building a site

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Bridge to Next Semester

My central goal in coming to The New School is to learn to work with others on cultural expressions that serve social good. The particular means by which this is accomplished - be it through photography, film, music, etc. - is not a determinant, though audio is a dimension with which I am particularly familiar. I mean to use the medium that best achieves my goals, or more likely the medium that best exploits the resources available to me. If I find myself lacking in technique I can find the needed talent without much trouble. And so the most practical skill I am taking away from this course is the ability to explain myself to creatives on the terms of their tools as I now have some degree of familiarity with those tools. On the less practical side, art is a blast and I enjoy my curious wanderings through the aesthetic realms in my hunt for more curious wanderings. But while exploration is productive, the professional need to communicate must keep such efforts grounded. The line between these two needs is the challenge of creative production.
While I initially aimed to simply learn the tools and simply have fun with the output, I have come to understand that the audience should always be kept in mind even when one is only beginning to grasp the technology. It is never to early to consider how your work will be considered. As the technology has become more familiar I have fallen for the camera, though I must spend a great deal more time with it before I can pull truly expressive work from it. While my pre-production improves with practice, I find I can rely on my post-production skills to fill in the gaps, as my prior work with music editing has strengthened that end of the process. The next time I gather images and sounds it will be to produce short works that are as reliant on visual as audio as concept, aligning the three in the service of a social theme.
Currently I am most interested in collaboration. I have not worked with visual artists before and I look forward to it next semester. I could learn much from a partner as they could learn from me. I will try to reach out to other creatives regularly in an effort to build relationships from which work can foster.
It is a shame that I must limit my response to your final question to the premise of only $150 million, as that is no where near enough to purchase Google. So instead I would use that money to fund an online academy for youths, featuring workshops in technology and social influence. The students could take the courses for free from any where in the world, and would earn credit through collaborative projects with students in other localities, matching images, audio, etc to produce socially minded media as a form of international communication. With $150 I would do a single project with a global selection of youths that would end in a showcase of the resulting work. Just a simple example of the possibilities of what I think culture should be.
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Wabi-Sabi

The beauty described in Leonard Koren's "Wabi-Sabi" is not like the beauty we normally comment on in our daily lives, as seen in a mountain scape, a starlet's face, or a Monet. Wabi-Sabi comes from the profundity found in beginnings and endings, when a thing is not yet fully formed or nearly deteriorated. A new born infant and an elder on their death bed are equally wabi-sabi. In this way a sunrise and a sunset are both wabi-sabi, although they are also paragons of the beauty usually intended by Western perceptions. Besides this temporal aspect of wabi-sabi, there is also a technological one, or rather a lack of technology, as the aesthetic favors nature over artifice, a contradiction in that all cultural expressions are necessarily man-made. Thus, a wabi-sabi work reserves itself, it's formed defined by necessity and function. This reservation intersects with the aesthetics' time-based aspects, both striving to just barely exist. The final aspect of wabi-sabi that I gleamed from Koren's description is a class based primitivism, where the Japanese upper class attempts to regain some authenticity through the use of lower class objects. By portraying a forced modesty the elites can underplay the inequality of power in their society. All these aspects reveal wabi-sabi as a concept based beauty, not one meant for visual as much as mental pleasure, that aggregates into a pervasive presence in Japanese society, but the essence of which can be found in all modest or rustic forms of culture. Anyone who can find relevance in the vulnerable or the subtle can understand wabi-sabi.
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Cultural Activism and Activist Art: Literature Review



Cultural activities, from individual statements by professional artists to the lived practices of whole communities, are not necessarily made with any political or social intention. When an artist does assert an activist intent success is not guaranteed, and community practices that seem to challenge an established order are often more superficial than politically and socially motivated critics would hope. To make better art and cultural activism, interested practitioners must constantly scrutinize the shifting environment in which their work will be interpreted and with luck adopted. This paper remarks on three discourses on the subject of culture and it's political and social efficacy: how today's practices relate to the established order, how to understand the art object's interpretation by an audience, and what the current dissolution of the consumer/producer dichotomy could mean for cultural activism. Throughout I assert that the social efficacy of cultural practice depends on it's context, a common assertion but one that deserves further application on the subject of new media and the current media environment. These discourses are meant not only to further the understanding of culture's impact on the larger world, but also to improve that impact.



