miscellany

  • CMB:

    Al Young charged a group of us black poets from Cave Canem with writing political poems. Maybe six months later, Toi [Derricote] asked me if I was going to write about being black and write about race. Maybe six months after that Thomas [Sayers Ellis] asked me— or rather, told me, once I'd begun writing these poems about race— told me that it was an important thing, that not so many poets were doing it, and that we really had to get out there and start speaking for the people and for what's happening in actual life, not the existential poetry we read that includes flowers and pretty things, but the grit of life and living.

  • ...

  • JB:

    How do you respond as an artist to someone, even— I'm assuming these people are your teachers— even if someone is your teacher, saying you need to write about this, you need to do this, and then you sit down and do your work, does that mean you necessarily would do that, or... I mean, a lot of writers I know see their work rising organically from the page. How do you make sense of those forces?

  • CMB:

    I believe in it, in the organics of poetry, and all that is fine and well, but I think that these poets, particularly these people— Thomas, Al and Toi— asking these things out of me, you know, whether they felt it was need or not, I discovered the need in myself to write through these things, if not just about them.

We had a lot of trouble with western mental health workers who came here immediately after the genocide and we had to ask some of them to leave.

They came and their practice did not involve being outside in the sun where you begin to feel better. There was no music or drumming to get your blood flowing again. There was no sense that everyone had taken the day off so that the entire community could come together to try to lift you up and bring you back to joy. There was no acknowledgement of the depression as something invasive and external that could actually be cast out again.

Instead they would take people one at a time into these dingy little rooms and have them sit around for an hour or so and talk about bad things that had happened to them. We had to ask them to leave.

~A Rwandan talking to a western writer, Andrew Solomon, about his experience with western mental health and depression.

From The Moth podcast, ‘Notes on an Exorcism’. (via jacobwren)

(via bettyann)

At the core of Pollen is an argument:

First, that digital books should be the best books we’ve ever had. So far, they’re not even close. Second, that because digital books are software, an author shouldn’t think of a book as merely data. The book is a program. Third, that the way we make digital books better than their predecessors is by exploiting this programmability.

That’s what Pollen is for.

Pollen: the book is a program

Pollen is a publishing system that helps authors create beautiful and functional web-based books. Hallelujah.

No secret— I like the idea of self-tracking and quantified living. My set up is less than ideal right now. Although I’ve experimented with capturing different datasets, I’ve never really managed to get the balance right between the effort required to establish and maintain a self-tracking discipline, and the actual return offered through points of learning derived from the data. Or to put it another way— I haven’t managed to satisfactorily reconcile the cost transforming captured data into meaningful information.

The Jawbone UP24 captures activity passively. That, and Moves on the iPhone are my longest running tracking efforts. Beyond those, I’m currently focusing on a set of Q&A style applications and intiatives, searching for correlations. Each of the following apps demands your attention at random points during your day, and asks you a series of questions.

Reporter (iPhone app)

You get to determine the questions you’re asked. The app itself offers some pretty attractive charts, and there are some interesting conduits to visualisations of the data you capture. It’s the most attractive app of the bunch, and the one I’ve had the longest, but the one I respond to least.

Mappiness (iPhone app)

Yes, another iPhone app, part of a research project at the London School of Economics that’s specifically interested in happiness in relation to specific places. There’s a useful set of charts and correlations built-in, and while they’re not as easy on the eye as Reporter’s, they’re probably more informative, at least out of the box. I’ve been a little more consistent with answering Mappiness whenever it calls for attention…

Track Your Happiness (web app)

I’ve just started using this one. It’s very reminiscent of Mappiness— some of the questions and categories are eerily similar, although attributed to a research project out of Harvard. That said, I like the variation in questions that are offered up. Although the base questions remain the same (Do you have to do what you’re doing right now? Do you WANT to do what you’re doing right now? Are you alone? And so on…) each call to respond throws up something slightly different, and this novelty makes it a little more interested to answer the call, pushing beyond the drudgery of capturing data and making each mini-interview an opportunity to pause and reflect.

Early days yet, but I’m really curious to see what I’ll learn from each of these, if I use them for long enough…

No secret— I like the idea of self-tracking and quantified living. My set up is less than ideal right now. Although I’ve experimented with capturing different datasets, I’ve never really managed to get the balance right between the effort required to establish and maintain a self-tracking discipline, and the actual return offered through points of learning derived from the data. Or to put it another way— I haven’t managed to satisfactorily reconcile the cost transforming captured data into meaningful information.

