Archive for September 13th, 2011

September 13, 2011

Back to the Grange

by alexandrakellyg

Growing up in Maine, I have become quite familiar with what a grange hall looks like.  My earliest memories involve bean suppers at Escatarsis Grange Hall, the four story paint-chipped white building on the corner of Tannery Road in Lowell, Maine. Right next door to the post office.  Three-quarters of the town gathered at 4:45 pm to eat pies, mashed potatoes and bowls full of beans.  These community gatherings only really required space.

The history of the grange hall goes back to the late 1800s when farmers used the space as a way to organize efforts to keep agriculture local.  There were also dances and dinners, but organizing for local, economic solidarity played a key role.

Although identifying grange halls in rural Maine has become second nature to me, I was surprised to find out that the term ‘grange’ has been adopted for locations beyond big buildings with chipped paint and a front porch.  The Brooklyn Grange, a rooftop in New York City, connects people in the city through “green business and good food.” The rooftop represents a network of urban farmers that are tending crops in community gardens, fire escapes and other urban nooks. (The grange was not built without structural difficulties – one million pounds of dry dirt is a lot for one roof to hold.)

Brooklyn Grange - Photo Courtesy of Manchester Pub NY

I am curious about other grange halls around the country.  It seems like this movement towards sustainable living, will inspire people to go back to the grange, connecting a new generation of farmers as they learn from each other, strengthening their crops, their communities and their voice.

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September 13, 2011

Bio: Sara Fusco

by sarafusco

Where to start?

In large part, my interest in this class was sparked by a desire to explore various approaches to DIY storytelling. I admit that I’ve had limited exposure to many of the DIY concepts and projects we’ve begun to read about and discuss. But I’m also beginning to realize that many of the things I’ve been involved with over the years are, in fact, surprisingly relevant. Or at least they skirt around the edges… (just nod and say yes)?

(An example: A recent project brought me to Uganda, where we met this awesome guy who invented something pretty spectacular, I think)

As more background on me, I’m originally from upstate New York. I completed my undergraduate degree in political science many years ago in Pittsburgh. I skipped around DC for a while, working at a legal aid NGO (aka non-profit) doing fundraising, marketing, graphic design, event planning…essentially whatever I could get my hands into. I then worked at a refugee advocacy NGO, where I started focusing on online outreach, communications strategy, and video production. I traveled twice to Syria, Lebanon and Jordan interviewing Iraqi refugees and producing videos. And this was the project that finally pushed me toward pursuing my Master’s here at the New School.

I’ll graduate this Spring, and afterwards I hope to continue to focus on storytelling projects that are largely related international human rights and humanitarian work. But I’d like to engage in ways that are different from the “norm” whenever I have the chance, and hopefully this class is my gateway to some new ideas and approaches.

And here’s another video, simply because I still feel incredibly lucky to have been there, from a recent trip I did with an NGO on the eve of South Sudan’s independence. My DIY approach to filming without a lightpanel on pitch-black streets at midnight? Taping on my headlamp and rushing out to the street, hoping that somehow it would work…

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September 13, 2011

Bio: Farah Momin

by Farah

Hey guys! I’m Farah and my hometown is Peachtree City, GA, whose claim to suburban fame is that it’s a planned community with a system of golf cart paths laid throughout. People drive golf carts to school, restaurants, shopping, basically anywhere in the city limits. Yes, it’s totally bizarre.

(Me + huge ice cream sandwich from the Coolhaus truck)

I spent my first two years of undergrad at the University of Georgia, intending on majoring in Magazine Journalism. After realizing that I might not want to pursue a career based in print media, I took some time off before transferring to Eugene Lang College here at The New School. I did the BA/MA program there, which allows students to finish their bachelor’s degree (I did mine Culture and Media Studies with a focus on Digital Media) while beginning to take classes in the MA program. This is actually my last semester, and I’m both excited to be done and sad to be leaving.

I’ve been working for awhile now with Prof. Trebor Scholz on several of his projects, including The Internet as Playground & Factory conference and the book he edited last semester, Learning Through Digital Media. I’m also currently interning at The Access Network/BlackBook Media, helping with research and development of their local online & mobile initiatives. Lastly, I recently started doing some freelance blogging and community management for thought-leadership event series Applied Brilliance.