The Mainstream


Throughout the literature on activist art and cultural activism, thinkers demarcate several approaches that activist artists and social movements can take towards the established structures upon which they strive to make change. These approaches denote the kinds of stances that can be taken towards mainstream commercial culture and the order it promotes, and many theorists and critics are of the opinion that direct opposition is not always favorable. Harold uses Foucault's distinction between a controlled and a disciplined society to gauge the efficacy of two activist approaches in art. As power shifts from nation states to corporations, the former operating through "the confinement and atomization of individuals" where the later "increasingly relies on the visual rhetoric of the market," (Harold,3) it is the controlled society that predominates, against which wholly negative attacks can be appropriated and will therefore have little impact. This model serves the judgment of social efficacy in contemporary artwork and culture, grounding Harold's assertion that, rather than negative statements such as the parodic 'subvertisements' found in Ad Busters Magazine, which reinforce the dichotomies upon which established order depends, the prank is a more effective form in our current environment. Pranks are distinct from parody as they resist dichotomizing with corporate culture and instead fold "existing cultural forms in on themselves." (Harold, 3) Rather than viewing commercial culture as a stark opponent, today's activist art and culture are increasingly active through counter-co-option, as seen in the Lifestyle TV described by Lewis, in the appropriation through mash-up described by Howard-Spink, and potentially in the curious activities known as flash mobs.

Appropriation from authoritarian establishments threaten all politically associated cultural forms once they attain a prominent level of popularity. This is a long observed problem that inspires cynicism in many would-be-activists, that their expressions will inevitably be co-opted. King's account of reggae's rise to international popularity and consequent appropriation by Jamaican authorities during the 70s is paradigmatic of this issue. From it's inception as Rastafarian protest music to it's embrace of ska and further politicization in the 50s, reggae remained interwoven with the promotion of political and social policies, but with Michael Manley's campaign for prime minister incorporating the music in the early 70s, the cultural was separated from it's political intent, leaving much needed policy change neglected even as it's once associated cultural form attained international popularity. Indeed, culture is often a real vulnerability for any social movement as it leaves the movement exposed to mere adjustment by the authorities without real capitulation. The human propensity to collectivize around symbols is separate from the human ability to collectively act for a better world, and while these two phenomenon often synchronize, the aesthetic nature of culture means it can all too easily disconnect from material purpose.


The recent form of flash mobs has a as of yet undetermined relationship with politics. In his account as a flash mob originator, Wasik expresses a desire for politics to emerge despite the superficial motivation, the "joining urge," that make the form possible. He acknowledges the political subtext of the form, as it renders modern commercial environments absurd and co-opts them, if for only ten minutes, for use in collective expression. He even posits the potential for individual transformation through participation in flash mobs, likening mobbers to participants in Milgram's authority experiments who gain a deeper "understanding of the moral problems of submitting to malevolent authority." (Wasik, 11) But his take on human motivation is quite cynical, as he sees his participants as "a society of cultural receptors, straining to perceive what shifts to follow" and obsessed with "oneness for it's own sake." (Wasik, 7) He then details the inevitable co-option of the form by Ford and Sony as they desperately attempt to sell commercial products. So here we see a potentially political form stripped of it's original context and made politically inept, and yet this circumstance does not render flash mobs a mere fad. In response to Wasik's article, Jane McGonigal noted the collective action from a world wide mobber community in support of Indian mobbsters after the practice was made banned in Mumbai, and Emma Martinez recalls the flash mob in Spain on March 13, 2004 in response to the government's blaming of the recent train bombing on the ETA. The form itself is available to all users, be they corporate, activist, or hipster, and it is through their use in context that the form becomes directly political, basically entertainment, or passive consumption, leaving symbols ever vulnerable to co-option, especially in an rea of corporate dominance. Thus the struggle to own the symbols increasingly becomes the field of activist engagement.


