We’re not even sure you need that

In talking to someone I would rather see as both infallible and immortal about going under the knife, I lightened the situation by telling them they could be altered within several deviations of themselves and still be tolerable. Bantering with SJ around what are organs even for, if you don’t need entire parts of them, lead us somehow to my drawing this image.


Thank goodness for humor.


Advancing Visual Thinking / Graphic Facilitation

I’ve recently launched bl00viz, a way for people to hire me for my graphic facilitation and visual thinking skills. This is the third in a 3-part series. The first part covered various sorts of vizthink, and the second covered the tools used.

So, I do these live drawings while people are speaking in order to demonstrate their ideas. I started doing visual thinking in earnest when someone turned left in front of me, causing a shattered radius. Since, it’s become my primary method of note taking, and a wonderful way to augment written notes.


Now that I can record the process of drawing, it’s even more fun to show ideas develop through the process itself, rather than just the completed ideas overlaying each other. So far, I’ve figured out how to tell a story on top of a drawing, like for Galway’s Ignite:

And taken an already-done talk, drawn it, and synced back to the audio:

This takes more energy, but I’m really pleased about the storytelling style.


The next bit that I’m super interested in exploring is that of how to collaborate together in drawing. I’m looking forward to the next unconference I get to go to where others are willing to play with me in this space. Whether in physical space on pieces of butcher paper, or in the collaborative editing capabilities of Prezi, I can’t wait to further explore this space. SO EXCITED.

Cohort and fellow Berkmanite Primavera showed me the Kopfschlag project, a persistent, collaborative, online drawing tool. You can play at the link, but here’s a time-lapse:

Kopfschlag from kopfschlag on Vimeo.

In the same way people have taken quickly to collaborative document editing, I see those of us who are visual thinkers sharing drawing space to express ideas in new ways.

Becoming Structured

Feeding off the Pixels and Paintbrushes blog entry. Interested in that transition space between the analog and the digital. It’s funny, liminal has long been my favorite word, rivaled only recently by penumbral. More and more, I get to look at and live in that space. But now I see it more as the space of transition, not just as space between/at the edge.

So this thing happens, where we have formal structures, and the informal takes up the space between. As in the previous entry, each of these has its purpose and strengths and weaknesses.

This drawing based off a conversation with Galit, a cohort and roommate.

This drawing based off a conversation with Galit, a cohort and roommate.

As a reference, let’s take the limited work I’ve done with Occupy Relief efforts. I act as human API – if you need something from a formalized organization, including them getting out of the way, let me know. Then there are posts like this one, which is totally legit. But it puts me in a strange place of saying “I stand with you politically, but if you want this taken care of logistically, then let’s do that.” Something that keeps me in the relief space is how stark a relief differences are thrown into1. The choices that have to be made, and what is considered important when, and what cultural artifacts are created by those choices. A big part of how adaptable and powerful Occupy is, is based upon their NOT being defined nor legible. More and more I wonder how to make groups like FEMA legible to Occupy, rather than the other way round.

Reading Seeing Like A State, if you can’t tell. So very good. And then, I got to see Douglas Rushkoff speak about his new book, Present Shock. I think a HUGE part of these ideas overlap.

He equated the quest for the upper right quadrant in Capitalism with the Singularity as an example of existing world views being applied to new ways of considering the future. Rushkoff also brought up the feminist media theory of storylines and plots of male vs female orgasm – one is a single escalation and then easy bell curve down. The other being complex, multi-apex, etc. The only way we’ve known for things to be predictable is with the storyline we could track – the male orgasm model2.

Now we have the ability to see, track, understand the complexity of “actual” life3 through big data4 in a way that understands as it emerges, rather than forces adherence to a predictable, and thereby incomplete, model. And instead we are applying the same two-dimensional, simplistic pattern to it, and cutting off the long tails of a bell curve we’ve forced everything into. We’re bringing the legal system of documents and MAYBE spreadsheets to a database and RDF world5. We are not allowing ourselves the nuance of the paintbrush, digitized through the use of high-density pixels. We’re making ourselves bland and bucketed instead. A low-res snapshot of culture, of which the mere act of capturing makes us fulfill it more closely. Through quantified self and things like Prism, we’re stealing our own souls, at least as things are set up now6.

