Travel


5
Nov 18

#BTSxCitifield Part 3 – The fans, the show, the experience – so awesome

20181006_152540

About to enter Citi Field stadium, at the front of the line chatting with some awesome fans.

I try to talk about my introvert nature at work a lot, especially with the students on my team, because if they are also struggling with it, I want them to know it isn’t a curse.  I like to say that I’m an introvert who has learned to fake it because people sometimes don’t believe me, but it’s true.  Some people are energized by social interactions, but for me, anything more than a one-on-one conversation can be draining, and the larger the group, the faster my battery runs out.   If I don’t get periods of solitude to recharge, it can be so exhausting that I get physically sick.

This basic fact about my personality has caused me so much angst and unhappiness.  Especially because I also paradoxically feel the need to make useful contributions, whatever the conversation or interaction may be, so there is forever a battle going on with part of me wanting to conserve energy and stay on the side, and part of me wanting to be in the center of the room participating in what’s happening.  It has taken a very long time to find a good balance.


I mention my introversion by way of introduction to this third and last post in my #BTSxCitifield series (read Part 1 and Part 2 here) for two reasons.

First and most obviously because the theme of BTS’s Love Yourself: World Tour is about learning to love yourself, and learning to love my introversion instead of hating it has been one of the hardest things for me to do.  It was only after I stopped fighting it and gave myself permission to be that way that I learned how to balance my life’s social flow in a way that feels sustainable and good.  Ten years ago, flying to New York City and attending a stadium-sized concert like #BTSxCitifield by myself would have been unthinkable.  That I was able to not only go to the concert, but truly enjoy the experience – in part because of the huge crowd – is a personal triumph that seems worth celebrating.

20181006_195910(0)

Enjoying the show with 40,000 (!!) other fans.

And second, because I am such an introvert myself, I’ve often wondered how the artists, creators, and professionals I admire deal with the pressure of fame and the sometimes crazy emotional demands of their fans.  Fame is such a double-edged sword. Attracting passionate fans is a source of success, but losing anonymity, especially today when everyone everywhere has a camera in their pocket, seems to mean losing the ability to just be in the world.

And when does being a passionate fan tip over into being a crazy fan? 

Is it “crazy fan” territory to buy tickets this expensive?

It may be weird to worry about what it means to be a “good fan” but I think Stephen King’s novel Misery must have made a big impression on me when I was young because I’ve always thought the most respectful way to honor an artist is to support their work from afar.  Pay for their work and share/evangelize their stuff to others, but don’t bug them. [1].  There is a natural desire to express appreciation and gratitude when someone’s work has made a positive and meaningful difference in your life, but that should never come at the expense of respecting the boundaries of the real person behind the fame.

I thought about that a lot when BTS released a series of provocative concept photos for their S version of the Love Yourself: Answer album.  It turns out there’s a Korean word specifically to describe obsessive, stalker fan behavior, 사생팬 or saseang fan [2], and they have obviously experienced that.

It makes you wonder how they are really doing.  Not their stage personas, but the real 20-something year old guys behind the scene (see what I did there?).  Is this insane hype-train of record breaking achievements actually good for them?  Are they being exploited?  How are they handling the intense glare of the spotlight, and is my participation in ARMY fan culture hurting or helping them?  The introvert me would have withered and died from that kind of intense pressure in my 20s, as so many of my favorite childhood actors actually did die.

river-corey

River Phoenix and Corey Haim, two of my earliest fan-crushes.

I want to hope that the real people in BTS are doing ok, that they have each other and their families, and that they are still young and resilient enough to enjoy the wild ride that they are on.  I have to hope they, and the people who love them, will know when to get off the crazy train when (if?) the time comes.

In my last post, I described how my interest in BTS began and deepened enough to call myself an ARMY and there was a moment, a series of moments, before I clicked the buttons that sucked a ridiculous amount of money out of my bank account, when I wondered if it was crazy-fan territory to sit for an hour in a virtual queue to buy expensive concert tickets, and an expensive plane ticket, and an expensive hotel reservation, just to see a bunch of 20-something boys from Korea for just a couple of hours.

20180817_171355

Sitting in a ridiculous virtual line to buy tickets, only to be unceremoniously dumped out to this error message.

Ultimately, I decided that I enjoyed their music and appreciated their art so much that I wanted to be counted among their fans for their first stadium-sized concert and their last show in the US.  It wasn’t just about attending the concert, although I was of course excited to see them perform live, but symbolically, I think every fan who came to Citi Field was there to show them and the world just how much their work inspires us.  We wanted to give them another win, another trophy for their bag.  That super-fun feeling of winning together, ARMY+BTS synergy, is what tipped the scales enough for me to actually purchase the tickets. [3]


The Night Before the Show

I flew out of Cincinnati on the Friday evening before the concert, with just enough time to land at LaGuardia and get settled into the hotel for a good night’s sleep before the show.  Hilariously, the first ARMY I met in the wild once I got to New York was another person from Cincinnati!  Queue that old joke about flying a thousand miles to meet your neighbor.  Our hotels were in opposite directions so we split up shortly after meeting, but we followed each other on Twitter and re-connected after we got home – and now we’re set to watch Burn the Stage together when it comes out in a couple weeks!

That chance encounter with a friendly ARMY was the first of many happy meetings.  I saw groups of ARMYs everywhere I went as BTS fans descended on New York from all over the US, and really all over the world. It’s hard to describe the feeling of meeting strangers who don’t quite feel like strangers because you already share a common interest, the instant smiles when we recognized each other, the excitement that everyone felt about arriving for the show.  I really didn’t know what to expect the next day, and after agonizing over what to stuff in my no-larger than 16 inches backpack to comply with the venue rules [4], I managed to sleep like a rock.

Arriving at Citi Field Stadium

I had no idea what it would be like at the venue, so I didn’t really have a plan, but part of the reason I made the trip was to experience the ARMY fan culture, so I took a cab from the hotel around 6:30 AM and got dropped off right at the stadium.

20181006_080851

The first picture I snapped after arriving at Citi Field, ~6:45 AM.

The first thing I noticed as I walked across the parking lot was the merch line (the line to buy official merchandise from the band like the t-shirts, bags, etc.), and it didn’t seem crazy long yet, so without even looking around at anything else, I headed for the back of the line.

20181006_080856

That big group of people on the right side is the merch line, which hadn’t started moving yet, ~ 6:45 AM.

At that moment, as I approached the back of the merch line barriers, I felt .. nervous.  I’d met a couple of fans at the airport and at the hotel, who were all super nice and friendly, but I wasn’t sure what it would be like in the REAL ARMY crowd.  Would there be crazy sasaengs?  Would it be weird that I was by myself?  Was I even a big enough fan to deserve to be there when so many fans couldn’t get tickets?  My introvert nature and all the anxiety that comes with it suddenly popped out and I felt.. shy.

I needn’t have worried.  I got in line and spent the next couple hours chatting with the fans around me, gawking at all the hand-made signs, watching the merch line grow and grow and grow..

20181006_090608

ARMYs behind me in the merch line..

20181006_082109

Can you tell how diverse the crowd is?  Young, old, men, women, every ethnicity.. 

20181006_091843(0)

JOON FOR PRESIDENT!

It turned out that the whole day before the show was a series of waiting in one line or another, and universally, the crowd was friendly and cheerful and happy to chat about BTS endlessly.  It was terrific!

Entering the BTS Village

citifield-map-2

The “Village” is what they called the cordoned off area where you could buy the “merch” and visit a bunch of different booths to pair your bluetooth-enabled light stick, take a picture with a hologram of your favorite BTS member, donate to their UNICEF LOVE YOURSELF campaign, etc.

Once the merch line started to move when they opened the Village, everyone ran in to.. get in yet another line for whichever specific area or booth you wanted to visit.  I stuck with the merch line, and got handed an order form to fill out while waiting with a new group of ARMYs.

I can’t remember how long we stood in that line, but it seemed to move pretty quickly.  I was super disappointed that the official concert t-shirts sold out within the first 15 minutes, since that was the main thing I wanted to get, but there were plenty of other (way overpriced!) things to buy to commemorate the experience.

merch-2

An example of available merch and the crazy prices.  There were like 6 or 7 pages of things you could buy.

Talking about it with the other ARMYs around me, I was surprised to find that everyone hated the new Americanized “Beyond the Scene” branding and didn’t want any of the t-shirts if it didn’t have the original Korean 방탄소년단 (Romanized as Bangtan Sonyeondan) wording.  Not that Big Hit Entertainment asked for my opinion, but I think the sincerity and authenticity of BTS is one of their biggest selling points even with American fans, so I’m not sure the “Beyond the Scene” re-brand is gaining traction.

merch-6

I ended up with t-shirt version 1.  No one around me wanted to buy version 2 because it said “Beyond the Scene”.  The lady behind me reeeeealllly wanted a hoodie and was afraid they would sell out before she got to the counter.  I think she was successful in her quest but I’m not sure, I lost track of her in the crowd.

With my merch in hand and my wallet further emptied, I wandered around for a bit trying to decide which booth to visit.  Suddenly I remembered that I had won an express “skip the line” ticket from Big Hit to visit the “BTS Studio” booth where you could take a picture of yourself with a hologram of your favorite member, so I headed over in that direction.. and got in the express ticket line. (Which was only like 10 people long, but still, another line!  lol)

20181006_112408

The Korean tour staff were all very nice and seemed super amused at the Americans saying 감사합니다 (kamsahamnida – thank you).

While I was waiting to get my picture taken, I noticed an ARMY who had just come from the merch line struggling to juggle all of her purchases. Because the “shopping bag” merch item was the cheapest thing on the menu at $5, I bought 3 of them, which was the maximum allowed, so I stepped over and asked her if she wanted a bag to hold all of her stuff. I was glad to have an extra to share! We snapped a picture together once she got her stuff all sorted out.

Then suddenly it was my turn to enter the little BTS Studio tent!  I have to say, the “hologram” technology they used to make it seem like your favorite BTS member is walking up and sitting down with you to take a picture was pretty freaking cool.  I was so flustered trying to sort out my bags and all the stuff I was carrying that I didn’t get a video of that (that’s one time when I really wished I hadn’t come alone), but it was fun all the same and sort of made your heart beat a little faster even knowing it wasn’t real.  I also had a little panic trying to pick which member because at this point, I really do love them all (OT7!), but my original favorite won in the end.

20181006_114546

Quick, pick your favorite BTS member!

20181006_122031

A picture snapped with my phone of the slightly blurry picture I got in the BTS Studio booth. Me and Jimin!

After that I wondered around the Village a lot taking pictures and videos and just enjoying the scene and the freedom of not being in a line for the first time since I arrived.