In today's cultural environment of corporate dominance, direct opposition is often ineffective and always in danger of co-option. In hope of negotiating away from such appropriation as experienced by reggae, many current theorists are presenting more sly forms of activist art, forms that incorporate elements of the corporate into their resistance. Harold makes a convincing case for pranking as a practice that turns marketing into "a familiar field on which to improvise, interpret, and experiment." (Harold, 8) One notable example of this practice is ®™ark - the funding source for the infamous Barbie Liberation Organization project - a corporation itself that, instead of condemning, takes advantage of limited liability to make extra-legal statements towards the advantage of it's bottom line, albeit a social bottom line, not a financial one. (Harold, 13) On the other side of the activist/corporate divide is Eco House, an Australian lifestyle television program described by Lewis which depicts the considerable challenges of living sustainably in a modern suburb and offers solutions to those challenges. The show makes compromises with it's mainstream setting in the form of green consumer products that are advertised on and off the show. While these advertisements do promote an individuated, consumer lifestyle, it remains an alternative to the lifestyle commonly perpetuated by television programming, and is thus on the frontline of cultural activism. (Lewis, 12) ®™ark and Eco House are on either side of an approach that engages in commercial culture rather than directly negating it, an approach remarkably different from the oppositional approach usually associated with cultural activism, and one that offers appropriation as an occurrence for further engagement. Such an attitude can do much to diminish the cynicism of many would be activists turned off by the threat of inevitable co-option.


The relationship between the established order and activists working to change it is further complicated by the activist culture's reliance on illegitimacy to attain political relevance. This reliance reveals how arbitrary the connection between culture an politics can be, that the one is only related to the other, not intrinsically, but through use and context. Howard-Spink describes mash-up culture - exemplifying the The Grey Album by Danger Mouse and Downhill Battle's establishment of Grey Tuesday - as inherently political. In his view, any time anyone uses peer to peer networks to share copyrighted files that person is participating in political activism. He does not acknowledge that the political nature of file sharing would not exist if the activity were not illegal. Just as dred locks were once a demarcation of opposition to the establishment but are now legitimized as Jamaican national culture, file sharing could one day be legitimized if the music industry can find a way to profit from it, thus ending it it's activist statement. Cultural activity in itself is rarely directly political, especially the passive practice of downloading music torrents from the internet. It is only the illegitimacy cast upon the practice by authorities that renders the act political. As Howard-Spink depicts the practice as "the space where culture and technology intersects with law and policy" (howard-Spink) he must take into account this underlying necessity. Just as King's telling of reggae's co-option illustrates, the form does not necessitate activism.


The recent form of flash mobs has a as of yet undetermined relationship with politics. In his account as a flash mob originator, Wasik expresses a desire for politics to emerge despite the superficial motivation, the "joining urge," that make the form possible. He acknowledges the political subtext of the form, as it renders modern commercial environments absurd and co-opts them, if for only ten minutes, for use in collective expression. He even posits the potential for individual transformation through participation in flash mobs, likening mobbers to participants in Stanley Milgram's authority experiments who gain a deeper "understanding of the moral problems of submitting to malevolent authority." (Wasik, 11) But his take on human motivation is quite cynical, as he sees his participants as "a society of cultural receptors, straining to perceive what shifts to follow" and obsessed with "oneness for it's own sake." (Wasik, 7) He then details the inevitable co-option of the form by Ford and Sony as they desperately attempt to sell commercial products. So here we see a potentially political form stripped of it's original context and made politically inept, and yet this circumstance does not render flash mobs a mere fad. In response to Wasik's article, Jane McGonigal noted the collective action from a world wide mobber community in support of Indian mobbsters after the practice was banned in Mumbai (Letters, 2), and Emma Martinez recalls the flash mob in Spain on March 13, 2004 in response to the government's blaming of the recent train bombing on the ETA. The form itself is available to all users, be they corporate, activist, or hipster, and it is through their use in context that the form becomes directly political, basically entertainment, or passive consumption.



The Audience and the Object


A consideration of the audience is crucial for all art practice, and for activist art, which seeks to shape the attitudes and actions of an audience, this consideration is crucial, perhaps even central. Falzone defines activist art by it's effect on the audience, by it's "reflecting the world as it is in a way that produces dissatisfaction in people's lives." (Falzone, 9) Park-Fuller analyzes audience reaction to Playback Theatre, the form of which requires "blurred lenses" to comprehend the many roles participants take when engaged with an interactive art practice. Wasik offers an insight that resonates with any artist striving to affect people's lives, that man is "himself the ultimate artistic medium." (Wasik, 5) Neiger understands the audience by situating the object in several contexts, thus revealing how these different situations act on the object's interpretation. These views of the audience are a part of the discussion on how best to construct particular artistic expressions that contribute to social change, revealing that, with activist art especially, to consider the making of the object is to consider it's influence on the audience.

