Through my discussions one one blog or another, I’m continually quoted discussing hackerspaces. It’s a loaded term, one that I feel is misconstrued at best, and completely unknown to others. The hackerspaces.org wiki has the quick and dirty definition:

All photos from Flickr user opacity

A hackerspace or hackspace (also referred to as a hacklab, makerspace or creative space) is a location where people with common interests, usually in computers, technology, or digital or electronic art can meet, socialize and or/collaborate. A hackerspace can be viewed as an open community lab incorporating elements of machine shops, workshops and/or studios where hackers can come together to share resources and knowledge to build and make things.

The term “hacker” is used liberally here as a term for anyone involved in the DIY culture, as expressed globally through organizations such as Make, Craft and Instructables (among others). This term is often used interchangeably with the term “maker” to try to ease the stigma behind what it used to mean to hack something, like a computer.

But what does it even mean to be a maker, if not a hacker? In the last decade especially there has been a resurgence in the renaissance ideal of thrift and efficiency, furthered with the constantly evolving technologies.

What people rarely understand is the network that this concept creates. These spaces, however different their members or specific goals may be, they are still inherently deeply rooted in their communities. On July 31-August 1 Makerfaire was hosted in Detroit, with the hope that the DIY movement could revive the Motor City. The response from the makers was astounding; people from all walks of life and parts of the globe came to support Detroit and the movement. Hackerspace Pumping Station: One in Chicago, IL brought the Powerwheels Racing Series to Detroit, which brought in submissions of hacked-together child’s power-cars meant for a racing track and adult weight. The submissions were as varied as the spaces, and their members, making for a memorable experience that was later recognized and sponsored by Diehard Batteries.

An article in Wired explains the global impact of these spaces:

Hacker spaces aren’t just growing up in isolation: They’re forming networks and linking up with one another in a decentralized, worldwide network. The hackerspaces.org website collects information about current and emerging hacker spaces, and provides information about creating and managing new spaces. There’s also lots of information exchanged via IRC and a weekly telephone conference. They even enable extramural exchanges.

Beyond even the community level, there is a national network of support for members with the common goals of open-source education. The  majority of these spaces are structured as non-profits, with a goal of providing free or close-to free education on a number of topics, from soldering to sewing to cooking science. Members teach other members, members teach non-members and sometimes the non-members can teach the members. There are no restrictions as to what can be taught, and it is often recorded via Ustream or Youtube to further the education.

There will be more discussion on this at later dates, be sure. But this introduction is hopefully a good start to a longer, more thorough discussion on the implications of this branch of open-source education based on emerging technologies and a desire for efficient and accessible creative opportunity.

Photos from Flickr user Opacity under Creative Commons license

I often get in discussions with people who have a lot of trouble grasping the “point”, or usefulness of Twitter as a social media tool. I too struggled with the concept of Twitter for a long time, finding the format irritating and muddled, a hodgepodge of often useless information about the private daily details of extended acquaintances.

Paper.li allows you to de-clutter the basic Twitter feed by creating customized online newspapers of articles and media topics of your choosing that are posted on Twitter. The strategy is simple; log in with your Twitter information, and create a newspaper from either a Twitter user and those who follow them, a #Hashtag, or an @List. Within seconds paper.li creates a beautifully formatted online newspaper for you to read at your convenience. They are clean, airy and allow you to browse the topics and information before delving into them.

Gigaom had a great summary of the useful implication of Paper.li:

“In many ways, this is a natural extension of the idea that if the news is important “it will find me.” In other words, if something is important or interesting, it will eventually make its way to you through your social network, by being shared on Twitter or Facebook or some other service. This is an almost complete inversion of the way media traditionally works, where editors decide what is important, then publish it for readers. In that sense, it’s “demand” media rather than “supply” media, or pull rather than push.”

It is incredibly simple to share your creations by linking back to Twitter (or Facebook). You also can get notified via email when a new edition of your paper is created.

I particularly like how it ties topics together to give you a much fuller range of topics. For example, my hashtag newspaper #Media shown above gave me suggested other topics and articles that related to media, and gave me ideas on how to create my other 9 newspapers allotted at one time.

While this is not the first service like this, I have to agree that this is by far the most user-friendly and classy designs to date. Though it is still in alpha, I have yet to stumble upon any serious problems. Paper.li was developed by SmallRivers in Lausanne, Switzerland. They state on their site:

Any Twitter user is thus a kind of editor-in-chief, with the people they follow being trusted journalists. The sum of what is shared by them is thus a unique perspective of what is deemed of interest on the web on any given day. A bit like a newspaper.

This concept especially peaks my interest, addressing a broader issue of print vs. online media. I’m curious to follow the development of Paper.li and see if it leads to a larger concept able to address the divide between print news and social media. While it may not seem like much more than a productivity tool at the moment, I believe it offers some greater opportunities for creative solutions.

