Sunday, December 19, 2010

Some of my data...

Kind of strange
 Drastically, The City doesn't seem to have the same values it did when I was growing up.
 I was helped by a total stranger to find my way...the beauty of the water,
Raw Arts amazing oasis for youth.
 Visiting the marsh and checking out the wildlife ecosystem and walking along the 
breakwater when the waves were crashing up and getting splashed...
 No best aspect just a crime ridden city that is unsafe for the people to walk the streets 
no matter what time of day or night.
 When i visited RAW in downtown Lynn, I couldn't help thinking that it might have been pretty nice and
 lively at one point. I hope it can be again. It has a ton of potential.
 An old city with some great treasures.
 Ocean Views, Gritty City

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Lynn Coding

My coding process has given me so many rich directions... and repeatedly i am finding the codes to have an alternate opposite or contrasting code along with it.

Mourning the loss of the old city/ potential for future growth
natural beauty/ decay, abandonment, desolation
affluence / poverty
pride / disgust

other stand alone themes are diversity, youth, crime, frustration.

It seems that with all the opposites happening: this is not a dichotomy. This is a both/and situation: Lynn has both beautiful mansions and foreclosed triple deckers; both wooded forests and industry; both a sense of pride and shame for what has happened to a once thriving city. It's all there, and it's all part of the story.

I came into this project without knowing just how passionate the 'believers' are about the wonderful things the city of Lynn has to offer, and how upset it makes them not only to hear what others say, but to know that most of it is true. I think many people, including myself, had a pretty bad idea about the city, mainly that it is unsafe and depressed, but it's also got a lot going on. There's an interesting art scene going on, and I get the sense that there's much brewing in the way of social progress.

I'm very inspired by all the hope and potential evident in my small amount of research that Lynn might someday soon turn itself around. I find that instead of serving to expose my biases alone, this project has converted me into one of the believers.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Status update, 12/9

So I am deep in the process of coding at the moment. I was chatting to Dahlia today as I coded the results from my survey and she asked me if I could tell whose answers were whose. Truth is, Yes! I absolutely can. But I mixed them up before coding as much as possible to hopefully mix it up a little. I want to avoid having my impressions of the responders cloud my coding process. I know many of them well, or I know what they do, (i.e. a Lynn cop, his responses are pretty obvious!) and I wonder how that may effect my work. For example, I know that the cop's responses tend to be the most optimistic as he wants to protect and serve his community, so do I instinctively put his responses in my section of 'optimistic' themes and codes? or would they normally go somewhere else? I need to reflect solely on the words and the meaning behind them. Or perhaps knowing who they are is indeed important to know?

Another concern I am having is that i have certain opinions or impressions of words or phrases. Here's a good example: diverse. I automatically assumed that diverse is a GOOD thing, a positive. However, it is really just a description. I myself think of diversity as a positive, but maybe my responder does not. I then decided to set this word aside and make a new theme, that of diversity on its own, and not associate it with good or bad.

My survey data is quite interesting. There is a lot of conflicting opinions about Lynn, including within each responder. The opinions are very strong in both directions.

So on I go with the coding. I am finally feeling this come together. I still feel quite behind: I feel as if I was not sure what this project was really to look like until recently. It took a long time to get there, and I am not sure why it was so hard to get my head around it. Perhaps it was my high level of stress this semester thanks to work.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Lynn, Lynn...

In the midst of data collection!

I've got 9 responses so far on my Survey Monkey survey. (you can take it, too!)

I am going to start coding from these responses today and writing poems from my coding.

I have also collected articles and books about Lynn and it's history which i will code from as well.

For my presentation, i plan on creating a photo/ poetry book. I like the idea of presenting my poems and collected images on one page, and then have another page for people to write in or draw their reflections. I stole this idea from my friend's wedding album! Cheesy, but we will see how it works!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Poetic Inquiry

Our guest artist expert in class for the poetic inquiry group was Danielle Georges. I felt she gave an excellent, relatively comprehensive for the short time period, overview of the different types of poetry and its uses. Danielle also clearly explained the structure and composition of poetry and how it differs from prose. She's an excellent instructor who made the class engaging and interesting. While she did not answer our specific questions, it was an inspiring introduction that really took the fear out of writing poetry, at least for me, and that was worth so much. I wrote in my notebook, 'understand the nature of your tool', and I can't recall if that is something Danielle said or not, but it's a great way to explain the session. 

