I Remember, I Remember

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know the YouTube embeds are ephemeral. Iframe evaporati. Fleeting, all the new things. I’m posting it anyway, in spite of (possibly because of) its impermanence.

#E17, Polymorphic Frames of Pre-Tenure WPAs, #4c14

Our CCCC roundtable wrapped up a few minutes ago (exactly :05, according to the entry-scheduler’s timestamp). Eight of us planned and proposed this as a session that would be delivered simultaneously in Indianapolis, live, and also via Twitter, using scheduled tweets with the #4c14 hashtag with links to YouTube versions of the presentations, complete with closed-captioning. I finished setting up the scheduled tweets a few minutes ago–on Monday the 17th–and thought I may as well embed the full playlist into a blog entry, too, both to capture the event here and to circulate it yet again for anyone who might have missed it.

I’m sure there is more to say about it–both about the mix of pre-tenure WPA perspectives collected here and also about the production process involved with planning and putting together the slidedecks, audio files, and transcripts. I’m also interested in when this is delivered and circulated in time. How many nows? With any luck, there will be time enough for thinking through this more and considering the value in session-wide durable artifacts (hyper-deictic time capsules) after we’re all tick-tocking on the other side of this busy week.

Bieber Marley Alvin

As the final web-based event of the old year, I just downloaded Bieber’s “Baby” onto Is.’s ipod (at her unceasing request). Yes, please feel free to hear it for yourself. She tells us that everyone in her class sings the chorus often and ably during clean-up time: baby, baby no, the chorus during chores.

This means I will continue my 2010 anthem as my 2011 anthem, which will make this the first repeat anthem of my life (since I began thinking of years as warranting dedicated personal anthems three years ago, in 2009). Last year’s anthem and next year’s anthem shall be

With a little bit of good luck, this will be the earworm to sound my path next year. The melody to heat these earbuds! Although, since rhythms are difficult to keep steady in an age of unpredictably mutated dromos (i.e., timetracks), no doubt some days it will end up sounding like this.

May those days in the year ahead be few. And phew.

Lessig’s #wireside Chat

I watched Larry Lessig’s “#Wireside Chat” live last Thursday evening, viewing it from Halle Library at EMU along with Steve and a few graduate students in his winter C&W course. I took a few notes during the talk; thought I’d translate them into something more coherent.

Lessig opened with an allegory: an extended narrative linking a dilemma facing cigarette smokers of yesteryear with a dilemma facing users of mobile devices and wireless internet, an allegory inspired by Christopher Ketcham’s recent article in GQ. Just as early reports on the cancerous effects of smoking tobacco were speculative and contested, so are today’s investigations into the insidious effects of wireless signals murky and tentative. Lessig cited Henry Lai, whose research on non-ionizing radiation has clarified a troubling pattern of self-interest: industry-funded research finds wireless to be harmless, while non-industry-funded research finds wireless to be harmful. The basic idea here is that research of this sort reflects the bias of its funding source. And this builds toward a crisis because 1) everyday people cannot know which research to trust and 2) the binaristic “debate” creates doubt such that reasonable people can think either way about the issue, rendering it undecidable.

From this, Lessig shifted to Part Two, a different debate concerning free culture. He credited a graduate student who “fed him” ideas from Aldous Huxley and John Philip Sousa about technologies threatening creative culture. Huxley worried about the ways broadcast media cemented audiences in read-only passivity. Sousa lamented similarly that the phonograph would hobble music creation. He expected that read-only (or listen-only) would thwart production and result in conditioned passive consumption. In the free culture debate, Lessig locates 2004 as a key shift: read-write culture was revived that year, with Wikipedia as its poster child. Lessig says “remix” is the best name to describe this shift.

In 2006, via YouTube, we witnessed another key shift, this time tied to video: the remix technique is further democratized. In numerous examples, we can see read-write in action. According to Lessig, “This begins to be precisely what Sousa romantisized.” At this point in his talk, Lessig rehearsed the legal developments around copyright, albeit in fairly sweeping terms (Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act to courts more recently “getting it right”). Lessig was obviously quite wrapped up in efforts to persuade the Supreme Court to the merits of free culture, but he described the results as an utter defeat. Lessig went on in his talk to discuss the way Disney invokes copyright law and uses their copyright extension lobby to block efforts by others to do as they did to Brothers Grimm. His discussion of Disney included a thoughtful aside about the remix premise of Little Einsteins–a program I’ve gotten to know well in the last 18 months. Finally, Lessig tried to create some fusion between his work on free culture and his interests, more recently, in congressional reform. He explained that the read/write movement does not have in Congress a receptive audience, but that we must continue to imagine YouTube as a powerful platform for forcing these issues. Emphasizing repeatedly the value in fair and free codecs and fair and free use, Lessig concluded his talk, urging his audience to “Continue the work to build the tools to make this culture free.”

