Locations: Ahmedabad, India
Tags: citizen journalism, video volunteers, DRISHTI Media, Arts & Human Rights , stalin k, jessica mayberry, kavita das gupta, siddharth chadha, community media, participatory culture
Music: leaving you behind, Hermann & Kleine
About: the journey into understanding participatory culture doesn't start with digital technology. the study of participatory culture should arise from the understanding that one shoe doesn't fit all. since my time in ahmedabad, i've come to see drishti and video volunteers as the premier example of interactivity between online/offline, between old media/new media, between bitching and getting things done. the prime directive should not exist on earth. if we truly care about a participatory society, we must embrace tools as forms of technology and work hard to impart their use among all.
i hope you check out more of video volunteers work.
(this awesome photo is from flickr user leppre - check out frosty sunrise 2 in full detail!)
a week in ohio has brought about an level of personal intimacy that i wouldn't have found any where else. with less funds than i need, i've sprawled out on my childhood bed spending countless hours planning the next four months. between east coast offers of a roving camera man & thoughts of giving up, i find myself in a precarious position.
my life in ohio is simple. my life on the east coast seems extravagant. this journey around the world seems extraordinary. yet, i still look in the mirror every morning and see the same short bearded face. when i look down, i see the same small hands. with a warn out seat, my pants are five years too told. my socks holy. my back, feet, arms and legs feel the burden of the world.
my 29 years on this planet have been extraordinary. it's taken me quite a while to truly understand the detachment my parents gave me. growing up in the last decade of the cold war, in a small bedroom community of a military base, i was exposed to a world far beyond the reach of the three creeks that surrounded my suburban ohio house.
the journey from california to ohio is normal, a loving military couple moves to maximize wealth and opportunity to provide for themselves and their young sapling. a few years later, another young sapling comes along. all the while, the two work endlessly to teach their children of the family tree and the world's forests.
as the older sapling grows, the world takes it toll - accidents, fires, health issues, etc... but eventually the sapling realizes that the world's forest are massive. as he grows, he hears things that don't make any cense. he reads things that seem to have no tangible relationship to the world he lives in. yet, for some reason these stories are the notable stories - for some reason, these stories are the constitution of public discourse.
confuse by their importance and lusting after a deeper meaning - not all of these stores are lost. this young sapling knows that his forest and all the animals that inhabit the surrounding area must be similar to the one he reads.... they must be similar to all the stories he's been told... to all the stories he's dreamt... and with a slight hand of a shovel, he packs his roots, loads up an old VW van and departs to visit the forest beyond.
from the forests out east he sees an urban forest where trees are valued but not harvested. up and down the american coast he finds others who seek a grander meaning from sea to shining sea. across the sea, older sapling and taller trees that seek a similar exploration. across the world the sapling sees the stories, views first hand and oogles images of forests far and beyond - locations with out a single tree in sight - vast beaches of stubborn shrubs rooted on tiny rocks - vast urbanities where all trees have been removed...
all in all, after countless accidents, fires, health issues, loves and losts... returns to his original forest for a feast. like the year before and like any year after, the feast is more like any other family's... filled with it's unique quirkiness and unbeholden to any austere tradition - this family sits around revels in each other's stories, branches and quirks for a specialty ordered feast.
within a few days, this sapling once again departs into the unknown. this sapling has done it before. he's traveled the paths, climbed the rocks, trolled along the beaches and buried his head in the sand a few times. off in the distance there is a mountain, paths to the top are unknown, unproven and most fo the time unrewarding to anyone but itself.
beneath the ground, this sapling sees roots of many colors, shapes, sizes, from a million and one time zones. this sapling knows the roots are strong, healthy and ready to spring forth a new alternative ecosystem based on healthier soil.
while this sapling doesn't quite know his own destination, height or width - he's grown to know the trees, valleys and streems. he knows the glory of unity, the power of diversity, and the love of the world. he knows that he couldn't have done it without the unflinching support of a global family firmly rooted in passion.
thank you. blessing be with us all.
the midwest is a funny place. i know that every place i've gone and meet a fellow midwesterner, i've always found a feller of good company.
smack dab in regional stereotypes, the east and west look at my home state as a humble populous smack dab in between cornfields and coal mines, to the north a short congressman who's vegan and running for president and to the south, the home of makers mark.
i, on the other-hand know something a bit different. i know that ohio is home to six us presidents (that makes it second to NY to the number of US presidents)! i know ohio is home to the wright brothers, thomas edison, granville woods, charles kettering, blue jacket, and tecumseh.
i know that when the economy of the US is on the rocks, ohio has been on the rocks for a few months longer. i know that when the housing market crashes, i can find a desperate home owners in ohio. i know when ohio votes for a president, that president wins.
