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Reflection

Assignment One: Reflect on the difference between digital and human connectivity. Assess your own current level of connectivity today. My level of connectivity, if I assess myself, is pretty darned high. If we compare my connectivity through social networking to Pete Cashmore or Brian Solis, its much lower; compared to the average mortal, however, Im fairly well educated in the modern methods of connectivity. I Tweet, I Tumbl, I Facebook, Im LinkedIn, I capture my life with Instagram and can find my way around FourSqure, GoWalla and Radar. But these are not why Im connected. Each of my social network services is attached to another, effectively building a web of attachment for each of my actions. This is also not why Im connected. Im connected because I understand why each of these social networks matters, speaks

to a different audience and is worthy of my bandwidth. Connectivity is not about subscribing to more services than someone else and it is certainly not about shouting the interstitials of your life louder than the other folks on your networks. Social networks and their connectivity are extensions of our person-to-person interactions. They spread our reach and extend our networks but arent replacements for the x-factor that is human interaction in connectivity. When I think of ways to explain digital connectivity to someone unfamiliar with social

networks I think immediately of amusement parks. Imagine the scene: youre walking around an amusement park (possibly with cotton candy or a giant stuffed panda bear or some other piece of carnival-ware that serves no purpose other than to make you happy) when you pass by a tent. The tent could be a fun house or a freak show, either way it is an apt metaphor for a social network. Its a self-contained, self-sustaining place for people to interact. The patrons are self- policed, respectful of one another and are only likely to interact with other individuals with whom they self-identify. The barkerthe person at the front of the tent shouting about how much fun youll have once youre separated from your moneyare the unsolicited advertisers in social networks. Once youre in youre connecting with people. Youre sharing your experiences. Youre forming bonds. The inconvenience of one-way blast marketing is a necessary evil, but the barker is making no attempts at connectivity. Connectivity in a digital age is no different than connectivity in an analog age. The basic

tenants of social networks precede the medium and the notion of digital connectivity existing divorced from human connectivity is a binary approach that strips away the magic from the

ability to expand your levels of connectivity faster than a bolt of lighting expands the air in a summer storm. My level of connectivity is high because I understand that, on the other side of all

computer mediated communication, are other human beings. Well either communicate or we wont; be friends or not; connect or stay apart. Regardless, they are as full of interests and biases as I am and we must meet someplace in the middle of our personalities to find authentic connectivity. My thoughts on connectivity fly in the face of people like Brian Solis and self-proclaimed Social Media Gurus. The notion that someone could ever be a guru in the study of this media undermines the very notion of Social Media as an evolution of human connectivity. There are few self-proclaimed gurus in the subtle art of conversation. Trying to own the development of social mediaand the inherent connectivity thereinis like trying to own the telephone. You may acquire the wires, the poles and even the handsets, but youll never have control or influence on the individuals on each end.

Reflection Assignment Two When speaking of communities that foster safe spaces for innovation, I cant think of more support than those in the Knight School. We all self-identify as more than students and I am lucky to be around such talented, diverse and interesting people. Im struck by Thom Shephards proposal to write a blog about a LGBT tennis tournament. I know Thomweve worked together for a couple of years and we were friends in a small LGBT community in Charlotte before thatand I know that he is wickedly funny and creative, but also shy. His blog, though about a sport I cant play, is destined to be rife with subcultural analysis for a group that most people will never experience up-close. The very notion of a tournament of gays playing tennis conjures images ofwell, something awful. There are stereotypes of glitter and shrieks galore. But I know that Thom wont show the subculture this way. Hell respect the people as characters on the stage of a specific niche theatre. A nice to which I should be able to loosely identify, but currently cant. Im very excited about his coming work. In class tonight, Jim Shoff uttered a phrase that I had to write down and circle a couple of times. Im pretty sure he was paraphrasing Solis when he said listen, then broadcast. I think that this will be a structural tenant in my blog philosophy. So many people write blogs in a sender-to-listener format and I dont think that this is necessarily effective in building community. Id like to bridge the gap between blogs and more cutting edge technologies (is it okay to still call Twitter cutting edge?) You cant build a community of one, and Im going to work to reach my audience where they are. How, Im not quite sure yet, but I know its possible.

