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December 22, 2008

Texas Leap Frog

On or about the fall of 1988 I collaborated with a group of young artists who agreed to play Leap Frog through the State Capitol Building in Austin, Texas, and then onto the grounds surrounding, as a piece of performance art. I was the organizer of the event, and also the documentarian. On this the 20th-ish anniversary of the performance I have brought forth the evidence from the vault to share.

Some of the names of the collaborators are lost to me. Those that I can recall: Khaled Niaz Mansur, Brian Smith, residents of "Casa de las chicas", Brian's roomate Sam, Khaled's girlfriend at the time Penny, all contributed to the spirited jumping and bounding. I would ask my friends who were there to help me remember.

View the images at Picassa
View the images at Flickr

Posted by SWEAT at 05:00 PM

December 20, 2008

Gear List for Sabbatical Journey

Here is a partial list of gear for the sabbatical journey. It will have to serve the needs of myself and my two research associates (my two sons have begun to collaborate on projects, and I will add their names to the list of SWEAT collaborators soon). My wife will also have some gear needs.

This will help me remember what to pack on the way home. Paper should be available. I used school notebooks from central and south america with gridded pages before I found the Moleskine. I'll need to remember to bring home sketches and drawings, so I will likely need to pick up a modest, packable portfolio on our return. I haven't weighed the hardware, but we will hand carry the cameras and the laptops, and carry-ons aren't weighed. The traditional analog art supplies will fit fine in the luggage. I've put the assorted cables and power-bricks in individual sandwich bags so that if TSA feels the need to rummage then - hopefully - it won't be too much of a mess. I'm tempted to hand-carry the hard-drives too, but I don't know if this can guarantee less jostling.

Posted by SWEAT at 06:00 PM

Chris Griego on Video Games and Social Consciousness

Chris Griego studied with SWEAT collaborator Miguel Angel Tarango at the Rocky Mountain College of Art & Design (RMCAD). This is his undergraduate thesis presentation. Kudos to Miguel and Chris.

[update, I totally misspelled the word consciousness and didn't catch for a couple of day. It's now fixed]

Posted by SWEAT at 04:47 PM

December 18, 2008

Crosser and La Migra start a small comment storm on Ars Technica

Ben Kuchera wrote a skeptical appraisal of the rhetorical power of videogames for Ars Technica using Crosser as his starting point:


We are very grateful for the attention, and are impressed by the scope and the passion of the commentary, which spread to other blogs: On the Evil Avatar forums, one commenter invoked Les Miserables, which immediately made me feel unworthy

This all happened more than a year ago, immediately after the piece by Anna Gorman in the LA Times. I was in Colombia, visiting family and didn't follow the reverberations. They only recently came to my attention.

Posted by SWEAT at 05:26 PM

Deferring required reading until September: Huizinga, Callois, Sutton-Smith, Bakhtin

The desert island strategy of our sabbatical adventure is enforcing some economies of space and weight. I had planned to catch up on required reading for the game field, namely Huizinga, Callois, and Sutton-Smith. Authors whose arguments I should be familiar with in detail. Alone they don't weigh much, nor are they too large. I have added to that short list two works of Bakhtin that have become relevant to the idea of play as a conversation or a dialogue - ideas reinforced recently by Hugh Dubberly and Ivan Alex Gämes. These five books are modest in size and weight collectively and individually, but the moveable library doesn't end there.

There are three technical books that I must take. I am going to take Head First Java and Processing. Both are physically heavy and large. I am also taking a pattern book for handcrafting felt plush dolls.

Further, as thematic reference and inspiration I am taking One River by Wade Davis, and Fictions by Borges. My editions of both of these are large but not physically heavy.

In order to prepare for a class that I am scheduled to teach upon my return, I must take a small and heavy design survey text.

Throw in a magazine and the Build A Game cards created by Tilt Factor, and we have close to twenty pounds of paper-based texts. A single piece of luggage cannot exceed fifty pounds, and I am limited to two such pieces. This is a hard limitation that we have cross verified with the airlines. For this holiday season they have implemented a strict embargo. No one will be forgiven an extra ounce, not even for a penalty fee.

So I'm considering leaving the Bakhtin, Sutton-Smith, Callois, Huizinga behind, with no small amount of guilt. Sacrificing the reading material will ensure that I can carry the drawing material and the electronic gear, which I haven't weighed, yet.

[UPDATE 2008.12.20: after a gentle and friendly rebuke by David Thomas I've decided to take the book by Sutton-Smith with me.]

Posted by SWEAT at 02:00 PM

December 10, 2008

Crosser And La Migra and the neverending war

Crosser and La Migra were included in a book published recently.

Rita Raley. "Border Hacks: the risks of tactical media". Page 197 Figure on page 212 in:

Risk and the War on Terror
By Louise Amoore, Marieke de Goede
Published by Routledge, 2008
ISBN 0415443245, 9780415443241
279 pages

"This book offers the first comprehensive and critical investigation of the specific modes of risk calculation that are emerging in the so-called War on Terror."