20181006_114849

Fans dancing in the Village..

20181006_114819

Another dancing fan… You can see the merch booths in the background.

20181006_115447(0)

Tour staff would watch your bags and take a picture of you with your phone at the various sign boards and photo backdrops..

20181006_115203

Making a donation to the UNICEF #BTSLoveMyself campaign to end violence against children..

I’m not sure what time it was, but by that point, my feet were starting to hurt a little and I was ready to take a rest.  See my note below about the awesomeness of the Trekology YIZI Go Portable Camping Chair – which I promptly pulled out and set up to rest my weary bones and have a drink and a snack.

20181006_123359

Having a rest and filming people entering the Village area..

I thought it was pretty irresponsible of the lady yelling at people to run to the lightstick tent because they were selling out, they didn’t sell out the whole day as far as I know.

20181006_123503

Lots of people started to sit down and eat things they had brought at that point.

There seemed to be no food or drink vendors anywhere, which I thought was nuts.

20181006_122649

A short video I intended to send to my sister but for some reason it wouldn’t upload so I never sent it..

Finding my Gate and Observing the Front of the Hard Core “General Admissions” Line

Shortly after filming that clip, I left the Village area thinking I should at least figure out what gate I would be entering and where the line (surely there was another line!) would be for that.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but it turned out that the private box seat ticket holders would be using a gate in the same vicinity as where they were letting the General Admissions line form up to actually enter the stadium.

Now keep in mind that some of the General Admissions folks had been camping out for over a week to get closest to the stage, so as I approached them, I had a feeling like the General Admissions line were the “real” ARMY and the rest of us were just baby ARMYs.  We still had hours to go before the show started, so I set up my awesome little camping chair again and watched all the hoopla at the front of the GA line.

Periodically you would see fans who had stepped out of line to get merch or something come running up frantically worried that they had missed their spot, so I started posting short video clips and tweeting them out in the hopes that it would help keep things calm.  There were definitely a couple of moments there where it seemed like the crowd might get shovey and pushy, but for the most part, it stayed orderly and calm.  After watching them deal with one situation after another, I thought the security staff did a great job of being kind yet firm to keep everyone safe.

Somewhere in the midst of the GA line drama, I started to feel really hungry and decided to go off in search of food.  I walked and walked and walked and finally came upon what may have been the only food cart out there, a Nathan’s Hot Dog cart.  I hate hot dogs, but boy if you’re hungry enough, even a hot dog can taste delicious.  In fact, I had two!  The Twitter timestamp says I posted this at 3:04 PM, and the stadium opened at 4, so this was shortly before they let us go in to get our seats!

Entering the Stadium!

Phew, I feel like I’ve been writing this blog post for eons, and we’re just now getting into the stadium!  Picking up from the last section, once they let all the GA folks through, they finally called for our gate and I managed to be like the 10th person in line for that. It was definitely a very buzzy excited feeling getting ready to go into the venue.  After months and weeks of planning and then waiting in lines all day, everyone was ready to get inside.

Of course there was one more line to go after they opened the big fence – the security line.  I apparently didn’t take any pictures during that period, but they had big K-9 dogs, and a seriously armed police presence at the concert.  We saw groups of officers in full riot gear, and some with what looked like long range rifles.  It was pretty intense, but given the death threats against members of the band and all the recent public shootings, everyone in line with me agreed that we’d rather have more security than less.

The security check was pretty intense, too.  They really did search every single compartment of every single bag I had.  I can’t remember if they physically patted us down, but I did have to remove my jacket and sweatshirt and fanny pack, and they definitely wanded us in addition to going through metal detectors.  It felt as thorough as any airport screening I’ve been through recently.

And then suddenly we were inside!  I must have gotten so excited to actually get to our seats that I forgot I had a camera for a while, because I have no photos of the super posh Porche suite at all.

20181006_164114

GA folks getting in place around the stage, before the music videos started.

I did take a few snaps of the GA folks still streaming in around the stage though, and shortly after that they started playing BTS videos on the big screens.  The screaming and cheering began in earnest at that point, and it didn’t stop until the show was over.  It was sooo loud, you really can’t imagine it.

Somewhere around here, I started streaming live on Periscope, with the intention of streaming the whole show if I could.  I know it’s against the rules, illegal, etc. etc. but.. well, there are a lot of people who really can’t afford the crazy expense of attending a live BTS concert.  As concerts go, it is one of the most expensive shows on the planet.  Seriously, Billboard says it was the most expensive tour of 2018, and that’s just for the tickets.  That doesn’t event count the cost of travel, hotel, food, and the aforementioned expensive merchandise, which I guess isn’t a necessity, but who goes to a concert without buying the t-shirt to prove it?

In any case, I watched a lot of live concert streams in preparation for going to Citi Field, and I was always grateful to the people who risked their seat to stream for all the ARMYs around the world who couldn’t attend, so I intended to try my best to stream, too.  Which I did, for a couple of hours.  Until security came. 🙁   Having the security guy breathing down your neck and risking getting kicked out of a show you really want to see, waited forever to see, and paid a bazillion dollars to see.. Well, I put my phone away.  When I looked at the stream playback much later, it said over 100,000 people had viewed it.  *gulp*  That’s a lot of people.  I’m sorry ARMYs, I really tried.


Another great thing that happened around this point was the arrival of my most awesome seat buddy, Chris.  Like I said before, for the most part, I was fine to attend the concert by myself and I really enjoyed everything solo all day long.  But when Chris showed up, a guy around my age, also by himself, and just super friendly and fun to chat with.. it really made the concert just that much more awesome. We chatted through the whole show and he even helped shield my phone from the security dude for a bit when I was still trying to stream despite the stress of it all, bless his heart.

Chris, I hope you read this post!  Super thanks for being such a fun seat buddy!!  If you’re ever in Cincinnati, definitely ping me and I would go to another show with you anytime, anywhere!  🙂

I don’t have many other pictures of the pre-show since by this time I was streaming, so now it’s on to the show itself!!!  FINALLY!!!!!

And the Show Begins… Breathing the Same Air as BTS!!

I know, I’ve written a whole novel and half and haven’t even gotten to the actual live concert yet.  What can I say, it was a long, fun-filled, busy day!

By the time the show actually started, the crowd was so amped up, with huge swelling screams and cheers and ARMY bombs blinking.  The start of the show was LITERALLY explosive, like fire shot out of the stage!  And it was so LOUD!  And so high energy!  And we’re seeing Idol performed live!  Right in front of us!

I don’t have any pictures because I was still streaming when the show started.  I  hoped to have some of my video footage edited by now to include, but I think it will have to come later or I won’t get the post up this century.

Fake Love from outside the stadium..

I do have a few clips that I filmed after I gave up streaming and after the security dudes departed, but my crappy phone cam footage doesn’t even begin to do justice to what it really felt like.  Singing along to your favorite songs with 40,000 other fans who love it as much as you is really something else.  The energy was insane, I can still feel the vibrations in my chest if I close my eyes and think about it.

20181006_200912

The twinkling ARMY bombs everywhere added so much to the atmosphere..

20181006_195913

I didn’t get even one single great shot of the band. Even though the screens were huge and we could see clearly in person, the light noise and cables and whatnot made it impossible to get a great photo with a phone camera from where we were sitting. That’s ok though, the experience itself was the reason for being there, and the memories are more than enough.

20181006_204205

Seesaw nation rise!

20181006_200149

Serendipity!

20181006_200204(0)

Sparkly Jimin!

20181006_205201

The Truth Untold!

20181006_210203

The best pic I took of V! (That one’s for you Chris!) 🙂

I cried a couple of times.  When Jimin cried, I bawled like a baby. Not my footage, but thanks to the ARMY that caught this on camera. *sniffle*

I cried again during Namjoon’s ending comments.. (JOON FOR PRESIDENT!)

If I’m in the right mood, hearing Magic Shop still makes me cry because I can hear the echo of 40,000 ARMYs singing back to them in one voice.. it was really beautiful. I sang, and screamed, and danced, and cheered, and enjoyed the hell out of those 2.5 hours.

20181006_215159

By the end of the show, we all said our good byes, wished each other safe journeys home, and parted ways. It was really a magical experience.

End of the Show & Heading Home

I’d read about post-BTS-concert depression from other ARMYs, but what they don’t tell you is it starts the very second the show is over.

I felt like I was in a shell-shocked daze as we started herding out of the stadium, and by the time I got outside and back out to the parking lot, I think I stood there for I don’t know how long, just too overwhelmed to even move.

Believe it or not, I didn’t realize until right that moment that I’d planned every detail of my arrival TO the venue, but I had absolutely no idea how to get back to my hotel FROM the stadium.  40,000 people were all trying to leave at the same time, it wasn’t like I could call a cab.  I was so disoriented, I didn’t even know which direction the hotel was in from where I was standing. As more and more people poured out of the stadium, I got swept up in the moving crowd, and just ended up going with flow with no destination in mind.

That was the only moment the whole day that I felt somewhat vulnerable and a little afraid to be alone.  The crowd was still very friendly, but it was dark and chilly and I suddenly felt like I could get lost or disappear and no one would even notice.

Once we got to the outer edges of the parking lot near the street, I sort of came back to my senses and started looking on my phone for options.  There were already huge lines forming for Uber and Lyft drivers, but then Google suggested a ride service I’d never heard of, Juno, so I downloaded and installed it and like MAGIC – even in that insane crowd – a driver in a big black SUV was there in less than 5 minutes to pick me up.  It was fantastic.

I honestly don’t remember much after that.  I know I made it back to my hotel, and I think I was too late for room service so I just crashed.

The next morning, I wandered downstairs to get coffee, where I met some young ARMYs with their dad getting ready to head home.

And a little later at check-out, I met one of the stagehands who had traveled with BTS for their whole North American tour.

I took one last selfie sitting outside the hotel waiting for a cab..

20181007_123236

And then I headed for the airport and flew home..

20181007_102251

Back in Cincinnati with the #CitiFieldFlu

As I mentioned in Part 1 of this series, I got so sick within a day or two of coming home that I basically didn’t get out of bed for a week.  I saw someone on Twitter call it the #CitiFieldFlu, I guess loads of people picked up whatever nasty bug was going around.  By the time I recuperated from that enough to go back to work, I was too busy playing catch-up to write much, so that’s why it took almost a month to get this posted.

I sent a few messages to some of the folks I met at the concert once I’d recovered to thank them again and wish them well, and got back a bunch of nice replies.  And I was super delighted when the Cincinnati ARMY I met at the airport DMd me on Twitter to ask if I wanted to go see Burn the Stage in a couple of weeks.  She was so awesome, she even bought an extra ticket!  Thank goodness, because they sold out while I was too sick to even notice anything.  I’m really looking forward to meeting up with her to see the movie!

