why twitter?

Picked up the May issue of Richmond Parents Monthly today because there was this teaser on the cover – “Twitter: Fad, nuisance or tool?”

Here’s what Carolyn Jabs, columnist, has to say:
“For people who are working or parenting at home, the ebb and flow of Tweets is like what used to happen in the village square, around the water cooler or over the back fence. Knowing tiny details about the lives of other people can transform strangers into acquaintances and even friends.”

Hmmm … is twitter really like what used to happen in the village square or over the back fence? What exactly did happen – more precisely, what is it that makes a community a community?

Also: “Following someone produces unexpected, random insights – what snacks a celebrity eats, what books a favorite author is reading, or even when a neighbor is making her morning muffins.” Okay – only one of these has anything to do with community as I imagine community. Two of these examples fall into that strange intersection between knowing someone and feeling like we know someone who is actually a stranger … real and unreal at the same time.

It’s a strange, virtual middle ground – why do I want to know what snacks a celebrity eats?

For that matter, why do I want to know when my neighbor is making muffins … unless she’s going to bring me some. That would be community!

Twitter strikes me as being like people who text each other while sitting next to each other. Fingers texting rather than having an actual conversation, one that could include other people too. There’s a disembodied intimacy in this that seems unreal to me.

Then again, I don’t twitter (yet) so I really don’t know. Could always check out twittervision.com to see if the fuss makes more sense.


has our technology surpassed our humanity?

I was struck by the story A Tragedy That Won’t Fade Away in this week’s issue of Newsweek. It’s about a family’s legal battle for privacy. Their daughter died in a car accident and photos from the crash site have gone viral on the web. There’s not much the family can do through the legal system to stop it, but they’re trying.

Why are human beings so fascinated with images of death? It strikes me that our morbid fascination is nothing new … what’s new is the power of digital technology and of the web to disconnect images of people from the communities that know them.

I’m reminded of the Einstein quote I saw on a bumper sticker at the Visual Arts Center … “It has become appallingly clear that our technology has surpassed our humanity.”

Another aspect of this is public humiliation, covered in this related article: The Flip Side of Internet Fame

almost done

In two weeks, my first year in the MATX PhD program will be over.

I have one final paper to finish and two media projects to complete by next Thursday – and then I’m done.

Of course, I almost immediately begin a summer course in the theatre department and I have the grant-funded oral history project that will take me most of the summer to complete … so I don’t have that satisfying sense of “ending” or “relief” that I would normally have at the end of the semester.

That may be the way of the PhD – it likely won’t have clear endings like my other forays in schooling.

Still – the core classes are ending. Tonight MATX 603: History of Multimedia and Interdisciplinarity met for the last time. We spent two hours talking about the E.A.T. collaborative art / engineering projects. We talked mostly about 9 evenings of art , created and performed in 1966. “The first truly collaborative art and engineering project ever” – hyperbole that might be true.

I think we’ve learned to “seminar” over the past year. (Notice that I’ve made “seminar” a verb.) The reading was, at most, ten pages. We talked about the reading and the DVD excerpt of 9 evenings we saw in class, plus related issues of multimedia and interdisciplinarity for two hours.

After a year, the group is finally beginning to feel cohesive. Cohesive and interdisciplinary. I don’t know that I’ll miss the core classes, but I will miss “seminar’ng” with this particular group of people.

earth day perspective

Sometimes, when I need cheering up, I go to The Big Picture at Boston.com and check out their latest photo feature. I’m rarely disappointed. Tonight I found these Earth Day photos – stunning.

Some of the photos in this series are disturbing and beautiful at the same time. There’s one of a large chunk of Antarctica that’s broken away. The photo of the Earth from space isn’t my favorite in the series, but at the moment I’m hoping for perspective on the MATX program, on the end of the semester crunch, on weaving my professional development as a teacher and writer with my family life. That photo of Earth reminds me that the universe is a big, mysterious place. The photos are full of beauty and sadness woven together, just like every human life on Earth.

on hospital wireless and secret codes that can’t be cracked

The latest issue of Wired magazine has a mystery / magic / puzzles focus. Read it in the hospital while hanging out with a family member. The hospital visits explain my break from blogging, mostly because the hospital’s free wireless is sketchy and frustrating. It’s nearly impossible to send anything from there.

