Entries tagged "#WITH"

Why Blog? (and tools we need for it) feat. my 2011 WordCamp talk Tools for Tummeling in the age of Google +

I just came across this post which I wrote about a year ago when I was near the culmination of finally getting a central website up at heathergold.com, something that I stressed about and thought about for *years.* I’m posting it in the event you may find it helpful. And because I recently gave a talk at WordCamp (the annual WordPress conference from Automattic) about my view about the need for changing blogging tools. It’s interesting to see how much further my feelings about blogging platform needs have gone only a year after I was about to end my insanely long struggle to have a “proper” central site / blog under my name.

A couple of key notes from the performance/talk Tools for Tummeling in the age of Google +
(but it’s pretty funny and includes some awesome 9 and 6 year old sisters dropping some serious web knowledge, so it’s worth a watch)

• blogs are still brochure-like and one-to-many-ish which seem static and unsatisfying in the era of social activity streams. People are in “social media’ to be with each other. How do we create a “with” space and feeling on a blog?
• the emotional interfaces of blogs and the web haven’t progressed farther than the era of an 1997 Site Under Construction animated gif. We have emoticons. We can do a lot better than that.
• How do you make people comfortable on your site and create a sense of space? How do I do the equivalent of offering you a piece of cake here?
• How do you let people know you are with them even when you are not speaking and commenting
• How do you know when someone is listening to you?
• People speak and express differently when they know they are being listened to and cared about.

Extreme Web MakeOver + Under (written 9/21/10)
Have you ever dealt with something so overwhelming and confusing that you just gave up? That was me and my web sites. For years they’ve felt like a jewelry box full of knotted and tangled chains. If only I could get it together, I know there’s something valuable there.

I’ve been embarrassed and annoyed with myself. You can imagine how productive that has been.

So now I’m coming out with it. Being open and vulnerable and authentic is something I speak about, practice in my art and believe in. It’s always worked for me. So I’ll be sharing the journey.

And I finally think it’s possible to conquer the confusion. I’ve got a great team shaping up and I decided, as I often do, that the most helpful thing to do would be to own up to it publicly and share the journey with all of you. I’m not the only person with old web sites that don’t quite work now, or abandoned technical ideas making things difficult. Perhaps there’s something in this that will be helpful to you and perhaps you’ll have some good ideas. Perhaps we’ll discover something else

Maybe the mess isn’t your site, but you.
Ah, how can you tell the dancer from the dance?

I create in many different ways, often spontaneously on stage, and speak to many different “audiences.” I might keynote for Internet professionals at Web 2.0, I might be bringing together students at a southern college that’s been having hate speech problems performing my show Cookie, I might be giving advice to queer folks about coming out, I might just rant about Hillary and Obama running for President.

But as the always insightful Merlin Mann said to me “anyone is only one Google search away from other parts of you.” That’s our current version of Whitman’s insight that “I contain multitudes.”

So I will be combining, and organizing, my work and information about me for the many different people who are interested in my work. I am not my keywords.

Why focus on a web site in 2010? Aren’t you on twitter?
Wired Magazine recently questioned the future of the web itself. At a time when the shiniest attention is going to iPhone and iPad apps and Facebook and other “activity streams” which are certainly unmoored from a central place or site, why do this? I’ve been tweeting way more than blogging. Why should I go back to focussing on my web site(s)? Just as some are declaring email bankruptcy, shouldn’t i just declare web site bankruptcy?

There are 3 good reasons:
1. I’ll be able to better find and share all the work I’ve made.
I have lots of writing and years and years of great video and audio content from all kinds of shows, including: stand-up, Cookie (my first interactive show in which I’ve baked over 25,000 chocolate chip cookies with audiences all over the US) and my deep love the Heather Gold Show (soon to be renamed subvert w heather gold and based on subvert.com), a talk show in which the guests are there to spark a conversation with everyone. Don’t you want to see Maria Bamford riff ridiculously on her depression or see me call out Julia Allison in the audience and have her sit on my lap when she booed then Valleywag editor Owen Thomas on my infamous SXSW Gossip panel? How about punk rock legend Lynnee Breedlove connecting with Darfur survivor Gadet Riek? I have amazing moments but it’s hard to share them if they’re just going to be like another tangled necklace in the jewelry box.

2. I’ll make more work.
I need a sense of space in order to create. Working with designers at Wolff Olins years ago made me conscious that blank space is essential for me to make something new. I need to know that something will have a place to go. Knowing where something will go and that it has it’s place to go helps free my mind.