In his explanation of activist efficacy in art, Falzone implements a cognitive functional model which understands the creation of activist art through understanding interpretation. Falzone notes that art persuades by inducing "discreet emotions" which draw the audience into discomfort. (Falzone, 10) Interestingly, this use of emotions does not only demand an understanding of the social context shaping an audience's interpretation, but also of evolutionary forces: "Images need to be visceral and emotive, tapping into the adaptive evolutionary roots of discreet emotion, while tempering their strength to ensure that attention is attracted and not repelled." (Falzone, 14) This consideration of innate emotional reactions and of how artist should negotiate them is a rare insight that speaks to the contributions evolutionary psychology can make to the practice of activist art. In comparison, Park-Fuller's analysis of Playback Theatre, while offering much in the way of emotional explorations and provocative issues, does little to answer the many questions artists have when addressing audiences with the intention for social change. We learn what it might be like to take part in an interactive theatre performance and the intentions of the performance's directors, but we are not given the methodological considerations on how the performance should be constructed to inspire an audience towards social and political engagement. At the end of her analysis she asks that we "understand the rich contributions that audience members bring to a performance, what happens in performance, what they take with them when they leave, where it goes in the world, and what it does there," (Park-Fuller, 20) but her analysis only complicates this understanding without the clarifications, the practical take-aways, that artists require. While yes, the emotional experiences of audiences are complex, we need to understand how to imbue those emotions experiences with purpose.


In her book "Regarding the Pain of Others," Susan Sontag regards several examples of photography that depict human suffering and desperation, offering key insights on how these works should be regarded and how creators, both photojournalists and artists, should approach such material. In contrast to Falzone's work, Sontag sees each depiction of pain as voyeuristic, not simply creating emotional discomfort that leads to activist inspiration, but also removing audiences from the issues that activists seek to confront and instead framing human suffering as entertainment. Falzone offers a means to avoid this voyeuristic reading of jarring art by audiences, that the artist should consider the "message resolution" when crafting the object, meaning how the problem raised and made visceral is to be dealt with, to give the audience some action to take. And Sontag seems to agree when she remarks, "Compassion is an unstable emotion. It needs to be translated into action, or it withers." (Sontag, 101) That translation is precisely the crucial element missing from so much activist art - from Shabtai's poem, from Yutaka's film, from Wasik's flash mobs - that opposes established control and inspires new attitudes towards that control in audiences but does not offer feasible solutions. Park-Fuller speaks of the impact made by Playback Theatre, that it's "social efficacy rests on the fact that its performers are audience members, and that its audience members are performers—all of whom have a responsibility to listen to, to respect, and to learn from one another’s stories, but also to “talk back” (hooks), to intervene, to unmask the latent stances in stories that can divide the human community, and to redress, through its various rituals, the wrongs suffered in silence as well as in speech or action." (Park-Fuller, 16) But as the audience leaves the theatre, she does not explain how they are to translate this new empowerment into their lives, how it might be kept from "withering."


Artists can increase the social efficacy of their work though a consideration of the context in which their work will participate and in which the audience will experience it. The film Peep TV Show by Japanese director Tsuohiya Yutaka makes a provocative criticism of Japan's increased surveillance after 9/11, and as Mcknight explains through an in depth analysis of this work, the new political involvement that this event spurred in Japan created a context in which this film is particularly poiniant. Detailing the references made in the film to subculture and negotiations with establishment control, she reveals the predominance of surveillance in Japan's new political reality. She also compares Yutaka's film with earlier political modernist films, thus connecting the film to a heritage of activist art and showing how Peep TV Show represents a new outlook on resistance in Japan. McKnight's attention to the creative history and current events shaping the context surrounding Peep Tv Show does not include a third dimension of analysis that Neiger calls for and offers in his account of the poem "Libi" by Aharon Shabtai. Like Peep TV Show, "Libi" was made in response to a particular event, namely operation "Defensive Shield" launched by the Israeli Defense Force against Palestine. Also like McKnight, Neiger situates the work of analysis in the "diachronic dimension," explaining the cultural heritage of Lebanon War poetry as a way to understand "Libi." But Neiger also explains the work in the "synchronic dimension" - explaining the specific pieces of journalism that "Libi" references and how he incorporates them - and in terms of "time and space" - explaining how the audience will approach the poem in it's physical context of the H'aretz newspaper. Such thorough attention to context, including the ways in which audiences will receive the work, explains how the work acts in the world, providing artists with tools to increase their work's social efficacy which relies on intimate relations with cultural history, the immediate environment, and the medium through which the work performs.