i know that ohio is at the heart of it all!
as my skybus descended through the clouds, i saw magnificent fields of crops and never-ending suburban sprawl. when the wheels made contact with earth, the precipitation contacting the plane was sleet. yet i new this was no cold welcoming. i walked out of a warm aircraft and flip-floped my way across a cold tarmac into one of the oldest airports in american history, port columbus international airport.
through the maze of walkways, foot paths, escalators, and ramps, i found my anxious parents, impatient brother and a very slow baggage claim. (in all honestly, the slowest baggage claim is in ahmedabad india. in a town known for their ice cream consumption to be some of the highest in the world, ahmedabad's baggage trollers are greased with sugar and grind to a halt the min any traveler has a destination with a time line.)
...back to columbus... so after a brief recapitulation of the past four months, i found myself in a new (circa 2000) lexus with an electronic navigator and heated seats. though the drizzle, i saw what i knew best, middle america. little did i know that in less than an hour i would find myself knee deep in the muddy river we call the future... surrounded by more questions than answers, i sat in the back seat, chewed on wendy's double patties jalapenoioed cheese hamburger.
slamming a frosty, gulping a dr. pepper and devouring a burger rocketed my shuga levels to another planet. with extremely high levels of fidgety uncertainty, my family and i shook off the sleet and walked into cosi's new GIGANTIC new museum.
COSI, for those of you who are not familiar with columbus, is the center of science and industry. it a commercialized name for columbus' equivalent of a natural history museum. since, ohio developed through the industrial revolution, the monicker "industry" is added for full crowed pleasing affect. too boot, many of the exhibits are underwritten by captains of industry.
in this new iteration of the COSI, WOSU (the broadcast wing ohio state university and home to central ohio's public radio) collaborated in the construction of a monstrosity community TV studio. tucked away in a building open 9 - 5, most of the center was under-utilized... well that was until, this evening when 40 some odd bloggers, tv and radio personalities, newspaper readers, citizens of the greater community, my parents, my brother and i (all daytonion carpetbaggers) got together to discuss one question - "What can we do together that we cannot do alone to make the community better using Social Media."
walking into a TV studio with a ring a chairs and a camera pointed on half of the ring scares many people. it damn near gave me a heart attack, i didn't not expect to be on camera nor did i expect such a group gear up for video documentation. despite the prevalence of camcorders, very few east coast groups have attempted video documentation of their events. too boot, if you've seen a recent picture of me, you'll know that my hobbitin height, bearded facial monstrosity and orange cap always seems to be a bit out of place. surveying the room and seeing many clean shaven folk most in "i just got out of work" attire, i was highly self conscious of a formal meeting with a structured sessions of "we want this" and "can you tell us how solve our problems."
first, up on the wall was a matrix of time slots and locations.
second, i saw a poster advertising the "law of two feet" - Law of Two Feet (also known as the Law of Mobility in settings where participants don't necessarily have the use of both feet) -- a foot of passion and a foot of responsibility -- expresses the core idea of taking responsibility for what you love. In practical terms, the law says that if you're neither contributing nor getting value where you are, use your two feet (or available form of mobility) and go somewhere where you can. It is also a reminder to stand up for your passion. (from wikipedia)
third, i saw the four principles of open space (from wikipedia)...
- Whoever comes are the right people
- Whatever happens is the only thing that could have
- Whenever it starts is the right time
- When it's over, it's over
when the facilitator started speaking, my sugga kicked into overdrive and my fidgeting exploded in excitement... i've traveled the world, and there in front of me, there in columbus, ohio, i was watching the future of news. there in front of me sat a diverse group of community members who had come together to discuss how WOSU and COSI can better serve the community.
in the buckeye state i watched the future of "broadcast" media unfold.
in nyc, i've helped organized many of these open space events, and after a serendipitous meeting of david cohn at BarCamp NYC 2, the two of us bounced many ideas off of each other to work on CopyCamp - an unconference for community journalism. (we are in the process of formulating a grander conversation on how open space conversations can improve journalism - both citizen and professional - for now join the google group and let's corral a few news agencies into thinking that this is a good idea.)
for 15 mins, the group sat around trying to understand the next two hours. as people gathered ideas for conversation, people grabbed a sheet of paper, wrote down their two cents and found a space to do discuss the topic. while i desperately wanted to chat about so many things, i wondered how much would i be perceived as a foreigner. with my bearded hobbitin status in full effect, i wrote something down and waited to see who would pose a topic that seemed more suitable. i didn't have to wait too long to get, andrew, from elephants on bicycles, to propose a topic that sounded like "the future of citizen journalism."
after over staying our allotted time, we log rolled from topic to topic... from trust, to linkage, to content, to business models, to the definition of "broadcasting"... on and on, the room tumbled in conversation from Robin Mizell, copyeditor & former newassignment.net contributor, to mike thompson, director of news and public affairs, to susan meyer director of communications and organization planning at WOSU, to tim eby, station manager of WOSU radio, some upper crust members of COSI's management, to a few guys from the barcamp ohio group... and that's just to some of the more vocal members of the group... there was conversational buy in from so many divers parties.
as we ran through the second alloted time session, many ideas splashed up at us..
