Musical Monday::One Chorus, One People


Bobby McFerrin may very well be on of America’s National Treasures. His approach to music shows his total immersion in the craft of music from the world of sounds, and he seems to have honed the ability to transform instruction into entertaining activity.

This video shows Bobby McFerrin leading the audience (at the World Science Festival ) in a song based on the pentatonic scale; he uses mime and vocalizations to teach the audience to sing the song. McFerrin begins by demonstrating the interval between the mid-tone and the next higher tone, as well as the tone below. After the minimal instruction, he pantomimes to lead the audience through the rest of the song. Amazingly, the audience sings as if they already knew the tune, or at least the pentatonic scale. At the end, Mr. McFerrin returns to his seat and discloses that everywhere he’s visited, all the countries with different languages, cultures and musical traditions, people everywhere are able to intuit, discern and vocalize the correct higher and lower notes for the pentatonic scale, beyond those he initially demonstrated.

This demonstration suggests that our brains are hardwired for harmonics. As an intuitive person with a holistic understanding of nature, this makes sense to me given that all life forms make music. All Life Makes Music; Sound and music is a condition of life. When we use our voices we add to the chorus of the world, whether we sing, speak, yell or cry, we add to the ambient soundscapes of birds, rushing water, rustling tree leaves, whooshing wind, car honks, dog barks and on and on.

think:: If you were an observer /listener who detached from the emotionality of the scene or activity of the actors, let’s say you recently landed from Neptune, would you be more likely to perceive “noise” or be able to discern human language versus birdsong, versus rainfall, thunder or the rev of a motor? Probably not. If you were new to the earthly soundscape, you would be more likely to orient yourself to the underlying rhythms which pattern the swells of noise, eventually noticing similarities or dissimilarities in tones before you could identify where the tones / sounds / pulses or rhythms emanate from. If our humanly sounds add to the chorus of life, even our technological wonders become a part of the greater soundscape, are we really so different from a woodpecker, dragonfly, rooster or any other animal? We are ONE.

Feel:: What emotions come up for you as you listen to the non-musical audience of strangers who engaged in a perfectly orchestrated impromptu song? Remember, these people don’t represent a cohesive group, they all flew / drove / swam / walked 🙂  to the World Science festival to attend that lecture; they were from as many walks of life, and represent as many different experiences as there were people, however harmonically they were all in tune. Complete strangers expertly sang a new song in unison. When I watched this video, I felt an overwhelming, beautiful sense of joy and expansive ONENESS. The people may not have known each other individually, but they essential humanness asserted and recognized itself to show that they, WE come from the same proverbial root.

The harmony created in a room of strangers poignantly illustrates an ultimate truth: there is no separation between you and me. If we can tap into the greater chorus at will, then maybe, just maybe we  are all creating a symphony composed of the sounds, words and expressions we make in our everyday life?

Grow!:: What sounds do you want to contribute to the chorus of life? Identify the most recent time you felt alone. Not lonely, but alone. Where life seemed as if it were coursing by without you, or when you had thoughts that your experience was so different from everyone else’s, that no one could understand. In this moment, after witnessing a supreme moment of oneness between strangers, realize that there is no possible way for you to actually be alone the world. Even in feelings of isolation, we can add melancholy tone to the symphony of life. We all know that some of the most compelling works of art incorporated the artists melancholy to great effect; I challenge you take the reins as the composer of your life and consciously decide what note you add to the chorus of life. The next time you feel alone, or misunderstood, to go out into the world and listen to the chorus just outside your door. Do you notice that there is something missing? It’s You! Your voice is crucial to the chorus of Life. Lift your voice and sing, add your unique melody to the chorus. When you add to the soundtrack of life, it is impossible to feel alone, because in that moment you connect and contribute to the chorus, you will remember that you are irrevocably plugged into or tapped into to the greater power that unites us all.

What is my sound?:: Well, I wish to add the beta-wave sound of optimism, honesty and human healing. I wish to create a sound-wave of my healing that emanates from my own healing process out to others in need of the same. My intent is that the healing beta-wave compels all who hear it to seek, find and ultimately embark on their deepest, most profound healing journey.

Shawndel

Heritage Wednesday::The Elevator Speech


A Heritage Elevator Speech? Yes. If you are a professional, a small-business owner, an academic, an artist or a dreamer, you have inherited a culture that is short on time yet ravenous for great ideas. The elevator speech is what bridges the gap between innovators and their supporters. If you are fortunate enough to encounter an interested or strategically placed person who can propel you on your path, you need a hook, a compelling and SHORT story to engage them in your vision. These interactions are often the result of chance social encounters with friends of friends, colleagues at professional conferences or all-staff meetings at work. At best, you may get a 1-4 minute audience with this person, so make it count!

