That’s right, we came, we saw, and we kicked the big apple’s ass! An EST extravaganza that was epic in every regard, what’s better is that most of the chronicling has already happened. What I am gonna do here is point to the various dead sea scrolls and then fill in a few gaps, think of it as me carving a few commandments into the stone tablet that is the bava so they can all live on in the annals of awesome. Can you dig it?
It started for me on Wednesday when Grant Potter, Dr. Garcia, Michael Branson Smith, Mikhail Gershovich, and I rocked the 14th floor of Baruch so hard with a ds106radio presentation that even Luke Waltzer had good things to say about it.
And while I lovingly pick on Luke, to be entirely honest it was unbelievably gratifying to see him lay out his response to the presentation, particularly because Luke pulls no punches—and if that post reflects how he sees ds106radio at the moment it buoys me to no end. It is hard to get a perspective on something that has become so integral and intimate a part of my life, so Luke’s ability to extract the implications of the ds106radio experiment outside of that is awesome, necessary, and greatly appreciated—I still love you Waltzer! For the review of the session as well as a video recording of the session (thank you Tom Harbison!) in two parts go to Luke’s post, if you are looking for the ds106radio audio archive, you will find it below.
After that, we all headed out to dinner at Molly’s Pub for burgers, fish & chips, beers, and some great conversation. I spent most of the time catching up with Tom Harbison (where is your blog?) who works alongside Mikhail and Luke at Baruch’s Bernard L. Schwartz Communication Institute (BLSCI). He has been the lead on the Video Oral Communication Assessment Tool or VOCAT (amongst many other things) —a tool BLSCI is in the process of re-visiting with a bava favorite Cast Iron Coding. VOCAT introduces some powerful ways for students and faculty to share, comment on, and assess web video—and the fact that video assignments and work are only going to get more and more common at the university puts BLSCI in the catbird’s seat here. What’s more, Tom and I got to talking about the work Andy Rush and Tim Owens are doing at UMW with the Kit, DTLT Today, and WOWZA—and Tom is quite interested in what’s possible. Oh crystal ball, I can see a space for a future seminar hosted by BLSCI 🙂
After Molly’s Grant GNA, Michael, and I headed to Brooklyn (my home for more than seven years 🙁 ) and parted ways with GNA at the Jay Street hub en route to Windsor Terrace. And before we called it a night of bad vodka we called the ds106radio 888 number from a subway station to check in with the steraming web. What’s crazier, it just so happens that it worked a treat. Try it, the number is 1-888-720-4178 and it only works in North America at the moment. What’s more, moments after we called ds106radio Scottlo and Cogdog got on the PBX and started chatting with Michael, Grant and I in the 15th Street/Prospect Park subway station. So sick!
Cut to the next morning when Grant scared me out of bed (I heard rumors of a ds106radio snore cast) by threatening to leave for the Contactcon Conference without me. I jumped up without a shower (actually not as much as much as a wash) and tracked up to thank MBS and his family for their awesome hospitality (save for the vodka) and headed back out into the city in search of more rush. We started with Terrace Bagels (one of Brooklyn’s finer bagel joints) then pushed out to a decommissioned Synagogue in the Lower East Side (you can see the details here) that was probably the coolest conference space I have yet to experience. Grant took some awesome images using Photosynth, check them out here and here.
The conference was interesting, and had a ton going for it. I may write more about it anon, but for now a few quick things. Having people do no more than 5 minute overviews about what they think, are doing, believe, etc. and linking that to the conference is a nice touch. Not all 5 minutes shots were great, and a few even stumbled with the format, but when it worked it was awesome. For example, Steven Johnson, author of Where Good ideas Come From, did a quick profile of Ada Lovelace that beautifully suggested how good ideas are often not born from Athena’s head, but made apparent through the cross fertilization of ideas, concepts, and metaphors from different disciplines—a kind of mashup of fields that leads to a new way of imagining both. What’s more, he pointed out how innovation often comes from rethinking old tools rather than trying to dream up new ones. This was particularly awesome because I think this is exactly what Grant Potter is doing technically with ds106radio. It was a great short talk that really nailed what we might want to think about as we go about imagining new ways of reframing social relations through technology—which was the ultimate purpose of Contactcon. And what I took from Johnson is that we have been doing this all along for the past decade or so when it comes to the socail web. What’s more important is what metaphors we can use to help us marry old technologies to new possibilities that will help us conceptually come to terms with awesome implications of such a cultural shift—we need the poetry of the various spheres to collide so that we can see.
