Patterns | Gradients | Scale

Today I attended the “How to Create Change Without Breaking Everything” workshop held at Metro, and lead by Metro’s Executive Director, Nate Hill. Hill opened the workshop by introducing three concepts in relation to the concept of “Change Management”: patterns, gradients, and scales. In speaking about patterns, Hill mentioned that if he sees something or hears something within an organization, and then if he sees or hears that same thing again from another individual, then that indicates to him that a pattern might be emerging. This may seem pretty obvious, but recognition of patterns is – in my mind – one of the building blocks of beginning to understand systemic habits, habits that may need to be changed in order for an organization [or project, or culture] to flourish. I can also see how this awareness of the emergence of patterns can be just as valuable in one’s private life, in addition to in a professional realm.

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Photograph by Sarah Ann Adams, La Jolla, CA, 2009

Hill then used the image of a gradient to express the fact that change is slow, that it “seeps and creeps”, from one habit to another, from one color to another. In speaking about gradients, Hill also mentioned that, while it is important to plan, it is also equally important to “look back” and assess, to review what you have done so far. This self-reflection can make the change process lengthier and more complex, but it is a necessity for creating lasting, meaningful, and sustainable change.

The last component Hill spoke about was “scale”. I wasn’t entirely sure what he meant by this, but he explained that, in most every case, there will be those who don’t fit within the what you would like them to be doing for the “change” to take place. Hill mentioned that it is important to take those individuals into account, but ultimately advised to not let it derail you or take your focus off the main goal. In thinking back on this, for me I think the better term would be “perspective” rather than scale: there will always be challenges when trying to make change happen, but it is important to not become too myopic in trying to address them that you lose sight of why you are making the change in the first place.

At the end of the workshop, Hill gave attendees a tour of the Metro facility, and I became even more interested in learning about this organization. I look forward to attending more events and – hopefully – meeting more people in the New York Library and Information Science field through becoming engaged with this community.

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archives tour [WNYC|WQXR]

On Wednesday, November 8th, I attended a tour of the WNYC Archives, which was put together by ASIS&T Pratt and Pratt SAA. Our tour guide was Andy Lanset, who started the archives department of WNYC in 2000. This came as a bit of a shock to me. That is relatively recent for an archives department to be started, considering WNYC has been in existence since 1922.  So what was the proceess before WNYC/WQXR had archives? [WNYC acquired the classical music station WQXR in 2009.] Lanset advised that, if archival material was desired, seekers had to contact the producers of each individual show to see what the producers happened to keep from their time on the air.  “Hello Archives Anxiety!” To that effect, Lanset continuously reaches out to former producers to see if there is any material out there seeking a more permanent home.

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For visual reference, please enjoy this Andy Lanset / Albert Einstein visual mashup, originally tweeted by WNYC in 2013.

We learned from Lanset that grant funding drives the selection of projects for the WNYC/WQXR department. Lanset expressed relief that they had recently finished up a grant-initiated project, for that meant that the archives department could do some house-cleaning and organizational tasks that had begun to pile up. As with most project-based cultural-heritage archives positions, no two days are the same, but it was interesting to note that it was the checking of the obituaries that Lanset undertakes each and everyday, for he knows that the newsroom will be wanting soundbites and interview clips to commemorate any noteworthy person who has recently passed away.

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WNYC was housed in the Manhattan Municipal Building until June 2008 | Image  licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0, accessed via flickr

Lanset expressed… reservations about the efficacy and usefulness of social media, stating multiple times he tries to keep up with it, but it can sometimes feel like a “back burner” issue. I found this reasonable and often have similar opinions of social media from a “business” standpoint, for  the benefits of social media use by an organization can feel murky at best, especially when the stacks of “real work” are growing. This falls in line with what I am seeing as common for cultural/memory institution engaging in the LIS discipline: there is an obligation not only to do the work – archive, organize, classify, link – but additionally, it is nearly always expected that the institutions or departments [sometimes departments of only a handful of individuals!] are required to evangelize, publicize, and make known the work that they do. The tour was invaluable, and I feel lucky to have come into contact with Mr. Lanset and gained knowledge about the WNYC/WQXR Archives here in New York City.

