Check out my new Magnt site!


Check out my new Magnt site!.

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Monkeys, Mixtures and Magnamanities…


Movements for animal rights are not irrational denials of human uniqueness; they are a clear sighted recognition of connection across the discredited breach of nature and culture.

~Donna Haraway, from the Cyborg Manifesto, in Simians, Cyborgs and Women (1991)

Jacques Derrida on “Animals”

A mash-up of thinkers whose writing style, content and intellectual dexterity that inspires me and influences my work.

And so it is ūüôā

Donna Haraway reads the National Geographies of Gorillas: Margie & KoKo

From spectacle to suburbs: “Race, Culture and Class are recoded at the boundary of nature and culture

This special tv feature disturbed me in¬†multiple ways; the first is that the zoo and scientists co-signed on the forceful abduction of Michael from his home, family and social relations only to be airlifted to the science-fictionesque California lab setting. His life trajectory was altered so that he would serve as a consort, and in the retelling, it seems that there was no qualm about the “ethics” of doing so. Another disturbing fact is the hypothesis that¬†¬†“we” (humans) could / would come to “understand” the “mentality” of another “species” through the use of sign-language as two-way “communication”; As a thinking, feeling being, this tells me that they had no sense of the ways that ¬†human “language” is socio-temporally situated and is¬†therefore¬†not generalize-able to any and all experiences. Even if the words used may refer to some reasonably understandable thing, meaning, intent and underlying assumptions are never exact from one communicator to the receiver. Language is a tool that shapes understanding, thought, perception and notions of self and other. The underlying assumption is that scientists gave the gorillas a tool to express internal events. In fact, scientists acted upon the gorillas with the language-tool to show them to use that same uninvited tool to further, irrevocably change themselves, their perception and experiences.

No great inter-species understanding was accomplished here. That which the two gorillas expressed was unique to the experiences of two captive gorillas living in the bizarre human contexts of laboratory and suburb.

So I ask, just was inter-species understanding was truly achieved by this work? That “gorillas” feel emotions and have the desire and ability to communicate, and form deep, intense and persistent social bonds? these are things we learned by simple observation.

Projects like these to me have the appeal of fetish. The object of interest is not real for its true role, rather for its assumed entertainment value in an imbalanced power relationship.

I hadn’t expected to go this route when I posted the videos, however viewing them all in succession prompted these thoughts that I share with you today.

What is your takeaway from these videos?

Speaking Engagement: New Media and the Academy


On Friday December 2, 2011, I will be presenting at the City University of New York Information Technology Conference at  John Jay College, 899 Tenth Avenue, New York, NY 10019 from 9:30-11:00 am, Room TBD

One view of Dallas "Giving Face"!

I am very excited to travel to my hometown to connect with my colleagues and friends, after two months away in Dallas, Texas (city of rainbows!). Technically I will play part in two panel discussions by preparing comments and visuals, however I will only be able to *physically attend one because unfortunately, the sessions were scheduled concurrently. Both panels will discuss highly innovative, student-focused digital ventures at the Graduate Center, and I feel honored that my vision, work  and enthusiasm warranted the invitations to present and take part. And I have enjoyed preparing the slides and thinking about various approaches to the two projects.

I worked in the CUNY New Media Lab for two and a half years on digital project to supplement my doctoral research. I continue to put finishing touches on the project – such as filling in the digital archive or car ads, and upgrading the website template once the New Media Lab installs the newest version of¬†WordPress. Over the years, I’ve cultivate a unique¬†expertise which allows me to conceptualize digital and visual interventions for academic research, presentations and pedagogy. As a result, my role in the New Media Lab morphed to allow me to share my knowledge with¬†incoming and fellow College Assistants within the lab. I have been fortunate that Managing Director Andrea Vasquez and Project Advisor Aaron Knoll respect and support my creative ventures and solid knowledge base in the practical digital humanities.

This panel is scheduled for December 2 at 9:30am Р11:00am at John Jay College 899 Tenth Avenue, New York, NY 10019, room TBD

Digital Technologies and Academic Research: The New Media Lab a Dozen Years Later
A roundtable of CUNY Graduate Center doctoral students, faculty members and administrators will reflect on the changes in digital technologies and the impact they have had on academic scholarship that has been developed and nurtured at the Lab. A series of short presentations, copiously illustrated, will explore such topics as building digital tools, the relationship between pedagogy and technology, the effect of new technologies on academic careers and what we envision for the Lab’s future.