There has been a thread throughout my studies of using digital tools to work, play, and learn collaboratively, so I’m looking forward to further exploring those topics from a critical perspective in this class. I’m also really interested in getting more hands-on with DIY projects and initiatives. Creativity used to be a much more physical thing for me when I was younger with painting, drawing, making collages, etc. As I grew up and got more into technology, the process of “making stuff” has become a lot less tangible. While I still enjoy the play involved in using Photoshop or Illustrator and creating websites, I’m excited to get back into the physical world of DIY.

September 13, 2011

Bio: Lily Antflick

by Lily Antflick

Hi! I’m Lily.

I’m from Toronto, Canada and this is my third semester in the MA in Media Studies program at the New School.

I did my undergraduate degree at McGill University in Montreal. My background is in Art History. I’ve worked at several Canadian art galleries and also in film production at Radke Film Group and Soft Citizen in Toronto.

My focus in the program is Design but I am interested and open to a diverse array of fields and discourses, especially in regards to local and global DIY initiatives.

Most of my personal DIY projects are arts & crafts or food related. Some DIY activities that I enjoy include: creating origami cranes and pinwheels, inventing new recipes in the kitchen, thinking up unique interactive drawing games, drafting my own typography and painting gifts for friends. Lately, I have taken up knitting as my newest DIY hobby. Contrary to the New York dining norm, my most memorable evenings involve weekly cooking adventures with friends, where we experiment with new ingredients and veer from traditional recipes in the kitchen.

Experimenting with Beet Gnocchi

A birthday present that I made for a friend (recycled wooden frame and painted canvas)

This past summer, I worked at the Institute of Network Cultures in Amsterdam on the ‘Out of Ink’ Project, where I researched the changes occurring in the publishing world and the differences and implications of print vs. digital publishing. The initiative views publishing as more than just an avenue of communication but also as a way to challenge legal, technical and social standards embedded in intellectual property, scholarly communication, and notions of authorship. One of our motives in this project is to act as an organized facilitator of DIY publishing practices, to further professionalize them and provide a model for others.

I’m really excited about this class…I think we should all delve into as many DIY NY projects as possible this year.

DIY Candy Apples

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September 13, 2011

Bio: Edmund Kasubinski

by Edmund Kasubinski

Since I already biographicized myself in class to most of you the other day, I’ll be brief.  I could just end the post right there (I did invent a word in the previous sentence) but I’ll go on:

I mentioned my musical DIY project, which is entitled Pepper Coat.  It’s not so much a pseudonym as it is the name of the band.  And it’s not so much a band as it is only comprised of me.  And, I guess people have called me Pepper Coat directly before, so I suppose Pepper Coat is in fact a pseudonym.  You can call me Edmund though.

A performer/musician pretty much has to be DIY these days, doing the managing and recording and promoting.  All that stuff, and also if they’re ambitious (and 9 times out of 10 eccentric) they can even play all the instruments and self-produce (see:  R. Stevie Moore)  So, I try and do that kinda stuff:

This one is me DIYing a punk band:

And this one is me Elvising with myself:

Well, enough about Pepper Coat.  I hope to work with everyone in the class to learn about new DIY initiatives.  I really had no idea how much stuff was going on out there and I’d like to get in on it… any of it, really.

Pepper Coat

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September 13, 2011

Labor and DIY

by andrewjbowe

Questions Considered: What are the important ontological questions of ‘DIY’ culture(s)? What does it mean to be DIY? Or more practically >>how<< is DIY culture a recognizable movement, organization, or disorganization of people or of creations? Does DIY entail some attachment to labor or autonomous creativity? Retrospectively, what are the questions that might help us to narrow the terrain of DIY? Questions of being in the sense of DIY might consider not only the history of DIY culture or DIY action, but must look at the negative definitions (what isn’t DIY, what ought not DIY be).