When it came time to hold our own session, I could tell that the class was eager to begin creating their own material. We had originally planned on leading 3 exercises... we could only fit one! "More time!" the class asked. I felt good knowing everyone was overflowing with ideas--- i'd love to hear what people think of the session weeks on and how it helped their writing, analysis, or research.

I found the session useful myself, and i created two good poems myself from data i collected at RAW artworks in Lynn. I gathered business cards from inside the art pieces done by high school aged kids in the program, with their own words on both sides. 

The first is a concrete found poem taken directly from the artists' quotes on the cards:

I then reflected on this and created a haiku that expressed the most true statements as they struck me:

grow up, build me up
particle in a dust storm
see me as a whole

In small groups we shared our poems with others and gathered their reactions. This is just as important as the creation of the poems, as the reactions to the data is data itself. here are some of the things they mentioned:

different angles/perspectives
carries powerful emotions
cries out
chaos/ cry from the chaos
pressure to 'grow up'
judged for that moment

What was most striking to me was how they picked up on this notion of inside/outside; a theme that RAW specifically discussed in one of their programs; in fact, i think a whole exhibit was called inside/outside. I was pleased they caught on to the idea of internal chaos that I wanted to convey.

Then again, how do I know what the artists at RAW meant to communicate on these cards? Would they think  my poems express the same? Perhaps not: when reflecting upon reflections, the original intent and images can get distorted over time.Also, the opinions of those doing the reflections begin to take an effect as well. It's not like a mirror reflecting a mirror and the images go on and on: then, the image is a perfect copy, never distorted or altered over time. This work isn't like that, the researcher, reader, reflector, the writer... they can't not help but project their own feelings as they respond to the data they collect. No one is ever a blank slate- a perfect mirror. 

My project is a self-reflective journey that I hope will help me develop methods of exposing my own opinions and processes so that I can record them as they change. If I am more aware of my own reflections, then I can track how my research changes me over time. In the future, I will be working in communities where I will have opinions, biases, and judgments: this is fact. If I can become aware of these, in a methodical way, and record them, I can better see how I change, or rather how the community changes me. Perhaps I can transfer these skills to observing changes in others as well. 

Monday, November 15, 2010

My Research Question, part deux

I've completely re-done my research topic from the original one. Of course, this means more work! But I really like my new topic, as it involves self reflection and challenging my own assumptions. Earlier I noted my struggle to dedicate time and energy to this work, and so this question is the perfect challenge for me right now. 

Self Reflection: Using poetic inquiry to examine my own impressions of the community of Lynn, MA

How can poetic inquiry illuminate our own preconceptions and understanding about a community as we research it?

I am doing my internship at Boston Youth Arts Evaluation Project, which seeks to analyze, gather, and understand data about the impact of the arts in the lives of youth at risk. It is an off-shoot of RAW ARTworks in Lynn, MA. I realized that all I knew of Lynn was from what I heard from others, and I wanted to explore my preconceptions and be aware of them before I dive into this research to be sure that my own judgments do not cloud my analytic process.

Lisa asks: how will you track your own evolving perceptions?

This is the nut of the thing, really. How do I track it? This is what my internship is all about, too. Not only do I want to be focusing on my initial opinions and thoughts, and then my thoughts as I research and learn, but the evolution of this and most importantly how and why and record this in some way.

I need to research some more on this topic to get a better idea. I need to better understand the methods others have used so my work will be valid and more useful.

where I'm at...

I have to apologize for my inconsistent blogging. I have several posts I need to complete that have been gestating in my head for a while now, so hopefully I can begin to get them out.

I'm just totally exhausted lately. My job should take up 35 hours of my week, but it's taken more like 45. And it's taking everything out of me, psychologically. And I know I am not alone. My question to the class, if anyone has any answers, is how do you find the mental capability at the end of the day (if your work is like mine and rather unrelated to our field) to turn to this work with fresh eyes? I am struggling with this lately, and I'd love any guidance or advice. It sometimes begins feeling like this looming elephant in the room with me all the time; one I love and want to play with, but that demands attention and care that I find myself struggling to muster.

In the end, I am here at Lesley for this program and this work so I need to find a way to do both. I feel like a glass that is completely full, and as more is poured in, more of the old spills out. Does the glass ever grow, or does it just break eventually?