Producer/Consumer


The most significant development in recent media history has been the collapsing of the producer and the consumer dichotomy. Howard-Spink notes this when he speaks of the ease by which music fans create mash-ups and sample recordings into new statements. Nuttal's depictions of Generation Y in South Africa is one founded on re-mixing styles and images from across historical and class contexts, to the degree that individual cultural actors incorporate these elements into their own expressions, often using their bodies as mediums for this expression. Sun offers a review of successful youth media organizations in developing countries, making special note of recent technology's collapsing creation and use into one act, what she calls "prosuming." This development requires that critics reconsider their ideas on artist and audience relationship, and may prompt new forms of interactivity outside the jurisdictions of new media, such as Playback Theatre which depends on the performers and the audience trading roles, as if the audience were users reprogramming the performance. In this way the habits picked up through new technologies can reshape prior venues for expression.


Howard-Spink remarks that until only recently the internet was "used almost exclusively to facilitate meetings, events and engagements in–the–flesh" (Howard-Spink) but that the emergence of presuming technologies allows for culture and politics to become nearly one in the same, making the internet a site for activism in itself. One form of this new activism is based on file sharing and constant co-authorship, "giving rise to a collective creativity that could even drive greater social collectivity." (Howard-Spink) But there is reason for restraint here. As Joshua Meyrowitz has noted in his work on the rise of electronic media, these new associations are not the deep religious or national ones of past eras, but are rather superficial in comparison. For example, the expressions of Generation Y discussed by Nuttal are rendered into "accessorization," stripping the symbols of their contextual politics for the sake of visceral, individual statements of style. Even as these new expressions take on co-authorship, the aims of these authors can be short sighted and void of social intent. Like Wasik's flash mobs, "deriving less from the work itself than from the social opportunities they might engender," (Wasik, 3) cultural interactions are often made for the experience of social collectivity alone without intent towards social change. Of course in all three cases, file-sharing, accessorization, and flash mobs, the cultural form has been turned to political ends, but it can not be asserted that any new melding of consumer and producer is inherently social or political.


The cultural expressions that act as social adhesives for the participants of Y culture, flash mobs, or p2p trading have only potential for activist uses, even as they collapse the producer/consumer dichotomy. Often the culture requires a spectacular event around which to galvanize, as the Y culture did during the 2008 xenophobic attacks in Johannesburg or the flash mobbers in Barcelona did in response to the ETA persecution after the 2004 train bombings. The culture might also emerge around particular identities with inherent social causes, as the Asian diaspora in Canada has done. As described by Chan, this community grew around a handful of creators that "personified the internment history in Canada" and developed "a concrete foundation for media and music." (Chan, 3) Today, the rise of Asian prominence on the world stage has emboldened the diaspora so that they now seek "approval and legitimacy only from within." (Chan, 3) The history of the "Asianadians" illustrates the need for material associations in the prosuming cultures developing around new media, associations that connect the cultures to real world engagement, an engagement that activist groups can offer to deepen the experience of the culture and the influences it has on the world in which the cultures operate.


The rise of the prosumer has a most notably potential in pedagogy as embraced by youth media organization such as those described by Sun and Nekmat. These organizations, such as Little Masters in China and the Young Journalists Groups in Vietnam, operate by instructing youth to create newsworthy stories for newsprint and radio. These youths are able to attain greater media literacy and to contribute a youth oriented body of information that had been missing in their societies. Perhaps the most important contribution of these groups have been their ability to "shift adult conceptions of children’s capabilities and, consequently, heighten respect for children." (Sun, Nekmat, 9) This last effect carries wide spread and immediate ramifications for policy and social practices, provoking those with greater agency, that is adults, to increase their own activism. While these youth media organizations are exemplars of activist use of media, they do not contribute to the symbolic world of culture the same as does creative media. Prosuming journalism does not offer the crucial questioning of values that cultural prosuming can offer, and it will be exciting to see if and how creative productions will be adopted by youth media organizations, and what influences such products will have on young and adult audiences.