What isn’t DIY culture? As Derrida writes in his letter to Professor Izutsu,”The question would be therefore what deconstruction is not, or rather ought not to be” (Derrida 1983), to build a constructive definition of DIY risks limitations to a moving process, to define is to engage in an act of normativity. Though, to say that DIY is in movement does not give reason to completely ignore any constructive questions of engaging in DIY process. The difficulties of construction, especially in definition, ought not suffice to prevent action in the process of describing the world or engaging with the world. Here, I would argue, from Hannah Arendt, that there is an important distinction between action (praxis) and fabrication (poiesis) that helps to build DIY as a dialectical process. To resist (collectively or personally) is to define oneself against another. This means that to ‘Do it Yourself’ doesn’t necessitate any sort of isolation or fragmentation from other subjects, but rather a resistance to a fabricated or determined structure (which one or a few are defining their actions against). It is in this sense that DIY culture is not a commodified or decaying reference point, nor is it rooted into the structure that it seeks to resist. DIY is routed within resistance, and routed away from determined fabrication and certain bureaucracies.

What is Labor? As Marx defines Labor Power, “By labour-power or capacity for labour is to be understood the aggregate of those mental and physical capabilities existing in a human being, which [s]he exercises whenever [s]he produces a use-value of any description” (http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1867-c1/ch06.htm), DIY has a sort of attachment to a mental and physical activity which produces some autonomous connection with the world. Within the context of labor, (though, I do think there are problems with limiting DIY to laborious pursuits), DIY might intend to re-appropriate labor-power to maximize personal autonomy, or agency in the act of reconstructing new standards (flexible) of living. This definition can change in the acts of production that are outside of the bounds of use-value (which is more complicating).

The Worker’s Cooperative, DIY? I would argue that according to many of the above standards of ‘seeing’ DIY or engaging with DIY, the worker’s cooperative and even many forms of Trade Labor Unions fall within the bounds of DIY culture. A Worker’s Cooperative can be described as a location where the manager is considered a worker, and the workers own shares and participate in the majority of company decisions, democratic action and resistance has developed the cooperative into what it is today. I think it is essential to look at the history of the labor movement, as it has operated as a sort of resistant or dialectical movement away from the stabilizing force of fabricated bureaucracies throughout history.

Historically the Worker’s Cooperative has been founded in a series of Principles (the Rochdale Principles 1844):
1. Voluntary and Open Membership
2. Non-Discrimination
3. Democratic Participation
4. Engage in Service and Social Duty
5. There ought to be a fair proportion of trade and surplus
6. Not credit based, only cash trading.
7. Continual education of membership

These principles come with the history of the worker as being defined negatively against ownership and with that has come the abuse of the worker as a passive subject within the workplace, and hence maltreatment and resistance.

One example of a contemporary worker’s cooperation, one of the largest in the UK, is SUMA Wholefoods:

Ah, the magic ‘C’ word.  We don’t really like to blow our own trumpet here at Suma, but we do like to think that being a workers’ cooperative is one of the fundamental keys to our success.

So what’s it all about?  Unlike most UK companies, Suma operates a truly democratic system of management that isn’t bound by the conventional notions of hierarchy that often hinder progress and stand in the way of fairness.  While we do use an elected Management Committee to implement decisions and business plans, the decisions themselves are made at regular General Meetings with the consent of every cooperative member – there’s no chief executive, no managing director and no company chairman.  In practice, this means that our day-to-day work is carried out by self-managing teams of employees who are all paid the same wage, and who all enjoy an equal voice and an equal stake in the success of the business.

Another key feature of our structure and working practice is multi-skilling.  At Suma we encourage members to get involved in more than one area of business, so individuals will always perform more than one role within the cooperative.  This helps to broaden our skills base and give every member an invaluable insight into the bigger picture.  It also helps us to play to each member’s various different strengths while enabling us to think ‘outside the box’ when it comes to creativity and problem solving.  And as for job satisfaction and staff morale – just ask yourself when was the last time you heard someone complain that their job involved too much variety?  It is the spice of life, after all.

