Operation Loki: Google Glass in NOLA

lokiGoogle recently announced some crazy new technology, a wearable computer called Google Glass. 8,000 people have been chosen to test drive a pre-final version of the technology. I have had the good luck to be one of the ones picked here in the New Orleans area. (For more about Glass including a video fo the interface in action check out my column for SixEstate, Exploring with Google Glass.)

I’ve been a pro blogger since 2006, as well as the founder of HumidCity back in the pre-K days. I’ve had the good fortune of being able to work in the social media and online content field since the days when Facebook was limited to Harvard students.

I want to use Glass primarily to share aspects of our unique culture here in New Orleans. Too many times have we seen ourselves in the fun house mirror of bad movies and poor reporting. As a native whose early years were split between the Garden District and the Bywater I have a foot in each end of the urban core, a background that should help me present a more organic view of the Crescent City.

Some of the groups I intend to work with and document include:  Skinz ‘n Bonez,  Krewe du Who, the Noisician Coalition, Chef Eric Mars of Louisiana Bistro, NOLA Wenches, WWOZ, WTUL, The New Orleans Musician’s Clinic, and  a wide variety of local bloggers (including the wonderful NOLA Femmes who asked me to do this guest post) and bands.

The rough part, and the reason why I am writing this today, is the cost. While I have been accepted as one of the 8,000 participating requires an outlay of $1,500 plus tax for the hardware and a run up the coast to New York city to pick it up (probably in the $400-$800 range depending on how far in advance Google gives us the dates). Like many New Orleanians right now I just don’t have the resources. That is where crowdfunding comes in.

I’ve launched an IndieGoGo campaign to raise the money. While I hate to sit here holding my hand out I also refuse to pass up this chance without a fight. So here is the skinny.

This fundraiser is to help me sponsor those costs:

  • Google Glasses will cost me $1500 Dollars + Tax (est $105)
  • Travel costs to NY are between $500-$800
  • IndieGoGo’s fees  Approximately $175 (determined by level of fulfillment)

No amount is too small or too large, if a lot of you readers donated a single dollar that would take me over the top. Any surplus funds raised will be split evenly and donated to the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the New Orleans Musican’s Clinic. This will also be the fate of the funds if I do not raise enough funds to actually participate in the Glass program.

As to the trip, I have already arranged to stay with friends in NYC up so the only travel expense you would be helping cover with is airfare/trainfare. I won’t be buying expensive Manhattan cappuchinos or drinking till dawn with your generous donation.

So, what do you say? Feel like supporting a New Orleans blogger in reaching for the cutting edge? If so stop by my IndieGoGo campaign. Every dollar helps (and I’ve got some pretty decent perks for donating as well)!!

Thanks for reading!

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Teen Tech Day: Bringing Resources to New Orleans Teens

Something close to my heart has always been teens and resources. Many teens are working hard and just do not have the resources to accomplish the goals they set for their selves as well as not knowing anyone or having no clue where to go for resources to aid them in their success.

I’ve always been blessed to have extremely involved parents and high school (Warren Easton) and a resource obsessed mind, but many around me growing up didn’t  So as a teen, I always took it upon myself to try and find resources such as scholarships, schools, summer opportunities, etc. for myself and friends.

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As I got older it became more important to me and friends to share our resources to help teens as much as possible to not be left behind. We believe our youth are talented; they just aren’t giving a chance to experience their full potential. So instead of being afraid of our youth in the city it’s important to see the child in them just looking for a chance as well as not to punish the children who are trying to do right. There are so many ways to get involved through mentoring, offerings resources or just supporting programs working to better the teen population of Greater New Orleans.

My friend Chris Boudy and I have a love for technology. Three years ago we decided to create a technology conference to start giving teens with interest in technology more resources and teens who never considered technology industry more options to consider. Through this idea came Teen Tech Day.

TTD is a one-day interactive conference exposing Greater New Orleans youth to technologies such as video game design, robotics, programming, graphic design and more. Technology offers opportunities to explore math, science, as well as engineering in which Teen Tech works to open the door of possibilities. Each year’s students between the ages of 13 through 18 years old are provided a positive outlet to explore opportunities and get excited about technology. As the future calls for more technological based careers Teen Tech Day decided to aid in building the local technology industry of the future. Our third annual Teen Tech Day takes place on March 23rd at Delgado Community College.

If you know teens interested in technology, sign them up.
Want to donate? $5 or more can make a difference
Help make TTD a success! Volunteer to help out.

When it was possible to fall in love while waiting to buy concert tickets

Today I purchased tickets online for a couple of touring acts soon to be appearing at the House of Blues. For me, this is still an infrequent life event… When I was younger, concert tickets were somehow simultaneously a true splurge and something that I would budget carefully for; now it’s a question of whether or not I’ll have the time to go to the show or if I’m able to make plans that far in advance (life’s just more complicated). And these days I tend to go to see local bands playing in bars or nightclubs instead of going to see big shows — it’s the more flexible option, especially when one lives in New Orleans.

It surprised me that today’s transaction was oddly anti-climactic and distinctly lacking. It made me think about how things change over time and how, occasionally, experiences can be short-changed in favor of efficiency.