At this point, even I’m tired of this post, so I’ll wrap it up quickly.

It’s hard to describe, even with all these words and pictures and videos, just how much I enjoyed the show.  The fans, the concert, the music, the love, the whole experience.

At a time when the political climate in the US feels uglier than anything I can remember in my lifetime (the election is tomorrow as I write this, I am desperately hoping for positive outcome), it felt sooo good to be with sooo many people from soooo many different places and walks of life, all coming together to celebrate and enjoy good music.  It felt soooo good to support a bunch of young guys from the other side of the world and send them our love and appreciation and admiration and all the best hopes for their future.  It’s really a tribute to the boys of BTS, and to Big Hit, and the entire team of professionals who produce and support them that we could all come to New York City and enjoy the show like that.

It made me feel and remember that Obama-style hope, and I’ve really missed that.

Thanks to all the ARMYs I met on my journey for making the trip so special, and to BTS for a concert that I will never forget. I purple you.

💜


 

[1] As a lifelong Constant Reader and huge fan of King’s work, it really wigged me out when he joined Twitter and I realized I could actually send a message to one of my favorite people on planet Earth.  I never did, of course, because that would violate my “don’t bug them”  principle, but I’ve been tempted a time or two.

@stephenking if you ever see this, I’ve loved your writing since I was 8 years old and got grounded for reading The Dead Zone. Thank you, sincerely super thank you, for a lifetime of awesome stories.  <3

[2]  I saw some crazy sasaeng behavior at Citi Field, but thankfully not too much.

[3] I actually purchased tickets THREE times.  The first time, I bought tickets on Stub Hub after losing out in the virtual queue, but I didn’t realize the ticket I bought was for wheelchair users only.  Stub Hub wasn’t very helpful when I contacted them, their only advice was to put the ticket back up for sale and buy another one, which is what I did.  Then a week or so before the concert, Citi Field released a block of box-seat tickets, and even though it was much more expensive, I snagged one of those and then re-sold my second ticket.  I didn’t want to be a scalper jerk, so I always set the ticket prices for what I myself paid, but I lost out on transaction fees and whatnot each time.  I never did the math to total up how much I really paid in the end to see the show, I don’t want to know.

[4]  I bought a couple of items for my trip which I’d like to recommend.  It took hours of scouring Amazon to find a backpack that met Citi Field’s size requirements.  I ended up with the Red Rock Outdoor Gear Drifter Hydration Pack and just left the hydration pack at home.  It was a good purchase, for such a small backpack, I managed to cram a lot in it, and clip a lot on it. I also packed two Jackery Portable Charger Bars (6000mAh) and a Solar Charger RAVPower 24W Solar Panel which clipped to my backpack to keep me fully powered for the whole trip.  My phone never ran out of battery even with constant use and lots of filming.

And last but definitely not least, my favorite purchase of all was something I almost left in the hotel room.  Right before I walked out the door, I clipped the Trekology YIZI Go Portable Camping Chair to my backpack and I spent the rest of the day so grateful that I had it.  Two thumbs up, it really saved my feet!  I even had several offers to buy it from me throughout the day!

The lightweight Trekology camping chair that saved the day and my feet/back.

 


28
Oct 18

#BTSxCitifield Part 2 – Finding BTS + Joining the ARMY = Going to Citi Field

20181006_092151

This post is part of a series, see #BTSxCitifield Part 1 – The Backstory: How Trump and #MeToo led to finding #BTS and joining the ARMY to start from the beginning.


 

Remember when I said I wasn’t sure if I even remembered how to blog since it’s been so long?  Well, I managed to misconfigure an IFTTT trigger and caused an endless loop of alerts about the new blog post being posted to Twitter, which posted a blog post on here that I had tweeted, which triggered a new tweet.. lol.  Like a noob all over again!  Thank goodness a RL friend texted me to let me know about the problem.  Thanks Phil!


 

So back to the story.  Exactly how did a middle-aged (!) white lady living in suburban Cincinnati, Ohio get into a Korean boyband?  In the last post, I talked about my unexpected reaction to the election of Trump and the #MeToo movement, and how my inability to cope with the endless cycle of upsetting news led to an American media/internet blackout.  Shutting off the information flow opened space for new interests and hobbies at a time when I was in need of distraction, and that was the context in which I discovered BTS. [1]

I also mentioned that the first BTS songs to catch my ear were Save Me and Dope, but I’m trying to remember what it was exactly that prompted my deeper dive into BTS.  In the beginning, it was hard to distinguish one boyband group from the next, EXO, Winner, GOT7.. The whole K-pop genre was a stretch for me musically, and I found the “super innocent yet super sexy schoolgirl” vibe of the girl groups especially disturbing.

K-Pop girl group AOA in what appears to be typical “sexy school girl” styling.

Even if they produce a catchy tune, I have a hard time supporting an industry that over-sexualizes young women like that.  I suppose the boy bands are not so different, since sex sells the world over, but it feels somehow less in your face with the men than it does with the women.  I’d say BTS in particular seems to dress fairly conservatively these days, though there are shirt-ripping and belly-showing dance moves from their earlier videos.

BTS in school uniform styling, not sure what year this is from though.

Digging around in my YouTube history (yikes, not recommended!), it looks like a fan-made video I stumbled upon about the BTS “alternate universe” story might have been an early hook.  It’s basically a short film explaining the fictional universe that connects many of their albums and music (sort of like a rock-opera). It tells the story of 7 high-school friends who drift apart, facing their various painful childhoods and personal demons as they grow into adulthood.  But one member, Jin, has the ability to time travel, and as he watches his friends meet one tragic fate after another, he rewinds time searching for what to change to bring them all happiness, failing over and over again in each alternate timeline.

The time-travel story arc crosses several album cycles and if you search for “BTS storyline” on YouTube, you’ll find a plethora of fan-made videos with theories about what all the clues mean.

As a newcomer to the BTS scene, I think it was the fans’ obsessive attention to detail and endless theorizing as much as the storyline itself that caught my interest.  Over the next few months, I began to realize that it was a truly global phenomenon.  Europe, Asia, South America, Africa, North America, all around the world there were crazed passionate fans following these guys’ every move.  It made me wonder how this baby-faced K-pop boyband had somehow developed a following that was so intense it crossed time zones, national boundaries, language barriers, cultural differences, age, sex, gender.

Korean fans (or fans who speak Korean) translate their work into English, and other fans translate it from English into other languages.  On Twitter, which seemed to be the preferred social media channel, there were endless conversations, in every language you can imagine, at any time day or night, sharing, arguing, debating, writing fan fics, producing their own videos, explaining, theorizing, analyzing.  (Look at the live, global BTS feed right now, how many languages do you see?) [2]

And the band was producing a near continuous stream of new content themselves, releasing their new album Love Yourself: Her in September 2017, with new videos, new theories, new tweets and posts.  The synergy between the band and the fans was.. well, crazy.  It sucked me in.

It was like watching a reality television show unfold in real time, except instead of seedy cat-fights and endless love triangles, you had these innocent, hardworking Korean guys from an underdog small-time record label trying to beat the odds, and fans from all over the world cheering them on, and over and over again, I had the thought that the international dialogue happening between BTS fans was so different from the hate-filled “us vs. them” rhetoric happening in the US.  I’m not sure how to describe it, but it felt like… the exact opposite of the toxic brew of ugly Trumpist nationalism.

BTS performing “DNA” at the American Music Awards, November 2017.

By the time they came to the US and performed at the American Music Awards in November, I had passed the threshold from casual observer to proto-fan, and by May of 2018 when Love Yourself: Tear was released (which went on to break a zillion records including landing at #1 on the Billboard charts), I could have passed any “You’re an ARMY If..” quiz.  I even had a handle on all this newfangled fandom jargon (wow it made me feel old) of stanning and biases and ships and K-Diamonds and I-Lovelies.  It wasn’t just the band.  It wasn’t just the music.  It wasn’t just the fans.

The real catch is the thing that unites the fans and the band, an infectious hopeful optimism that crosses every language, cultural, or age barrier.  Even though they are so young, their music tells the story of a group of boys growing up and trying to discover how to live a meaningful life in a world of such disparity.  And even though I’m 42 years old, I’m still trying to figure out how to live a meaningful life in a world of such disparity, too.  Their solo albums and side projects delve into how hard it is to overcome anxiety, perfectionism, and depression, and through their music and countless interviews, it’s clear they’re figuring out that fame and fortune don’t buy happiness if you don’t like yourself.  And here it took me 30-some years to discover that.  How wonderful would it have been if I had realized it in my 20s?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m as cynical and jaded as the next gal. Yes sometimes the lyrics are cheesy, and yes sometimes the music is pure pop syrup, and yes the K-pop machine has an ugly underbelly including sexual abuse, suicide, and contracts that aren’t far from indentured servitude, and yes the band is a commercial, capitalist enterprise making zillions of dollars with their $50+ t-shirts, and lightsticks, and this, that, and the other.  BTS and BigHit Entertainment is a business, BIG business, and they are monetizing the passion of their fans to make a killing (Forbes reported in March 2018 that Big Hit Entertainment was valued at 783 billion KRW, or $687 million USD, I’m sure that’s only gone up since then).  That’s all completely true.

BTS ‘Fake Love’ dance practice session.  Even if you don’t like the music, you can’t tell me that isn’t art.

And.. somehow I don’t care.  Somehow, I’m glad for them.  Somehow I still find sincerity in their finger-hearts and silly smiles, earnestness in their practice videos and sweaty concert performances, optimism and a refreshing naivete in their lyrics and rap wordplay.

Why not a bunch of young guys from Korea who have still have the unbelievable youthful audacity to think they can change the world? 

Ultimately, that’s what turned me into an ARMY.  Adorable Representative MCs for Youth.  At a time in my personal life when I felt despair, I happened upon a global thread of hope through BTS and their fans, a reminder that young people all around the world are struggling, thinking, hoping, trying to find a way to live and move forward, and that the way forward is as it has always been, one step at a time, to just plain not give up.  To not let cynicism win.  A reminder of the joy of music, the release you feel dancing to a good beat, and the inspiration that came from seeing the often smiling, sometimes tired, but still hopeful faces of 7 Korean boys who aren’t yet ground down by the machine, the world, life itself.


A favorite tweet from a few months ago..