I also am reminded constantly how everyone, especially the communities I will someday work in, has got it rough. We're all overloaded. There's a quote that I can't quite remember, about remembering that the other person is running their own marathon, or something...regardless, appreciation and understanding is at the heart of what we do.

And with that, i'm on to my long overdue postings...

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Reflection on today's Arts and Activism Conference

So I just got home from the Arts and Activism conference, where I attend a 4 hour youth development workshop. On the whole it was quite educational, and the tools presented regarding youth development outcomes are going to prove useful. I was also pleased to see the BYAEP frameworks so thoroughly examined. I wish more community arts students were present, as I'd love to discuss the event.

I do, however have some critiques of the day. I'm mainly doing this not to change the event in the future but rather for my own practice and reflection.

At the end of the session, we were divided up into small groups and asked to apply the outcomes and the BYAEP framework to the process of a youth based film making project. It was the first time that we had group conversations about real, concrete examples of activities that would facilitate these possible outcomes, and the only time we saw but one example. And we were just getting into the good, nitty gritty stuff of conversation about these activities when the exercise was over. Personally, I felt that the time spent on some other activities was not useful. I know I tend to be the grumpy dwarf about some sorts of activities (i.e. scarf dancing, etc.) as an administrator, but in a professional development setting, I'd rather get down to studying useful, applicable examples than inventing a movement that expresses myself. I know, too that many of you will disagree with this, but perhaps if the day were longer we could have fit everything in. In the end, I did not get enough time to discuss real world applications that utilize the concepts we were learning.

Another thing that really bothered me today, and something I have noticed at other points since I've begun this program, is a lack of professionalism. I'm not saying we all aren't professionals, but I noticed some behaviors and some instances that speak to this.

There were several times during the day that individuals were talking over someone else, perhaps in the corner in private conversation, or in the circle as a prior exercise wrapped up. If we are going to be generous of our time and attention, we must also respect other's time and attention. This sort of thing would never fly in a business meeting. I do understand that the nature of artistic work can be self indulgent and that freedom of expression is encouraged. But this isn't a romper room- we all have goals for what we want to accomplish for the day.

Another instance is being respectful of the assignment/directions given during an activity. For example, the facilitators asked for a response from each person around the circle of a word or a few words, but soon enough people were talking for minutes at a time about themselves without any real point or direction. I am not trying to detract from the fact that people in the group had much to reflect upon, and it's great that everyone was buzzing with ideas and appreciation, but spilling your innermost feelings as you have them was not the given task. I think sometimes in this work we forget to apply our "is this useful towards the goals of the session?" filter. In class when we are in a nurturing environment there is more room for the babbling process of self reflection, but in a limited time frame it can be frustrating. Perhaps this is a critique on both sides of the relationship here: the facilitators need to intervene when time constraints are not being respected, and the participants need to respect that there will be avenues to express their reflections, and those avenues need to be made available to them after the event or at a different time.

Ugh: crying. I might be unpopular in this opinion (and please comment if you disagree) but I don't think crying is appropriate in these sorts of gatherings. If we want our work to be taken seriously, we need to encourage ways of expressing that you have been moved in ways that are not only professional but useful to the group. Crying does not effectively illustrate to me how you are going to use this new information in ways that will carry the work forward.

I think there were many excellent things that came out of the session today, but there was a part of me that was looking for a more pragmatic experience.

I realize I've put a lot of negatives in this post. The positives are getting their OWN POST! because they are so special. Grumpy dwarf is done, for this episode.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Research Topic

I am interested in researching the power of metaphors in articulating a process that is largely internal.

I love to write, and metaphors are a powerful tool for a writer to help the reader understand a concept. But how would metaphors help a learner? And do they always need to be written down? Or can they have the same power in movement and art?

My proposed 'experiment' is this: at the end of class, to tell everyone to think of metaphors that describe the process of this course, and to do it through writing, visual art, or movement. Then I would like everyone to present their metaphor in class and have a discourse on the results. I might record this as well.

What I want to know is if the process helped anyone work through the difficult nature of this course? or did it even help refine one's question?  What medium did you use, and why? Or was this not helpful at all?

I want to know because I imagine in my future work that I will be working with organizations that are having difficulty articulating the methods and process of their arts based projects, and need to for a grant or the like. I want practice in working with a group as well.