Andrea Ades V√°squez, NML Managing Director, CUNY Graduate Center
Aaron Knoll, NML Student Advisor, CUNY Graduate Center
Shawndel Fraser, NML Doctoral Student Researcher, CUNY Graduate Center
Claire Fontaine, NML Digital Research Fellow /and Doctoral Student, CUNY Graduate Center
Wendy Luttrel, Professor of Urban Education and Social Personality Psychology, CUNY Graduate Center

The Second (concurrent) panel presentation offers a look at Student-led initiatives, specifically through the Doctoral Students Council (DSC). The Doctoral Students Council is a dynamic, highly participatory and forward thinking, policy-making body which represents all the graduate students at the CUNY Graduate Center. Three years ago, the DSC implemented the WordPress based system OpenCUNY, of which I was an early adopter for my research blog. Later I adapted it to publicize the highly regarded, annual Nature Ecology Society Colloquium, for which I was co-organizer. Back then, we were unable to get access to the original domain and host server assigned to us by CUNY. The lack of access stemmed from the lack of a methodical methods for passing on institutional knowledge, and the steep learning curve for html and other coding languages, which that particular website required. The WordPress-based OpenCUNY site was the first of many steps toward a more democratic group website and group functioning.

The panel will consist of student group representatives who will discuss the ways they use OpenCUNY. The purpose, all toward a deeper conversation about the strengths and growth opportunities inherent in student-led digital initiatives.

Fostering Student-based Media: A Look at The OpenCUNY.org Academic Medium
For three years OpenCUNY has worked with Graduate Center students to develop open-source environments for their courses, conferences, research, organizations, initiatives and activism. This roundtable brings together the coordinators and participants of OpenCUNY to explore the benefits and challenges of fostering student-based participatory media. An overview of OpenCUNY’s development, participatory governance, technological configuration and plans will be provided. A sample of participants‚Äô media projects will also be discussed.

John D. Boy, Participant, OpenCUNY.org/gcsoc
Morgan Buck, Participant, OpenCUNY.org/hmny
Gregory Donovan, Coordinator, OpenCUNY
*Shawndel N. Fraser, Participant, OpenCUNY.org/nature
Margaret Galvan, Coordinator, OpenCUNY
Keirsten Greene, Participant, OpenCUNY.org/mediated
Keith Miyake, 2010-11 Board Member, OpenCUNY
Monique Whitaker, Participant, OpenCUNY.org/dschealth

*Since I won’t be able to present in this panel, fellow Nature Ecology Society Co-Organizers Bijan Kimiagar and Jennifer Pipitone will present our opencuny.org/nature website, innovations and challenges.

I hope to see you there! If you attend, do come by and say “hello”!

~Shawndel

What’s your passion?


Welcome to Spring, my Thinking Feeling Friends!

Meet the extreme hobbyists in the New York Times

I stepped away from think. Feel. Grow!¬† as I redirected my words and creative output to my research and accompanying multimedia. ¬†I’ve finally collected all of my data, which means I’ve gathered into one place (really multiple sites), the car ads featured in National Geographic Magazine post-World War II to present day. I’ve started creating movie vignettes deconstructing the ads, and I am in the writing process. Yay! This is major,¬†because¬†now I can really work through my ideas with the data in hand! No more suppositions, time to engage with material reality.

Over the past five weeks, I’ve been pondering why do I blog, who reads my blog, and the most recent musing, today, is what is my passion? Well, I don’t know who reads my blog, but I know why I do it. WordPress is a great workspace for me to track my inspirations, share some of my thought process, and at times, write posts directly related to my research that I will include¬†in my thesis. Unlike traditional “work”, intellectual labor is a path where one’s writing creates ones future, so what and where I write helps me find just where I would like to place¬†myself professionally and to what end; I interpret that as work toward identifying my motivation or my passion.