Reflection Assignment Three In the interest of full disclosure I should mention that, starting with reflection three, I am writing a few weeks after the actual class event. I think that the reflective nature is more powerful for me here, as I have watched the courseand my fellow classmatescome full circle. In the class-week of May 31-June 3 we took our first field trip to Area15 in NoDa and watched the OD On the Edge presentation given by the McColl School. Ill address them both here. Area15 is amazing. The end. No more to say. In a city like Charlotte, which clings to its dominant narrative so strongly (what are we if not a Banktown) the courage it must take to open a space devoted entirely to creativity is amazing. Ive spoken to my past in an artist residency center extensively, so I wont expand on that here, but the philosophies of Area15 and McColl Center for Visual Art are the sameprofessional creatives need a space and the gift of time to explore their craft. While McColl Center institutionalized these spaces and time with subsidies and dedicated space, Area15 took an organic approach to this gift. The space, which is clearly ever evolving, is a physical manifestation of the activities that happen within. The presence of a creativity incubator in a developing neighborhood like Optimist Park (appropriately named, no?) is impressive, but the openness to non-traditional creatives using the space to build their discipline is truly inspiring. Im struck by the coffee shop operator we met who runs The Not Just Coffee pour-over operation. In addition to crafting the best cup of coffee Ive ever had in Charlotte, he explained that he opened the shop because he loved the craft. He maintains his day job and opens when he can, and people come to support him. His passion was in the cup, and he shares it with the community. Later in the week, we went to the OD on the Edge presentation. Though we were unsuccessful in trending our #639create hashtag on Twitter we learned an important Twitter lessonput passionate people in a room with someone they disagree with, and they will let it be known. At first, my @QueensUniv brand-police persona panicked when we started Tweeting less than flattering thoughts about The Passion Trap, but in hindsight I realize that we were right to do it. In fact, I wish I had directed more of my personal thoughts towards the presenters. Michael Arena was amazing, but John Bradbury spent his entire presentation explaining why passion is bad. I just cant get on-board with his sentiment. True, passion can be dangerous; in addition to propelling your activities forward in a fulfilling way it can blind you to obstacles that

should be addressed from a practical standpoint. But passions ability to blind you temporarily to obstacles is no reason to avoid it. In fact, its the perfect reason to embrace it. Obstacles are scary. If youre wrapped up in passion you can use its forward momentum to knock the obstacle out of the way. Gallo relays a story about a visioncasting speech that Steve Jobs gave in 2001 where he explains that the digital hub is the future of computing. There were obstacles to this vision. Broadband Internet access was still limited in 2001, computers were underpowered, and the PC establishment disagreed. Before Jobs the computer was an end-unit for the Internet; a terminal with which to interact with the ethereal Internet. Jobs was passionate about the computer providing more than an access point. He saw that, by adding access to every computer and moving services to servers instead of local installs, the computer user could live digitally in a way unimaginable just a few years before. He didnt let the establishments roadblocks stop him in his quest to create a digital hub and were glad that he didnt. If youre afraid of your passion, youll contribute your energy to the societal machine, but youll never define its mechanical operation in a way meaningful to your life, your soul, and your energy.

Reflection Assignment Four Yoga. Wow. No, really. Wow. I had a blast at Brew Pub Poets society, and can respect a group of people who gather to explore their passions on a regular basis (arent they a terrific metaphor for the magic that unfolded in our class as the weeks go by?) but this reflection is going to be short, and its going to be about Yoga. We are rarely given the opportunity to be still with our thoughts and reflect on their impact to our lives. Modern technology, the same technology that we tout in the Knight School, fragments our time like a prism in the sunlight and pulls our attention so thin that we have epidemically short attention spans. Reflection is a powerful tool in the process of defining ideas and crafting a discipline of creative thinking and actions. Yoga is hard. Its a taxing physical activity that leave you dripping in sweat and will cause muscles you didnt know connected to various parts of your body to scream with the voracity of the tortured. But they arent being torturedtheyre being stretched. Unlike weight lifting and cardio, the physical benefits of Yoga are in lengthening muscles, increasing blood flow, and expanding air passageways in the body. These are metaphorically representative of the activities necessary for innovation: when you lengthen muscles you stretch your abilities to the very limits of what you thought possible, when you increase blood flow to the brain your output is measurably higher, and when you increase your ability to breathe you increase your ability to measure your reflexes to allow creativity in. We are not trained to be still. We are not conditioned to meditate. We are often not given the chance to sit very, very still (in Savasana, for example) to reflect on our lives, our days, our minutes, ourselves. I now know these things to be essential the process. Im a convert. Ive been back to Laughing Buddha, and am going to keep going. My body aches. Im a sweaty mess. Im probably making a fool of myself, but the experience has left me with a transferable skillset; I am applying what I learn to my daily activities large and small to better focus on whats important: the process of methodically understanding my actions in granular detail and in macro-focus. I love Yoga. I love that I learned it with my fellow #639creaters. I love that I can apply a physical activityfor which I usually have no proclivityto my understanding of my own socially constructed reality.