Reading Responses, Arts Based Research

As I read the materials for this course, I am struck by a repeated theme of 'translation'; how can the data collected through arts based research be communicated in ways that make sense to a wide variety of audiences. How can we communicate the effectiveness of this work to scientists? policy makers? foundations? education administrators? There are so many people who could benefit and would like to understand, but it's an immense challenge to translate the information so that others not in the field can understand. In another course, a guest panelist mentioned that 'people like us' have "drank the punch", and it's a constant battle to explain the nature of this work to those who have not.

Luckily, the arts have a way of moving people emotionally that raw data and numbers cannot. The fact that most of us are so comfortable with the arts as a means of dissemination means we have this skill on our side. The arts also can help us process the information we've discovered, or even help the subjects process it. The story that Lisa told in class about the teenagers working on the Playwright Mentoring project at Barrington Stage is such a wonderful example. Sean McNiff wrote that:

...the arts help us improve the way we interact with others by learning how to let go of negative attitudes and excessive needs for control, learning how to foster more open and original ways of perceiving situations and problems, gaining new insights and sensitivities towards others, learning how the slip stream of group expression can carry us to places where we cannot go alone, learning how to create supportive environments that inspire creative thought...
Often the translating that is most important is from what is in our heads as ideas to tangible concepts.

Another interested concept discussed in the reading is that arts projects tend to be multidisciplinary. Does this help with my translating issue? In Chapter 1 of our text, Melisa Cahnmann-Taylor writes:

Blurred genres tend to have the goal to speak to diverse audiences both within and outside the academy. The use of accessible, vernacular, and aesthetic language and image, helps to explicity reach out to larger, more diverse audiences...
I've decided that this concept of using the arts to assist in articulating an intangible process is what I want to focus on this semester. How do we make our results valid and useful? When the process is often more important than the product, how do you measure that? Often this type of research just presents more questions than answers. This is SO hard for me and I find that it is so hard for the class as well. More on this in my next post, on my research topic.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Arts Based Research, First Post

Welcome to my Arts Based Research blog!

I am really looking forward to this class. My interests in the area of inquiry, assessment, and evaluation are really taking off, so I am really looking forward to getting the tools that will help me in my thesis.

While reading the course text book (New Creative Community) for another class that I am taking, Ideas into Action, I came across the following quote by Arlene Goldbard about the nature of community work:

"But because it essentially participatory and collaborative, because the question of success has more to do with process than product, the evaluation of community cultural development work must be grounded in conversation among practitioners and participants. The judgement of success rests with the participants." (154)

And later:

"Can it be demonstrated that funds invested in a community cultural development work will produce lasting value for a community, help to bring about lasting change?" (155)

These questions were already buzing in my head. In class, I wrote in my journal that foundations/government funding bodies all report to some higher power, often the bottom line. This mindset has permeated into the arts funding world and now community arts, which in itself cannot be measured or quantified in either process or product, needs to answer to this baseline requirement of measurable success. How can we use the arts to communicate to those in this world that the process is more important than the result? That the products and achievements cannot be measured so much as felt? How can you prove progress with arts based community development?

My research then is to establish effective, proven methods of recording, sharing, measuring, and communicating the powerful positive effects of arts based community development that can be understood by  both sides of this funding conundrum. How can both sides learn from one another? Where are the roadblocks in the communication pathways?

I'll post later on the chapters in Arts Based Research, as they inspired different questions altogether!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Technology and Workplace Hierarchy

About thirty years ago, a book was published called Putt's Law and the Successful Technocrat. The book discuss Putt's Law, which essentially states:
"Technology is dominated by two types of people: those who understand what they do not manage and those who manage what they do not understand."
as well as "Putt's Corollary":
"Every technical hierarchy, in time, develops a competence inversion."
Basically, this law states that those in a hierarchy, in most cases a working office environment, who work directly with the technology (think data enterers) will be the most technologically competent, while those who are less techno-savvy move up into management. If you work in administration, I'm sure you will agree that this is common.

I'd also like to share three other well known principles, while originally humorous in nature (you can read their history at Wikipedia), also seem to ring true amongst many of my fellow admin friends and cohorts.
  • Peter Principle: "in a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence."
This one refers to promotions and advancement- someone will keep moving onward and upward until they reach a position which they are not qualified/ competent to perform and will henceforth stay there.
  • Parkinson's Law: "Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion."
Anyone who's ever written a paper for graduate school can attest to this. Next there's...
  • Dilbert Principle: "companies tend to systematically promote their least-competent employees to management (generally middle management), in order to limit the amount of damage they are capable of doing."
This one I don't think is true. But you might disagree!

