Monday, June 8, 2009

Media Conversations New Media and More

So, the second day of Media Conversations 6 was a busy one, with a third panel discussion on New Media Literacies. The session began with Peter Gutierrez, who talked about the difficulties the media literacy movement has experienced, and how little attention new media has received. Some of the organizations that he mentioned include the National Council of Teachers of English (he's a member of their commission on media), the International Reading Association (whose concern, naturally enough, has more to do with literacy literacy), MIT's Project New Media Literacies, the National Association for Media Literacy Education, American University's Center for Social Media, and The Partnership for 21st Century Skills. All of these organizations are linked up for you, so feel free to go click and explore as much as you like.

Thom Gillespie of Quinnipiac University then proceeded to talk about his experiences working with and teaching digital narrative. He placed a great deal of emphasis on the ability to draw, explaining that learning digital skills is not that big a deal, folks will hire you without them because you can learn them on the job, but they can't teach you how to draw, that's a skill and talent that's really valuable. He also got into the idea of computer literacy, and talked about game design and interactive storytelling.

Karen Sideman followed, a late substitution for Alex Quinn of Games for Change. Yes, click it and check out the site, there even are games you can access there. Anyway, Karen talked about games being formal constructs and also being cultural constructs, and about game literacy as being able to read and write games. Their emphasis is on games that involve social issues, systems thinking, and conflict resolution, and as examples she discussed three games, PeaceMaker, Ayiti, and September 12th. But hey, go check out their website if you feel like playing games.

Then came David Walczyk, our host for the opening events at Pratt Institute on Thursday evening June 4, and the three daytime events on Friday June 5th, and the fellow who organized the conference with my assistance. David talked about media literacy for a phenomenological culture, identifying new media and the culture it spawns as nonlinear and putting to end the monopoly of the visual in favor of a multisensory approach. He talked about media illiteracy and the lack or loss of imagination, and the need for reflective imagination. David put forth a trickster model (shades of Marshall McLuhan!), and also spoke highly of physical computing (the Nintendo Wii being an example, where you use more of your body than usual in the interface), and of DIY (Do-It-Yourself) aka hacking and open source environments.

David ended with reference to phenomenological culture as the key to media literacy, and talking about cartography as a lead-in to Paul Guzzardo, the moderator of the session, to talk about his own work. Paul went on to talk about inserting the digital into the infrastructure of the street, making reference to Mumford who talked about the street as stage. Paul also got into noetic economy as a way of thinking about the city, and showed examples of projecting video onto buildings, and other forms of installations and performance art. Both David and Paul made reference to media ecology, I should hasten to add, and the Media Ecology Association and its upcoming convention at Saint Louis University.

I'll just add here that it was a great thrill to finish the day out with an evening session at the Players Club, arranged courtesy of my friend and colleague Meir Ribalow. I've posted about Meir and the Players previously (see Say Goodnight, Vienna), and it really is an amazing place (check it out: PLAYERS). I am truly grateful to Meir for setting the whole thing up, and I think it was a great experience for those attending Media Conversations 6 simply to see the club, which has certain museum-like qualities, and is a New York City landmark, having been founded in the 19th century by Edwin Booth, the most famous actor of his time, but better remembered, sadly, as the brother of the assassin of Abraham Lincoln.

This was also listed as a Players event, and here's what the Players e-mail announcement looked like, by the way:

FRIDAY, JUNE 5, 2009

The Players Foundation presents

New River and the Media Conversations Conference special panel on

Heroes and Role Models

in Movies and Other Media


Maria Cooper Janis — Susan McGregor

Lee Pfeiffer (Player) — Victor Slezak — Lance Strate

Meir Ribalow (Player), moderator

PROGRAM: 7:30pm


RESERVATIONS: (212) 475-6116

And it was truly amazing to be on the same panel with the daughter of Gary Cooper, and the TV and film actor Victor Slezak. I also was very impressed with Lee Pfeiffer, editor of Cinema Retro magazine, and with Susan McGregor, who had made the transition from show business to psychotherapy (see Friends Way). The discussion itself was quite interesting and varied, being about film heroes and role models and how they've changed reflecting the changing times, and about heroes and celebrities. Meir is a marvelous moderator who really would be fantastic as a talk show host, and it was a wonderfully conversive and convivial session. But, don't ask me to summarize it, I really couldn't, it was so wide ranging, I didn't take notes, I was simply immersed in it. We recorded the panel though, so I may be able to share it with you at a later date.

Until then, here are a couple of pictures that Institute of General Semantics webmaster Ben Hauck took. This first one where we're seating is pretty hard to make out because those were stage lights, and I can tell you that they were both blinding and incredibly hot! But seated from left to right are Lee
Pfeiffer, Maria Janis Cooper, Victor Slezak, Susan McGregor, and me, with Meir Ribalow standing on the right.

Then there's this nice group shot from after the session. On the left is Maria Janis Cooper, then Victor Slezak, then me, to my right is Susan McGregor, then Meir Ribalow, and finally Victor Slezak on the right.

I'll have more pictures in the near future.

So, I may not be a member of the club, but I sure felt like a player right then and there! What an extraordinary and exciting climax to that long day at the conference. To tell you the truth, I'm still a bit pumped up from it all!

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