As the last album of the Love Yourself cycle came out in August 2018, Love Yourself: Answer (which also went on to break a bazillion records including #1 on the Billboard charts again), BTS and the Adorable Representative MCs for Youth became (part of) the antidote to my Trump depression.  BTS and ARMY culture shows that there are other ways to to respond to the challenges the world faces other than tribalism and building walls, and that good music, good art makes us think, feel, reflect, absorb, change, and no joke, it can be healing.

Anyone who has watched a BTS video has seen the Big Hit Entertainment intro: “Music & Artist for Healing”.  Indeed.

So after all that, I did what every other self-respecting ARMY (who could afford it) did, and started planning a trip to see them live when they came the States for their globally sold-out Love Yourself World Tour.

Coming soon, #BTSxCitifield Part 3 – The fans, the show, the experience – so awesome.

 


 

[1]  My rekindled interest in Korean culture was not my only new diversion.  During an unusually long power outage in November, I dug through the closet and found my guitar, and have been faithfully teaching myself to play (again, but kind of for the first time).  I took piano lessons as a kid, and played clarinet very badly in grade school, but this is the first time that I’ve passed the threshold of playing an instrument well enough to really enjoy it.  And practicing requires a level of obsessive repetition that feels almost meditative, it’s given me an enormous amount of solace.

Don’t make fun, I know I’m not very good at singing OR playing, but that’s the first song I learned after picking a guitar up again for the first time in 20 years. (I’ll say it again, Music for Healing!)

[2] BTS landed in the 2018 Guinness Book of World Records for having the most Twitter engagements, apparently more than Trump and Justin Bieber combined.  I find that really funny for some reason.


22
Oct 18

#BTSxCitifield Part 1 – The Backstory: How Trump and #MeToo led to finding #BTS and joining the ARMY

It has truly been an age since I’ve written an actual blog post. [1]  I may even have forgotten how to do it, I guess we’ll see.  It’s not so much that I haven’t felt the urge to write from time to time, but once you get out of the habit of blogging, it feels insurmountable to start back up again.  And yet here I am, trying to remember my website password on a Saturday morning.

20181006_210206

The impetus for this blog reset was that I wanted to write about the experience of going to see BTS at Citi Field in New York a couple weeks ago. (If you need a primer, here are a few from the Guardian, Rolling Stone, NYT, and Vulture).  Like many, I picked up the #CitiFieldFlu while I was there, so I’ve basically been bedridden or trying to catch up ever since I got back into town, but I hope I can remember everything because I think it might be one of the best trips of my life.  It was not only a great show, the whole trip was the kind of awesome, life-affirming experience that makes you see the world differently when you come back home, and not many concerts can do that.

PART 1:  THE BACK STORY

But to back up a bit, I feel like I have to explain how I got into this Korean boyband in the first place…

It actually starts with the election of Donald Trump, the #MeToo movement, and the absolutely paralyzing trauma I felt near the end of last year.

By mid-2017, as the daily insult and injury of the Trump Administration took my breath away, and every American media outlet, news program, channel, and pop-culture reference  everywhere became All Trump All the Time, I began to experience a kind of cognitive overload and emotional upset that I’d never felt before.  Then in the fall of 2017, the #MeToo movement broke open with one horrific story of abuse after another.  Coupled with the shock and complex emotions that came with each days’ news cycle, I also began to feel a sense of shame that I was having so much trouble even coping with the news.  I’d be heading into work listening to NPR, and suddenly find myself bursting into tears of anger, sadness, fear, horror, and sooooo much disappointment, it’s still hard to comprehend.  Until one day, I just couldn’t cope with it anymore.

Magazine cover picturing all the women accusing Bill Cosby of sexual abuse, with an empty chair representing other women who had not yet come forward.

I turned the radio off.  I turned the TV off.  I canceled my subscriptions to the New York Times and the Washington Post.  I un-followed hundreds of accounts on Twitter.  For many months, I was pretty much offline but for what I absolutely had to do for work and I told everyone in my personal life that I was on a complete news blackout and that I did not want to know what happening.  No, that’s not quite right – it wasn’t just that I didn’t WANT to know, it was even worse than that.  I couldn’t even force myself to look at what was happening.  [2]

My family and friends were shocked and confused, I think, and concerned.  For anyone who knows me at all, tuning out and ignoring things is an extremely uncharacteristic response.  And since the day I first discovered the internets back in 1994, most of my personal hobbies and interests, not to mention my whole career and professional life, has revolved around the internet, activism, and using technology to improve the human condition.  And yet suddenly I found myself unable to engage with any of it.  All of it. I felt compelled to shut the internet off.  [3]

That was about a year ago, in November of 2017.

So what does a person DO when the thing that occupied all of their waking life for all of their adult life suddenly becomes toxic?

A SLOW-SIMMERING INTEREST IN KOREAN HISTORY/CULTURE TURNS INTO A REFRESHINGLY DIVERTING MINI-OBSESSION

How do any of our obsessions begin?  Some tiny niggling seed that takes root and grows into something strange and unexpected.

marypix_composite_005_william-james_in-korea_1950s

My grandpa is in the center kneeling, with Korean children wearing UN hats.  Not sure of the year, 1953 or 1954.

My most recent one has deep roots, if I think about it.  My grandfather on my mother’s side, who I called Dad, served in Korea when he was in the Army, and it’s one of those episodes in the family lore that holds myriad meanings and significances.  Family rumor has it that Mom and Dad got married because she got pregnant after (before?) Dad went to Korea.  Not sure about the timeline there, maybe my mom will correct me. The cherry lacquer wooden bowls that Dad sent back from Korea were a source of bitterness for my aunt Mary when Mom and Dad passed away and we couldn’t find them.  My uncle Frank probably still hasn’t forgiven me that I wouldn’t give up the photographs of Dad in Korea.  (In my defense, I kept them to scan them in so everyone could have them. :P)

After Dad died, I spent many hours scanning in photos and tracing through his life story, and I never could determine exactly where he was stationed in Korea, but I had the thought that I’d like to go there some day.  He didn’t talk about his military experience much, but it obviously helped shape who he was, and if the family rumors were true, I was indirectly a product of his Korean adventure.

IMG_0064

With Dr. Youngkyun Baek and Korean National University of Education graduate students at the University of Cincinnati, 2007.

Another root of my new obsession was a wonderful experience many years ago meeting Dr. Youngkyun Baek, who at the time was an Asst. Professor at Korea National University of Education.  In 2007, he joined the University of Cincinnati with a Visiting Professor appointment and arranged for me to lead a week-long seminar with a group of his graduate students from Korea to discuss the use of Virtual Worlds and Second Life in higher education. That was my first sense that Korean society is far more accepting of and quicker to adopt technology than the US.

IMG_0072

Having a traditional Korean meal with so many side dishes it blew my mind!

It was fascinating and so much fun to spend time with them.  The  language barrier was only a mild impediment to a fun-filled week of exploring virtual worlds during the day, and exploring Cincinnati and Korean culture after class.

IMG_0907

Canoeing the Whitewater River with my new friends.

I’d say it is one of the great regrets of my career that I didn’t stay in better touch with them all.  Maybe I’ll try to reconnect now that I’m less ignorant of Korean culture than I was back then (I feel embarrassed now to think of how much I didn’t know).  If any of them happens to find this blog post, I hope they’ll say hello!

In any case, a few months before my Great Media Blackout of 2017 began, one of the news headlines that contributed to my sense of panic also re-ignited my interest in Korea.  You may recall in August 2017 when headlines like Trump Threatens ‘Fire and Fury’ Against North Korea if It Endangers U.S. began to appear.  For a split second, I was afraid Trump might get us into a nuclear war, and thinking of my conversations with Dr. Baek’s students way back when, I wondered what it must be like to live in South Korea and have that worry constantly.

One thing led to another, and I began reading about the Korean War and South Korea’s military enlistment policy, and then an online friend suggested that I watch a Korean drama on Netflix called Descendants of the Sun if I was interested in how the military experience and North/South relations are portrayed in Korean popular culture.  After that completely addicting experience, I discovered I could add Rakuten Viki and Dramafever apps to my Amazon Prime/Amazon Firestick, and well, let me tell you, once I fell down the K-Drama rabbit hole, there was no turning back.

Next thing I knew, I was ordering books from Talk to Me in Korean (highly recommended!) and getting monthly deliveries of Korea Box (also highly recommended!) and scouring the Cincinnati area for soju.  (I never found it in Cincinnati, you have to go over the river into Kentucky at Party Source.)

It was all a marvelous distraction from the Trump/#MeToo madness, and though I have a lot of critical thoughts about the conservative, patriarchal parts of South Korean culture, it was still a welcome respite to leave the American mediascape behind and learn about a faraway land with their own history and myths and fabulous cuisine.  As you can imagine, once I entered the world of K-Drama, then the music of K-Pop wasn’t far behind.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

One of my favorite songs, so good. #Eagles

A post shared by Fleep (@fleep513) on

My musical tastes are as weird and varied as everyone else’s.  I cut my teeth on a combination of bluegrass gospel from my biological father’s Kentuckian side of the family, and 50’s/60’s bubblegum pop, the Beatles, and “classic rock” from my mom and step-dad.  The Eagles (who I just saw in Cleveland this past weekend!), CSN(Y), and Jackson Browne are in my childhood DNA, and then as an adult, well, it’s too varied to categorize, but I can say in the last decade or so, pop music and hip-hop were not really in the mix.  I remember a couple years ago having the realization that I was Officially Old because I didn’t recognize even one single artist who won a Grammy that year.

So K-Pop was really a field afar for me, and I think I started with some generic “Top K-Pop Hits” playlist on YouTube, as one does these days.  It all sounded kind of the same at first, and then one of the songs starts to grow on you, and then another one, and then you realize, hey, those two songs are by the same group, and then.. and then..

So yeah, that’s how I discovered BTS (Hangul: 방탄소년단; RR: Bangtan Sonyeondan), translated as Bulletproof Boyscouts, also known as the Bangtan Boys, a seven-member South Korean boy band.

For any ARMYs who might be reading, the first song was Save Me.

The second one was Dope.  I had to know who that red-headed dancer was.  (Once you Jimin, you can’t Jimout, as they say.) ((Now OT7 for life.)) =)

This seems like a good place to take a break.

Coming soon:  #BTSxCitifield Part 2 – Finding BTS + Joining the ARMY = Going to Citi Field


 

[1] I looked it up, my last sincerely written, totally original content blog post was in January 2014 about Edward Snowden.  Wow, that’s even longer than I thought.
Re: Snowden – Whistleblowing & Its Consequences and Part 2: Snowden – Whistleblowing & Its Consequences

[2] In the interest of full disclosure, I want to say publicly that I am also a survivor and a victim (even though I hate both terms) of sexual abuse, sexual harassment, and sexual assault.  #MeToo.  Part of my shutdown was undoubtedly related to those past traumas that I thought I had overcome. Obviously not. It’s clear to me now that the way that the Trump election and #MeToo became entwined in my emotional response has as much to do with my personal history as it does with my political identity.