3. It’ll be easier to find my stuff and me and much easier to give me money.
Like many artists I work to support myself through my creative work. In my case that includes speaking about what I learn through my art and teaching it to others and applying it to business (which needs art the most). I need a clear central place where people can find my work and out about me, get to know me, hire me and access and buy my work. I want to get to know you too and I’ve got twitter and facebook and podcast chats and live shows to help me do that. Perhaps that will happen on my site too. But not until something simple and basic works first.

Bonus Reason: The open web matters. I don’t care how many streams I end up creating or that my stuff will travel and be posted all over the web (I will creative commons license most all of it), all those links need to go somewhere. Tummeling, which I do and speak, teach and podcast about,  is all about making connections and the best way for me to make connections between different kinds of work that I’ve done is through a central site.

The obstacle of being early
I started a web presence back in 1996. Like many I knew I was blogging before it was called that and before there was handy software to make it happen. So some kind friends who’d begun a small (now defunct) web agency developed a custom publishing tool for me to make subvert.com possible. (Thanks Eric Lawrence and Dan Eckam / eyephonic) Unlike Ev or Ben and Mena, it didn’t occur to me that they should sell this tool to everyone. But I have no right to feel bad. I can always listen to Justin Hall‘s Great Opportunities I Missed at my 2000 Internet Roast)

I can’t tell you how long it took to get all the stuff I’d published into real blogging software. (Thanks Paul Schreiber). It’s easy to get attached to the tool you’ve used, but it’s easier to use the open tools lots more people are using *now.*

How often is business an exercise in stripping? Showing everything, allowing in nothing.

I wrote this as part of a grant application in 2004 I think. Maybe 2005. There’s a phrase in here I come back to again and again to describe what is missing in many situations and what I’m looking to change, the intimacy I want to make and the conditions for it I want us all to make and have:

There’s is a big difference between a strip club and sexual intimacy. I think we’re after the business difference too. How often are pr/ SEC filings, marketing and branding and advertising an exercise in stripping? Even when showing everything, allowing in/exchanging nothing.

Thanks to Tony Comstock for pulling this bit out and inspiring me to think that perhaps it’s worth sharing all of this. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

(one small note: I plan to bring the Heather Gold Show back as subvert with heather gold sometime this year. If you’re interested in working on producing the podcast let me know.)

There is no audience.

Interactive performance
Is one way to describe what I do. Other terms I’ve used include freestyle comedy, story DJ, interactive comedy, and human filter. It’s tough mapping language to experience and feeling.

I use personal storytelling, humour, improvisation, conversation, communal activity and other techniques to create a relatively quick sense of intimacy and connection in the room. In traditional theatre the story is the means. I’m exploring ways to make it the end as well, so that the catharsis is not somewhere over there on stage but inside of everyone in the room. What if the performance were not about someone who is a baker, but is unfolding as I bake with everyone right now?

This entails adapting to the audience and encouraging their participation and energy as a factor in the show. It means spending as much time designing conditions likely to create a live experience as it does scripting. It also means being as genuine and authentically ones self as possible. There are a host of little tricks and techniques I’m learning as this path unfolds. For example, I’ve found that if I “go first” it makes it much easier for others to open up as well. This authenticity means means being imperfect. In public.

The business world more than any other has, sometimes silently and sometimes in memos, asked us to leave our whole selves outside the door and bring only the “efficient” piece of our minds to the task at hand. It takes a whole person, especially the ungraphed and un-Powerpointed parts of our humanity to have fun, to play, to be open. Those things are necessary for real community and creativity to occur.

From The Law Project proposal for my next solo show
Because I write the show by improvising with an audience, I cannot know the threads that will be strongest and remain at the end of the process. My work aims to create live, intimate community by exploring universal subjects that connect us. My interactive plays create community through the performance: To use humour, personal storytelling, and most of all the audience themselves to create a deep sense of connection and inclusion. Unlike most stand-up comics or audience participation shows, I never make comedy at the expense of the audience. I create a space for them to shine.

In Cookie I bake chocolate chip cookies with the audience. In The Law Project I plan to teach law with the audience as I explore my own journey through law school. This will increase the challenge intellectually and emotionally for me as a playwright and performer, as I work to find a way to make the abstract tangible and the theoretical emotionally resonant.
I write by talking / improving and riffing in a long series of workshops that always involve some kind of audience. Cookie was the result of many performances, and I’m interested in creating experiences that challenge folks as well as bring them together.