This all sounds great, but does it work?  In a word, yes.  Here in the UK we’re often sceptical about workers’ cooperatives, but that’s largely because of our more conventional business culture and the fact that the vast majority of UK companies are purely profit-driven.  Workers’ cooperatives are far more common in many advanced European countries and developing world economies.  Of course it’s not all plain sailing, but if you look at Suma’s growth over its 30-year history, we think you’ll agree that we must be doing something right.

While Suma Wholefoods does not define itself negatively. One can pull from the values of the company a sort of resistance toward traditional business structure. The cooperative, being in flux as a democratic entity, entails the option of resistance. This is what I would argue makes large organizations, such as worker’s cooperatives and many trade labor unions DIY.

Check out Worker’s Coop’s in New York:

http://www.nycworker.coop/

September 13, 2011

The Counter Kitchen

by Amanda Garque

http://www.thecounterkitchen.org/

The Counter Kitchen is an initiative that specializes in ‘Re-engineering’ (deconstructing & remaking) popular food and personal care products. In response to scientific terms and marketing techniques which have made product labels nearly impossible to decode, the counter kitchen strives to provide tools and measurement systems to help understand the chemical and nutritional values of store-bought foods.

Additionally, the counter kitchen develops alternative recipes for a variety of products ranging from Gatorade to toothpaste so that these items can be made at home without all the preservatives/additives found in the majority of commercial brands. They also hold workshops and events in the NYC area though none are listed for the near future…

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September 13, 2011

Bio: Amanda Garque

by Amanda Garque

Hi everyone! My name is Amanda and I’m a third semester student in the MA Media Studies program. I’m originally from Montreal, Canada where I did my BA in Communication Studies (specializing in digital media production), Sociology and Liberal Arts.

My background is really rooted in traditional media production. For years I worked in the English television sector of Montreal for institutions such as the CBC, Food Network, and B360 Media. I moved to New York a little over a year ago and have since been working in film production and development at Braven Films.

I will be the first to admit that my experience with DIY has so far been rather superficial (a reality that I’m hoping to modify this semester). As hobbies I sew, plant vegetables & spices, develop recipes, experiment with visual arts, and create websites/blogs on various subjects. I was raised by a nutritionist so I have a particular interest in different food movements, health awareness and urban agriculture. However, through this class I would like to explore DIY in a more profound and meaningful way than I have in the past and learn about initiatives I currently know nothing about. I look forward to confronting the issues and questions surrounding DIY with all of you this semester!

September 13, 2011

Bio: Alex Kelly

by alexandrakellyg

Hello, my name is Alex. First and foremost, I consider myself an ‘educator.’  At least, that’s my answer to the “What do you do for work?” question that is all-too-common loud New York City bars. “I’m an educator exploring my own pedagogy and open to enlightenment and instruction with every new decision and experience that I enter into.” <–That would be my ideal on-the-spot response.

For now, I’ll write about the work that I want to hone, expand and reproduce through fresh insight gained at The New School:

Handing over a microphone to other people excites me. As a Facilitator at StoryCorps in Brooklyn, NY, I introduced 1200 people from around the country to the power of listening and capturing conversation through recording.  My favorite parts were the “words of wisdom” – moments when lessons were shared with the awareness that strangers would discover them in the depths of The Library of Congress archive.  People want to know that their lives and life lessons will be remembered.

Duct Taping the Airstream...A DIY Moment

During the Summer of 2009, I completed a self-designed project entitled Listen To This:  Recording Stories of Bangor’s Homeless (www.bangordailynews.com/detail/114371.html) where high school students interviewed homeless shelter residents in Bangor, Maine and shared their stories with the community.  This project promoted community and youth awareness of homelessness from the voices of people who live it.  Most of the 15 people that were interviewed attended the final listening event, sitting in different parts of the audience and watching people listen to their stories.

After traveling around the country with StoryCorps and then finishing the project in Bangor, it was my personal goal to settle down for awhile; to be part of a community.  New York City can seem so huge sometimes, that the act of seeking out community can often seem like a daunting task!

I wanted to get to know my new neighbors in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Their life stories have shaped the history of this community, and continue to shape it as it changes over the years. Where is this history going as the community changes?