I also want to say that if any other person out there also had a total shutdown response to Trump and/or #MeToo, just know that you are not alone.  I think we’re human and there are limits to how much trauma a person can process.  We all have our own roads of recovery.  I remain truly really grateful for the men and women who had the strength to speak up when I myself did not.

[3] Relatively speaking, of course, I really couldn’t maintain a 100% blackout even with great effort.  In this modern day and age, there really is no total escape no matter how hard you try.

[4] Dramafever was just shut down last week after Time Warner/AT&T bought them, and there was a great wailing heard round the world by K-Drama fans everywhere.  =(


20
Aug 10

SLCC10: Thoughts on the Other Side

“Are you crazy?”  That was pretty much the sentiment when I told friends in April that I’d decided to help try to pull something, anything, together for this year’s Second Life Community Convention.  The timing, the workload, the politics – for all sorts of reasons it felt like a terrifying commitment.  I’d not attended SLCC in 2009, my grandpa had passed away a few months prior and I didn’t have the heart for it, and my experience as part of the organizing team in Tampa 2008 hadn’t been exactly positive.  But when the phone call came…

Stuffing bags and folding tshirts on Thursday…
Image courtsey Sitearm

The hardest part of organizing something in such a short time frame wasn’t the sleepless nights or ignoring the house cleaning (and friends and family) for weeks on end,  it was the fear that it would all be for nothing.  That no one would show up, that no one would come, or worse that the people who had paid to come would ultimately feel it had been a waste of their time and money.  We stressed about the budget, the program, the venue, the logistics, and all the things that every event planner worries about going wrong, and perhaps even moreso given the shortened time line to nail down all the details.

Conversation the night before the convention over drinks.
What’s Wiz Nordberg saying?  Image courtesy DirkMcKeenan

But more than the logistics, and venue, and schedules, and updating the website and all that .. stuff that goes into making a convention, we were far more worried about something less tangible.  Something invisible that it’s harder to put your finger on, that’s hard to even describe – that amorphous “community spirit” that threads through a diverse group of individual people to weave a sense of belonging together, an identity separate from one’s own that makes you feel a part of something larger.   Was the “community” still out there?  Did they still want to come together in person, and especially after such a difficult roller coaster ride of a year for the platform?

Hanging out with Tomkin Euler, fellow Chilbo resident, and Amulius Lioncourt,
one of the 11th hour in-world builders who did an amazing job.

I can only speak for myself, but I am so thankful that the answer to both questions was “yes” – a resounding, boisterous, defiance in the face of all challenges yes.  Yes, the people who discovered something new about themselves and found each other through this platform called Second Life are still out there, and though many could not come due to timing, cost, or circumstance, enough of us made our way to Boston and engaged in the annual ritual of baring our real life avatars for a weekend of fun, laughter, hopefully some learning, and lots of passionate discussion and debate about the future of the metaverse.  I was too busy to engage in much of it myself, but watching it unfold was a beautiful thing to see..

Stopping by to chat with Olivia Hotshot and AJ Brooks at lunch.
Image courtesy OliviaHotshot

The question I heard so many times over the last few months as we planned the convention is why, if the virtual world is so powerful, do people want to come together in person in the first place?  The answer isn’t so simple, but it has something to do with the fact that those of us living simultaneously in the metaverse and the physical world are living complicated lives.   Life itself has no guidebook, but virtual life has even less of one, and there is something inordinately powerful about being in the presence of hundreds of other pioneers in this space who know on a deep level some of the challenges you yourself have faced.

Laughing hysterically with Beyers Sellers..
Image courtesy Imjsthere4fun

Second Life is a platform, a technology, a tool.   But it gave us a glimpse of the future, and in one way or another has forced all of us who have immersed ourselves deeply to ask fundamental questions with a new perspective – Who am I?  Who is Fleep?  Who do I want to be if I can be anything?  What is real?   What is virtual?  What do all these technological changes mean for the future – for me, for society?  And where is this all going, anyway, this platform called Second Life, and this concept we call the metaverse?  Is it stalling?  Is the vision we shared breaking apart or are we just hitting some stumbling blocks?

AvaCon board meeting at PF Chang’s on Thursday…
Fleep Tuque, Misty Rhodes, Peter Imari, Rhiannon Chatnoir

My personal goal for SLCC was to provide a space for that conversation to take place.  Nothing more, nothing less.  All we needed was a place to sleep, a place to eat, and a place to talk.  It didn’t have to be fancy or out of the box, indeed there wasn’t time for that, and the end result was a very conventional convention with some very unconventionally wonderful people.  I think for this year, that was enough, for us to see each other in the flesh, to know that these deeper questions that drive us to put up with the lag and the deficiencies of the platform are not the result of some madness unique to ourselves, but a madness shared by many to understand what the future holds and hopefully to help shape it.

Hugs from Dirk McKeenan at the Avatar Ball.
Image courtesy Debi Latte

And for all those who helped make the conversation possible this year, in world or in Boston, on the web and in Twitter, I hope you feel as I do on the other side of SLCC10:

The community is as strong as ever.  Second Life, and the people who make it meaningful, aren’t dead by a long shot.

The vagaries of a particular platform are like the vagaries of the weather, something we must deal with but that doesn’t control our destiny unless we let it.

The future of the metaverse is as exciting today as it was five, ten years ago.

I can’t even think too much of next year right now, I’m too tired.  🙂   But I hope we can do an even better job facilitating that conversation in 2011.  Thank you to everyone who made it possible and I hope you’ll join us next time around.


1
Nov 09

Twitter Lists, Google Wave, & Verizon’s Droid Phone

Twitter Lists

Twitter recently added the ability to categorize the people you follow into “Lists”, with quick links on your right sidebar to the status updates of all the people in that category.  Your lists can be public or private, with private lists only visible to you, and other people can follow your lists en masse or see the individual people you’ve added.

You can check out my Twitter lists to see if any of them interest you (though I’m not done adding people yet!).

TheNextWeb has a “how-to” guide if you’re not sure how Twitter Lists work, and so far it seems like it’s working out pretty well for me, despite the fact I’ve only got some small percentage of the people I follow categorized. Wow, talk about tedious work to add people!  New twitter users won’t have this problem since they can add folks to lists as they go along, but for those of us who have been around a while, this is a major chore.  I’m trying to do a few more each time I sit down at the PC, but it’s kind of slow going.

Still, the functionality seems worth the effort, since this gives you an easy way to “check in” with different categories or communities of people you follow, much like we’ve been able to do with 3rd party apps like Groups on TweetDeck.  As I posted to Twitter, I’m creating lists based on what’s most useful for _me_, not with the intention of creating a great list for someone else to follow, though if someone else finds a list of mine useful, more power to them.

Besides the obvious, I see a few other good or interesting uses for Twitter Lists:

  • Vanity list checking: It may be completely vain on my part, but I’m finding it interesting to see how people categorize my tweets and what tags they use to describe me when they put me on a list.  Many of them are obvious like “secondlife” or “education” but some of them have been surprising.  It’s also another example of how YOU are not always in control of your “brand” or your identity on the web.  What if someone put me on a list called “totaljerks” or something?
  • Making lists for your followers, instead of for yourself. I’ve seen some folks making lists called “recommended” or “moversandshakers” where it seems like people are aggregating lists less for their own consumption and more to help their followers find OTHERS to follow.  If that makes sense.  I definitely would be more judicious in my choices if I made a “recommended tweeters” list than I have been with the lists I’ve created so far, so perhaps curating a good list will become a useful Twitter skill.  I think I might try that once I get through the first phase of adding folks to lists.
  • Lists as another metric of quality. I don’t think this is very useful yet, as most established twitterers are probably, like me, still in the process of getting all their followers categorized.  But once lists are being used ubiquitously (and I think they will be), this feature adds a new metric to judge the quality of a tweeter before you add them.  Now, in addition to their profile and number of people they follow/follow them, you can also see how many people took the time to add them to a list, and what kinds of tags they use to describe them.   Hopefully this will be a less game-able metric than sheer numbers of followers, but I guess we’ll see.
  • Lists will be great for newbie Twitterers. I hope lists will help people new to Twitter get engaged with communities of interest more quickly than before.  If I introduce someone to Twitter and I know they also dig Second Life, I can point to that list as a great starting point.   They can either follow the whole list, or sort through it to pick and choose individual people to follow.
  • As a corollary, raiding your friends’ lists for new people to follow just got a whole lot easier since you can follow people only from the communities you’re most interested in.

My biggest complaint, other than not having an easy way to add multiple people to a list quickly, is that Twitter perversely orders your lists in the REVERSE order you created them, so my most frequently used lists are at the bottom rather than the top.  I hope they fix that little issue quickly.

Also, has anyone come across any iPod/iPhone apps that include list functionality yet?  It looks like Tweetie2, my favorite Twitter app, doesn’t do that yet.

Other than those complaints, I’d say Twitter Lists is two thumbs up.  Yay for tools that help break big info streams down into more manageable chunks!

Google Wave

Wish I could offer the same enthusiasm about Google Wave, touted as an alternative to email, but I must say my initial experience is “less than impressed”.  (And no, I don’t have any invites to give yet, I’ll let you know as soon as I do!)

I know this is still a beta service (what google service isn’t in perpetual beta?) but I guess I expected something more.. intuitive? easy? fast? useful?    At least on my machine, Google Wave is very slow to load everything – contact lists, inbox, and especially the content of the wave.   I even get such terrible typing lag when I try to make a reply that it sometimes takes 3 or 4 seconds for what I’ve typed to show up on the screen.  Reminds me of the 1200 baud modem days, waiting for things to appear.

Other sundry complaints:   Navigating through a wave is kind of tedious, I can’t tell what I’ve already seen and what’s new.  The scroll bar dealie on the right confuses me, the arrows at the top and bottom don’t actually jump you to the top or bottom of the wave.  Playback on a big wave either doesn’t work at all or goes very slowly and I can’t figure out how to speed it up (plus it seems to crash FF from time to time).  In general, I just can’t figure out why I would use this instead of email..?

I’ll give it some time and keep playing.   As I said, I know it’s early days for Wave, so perhaps I’ll see more utility when it’s more useable from a lag/organization standpoint.  But first impressions can be tough to shake and my first impression of Wave is it’s doing the opposite of Twitter Lists, instead of making big info streams more manageable, it seems to turn manageable email chunks into one big info stream.  Not a fan yet.