Posted by SWEAT at 10:00 AM

December 09, 2008

Reflection: The Adventures of Johnny Bunko by Daniel Pink

The Adventures of Johnny Bunko is a reimagining, a remediation, of Daniel Pink's arguments first presented in A Whole New Mind. This version makes the case for Pink's six right brain aptitudes more strongly - for me - than in his original expression. He has modified the aptitudes for Johnny Bunko so readers of both may experience some confusion.

Johnny Bunko is a manga, a japanese style graphic novel. The title character is a young college graduate who followed well-intended, pragmatic advice from family and counselors. Through some charming magical chopsticks Johnny receives some more effective advice.

In A Whole New Mind Pink introduced six right-brain dominant (R-dom) aptitudes that he sees as necessary to augment traditional left-brain dominant (L-dom) aptitudes in a 21st century competitive labor marketplace. These six were presented as Design, Story, Symphony, Play, Empathy, and Meaning. The pursuit of these was instrumental and pragmatic. These R-dom practices were to be a financial hedge [sic against] Abundance, the off-shoring of professional jobs in the US to Asia, and the Automation of analytical and numerical jobs.

The Adventures of Johnny Bunko recasts the six aptitudes (still six, for continuity's sake) as six lessons, and encourages the reader to pursue them for fundamental and intrinsic rewards, rather than for instrumental reasons. In lesson one "There is no plan", Johnny's magical advisor quietly recommends that he follow his passion. "Think strengths not weaknesses" reaffirms this advice, and further urges Johnny to capitalize on strengths (natural born talents and affinities) rather than spend time and energy improving weaknesses. Neither of these two lessons is a direct mapping from A Whole New Mind.

Lesson three "It's not about you" is a direct mapping of the aptitude for Empathy. Lesson's four and five are new: "Persistence trumps talent" and "Make excellent mistakes", respectively. Lesson six, "Leave an imprint" maps nicely onto Pink's expression of the aptitude of Meaning.

The recastings are very productive, and I'm eager to see what my high school aged son will take away from reading this.

My own investment in Johnny Bunko's story is that I tried to follow my fathers pragmatic advice. Johnny got farther than I did, or I just pushed back sooner. Johnny manages to get a pragmatic college degree, in spite of having deeply creative (and - at the time - deeply unpragmatic) talents and aspirations. He finds an entry level job where he is miserable. Johnny and I were both dutiful sons.

My investment in the messages of Johnny Bunko and Pink's previous work in A Whole New Mind go deeper. I am a teacher as well as a maker, and my students want to be prepared for activities and professions that don't yet exist. I desire to supplement my own imperfect reading of the waves of change with as many other smart readings as I can find. People's futures are at stake, as are those of my children. I wish I had magical snapping chopsticks.

Tom Friedman op ed with US auto industry focus, but related themes

Robert X Cringely op ed with US auto industry focus, but related themes

Posted by SWEAT at 10:00 AM

December 08, 2008

Whole (new) Mind: reflections upon reading Daniel Pink's book

I've just read Daniel Pink's book "A Whole New Mind" with a critical eye. When it was first released in 2005 it was well received among the arts and design communities. It has been given as evidence for the ascendance of Design thinking in Businessweek magazine.

Daniel Pink makes the pragmatic case for the whole mind approach on three conditions extant at the time of his writing: Abundance, Asia, and Automation. The current, global, economic conditions may remove Abundance as a condition. It remains to be seen if the relationship between Asia and Abundance can be sustained such that the preconditions continue to give his arguments the force of urgency.

It appears that among my peers in the arts who have read this work, there is cause for celebration in Pink's arguments. It strikes me that the celebration is premature and misguided, as it interprets aptitudes based in the arts ascendant over those that have been privileged in western culture. This is not Pink's argument at all. There is no supplanting of one set of aptitudes over the other. Rather Pink's arguments, as I interpret them, are additive. He states various times that western historical models of rational thought are no longer sufficient. His implication are that they are still necessary and that the six aptitudes with roots in creative practices that he proposes be added. His arguments foreground the heretofore unappreciated and unrewarded practices, claiming that future economic prosperity belongs to those who command both sets. His language, his sentence structures serve to foreground what is "new".

His portfolio of Play competencies is rather thin. He as focused a playful mind through humor, but has not given much help to his audience/readers in other play acts.

Pink's synthetic work is important to the P4 Games research project, focused as it is on a holistic approach. His newer work is a career guide in manga form based on his arguments in A Whole New Mind. I'll be reading that for review presently.

Design practitioners and educators have been making the business case for professional design services by providing quantitative evidence of the efficacy designed interventions. The right-brain practices have been adopting and adapting left-brain practices. These are tied to the pursuit of economic reward and prosperity. If economic reward weren't a possibility there would be less urgency to the study of the holistic approaches in the Liberal Arts tradition of study for its own sake.

Posted by SWEAT at 10:00 AM