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Mayor La Guardia speaks over WNYC on Grade A milk from Budget Room | Public Domain Image via Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division

restart

Coming back to this blog now that I’m in graduate school for school and personal purposes. I’m leaving all of my 5+ year old content up – odd syntax, weird [non] capitalization, and all – because that content was from a deeply instructive part of my life, and I never want to forget the feeling and shape of what my brain was experiencing and creating in those moments. My brain and heart were challenged irrevocably. I hope I am embarking on another iteration of that deep connection with life now that I am back in school.

While I traveled abroad in Denmark in 2010, I wrote every day, and I [tried] to continue that habit when I returned to Boston, and then I let it go. I think I shifted my communicative energy to Facebook, and now there’s twitter too, but those are different beasts, not great places to “work out your ideas in real time”, for the public nature and accessibility of posts are so prone to “well actually” and “but what about” statements. And its not that that is necessarily bad, but I think it is important to have a place to still write publicly that is more of a laboratory where you’re able to play around with ideas without having to back up everything you say with “this is my deep seated and strongly held belief!”

Long story short, let’s see if my writing “restart” lasts.

bloodshed

I have not written for 10 months here. This past week I have very much wanted to do so, to be more assertive about writing other than emphatically scribbling on pads of paper while on public transit or in the corner of Flloyd’s Coffee Shop during lunch. On Tuesday, there was a shooting at the Clackamas Town Center mall here in Portland, not even a 15 minute Max ride away for me. As I was at work at Geo S. Bush – more than 6 weeks I’ve been here, but more on that later – a coworker announced the news of the shootings and there were ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ and ‘oh no’s’ and the first thing I thought was that it didn’t  surprise me. The ‘why?’ is no longer a thought that comes to my mind – killings, shootings, people lashing out in this manner… it is no longer astonishing or surprising. That is not to say that I am not troubled.

And today, another shooting, in Newtown, Connecticut of twenty children and six adults at the Sandy Hook Elementary school. And then comes the steady stream of social media commentary. The posting of prayers, calls for stricter gun control, and discussion of the role of mental illness in the issue. But what struck me the most was this statement by forensic psychiatrist Park Dietz, calling to cut short the sensationalizing of massacre coverage starting at 1:40 of this video clip :: <<… localize the story to the affected community and make it as boring as possible in every other market, because whenever we have intense saturation coverage of a mass murder, we expect to see one or more within a week.>> Is that not what has just happened? Shooting in Oregon… shooting in Connecticut less than a week later, and a stabbing of 22 children and one adult in China as well?

I am not saying that these three events are directly related, that one happened, and it was the singular domino that tapped the next and the next. But, we must see that the US’ addiction to manufacturing emotionally quenching news is doing the human community a disservice by commemorating the actions of assailants. This commemoration and immortalization thereby grants future aggressors the confidence that they, too, will finally be recognized and remembered – even [or especially] alongside the imagery of bloodshed – and that future conductors of massacres have also been granted courage-by-example to go through with the retaliatory plans that might have otherwise remained latent in their minds.

I can not speak to the specificity of tightening gun control laws, or the logistics of testing for mental illness before distributing firearms to an individual – both of which I support – but what I can speak to is the necessity of pulling back from adding to the social hysteria surrounding events like these, on both the personal and national level, in order to be good stewards of the power of communication that we possess. The music, tone, and editing of news stories perpetually overindulges the viewers’ drama threshold, and this is especially highlighted in events such as these, where we are inundated with every detail of an event.

In The Educated Imagination – given to me for my birthday this year – Northrup Frye astonishingly defends the necessity of studying literature outside the context of the classroom. With equal emphasis, I would extend that argument to include the visual arts, performing arts, and music. Although the conduits differ, each is an avenue for an artist to explore, build up, or tear down themes, ideas, manifestos, modes, etc. With this in mind, news broadcasting and mass media are the sophomorically cocky classmates whose only references for speaking about art are depleted clichés and one-dimensional observations, focused more on quelling bystanders’ emotional neediness than being truthful about all aspects of the creation of, in this case, the news story.  A good artist knows his communicative power, and withholds it appropriately.