I want to mention two things I was thinking of as the talk wrapped up and during the Q&A. The first is that this talk had all the markings of Lessig-in-intellectual-transition. It was abundantly clear that he is in a cross-over period, moving from his many years of hard work on free culture and Creative Commons, to something more directly concerned with Washington D.C. lobbying practices and corrupt politics. The appearance of this transition is not necessarily bad, but I think it created a muddle for a couple of key points, which brings me to the second thing I was thinking about. Lessig argued for the cultural force of YouTube, but it almost sounded like he envisioned in remixing practices a great political force, as well. In a fairly abstract way, I buy the premise that remixing can effect change, but I didn’t find in Lessig’s examples anything impressive enough to make an impact on the scale he seemed more genuinely interested in reaching (national government). I guess the question of impact circles back around to this: What are the most impressive or memorable examples of remix, and for whom are they impactful? Or else these: What exactly is the difference they are making in, say, political processes? How are they consequential? Other than something like a YouTube presidential debate (which isn’t exactly remix), what is an example of YouTube impacting a political process? Then again, maybe I am looking for consequences too much in the remixes themselves and not enough in the slow rise of cultural creation by these means. In other words, perhaps their impact lies in their collective affirmation of free speech.

There’s much more to say about the Wireside Chat, but these notes will do for now. I will be interested in revisiting this periodically to rethink the power of remix and whether we have in the months and years to come realized a different degree of impact in it than we have seen in YouTube’s first five years.

Ch. 71

Over the weekend I gave the blog a two-point tune-up. Point one: Rolled
all one-hundred and some entries from
Exam Sitting
(later renamed "Dissarray"…so clever!) into Earth Wide Moth.
I will delete the other site soon. Now my old reading notes have a home with a
hearth: the "yesterblog" will churn those entries back to the front page once
per year so that I can freshen up on all that I’ve forgotten over the last
eighteen months. Point two: Launched a TV station–EWM-71–by
making a page with a bunch of YouTube custom players. I know, I know: all
big media conglomerates started small. Naysayers might add: "Technically,
YouTube is not TV," and to them I would retort, "Why are you crapping on my stoop during this moment in the sun?"

I appreciate that all of the programming is easily controlled and readily
updated through YouTube. I will see a video I want to add, click on it,
bump it into a playlist, and there it is, live on EWM-71. I can also re-arrange
the order of the clips in any playlist. Why bother with this? Well, not only do
I like it, but I’ve been thinking about some sort of project that would tie into
this practice of tele-tubing; something for a class, maybe, where research
involves piling up a yarn of video snippets. Not necessarily a full
24-hour marathons of crappy 70’s TV, but a variety show arranged into a single
page–a wall of moving images. And then write some sort of account of it, a
review of the next person’s programming line-up, annotations, and so on.

Another programming note: Eventually, what I’d really like to see is a Web
2.0 application (developers?) that makes it possible to produce something like

at home. Voice- and video-enabled pairs could connect, pre-load
(or randomize) a list of discussable points, set an arbitrary timer, and then
get going with a pop-pop-pop conversation. And then post it to blog, of
course. Go!

1. John McCain’s plagiarized speech
2. Tayshaun Prince’s minutes against China
3. Spiced ketchup
4. How long of a job letter is too long of a job letter?
5. Peter, Paul, and Mary

I came up with these off the top of my head. But seriously, there would
be a lot to love in a DIY, web-based PTI module, no? If it doesn’t come
along soon, maybe somebody will go out on a limb with me and pitch a PTI-styled
conference panel, so I can get it out of my system.

World as Text

Picked up this clip, “The Child,” from infosthetics this morning and found it striking enough–for its geotypography–to justify pasting it on. This is what the world would be like were it purely textual. The premise is simple enough–a couple in New York City rushes to the hospital where their baby will be delivered. Only, is the baby a word? And wouldn’t NYC have more words?

Anyway, I say it’s worth stowing in your playlist as a conversation troubler the next time culture-as-text, thick description, or an everything’s text worldview comes up.