Reflection Assignment Five From my class notes on June 14, 2011: How do you develop creativity? Cathy Anderson uses a disciplined approach: Cogitate keep an artists notebook and use it to think. Talk to yourself on paper. Capture and develop ideas. It doesnt matter what you write your notebook knows where you need to go. Ramble go out and try new things. Visit an art museum, walk a labyrinth, look at books you didnt think youd be interested in. Surprise yourself. Set an artist-date with yourself to go do interesting stuff; take someone who may help you see the activity differently. Engage begin narrowing down your thoughts into potential action items. Collect your notes, collect your thoughts, collect yourself. Act BIC method: put your butt in a chair and put a BIC in your hand. Get busy doing the stuff that youre going to do. Fear is what will stop you; fear shouldnt stop you. A common fear is that the product wont be as good as whats in your head. Guess what? It wont be. If it were, youd never try anything else. Harper Lee cant write another booknothing can live up to To Kill A Mockingbird. Tweak artists and musicians have juries in school, visual artists collaborate in-studio for peer- to-peer critiques. Over time, you begin to educate people about their own work and then you learn about yours as well. Critiques arent personal; critiques prepare your work to be released into the world without you. Expand go onto the next thing, having learned what you learned. How do you grow and improve for the next one? Sometimes, when something in class really inspires me, Ill print it out or write it on an

index card and post it on my refrigerator so that Ill see it every time I reach for a Diet Coke. Which is pretty frequently. I think this is the best way I can think of to remain engaged with what I learn in an everyday matters academically kind of way. When I started doing it, I worried that I would forget that postmodernity is maddeningly both urgent and playful or that deconstructionism works for more than fancy hamburgers. Of course I wouldnt actually forget those things, but I thought it best to say them over and over again, just in case. I included Cathy Andersons disciplined approach to developing creativity in its full form here because it is one of the things that made it to the fridge. Cathy is a creative at heart. She oozes creativity and passion and her contagious spirit was inspirational for most of the folks in the class. But she didnt say much that I didnt know already. Ive always kept an artists notebook. I put artist in quotation marks because my notebooks have very little to do with art making and a lot to do with ephemera. As a designer I

have been trained to know when to go onto the next thingotherwise youll spend forever on one project and never stretch and grow on the next (which is also fiscally irresponsible when youre getting paid for your work product.) But Cathy put the pieces of the equation together for me in a way that I didnt expect. Ive always approached creativity as something that was just there, and when it didnt come on demand I panicked, thinking to myself that last stellar project is the last stellar project you will EVER do. EVER. It never occurred to me to approach creativity in a methodical and measured approachsomething that resonated after my transformational Yoga experience (read Reflection 4 for more information.) I approach creative projects differently than some of my esteemed classmates. My job is

to be creative-on-command in a traditional sense. There is no out of the box definition of creativity when your job is art making; its pretty straightforward. Because of my relationship with creativity, and its way of leaving you when you are looking for it the hardest, I have become afraid of it. Ive started to take the easy route in my job and in my off-the-clock creative work. This is unacceptable to me, and I knew it, but until I heard Cathy speak I couldnt verbalize the problems I was feeling with my process. Im looking forward to rambles and Im looking forward to refining the way I think about and approach creativity in my everyday life.