An explosion of inexpensive, readily available new media tools gives artists and social activists new opportunities to communicate with their audience. Rapid expansion of Web2.0 publishing and collaboration websites provides an instant, free medium for dissemination of content.
The content for this unit is excerpted from talks given at Pop!Tech 2006. Full versions of these talks (and dozens of others) can be viewed online at http://www.poptech.org/popcasts
Artists use different media to communicate their messages. In this unit, we see how a stage director, a singer/songwriter, a video producer and an "information artist" find different means of telling interesting, entertaining and important stories using four different media that incorporate technology.
Marianne Weems, director of The Builders Association, introduces her innovative theatrical genre. She believes that live stage performance is enhanced by including multimedia technology.
Discuss her statement regarding live theatre and contemporary audiences.
Singer-songwriter Jonathan Coulton performs a song based on images from Flickr, a photo sharing website. In a sense, this piece is a collaboration between one artist, one website and dozens of Flickr contributors. It is also a commentary on the culture of Flickr and Web2.0 more generally, in that people choose to share their personal material with the public in an online venue, not knowing how that material may be used by others in the future.
Discuss the culture of photo sharing and other Web2.0 resources where people post their private content for public consumption.
Kent Nichols, co-creator of the popular "Ask A Ninja" podcast, describes how the introduction of the video iPod created a wide audience for homemade video content.
Discuss other cultural changes that have taken place since portable digital music players became available.
It doesn't take much to start producing video. Kent Nichols describes the minimal resources he had available to produce the first "Ask A Ninja" segment.
Discuss podcasting and video sharing in general - are there podcasts that you or your audience watch or listen to on a regular basis? What might you or your audience want to create a video or podcast about?
Information Artist Hasan Elahi travels a lot. In June 2002, he was detained by Federal agents in the Detroit airport for an unknown reason. After a lengthy and difficult process to clear himself of suspicion, he decides to document his every move and create an online journal of photographs, travel records and live GPS locator information that tracks his entire life in real time.
Hasan Elahi voluntarily publishes his location in real time by wearing an ankle bracelet and connecting his live GPS information with online satellite imagery.
Discuss what privacy is and whether expectations of privacy have changed either as a result of changes in the law or individual decisions to share personal information and material with the public online.
Playing with time and tools, Hasan Elahi is able to simultaneously live a life under surveillance and provide a powerful artistic message about that experience.
Discuss Hasan's decision to provide MUCH more information than he was asked to provide. Does the process of surveillance change when the subject makes every aspect of his life public?
The final verses of Jonathan Couton's funny song show both appreciation and critique of public photo sharing.
Discuss your reaction to the people in the photos. Is Coulton making a judgement about the people or about sharing personal photos in general? If one of the photographers or subjects saw Coulton perform this piece, how might that person react?
NOTE: Review this content before showing to younger audiences.
In preparing the performance "Alladeen" call center operators in Bangalore, India were interviewed about their training in English. They develop characters with detailed histories, often derived from characters on American television. They also practice speaking with an American accent.
Discuss how American culture is exported and viewed by the rest of the world. Are Americans seen as sophisticated and intelligent? As morons or buffoons? As violent counterterrorist torturers? As benevolent, caring and philanthropic? As drunken and scantily clad pop singers in rehab or as thoughtful, creative artists with vision and purpose?
Marianne Weems plays a performance segment from Alladeen in which a call center operator in Bangalore, India takes a call from a woman in need of driving directions. The woman is calling for help from her car in the United States.
Discuss the different perspectives of the caller and the operator. During the conversation, do they form opinions about each other? What cultural differences become apparent in the dialogue?
Net Neutrality is an important political and social issue that has many complicated dimensions and competing interests. Kent Nichols uses the "Ask A Ninja" podcast to give a humorous and informative spin to the issue.
Should all content be equally available on the internet? What happens if higher speed connectivity (for users and/or providers) becomes significantly more expensive than low speed connections? Should internet service providers be able to block access to content they do not agree with or find offensive?
By documenting his location in real time over a long period, Hasan Elahi produces a record of cross-referenced evidence that could not be created in any other way over the same time period.
Discuss what Hasan's purpose might be in creating this project.
Photographing every in-flight meal (and all the meals eaten in between flights) give visual and temporal context to Hasan Elahi's posted financial records of ticket purchases, his travel records and GPS locations.
Kent Nichols wants his "Ask A Ninja" audience to participate in creating the art by remixing it. This connects the audience to the art and creates a different kind of relationship with the artist.
Discuss the experience of participatory art. How does the opportunity to derive new works or alter existing works change the artist/audience communication? Is anything gained or lost in this change?
Kent Nichols contrasts word-of-mouth popularity with expensive advertising.
Discuss the phenomenon of "viral" content. What drives something to become wildly popular while other content is ignored? What social connections or groups may be created/strengthened/enhanced or eliminated/weakened/diminished due to sudden popularity of a particular piece of online content?
Kent Nichols learns that his podcast is popular, and that established media conglomerates worry that high quality homemade media with an unchecked distribution system threatens their monopoly on eyeballs.