Benjamin Broderick Phillips SP

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Bio for class collaboration


  • Programming and web development/mobile web development
  • Photoshop, video editing, audio editing
  • Strong Interpersonal skills, talking with/engaging people
  • Strong writer
  • Good teacher/lots of experience creating educational materials
  • Likely access to a car

Work Style

I tend to either be a strong voice in a group, or a very laid back one, depending on how invested I am in my own ideas. I think I am a good facilitator when that presence is needed in a group. I'm a strong leader, although my organization tends toward the sloppier side of things. I think my main strength is the ideas I contribute, and my main weakness is that I can get too attached to those ideas. However, in a large group such as this, I don't think I will have a problem rolling with the greater consensus of the group.


I want to have more direct interactions with people in which I have something to offer which will improve their day/life. I also want to get more experience making creative projects that accomplish this rather than strictly service oriented efforts.


Week Five (10.16)

Group Collaboration #3

Group Collaboration Response

Week Four (10.9)

Group Collaboration #2

Group Collaboration Response


To achieve my $20 contribution to the Social Practices kitty, I delivered secret messages anonymously. I structured my service as follows:

  • For $1 I would vocally deliver a secret message anonymously to any person, and relay their response back to the sender. I would carry on this conversation for as long as desired, for no additional charge.
  • For 0.25¢ I would deliver a wink or add it to an existing message.
  • I also gave bulk discounts at my discretion, including 5 messages for $3.50, and unlimited messages for $3.50 (as I got close to the deadline).

I really enjoyed this assignment, because it was fun being an intermediary for people's secret conversations. Some favorites:

  • "I think you are the most beautiful person on campus"
  • A prank in which 5 separate people are each told to meet at a specific time and place (ongoing).
  • Many many winks delivered, to both students and staff.
  • Yodeling at someone
  • "Are you single?" (sent from a student to a staff member)

My favorite part about this project is the creativity with which people are using this service. I plan to continue with this (especially since I've sold someone unlimited messages).

Week Three (10.1)

Stranger Perceptions Collaboration

Sophie and I talked to three shopkeepers on Sunday afternoon, the owner of the Gamer's Grotto, a man at Fiddlehead, and a woman at Knapp's Underground. We had a few strategies going in to these conversations: pretend that we were having a debate between us about how others perceive us, ask people if they thought we were the type of people that would be doing whatever they were doing (or buying whatever they were selling), or simply ask for their opinions point blank.

Good strategy and good results! Robert_Ransick 14:33, 1 October 2012 (UTC)

Gamer's Grotto This was in my opinion the most honest, connected and insightful conversation we had. It was also the first. We dropped in during a very busy hour at the Gamer's Grotto, as they were hosting a Magic tournament. Sophie and I wandered around for a bit, and were eventually approached by the owner as we were admiring the store hedgehog ("Sonic"). We started talking to him about the tournament, and then shifted the conversation towards what kinds of people came to these tournaments. As he was about to head off, we told him that we were having a debate between us about how people perceive us, but framed the question in a gamer context (e.g. what is your perception of us as gamers?). He was pleasantly honest, made reference to our attractiveness and pleasantness and how that might make many think we were not gamers given the stereotypes. As a shop-owner involved in gaming culture who sees the whole range of gamer types, he said he thought we represented the average gamer, as many aren't the hygiene-deficient, socially inept type that people expect. I was pleased that he jumped out of the context of gaming for a bit and told us his honest opinion of how he perceived us. He was curious why we were interested in the subject, and we told him more about how people don't normally expect us to be gamers (a lie, but it's actually somewhat true for me). This topic got him talking for another five minutes, and in all I really enjoyed the conversation. At parting, he made a reference to how he wanted to name the hedgehog Amy originally, but I didn't get the reference (Amy is the only female hedgehog in the Sonic franchise, I now know) so he said "see, you really are an average gamer."

Fiddlehead We had a good conversation with the guy behind the counter at Fiddlehead gallery. We tripped up a bit avoiding a specific answer to the question "where are you from," but he ignored that thankfully. Unfortunately we never had a good opportunity to actually ask him his opinion of us, but it was a good exercise in maintaining unspecified identities.

Knapp's Underground We were hoping that there would be some eccentric types shopping here that we could chat up. Alas, it was just the shopkeeper. They were closing, so we just asked her point blank, using the context of a debate again, what she thought of us. It took her by surprise, and she gave us a squinted look, but eventually started talking. She had only kind things to say--"friendly people" and "nice couple"--and followed us out the door to close the shop, muttering "chivalrous!" as I held the door and other pleasantries as we walked away.