- FIRST, continue exploring by hosting more open space events that invite the community to help shape the future. just remember, rome was not built overnight.
- use the COSI/WOSU facility as home base for Columbus's tech community (aka meetups, *camps, more open space events, etc).
- investigate the marriage of freelancers and independent workers within a COSI café (aka coworking). also, don't be afraid of turning to daytime events like "work at jelly" to help crystalize personal relationships. (apparently, an international network of science centers is studying how to keep them self community relevant. if anyone can send me contacts, that would be awesome!)
- open up more WOSU programing for community participation by bringing in community experts (specifically expert bloggers, and not just local ones). comically, when we were talking about "experts" or "bloggers" the criteria came from the same place... people who know their stuff and can accurately augment a show. (btw, one should note that mike thompson, director of news and public affairs already pulls in bloggers to augment his line of pundants)
- point listeners/viewers/community members in direction of online communities that feature topical conversation.
- bring in new media students as interns (aka slave labor) and have them experiment with "professional programming" (i use this term in the looses sense, please see my previous blog post.)
- don't just say it, but embrace it!
- one the shortcomings seemed to stem from the fact that no one was employed 100% to understand the intricacies of new media, community, and exploration. everyone seemed to say, "well, that sounds like a bit of this and that..." yeah, in reality it is a bit of this and that...
in the end what we discussed is nothing new. if you look at talk radio, if you look at community programming, if you look at community centers, or anything that loops community, conversation, and construction - you will find time tested models of engagement. there is nothing wrong with frailty, this is what has placed WOSU/COSI into this position. there is nothing wrong with failure. we must read, write and created or in this case listen, communicate and create. the only way traditional broadcast will survive is to find a symbiosis between a relevant/profitable business model and community - if your listeners are talking, are you listing?
hats off to WOSU and COSI, the facilitators, and community members. you took the leap of faith.... now it's a collective job to find the tussling logs will sustain the weight and carry everyone.
click on the better looking bloke for more pictures of my time in cali
after waiting 30 mins for something that would never happen to me, a woman and child sit down to join a male companion. somewhere in the halls luck, these two blonds have been blessed by unforeseen travel god. alone to my right, i see an old man with worn out blue jeans, with his shoes off and hat pulled over his eyes - i see the physical reflection of my tired sole.
as the skybus, banks north over the valley, i watch the western american desert skirt bye. off in the distance, i see andrews air force base, home to america's first astronauts. behind me, the couple and infant banter about nothing important - yet, everything his said in such serious tones. while there is an artifical serious natiture to the conversation - the two are idiots. from the rationalization for taking two separate cars to the airport, to the mother's ordeal in finding a parking spot, to his instance on telling her where she went wrong, to the baby crying, to the mother talking about how she's so sorry for delaying the flight 30 mins... i hear nothing but a relaxed worry free life style.
to embark on this journey is intersting. in San Fran, chris messina and tara hunt demanded a "refund" and gave me flack for many things.
first, she questions the value of this trip and the outcome of the project.
second, i criticized for not being honest for advertising myself is the #1 beneficiary of this project.
third, she questioned why i'm "the chosen one" and not someone else who is "better connected."
fourth, they inquired about my finances and wondered why i didn't seek out corporate underwriting.
finally, if the first few questions wasn't enough, they questioned the my integrity.
in the end, when i questioned how much of my content they had reviewed... they said "very little."
after all was said and i felt the ticking time bomb of two hours wasted, it was obvious Tara did not feel comfortable in my company. in return, i did not feel comfortable in their company. while i've always questioned their motives, my conversations with many other fansicsicans put a big olde spotlight on two humans whom are very much stuck in a bubble that will eventually burst.
we mutually agreed to a continuing conversation, but for now they would not support, endorse, nor would Tara participate in an interview. granted, chris said he would be available the morning of my departure, it was obviously an inconvenient time for two conflicting parties.
as i have always stated, this trip is about exploration. there are many ideas that must be explored. there are many ideas that must be tested and retested. there is no science to humanity. we are ever evolving creatures of awesome intellect. if we stop thinking, we stop exploring and therefore we stop expanding.
