Thursday, November 4, 2010

Mozilla drumbeat

haven't blogged here in ages, what with the new one - and these notes are not really for public, but just so i will always have them in the cloud. i want to capture the weird and dizzying excitement of the day before it is gone completely.

mozilla drumbeat festival, barcelona, 2-5 nov 2010

not a conference, but a "festival." the morning starts with 8-min keynotes. we are sitting in a bifurcated room - the typical rows, but doubled, and facing each other, screens on left and right. such a startling change from the authority of the single expert.

mitchell baker from mozilla: we want an open web; mozilla is still a nonprofit and that's not easy; help us build the tools you want to have.

cathy davidson whipsmart: everything about our education system was designed in C19 industrial era - keeping time, long days, standard deviation, multiple choice tests (i wonder about structures of attention: what's that amstud guy's book again). in C21 this isn't going to work - we are the last generation to learn like this. be an "edge thinker."

then, selling the day's events. the "structure" of the conference is spatial and temporal. different orgs/presenters/builders have tents and time slots. one person from each of these stands up and gives a spiel in the opening session: "we are tagging videos in multiple languages. if you know a lang, esp a lang that isn't widely spoken here, come work with us." "we are hackbus." [think tie-dyed boogie van, outside MACBA getting a parking ticket as he spoke.] "we hack virtual and real spaces." among other things, human sculptures - slo-mo flash mobs? they drive around europe freeing the web from corporate interests. they all wear black t-shirts and many of them black hats. they look like anarchists, but brainy ones. they spend all morning sitting in the square under a big square black umbrella, these white european boys in their black tshirts, hacking away at ... something. everybody's laptop (no macs, btw) is festooned with stickers that say things like "mp3 is not a crime." hackbus invites people to come hang out with them.

HASTAC is "storming the academy," "storming the syllabus," "storming the gradebook." and at the end of each day, offering yoga.

local action = city tours.

video lab.

html5 and web development for OER (open ed resources).

P2P = peer to peer learning.

and so on. so much stuff i want to do, and everybody witty and short-spoken and clear. the room itself is fantastic (second floor of the contemp art gallery annex, clean white lines inside old stone walls). around me, people are texting, emailing, blogging, tweeting, microblogging. this is the beginning, for me, of feeling slightly disoriented: somebody's talking! you should listen! i am a product of industrial education and canadian politesse....

a "humble invitation to be totally present to this experience." oh, and: we are a half hour behind but the entire schedule has already been adjusted on the wiki. when we arrive we have badges, but no other materials. everything is online.

HASTAC, "storming the cloud." anne balsamo does an exercise that doesn't quite work, where we represent a tag cloud. she recovers amazingly - stunning facilitator, stunning teacher (when someone accuses mo of saying something anne is right there: "i probably said that") - and poses the question: "we know that the next generation is going to learn through tag clouds, that's how they'll learn -- "

[Sidebar: that's how they'll learn?? my students are learning through tag clouds?? we are lost, lost....]

" -- so given this, how can we train students to look for minority representations and not just at the big font in the bright colors?" big discussion. the whiteboard in the tent turns out to be a permanent board for post-its, so anne writes over the blue tags in red ink as people make suggestions about a better way of sorting data. i am thinking: but this is a problem of politics, which unfolds in time, and it is a problem of language, and i don't know how to solve that. but the time thing is interesting. someone - a Duke FutureClass kid - proposes the internet as a democratic space of unfettered mobility, the opposite of offline space. i say, 'but the problem with conceiving of the internet that way is that, if it's a democracy, it's a democracy that unfolds in a never ending present. you're tired of digg, you move to del.i.cious and start all over, as if digg never happened. i want a tag cloud that represents time, so you can see obsolescence begin and change start to happen." someone says, "yeah, colors greying out?" i'm thinking and listening and speaking, and therefore learning (learning b/c speaking, b/c listening, b/c taking a chance: i know sweet fuck all about tag clouds when you get right down to it, but i know we talk a lot at hook and eye about tagging well) and my brain feels stretched and it's not even 11am yet.

i watch the hackbus boys for a bit. still hacking.

lunch. caitlin talks about her AR lab. we talk about how hard 2010 has been. the food is only ok.