Week Two (9.25)


My first conversation was with a 25 year old lawyer from NY named Nick. We met at the reception after a Quaker meeting, so beginning the interaction and setting the right tone was no challenge. We exchanged basic details about our lives and bonded over both studying biology as undergraduates. He seemed to be a very nervous fellow, which I am very curious about. I'll see him next week.

My first conversation felt too easy, because it took place within a social atmosphere. I didn't want to have social conventions to rely on, so later that day I went to town and struck up another conversation. This time I approached a young female shopkeeper at an arts supply store, and asked her what was her favorite part of Bennington. This was clearly a mistake, since I spent the next minute trying to show her I wasn't a tourist looking for sights. We talked for a few minutes about her growing up in Bennington, our shared experiences of what there is to do in the area, and other general topics. She was very friendly, but with a constant undertone of awkwardness. I drove the conversation and tried to cultivate an easy rapport, and I think I would have been able to do so more successfully in a different environment. Unfortunately, approaching someone out of the blue with conversation and getting them to genuinely engage with you is a hard thing to do. I learned a few things which will help me in the future, mainly that the first thing you say to someone is really important for setting the right tone.

(i too was surprised by how much your entry statement or question is crucial to setting up the potential in a conversation) Ccooper2 03:00, 24 September 2012 (UTC)

Week One (9.18)


I started my dérive outside of South Street Cafe on a warm Sunday afternoon, and walked toward a fountain I had seen on the drive in to town. After a brief encounter with a townie I was friends with, I was able to spend a couple of minutes alone with the fountain. It was about eight feet tall, black stone, with otters spitting water at the base. Oddly there were only two coins in its pool. I feel that the time I spent with this fountain helped clear my head in preparation for the dérive. The sound of running water, the reflection of sunlight off the pool, and other things put me in a mindset that is hard to come by in an urban, business locale. From there I followed some interesting architectural features and landed in the parking lot of the Vermont National Guard, which contained several army vehicles: three wide camo jeeps and two very large open-back trucks. I imagined what the presence of these vehicles must be like full of military personnel and felt intimidated. A minute through more parking lots took me to Paula's Weaving Workshop and the VT rock shop, an amusing lattice shed full of medium-sized, bland colored rocks. Inside the workshop was a dragon shaped bicycle made of found objects. More parking lots led me to spy and follow a husky jogger. I began to recognize where I was so I turned on to the nearest street. Interestingly the left side of the street had large, well kept houses, each with a garden. The right side was mainly paint chipped duplexes. An unkempt cat with a limp ear followed me around after I petted it. Repetitive suburban landscape led me to the hospital which led me through the woods which spit me out into the Stark playground. Unknowingly I retraced my steps to the Cafe, and then walked up Route 9 in search of the car show. I took a brief detour toward a tag sale of 90s themed children's toys and clothing, and watched a young girl playing make believe prance around in heels. Other than her, I only saw men or groups of men walking on the streets. As I began to lose the energy to focus, I walked up the hill to the Bennington museum, and gave an old Connecticut couple directions to the Hemmings car museum. In retrospect, I wish I had talked to them more. Who are these people? Are old cars their retirement hobby? Is one spouse just tagging along? I ended my dérive under a large disturbing sculpture of an Abraham Lincoln look-alike sheltering a naked woman and child.


Week Nine (11.13)

Media, Architecture, Pedagogy, Ellsworth

"At the hands of these designers, pedagogy becomes a dynamic that creates the experience of an idea, of a way of making sense of self, the world, and self in the world." p. 38

"Lin structures this passage or journey in very particular terms, following a very specific pedagogical desire shared by the other designers I am considering here. She declares: 'I create places in which to think, without trying to dictate what to think.'" p. 54

"With that declaration, Lin names the paradox at the heart of pedagogy. If teaching is about thinking and not about complying...for pedagogy to put us in relation thinking -- it must create places in which to think without already knowing what we should think...this would make it impossible for an artist, designer, architect, or teacher to anticipate what form a learning will take or how it will be used. It would also make it impossible to conjure a learning." p. 54

"You cannot give someone the experience of their learning self; yet, we are capable of designing places that elicit profoundly moving experiences of encountering the "outside" and the power which we attribute to 'masterful teaching' and to 'pedagogical masterpieces.'" - p. 54