That is not to say that the news can’t stir people to good thoughts and actions. What I mean to emphasize is that the manner in which news is broadcast in this country creates the notion of an ‘expected’ or ‘correct’ reaction to horrific events that errs on the side of generalization, aggrandizement, and, at points, crippling fear. I do not believe this reactionary hysteria is healthy. It is respectful to mourn, with quiet hearts, the lives lost and the hearts wrenched open, and to take action where you see necessary and feel led. I simply wish the communication of news of shootings, and acts of terrorism for that matter, wasn’t so heavy handed on making the viewers feel scared. It feels counterproductive. Yes let’s be aware and take action, but let’s not get crazy about expressing our fear, anger, and frustration so much so that we can’t move forward or stop asking the sentimental rhetorical questions of why why why why why why why

obscure

<< because we are t[o] many>>

↓ still shots from JUDE, directed by michael waterbottom ↓

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when the sky is ungreyed & i am unfettered with briskly walking back to work from lunch and i am not crouched underneath an umbrella of “should have’s,” i swear my eyes dilate to a notably wide diameter, drinking in the colors and shapes i pass. it becomes a time  i am a human, and not a female calculating eyes’ length of stay. it takes discipline to operate upon, rather than resigning to trudging and muddling through, life’s momentum. so frequently, when temporal happiness irritatingly yelps for attention and i resign to shutting out wisdom’s silence, discipline is a weak muscle and it takes inspiration – of an ungreyed day – to alert me that i don’t have to rake the ground behind me with my fingernails each step forward i take, the mulch and dirty particles gathering and pressing against the tender skin of my nailbeds. boulders of burdens rattle against one another behind me. i bring my hands out from behind myself and show them to any audience who might wait and watch.

“look! look at my hard work!”

but sympathy extends an exponentially degrading friendship. tallying complaints comes too easily – and many of those complaints are ignorantly and hurriedly mistaken to be opinions. tallying complaints is far easier than letting the ribbons fall where they may, than suspending incriminating judgments of others, of oneself. continue the tally if relations with the leeching sympathy are trusted, but my bet is entitlement and fear act as both dirt and undertakers of that withering spirit.

run with

last evening, yesterday evening, i rode the d train in from the reservoir to fenway to attend an art opening at the fourth wall project. I finished up my morning reading on the train. and the next article pulled my mouth open, and i sat in horror :: tortured afghan girl wants in-laws jailed. an afghani woman was part of an arranged marriage, and when she refused to agree to be used for prostitution, her in-laws tortured her. using electric shock, breaking her fingers, and removing her fingernails. i really could not believe it. or i suppose i could, but recently, in hearing atrocious goings-on amongst humans, my mind more quickly attempts to place those happenings on my own body to feel more effected, rather than just feeling bad for some non-identifiable person in some distant country. so this night, last night, i allowed continual cringes at the thought of the physical pain described in the article. my mind turned even more dutifully, thought, to the disgusted knowledge of cruel human capabilities against one another.

i’ve abandoned sleeping in my bed with my head at the head and my feet following. my bed is in the corner of the room, but the “bottom” half lies under the window that looks out onto the courtyard of our feinberg-managed building. i sleep with my head at the foot, my body at an angle to the bed, under that window. my brother spencer sleeps with loads of blankets, even in the summer, to feel as warm as possible. i, however, crack the window to get the cool breeze consistently back-and-forthing into my room.

around 3 am an alarm goes off. with the window open, i think it is an alarm to a neighboring building until i realize it is most likely much closer, and that it is, in fact our building. throughout college, a fire alarm was never really an alarm, but rather a hugely irritating inconvenience when some student had burnt their popcorn. i realized this was the first time i was, truly, alarmed. i realized i might have been overzealous when i saw i was the only person with a backpack (including my laptop, phone, hardrive, and their chargers)…. but at the silly hours of the morning a few things were floating through my mind :: 1] tales of fires in cities when one building catches on fire, and then the next and then the next and then the next…., 2] 1984, with the fab actor john hurt (and now that i think of it on my walk i saw a lady on a terrace that looked like ‘julia’) but all throughout that movie… “announcement” etc and loud blaring horns and alert. i think i half-pretended that’s what was happening, just to see if i could feel a little terror of living in a restrictive society. i like to do experiments with my hypothetical reactions, in hopes of understanding myself more.