I think these 'principles' are interesting because they illustrate the collective knowledge that exists amongst administrative employees of a lower-level rank all across the world: all types of workers from different industries, countries, and cultures will chuckle and agree that there is universal truth to these statements.

Certainly I don't agree that these principles apply to everyone- I've personally had some wonderful managers in my day that are technically adept as well as perfectly competent.

But I've also had supervisors that ask me to send emails for them, or who can't fix a copier jam and will wait until I return from vacation. My friend over at Office Park Idiocracy (see links) shares her hilarious tales of miscommunication, micromanagers, and more at her blog.

No doubt about it, there's a common disconnection between the upper levels of management and their employees, particularly when it comes to technology. It can be frustrating and time consuming for lower level employees to take time out of their work day to train or assist other coworkers on newer technologies. Many companies now offer training to employees on technology, but it is not always mandatory. Why would a manager go to training when they have staff in their office that can do something for them? The motivation often just isn't there. I think, though, that it is important that all members of a team be trained equally in the technologies that are needed for their jobs so as not to place the burden on the more technically advanced members.

All this got me thinking about a book I read this winter for another course, "A Whole New Mind" by Daniel Pink. Pink discusses the innate differences between left brained and right brained thinkers: logico-rational for the left, emotional, big picture thinkers for the right. Often technology just doesn't come easy for some, but they are good at looking at the big picture, so they get promoted to upper level, big picture level jobs. But then they lose touch with the left brainers down below who are crunching the numbers. Ideally, we should look for managers that are right in the middle: who can see the big pictures, but can also understand the intricate details of the work their employees are doing on a daily basis, often with all sorts of new technologies.

What do you think? Do these 'principles' ring true? Have you ever been in a position where you were leaned on for your techno expertise and was it a drain on your productivity? Comments!

(Thanks to Wikipedia for all my research!)'s_Law's_Law

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Arts/Technology Rationale: a.k.a. awesome + more awesome= :D

For class, we need to write a post about why technology in the arts is so important.

For me, it's an obvious combo. I've been raised on the internet, I am about as dependent on it as you can get. This techno-savvy also obviously extends out to digital photography, video, online entertainment, etc. I'm all over it, all the time. (Really, I come home from spending all day at a computer to sit all night... at my computer. It's sad, really. Someone please, please come get me out of the house.)

One would think, then, that I must not be cultured if I just sit in front of a glowing screen all my life? (OK, maybe this is an exaggeration. I do get out. Sometimes.) But no- all these new medias (media? mediums? mediae?) that surround my life have helped me to expand my knowledge of art and my personal network of artists. How do I find new plays to see? Galleries or festivals to visit? Where do I see a video of a new singer that I want to see live? Online. The internet and it's various outlets and media forms are the gateway to new, diverse, multi-cultured forms of expression. Once I can get a taste of something, see who else is enjoying it (thanks to social media invading every corner of the web), and get more information about where, when, and how, I am more apt to go.

And this is just in my personal life. Young adults and teenagers live and breathe the internet. We all have smartphones, laptops, cybershots. To get our attention, you need to speak our language. Younger students are going to sit up and pay attention once they see that they can connect the art they are learning in class to the art they enjoy through their various forms of new media. The internet and technology aren't going anywhere. It's crucial to create new, interesting connections between the arts and new media in order to stay relevant and fresh, because the students/ audiences are going to be online anyways, looking for the newest, freshest thing. We (as teachers/artists/arts admins) might as well be it.

Inaugural Post

Hi world!

Thanks for visiting my blog! This blog is dual purpose; it's needed for my New Media course, but I hope too that I will finally get down to business with having a blog. I've started some in the past, but this one should hopefully stick!

I really don't have any strict guidelines for what topics I am going to post just yet, as my interests are varied, but I guess this is more of an experiment for me to see what shape and direction it takes on. I've been a passive interest browser for years but until recently, and aside from posting on facebook, I've never really put my own thoughts out there on the web.

Then I became addicted to twitter... and jezebel... and my interest internet media exploded. Then I started studying media literacies in my program, and thought that it was time for my to try my hand at having my own blog.

My main interests and specialties are grant writing, development/fundraising, administration, marketing, etc for arts and nonprofits. However, there's a good I'll be posting on things relevant to myself, like city living, Boston news, feministy thoughts on the world, and whatnot.

Thanks, and stay tuned!

Artsy Admin