What is freedom?

How-Should-a-Person-BeFor the past two months, I’ve been working hard on my book/series of accounts, Unofficial Student Transcript. I (think) I’ve finally finished its first form: an iBooks Author ebook. In the next day or two, I hope to publish it. Today, on this sunny day in Minneapolis (the calm before the storm; we’re supposed to get a 6+ inch snow storm tomorrow night and Monday. Yuck!), I’m taking a break with a book that I’ve been wanting to read for some time now: How Should a Person Be? by Sheila Heti. I wasn’t planning to blog about it. I just wanted to sit back and enjoy it. But, I couldn’t resist making a note of a passage on freedom that I might want to return to someday.

[Misha is speaking] Sholem was saying that freedom, for him, is having the technical facility to be able to execute whatever he wants, just whatever image he has in mind. But that’s not freedom! Than’s control, or power. Whereas I think Margaux understands freedom to be the freedom to take risks, the freedom to do something bad and or appear foolish. To not recognize that difference is a pretty big thing.

It’s like with improv, Misha said. True improv is about surprising yourself—but most people won’t improvise truthfully. They’re afraid. What they do is pull from their bag of tricks. They take what they already know how to do and apply it to the present situation. But that’s cheating! And cheating’s bad for an artist. It’s bad in life—but it’s really bad in art (19).

In case you didn’t check your twitter feed, it snowed in Minneapolis this weekend

Tons of people documented the first “real” snow of 2012 in Minneapolis/St. Paul this weekend. I did too. I can’t remember how I decided to experiment with video and haiku in order to do my documenting. Maybe it was because my 9 year old was writing haikus in class last month? Maybe it was because I like the pithy form of haikus and was looking for a way to express and share my thoughts in my digital moment without offering up a long-winded voice-over? Whatever the reason, I decided to document the warm-up snow on Friday, the calm-before-the-storm on Saturday, and the first big snow (10 inches) on Sunday using my iMovie app and my limited haiku ability. Here they are:

snow falling as dusk
i wonder, will we see grass
again before spring?

i wouldn’t have thought
i would enjoy winter runs
but i really do

the snow really came
it’s a christmas miracle:
the forecast was right


Digital Moments: Some Experiments

Recently I got an iPhone 4S and the iMovie App. I’m enjoying using them in my digital accounts/storytelling experiments. I was initially skeptical of the app, especially after reading some of the reviews about its limited functionality. But, since it was only $4, I decided to try it out. I’m glad I did. So far, I’ve only used it for two brief projects, so I’m still in the very early stages of experimenting with it. As far as I can tell, you can’t:

1. Import video from other devices (so that rules out using my old footage)
2. Play around with the music files (so I can’t just use part of STA’s great music, but must use all of it, unless I edit it down somewhere else)
3.  Have black/white screens with titles (and there doesn’t seem to be a choice of fonts)
4. Choose between different fades (just dissolve, if I remember correctly)

But, after a few minutes of grumbling, I’ve found that I don’t mind having these limitations; they’re helping to shape what sort of video projects that I create using the app. Tentatively I’ve decided to use the app for doing (almost) daily digital moments: minute long digital stories that are fairly straightforward and are aimed at capturing a fleeting thought/idea/experience. One main purpose of these moments is to get in the habit of paying attention to/reflecting on/troubling my daily life. I want these videos to be really quick and easy to make, so that they won’t take up all of my time. The iMovie app is extremely easy to use. I can do video directly in it or easily grab photos, videos or audio from my iPhoto and iTunes. I can split clips by swiping down and delete bits I don’t want with a double-click. And I can quickly share the video to Vimeo (which my preferred online space for video; you can also share to youtube and facebook).

Here are the two digital moments that I’ve created so far:

From Saturday, November 10th

From Monday, November 12th

An interesting note about using these moments to pay attention/be aware of my everyday experiences: Throughout the second moment, a fairly loud plane is passing overhead. Having lived in the house for 8 years now, I’ve managed to tune out the sound of planes at the nearby airport. When I was shooting the footage, I remember thinking how quiet and peaceful it was outside (well, that was until RJP appeared and began singing!). In editing/creating this moment, I was surprised to hear the plane; it made me question and re-think my perception and memory of my experience in/with the snow.

Some Monday Reflections

Some days I look at my twitter feed and I don’t find anything that makes me curious or inspires me to ask questions and reflect. But, not today. I don’t know if it’s the 16 oz latte, my 2.5 mile jog at the YWCA, or the early snow that has my “little gray cells” working overtime, but I have a big list of items to think/reflect/trouble/write about on this snowy, cold Monday in November. At first, I was planning to write a series of blog entries on each topic, but I soon realized that that was too much. So instead, I’ve decided to create a post with just a few of the links, along with some reflections.

Item One

Did Jezebel cross the line by ratting out teens for their racist tweets?

Background: Shortly after President Obama was re-elected last week, some twitter users began tweeting their highly racist reactions. And the data-mapping experts over at Floating Sheep tracked and mapped them. This tracking, particularly how the map made visible where certain clusters of racism tweets existed (i.e. Alabama and Mississippi), was a popular topic on twitter, facebook, blogs and online news sources. A few examples: Map Shows You Where Those Racists Tweeting After Obama Election Live (Colorlines), The Racist States of America (Daily Mail UK) and Twitters Racists React… (Jezebel).