The commons is shrinking quickly in this nation, with conversations, academic and otherwise, happening more and more between folks who already agree with each other, listening to more of what they already think. Performance (and the law) have the opportunity to strengthen bonds as they can bring folks together who are di”erent, or already in disagreement. “Creating the space” has everything to do with whether or not we’ll truly be able to explore disagreement, or just talk at each other.
I think that the rule of law needs to be seriously examined in a moment in which western cultures believe that it is what makes them unique, better and free . What does rule of law really mean? Is it as powerful as story or is it the arena in which we craft and choose which stories we will collectively live by?

My work builds on the solo performance tradition created by monologist Spalding Gray. Like Josh Kornbluth, who built on Spalding Gray’s work, I use improvisation to create a play that feels alive. But my work focuses on bringing the form to a place that excites today’s audiences. This means building in interactive threads and moments. This means not locking the script completely. This means involving the audience very literally in the show. Video games, then music and now television are all involving interactive elements in part because people are interested in each other. Performance has always been a way of having a unifying collective experience. I’ve been taking elements and principles I learned from a variety of worlds, including the Net and applying them to live performance. And its an ongoing lesson. I try to approach performance like software. I don’t expect it to be completely finished and I know that I will learn something new from the audience every time.

Live performance has an opportunity to do what our Congress, towns and perhaps our real courts are failing to do: Be a public space in we can be whole together. This is theatre as new commons.

From The Heather Gold Show – my live talk show
I don’t force the specific topic of the show but let it grow organically from my lead guest (Thinker/represents light). I believe that passion is a requirement for a meaningful conversation, and that everything is like a wheel: if you can introduce any idea from the hub, then it will connect with any spoke. To curate guests, I choose people who will be able to give very different takes on the same subject, from the Entertainer (represents wine) and Doer (represents bread). These guests are always extremely diverse in terms of background, identity and point of view, but the topic, atmosphere, humour and vulnerability I share and connections I make allow all the guests and audience to come together. This means the show is about living the questions with the guests and everyone there.

From Open Source Management or Live! Corporate! Blogging!
There’s is a big difference between a strip club and sexual intimacy. I think we’re after the business difference too. How often are pr/ SEC filings, marketing and branding and advertising an exercise in stripping? Even when showing everything, allowing in/exchanging nothing.

From Design for Conversation, my business talk/experience
Why do people who make interactive experiences and focus on relationship in their business, have conferences in which the only time people interact is in the halls? How do you design for conversation? What are the qualitative factors in allowing it to happen?

What opens people up? What assumptions am I working from?

• inclusion

• everyone is welcome

• other people are funny

• its great if other folks get laughs too

• story is how we create meaning

• anyone can tell a story in the right conditions

• everyone is interesting when they’re present / authentic

• vulnerability is necessary for connection

• reaching the people on the edge will have an energetic domino effect on everyone else.

I welcome your thoughts and feelings.

Update 4/6/2013 Many thanks to BoingBoing for linking to this post in connection with the production of my interactive show “I Look Like An Egg, but I Identify As A Cookie” 4/8 and 4/9/2013 at Shotgun Players in Berkeley. Tickets for that are here. I learned a great deal of this stuff in making “Cookie.” Since I initially wrote this post I’ve done a fair amount of speaking and some workshop teaching and speaking coaching and a podcast related to how to create the conditions for conversation or “tummelling.” If you’re interested the workshop and talks at Google and Web 2.0 and Ignite, you’ll find much of it here. The podcast is called TummelVision and was done with Deb Schultz and Kevin Marks. It’s here.

The End of Shame, or Getting Over Oversharing

I hosted this conversation at SXSW 2011 with Melissa Gira Grant, Cindy Gallop Jeff Jarvis and many other participants formerly known as the audience.

There has been a real backlash against openness as the word “oversharing” implies. As CNN noted, I think an “oversharing” accusation is often another persons way of saying “what you are saying is making me uncomfortable.”

Handling out feelings and learning how to be in public space together is what much of my work is about. I believe it’s a lot of what the shifting economy is about too. As I told Umair Haque in our TummelVision conversation: “We’re not going to think our way out of this economic/cultural place. We’ve got to feel our way out.”

The End of Shame conversation happened because it was the one Melissa most wanted to have and it was one of the bright moments of SXSW for me this year. It was a room of incredibly smart and interesting people who taught us more than we shared. And we know how to share.



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