our white friend

Colin Poole and I have been working on a new performance project. It’s called Our White Friend. Here’s an initial blurb and link, and here’s the r&d blog. More details soon.

Our White Friend

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Tim Wise is an American authority on white racism. Through public lectures and books he educates white audiences to recognise and be responsible for their race-based privileges. We are interested in Wise’s craft in public speaking, his authority on race, and what might happen if we were to imagine that he is an artist. How might this proposition enable us to test the limits of Wise’s practice as public speaker and white ambassador? Whose voices count in this debate, and whose faces are acceptable?

– Colin Poole and Simon Ellis


Image: Shawn Calhoun (Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic, changes made)

the device nearby

In 2012, two University of Essex researchers reported the results of a thoroughly alarming study: The presence of a cell phone on a nearby desk led college students, who’d been paired off to converse for 10 minutes, to feel more distanced from, less empathetic toward, and less trusting of their discussion partners. Students also rated the brief relationships they’d formed as being of a lower quality.

It was the intimacy of conversations that really took a hit, the researchers found. When discussions were casual, the cell phone on the desk made little difference. But when conversations touched on more meaningful topics, the device—though it remained still, silent, off to the side, and unanswered—discouraged conversation partners from warming to one another.

 – https://theamericanscholar.org/we-need-to-chat/

not knowing what we are looking for

Humans see and hear what we expect to see and hear. Philosopher Alva Noë writes it like this:

if I mention my hat, and then my scarf and then go on to mention my dloves, you will very certainly hear what context dictates I am likely to have said — which is not dloves (not only is that not a word in English, but the dl sound doesn’t even exist in English) but, of course, gloves.

hearing, perceiving, learning, is always a matter of using what you know to make sense of what is on offer.[1]

In research, learning and creative processes this is a curious situation. How are we to notice difference and newness in circumstances when we don’t know what we are looking for?

My experience in dance and dance research is that the problem is more about not even recognising that, as a consequence of being human, we are engaged in a kind of dilution of experience and attention.

The challenge then becomes to build perceptual tools and systems of communication with others (and with ourselves) that help reveal the things we want to see and hear, and that we imagine we have seen and heard.

word, academia and just writing

a crucial stumbling block in reconfiguring the economics of scholarly communications for the digital age is Microsoft Word. Specifically, the fact that users are wedded to this format presents typesetting and conversion costs that are completely out of proportion to the needs of the system.

The fact that users continue to write using a complex format that is well beyond their needs means that we have to pay for the labour of converting Word documents to an interchangeable XML format … Automatic conversion is difficult, so we head to the brute-force solution of using tools that help, underwritten by sheer labour power.

– Martin Paul Eve, https://www.martineve.com/2015/04/15/in-the-beginning-was-the-word/

I’ve spent a good chunk of the last few years trying to avoid Microsoft Word for any writing[1]. It’s a bloated application when all I really need (and this includes writing book chapters and journal articles) is a text editor.

For the International Journal of Screendance, co-editor – Harmony Bench – and I use the Open Journal System. In this system we are forced to use Microsoft Word because it is what everyone uses in academia. Contributors submit in Word, reviewers review in Word, we edit in Word, contributors revise and resubmit in Word, etc.

But, then, at the next to last step, I convert these word documents into a form of plain text called Markdown. This conversion is done automatically using Pandoc but requires that I then manually check the Markdown to ensure there is no strange code/markup (themselves remnants from MS Word).

From Markdown we are able to automatically produce HTML and (correctly formatted) Word documents that are then converted into PDFs.

It’s labour-intensive and unnecessarily complex all because of MS Word.

Try a text-editor (some examples are Byword, OmmWriter or nvALT), then learn Markdown (it will take just a few minutes) and MS Word-less writing will be a pleasure.

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  1. This is a rather detailed outline of my writing and research workflow: https://simonkellis.wordpress.com/2013/05/07/writing-workflow/  ↩