Works Cited:


Falzone, Paul. "Beyond the Fear Appeal: A Cognitive Functional Model of Art Production." Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Communication Association, Dresden International Congress Centre, Dresden, Germany. 2009-05-25


Christine Harold. "Pranking rhetoric: "culture jamming" as media activism." Critical Studies in Media Communication. September 2004; 21; 3


Jane McGonigal. Emma Martinez. "Whose Crowd." Editorial. Harper's Magazine June 2006:


King, Stephen. "The Co-optation of a ‘‘Revolution’’: Rastafari, Reggae, and the Rhetoric of Social Control." The Howard Journal of Communications. 1999; 10


Lewis, Tania. "Transforming citizens: Green politics and ethical consumption on lifestyle television." Continuum. April 2008; 22; 2


McKnight, Anne. "Safety last: risk, interactivity and video activism in contemporary Tokyo." New Cinemas: Journal of Contemporary Film. 2005; 3; 3


Neiger, Motti. and Kohn, Ayelet. "A Three-Dimensional Model for Cultural Interpretation of Protest Performances: The Case of Protest Poetry in Israel During the Second Intifada" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Communication Association, Dresden International Congress Centre, Dresden, Germany, Jun 16, 2006


Park-Fuller, Linda M. "Audiencing the Audience: Playback Theatre, Performative Writing, and Social Activism." Text and Performance Quarterly. July 2003; 23; 3


Sun Sun LIM. Nekmat, Elmie. "Learning through ‘Prosuming’: Insights from Media Literacy Programmes." Science Technology Society. 2008; 13; 259


Wasik, Bill. "My Crowd Or, Phase 5: A report from the inventor of the flash mob." Harper's Magazine March 2006: 56-66


Nuttall, Sarah. "Stylizing the Self: The Y Generation in Rosebank, Johannesburg." Public Culture. 2004; 16; 3


Meyrowitz, Joshua. “Medium Theory.” in David Crowely and David Mitchel (eds.). Communication Theory Today. Cambridge. Polity Press. 1994.


Sontag, Susan. Regarding the Pain of Others. New York: Picador. 2003


Chan, Anthony. Rev. of Voices Rising: Asian Canadian Cultural Activism, by Xiaoping Li. BC Studies 55 (2007): 139-141


Howard-Spink, Sam. "Grey Tuesday: online cultural activism and the mash-up of music and politics." First Monday. 4 July, 2005; 1




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Academic Plan

Every New School student begins the program with a certain trepidation about the openness of the curriculum and the vagueness of the study's professional application. Many of the students with whom I've discussed their reasons for coming to this school have explained that they were frustrated with their careers, often citing the shallowness of the film and advertising industry, and that they had few concrete plans after graduation so long as their work inspires greater passion in them. This is not the case with me, as I have found a work for which I am already quite passionate, giving me definite reasons for coming here. Indeed, I was bemoaning graduate school until I came across The New School and noticed how well the course descriptions synched with my cultural activities. When I arrived this year I felt some apprehension, worried that the education I was about to receive would not correlate with my quite specific intentions, but at the moment The New School is a near perfect match and the community could not be more helpful. The faculty is supportive and bold in their interests in my past work and my current activities, and the students have been approachable. I could ask for are more opportunities to build connections, perhaps more courses designed around real world collaborative projects, but I suspect my participation in future projects and events will establish the relationships I will need for my current work and future career.


The professional capability to coordinate creative talents on media projects, specifically projects with social, political, and philanthropic goals, will be the priority acquisition during my time at The New School. This capability requires obtaining leadership skills, a wide awareness of creative processes across media, and the ability to plan and research viable projects that are achievable and impacting. My past work has been in this direction, concentrating on a local scale, incorporating organizations, creativeness, and audiences from a shared area, as I believed a local focus was needed to authenticate human relationships and social good. Recently I have expanded my ideas to embrace internet communities, drawing from the inspiring work of other cultural activists who have used social media as a venue to build trust and personal relationships as the base for wider mobilization. Some of this work has included efforts made by Greenpeace and Amnesty International activists who have used youtube as a platform for videos criticizing environmentally negligent corporations and the dubious torture policies of the Bush administration. These activists explain that the success of their projects relies on an intimately human use of mass media to build emotional connections with their audiences. Such insights and the astounding successes of these projects have encouraged me to widen my scope and become interested in the potentials of social media.