To pass the time, I bought some old-fashioned paper magazines and read them. The technology of print is portable with no need for an interface of any kind. Just a chair and some light to read by. I hope the web doesn’t completely eradicate paper magazines and newspapers.

But about Wired magic. One of my favorite articles in this edition of Wired is Mission Impossible: The Code Even the CIA Can’t Crack about the sculpture at the CIA Headquarters in Washington. Definitely worth a read.

gotta find a way to drain the tub

Once upon a time I worked in public relations at a children’s psychiatric hospital. A therapist colleague used to talk about stress like water in a bathtub. She said we can all handle a certain amount of stress, but if the water in our bathtub is filling up faster than the drain can drain, we start to feel it. When the water gets even with the top of the tub, it only takes a single, inconsequential drop for the water to overflow.

I’ve been thinking about this metaphor a lot over the past several days. Family stress and end-of-semester school stress and the unknowns-about-next-year stress are adding to my tub faster than it can drain. Writing helps. Surprisingly, being at school helps. I relaxed yesterday while I was on campus. Mostly, being aware helps. And being willing to ask for and receive help when I need it … that’s the hardest and most important part. Letting a friend, or even a stranger, scoop a bucket full of water from my tub is something I’m learning to accept.

For lunch yesterday, I let the good folks of Su Casa feed me. Sometimes it’s that simple.

isn’t she beautiful?

Beautiful and frightening – a large black widow spider we saw in an ash pile near our house over the weekend. Large enough to make an adult very sick and to kill a child, potentially. We didn’t kill her – we let her be. I hope I never see her or her children anywhere in my home.

I’m still working on my new website. I’m finally happy with the homepage. Now I’m working on the design of pages within the site. My artist husband suggested I take more pictures of the field and use the patterns of the cover crop for background. I’m going to try working with them today and see if I like the look of the pages any better. I’ll be happy to leave the container design behind and work on projects and writing instead. But for now – the container.

marsh mud all around

It feels good to be out of Richmond and away from VCU for a few days. I’m working on my farm life oral history project, along with other assignments. It’s a challenge to blog from here – the nearest wireless is a half hour from the house … at the Island Creamery on Chincoteague Island. I’ve just finished a bowl of Marsh Mud (super-chocolate ice cream) and checked my e-mail. This will be my last blog post for a few days.

I spent the morning playing with the school’s new video camera. It’s a glorious day … got lots of material and a four minute video brewing. That’s what this trip is for … gathering material and planning. Didn’t realize it would also be a good trip for generating creative ideas … sometimes it’s just good to get out of town.

wits end festival results

My after-life play Under the Jujube Tree was chosen as an honorable mention in the 2009 Wits End Play Festival. Here’s what that means, in their words: “The judges only extended this honor to those plays that displayed particular merit.”

Close, not quite, is what I think that means. Since I rushed a major revision and added two underdrawn characters at the last minute … I’m excited to hear that it was close. Maybe I’ll send it to the Firehouse in Richmond next.

The festival is hosted by The Wits, grad students in the ML/MFA in Shakespeare and Renaissance Lit in Performance program at Mary Baldwin College in Staunton, VA. I love what they do down the hill at the Blackfriars Theatre and was actually hoping to work with them on that stage. Turns out they’ll be doing staged readings on campus … which makes sense … there’s a performance of Hamlet at Blackfriars on April 16 and 17.

The staged readings of the winner and two runners-up, plus excerpts from other submissions, will be held on Thursday and Friday, April 16 and 17, at Fletcher Collins Theatre, Deming Fine Arts Center at Mary Baldwin College. Admission is free and open to the public, no reservations required.