And this is why I’m doing the research I am. I’m tired of us lugging our unexamined baggage into the future we’re building. In the past, institutions were where knowledge was stored. Now it’s stored in us, in a sharable and duplicatable way. Seeing Rushkoff was inspiring, because he noted that yes, it’s difficult to exist in the crevices, but it’s also totally worthwhile. Video and audio are up already on the Berkman site.


It’s the trying to fit new things into old methods. We have to be willing to embrace some unpredictability in order for the lives of others to be more predictable to themselves. Crowds becoming “less predictable” to an outside view, but they’re becoming more self-determining. Let go of the reins and let it guide itself. Isn’t that the point of having power? To push it outwards?

1. See why penumbral is a favorite word?
2. Sidenote that I just tried to find links to the academic background on this, but guess how useful the internet is for THAT.
3. Or at least a closer approximation than we’ve had in the past.
4. Which would be the crowning, and crowing, triumph of Sociology.
5. And the database model isn’t The Best, it’s just “better” than what we’ve had before, in that it’s more self-defining and adaptable.
6. Damn kids get off my keyboard.

HOPE and Awesummit

Spent the last three weeks away from Seattle – about a week on Playa, a week in NYC, a week in Boston. Was constantly surrounded by people I respect immensely and with whom I can’t wait to have continued interactions.

HOPE was incredible. I gave a talk with Diggz on Geeks Without Bounds. I sat on a panel about DARPA funding education and hackerspace programs. No chairs were thrown. It was pretty bitchin’. Saw the Byzantium project, and drank mate, and sipped whiskey with the No Starch Press folk. Went out for beers with an eclectic group of hackers and artists, talked about the future we were building, the holes that still exist, and how we might be less wrong.

I was blown away by the gender ratios (still not close to half, but far better, especially with the speaker line-up), and that the vibe was a bit less awkward and certainly less sexually charged than most of the other events I’ve been to. And the level of respect with which people approached each other in calling out inaccuracies, misrepresentations, and differences of opinion was phenomenal.

Exploried an old power plant with Borgatti. Nearly got caught. Knelt in the dark, breathing quietly, covered in brick dust and mud, and waited for people to pass by. Played Cards Against Humanity with some of my favorite humanitarians. Spent time with my Sunday Boyfriend and met his new cat. Made my way to Boston. Played in the park in bare feet, with a flask of whiskey, in the torrential downpour of heat finally breaking. Sat on a sea wall and ate breakfast, loosing track of time and wading back, coffee in hand and boots over my shoulder.

Went to the #awesummit, saw what opt-in taxes might look like. People who understand they are a part of a larger whole – giving their excess to things which don’t just entertain them, but also enhance the rest of their community.

It was *so cool* to sit in a room with people whose shred ideologies are so meta we often lacked the language and pattern recognition to pin it down. That we couldn’t say all the projects we supported were even the same sort. That the trustees were not all of a similar demographic, background, what have you. Not even our giving patterns were the same. Only one thing was shared – the word “awesome,” and the aspect of sharing, of facing outwards. To have a group of people that varied come together to talk about what we *were*, if anything, and what that *meant*, if we were something or if we weren’t. It was wonderful. There were a few moments of tension, mostly around the idea of trademark. It reminded me a lot of the conversations in hackerspaces. What do we all share, when we are so fiercely grass roots? What does it mean to share a vision but not a praxis? What is the value of making ourselves legible to the rest of society, or is that something we should actively avoid?

And my drawings ended up on the MIT Civic Media blog, which is kind of amazing.

All that was topped off by a dinosaur-themed party with cookie checks and cake. Saw massive ink pipes and the three-story press at the Boston Globe, bifurcated paper and quixotic diagrams. A private tour with a new friend through back doors and stalled robots and stressed editors. Taking the green line back to my dear college friend’s home, walking the last mile slightly buzzed, T-Rex balloon bouncing, happy.

Continued conversations around what comes Next, what are we building, how are we helping each other. I continue to be in constant awe of the amazing folk around me, humbled that they invite me into their community and projects. And to return to Seattle, to smiles and mangos and all of the hackathon planning ever.