The world’s complexity is increasingly apparent in the explosive growth of interconnections between disparate parties, making the outcomes of any one party's activities harder to predict. In truth the outcome of human activities have always been beyond human reckoning, and today this is simply becoming more evident and pressing. Increased complexity and interconnectivity means collaboration will be vital as my generation addresses the world’s most pressing needs, making the ability to work with others, as a nurturing leader familiar with the practical concerns of my partners, a premium for my professional future. I will also need to research the ways in which professional cultural activists earn an income through their work. While I do not expect to attain copious wealth with a career in cultural activism, I cannot neglect the importance of financial security, without which my greater aspirations will become all the more difficult. Upon graduation I will consider the organizations where I will make the most of my talents and ambitions, and will engage with them for employment and participation in work akin to that which I am currently engaged only on a larger scale, increasing my professional domain and impact. Some organizations currently drawing my attention are Media Storm, a documentary studio and multimedia production company, and Project Ahisma, a non-profit establishing music schools in developing areas and producing media products to support their efforts. It would be a great pleasure to become involved with such organizations.

My prior work and recent reconsiderations have lead to a new collaborative activist project involving a cultural non-profit, a music promotion company, and student filmmakers. Art for Change, a non-profit based in East Harlem, is currently organizing several poets to have their work on social justice issues recorded over the next two months. These spoken poems will be supported by music from artists represented by Fanatic Promotions, a celebrated independent music promoter in the Village. Finally, New School student filmmakers will put visuals to the music and vocals to create a series of artful videos on social change. These videos will be used in a campaign next year to support Art for Change. The project will serve my education as a valuable experience and the subject for my thesis paper, and will serve my professional goals as a representation of my organizational abilities and activist creativity focused on effective applications of cultural expressions in today’s environment. The current use of media towards activist goals is dominated by journalistic forms, such as community journalism and documentary, which serve to empower and inform users. My interest focuses on work that could be considered more fictive or less referential, allowing for ambiguity of message and diverse interpretation, inviting the specific cultural practices of communities to be associated with their social improvement and introduced to the larger world through new media where inter-community empathy can be nurtured. I believe these qualities and capabilities are specific to cultural activism, complementing journalistic activism.

I will take the thesis option for which my current project will be the subject. My thesis will describe the process of this project, it's development from concept through the planning stages with the participating organizations, through the creative contributions from the participating artists, and finally its implications for future cultural activist work, particularly the value of cultural expression as empowered by social media for activist efficacy. To gauge my projects success I will track several of Art for Change's metrics during the length of the video campaign, including site visits, newsletter sign-ups, and viewer comments. While art has long been recognized for it's emancipatory potential, it has been historically difficult to use activist art for large, measurable outcomes. The rise of new communication technology and the ability to gauge it's use means the effect of particular expressions can now have their efficacy perceived more concretely. It is for this reason that advertisers are moving to the internet where they can measure the success of each investment by tracking website activity, and today’s cultural activists can improve their own work in the same way.


I aim to make the most of my time at this school by taking full advantage of the programs offerings in practical skill building, both in terms of technological familiarity and organization. The courses I choose over the following semesters will focus on activist concerns through such courses as Research Methods for Media Activism, Project in Advocacy Media, and Art and Social Practice, providing me with a broad awareness of the tools and methods available in the field. I will also obtain a Media Management certificate with classes including Media Economics and Media Management and Leadership. This might be the most practical aspect of my education as it will prepare me for managerial positions across the media business landscape. My production track will include the Time-Based class with Mario Paoli, with whom I hope to focus on sound engineering, a personal interest which will greatly improve my own creative prowess, and The Producer's Craft, furthering my focus on coordinating with creativeness in environments where I am not the creative myself. Combined with the thesis track, my time in this graduate program will be intense and enriching.


The workload involved with a thesis, a cultural project, and the Media Management certificate is substantial, and I would certainly prefer to spend all my time focusing on these goals, but I simply do not feel comfortable with living in New York without income. I will be working part-time while taking a full load every semester, which has and will severely limit my availability for the countless opportunities available in this city. Between work, school, and my thesis project, I will have precious little time to participate in student activities, though I was able to volunteer for the Labor Conference earlier this semester. Perhaps I will find like time in future semesters. Also, as I make connections with faculty at the school and with activists and creatives in the city, I hope to merge my income source with work in the field of my studies. I will volunteer some time with Fanatic Promotion, Art for Change, and Not an Alternative during the upcoming semester, all of whom are involved in my thesis project and are possible connections for employment better in-line with my activist ambitions.