  • It is a paradox. These spaces implicitly define their area of focus as something which is important to think about, but do so without making thought, learning, or reflection mandatory, with an absence of evaluative expectation, and with an absence of a required end goal to the thinking. Is there a line in which this approach to eliciting learning experiences becomes unreconcilable with the agenda of the designer? Are pedagogical agendas that cross this line acceptable? If so, in which contexts? Schools but not museums? Why? Why do teachers often have agendas for what is learned by students, whereas these artists don't? I think a big difference is that nowhere in the reflections of these artists and architects is there an allusion to a tabula rasa, to filling or providing learners with content, to bits of knowledge which are necessary to know. Instead, it is an interaction, a stirring of the existing mental soup, and a faith that the learner is capable, given the right 'place of learning', to unlock a moving learning experience for themselves. And that this learning experience will be meaningful and empowering enough that there is no need for a prescribed objective of learning.

Week Eight (11.6)

Latent Learning Curriculums

"Maybe we can rephrase the question to ask why we choose to work under the umbrella of art rather than activism. We all agree that art remains more open than activism. We have found that much activism is bound by prescribed thoughts, dogma, and manifestoes. Art does not have to have one aim and that helps us avoid cliched activist positions." p. 5, Future Farmers

  • But why not just choose to disassociate from any umbrella/label at all? Possibly because the benefits of engaging with a community of practitioners and a reservoir of methodologies/approaches outweighs the costs of constraining one's work to those foundations. In this case, it's probably a matter of just picking the most open umbrella, excuse the pun. Art seems more than sufficiently open at the present time for their purposes.

‎"There are problems everywhere that cannot be solved using conventional approaches and are thus suitable subjects for artistic purposes. What does this have to do with art? Art is always what people want it to be. It is not a question of consensus: everyone does not have to share a single view on art. It is more that people who use the same definition for art find themselves in groups...another understanding of art is the following: enough consumption and enough genuflection. This is a conception of art that feels responsible for the social, political and economic conditions under which we live." p. 5 WochenKlausur

"I think this is a dilemma for many people who want to think about and through culture in complicated ways - Do I show them in an art context, however imperfectly it addresses my concerns and burdens me with a history I'm not particularly interested in? Or do I explore them elsewhere and suffer from the lack of critical, promotional, and organizational infrastructure that the art context provides?" p. 11 Randall Szott

  • Same dilemma that Future Farmers speak to. All contexts within which to situate work have their benefits, and they have their costs. In the disciplines I choose to reside in, education and science, I think it goes both ways. I am becoming increasingly convinced that the benefits of the context of education as art outweigh the cost of a loss of empirically based pedagogy. On the other hand, I firmly believe that doing science within the world of science has much greater benefit than trying to advance scientific knowledge through an arts context.

Media, Architecture, Pedagogy, Ellsworth

  • Interesting and awesome how her definition of learning very strongly incorporates identity formation. This pairs well with learning as non-compliance, because it is driven by one's own sense of self and motivation. Learning as compliance represents more of a learning which people aren't as inclined to incorporate into their identities, to personally and emotionally associate with. Reminds me of Wertsch's concept of mastery vs. appropriation, in which there is a difference between mastering a topic, and appropriating it, i.e. actually believing knowledge on the topic to be true. He based this concept on a study of Estonians which were taught official histories "produced by the Soviet state," but personally subscribed to their own folk histories.

Wertsch, James V. "Is It Possible to Teach Beliefs, as Well as Knowledge About History?" In Knowing, Teaching, and Learning History: National and International Perspectives, edited by Peter N. Stearns, Peter Seixas and Sam Wineburg, 38-50. New York: New York University Press, 2000.

"Herbert Muschamp, architectural critic for The New York Times, also agrees that pre- and nonlinguistic experiences of a place of learning are crucial to what is learned there."

"That search led me to Peter de Bolla's Art Matters (2001), an account of his sustained effort to create a lexicon to deal with sensations and movements crucial to understandings. He locates his effort in the context of his own experiences with artworks -- especially those that move him into and within what he calls a sense of wonder. His efforts are useful to me here because, for him, wonder is deeply interfused with the experience of learning." p. 22

  • Reminds of Duckworth's The Having of Wonderful Ideas, in which true learning involves making grand discoveries of one's own. I wholeheartedly agree with de Bolla's ideas as well, especially when considering learning as non-compliance. Without the drive to be compliant as a motivating factor, having a sense of wonder is a powerful driving force for learners to help them persist through the sometimes uncomfortable and always difficult struggle that is meaningful learning. I think the creation of spaces is one of the most effective ways that an outsider can influence potential learner's into feeling that sense of wonder.