this journey is about exploration - physically and philospholicy. while i've changed the world has not.
as i grow, i see a light that very few understand. don't get me wrong, we can all think globally, and i don't mean this in a houtey-toitey... to me the world has a defined constitution; now i find my works taking on a new meaning. for example, when i landed in LA, my host, gregory whitescarver, and his pal callen immediately whisked me off to a party where i was introduced to LA's brightest.
after curtailing the use of lighter fluid on wet wood, some dark haired, light eyed, red coated ginger sat down next to me. she thanked me for kicking up the fire and started asking the usual assortment of questions - "who are you, what do you do, etc.." two seconds later her bloke arrived. sitting next to her, he proceeded to ask the same obnoxious question...
she interrupts, "he's been around the world!"
"oh, i too've been around the world... i've been to mexico, jamacia, (insert a few of western europe countries and one or two eastern europen countries)... ok, it's really not 'around the world' but i know what the world is like... well, not really africa nor asia, but i know the world." retorts the bloke.
shocked by her bf's blatant display of idiocy - with out a word, she stands up, turns around, picks up his left hand, and yanks him off the couch. with a slight handwave, they descend into the depths of the dance floor.
yeah, so where was i? oh yeah, exploration. so there's nothing wrong with how one explores the world, but for me the meaning of 'going around the world' is an interesting one. it was funny to hear chris and tara exclaim their new media exploration while other's have no other recourse than to explore or die. out of the countless conversations i had in LA, meeting Zadi and Steve from Jetset was amazing!
their support for my trip has been bewildering, from nowhere i was friend'd on every social network imaginable. then after my departure arrived the message, "oh, btw we want to do a segment on you." honored, excited, tired, out of money and stuck inside due to a gnarly sewage stankin thunderstorm - i found my self recording a message from delhi with no electricity and no internet, . almost a month later, out popped one of the most beautiful segment's i'd ever seen... check it out!
fast forward two and a half months later and several thousand km, i found myself sitting in a beverly hills coffee/tea house sipping on some raspberries and honey.
my head was down when they walked through the door, but my body knew they were here. i jumped up just as zadi started to lift her arms. standing on my tippy-toes, i hugged steve and promptly lost my balance. over ornate tea, a bowl of soup, and dainty coffee, we battered a the conversation back and forth.
well they asked questions, and i answered them...
as we moved from tea house to their dining room table, a conversation seemed to endless... maybe it was my long winded prose or short winded epics. a warm fuzzy feeling draped my body.
for the second half of the conversation, i asked them a slew of questions. while most of it was captured on tape, i found myself in total awe of this loving new media power duo. every other story was an epic in exploration. inquisitive and impatient they took imaginative ideas and instigated solutions.
it was great to hear how they met as teenagers in NYC and moved to explore ideas through the bubbles of innovation. in 2004, they finally settled on an idea for an internet children's show. after producing a few episodes, they discovered the show didn't quite represent what they were looking to capture. through exploration they evolved from "the jetset show" to "jetset" to "epic-fu" - through each iteration came personal and professional growth.
three years after venturing into the unknown, the two are still working countless hours revolutionizing how we watch video... to steve and zadi, the power to be nimble and experiment is one code of our online ecosystem.
tuesday morning, i was kicked awake by my buddy, gregory. tuesday was my opportunity to experience LA finest natual attraction, rush hour.
from silver lake to santa monica, i had no clue when i'd arrive at my destination. if i ran into the ocean, i'd gone to far. my friends told me an hour drive and i calculated a wee bit more than that. with tyrone, my macbook, feeding me directions, i promptly found my self smack dab in the middle of the world's worst nightmare. surround by angry-half-awake drivers, i navigated gregory's ford focus through the eastern canyons of hollywood.
when i finally in venice, a hardy cup of java was placed into my hands. with a bit of cream and a spoonful of shggar, julian bleecker and i entered into a long early morning conversation.
wrapped in the pleasantries of a cross-contental individuals, julian and i chatted about new york and i started talking about the nature of code... i backhandishly said, "if you know how to code, you you can partisipate."
julian asked, "what is code?"
in the tangible nature of things, code is something we humans do in our normal day to day... in the past, it was called protocol. hell, i still know people who attended "finishing" school. in the military, there is a strict code of conduct. in science, in international affairs, in programming, in modern social edicate... there's a million and one protocols to follow...
when it comes down to code in our modern peer-to-peer society... "what is code?" (maybe i've lost my cuthness, but there was a time when i aspired to have the finest of all things. then again, i was a starving college freshman. back then, i was a pretentious little punk.)