Before We Present Our Work to the Neighborhood

Four students at Paul Robeson High School joined me in this community-seeking mission. The students were the backbone to this project.  They planned it from the beginning.  They set goals, talked about interviewing techniques, planned for and implemented presentations at a local nursing home and a Precinct 77 Community Council Meeting.  They asked the librarian at their school to accept this archive.  They interviewed over 45 people who have lived in Crown Heights for over 20 Years. For the most part, I stepped out of these interviews, sitting off to the side and letting the students take over.

Our Listening Event

Our final listening event attracted over 130 people from many different community backgrounds and interests.  To listen to some short pieces from this project, go to Silence Without Doors.  You can also read about the project from the students’ perspectives at Crown Heights History Project.  (I will be speaking about this project with some other neighborhood historians at Medgar Evers College on Sunday, October 23rd at 2:00).

Currently, I am continuing work with high school students in Crown Heights at Brooklyn Children’s Museum.  They are editing film portraits of 14 people from the neighborhood who they interviewed on the subject of change.  I have included one example of their work below:

I would love to answer any questions about these projects and am always open to collaboration and other ideas…what else is Graduate School good for?

September 13, 2011

Occupy Wall Street This Saturday

by Tom Tenney
Many of you probably already know about this, but this Saturday is the big “Day of Rage” Wall Street Occupation.  Full details at www.occupywallst.org, but pasted some of the info from their site for those whose workplace might have blocked the site.
Published 2011-09-13 02:58:46 UTC by chris

Contemporary society is commodified society, where the economic transaction has become the dominant way of relating to the culture and artifacts of human civilization, over and above all other means of understanding, with any exceptions being considered merely a temporary holdout as the market swiftly works on ways to monetize those few things which stubbornly remain untouched. Perhaps the most pernicious aspect of this current setup is that it has long ago co-opted the very means of survival within itself, making our existence not an inherent right endowed to us by the simple fact of our humanity but a matter of how much we’re all worth — the mere act of being alive has a price tag. Some pay it easily. Others pay for it with their submission. Others still can’t pay it at all. Regardless, though, like cars, TVs and barrels of oil, our lives are commodities to be bought and sold on the open market amid the culture of ruthlessness and desperation that has arisen to accommodate it. This is the natural consequence of a society built around entities whose purpose it is to always, always minimize costs and maximize profits. It is the philosophy of growth for the sake of growth, the same ideology that drives a cancer cell. An economy in a steady state is not healthy. It needs to expand, constantly, perpetually.

Of course, nothing can expand forever. The second law of thermodynamics tell us this much at least. But that doesn’t mean the market won’t try. It’s not enough that a soft drink becomes the dominant soda, it must become the dominant beverage, period. It’s not enough that people build some things out of a certain material, it must be the only thing anyone ever builds anything out of, ever. It’s not enough to make pills for the ailments from which people already seek relief, pills must be made for problems that people didn’t even know existed until a commercial told them to ask their doctors about it. We all know this course is not sustainable, but there will be great damage done before this point is reached.

The people coming to Wall Street on September 17 come for a variety of reasons, but what unites them all is the opposition to the principle that has come to dominate not only our economic lives but our entire lives: profit over and above all else. Those that do not embrace this principle: prepare to be out-competed. They will lose the race to the bottom and the vulture will swoop down to feast. It is indicative of a deep spiritual sickness that has gripped civilization, a sickness that drives the vast deprivation, oppression and despoliation that has come to cover the world.

The world does not have to be this way. A society of ruthlessness and isolation can be confronted and replaced with a society of cooperation and community. Cynics will tell us this world is not possible. That the forces arrayed against us have won and will always win and, perhaps, should always win. But they are not gods. They are human beings, just like us. They are a product of a society that rewards the behavior that has led us to where we are today. They can be confronted. What’s more, they can be reached. They just need to see us. See beyond the price tags we carry.

And if they are gods? Then we shall be Prometheus. And we shall laugh as we are lashed to the stone to await the eagle.

