It can do whatever we know how to order it to perform” (59).

Alongside (or perhaps in contestation to) the Lady Lovelace objection is a statement by Turing on the “Learning Machine.” He writes,

“[A]n important feature of a learning machine is that its teacher will often be very largely ignorant of quite what is going on inside, although he may still be able to some extent to predict his pupil’s behavior” (63).

Turing continues to describe the struggle of learning. I found this discussion very useful for a few reasons: one, Turing recognizes the unique struggle that is behind (often invisible) in the learning process and two, he acknowledges the need for that in machines. So, if machines were used to create and encourage and compel such struggles, that would (perhaps) encourage new types of human interaction and learning– which I believe is an underlying reason for our interest in machines and technology in education.

[Off the top of my head I am thinking of note taking apps which turn class notes into mind maps… this of course is not a “thinking machine” but a function of a machine which helps humans think.]

So many wonderful things to think about.


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New Media Seminar [Feb. 12, 2015]

“Before the pervasive influence of network broadcasting, federal regulation, and commercial homogenization, the radio dial was an instrument of fantastic sweep and power, which could convey the listener aurally from region to region, city to city, and voice to voice, and even in effect move him about in time at the speed of light, establishing in his imagination far more effectively than a geography book a sense of the larger society to which he belonged, with ceaseless activity, prodigious strength and variety, even its “fleetingly perceptible form.”

– Robert Cantwell, Bluegrass Breakdown

Above is an excerpt from a reading students in my course on bluegrass music have been grappling with this week. Not so distant, are the readings for our New Media Seminar and there relationships have been exciting. I have been interested in technology and new media through a very specific lens since 2006/2007 when I first discovered Black Mountain College and the relationship between form and function. It may seem a strange path—and interest in technology via the form and functionality of textiles and domes, but the relationships that materials evoke and connect, amputate and extend (to evoke McLuhan), are theoretically similar whether we are discussing smart phones or blankets. My foray into ethnomusicology and cultural studies have only re-introduced me (again and again) to the relationship between technology and power, people and time, in short; form and function. Reading about the different anticipated technologies in the readings, I was struck by the romanticized future functions and the ways in which they maintain violence yet offer hope for possibilities.

My “nuggets” for this week deal with such functions and are from Vannevar Bush’s article “As We May Think” (found here), and read in conjunction with Vannevar Bush’s “Science, the endless frontier; a report to the President on a program for postwar scientific research” from July 1945.

One can now picture a future investigator in his laboratory. His hands are free, and he is not anchored. As he moves about and observes, he photographs and comments. Time is automatically recorded to tie the two records together. If he goes into the field, he may be connected by radio to his recorder. As he ponders over his notes in the evening, he again talks his comments into the record. His typed record, as well as his photographs, may both be in miniature, so that he projects them for examination. –Vannevar Bush, As We May Think

This made me think of an argument a fellow student made about household appliances, such as the washing machine—productivity is increased, but actual “free time” is not necessarily increased by the ownership or ability to utilize such a technology. Similarly, I am interested in this vision of the free, unanchored (always male) investigator.

Of what lasting benefit has been man’s use of science and of the new instruments which his research brought into existence? First, they have increased his control of his material environment. They have improved his food, his clothing, his shelter; they have increased his security and released him partly from the bondage of bare existence. They have given him increased knowledge of his own biological processes so that he has had a progressive freedom from disease and an increased span of life. They are illuminating the interactions of his physiological and psychological functions, giving the promise of an improved mental health.

–Vannevar Bush, As We May Think

Later, Bush seems to look to the future, to the utopian possibilities of technology and science:

Presumably man’s spirit should be elevated if he can better review his shady past and analyze more completely and objectively his present problems. He has built a civilization so complex that he needs to mechanize his records more fully if he is to push his experiment to its logical conclusion and not merely become bogged down part way there by overtaxing his limited memory. His excursions may be more enjoyable if he can reacquire the privilege of forgetting the manifold things he does not need to have immediately at hand, with some assurance that he can find them again if they prove important. (emphasis added)

These readings have caused me to think critically about my own use of new media and my hopes for its function—am I desiring control or hoping to disrupt the control of previous technologies? How do we critically and honestly evaluate the functions of new media and the technologies we choose to use?

[below: an Anni Albers textile piece]

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Mission Statements and Actions

PFP Post #1

Higher Education’s possibilities continue to mystify me—there are so many varied paths to getting an education, to learning, and to experience a commitment to studying. I am interested in processes that involve the student outside the classroom—process that create spaces for learning. There are a few schools I know of that do this well; two of which are Berea College and Warren Wilson College. Both of the institutes are rural and devoted to the region of Appalachia, which is perhaps why they are on my radar. Similarly, each of these places demand a devotion to service and service learning that I have seen students respond to in the classroom.

Where are the mission statements from? Location? Country? Type of university/college?