after a bit of discussion, we concluded (not that it was our only topic of discussion) that code in it's many forms is what rules all elements of society. code it self is slowly maturing and evolving. too boot, the barrier to entry is increasing decreasing (can someone say, "get up to get down?!?!")
in our second major topic, we talking about well roundedness. what makes up an "undisciplined" or "multi-disciplined" individual. is it about learning a bunch of trades in secondary and post-secondary school? is it about learning about society, interactivity and opportunity?
julian has three rules - read, write, build - with those three things i can't argue against!
all across this great planet, i have seen people who participate in open sourced programs - from a hug to the desktop - the world is predicated on helping the person on the other end of the line... amazingly, the line that encircles the globe is built on kindness.
on the drive back to gregory's place, i found old footsteps in santa monica. driving up and down the pacific cost highway, my mind wondered off the horizon to my friends in asia. i not only wondered what they were doing but i wondered how their feedback loop operates. i wondered if our "online code" was enough. lord knows, that my friends (or so called friends) whom i've met through assorted conferences make up a bulk of the people whom i trust. in turn, i hope these people have taken an ear to what i've said and digested it back into their lives... i wondered if i some how needed to create a roving band of merrymakers to tear down the insular nature of america... then it hit me... well something hit, i think it might have been a seagull pissed i was in his parking spot, but something hard did hit my head... i realized that on this rock. that's exactly what i'm doing...
painfully, i ended up thinking of those folks who's hands i have shuck but have fallen limp. i know 95% of the hands i've shook'n have fallen limp. i know this because, i too have fallen limp to thousands of people whom i've met. it's genuinely pains me that i can't get to know everyone on this planet.
amazingly, i was able to sit down with one of those hands that didn't fall limp. while politics is one of my loves, tony katz and i are able to sit down, share a plate of chips and see a world where the little guy plays a bigger role than the man behind the curtain. both of us agreed, that that the world operates on the back of the little guy. it's time that the rest of us understand that it's up to us to make the world different.
from this journey, i've wondered quite a bit of who we are and what we are doing. my time in LA has been intriguing... i found my self driving around podering the premisis that we frequently journey into the unknown. yet at the same time we see what we want to see and believe what we want to believe.
the meme of codes will developed in the forth coming multi-plant-um audio novel narrated by william shatner. contribute $11.11 and reserve you space in line ;)
(photos from la are slowing being added, in the meantime keep refreshing the geek!)
last night, i landed back in o-h-i-o and promptly found myself locked in a heated discussion on the network centric journalism... but more of that later... in the meantime, i want to inform ya on a few things...
- call me at +1.646.867.2263 - i have a new number. it's one of those "grand central" numbers... which means you can call me anywhere in the world, and this number will forward to my regoinal device. i think it's bitchin! if you want an invite to the beta, just contact me.
- witness is hiring for several positions - online outreach coordinator - hub editorial coordinator - technology coordinator - you should also check out their HUB project. it's fairly bad ass!
- greenpeace is hiring an internet organizer. my good buddy beka, "the" internet organizer for greenpeace USA and from the change you want to see, is seeking digital companionship.
(this is a recreation a photo my father took of my mother in the same yard. click on your fav part and be transported to a magical day filled with globetrotting, house hunting & a birthday celebration.)
it's one hundred percent certifiable, my body has traveled around the world. on 24 may 1978, i was born at loma linda university hospital. on 12 november 2007, i drove around the hospital to seal the deal and officially proclaim my body around the world.
as a descendent of new world explorers, i am now the first modern hidalgo (of moca linage) to circumnavigate the globe. do i feel different?
yes and no. it's kinda like turning a monumental age. you've always dreamt of reaching the milestone, but wondered if you'd make it. nonetheless, you persevered over every oppositional thought and roadblock. i could wax on about how i feel like a billion sea shells or how there's a new spring in my step...
i know tomorrow will be another day - unscripted, unedited and unfiltered. many things can and will go wrong.
i know hundreds of people have placed me on their shoulders and carried my dream across the globe.
i know that i must work twice as hard to show my appreciation for the beauty of all things.
i now know nothing will stopping me from working the world's lemons into lemonade.
i know i am not alone.
(click on the photo for my second day on the train)
after a full day of praising the wonder of EDVO, i done gone and left the damn modem on da train. a fool i am; pissed i got. btw, i'm extremely surprised how well most of the sunset photos turned out. i haven't changed a single pixel from camera to flickr!
if you get a chance, check out alex's write up worldchanging. i love this little quote...
Geek with great enthusiasm! Noel is full of that spirit, and he can be a difficult narrator, but his blog is also full of thoughtful, sensitive, intelligent citizen journalism about the moment in which we find ourselves.
to be honest, i just thought i was a bad writer. ;)
now back to Leonard Cohen's sad thoughts of humanity.