After the talks the conference broke out into a kind of unconfernece comedy of errors wherein Douglas Rushkoff was trying to hone everyone’s session into something that would result in a product at the end of the day. The idea was to make something as a group, or at least have something concrete in mind you want to make before the end of the day. Quite frankly, a majority of the ideas were far too generic to be of any value to this end and the insistence on making them fit seemed unnecessarily painstaking and painful to watch. Despite that, however, the sessions where people sat down and discussed their ideas with one another, generic or not, seemed like a great success. Everyone was engaged, talking to one another, and the room was afire with energy. I sat in on the nodal computing section run by Isaac Wilder, the dude who built and deployed the FreedomTower (through the Free Network Foundation) that is providing free and open wireless to NYC’s #occupywallstreet movement, and who was, come to find out, arrested during the Brooklyn Bridge protest. He was a super smart, as was “The Doctor,” and I learned a ton about mesh networks and how they work. I’m still not ready to take the final exam, but I am really intrigued by the possibilities. His work on the Freedom Tower gained him one of the three $10,000 grants from the conference, the other two were received by the Freedom Box and a library in upstate New York who will build a MakerBot lab. The freedom Box is very much inline with the PirateBox in a number of ways and I will get to that shortly, but what I love about the terminology around the FreedomTower and the FreedomBox is how the re-apporpriate the Bush-era America idea of freedom as a sick virus Americans were suffering under into an open, populist movement of retaking control of our communications, and by extension our communities. There was also a ton of things about new currencies, micro-payments, etc., but none of that stuff really resonates with me at the moment. I know they make sense and there is important work there, but I can’t help but think our vision of currency and payments has not yet escaped the limits of capital.
At about 2:30 Grant and I bolted from the Contactcon conference to meet up with David Darts to talk about his awesome PirateBox project. David was amazingly cool, articulate, and in many ways a true visionary about what this technology might mean to the human condition. We spent almost an hour talking to him (and the session was all the great Grant Potter’s dong) and he really blew me away with his notions of the PirateBox as a pedagogical experiment, artistic provocation, and viral phenomenon that took off around the world. I had been exposed the PirateBox before the meeting thanks to Grant Potter, Zack Dowell, and Alan levine, and in many ways the idea of it, the conceptual framwork of creating your own local network for sharing provided me the conceptual headspace to understand the FreedomBox as well as the FreedomTower. The ideas of mesh networking are really the next wave of re-thinking our relationship to freedom on the web, and I love the whole thing. If you have 50 minutes to spare I highly recommend you dig in for this amazing discussion with David Dart, who needs to be the keynote at Faculty Academy this year. His stuff on digital identity is amazing, take note Martha.
After that Grant and I got some beers at McSoreley’s Ale House, talked life, love, and loss, and then went back to the decommissioned synagogue for the closing DJ party—which was awesome, not to mention the free Brooklyn Brewery beers!
After that, we made a quick stop at the after party for a quick beer and then we headed to the concluding part of this amazing 36 hour trip: the NYC #ds106radio Jam Session. It was nothing short of amazing and thanks to Giulia Forsythe, in all her awesomenes, we have all the audio archived and you can find it here. Mikhail Gershovich orchestrated the whole jam session and deserves major love for that—what’s more he is a solid hand at the animted GIF 😉
What’s more, Michael Branson Smith captured some awesome images of the event and shared them on his Flickr:
And as always Dr. Garcia played the master of Ceremonies and rocker extraordinaire for the event. Keeping us broadcasting, reporting in, and making the whole thing expand infinitely through the radio. Dr. Garcia is truly a sister from another mother–she rocks and her brilliance on the radio is only matched by her generosity off of it!
We also had the great Boone “Control Your Jealousy” Gorges on Keyboard, Bass, vicals, and guitar—he was rad! And @polarismusic shredding the guitar along with Marcello on the drums. Louis Katz stepped in on the drums after Marcello, and brought the punk on—Daniel Phelps busted out the iPad and started infusing the trippy sound effects. It was an awesome evening, and we even picked up another Vancouver-ite from the after party, and he spent part of the jam session rocking out with us—why am I forgetting his name?
I had fun with the Ramone’s “The KKK Took My baby Away” and Grant’s last tune (not sure of the name). So if you want a sample I will offer these up as a testament to the rocking. Enjoy because we sure did!
Finally, at midnight we all headed out, said our goodbyes to Mikhail and Grant, and went to the LIRR station to drink the rest of our beers, eat the horribly great Caruso’s pizza, and relive so many lonely nights I have spent in penn Station;s LIRR. After that we said our goodbyes and some of the best moments of my life receded as I jumped on my train back to Fredericksburg—from where I write these words.