Verizon’s Droid Phone

Ok, I lied, I haven’t actually gotten my hands on one yet, even though @tom_streeter had one in the office last week, I was too darned busy at work to pester him about it.

For those of us who are on Verizon’s network, and thus unable to get an iPhone (insert major annoyance here), we’ve been waiting and waiting for a smartphone alternative to the iPhone and the web chatter says the Motorola Droid is Verizon’s first possible competitor.    CNet has the best review I’ve seen so far, and several Cincinnati area tweeters were given a first look through a Verizon promotion #droiddoescincy so you can see some real people reviews.

Me, I’m definitely keep an eye on it, but I don’t want “the next best thing” to an iPhone.  I want something equal to or better than an iPhone, otherwise, I think I’ve got most bases covered between my current phone and the iPod Touch I recently picked up.

So, uh, Tom, if you still have it next week, can I take a peek?  🙂


10
Jan 09

2008: The Year of Limits

I started writing this post in 2008 but didn’t get it finished before the year ended, even with the extra second. In light of the subject, perhaps that is quite apropos.

Like most of you, I’ve been reading all of the end-of-year retrospectives and predictions posts, and scrolling through the “year in photos” or video clips or whatever, caught up in refreshing my memory about just how many things happened in 2008. Wars, elections, economic meltdowns, media shifts, massive natural and man-made disasters, and that’s not even including all my personal stuff. It was a crazy year no matter how you slice it!

And though it is.. overwhelming to absorb this barrage of our collective memories on the net, I do think there’s value to the tradition of reflecting on the year just past and the year ahead. If it’s honest reflection, and you or someone else learns from it, then there can never be too much of it so I refuse to apologize for the length of this post. =)

2008: The Year of Limits

In reflecting on 2008, my experience was one of recognizing “limits”. Some of them are absolute limits, but some of them are just current limitations that I know will change in the future. Some of them are artificial limits, too, and those seem to deserve special attention since it’s easy to make bad choices if you’re working with falsehoods.

The list below describes some of the limits I ran into in 2008…

1. The limits of American-style “free-market” capitalism

Wall Street I won’t belabor the point, we’ve all heard plenty of analysis and finger-pointing, but I will repeat the headline from my initial blog post at the beginning of the end of the beginning of the crisis:

Privatizing Gains, Socializing Losses

On the days when I feel most pessimistic, I think the TARP bailout is nothing more than a wholesale absconsion of our national treasury with perhaps more on the way. So far at least, the US government seems to be much more concerned about the troubles of our corporate citizens than the troubles of our human citizens. On my optimistic days.. I have the teensiest bit of hope that _someone_ _somewhere_ will have the will and the power to do what’s best for the people, not just what’s best for the corporations.

The economic problems have limited the options for many people I know – friends and relatives laid off, retirement nest eggs shrunk to nothing, people unable to sell or buy houses and get on with life. On a personal level, I haven’t felt this economically pinched in a long time. My modest university salary isn’t keeping up with the rate of change very well and in 2008 I began to really hit the limit of my budget in ways that cause me to question what I’m doing, how I’m doing it, and how much I can scale back.

Of course, many people are in tight situations right now, that’s why they call it a recession! But it’s what choices you make when you start to hit those limits that define who you are as a person and as a people.  The government (of the people, by the people, for the people) has choices, too. I guess we’ll see in 2009 what choices we all make in light of these new limits and I hope for all of our sakes that they turn out to be good choices.

2. The limits of American racism

Change

Of all the limits on my list, this one felt really good to bump up against. I can’t say how immensely proud I am of my country for the results of the 2008 presidential election. I am relieved to know that the president-elect’s middle name is Hussein and his last name sounds like Osama, and he’s black, and spent some time living in a Muslim country, and grew up in a non “2 parent/2.1 kids” houseshold, and that none of these things kept him from being elected. Not that racism has ended by any means, but this was an example of its limits and it really does give me hope.

On the personal side, my 74 year old grandpa who still refers to people as “colored” from time to time, and who has been a staunch Republican voter all of his life, actually voted for a black Democrat. Yes Virginia, hell really did freeze over! I can’t take 100% credit for this change of course, but we had a lot of downright difficult and uncomfortable conversations about race, so this year’s election felt like a personal victory as much as a national milestone.

3. The limits of the American educational system and limits to learning online

It’s possible I am living in a concrete-reinforced, super-duper-thick, no-sound-enters-or-escapes echo chamber, but it seems that everywhere I turn, everyone from _everyone_ is convinced that the American educational system is in desperate need of a massive, major overhaul. In my own neck of the woods, Ohio is in the process of implementing a state-wide university system, several education related organizations that are funded by the state are being abolished or merged, and a couple of universities including my own are switching from quarter systems to semesters (not as simple as it may sound and more expensive than you might think).

So change is happening already in a pretty big way, but I’m not sure how much these changes will address some of the underlying problems. One of which, I am convinced, is a staggering lack of understanding about the power of current IT/web/net based technologies. There is increasing curiosity at all levels – thank goodness or I wouldn’t have a job! But from administrators to faculty to staff, I’m perpetually shocked by how little others use the web even for basic things,like as a reference system. Everyone now uses email, of course, and LMS adoption has increased tremendously in both breadth and depth of use, and the core university business and billing systems are state of the art, but the social media/personal empowerment side of the web doesn’t seem to have penetrated academia very much yet at all. You might be surprised how many faculty don’t know about using quotes in google searching, for example, or who don’t read the blogs of their peers from other institutions.

I find that pretty distressing for a lot of different reasons, not least of which because this lack of understanding really limits my choices as a student (or potential customer, if you prefer).

The first problem is that the thing I want to study not only doesn’t have its own discipline or recognized curriculum, most people aren’t even aware it exists! My area of study is the metaverse and I spend far more time trying to demonstrate that it is “real” (ie has real impact) and justifying why we should be studying it than anything else. What time I do get to spend on actual research doesn’t count towards tenure, and unfortunately, most of my output is in blog posts and wikis and PDFs and Second Life builds, and none of these things will get me a degree either. They aren’t “accredited” kinds of output.

The second problem is that even if I could find a good fit in a program, then what? Will I be able to bear sitting in a classroom with a bad teacher who regurgitates the text book and wants me to regurgitate it too? Will I be able to keep my trap shut when we all hand in our papers to the prof and learn nothing from each other instead of sharing them so we all learn more?

When I think of it, I tend to tell myself and others that I can’t find the time or money to go back to grad school right now (artifical limit, I’m sure I COULD if I were willing to radically alter my life), but the truth is something different: I can’t bear the thought of fitting my learning style back into that crummy old model when I’ve found something 1000000 times better – the entire web is my school, my laboratory, and my teacher. I would guess that in 2008 I read more reports, white papers, and peer-reviewed journal articles (and thousands of blog posts and news articles), attended more lectures by more world-class thinkers and teachers (and talked to them, individually!), and had more hands-on, active and engaging learning experiences than I have ever had in any other year of my entire life – in school or out. I also spent a heck of a lot of time reflecting on what I learned, sharing it with others, collaborating on shared learning experiences, and had a few pretty nice milestone publications of my own.

Everywhere I look, I’m butting up against limits. Limits of the existing system, limits to people’s understanding about what it is I want to study, limits in program and curriculum choices, personal limitations (financial, practical, selfishly wanting to learn MY way instead of THEIR way)..

Furthermore, despite the free and wonderful education I received from the intarnets this year, I also learned that there are limits here too. There are limits to how much information I can process, how many connections I can form, and how many channels of communication I can keep up with. There are absolutely, most definitely limits to how many emails I can process in a day. There are limits to how much I can learn on my own unaided by others. I often have questions, need help, need guidance, need mentoring, need direction. I know without a doubt my work and output would improve if I had a better foundational understanding of both the technology that makes the metaverse possible and the research that already exists about human behavior in online environments. I don’t for a second believe I can “master” this material all on my own, even with the tremendous resources the web offers.

And of all my learning experiences online this year, I’m perhaps most grateful for my experience with the Connectivism & Connective Knowledge MOOC (Massively Open Online Course), because it _broke_ some (artificial) limits in my understanding about what a “class” is and could be, reinforced some limits I was aware of (how much info/connections/channels I could keep up with), and gave an example of how universities might overcome limits in how many students they reach.

Without a doubt, these limits are frustrating, but not altogether discouraging. It just means there’s much work to be done, and I sincerely hope decision makers at the institutional level are paying attention to technology, but at the same time, I also hope that those of us using and evangelizing technology are being honest about its limits even as we explore its promises.

And speaking of technology evangelism…

4. The limits of personal evangelism

My suitcases are tattered from so many cross-country flights here there and everywhere talking about Second Life, Web 2.0, and the emerging metaverse. I gave talks at conferences and workshops and lunches, to teachers, professors, administrators, instructional designers, businesses, entrepreneurs, laywers, government employees.. so many different sectors of society. What I’ve taken from all my days on the road is that there’s a real lack of perceived value and ROI. 1) People need to see more evidence that this technology is useful for accomplishing their goals before they will be willing to invest the time and resources it takes to get to successful implementation. 2) The technology itself must become cheaper and easier to use.

This is not revolutionary news, I know. But I’m reminding myself because as I mentioned above, I genuinely hope to do more research into those areas so that the next time I spend all day flying across the country just to give a two hour talk, I feel like it was really and truly worth the trip for me and the audience and the university that paid for me to do it.

I guess this means my “zealot phase” (and hopefully “self-righteous jerk phase”) is over for the moment. That isn’t to say that I’ve given up, but rather that I’ve learned the limits of what I, Fleep can do alone. I need to start leveraging my networks better and work in collaboration with more people instead of running myself ragged trying to do too much alone.

5. Limits of the Second Life platform and our current Metaverse

Of course, the job of evangelizing would be a lot easier if the thing itself were easier. Alas, we face some tough issues. The metaverse as a concept is mind-boggling for many, the best iteration of it at the moment (Second Life) is hard to use and has serious limitations, and everything else out on the horizon is still in alpha/beta phase.

I really can’t stress enough what an obstacle our current lack of.. vocabulary is. What is a virtual world? What is the metaverse? What the heck is Castranova talking about with all this synthetic stuff?

Earlier this year when I was struggling with the Looking to the Future: Higher Education in the Metaverse piece, the hardest part was explaining what the metaverse currently IS, nevermind what it might be in the future. Here’s what I wrote:

In its current context, the metaverse is a complex concept. For the purposes of this article, the definition in the Metaverse Roadmap will suffice: “In recent years, the term has grown beyond Stephenson’s 1992 vision of an immersive 3D virtual world, to include aspects of the physical world objects, actors, interfaces, and networks that construct and interact with virtual environments. . . . The Metaverse is the convergence of 1) virtually-enhanced physical reality and 2) physically persistent virtual space. It is a fusion of both, while allowing users to experience it as either.”