Shameless Plug

August 27, 2010


Attention Dallas Creatives

August 26, 2010


Though my time as PR Director with the amazing FreesideAtlanta is over, that doesn’t mean my passion and dedication for the message portrayed is any less. I’ve been in Dallas for two months now, and almost immediately I was struck at the segregation between the arts and technology. Dallas is a hub for both, with the Dallas Arts District being full of incredible work, and the constant funding from Texas Instruments. That being said, I’ve yet to see the two worlds intermingle here. Thus, the Dallas Collaborative (name t.b.d) was born. As our mission explains:

Dallas Collaborative is a non-profit group dedicated to community collaboration and the creation of intersections between the arts, sciences, and technology. We are in the process of finding a physical space to support our infrastructure of passionate members in their artistic development and experimentation. It seeks to blur the definition of “art” in a modern age by encouraging participation between the traditional “arts” and technology. Furthermore, the organization gives back to the Dallas community by providing a number of events, workshops, classes, and site-specific gallery shows.

You will hear me discussing this a lot in the next upcoming months as I iron out details. Once we get a more concrete name and logo, I’ll be asking for participation and support from anyone who is willing to give it. We’re looking for members, donations and ultimately a space for members to use in Deep Ellum. For more clarity for those who are not familiar at all with this movement as a whole, I’ll be doing some spotlights on the hackerspace/makerspace movement that I’ve been meaning to do for a long time.

Look out, Dallas.

On Relocation

August 26, 2010

As some of you may or may not know, my life has taken an interesting turn of events. I am no longer located in Atlanta, nor am I attending school there anymore. Constantly frustrated by tuition hikes, the technology gap, poor job market and the constant tingling sensation that I was learning little, if at all, made me rethink if I was actually getting towards my goals. So I made a drastic turn to better embrace my curiosity about technological advancement and media, and acknowledged a smaller pocketbook. I packed up my bitty two-door Ford with all my worldly possessions (a.k.a my library), resigned as PR Director for Freeside, said goodbye to the life I’d built and came to Dallas Texas (in the heat of summer).

That being said, expect some musings on the building and rebuilding of life sometime in the future.

I am now finishing my studies at University of Texas at Dallas in Emerging Media and Communications. I’ll be doing at least another year, but I do believe that I’ll have a lot more to offer the world when I’m done.

Other projects at the moment include starting a non-profit arts and technology collective along the grain of Freeside Atlanta, trying to get published more, and working a much better (and better paying) technology related job than working IT at Agnes Scott College.

Thus, I expect some changes to the tone of this blog, perhaps shifting to achievement attempts and experiments rather than just philosophical musings. Expect more content on emerging media. Expect more stark reviews, a la “On the Grave of Dollhouse”.

Similarly, I now have a sister blog focused more on technological advancements and my obsession with social media, deemed Media Circus. They may merge again at some point, but that is to be determined at a later time.

Hope you enjoy the new direction!

Photo of Dallas Texas from Flickr user Schlüsselbein2007. Used under Creative Commons License.

The Machine is Us/ing Us

August 26, 2010

*All rights reserved. This does not belong to you. Do not take it.*

Introduction

My introduction to modern burlesque came one summer day in 2009 at Whole Foods Market in Dallas, Texas; me sans makeup or any decently not-frumpy clothing. A woman who I later learned to be a burlesque dancer herself approached me and asked if I was a burlesque performer. I remember stuttering some excuse for “no” and she smiled friendly enough and offered me a card for a dance studio that taught burlesque. I fought with the decision for over a month; whether I had the self-esteem, whether it was a worthy expedition, would it conflict with family values, etc. I finally signed up, and much to my dismay I found I was the only student in the 6-week course. The teacher was warm and inviting and slowly taught me the basic history of burlesque and the beginnings of becoming a performer. What I didn’t realize until very late in the course was that in the process of teaching me how to be a dancer and a performer again, she had given me more than I had ever expected. Not only had I become dancer-fit like I used to be when I was younger, but I stood up straight, smiled more, and for once, I demanded attention when I came into a room rather than hiding in the shadows. Glamour became an aspect of my daily life; I could finally justify taking the time on my appearance if it boosted my confidence in everyday world. My wardrobe changed, my mood changed and for once I had began to realize who I was.

When I returned to Agnes Scott College in the fall of 2009, I chose to pursue burlesque in any way I could. As I began to introduce myself to performers, to create connections into that world and hear the stories, I realized that the transformation that had occurred in my life was not a singular experience. Modern burlesque is deeply rooted in the history of feminism and female sexual identity and proves more than an entertainment art form: it is a way of life, a personal identity.

I will present to you the immense impact this art form has had on the individuals that live the life of burlesque. I will show similarities in the individual identity to create a collective and powerful group notion of self, sexuality and femininity. I will share the stories and experiences of artists from many different backgrounds and their understanding of what it means to be a burlesque dancer. I will address the basic history about burlesque that is integral to understanding the art form, the accessories that make it possible, the connect (or disconnect) between family life and performing, and the communal experiences that make it worthwhile and important to this cultural group.

My research is an accumulation of formal, written interviews with performers from Texas and Georgia, two of the rising larger populations of burlesque performers, coming up quickly to the cities of Chicago and New York where the art began. These interviews are intermingled with historical research, photography, videos and personal recollections of events and experiences.

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