an older john hurt, chaneling some degree of bob dylan
an older john hurt, chaneling some degree of bob dylan

and 3] three friends of mine had their apartment burn down in allston a few years ago, and as our consistent letters from the maintenance company reiterate and reiterate, “it doesn’t just happen to someone else.”

the alarm was nothing, again, although it did continue repetitively sounding for i’m not sure how long until it was deactivated. finally fell asleep again, and woke for a good breakfast-time conversation with my roomate ali and her visiting friend, nina.

a handful of my friends have passed around the list of ‘30 things to stop doing to yourself‘…. number one? stop spending time with people you do not want to spend time with. and the reverse, of course, spend time with people you do want to spend time with. this makes such obvious sense, but made me wonder why this is an issue in the first place. i’ve found, for myself, to quote henrik ibsen from his play A Doll’s House, it stems from ” a woman’s overstrained sense of generosity.” not focusing on the gender generalization of the statement – for the true power is found in conjunction with the statement’s surrounding dialogue – i must say this feels a little true :: making sure everyone feels comfortable and happy, but oftentimes at the expense of the freedom to follow my own social impulses.

this is the dover edition that i have - thank you jenny r!

yet next it lead to confronting the unavoidable issue that i fear deep-seated connection. and the reasons for fearing? the never-ending tackling of confidence, as well as being overly mindful that connections come, and then they go. i feel a lot of connections, and potential connections, drifted away after graduation, which discouraged me greatly. i felt lonely, and that even my utmost attempts left me with hollowed conversations at the end of an evening. but just now, within the past month, have i actually felt a weight begin to remove itself from my eyes and my shoulders – re-finding my ability to latch on to big dreams and hope-thinking, rather than resigning to being interchangeable shells of a worker, a daughter, a sister, a “friend” (having a hard time knowing what that means at the moment.)

at a tom fuchs-hosted party last night, i saw adam sultan, who was in my contemporary art history course at BU with professor williams. turns out he’s headed out of the boston area soon, applying for grad programs in painting. i’ll miss running into him like clockwork around coolidge corner. but he suggested to find something, anything, and then run with it, even just for now, at the very least. because trying to do everything at once leaves one burnt out and scattered, and i-you-we are simply not superhumans. honestly this is just now becoming a reality to me, i thought i was much more capable to do so much more. but “artists who seek perfection in everything are those who cannot attain it in anything” (eugene delacroix). so, without forcing it into being, i am striving to find one thing i may run with just for now.

very dangerous things.

when  life become reality rather than being conceptual themes discussed in high school english class, common phrases and words of wisdom are so clean and fresh to the ear that they are like a new creation in themselves, seemingly never before actualized or organized into thought.

do not judge.

which person in the world has the infinite knowledge of all mankind and subsequent wisdom to be able to place every action, thought, and intention into a hierarchical ladder from which an absolute judgment call may be made? no one. why, therefore, do i puff myself up with removed yet critical eyes toward others? because i do believe i want to feel intelligent, respected, well thought of. but at what expense do i seek these supposed opinions? at the expense of discounting another’s mode of operation? at the expense of stopping short of understanding another individual? at the expense of being humbled? surely there is a way to seek higher thoughts while not discounting the variegated texture of everyday life.

be yourself.

my body my mind, these are my tools. what is the purpose of life if beings reject themselves? if a deer decided it wanted wings and strove its whole life to fly. on the one hand, yes, we want to dream in these terms. but dreams like these lighten hearts for the moment but injects reality with so much more dead weight when the time for conceptual thinking is over. how much more beautiful is it to know yourself. to know your physical capabilities. to gather inventory of your personality’s components, and to capitalize and work through what is already available to you, rather than reaching so far and so wide for characteristics not yet yours, negating all captured potential in the meantime. to gather joy in existing rather than only the highlights of time.

be present.

everything is maneagable one piece at a time. lists forever unending to complete remain incomplete. and should we thus be discouraged? angry at inability to gain ground  in a discrete way at the end of the day? or shall we take one piece at a time, happy in the knowledge of moving forward.  happy in the satisfaction of focused work.

i write in order to make known to myself what i want and need to reenact as priorities in my life – in order to allow life to flourish again with freedom and compassion.