In short, we can imagine multiple and myriad digital mirrors of the real world existing alongside multiple and myriad digital worlds that do not represent the real world, all used for a variety of purposes, tied into a variety of communication methods, and populated by any user with Internet access, as well as a steady stream of data originating from objects and devices in the real world.

That’s awful! A mouthful of confusing stuff and I feel very disappointed in myself that I couldn’t find a better way to communicate it. That’s a limitation I (we) must break through in the coming years.

Beyond the limits of our terminology, there are serious limits with existing platform(s) that can’t be ignored either. I still believe that anyone interested in the metaverse must be in or at least paying attention to Second Life – Linden Lab’s platform and the OpenSim derivatives are the most promising metaverse project on the horizon, and perhaps more importantly, the people using, working, and playing in Second Life simply _are_ the vanguard.

But Linden Lab’s Second Life, and the alpha-stage OpenSim grids, are still extremely limited in their enterprise use. Whether the intention is to use it as a social or collaboration space, or as a modeling and prototyping space, or to explore the new frontiers of music and art made possible in these worlds – the platforms need a LOT of work across the board, from the GUI to reliability to providing access to other digital content. Sadly, after 5 years of being out of beta, Second Life’s group IMs still don’t work reliably.  I can’t show a flash or .wmv movie in Second Life, can’t collaboratively access webpages and documents with others easily, and it takes forever and 50 steps to do something as simple as making a prim clickable to launch a webpage.

And those are the simplest technical limitations that need to be overcome. That’s not even getting into the wet, squishy world of legal, philosophical, and social questions: content creator rights, intellectual properly, who has jurisdiction, who governs these spaces, code as law, what’s happening with all of the data we generate from “living” in these spaces and how can we protect ourselves from its misuse, what are the social implications for communities moving to the metaverse, and on and on and on..

In other words, we have a LOT of work to do.

6. The limits of Will Wright

Yes, I’m sorry, this one gets a whole bullet point of its own. Do you have ANY IDEA how long I waited, and with how much _anticipation_ I waited for the release of Spore? (Many many years, and a lot, respectively.)

Others have done a much better job than I in analyzing just why it was such a rotten egg, but I think that might be my biggest (most trivial) disappointment of the year.   I don’t know where it all went so wrong, Will, but dude, you really let us down.

(Sorry, needed a little levity before tackling #7..)

7. The limits of life itself

In late 2007, we learned that my Dad (grandpa, actually, but my dad in all other ways)  had stage-4 metastatic lung cancer that had already spread to his adrenal glands. By mid-2008, it had spread to his spine.  Helping to take care of him through this battle with cancer has been excruciating and it affected every single day of the year for me.

I know that death is a part of life. I know that death is inevitable. I know that I am neither the first nor the last person to lose a parent or to lose a loved one to cancer. I know that some day I will die. I know all of these things, but I’ve never _felt_ them until now.  In my heart, I know it’s a minor miracle that he’s survived more than a year past the initial diagnosis, and it’s a gift that we’ve had all this time to say goodbye, share memories, and adjust to the hard reality. But it has also irrevocably changed my sense of time. I see the limits it imposes on us all in the starkest of terms now.

This experience has also made me wonder how on earth people without families or support networks manage in the face of serious illness (something we’re all bound to face) because without a doubt, I have finally seen the limits of the American health-care system up close and personal.

Wow, what a wreck. I don’t even know where to begin. The absurdities of insurance claims and Medicare, Part-D and doughnut holes, hospital staff that don’t even put on clean gloves unless you ask them too, different doctors with different charts and lab results and patient information systems that don’t talk to each other, medication regimens that require a PhD and 50 gazillion bottles, refills, and dosages to keep up with, doctors prescribing medications that conflict with pre-existing orders… the list goes on and on and on and on. It’s insane. INSANE.

Our family care-team is made up of four intelligent, literate, capable people and we can’t really keep track of it all. The hoops are simply ridiculous, the cracks in the system are more like black holes, and for all the mistakes or near-mistakes we’ve caught, I fear to think of all the ones we didn’t. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my deep bitterness that the _only_ part of the American health-care system that appears to be using IT efficiently is the damned billing systems. Sharing information about the patient to improve care? That’s a spaghetti mess, but they can sure share information about how much it all costs!

Perhaps my viewing the year 2008 from this prism of limitations is all the result of Dad’s cancer; maybe it’s colored my view so much that limits are all I see at the moment. But I don’t really think so. When I look at what’s happening in a broader context, I see that the American economic, education, and health care systems aren’t the only large-scale systems and institutions that appear to be feeling the strain.

For one, the financial/economic crisis is definitely a global one. It’s not an indivual experience, or a national experience, it’s a global one. Even those who haven’t felt the pinch yet have certainly felt the fear.

For another, I believe wars and violence result when political systems fail. Mumbai. Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan, Palestine, Georgia, and many more places besides, deaths caused by people killing other people, caused by the limits of our existing political institutions.

Human activity in combination with completely “natural” weather and geological phenomena are rapidly, and I mean RAPIDLY changing our environment. The very finite resources of the planet and the real consequences of natural disasters are absolute limits that we simply can’t afford to ignore. The earthquake in Sichuan, China killed almost 70,000 people. The Nargis cyclone in Myanmar killed almost 135,000 people. Predictions seem to indicate that more trouble is on the way, and for the most part, our individual, national, and global responses to these challenges have seem limited by disorganization, misinformation, and a terrible refusal to plan for the reality we all know is coming. It’s absurd. And frightening.

I should probably stop there, this post already turned into something of a monster and I could go on in this vein for quite a while. But the lingering question I have at the end of all this reflection is this:

Have we reached the limits of our patience with behaviors and systems that just plain don’t work anymore?

I sure hope so, because the upside, the real benefit to recognizing these limits, is the ability to leap into the paradigm-shift – and leap we must.

The parameters aren’t what you thought they were.

The rules of the game are changing.

The world of the 21st century is different than the world of the 20th.

The sooner we come to terms with it, the sooner we can start dealing with it. These limits – even the artificial ones – really need to, can, and must be addressed.

I don’t know if I’m up for all the challenges I see looming in the days ahead, with my work, my personal circumstances, with Dad’s cancer. I don’t know how to best prepare, either, but if I’m sure of anything after 2008, it’s that I don’t have a choice about it anymore. The changes are already coming too thick and too fast to ignore, best get with it, buckle down, and get ready.

(And 10 days after the new year, I finally get this posted.  Hooray.)

Continue reading →


19
Oct 08

Conferences and Projects and Articles – Oh My!

Since the start of school in September, it’s been a whirlwind of activity! Like Dorothy, I’m trying hard to stay on the yellow brick road, but the poor blog suffers when I get too busy. Here’s a quick update though on a number of exciting things..

University of Cincinnati Galapagos Islands Project

Progress continues on the Galapagos Islands project, and I have to give all due credit to my student assistant Ferggo Pickles for his truly excellent work in creating the sculpted animal models! News of our project is spreading and we’ve gotten very kind mentions in EDUCAUSE Review, the Chronicle, and even Virtual World News! Another blogger discussed our work too, but I wasn’t sure if it was positive or negative considering we don’t have any plans for visitors to pull the tails of lizards. =)

Chilbo Community

Incredibly, the Chilbo Community marks its two-year anniversary this month! We held a Chilbo Town Hall Meeting this afternoon, and I managed to complete the 2008 CCBP Annual Land Census and am preparing to distribute the 2008 Resident Census in the next few weeks. A note to any Chilbo residents reading this – you’ll have to complete the survey to keep your house or store in Chilbo, so be sure to read that email when it comes! Aside from all of the professional opportunities I’ve had because of Second Life, I must say Chilbo – the place and the people – is my favorite spot in the Metaverse. Whatever serendipity led me to meet such great people, I’ll never know, but I continue to be grateful that I did.

Connectivism Course

The Connectivism & Connective Knowledge course continues into Week 7, and I have fallen woefully behind on the readings, and even missed the last couple of meetings in Second Life! Still, the Connectivism Village continues to receive a high amount of foot traffic and I keep getting emails that people really enjoy the resources we’ve provided there, so I’m hopeful that the sometimes asynchronous nature of our connections in online networks doesn’t dilute the usefulness of the space. I hope things will be a little calmer this week and that I’ll get to attend the next Second Life cohort sessions!

EDUCAUSE 2008

I have the privilege of working with AJ Kelton (SL: AJ Brooks) from Montclair State University and Joe Essid (SL: Ignatius Onomatopoeia) from Richmond University again this year to stream in the EDUCAUSE 2008 Virtual World Constituent Group Annual Meeting into Second Life in a few weeks. How often do you get to work in an evening gown! Looking forward to the conference itself, and the Second Life interaction. Are you coming to EDUCAUSE this year? Leave a comment and let’s meet up!

What: EDUCAUSE 2008 Virtual World Constituent Group
When: Wednesday, October 29th, 2008
Time: 4:55pm to 6:10pm EST (1:55pm to 3:10pm SLT)
Where: Orlando, FL and in Second Life
SLurl: http://slurl.com/secondlife/Montclair%20State%20CHSSSouth/129/158/22

Learning, Libraries, & Technology 2009

Another symptom of the “too busy!” syndrome – I almost missed the opportunity to put in a proposal for the Learning, Libraries, and Technology 2009 conference! Formerly called the Ohio Digital Commons for Education, the new name didn’t ring a bell when I saw the Call for Proposals in my in-box – doh! Thankfully, my good friend Brenda Boyd (SL: Stargazer Blazer) at Miami U gave me a poke with a sharp stick about submitting something – thanks Brenda! This is without a doubt one of the best educational technology conferences I attend all year. Ohio educators especially should go to meet and network with great colleagues, learn about what’s happening in the state, and to get new ideas to bring back to your home institution. In the years that I’ve attended, I don’t think I’ve ever come away from it without learning something new and immediately useful. Will cross my fingers on the proposals!

I’m sure there’s something else I’m forgetting, but that’s it for today’s updates. Hope everyone else is having a great quarter or semester so far, and maybe doing a better job of keeping up with everything than I am!

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

9
Sep 08

SLCC & SLEDcc 2008: Thank You!

The Second Life Community Convention 2008 and Second Life Education Community Conference 2008 wrapped up in Tampa, FL and in Second Life on Sunday afternoon, two days ago, but it is only now that I am relaxed and awake enough to write about it. I think the things that affect us most profoundly are the hardest to put into words, but I’m gonna take a stab at it.