Elevator Speech Opportunities

“So, what do you do for a living?”

I have heard it said a few times by artists and academic-types that the sales-pitch feels like the hardest part. “Why must I sell people on my idea when it is clearly something that: will inspire others / help the greater good / is intrinsically valuable”. Yes, your idea may be all of those things, but no idea is helpful without the support of other people. It’s a condition of being born a social being. The truth is, if you have a degree, a job, or you have friends who support your endeavors, then your inner-salesperson is alive and well. We sell people on ideas of who we are, what we are capable of, and even convince companies and institutions to believe that we are ambassadors for the best interests of an academic discipline, department or product line.

If you dislike the “sale” then that is an indicator that you approach the sales moment with the sensibilities of the inner artist, or academic etc, that is to say, you may be approaching the sales moment with the portion of yourself that prefers to be alone and simply do the work, rather than drum-up support for it. That frame of mind is good when creating or writing, but does not directly serve the proliferation of your goal, project or idea. You will need to free your inspired salesperson self to share your idea, or it will remain small and undernourished, and will eventually wither and die young, never having received support from those who could help it thrive.

Overlapping interests are the bounty of the elevator speech

“No kidding? I have always been interested in that! Let’ set up a meeting time to discuss this further. I’d love to help you in any way I can…”

Approach the following exercise with the passion of the artist, the honed expression of your inner academic, and the tact and extroversion of your inner salesperson.

Elevator speeches should be customizable on the fly, so this requires you to really think about your project, ideas or goals, and think of as many possible applications or collaborations that you would ENJOY pursuing. This refines your thought process about the project, and cultivates a flexible approach to describing your idea.

If your networking goal is to meet as many allied people as possible, then your elevator speech goal is to craft as many versions of an introduction.

Now that you know the “whys” of an elevator speech, let’s discuss the “how”.  There are five dimensions to the elevator speech. They cover the points most likely to interest the listener, yet leaves them enough time to comprehend the information and ask for more if they so choose.

  1. Who am I and what is my research / project / initiative?
  2. Why is this new fangled thing better that what already exists? What does your offering give that has never been offered before?
  3. What makes your approach/ project/ initiative/ research so important, notable or special?
  4. What are your desired outcomes / goals?  What is your vision?
  5. BREATHE

 More on STEP 5

After the sales pitch, the rest is up to the listener / audience. You can make a quick introduction, but the buy-in cannot be rushed.  After you finish your elevator speech, make eye contact, smile, take a deep breath and relax your shoulders while counting to 5.  By the time you compose yourself, you will be ready to listen to their response, and answer any questions.

Remember, this is a conversation, and questions signify interest and active listening, not necessarily criticism (remember: critique is good); so receive their questions as guidance toward the clarification and manifestation of your goal. No idea is created in a vacuum.

Give the listener time to digest and respond to your “speech”. Let them begin to sense the greater implications and importance of your work. If you give them time to respond, inevitably, they will respond with thoughtful questions. Keep your answers concise. Less is more. The “less is more” speech is composed of the prize nuggets that makes listeners want to seek more information. This is salesperson-ship at its best! Your brilliant idea enhanced by a refined presentation does all the work!

Congratulations!

Kudos to You!

Congratulations! This was a long post, so if you’ve made it this far, you’ve already primed your inner salesperson to do you proud. The hardest part is writing the speech, so once you’ve written the first draft. Say it aloud, practice it, test it on your friends and family, coworkers, and your boss (if appropriate). When you can improvise alternate versions and feel comfortable with the process, you’re ready to take it into the field…

I thought I’d share my revised elevator speech with you as an example, so here it is, in outline format:

  1. Who am I and what is my research / project / initiative?
    1. My name is Shawndel Fraser and I am an Environmental Psychologist. I am building a creative and healing arts retreat for women survivors.
  2. Why is this newfangled thing better that what already exists? Why is your project / goal / idea unique?
    1. Where most retreats cater to luxury consumers, yogis, or spiritual seekers, The Blue Dome is a retreat for women who wish to hone new emotional, physical, psychological, spiritual tools to transform limited and limiting beliefs about past intense experiences.
  3. What makes your approach/ project/ initiative/ research so important, notable or special?
    1. The Blue Dome is a restorative and safe place where women create community; they repose in physical, emotional and psychological comfort, and take part in creative and healing art activities that help them realize one thing: survivors don’t simply survive, they Artfully Transcend. Any survivor has the potential and ability to transcend all types of violence and circumstance.
  4. What are your desired outcomes / goals?  What is your vision?
    1. My goal is for the women to realize during their stay, that their past traumas were divine lessons in disguise.
    2. My vision is that they will come to learn that their survivor status is actually a call to contribute in global healing though their unique expression of leadership in their everyday lives.