I have many, many hobbies that I turn to at different times and seasons for different reasons. I used to think of myself as generalist: I am an urban cyclist (an extreme sport of its own!), I crochet and knit jewelry and accessories and am a teaching artist, I play the flute and the guitar, I prepare lacto-fermented traditional foods, and recently taught myself bookbinding and scrapbooking techniques. ¬†I am¬†a bit of a technophile especially as it relates to my research and academia, and I read copiously for pleasure. I recently learned how to swim, I am a gardener and all-around “nature-buff” who can lead a reasonable nature tour for friends in almost any region I visit. At times I’ve sewn my clothing from original patterns, I can organize sustainable green conferences, and I can give sound advice (though I think I am retiring from that sticky business!). All of these hobbies actually inspire my passion…to be an Expert; to be so versed, learned and engaged in an idea or phenomenon that I pursue it with zeal and uncover all that I can so that I can share my findings, impressions and understandings of ¬†it with others. I heart this, and it is my motivator, my fuel, my passion.

My creative [writing] process has begun to unfurl, and the more I relax into it, the more I realize that I can wander on flights of intellectual fancy not just in my mind, but I can work it out on the canvas of the paper. Just as my body needs and enjoys physical exercise in the pool or on my trusty Brompton, my mind likes the playgrounds of Scrivener, MsWord, Personal Brain, Dipity, Prezi, WordPress, Omeka and Final Cut Pro and the many other softwares that I use to wrangle with my data, ideas and bring them to a format fit for sharing and discussion with interested others.

So, I have been away from think. Feel. Grow! for a while, coming to learn and accept this about myself and working hard to meet my self-imposed deadlines. My new task, is to continue to share my inspirations, the interesting retro advertisements I found and update you on my project, without judging too harshly, the look and content of my blog postings. So here is to a revitalized momentum here on think. Feel. Grow!, just in time for the warmer days of Spring!

Creating my Research Website


I am in the midst of an exciting project. I am weaving together the long years of my PhD work until this point; my exploration of visuals, my readings, along with my budding knowledge of WordPress as a content management system / website / blog to assemble my multimedia research website. I’ve had a vision for 2 years now, and finally feel that I have enough [access to] information and resources to gather everything into a coherent, aesthetically pleasing whole.

I am of course still learning and creating knowledge about my subject, myths of nature within car ads in National Geographic Magazine, however, as an experiential and visual learner, this type of immersion refines my methods, and forces me to write my methods section of my paper.  This semester I am learning more about how to use Final Cut Pro, and it is prompting me to reassess my approach to the archive, my massive data set so that I can actually get at my core idea. The plan is to make short films about them, and massage a couple of publications from writing about what I learn from the process and the data.

think. Feel. Grow! is my mantra, my process and website. The site that I am working on is the storehouse for the public view of my research data, which is of course different from the content contained here and on my tumblr microblog. When the time is right, I will of course début it here on tfg!

The Culture of Climate Change


One year in the making, my colleagues and I present the two-day colloquium and celebration of Ten Years of the Nature Ecology Society. Join us for performance, lively discussion, fresh sustainable food and good cheer!

Sparkling Esperanza Spalding


I had this draft sitting for a couple of weeks waiting for the words, imaging that I would have to do a hard sell on her beautiful sound. Alas, it seems the Grammy’s show it is not a hard sell at all and that her work speaks or sings for itself. My absolute favorite is the first song “Little Fly” her adaptation of William Blake’s poem #97 the Fly.

She inspires me, the near perfect mingling of techniques, styles, her flair, ability, and confidence, her genuine approach to interviewing and the sweet soul that must underlie it all to make music so refreshing, so new and wholly her own. To me, her sound represents a body of work, what a dissertation should portend or least hint at. I am crafting the equivalent for my research Рa tone of writing, a technique of analysis, a brand based in a unique approach to research on everyday objects. I can only trust that what I produce also will be palatable and my market, identifiable. Esperanza is a wonderful role model though our disciplines are different. I wish her continued success, and I hope to see her live, soon!

So, it is without further ado…I present, Esperanza Spalding

(Poem #97) The Fly

Little Fly
Thy summers play,
My thoughtless hand
Has brush'd away.

Am not I
A fly like thee?
Or art not thou
A man like me?

For I dance
And drink and sing
Till some blind hand
Shall brush my wing.

If thought is life
And strength and breath;
And the want
of thought is death;

Then am I
A happy fly,
If I live,
Or if I die.

‚ÄĒ¬†William Blake