(photo flickr user jpmatth, click on image for the amazing original!)
with my long distance train adventures in north america, i've always wondered how the united states can kick out the jams and revolutionize it self as a leader in long distance transportation. if you've ever ridden a long distance train, you know the beauty of sitting back and letting the conductor do the driving. in north america, it's not always the quickest, but it sure is the most beautiful journey. away from the distractions of modernity and transportation infrastructure, amtrak takes one though the wondrous back road of america.
with a verizon EDVO usb adapter connected to my mac and my mac plugged into one of the few three pronged 120 volt electrical outlets, i'm cruising the country side working away at changing the world.
while the food is hearty, it's really not healthy. the tracks on the other hand are a cluster mess. most of this journey has featured long winding turns on single pair of tracks. stopping for freight or other passenger trains has delayed us by a few hours. ever so often we pass by a freeway, a orchard, vineyard, or small town. inch by inch we craw down the west coast of america.
with the cost of petroleum increasing and gas prices on the verge, i wonder if it's time we take a few pages from the open community playbook and think about pulling our resources together and see if this great nation can spearhead a nationwide conversation on alternative transportation. if you don't know about the unconference, it is a workshop like / peer to peer conference where individuals present issues, problems, solutions or host conversations to the issues surround the central topic.
just imagine if ordinary citizens from around the nation gathered in homes, community centers, schools, etc to talk about what they can do to change their transportation woes?
imagine if each group went to city hall and invited the transportation director to chat with them.
imagine actually engaging them in conversation.
imagine not inviting them, and formulating your own alternative plan and then visiting city hall?
imagine taking a few pictures, writing up a mini-press release and sending it to the newspaper to say "we did it! we're planning another one! we want you to join us!"
imagine if Amtrak riders around the country submitted THEIR ideas and plans on what amtrak could do to improve service... (ie healthier food, wifi, more outlets, etc...)
imagine if they filled in a wiki and promoted it on trains and had people vote for their favorite ideas.
someone should contact my buddy Tomas Purves and ask him to open up transit camp's framework.
(click on your fav gender for more pictures from vangroovy.)
like a jewel in a crown, vancouver sits atop north america's granola coast. this glisting gem hold the sparkle of many a geeks eye - a political party that incorporates FLOSS into it's charter, an organic network of evangelists building an 802.11b mesh network to blanket the city, a drupal/barcamp revolutionary, a computer recycling organization which harvests discarded computers for environmentally friendly recycling and helps homeless people connect to the internet... as if that wasn't enough, vangroovy is home to the worlds most popular citizen journalism news site - nowpublic.com
my friends, that's just the beginning... i wasn't able to meetup with workspace (one of the original coworking locations) nor the countless other drupal nor linux geeks who inhabit canada's most temperate climate. oh and did i forget to mention that vancouver had a very "healthy" merry-jane community? not that i'm into it, but the vangroovyites seem to be proud. combine the fact that the restaurants are delicious, the night life / arts community thriving, there's abundant coffee strong and a growing culture of brew pubs... vangroovy got's a groovy thing going on...
it's not like all of this fell into place. each one of the individuals whom i met spent years working with others to building their ideal city. the city isn't perfect. there's quite a bit of homelessness, drug abuse, displacement of affordable housing and gentrification.
through each of my interviews, everyone paraphrased the same statement "we're here, we're not moving away and we want to make a difference."
(this is a total departure from most of my ramblings... i'm exhausted, but i want to get my "fresh" thoughts on "paper." all y'all should note i listen to the motorcycle dairies like a rechargeable battery pulls it's juice from the wall. track to track, i find an energy like none other... am i alone in this???)
from vancouver to Seattle, i sat with a cast of characters. boarding a amtrak chartered bus, i found myself surrounded by stereo typical travelers - the sports junky worried about customs, the hot college coed, the two friends setting out on a long journey, a preppy couple who had a copy of the ny times, a few hipsters, grandmas, etc...
as rain pounded the roof, we all waded through customs, reboarded the "secure" bus and shlepped to seattle. as we drove through the foggy morning in "upper northwest" (really it's all subjective, in vancouver they call it the lower mainland), the sun caressed the horizon which illuminated mountains to the left and large bodies of water to the right. somewhere through my drowsiness, i too caressed the mountainess coach chair to my left and to my right, i poured out a widow into a never ending water world.
once in SEA, i found myself in the same tiny train station from which i departed. with my eyes barely working, i found the seat assignment keyosk and requested an ocean view. as an FU to my mental state, the vending machine decided to stiff me on my morning ritual of M & Ms. after a solid five mins of cursing, banging and a 110% vagrant disposition, i convinced the machine of my worthiness and was granted my treat.