While the workload required to complete my academic goals will be intense I am thankfully not severely limited on time, and I make it a personal habit to avoid haste in all my pursuits. The thesis option will likely add a semester to my time here, which is perfectly fine considering the value of my project to my future career. As for the issues dictating graduate work for which I am less thankful, I am financed by student loans which weigh heavy on my mind. I hope to diminish my debt after graduation with work in the non-profit sector as outlined by the College Cost Reduction & Access Act. Between the thesis, the Media Management courses, and the other curriculum requirements, my course selection is almost entirely fixed, but because this program is well in tuned with my goal, all my courses will serve my desire to be an effective and creative coordinator with social impact.


After I identified the courses I will need to take to satisfy all my goals, there was one course left undetermined that I expected to fill with a selection from within the program. I did not expect the course offerings in other programs to make substantial additions to the Media Studies curriculum, but upon examination there are a number of classes in the Parsons and Milano catalogs that synch very well with my interests. The Product Design course at Parsons would expand my understanding of how audiences approach the art products that are the center of my projects, expanding my imagination on how to use art for social good by understanding what a viable product can be, and the Collaboration Studio would develop my ability to work with other creativeness on social projects through hands on engagement, something I have noticed lacking from the Media Studies catalog. Milano is the program outside of Media Studies where my interests are most applicable. The Online Engagement course and the Media Advocacy and Social Marketing course would improve the leadership and organizational skills which rely so heavily on social engagement. My past work has impressed upon me the importance of earning trust from those you wish to work with before approaching them for professional collaboration, so for a professed introvert like myself, any instruction in human engagement is priceless.


Valuable connections with members of the school community and with organizations in-line with my ambitions are forming around my thesis project which will incorporate the talents of my fellow students as filmmakers and call upon faculty for creative and practical guidance. Some of the faculty currently interested in my work are Lydia Foerester, Mario Paoli, and Mellisa Grey and I am also interested in Chris Mann whose Art and Social Practice class I am taking next semester. These teachers have a wealth of experience in image, sound, and activism, all of which will require attention as my work moves forward. During my next semester I will establish more personal relationships with these teachers, finding how best to work with them and make the most of their intellectual resources, talents, and experience. I am excited about the interest from Mellisa Grey, Chris Mann, and Mario Paoli for their direct relevance to my thesis project and also for their musicianship. I am always looking for people with whom I can cultivate my favorite creative craft.

My decision to attend The New School may well be the best thing I have ever done for myself. The values expressed by this institution's curriculum and history speaks to my own convictions and experience, assuring me that my perception of the issues most urgent to today's world is shared by a lineage of inspired thinkers and practitioners. The future I have chosen to create for myself, formed around the work of making social change through cultural expression, is one marked less by certainty than by frustration and where any support is welcomed. I am thankful to have the support of The New School as I move forward.


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Flash bang kapow

So I've been looking at Flash animation recently, and while the program is cumbersome, unlike other Adobe products, the output is an excellent form, built for the internet medium and the amateur approach it demands. Stuff like Hooker Bruge showcase the expressiveness achievable by a talented visual mind without much need for technical prowess. These shorts make the most of Flash without indulging in overproduction, making for a effective and dark statement. This is not to say that the professional statement is obsolete. "I Lived on the Moon" by Yannick Puig is 3-D animation virtuosity, featuring excellent character design and a memorable mood throughout. Between the two artists so far mentioned can be seen the full scope of Flash's reach, from new technical highs to new expressive opportunities. Some work that falls somewhere in between would be "Muto," the street art animation incorporating physical stills and computer animation to create a trippy mind trip. The way this video utilizes the city scape reveals Flash to be more than a bedroom artists best friend. The tool can involve itself in traditional forms, altering the way artists use their prior mediums. When we come to "How We Met" we encounter the merger between Flash, physical art, and commercial art, all roled into a single statement that includes personal romance as much as consumer motivation. So the tool is not partial to any one user, but allows all voices, from the systemic to the individualistic, to be heard with greater diversity. I look forward to the evolution of Flash away from its current convoluted beginnings into a transparent platform, capable of mastery in minutes, but capable of perfectibility over the course of a life time. This is the state of any lasting creative medium. Here's my first attempt, a little commercial that will become the into for a series of videos I'm working on with several collaborators.
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Adobe Punk

video

Give Dog Bone

this is my first movie. i went into it knowing things would get good and glitchy, and the results do not disappoint. thanks heidi for the help. i think next time i'll try making something for kids.
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