According to Slate, Jezebel took their tracking of the story too far, by not only publicly shaming the twitter users, who were primarily teens, but by

reaching out to the tweeters’ schools to get the kids in trouble (and, presumably, to gin up page views). They then meticulously noted each administrator’s response. They also updated us, gleefully, on the status of the students’ twitter accounts: Which kids were embarrassed enough to delete them? Which ones offered half-assed excuses? Which ones doubled down on their racism?

Here’s Jezebel’s follow-up post, detailing their efforts to contact the tweeters’ school officials in order to hold the tweeters accountable and in the hopes that the officials could “educate them on racial sensitivity.” In their critique of Jezebel’s actions, Slate author Katy Waldman, argues that a major media outlet like Jezebel is not the appropriate venue for meting out discipline. It not only punishes these “stupid kids” too severely for their lack of judgment (evidence of their mistake and the resultant shaming will exist for years online), but is more likely to piss them off and shut them down, then encourage them to be educated and accountable for their tweets. Here’s the closing line of the brief article:

Morrissey writes: “We contacted their school’s administrators with the hope that, if their educators were made aware of their students’ ignorance, perhaps they could teach them about racial sensitivity.” Perhaps. More likely, as my colleague put it in an email: “It probably won’t make them less racist if they’re bitter forever.”

Initially, I felt that the Slate article was a bit too harsh but now I’m not so sure. These tweets are abhorrent and the users who tweeted them should be held accountable, but these teens are minors and represent only a handful of individuals who contribute to (but have not created) the larger systems of structural racism in this country. To shame only these kids (or primarily these kids) enables us to ignore/suppress the larger structures of racism and to fail to consider all of the ways that racist attitudes continue to exist within this country. It’s much easier to focus our attention on a few “stupid kids,” then to face the reality that, as Colorlines’ author Jorge Rivas writes: “racists are everywhere.”

This Slate article raised some interesting questions for me:
1. How should we hold users, especially teen users, accountable for their tweets?
2. What sorts of resources are available for educators, parents, community members for learning how to be more accountable and responsible online?
3. After further reviewing comments from the Jezebel post, I came across this thread in which commenters discuss how they’re contacting school officials. One user refers to these actions as internet vigilantism.

Is “internet vigilantism” an effective tool for holding individuals accountable?

Item two

Two Random Encounters with Judith Butler

1. I found an excellent quotation (from a recent interview) on a great post by Michael D Dwyer about teaching pop culture. His use of this quote comes in a section of his post in which he discusses how we can be both critic and consumer of pop culture (this was a big focus in my pop culture class from 2007).

2. I learned about an advice book that Butler contributed to via this Brain Pickings post. This find is one of the reasons why, even as I am wary of Brain Pickings, I still follow them on twitter. Butler contributes an essay on “Doubting Love,” in the 2007 advice book, Take My Advice: Letters to the Next Generation. Looking forward to reading this one; I’ve already requested it from the Minneapolis Public Library! I’d like to think about this advice book in relation to my other research on the self-help industry.

Item Three

Well, I’m quickly running out of time (less than a half an hour before I must pick up RJP from school), so I can’t write much more. Why am I not surprised?! Here’s a In Media Res curated series on The Second Lives of Home Movies that I want to read and reflect on…and put beside my work on home tours.

Bonus Item

Inspired by the snow this morning (and by my desire to experiment with my new iMovie app), I created a digital moment: Minnesota Weather. I plan hope to write more about my thoughts and experiments with the iMovie app soon. For now, here’s my digital moment + my description of the story):

minnesota weather: a digital moment from Undisciplined on Vimeo.

I’ve lived in Minneapolis for the past 9 years (plus 4 years in St, Peter, MN for college and 18 months in Minneapolis in the late 90s) and I still haven’t gotten used to the unpredictable weather. Minnesotans always say, “Don’t like the weather? Just wait 10 minutes.” I was reminded of this phrase when I woke up this morning. Just last week it was sunny, with beautiful leaves on the trees. And, just two days ago, it was in the upper 60s. But, when I looked out my window this morning, around 7 AM, there was snow on the ground. This example of pure Minnesota seemed worthy of a digital moment.

Live-tweeting Halloween, 2012

@Room34 and I did our annual live-tweeting of Halloween last night; this morning I turned it into a storify. I also included some of my history with teaching the movie in the story. There are a few lines that I’d like to revisit:

The first year that I taught feminist theory in a Women’s Studies department in 2006, I screened it on Halloween day. The class discussed it, along with Carol Clover’s classic theory on “the final girl” from her book, Men, Women and Chainsaws. I remember thinking that I had the coolest job ever; I got to watch and critically discuss Halloween on Halloween! I wish I still had that same passion for teaching in women’s studies. Oh well, that’s another story.

It’s nice to remember that there was a time when I really enjoyed the teaching. I wonder if that will ever come back or if it’s gone forever?

Continue reading Live-tweeting Halloween, 2012