Week Seven (10.30)

Relational Aesthetics, Bourriaud

"Because this urban world's inhabitable places are so cramped, we have also witnessed a scaling down of furniture and objects, which have become much easier to handle: for a long time, artworks looked like lordly luxury items in this urban context (the dimensions of both artworks and the apartments where they were displayed were intended to signal the distinction between their owners and the hoi polloi), but the way their function and their mode of presentation has evolved reveals a growing urbanization of the artistic experience. What is collapsing before our very eyes is quite simply the pseudo-aristocratic conception of how artworks should be displayed, which was bound up with the feeling of having acquired a territory." p. 160

  • Visual artworks now signal intelligence and good taste rather than monetary luxury. I think a lot of luxury items have been shifted more into the domain of the corporate-sponsored design world. Things displayed to represent status incorporate more than just what art you store in your house, also your wardrobe, your gadgets, cars, other possessions. I think this shift in how artworks are displayed has to do more with the increase in base affluence and business models adapting to that, as well as a higher valuation on intelligence over lineage/endowment, rather than cramped spaces. A space that was once mainly represented by art has now opened up to other sources, thereby decreasing the demand for that specific kind of art, and opening up room for exploration elsewhere.

"...when we look at relational artists, we find ourselves in the presence of a group of artists who, for the first time since the emergence of conceptual art in the mid-1960s, simply do not take as their starting point some aesthetic movement from the past. Relational born of the observation of the present..." p. 165

  • Is this because it represents a paradigm shift? Meaning that future relational art will be engaged more in a conversation of its past, but isn't now by virtue of there being no precedent to engage with.

"The first question we should ask when we find ourselves in the presence of an artwork is: Does it allow me to exist as I look at it or does it, on the contrary, deny my existence as a subject and does its structure refuse to consider the Other?...Does it form a critique of what needs critique?" p. 167

"How is aesthetics to be used, and can it possibly be injected into tissues that have been rigidified by the capitalist economy?" p. 169

Week Six (10.23)

Relations in Public, Goffman

"As Harvey Sacks...has recently pointed out...the term 'strangers' is a troublesome one. One usually means "fellow user of a public place," not merely any un-acquainted other--for example, ordinarily not a policeman or a shop clerk." p. 7, footnote

"Note, in road traffic, formal understandings seem central, although, of course, many informal understandings are operative; in pedestrian traffic, informal understandings dominate, often appearing to copy loosely the formal rules of road traffic." - p. 9

  • I always wonder who was responsible for designing traffic rules? They are an incredible instance of a system of rules designed to work at large scales with many actors.

"City streets, even in times that defame them, provide a setting where mutual trust is routinely displayed between strangers. Voluntary coordination of action is achieved in which each of two parties has a conception of how matters ought to be handled between them, the two conceptions agree, each party believes this agreement exists, and each appreciates that this knowledge about the agreement is possessed by the other." - p. 17

"So, too, a member of a with is freer to approach a stranger in order to obtain or offer help than is a single. Withs might be approached more safely also, except that more than one person's time will have to be taken." p. 21

  • I definitely agree with the first part of this statement, given my experiences in this class. I wonder why it is so, perhaps because to be in a 'with' means that another person accounts for you, therefore strangers feel comfortable dealing with people in withs because those people are more likely to be safe. However, when withs are not made up of strangers, such as a with of policemen, I think they are not necessarily more approachable than 'singles'. This is because to hold a position, such as policeman or shop-clerk, also means you are positively accounted for, and fulfills the function normally performed by being in a with.

A Manifesto for the Present, Ransick/Goble

"For the last thirty years, when asking ourselves whether we support a policy, a proposal or an initiative, we have restricted ourselves to issues of profit and loss--economic questions in the narrowest sense. But this is not an instinctive human condition: it is an acquired taste." idea 4

  • A good point. Interesting that certain ways of thinking have become so pervasive that we assume they are instinctive, fundamental, and necessary. What else other than zero-sum economics? Scarcity and the impossibility of post-scarcity? Why the "last thirty years;" what is that referring to?

