“The Mind’s I " by The DS106 Shrink
Cindy said in her post:
"Looking for an inspiration, I searched for ‘mind’s eye’ …”
She also said she was not a gif maker so I thought I would make a few gifs for her post.
It has been a while since I have written a post here. I have been posting my art (See? calling it ‘art’ not ‘artefact’ anymore 🙂 but not narrating the process. The truth is that narrating process is hard and as I get more into making art, I am less able to run the ‘witness loop’ to be able to accurately explain my creation process. This is, of course, natural when creative flow happens. We ‘lose’ ourselves. What this means is that we lose the judging mind and align in activity.
I want to make an effort to narrate this daily create because I believe this to be my graduation assignment!
There are many goals to set going forward, but for the first time since I started participating in DS106 I have made something that is inherently and standalone pleasing to me. Awesome feeling. I have had glimpses of it when making animated gifs but this time the intensity was different.
It started with me scanning the daily create site and seeing what others had done for today. The prompt made me go: meh. I am in the middle of another project for our Summer DS106 Story doing a trailer in the style of a silent movie (something that is proving more challenging than I expected). May be I get one with that and forget about the daily create today. Or may be not.
I watched a video today that admonished me: "The most dangerous thought you can have as a creative person is to think you know what you’re doing.“ I decided to make an animated gif, I know how to do that.
I had the idea of many hands moving and that gave me the slogan you see in the image. Hands were dancing in my head and I started, predictably for those who know me, to make a gif.
Where to find hands? @cogdogblog introduced me yesterday to the most beautiful resource I have found in a long time The Public Domain Review. Looking for images was a great excuse to lose myself there for a while. Actually, I found what I wanted straight away. The physiognomy of hands in 1917. Use these images in Photoshop and make the hands dance whilst the slogan pops up. Boom. Not Boom. I could not keep the background still whilst the hands danced.
Each time I watched all my layers I could hear a faint voice saying – it looks great as a still image. I ignored it for a while and kept trying to make the hands dance. I knew what I was doing. Until I was willing to suspend knowing.
I abandoned the idea of an animated gif and looked at ‘what the marble wanted to be’ as they say Michelangelo thought of sculpture. Not that I am comparing the output, just the process. I spent hours playing with Photoshop selecting, blending positioning the hands. I tried many fonts and colours and then I noted that this was a kind of ‘silent film’ poster.
Off I went down another Google rabbit hole. Find a font that suits the silent era. I have never installed a font, I just use what is there and match it as best I can. Lazy creator. This time was different. I wanted to shape the poster as it seemed to want to be shaped. Worked out how to install font and restarted machine. Boom. Like. Now I thought about the inter-title screens in silent films. It needs a frame. I looked and could not find anything.
I remembered that Photoshop now has Picture Frame to use. I needed a tutorial for how to use that. I played around until I made something the fitted the style.
Boom, my poster for today.
It really helps not to be struggling so much with the tools. As Ira Glass reminds us ‘our taste is impeccable, it take a couple of years for the execution to start to align with our taste and we know when we are falling short’. Well, today I did not fall short. There is a big difference between quickly getting something done, and losing oneself in the process of creation. I have known that from writing all my life, but this is the first time I experience it with digital art. Thank you daily create for the ‘boring’ prompt today.
How do I feel when I think?
Public domain footage edited in ScreenFlow music CC by FJGI from Jamendo.com
I have started to pull together some videos on YT that have connected for me with the spirit of this course starting on Monday June 9th at VCU:
In the next few weeks the DS106 Shrink will be Visiting Shrink on this course as I am fascinated by the ideas explored so far, and find these are aligned to my own practice as an educator. And there are lots of really interesting people coming together to send varied thought vectors into concept space. Heck, it already sounds like a Dr Who episode!
I will keep adding to the playlist. If you have any questions about why I picked the videos or comments about them – just leave a comment.
Happy travelling in concept space!
On creative obsession and how it is good for our art. But also a strategy to make beautiful art. Inspiring.
The importance of history – advise to new students
One of the things I most value about being part of the DS106 community is that it makes come alive years of theory and research on the creative process.
On this post I want to talk about Bagman, a character that is part of the DS106 oral tradition and how it relates to a systemic theory of creativity.