as i stood to board the coast starlight, i danced (ie wobbled back and forth trying to keep balance) as i looked around at my fellow passengers.
i wondered whom i would meet. i wondered whom i would befriend. i wondered about their destinations, stories, but more importantly, i wondered which cute girl would fancy this bearded flip-floping hobbit.
would it be the hipster from vancouver or the mid-20's vixen wearing an unusually light sun dress for a cold day?
would it be one of the three young college coeds or the layered granola crunching intellectual?
would it be the grandmother who's traveled around the world or would it be married woman traveling without her husband?
after scoring a seat with a rare electrical outlet, i crossed my finger on whom my join my bench. as my luck would turn, i got the acid washed early 40s stoner who interjected "dude" instead of "ahum" or "ahh." behind me and to the left, sat a woman who's disposition suited an afternoon cocktail party, not an early morning long distance train. directly behind me and next to the boisterous three cups of coffee, sat a cute fashionable question.
tipped with firey red hair, this late 20 year old sported flat-black calf high boots, a teal dress of notable distinction and black leggings. the dress looked really familiar. the style was something i had seen a few times before. either in nyc or sf or some other hipster sub-capital. i knew the cut, the frills and somehow i knew the personality would be interesting.
as the train departed, i fell back into my previous state of traveler's coma. an hour or so later, i woke up and ran to my lunch reservation in the a dining car. (btw, what a rip off!)
upon my return, i was blessed with the two women blabbing away and my bench mate passed out sporting a nice collection of drool. tired and alone, i settled into eavesdropping mode. as an observer, i've found myself enjoying the conversations of others... when you've already developed a distain for someone's attitude, it can be a real treat!
behind and to the left, the older woman clad in "funky" jewelry provided enough comments to paint a picture of a strong independent upper-middle class woman from the united states. sounding like a blend of a million and one other conversations, i dreamt she lived in a comfortable house, struggled with her life's investments and more importantly, she was more concerned how others perceived her and her husband. (all of which was confirmed as the conversation wore on...)
sitting to her right sat the fiery red head who was verbally amazed by every burning autumn leaf. from topic to topic, i heard an open, inquisitive and fiery disposition. too boot, i heard the voice of a self made woman. when she said the words "school of hard knocks" my heart skipped a beat. i wondered who was this woman. more importantly, i wondered how to interject an introduction.
by the stroke of luck, the conductor announced we would be stopping in portland for a "fresh air break." within a matter of mins... oh wait, snap! so, there was a glance. when the two got up to get lunch, i sat typing away. next to me sat mr. spicoli (as "fire" would eventually come to describe him). somehow, someway, we made brief eye contact, but too brief to be substantial. ok, if "fire" would have dropped a hanky, then it would have been substantial... so off they went... glare, look, glance noted...
then, when the conductor called out the fresh air brake, i hopped up and to my delight so did "fire." amazingly, mr. spicoli stood in front of both of us. as a die hard smoker, he was ready to pound a few sticks in the 5 / 10 mins we had outside. as we worked our way down the stairs, "fire" commented on the characters and i was taken back... was she talking to me? was she being coy or snotty? was she calling me a character?
regardless, i knew this was my one opportunity. if i screwed this up... i would be screwed up. so i shot back the classical "oh, i think we're all characters."
low and behold, that one little line set off a chain of events that would force me to turn around and hanging over the back of my seat for the next few hours. when we re-boarded the train, "fire" pulled out her old ibook and i was like... "whoa, can i steal some of that?"
in ease, i built an itunes playlist of rock n'roll, jazz, soul, 60's and cover songs... ahem, i am that high fidelity guy. i have that disposition where i judge people by their musical tastes. i know it's such a bad thing... and if you're female and i make you a mix tape. watch out! ;)
maybe it was her light blue eyes or her constant application of a fiery red lip gloss... but every movement seemed to be in slow-mo. i was completely transfixed from topic to topic - indian pizza, dysfunctional family, fashion, music, technology, social networks, self made adventures, etc... every comma, apostrophe, period and question mark had my total awe. if this wasn't enough, she was to be in vangroovy from monday to thursday, but had to cancel to attend her grandmother's funeral... instead "fire" routed to her way to seattle. can some one say "star crossed?
it was weird to think of destiny and the world that exists beyond/after this project. it was weird to have chet baker's "my ideal" stuck in my head after so many months of celibacy. maybe this is a T.M.I., but when i started this journey i dreamt about being a casanova and meeting the love of my life. i still dream that i will find the love of my life... but i now fear that the love of my life is something that's beyond any one particular person. AND that really freaks me out...