I hope this is helpful, do share your elevator speech should you feel so inclined. I will offer constructive critique if you do!

Shawndel

The Right to Look is more our duty than a “right”


Book Cover: The Right to Look: A Counterhistory of Visuality by Nicholas Mirzoeff

“RSVP for the Book Launch for Nicholas Mirzoeff’s
The Right to Look: A Counterhistory of Visuality

Tuesday, December 13, 2011 at 5:30 pm at 20 Cooper Square, 5th Floor, New York, NY

Space is limited and reservations are required. To RSVP, please visit: http://bitly.com/nicholasmirzoeff.

Register to attend a reception celebrating the publication of The Right to Look: A Counterhistory of Visuality (Duke University Press, 2011), by Nicholas Mirzoeff, Professor in the Department of Media, Culture, and Communication, NYU.
In The Right to LookNicholas Mirzoeff develops a comparative de-colonial framework for visual culture studies, the field that he helped to create and shape. Casting modernity as an ongoing contest between visuality and countervisuality, or “the right to look,” he explains how visuality sutures authority to power and renders the association natural. Encompassing the Caribbean plantation and the Haitian revolution, anticolonialism in the South Pacific, antifascism in Italy and Algeria, and the contemporary global counterinsurgency, The Right to Look is a work of astonishing geographic, temporal, and conceptual reach.”This event is free and open to the public.

**********

I studied with Nick during a semester “abroad” at NYU, yes, venturing beyond the 14th street divide counts as abroad for many New York City graduate students! (joke). That spring, I took a class in visual culture called “Modernity and Climate Change” in the Media Culture and Communication Studies Department. The class was simply amazing, with the range of discipline and perspectives represented. Our group conversations were candid, intense, exciting and enriching. Nicholas was a confident leader and didn’t overly direct the conversation or derail fruitful trains of thought.

I invited him to speak at the Ninth Annual Nature Ecology Society Colloquium where he delivered a talk “Islands of Justice: Imagining Climate Change. He made a big splash with they way he integrated images, and audience assumptions and cultural readings of climate change images and information, specifically that of islanders around the world whose lives are changing at the prospect of climactic shifts and sea-level changes.

He was a truly welcome addition to our roster, a major coup, I might add, and  he represented the start of a rich relationship between NES and NYU. I found him to be an engaging speaker, brilliant thinker, witty, real and personable!

I definitely recommend that people who grapple with visual studies and / or use digital media (as a theoretical foundation, for data collection, analysis or presentation) should attend. If you tell him I sent you, it’ll elicit a smile!

Let me know if you decide to go, I’d love to hear about it!

 Shawndel

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 – 11:00am 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 Vásquez, 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’ 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

Make your mark on the Earthquake


Click here to Make your mark and write a note and add pics to the map above.

Lets record this moment and connect with others who experienced something similar. Feel free to note your emergency plan in your marker as well. 

Where were you when the earthquake shook the east coast?

I was at work when the floor shook and the building swayed.  A co-worker asked “Do you feel that?” “what the shaking? It feels like we’re having an earthquake.” I replied.  Then I started searching the news outlets: Reuters, AP, NYT, I googled “New York Earthquake” during the tremors. No dice. No news…they were probably waiting for editor’s approval 🙂

However, a little twitter fu revealed many New Yorkers tweeting for corroboration of the the sickening sway. None of us seemed to really believe it. We evacuated to the basement and outside the building, then eventually informed that it was safe to return. Events seemed to unfold in normal time, however my emotions had spiked;  so and I decided that the best way to calm myself was to think of an emergency travel plan.  I did not have a mind to twitpic the evacuation or to capture sound, but I did keep my wits about me and remained calm throughout.

What would you do if the subway tunnels collapsed and buses were unavailable?

Do you live in an outer borough? Do you and your loved ones have a plan in case of major evacuation? A meet-up site in the event that you become separated? Ladies, do you have extra nibbles  in your heavy purse, in case of emergency hunger and thirst? Fellas, do you have a purse? 

Today reminded me of the necessity of a plan. 

No matter how far-fetched, unnerving or unnecessary the rational mind might wish it, our social and economical worlds are changing. It follows logic that the physical world could also shift under our feet.  As the saying goes, prior planning prevents poor performance, so “thank you” @Sal_Castaneda for the reminder about emergency preparedness. Thank you to my other twitter friends and contacts who posted helpful links, the main on being the government preparedness site Ready.gov.

Stay grounded.

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!