I started the week looking for a photo of ‘the little paper bag character’ I had seen on Twitter some time ago. I thought it was created by Martha Burtis but soon found out that it was Brian Short’s original idea, that it was called Bagman and that he had ran for president in the past with a comprehensive campaign being staged by past DS106 participants. He has become an assignment on the DS106 bank.
His most recent appearance was to claim his own domain at UMW, a trailer well worth watching. Search for him on the google and there are pages of fun art to listen to and watch, all to do with this little paper bag creation.
Why bother writing about him? Other than the obvious prima facie reason that he is awesome, there are those out there who need a rationale for having fun, if that is not too much of an oxymoron. Sheep! I needed a rationale to join this cult #4life not too long ago.
So let me be serious for a minute and bring to bear my academic expertise as the DS106 Shrink to the important subject that is Bagman or B. Agman as I believe he is known on Linkedin. The dry and boring diagram on photo set above, explain systemic creativity. I put it here for completeness but will only focus on what is relevant to this story.
As I was digging into the history of DS106 through finding out about this little character, I had a lived experience of what Csikszentmihalyi (the guy responsible for boring diagram) means when he says that we need to ask where is creativity? Rather than, What is creativity?
In psychology often the focus is on the person and how to develop individual creativity. Until I came across this model I used to focus all my workshops on individual creativity too. But the individual is not an island and in order for creative output to obtain, we need to look beyond the ‘I’. The individual belongs to a field or craft. In that field there are colleagues, journals and review processes that determine what becomes part of the domain of that field. The acceptance of a given output by the field into the domain determines what future students learn as the symbol system for that field that they can then deviate from – the symbols they will manipulate to become creators. A key thing the theory proposes and one that is often forgotten by those who want to encourage creativity is the need of years of training and practicing to learn that symbol system – in other words you will not become Einstein without learning physics.
This is similar to what Ira Glass says about practicing your craft. You will suck for a long time as you learn your craft, what you do will not be accepted in the field and even if your taste is impeccable all the way through your output will not match your taste. Do read Alan Levine’s latest post to understand more about this and learn a lot about what teaching means within our little DS106 community.
What does all this have to do with Bagman?
I have always struggled to explain this theory to my students. It seems self evident to me, but not often to others on first seeing it. I can now explain it with Bagman. Tracking his story this morning taught me a little more about the people who ‘are’ DS106 today, this will help me join the conversation. It is always tough to come into a party where you don’t know anyone; knowing their war stories, their recurrent jokes and developing an ability to contribute to their interactional currency will help you join in. In some ways, all we have online is this narrative history to establish relationships within an existing social system.
If you are coming in new to DS106 it would pay you to study it narrative history or as I think of it, its oral tradition.
The open web is a great repository of this tradition as many students before you have engaged with the course and produced creative outputs for it. DS106 has a symbol system and it is not so obvious without studying a little history.
The characters and the creations of the students involving each character were the medium through which students became part of the social system that is the field of DS106. If you look at the content only (the tools, the assignments, the weekly announcements) you will miss a core element of what makes this community special. The way to be accepted within it is also by knowing its history through narrative. You can then locate individuals and their roles within the community through the history they share.
The big difference between being a DS106 student and being a physicist is of course that neither the social nor the symbol system through which people interact is made explicit when you join it. You have to dig for it, and realise that it matters. It matters not because Bagman will change your world or teach you digital storytelling techniques (although he might), it matters because it is a history that the community shares and often talks about.
I am also very aware in making artefacts that there is a difference between making things for the DS106 community, with the intention of engagement and interaction and making things for a wider social system. Much of what I make within this community is pretty meaningless to those outside it or new to it. From an individual creativity perspective I am practising digital storytelling whatever the content. If that is your intention in joining the social and symbol systems may be do not matter.
Yet, seeing DS106 as a domain of knowledge in itself with a symbol system embedded in its oral tradition, its content maintained informally by the social system interacting around these symbols, may enable new open participants to participate more fully in the learning process.
And we are all pretty vain, so we love to be asked about what we have made and why we have made it! If you are joining us on March 18th for the first time, welcome to the party.
Campaign gif source; http://blog.neverthesameriver.com/change-its-in-the-bag-design-assignment/
Video for Bagman in London gif: http://youtu.be/mdxolXh3U60