In the digital world, space is pretty cheap these days. I can backup my laptop for 6 months for what it costs to spend an evening out. I don't care about Google's storage issues so I don't even bother to delete emails I'm not interested in; I just ignore them. But I do notice that when I take the time to actually select a file and trash it, it feels good. In fact, it feels increasingly good...
So, Istanbul. Decades after the Ottoman Empire said goodbye to its last Sultan in 1922 the population of Istanbul was what it had been at the end of the 19th century—hovering around a million. That's not a lot for a city that big; it must have felt as empty as Baltimore does sometimes. Since then, Istanbul's population has grown thirteen fold, and like its income, it's still growing fast compared to metropolitan areas in other industrialized nations. How does this happen?
Leaving my world behind allows me to experience other cultures, and also helps me see my own. I'm in Istanbul at the International Symposium of Electronic Art (ISEA) to find out what others are doing, see the Istanbul Biennale, and talk about prosocial media research. Istanbul is cool. Baltimoreans would love it, as does everyone here, it seems. Since I arrived I've been scribbling down notes, trying to better understand my sense that Istanbul and Baltimore are similar in some significant ways, and so are Turkey and the US.
The big hope for Westerners in the past few centuries was the idea that things would just keep getting better and better for us. Unfortunately, unless I'm missing something, that curve of well-being has stopped bending and started sagging—badly. While a great mass of humanity has gotten out from under the thumbs of some kings, the only way for many to pay the rent now may be to work for the king whose first name is "Burger."
It seems to me that would be pretty unusual to judge yourself as the one in 1,000 artists who will be able to live on your work. What kind of person would believe that they could do that? (Incidentally, I don't necessarily associate making a living off your art with being an artist.) It reminds me of what we expect a lot of people to do. We look at people who come from tough circumstances—people who might be one in 100 or even 1000 if they embraced their education in the way we might like them to. But who would be that person? And that person who judges others who can't find that kind of strength, you just want to ask them, "are you that person. Are you that exceptional? Where would you be by now if you were?"
Despite that the data on the cost-benefit ratio for using vaccines to stall pandemics is overwhelmingly in favor of vaccines—those data aren't driving Ms. Huffington's thinking. What does? Hard to say, but mistrust is rampant. I googled the word "vaccines" and 4 of the first 5 listings were anti-vaccine sites. One was a rock band—great name: Vaccine.
This is the short wrap up of the WhoWeAm series on looking at education through the lens of culture. Two points—very simple. Blink and you'll miss it.
This 5th film installment in WhoWeAm’s series on education is an interview with an Art Teacher who looks at her classroom as an opportunity to build a new culture from the many disparate voices and insights students bring in.
This 4th film installment in WhoWeAm’s series on education looks at the absurd discrepancy between traditional US culture and the current US schools.
Sometimes you just have to say it: There’s an elephant in our living room. This week’s film is about something we all know and love, or know and hate, or put up with, or enjoy, but we all accept as an inevitable part of the landscape.
Sometimes the things that make the difference on issues like education are so obvious that we just can’t see them. A little research and a couple of teenagers can be counted on to help us see the light.
The first short film in a series that deconstructs "the education problem" in the US by looking at it through the lens of culture. Yeah, I know, I know...whatever THAT means. Hey, just check it out—we might just be onto something here. You never know.
As an artist/educator, it seemed relevant to learn about how the human mind and brain process information and respond to stimuli. In the classroom, I shared what I was learning with my students—figuring they might be interested. They were. One thing led to another and pretty soon I was teaching myself to write grant applications to the National Institutes of Health to fund media to teach teenagers about their brains. Needless to say, my Masters of Fine Arts in painting didn’t really prepare me for this so somehow I convinced a team of scientists to help me. My goal was to persuade the NIH to give me a large sum of money to make films that could help young people understand what their brains were capable of, and how they could use them to build the lives they wanted.
Part 4—the final short film in this series about intuitive insight and the cultural impediments to becoming the innovation powerhouse the US has planned for itself. Sure, we’re talking about brains and culture and other pointy-headed stuff here, but I’m trying some other things here—experimental non-fiction. Some nice flowers for ya’ll.
It was a long trip from cultural ground zero in Schenectady, but ultimately, I settled in Baltimore. Despite years spent in New England, London and New York, the seamy-sweet tang of Baltimore’s culture sucked me right in. It felt palpable and compelling. In decline since before the riots and abandonment of the sixties, Baltimore careened like its old streetcars around the curves the late twentieth century threw at it. Successful in the past, it was now a drunken uncle rebelling his way toward retirement.
When I was growing up in Schenectady, New York, my mother would ask me to attend her symphony orchestra concerts. She played the flute. With the request, she would add, mockingly, “You need to get yourself some culcha.” I had no idea who or what she was mocking, but growing up in the 60s and 70s in my nearly all white suburb of Niskayuna (that’s right, Schenectady has suburbs) there was a sense that culture was kind of obsolete—nice, but unnecessary.