Warren Wilson’s detailed “road map” to upholding and honoring the mission stood out as practical, user friendly, even. To me, it suggests that these are to be implemented and integrated into student life, not simply recorded on a website.

The mission of Warren Wilson College is to provide a distinctive undergraduate and graduate liberal arts education. Our undergraduate education combines academics, work, and service in a learning community committed to environmental responsibility, cross-cultural understanding, and the common good.

Core Values

All proceedings, programs, and initiatives of the College are grounded in a commitment to the following core values:

The Triad: Academics, work, and service

Community: Civic engagement and participatory governance Liberal Arts: Experiential and innovative education Sustainability: Environmental responsibility, social and economic justice Diversity: Inclusivity, international and cross-cultural understanding Wellness: Personal growth and well-being

Enduring Institutional Objectives

Drawing from its core values, the College accomplishes its mission through an enduring commitment to the following objectives:

  1. To practice an integrated Triad of academic study, productive work, and meaningful service
  2. To prepare students for service, leadership, and meaningful lifelong work and learning
  3. To offer an undergraduate educational program that A. enables students to think critically, obtain and evaluate information effectively, and communicate clearly; B. introduces students to a variety of ways that humans acquire and use knowledge; C. provides students with opportunities to develop a breadth of understanding and to make connections among areas critical to a liberal arts curriculum; D. requires that students demonstrate a depth of understanding through competence in one or more academic disciplines; E. leads students into considered reflection on the meaning and value of work and service to others; F. engages students in Triad activities that deepen understanding about the environmental, economic, and community bases of sustainability; G. guides students in examining their lives and articulating their beliefs and values; H. provides opportunities for personal, physical, moral, and spiritual development; I. imparts an awareness of the commonality of human problems while encouraging the development of civic engagement and a sense of social justice; J. offers educational opportunities for students to better appreciate the diversity of the world and to develop cross-cultural and international understanding.
  4. To offer select, innovative graduate programs grounded in the liberal arts tradition
  5. To promote environmental responsibility in students through education, campus operations, policy, and community outreach
  6. To create an educational community representing a broadly diverse world
  7. To nurture, through responsible and resourceful management policies, a small, residential community where students, faculty, staff , and governing board share close, mutually supportive, personal relationships and collaborate in College governance
  8. The strategic plan draws on the College’s Enduring Institutional Objectives and identifies those for specific initiatives during the strategic plan period, 2010-2015.


Warren Wilson College will lead the nation toward a new model for liberal arts education through the innovation of its Triad educational program, the quality of its academic engagement, the fulfillment of its sustainability principles, the depth of its commitment to diversity, the vitality of its community, and its nurturing of individual well-being.[1]


Berea College, located in East Kentucky has a more religious grounding in it’s mission statement, laden with historical context:



Berea College, founded by ardent abolitionists and radical reformers, continues today as an educational institution still firmly rooted in its historic purpose “to promote the cause of Christ.” Adherence to the College’s scriptural foundation, “God has made of one blood all peoples of the earth,” shapes the College’s culture and programs so that students and staff alike can work toward both personal goals and a vision of a world shaped by Christian values, such as the power of love over hate, human dignity and equality, and peace with justice. This environment frees persons to be active learners, workers, and servers as members of the academic community and as citizens of the world. The Berea experience nurtures intellectual, physical, aesthetic, emotional, and spiritual potentials and with those the power to make meaningful commitments and translate them into action.

To achieve this purpose, Berea College commits itself

  • To provide an educational opportunity primarily for students from Appalachia, black and white, who have great promise and limited economic resources.
  • To provide an education of high quality with a liberal arts foundation and outlook.
  • To stimulate understanding of the Christian faith and its many expressions and to emphasize the Christian ethic and the motive of service to others.
  • To provide for all students through the labor program experiences for learning and serving in community, and to demonstrate that labor, mental and manual, has dignity as well as utility.
  • To assert the kinship of all people and to provide interracial education with a particular emphasis on understanding and equality among blacks and whites.
  • To create a democratic community dedicated to education and equality for women and men.
  • To maintain a residential campus and to encourage in all members of the community a way of life characterized by plain living, pride in labor well done, zest for learning, high personal standards, and concern for the welfare of others.
  • To serve the Appalachian region primarily through education but also by other appropriate services.


Both of these colleges speak to the importance of liberal arts and community—however, the communities they focus on seem different. Berea has a regional approach while Warren Wilson is looking globally. These are both strengths and potential weaknesses. What I find compelling about both is that they don’t seem to see students, rather members of the community they are creating through the space of the college. I believe this mindset has great potential for radical educational practices.

I found it very interesting that Berea College’s mission statement had not been updated since 1993—over twenty years!Originally adopted by the Board of Trustees in 1969; this revised statement adopted by the Board of Trustees of Berea College, Berea, Kentucky April 24, 1993[2]


Jordan Laney



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