"New environments reset our sensory thresholds." idea 6

"The world already possesses the dream of a time whose consciousness it must now possess in order to actually live it." idea 12

  • Einstein spoke to this: "No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it."

Week Five (10.16)

The People Formerly Known as the Audience, Rosen

It's funny to read this six years after it was written, because so much of what Rosen talks about is taken for granted now. I think the biggest change since that article is that people have figured out how to capitalize on user created content as a platform through advertising. Now the consequences and implications of top-down platforms are even more undesirable for users. Instead of passively receiving content on their terms, our own content is being tracked and monetized on their terms. One could argue we are still the audience, only big media has shifted from being the provider of content to the facilitator of it.

Notes on the Elimination of the Audience, Kaprow

I had not heard of the happenings before reading this excerpt. I can see in this reading some of the underpinnings of current practices in social art that we are looking at. When there is no longer an obligation or expectation of an audience, many possibilities open up. My understanding is that decades ago, this was an experimental, innovative thing. Currently, the lack of a need to have an audience enables the creation of work which does not appear to be art in a way which an audience might define it. In my opinion, the elimination of this boundary increases the power of art to make change.

Time Capsule, Lippard

" 'I think it is absolutely necessary to sustain goals irrespective of imminent possibilities. Without a radical argument to expand the spectrum of public debates, the democratic range of possibilities contracts to an unbearable degree.' " - Alex Villar, p. 421

  • Reading this quote has, I think, erased some of my skepticism of utopian non-capitalistic ideals in art.

"Whereas community-based art is grounded in communication and exchange, activist art is based on creative dissent and confrontation." - p. 409

Week Four (10.9) bootcamp bootleg

"The best solutions come out of the best insights into human behavior." p.4

"The prototype mode is the iterative generation of low-resolution artifacts that will later be tested by users. A prototype can be anything that a user can interact with – be it a wall of post-it notes, a role-playing activity, or even a storyboard." p.7

"To start a conversation. Our interactions with users should revolve around a conversation piece, not words. A prototype is an opportunity to have another, directed conversation with a user." p. 7

  • This is exactly what I experienced in our trip to town posing as researchers into Bennington arts and culture. The two prototypical proposals that we had were the perfect jumping off point for starting conversations with a diverse range of people.

"Staying low-res allows you to pursue many different ideas generated in Ideate mode without committing to a direction too early on." p. 7

"A prototype should answer a particular question when tested." p. 8

  • I really like the camera study method. I think it would be really useful in a science educational setting as a way of getting people to document and share their curiosities.

"Take a few moments to make sure that you leave room in your planning to ask plenty of “why?” questions, plenty of “tell me about the last time you _____?” questions, and plenty of questions that are directed at how the user FEELS." p. 12

"Only ten words to a question. Your user will get lost inside long questions." p. 13

IDEO Human Centered Design

"Look for things that prompt shifts in behavior" p. 7

"Allow long pauses [in interviews]" p. 8

"Start the conversation with simple and specific questions your participants will feel comfortable answering." p. 9

"Start by saying that you want to know what the participants hope for and desire for the future." p. 39

  • I think this is a really interesting question. By emphasizing the future, and keeping it open-ended, I would think that the question primes people to think about their own emotions more than if the question was phrased differently (e.g. the future of X, or what would you like to see in X). Exploring inner aspirations seems like a really great window into all sorts of conversations and insights.

Design Thinking, Brown

I thought that the anecdote about redesigning the nursing staff schedule illustrated a few points about empathy really well. First, the best designs come from having empathy for your users. Empathy not only means caring about your user, but constantly probing for insights into their lives that even they might not know about. One of the things that really stood out to me from the reading was that a lot of good design comes from good insight about your user, and that there are many strategies for producing those insights. Second, researching your user doesn't have to be the most you can do, you can also bring people onto your design who are representatives of the user base you are designing for.

It also stood out to me that most of what the IDEO/Kaiser Permanente team was designing was not a product or service, but merely a shift in process and standards. A lot of similar examples in the world of medicine with this character of innovation come to mind now, such as The Checklist Manifesto and how in the ER they are constantly asking you for verifying details about your identity. Is process innovation necessarily a design approach that most benefits large systems, or can it also have deep impacts on small systems, or systems of one? I'll have to think more on that.

Week Three (10.1)

I am Searching..., Beuys

I wonder why he chose a hare, and what was symbolic about that specific animal?