well, i now have a crush and an address in SF which will soon start to receive post-cards. :)
i need to find some market statistics on the amount of capital based on the use of open source software. i can't seem to recall any particular statistic, but if my guestimication is correct, the world is pawned by open source. as i journey further down the rabbit hole, i can't help but to think of the digital ecology that surround this trip. i can't stop thinking about the alternative economy that we have built.
for now, i'm going to address the ecology of things and research later the market statistics...
there is one person who i can thank. while mr. meyers and i stayed up late chatting about the world, some english movie writer bloke inquired about the two stoic americans sitting at the hotel's gas fireplace sippin brews. after a bit of introduction, the tall overly intoxicated english bloke said this project was ALL wrong. now i'm paraphrasing what he said but it went something like... "arrrr matie, these fish scales don't add up... yarr, ecosystem is the wrong term..."
i asked him why, and he couldn't retort...
ok, so i know it's a bit freaky to think about computers as a part in our "organic" world, but stick with me for a second here... if we think about what we put into our bodies, do we ever really think about the converse?
do we think how our bodies are put into tools?
for the sake of the argument, i'm going to write some proofs. first, we use tools to make things. therefore, these tools became a conduit for the creation of a physical organic object. (this might be an overly materialist perspective, but i'll eventually find a master theory) almost every object we have in our possession creates some-type of emotion. just think of all the nicknacks you have in your house. better yet, think of your cubical on a monday morning. what type of emotions do they invoke?
well, in today's world, the digital tools we have at hand also have the same ability to create a similar emotion. these tools do not always create physical things, but the things we create still invoke emotion. while i've been on the road, any personal email revives the thought that someone cares about me. every comment proves that someone is reading my babble. while i might be a million miles away, these messages invoke emotional responces. i am tied to my friends THROUGH the tools at hand.
these tools also help us connect efficiently. just imagine if this trip would have been done 20 years ago. email, wikipedia, flickr, facebook - all nonexistent.
now that we've efficiently connected our mental communication, i still see our desire for physical connection. not to say that the physical connection is any more efficient, but we are discovering new pathways of physical communication efficiency. just take a look at meetup.com, care2.org, any one of the leading american presidential candidates... these all have multiple digital tools bring individuals together to make a physical organic meeting blossom.
yet, time and time again, i find people disassociating the value of the "technological" tool. many do not see it as an out growth of an organic being. if i was to talk about prosthetics, medicine, automobiles, gps, etc... it's easy to see how technology helps connect us. yet, many find it hard to see digital tools are elements of our organic being.
as my life's journey has taken me here and there, it took me awhile to fully understand why... it seems that we are too soon to adopt "geek" speak as branding and disassociate the product from society. maybe it's our inherent distrust of advertisement, or maybe it's our inherent buy-in? in the end, it seems that we disassociate the tool from it's utility. "this is not a cell phone. this is an iphone. it is a revolutionary device!"
no longer can i disassociate the use of technology from it's heritage of connecting people. through greenpeace's green my apple campaign, i've become acutely aware of the harm our digital tools can produce. at the same time, i see digital tools as an extension of the hammer, shovel and plow. regardless of marketing, the digital tools are here and they are extend our environment. through the seven topics, i am now acutely aware of a peer to peer ecosystem that seeks to coexist within a broadcast ecosystem.
as contributions continue to trickle in, i find my self in total awe. my friends (known and unknown) have installed a new version of "core." i have profuse thanks for michael meyers, cto of nowpublic.com, for hosting me in his hotel room and proving to be one amazing friend. without michael, i would have been one hungry mo-fo... many thanks to alex, boris, rolando, eric, and brian for bailing out a "brudda from a different mudda." my trip to vangroovy couldn't have happened without your help. THANK YOU!
as you might know, i've been twitter'n my inner most thoughts. instead of cluttering up the public space, i'm letting loose on the private space. so far, it seems that some readers have left and others have picked up the trail... as this journey unfolds, twitter is truly beholden to the best (#2) and the worst of this trip.
despite the fact i had no money in my checking account, a few days ago i tweeted a problem with my ATM card. within a few hours, i received a facebook msg from, ruby on rails evangelist / developer and nyc buddy, jeffrey ng.
apparently, the gang at eastmedia (which jeffry is a founder) was wondering "WTF" was going on with the message... i was honest and told him that i had run out money and about to start a sponsorship drive. low and behold, east media has decided to contribute $500 to the journey.
so, to the right you'll now see a little east media logo... if you're in nyc and happen to cross their paths, look them up. they are really good people.
btw, there's an anonymous donor who will be contributing $1000 for production. does anyone else think that that is fucking amazing!!! also, i'm in discussion with a few "community" based sites who are interested in contributing funds...
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