after lunch, walkshop. this is a recap of a city walking tour a group of 3 did with adam greenfield a while back. who's from the tech side? who's from the pedagogical side? i'm alone with a bunch of web developers from berlin. what kind of technology do we have for hacking the city? we all have iphones or android systems but there's an awkward silence til one of the berliner boys (there are three of them, each with his own company, sharing space in an old mannequin factory) says, "it's not about the technology, it's about the data plans." exactly. bring on the open web already!

the idea is to visit data rich sites in the city and both capture and upload meaningful urban data. a data rich site could be: a wifi hot spot, a place where city officials gather data (CCTV, e.g.), etc. still not totally clear on this. posterous is the gathering site. everything is done by QR. i download a QR app before we leave the building: thanks, guefi. then we all troop out to experience the city.

along the way i ask peter bihr about the upcoming conference cognitive cities.

the first stop is a QR code on the MACBA wall. our phones read it, translate it, and take us - to the wikipedia entry for MACBA. there's a small silence while we digest this slightly disappointing piece of news. then a guy named Dan from england asks, 'but what if you want different information about this place? what if you're drunk and want to know how to get home? what if you want to know opening hours?' the organizers say, yes, yes, maybe a list of links would be good. i say, "what if you want all of that information and more - what was here before this building, what it looks like inside, what has happened here in the past and what kinds of meaning it has for ppl? and what if you want to know all of that at once? why can't our technologies deliver thick meanings?" the guy standing next to me says, "why not think of a city like a playlist." "embed a memory stick in the space itself." ("that would never survive in barcelona," says one of our organizers." "or in rome," says imke.) somebody else says - i think the guy from sound cloud: what if every building had a tone and you could inhabit the city like a soundtrack. i thought, shit, yes. tone, color, sound: not just visual representations.

just then a man walked past us, looked, and started clapping a complicated rhythm. he stopped walking, kept staring at us and clapped the same rhythm again, then again. we stared back, until one of the berliner boys got it, and clapped a syncopation in return. they did this for 30 seconds and then our interlocutor walked on, apparently satisfied. i thought: that's it, exactly. city.

next stop was at a data rich corner: a TV screen in a bar, sponsored by (you can't make this stuff up) projects images of barcelona into the street, in order to tempt passersby into drinking at their olde style taverna. on the opposite corner, a video camera guards a street which is already restricted entry. only official security and corporate minions have the key to unlock the bollard to drive down the street. all of this is the newest incarnation of low-tech control: the "entrada" and "salida" signs demarcate the one-way ins and outs of tiny passageways, and on the opposite corner is an apartment building that used to be guarded by a super with a pay-to-enter scheme - until the tenants used ("hacked") the payphones outside to bypass his draconianism. they would phone whoever they were visiting, hang up before the call was answered, and the visitee would throw down the keys. i wonder about the less formal invigilation of city space, but don't ask.

nick shows us his augmented reality streetmuseum app, which overlays historical images into present urban streetscapes - in real time. stunning.

when the tour is over, we dissipate. i go to a nearby bar with one of the organizers, the manchester guy, who's been living in barcelona since 1993 and can't get away, and his friend patrick the anarchist and their friend who speaks less english than i speak spanish, i order saffron gin, they order beers, and they tell me about how the euro has destroyed spain, how corrupt the spanish government is, and so on. it's fun - for a while, but i want to see what's up with hackbus ("i hate those fucking hippies," says patrick the anarchist) so i pay and leave.

the evening keynotes are similarly short and sweet: pay attention to arduino, which hacks *hardware.* see their lamps for artemide - swoon. question of how to manage/assure quality esp in context of formal ed = big ongoing question. the kid who invented wordpress was so young he couldn't buy a drink in his country. FML.

a big learning today = everybody, tech developers as well as intellectuals, wants what i want, but it's not possible to achieve just yet. this is part of why it's taken me so long to articulate it. the kind of multidimensionality i thought a tool could show me is something that is not only hard to think but also hard to build.

at the end of the day: who had fun? who learned something? who's coming back tomorrow? i wonder when i lost this feeling of excitement at the end of a conference, and promised i'd write this down before it gets lost. my brain needs glucose.

oh: fantastic fucking haircuts at this event. and the t-shirts ("you AUTOCOMPLETE me") are good too.

1 comment:

eduideas said...

Thank you for the post, I hope you'll do exactly the same tomorrow an then a more traditional review post at the end. Got the Drumbeat Spirit quite well.