It's interesting thinking about my emotional reaction to his reading. I tend to approach readings from an intellectual stance, so a lot of the readings for this class "get me." I'm not expecting to be provoked, so therefore it is more easy for that to actually happen. The same happened with O'Donnell's text. Beuys' writing style is pretty striking, but I'm assuming it's also translated.

I can see a lot of echoes of Beuys' ideas in the free culture movement that exists now. I think the main issue I take with text's like Beuys' is that I don't see what they're proposing to be possible, but I do appreciate the glimpse into the history of ideas.

I don't really see the effectiveness of his project Coyote: I like America and America Likes Me. Was he trying to persecute the coyote by bringing it into a man-made space? If he really wanted to "see nothing of America other than the coyote...and exchange roles with it," then he should have been outdoors with it.

Clearly this artist pushes a lot of my buttons, which is good, and most likely definitely what he intended.

Public Space in a Private Time, Acconci

I don't see how Acconci's artistic proposals to ruin public spaces fit at all with the ideas he is outlining in this essay. While indoor spaces, or privatized spaces, are generally examples of spaces which do not, according to Acconci, belong to the public, I think at the same time these spaces offer the most value for being spaces which can be owned by the public. I don't think any public can control a reasonably large space without having to allocate control and responsibility of that space to a smaller group of individuals. However, small, community-run spaces such as hackerspaces, community labs, and art exchanges are perfect examples of spaces which are thriving without unnecessary exclusivity of ownership or membership.

In this vein, I don't agree that it is always a bad thing that "in these indoor cluster-places, you get what you pay for" (p. 909). I think in the best cases (the non-profit ones), the monetary commitment allows people to meaningfully support the livelihood of a space without having to donate other forms of value which they may not have as readily, such as free labor or talent. Instead of taking down privatized space, why not continuously create new spaces that have a culture of sharing as their mission? Movement through positive action rather than negative.

I'd be interested to hear Acconci's perspective on public space outside of cities. Obviously when the space is as constrained as it is in a city, the land grab can be overwhelming. In more rural areas, however, public space exists everywhere. It's not as much of an issue.

I also think we are seeing a shift in the use of electronics from how Acconci portrays them. Electronics are not so much the interpersonal dividers that they were once made out to be, but instead are now a useful ways for people to create more connections, to find relationships with others that match their interests in dense areas.

I guess basically I don't understand what Acconci's main point is. Is he warning against the isolation of people that is created by private spaces and the digital age, or something more dire? Does he want highly privatized spaces to be ceded to the public? What role does Acconci's "cunning" public art have outside of a city, where it doesn't necessarily have to "squeeze in and fit under and fall over what already exists" (p. 915)? Does it need to have a role outside of that? Is it just a tactic invented to defeat municipal and corporate exclusivity within cities?

Week Two (9.25)

Social Acupuncture, O'Donnell

I really enjoyed and appreciated this reading. The historical context regarding the origins, purposes, and theory behind dialogic/social art was incredibly helpful towards clarifying my own thoughts about this form of art. Many of the projects the author listed were clever, genuine, and good executions of his stated intentions.

O'Donnell brought up a point on page 38 about charity and ego: "But what about the guy who can walk his talk? Why not let him brag about his good deeds and tell us all about what a great time he's having doing them? The rich know all about this, with large-scale acts of philanthropy often bear the name of the donor. That this triggers the occasional pissing match...should be considered a good thing. There's nothing wrong with some childish competition if it leads to more resources flowing to endeavors that strengthen the civic sphere."

This reminded me of MLK Jr.'s famous "Drum Major" sermon, in which he talks about the "drum major instinct", our desire to be better than others, and to be acknowledged for it. He says essentially the same thing as O'Donnell: if you can harness this instinct and strive to be better at improving the world, then that is a good use of what is an otherwise unhealthy emotion.

I'm wondering, what is the capability of the artist to impart upon certain civic activities the kind of social status that attracts this demographic, the group of people that would not engage in such activities for their own sake without any prestigious return value? And is this manipulation, as odd and bitter as it is, a more realistic strategy than actually trying to change people's inclinations towards altruistic social and civic work?

I was very interested in O'Donnell's project The Talking Creature. I agree that the banalities of people's lives, accessed up close and interactively, can be as interesting as any well-crafted theatrical production. This echoes his point that a live animal on stage will always be more exciting than the most well-crafted theatrical performance. To my understanding, what O'Donnell is doing is using theatre and dialogic art as methods of creating new social conventions, in which it is regarded as normal to interact in ways which are often unusual and avoided in daily life. In my belief, this is the biggest value that the umbrella of art brings to this type of work. Regarding something, even a conversation, as art opens up the boundaries for it immensely. Hopefully, this is not a quality that will degrade with continued use, widespread familiarity, and the likely conformity to specific forms that become established as social practice exits its youth.