The Jawbone UP24 captures activity passively. That, and Moves on the iPhone are my longest running tracking efforts. Beyond those, I’m currently focusing on a set of Q&A style applications and intiatives, searching for correlations. Each of the following apps demands your attention at random points during your day, and asks you a series of questions.

Reporter (iPhone app)

You get to determine the questions you’re asked. The app itself offers some pretty attractive charts, and there are some interesting conduits to visualisations of the data you capture. It’s the most attractive app of the bunch, and the one I’ve had the longest, but the one I respond to least.

Mappiness (iPhone app)

Yes, another iPhone app, part of a research project at the London School of Economics that’s specifically interested in happiness in relation to specific places. There’s a useful set of charts and correlations built-in, and while they’re not as easy on the eye as Reporter’s, they’re probably more informative, at least out of the box. I’ve been a little more consistent with answering Mappiness whenever it calls for attention…

Track Your Happiness (web app)

I’ve just started using this one. It’s very reminiscent of Mappiness— some of the questions and categories are eerily similar, although attributed to a research project out of Harvard. That said, I like the variation in questions that are offered up. Although the base questions remain the same (Do you have to do what you’re doing right now? Do you WANT to do what you’re doing right now? Are you alone? And so on…) each call to respond throws up something slightly different, and this novelty makes it a little more interested to answer the call, pushing beyond the drudgery of capturing data and making each mini-interview an opportunity to pause and reflect.

Early days yet, but I’m really curious to see what I’ll learn from each of these, if I use them for long enough…

…looking back at some of his earlier work, Bailey is now the first to admit that pushing too hard and being too bold is an occupational hazard. “People have said, ‘White boy, you are messing with my culture. You have no right to tell the story of our spiritual practices or our history, because you are getting it all wrong.’ And I can’t defend those works today in the same way I could back then. For all I know, I could look back at Exhibit B in 10 years and say, ‘Oh my God, I am doing exactly what they are accusing me of.’ But that’s the risk you take. It comes with the territory.”

Edinburgh’s most controversial show: Exhibit B, a human zoo | Stage | The Guardian

Exhibit B is coming to the Barbican, later in September.

I received a request to participate in a petition via Facebook against the work (insert love letter to social media here) on the basis that, with black people presented in cages for the benefit of an audience, the work was, at its core, racist.

I can appreciate the knee-jerk. And the parallels between this and the kind of “human zoos” of the past that this work seeks to make comment on. That said, the entire enterprise is predicated on that notion: making comment upon a way of viewing people of colour and otherness, and to challenging the thinking behind viewing “the other” through the lens of spectacle.

I wonder how many of the protesters took a stand against it before they knew what the work is about, and what its intentions are?

How many contemporary portrayals of “otherness” are essentially leveraged in a similar, spectacular way, made more suspect for the lack of interrogation or challenge? How much is swallowed without question because the cages and bars that once separated us from “the other” have been replaced by (television/computer) screens?

Rather than joining the call to protest about the work before its staged, I’m planning to experience it first, then attempt to decide for myself how “successful” it seems to be.

If I’m not getting anything out of self-tracking that’s worth the set up time, battery draining, and mindfulness of checking up on my data, is it worth it? Of course not. Each of these services I drop is one less piece of mental clutter, more space on my hard drive, and—yes—less data I’m giving up for free to some venture-backed startup company that’s just going to get eaten by Facebook or Google in a year or two. Which is why I stick with tracking stuff that focuses on actionable data. If I know I’m spending two hours a week on Facebook, or Tweetbot is my most used iPhone app, that’s actionable data.

A Few More Thoughts On Self-Tracking - Sanspoint. - Essays on Technology and Culture by Richard J. Anderson

I’ve been mentioning Quantified Self A LOT in recent professional development workshops, but I’m very aware of the fact that it’s hard to get into a deeper conversation about it with people who are new to the notion of self-tracking without a) a relatively easy pathway to collect meaningful data-points and b) a relatively easy way to visualise, correlate and learn from said data.

Yes, I sport a Jawbone UP for physical activity and sleep, and I use Moves on the iPhone primarily to map my movements day to day (with a little bit of added context for categories of movement— walking, running, cycling, driving etc). Moves, through some internet wizardry that I can’t even remember how I set up, sends data to Runkeeper, which loops back to my UP account. But that’s just physical activity. There’s an entire other layer of activity I’d like to be able to report on, but only if I can find the easiest meaningful way to do it…

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