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US Day of Rage’s Tactical Plan for Sept 17th

Published 2011-09-09 01:41:36 UTC by OccupyWallSt

US Day of Rage, a group participating in the September 17th occupation of wall street, has just released a tactical plan and “HowTo” for holding a legal and nonviolent demonstration in New York City. Their plan clarifies many legal concerns that have been raised and offers a viable strategy for holding a prolonged occupation. This information can be found on their website:

NYC & Nationwide Official Occupation and Tactical Plan for #horizontal #mesh-protest #Sept17 #occupywallstreet #usdor

55 Comments

Nine Arrested & Released Without Charge in Occupy Wall Street Test Run (Video)

Published 2011-09-08 04:30:31 UTC by OccupyWallSt

On Thursday, Sept. 1st, a small group of demonstrators were met with police intimidation while performing apeaceful and legal occupation of a public sidewalk on Wall Street for a single night. Nine were arrested for disorderly conduct and later released without charge. One demonstrator was held for 24 hours because he was unable to provide proof of residency.

This demonstration was intended to serve as a one night test run for the September 17th occupation using the “legal encampment” strategy. According to a federal court ruling in 2000, the use of “public sleeping as a means of symbolic expression” is allowed on public sidewalks in New York City. (METROPOLITAN COUNCIL, INC., Plaintiff, -against- HOWARD SAFIR, Commissioner of the New York City Police Department, et al., June 12, 2000 [99 F. Supp. 2d 438; 2000 U.S. Dist.]). The demonstrators of Bloombergville also employed this tactic for an occupation that lasted a few weeks.

Despite fully obeying the law, demonstrators were still met with police harassment and intimidation. This event serves to remind us that we’re living in a police state with absolutely no respect for the right of the people to peacefully assemble and exercise their constitutional free speech. But we will not be scared away or deterred. This abuse of authority by the NYPD only serves to strengthen our resolve and reinforce our belief that corruption and injustice in America must be fought.

More will be coming September 17th.

15 Comments

September 13, 2011

Bio: Andrew Jay Bowe

by andrewjbowe

I am a second year M.A. Media Studies student, focusing my studies on urban media and mass culture. Many of my influences come from the movement politics of the 1960s, the intersection of theory and action, and using digital resources to organize people.

I received my B.A. from the University of Colorado-Boulder in Humanities with an emphasis in Philosophy and Film.

 

September 13, 2011

Stephanie Corleto

by stephaniecorleto

Hi Everyone!

Not sure how to start this, but I guess my interest in DIY began when discovered feminism, vegan-ism, and started to idolize Kathleen Hannah during my  freshman year of high school (I was about  10 years too late to the Riot Grrl party).  I worked with A.I.R. Gallery throughout college. Currently I am writer, recently for the Neuburger Museum and Colour & Trends.

On a tangent, here is a funny stop motion I did with Le Tigre’s “My My Metrocard.”

During college I studied Art History and Women’s Studies. My thesis was a feminist critique of contemporary craft theory, and an exploration of these techniques used by those self-identified as artisans and conceptual artists. Currently, my interest still lies in art production, but how digital art that defies the traditional ideas of value determined by the museum and art market. For these institutions value comes from ownership and authenticity. But digital production often defies these principles. How can something that exist on the internet really be owned, pieces that exist solely on the internet that can be re-mixed.  How will these new cultural artifacts be incorporated into future art history? After doing some research, came to notice that museums such as the Walker Art Center and Whitney Museum of American Art at one point had active projects for experimental digital art, but now are not update [just looked at Whitney’s website, it  does include exhibitions from 2011…but there is a large gap in time between updates and no direct link on the museum’s website]. What are the effects of the short lives of these programs? If there is no longevity, how can we be assured this part of cultural history will be around for future generations? I want to explore these questions in relation to DIY culture. I have a hard time clearly verbalizing the connections between these ideas and DIY, but I know it is there and hope to be able to come up with something a little more eloquent by semester’s end!

Some interesting reading on the subject:

Marisa Olson, “Lost Not Found: The Circulation of Images in Digital Visual Culture” (chapter), Words Without Pictures, LA County Museum of Art, 2009

Law vs. Art Criticism: Judging Appropriation Art” by Cat Weaver.

How Do You Sell an Animated Gif?” by Hrag Vartanian (the comment’s section is pretty interesting)