Week One (9.18)

Blows Against the Empire, Purves

While I don't think gift economies are the solution to finding the "real world", the recent emergence of many gift based communities and movements (such as open access science publishing, hackerspaces, and 3d printing) has made me optimistic and excited about further developments using free-exchange structures. However, I do not think they need to be ephemeral in order to succeed. The difference between the failed projects Purves mentioned and successful ones is that well-designed gift economies are strengthened by large influxes of people. Handing out food in a park is not a scalable model, because the value one gives away is not able to be reciprocated by those receiving it. However, a service like Wikipedia benefits when more and more people use it. I would argue that ephemeral projects are much more about sending messages and sparking action than actually coming up with lasting solutions for improving the world.

Conversation Pieces, Kester

I agree with Kester's remarks on traditional forms of criticism and their inadequacy in addressing new forms of public/dialogic art. I find myself falling into that pattern, and it is hard to break out of a traditional aesthetic mindset when considering social practices to be art and evaluating their success. I think the biggest difference between what Kester is talking about, and what Purves is talking about, is that Kester makes mention to "cumulative process[es] of exchange and dialogue" vs. situationist pranks. In one case people come together, in the other they are spread apart.

A History of the Social Web, Scholz

While the internet has many successful user-centric communities, such as Reddit and Craigslist, reading this article reminded me that for the most part, communities like these have become a for-profit business model. The content on Twitter, Facebook, DeviantArt, etc. is all user-generated. If these communities are unable to be profitable, they are often shut down or bought out, as has been the case with Geocities and is currently happening with The Well. I think once again it becomes an issue of scale. For an online community to grow, it needs more than a few dedicated hobby administrators, and therefore has to make more money, etc. This resonates with what Purves said about corporations and profit-seeking entities finding ways to reinsert themselves into DIY culture. Some exceptions are Wikipedia, which has a strong non-profit mission, and Craigslist, which has been very persistently kept as a lifestyle business (rather than a capitalist, ever-growing business).

Artist Presentation - Laurie Jo Reynolds


Google Doc Slideshow


  • Legislative artist, activist, filmmaker, teacher
  • Born 1968 in Atlanta, Georgia. Currently based in Chicago.
  • BA in public policy from Brown University.
  • MA in communications studies from University of Iowa.
  • MFA in film, video & new media from School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
  • Became an activist after artistic involvement with prisoners at TAMMS supermax prison through the TAMMS poetry committee.


  • TAMMS poetry committee
Sent poetry/letters to all prisoners in TAMMS, and replied to any return mail. Goals were to increase communication between the public and inmates at TAMMS, gather testimony about the conditions and hardships of isolation, and provide pen pals for inmates.
  • TAMMS Year Ten
Volunteer organization started on the TAMMS 10 year anniversary. Created an extensive media/public education campaign to raise awareness about prisoner conditions. Many projects from TY10 include providing photo requests for inmates, buying magazine subscriptions with frequent flyer miles, testifying in front of congressional committees and collaborating on legislation.
  • Sex Offender Bulletin
Raise awareness about issues regarding sex offender reintegration into society, and mounting, ineffective legislation against sex offenders. Created photo series depicting a positive reintegration for a sex offender. Lobbied congressmen with humorous cards to dissuade them from passing further legislation.
  • Ask Me!
Done with former group Chicago County Fair. Large, free, fair-style event in which many booths were set up containing self-proclaimed experts on various subjects. A situation set up for people to go around and learn interesting things/have lively conversation. Done at Chicago Museum of Science, Chicago Cultural Center, and elsewhere.
  • Space Ghost
Video comparing astronauts to prisoners in terms of personal experience. Highlights loss of time, sensory deprivation, isolation, existence within the greater community but at the same time outside of it.
  • Other
Laurie Jo Reynolds has also written multiple plays, performs stand-up experimental comedy, and teaches as an adjunct professor at Columbia College and Loyola University.


  • 2010 Soros Justice Fellow

Funding for education campaign and other work revolving around prison reform and human rights issues.

  • 2009 Anne Elizabeth Moore Award for Excellence in Awesomeness