Last educators standing for the final panel on SL media at SLCC07 in Chicago.

My first SLCC was last year, in Chicago, and I remember driving up with such a feeling of.. trepidation and worry. I remember wondering if all those people I’d met and worked with during the organizing of the Second Life Best Practices in Education 2007 conference would like me in Real Life, worried what the dress code would be, worried I’d not feel as comfortable with people in person as I was in our virtual spaces. I ended up having a really good time, met so many great people, and spent the next year strengthening those friendships through all of our online interactions and at other educational conferences throughout the year.


Intellagirl, Fleep, Typewriter, and Decka at Emory’s Virtual Worlds conference, Feb 2008. Image courtesy Decka Mah.

This year leading up to SLCC, I didn’t have time to be nervous. Organizing the SLEDcc component of the conference was a staggering amount of work! (At some point, I really should write about the differences in organizing a real world conference that served some 4-600 people and organizing a virtual world conference that served 1300 people. With NO QUESTION, the virtual conference served more for far less work, money, time, and effort. Holy smokes. But that’s another post for another time…)


Wainbrave, Frans, Rhiannon, Fleep, Armath, and Jeremy Braver outside the hotel in Tampa.

No, this year I didn’t have time to worry or be self-conscious, there wasn’t any time for it, and when I flew in on Wednesday, got unpacked, my only thoughts were of details and things to do and being anxious to see all of my friends. Looking back on it from the other side now, all I can say is that it felt like the most excellent of family reunions – there truly is nothing better in life than spending good time with great friends.


Jeremy Koester and Sarah Robbins hanging out in the hotel lobby at SLCC08.

I think in any large scale event like this, you come into contact with so many people so rapidly, things begin to blur together, for me in just a general warm happy feeling. But I want to be sure to acknowledge, personally, the people who really made this a terrific experience for me, and I think for the whole of the SL community.


Carol Tucker and Scott Merrick, leaders of “The Stream Supreme Team” made the cross-world connection with those in Second Life possible. Image courtesy Scott Merrick

My personal heroes, the ones who I worked with and was helped by, and who gave so selflessly of their time, their equipment, their expertise, and their passion for Second Life that I simply must call them by name are Jonathon Richter, Jennifer Ragan-Fore, Scott Merrick, Carol Tucker, Suzie Medders, Jeremy Kemp, Daniel Livingstone, AJ Kelton, Anthony Fontana, Bonnie Mitchell, Sarah Robbins, Mark Bell, and Jeremy Koester.


AJ Kelton and others live blogging, twittering, and supporting SLEDcc sessions. Image courtesy http://flickr.com/photos/nkellett/

In one way or another, their contribution to the SLEDcc in Tampa was crucial to its success – they were the ones who answered the call when something absolutely needed to be done and could only happen if someone with a big heart jumped in to do it. I hope you guys know the depth of my affection and appreciation. Thank you so very much. <3 <3 <3


Fleep and Joyce trying to get the programs and sponsor stuff situated.

If I thought it would really convey the awe I feel for all of the presenters and volunteers, I’d list every one of them by name too -it seems like I never really got to sit down and hear all the presentations or thank each person who was working behind the scenes because I was on the go running from place to place myself, but every time I looked into a room, I saw passionate people giving great talks about things they worked on, believed in, and wanted to share with others, helped by great volunteers who were on stand by to solve problems, gopher supplies, stuff bags, and more.


Jeremy Koester manning the SLEDcc Game Control table. 7 of diamonds ftw!

I saw the products of their work in smooth sessions, great handouts and resources, terrific machinima and reports, and the collective and growing wisdom of the educational community in Second Life – I saw the pioneers of this field in person, I got to meet them and hug them and share meals with them, and I feel so tremendously lucky to be in such good company. As colleagues, as friends, the people who share their Second Life work with others are what make SLED special, no matter our other affiliations. Thank you one and all for your terrific work.


Peter freaking out on day 1 of the SLCC! Image courtesy Nexeus Fatale.

It was in Tampa, too, that I finally got to meet the voices on the phone from The Future United. Peter, Leo, Misty, and Joyce, through all those many months of stressing over the details and logistics, were a joy to work with. It’s easy for those of us in the education community to stay engrossed in our work, but SLCC really makes you look up and see all of the diversity in Second Life, and that’s what these guys did for me.


Nexeus working even during the party! Image courtesy Nexeus Fatale.

When they talk about “the community”, they are inclusive of everyone, and they taught me to see more than just the needs of educators in planning a celebration of all of Second Life’s residents. After working with them in person in Tampa, I came away thinking that we have a lot of work to do for 2009, and I can’t wait to get started.


Fleep with Robert Bloomfield of Metanomics fame.

I didn’t mean for this to turn into a big thank you note, but it seems to be coming out that way. I guess it’s because SLCC this year was such a gift for me. As some may know, my grandfather has been very ill and these past few months have been grueling and hard trying to keep up with work and still spend as much time as I can with him. I’d reached such a state of utter exhaustion leading up to SLCC, I almost didn’t come at all. I worried about spending the time away from my family at such a difficult time, I worried I wouldn’t be able to handle all the pressure of pulling things off.. I didn’t even realize what a huge and wonderful support network of friends I had behind me.


Peggy Sheehy, Sarah Robbins, Mark Bell, Carol Tucker, and Scott Merrick at the streaming table.

Sitting here even now, it really makes me teary to think of all the people who gave me a hug and told me they were thinking of and praying for me and my family. I had no idea how much joy and respite it would give me to spend a few days with such warm, caring people, my good friends. Instead of coming back feeling drained and exhausted, I’ve come back feeling rejuvenated and reminded what it is that we’re all working for – a better life, real and virtual, for ourselves, our friends, our families, our communities, and our world. I’ve come back feeling rested and recharged, inspired anew in my passion for Second Life and the people that create it.


SLEDcc folks doing a late tour of the facilities in preparation for the start of SLEDcc!

And I guess in the end that’s what makes SLCC so special. When people gripe about the ticket cost (which is really unfair because the planners do everything they can to make it as absolutely affordable as possible and still put on a good, high quality show) or wonder why anyone would bother coming to the Second Life Community Convention, I wish I could explain what makes it special. They ask, isn’t it just a big geek meet with weird laptop toting people?


Sloodle and Rockcliffe U at SLCC08.

The answer is yes and no, we’re all weird in our own ways, and you’re sure to spot a laptop or a geek around every corner, but of all of the conferences, conventions, and meet ups I attend throughout the year, SLCC is special. For whatever reason, Second Life inspires a kind of creativity and diversity and range of passions in people that when we come together in person, it feels as much like a festival and a celebration of life itself as it does a convention or a conference about a technology.


Bonnie Mitchell, Steven Hornik, and Ken Hudson at Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center social mixer.

As I look at all the pictures on Flickr, and see all of those happy, smiling faces, I feel blessed, lucky, and privileged to have been a part of it. My only regret is the time I didn’t get to spend with sooo many people who I really wanted to be with and just couldn’t, but was glad that I at least had a few snatched moments to meet and hug in person – Cybergrrl, Crap, Draxtor, Bjorlyn, Harper, Bevin, geez I could go on for days. And for all the people who weren’t there this year, whose presence was sorely missed (Randy, Prokofy, Dizzy, Douglas, KJ, Joanna, Chilbo, I’m talking to you!), I can only hope to see you at SLCC next year. It was a spectacularly great time.


Jonathon and I finally taking a break!

To Jonathon and all my personal friends at SLCC, Velks and all, I don’t think I need to say anything else other than thank you. I love you guys and I can’t wait until we see each other again. xoxo.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

12
Aug 08

Metanomics: Fleep “On the Spot” About SLEDcc 2008

On Monday, Metanomics host Robert Bloomfield (SL: Beyers Sellers) put Education Correspondent Fleep Tuque “On the Spot” about the upcoming Second Life Education Community Conference 2008 (SLEDcc), part of the official Second Life Community Convention in Tampa, FL from September 5 – 7th.


(Click the image to view video)

Fleep discussed the genesis of the SLEDcc name and gave an overview of the six conference strands and upcoming sessions in Tampa. She also talked about the SLEDcc Working Groups, a new component of this year’s program, that will bring participants together to address four topics to generate useful resources for members of the Second Life education community. Educators are invited to contribute to the SLEDcc Working Group discussions in the SLEDcc08 group on RezEd prior to the conference:

SLEDcc will also have a full program in-world, with streamed sessions from Tampa and an exciting schedule of tours, socials, poster sessions, and presentations. Register for the in-world SLEDcc here!

Zemanta Pixie

12
Jun 08

SLEDcc 2008 – Update

Cross-posting from various listservs..

The Second Life Education Community Conference 2008 planning team has been hard at work and we have several important updates for you:

The main SLEDcc 2008 website is now available at:
http://sledcc.wikispaces.com. This will be your one-stop-shop for important information about the SLEDcc conference, in Tampa or in Second Life. Please note: SLEDcc is part of the official Second Life Community Convention (http://slconvention.org). Registration fees cover both the SLEDcc and SLCC events! Conference registration and fees only apply to those going to SLEDcc/SLCC in Tampa, in-world only participants do not need to register or pay any fees.

The Call for Proposals deadline has been extended to June 17, 2008. See the CFP below or view the complete details on the website. Don’t want to do a big paper presentation? No problem! The SLED Sparks and Speed Mentoring formats are designed for rapid information sharing. Can’t go to Tampa? No problem! SLEDcc will have presentations in Second Life as well as real life. You’d really rather show off a great build or project than do a presentation? No problem! “The Sleddies” award competition might be just the thing for you. See the CFP below or the website for more details.

There are many low overhead ways that you can help with the conference, from putting a link/logo to the SLEDcc website from your own blog or webpage, to volunteering for a few hours in Tampa or in Second Life – we can use your help! See the Volunteer Opportunities page and the SLEDcc Social Media page on the website to find out how you can join the team.

In addition to these updates, the website also has more information about “The Sleddies” Award competition, sponsorship information, and much more. Please take a few moments to have a look around and if you have any feedback, let us know.

Thanks for your continued support and we look forward to seeing you in Tampa or in SL this September!

Sincerely,

Chris Collins (SL: Fleep Tuque)
Hilary Mason (SL: Ann Enigma)
Jonathon Richter (SL: Wainbrave Bernal)

Co-Chairs, Second Life Education Community Conference 2008
Member of the Second Life Community Convention 2008
September 5 – 7, 2008 in Tampa, FL and in Second Life
http://sledcc.wikispaces.com
sledcc08@googlegroups.com