I realized that I actually sort of miss the ritual of days past, when one would stand in line at dawn at Tower Records or wherever on a Saturday morning, waiting for the tickets to go on sale. It was never boring! (I can’t say the same about how we purchase tickets now, obsessively refreshing the browser’s window repeatedly as we wait.)

For me, buying tickets in the days before the Internet meant getting up way-too-early, dressing for comfort and the weather, buying a large cup of convenience store coffee, visit the cash machine, then going to wait in line and making friends with the people ahead of and behind me as needed — sometimes I’d even be lucky enough to be the first person in line!

(Frequently I’d get an extra cup of coffee so that I could make an “instant friend” to hold my place for a few minutes’ time during the hours of waiting if needed. Or I’d take coffee orders and make a run to the nearest open place as more people arrived.)

More often than not, whoever was in front of me would agree to purchase an extra ticket for me (that’s why having cash mattered), running our two requests as one transaction (which could be crucial when a much-anticipated show could sell out in mere minutes), or I’d do the same for the people behind me if I was first in line — we’d help each other on the spot. The camaraderie and courtesy became infectious.

(Best spontaneous line party experience? Waiting to get tickets for any Cheap Trick show — singing, fun, and laughter were guaranteed!)

Purchasing tickets was also a more democratic experience in those days. There weren’t pre-sale codes only available to a select few or special access early-bird opportunities for “preferred customers.” Your success in procuring a ticket to the desired event was based solely on either showing up early enough to get a good spot in line or being lucky to get through to Ticketmaster if you opted to order by phone instead. The only advantage one could exercise depended upon cooperation — not which flavor of credit card happened to be in one’s wallet or if one had access to an iThing-only app.

(And if I’d chosen instead to buy my tickets today at the venue’s window? I would’ve had to wait an additional two hours after the time when tickets went on sale online for that opportunity — there’d have been no one working the window until noon.)

All of that said, it’s not the process I miss as much as the experience of interacting with the other people who were there because they also enjoyed the same band/artist: the low-level humming excitement, the concert stories shared, how people would smile as they walked away from the ticket window, and sometimes how a few of us would converge upon a diner for breakfast after as new friendships were formed.

Now it’s automated, isolated, solitary, and perfunctory… a chore instead of an adventure. Check that off of today’s “Things To Do” list and move on.

(Even if we still had to queue up, it’d probably not be the same kind of experience — because everyone would likely be paying more attention to their smartphones or stay resolutely plugged into their iPods instead of noticing and conversing with the people around them. Until someone needed to go find a restroom… there’s still no app for that!)

One of my best days ever started with my waiting in line to buy a ticket for a show at the same just-opened House of Blues in New Orleans almost 20 years ago. I’d bounced out of bed and dressed expressly for comfort — yoga pants, a long-sleeved cropped waffle shirt, sandals. My hair was morning-disheveled in a good way and I was fresh-faced, having paused only long enough to wash the sleep from my eyes and brush my teeth before rocketing out of the house. I was passing the time reading a Tom Robbins novel and drinking my coffee, chatting with the people around me intermittently. I was happy, still slightly sleepy, un-self-conscious, and cheerfully excited.

A guy I’d seen around the French Quarter every now and again for a couple of years had been hired as part of the security staff for the venue — he was there that morning to keep the line orderly. We didn’t have many friends in common, nor did we frequent the same bars or hangouts; I’d admired him in passing and mostly from a distance (although we had, in fact, spoken briefly a few times). It seemed to be a one-sided interest and I was okay with that. But that morning, while we were in the same place for a few hours at the same time and for the same reason, he noticed me.

I’d been reading and, for whatever reason, I glanced up and saw him looking at me. I smiled reflexively. He looked startled as if he’d been physically shocked for a second or two, sort of jumped back a bit as if he’d been hit by something, dropped his walkie-talkie and picked it up, and finally grinned sheepishly. Then he walked over and introduced himself, said “hello,” and showed me the new crack in the walkie-talkie’s display screen.

I remember thinking, “What took you so long?”

(Although I was very much involved with someone else at that time, it was the beginning of a friendship that I still appreciate and a stolen moment in my life that I’ll never forget. In an alternate universe, I’ve no doubt that it would have been the start of one hell of a love affair.)

I strongly suspect that there’s zero chance of something similar ever happening while purchasing tickets via the ether and pixels — this convenience robs us of such opportunities to connect with each other. I have yet to hear of anyone having a shot at falling in love, if only just a little bit, while hitting refresh and waiting to complete a transaction.

There’s a world of difference between the magic of the Internet and that of making simple human connections. I’m grateful for the memories of what I experienced during those hours spent waiting with strangers who shared a common interest — it was never “lost time.”

Daisy Pignetti: Blogging the Unfinished Story in Post-Katrina New Orleans

Daisy Pignetti* is participating on a panel at the Oxford Internet Institute symposium at Oxford University in England and is presenting her paper “Blogging the Unfinished Story in post-Katrina New Orleans” on Friday. Her paper features my writing from my personal blog, TravelingMermaid,  in the months after the storm and up to 2009. I am honored that Daisy felt my frustrated scribbles was worthy to include in her paper so I wanted to share this news with y’all.

Daisy contacted the “NOLA Bloggers”, a group of people who blogged and networked after the storm, through Think NOLA in 2006 asking for volunteers to talk about their blogging experiences for a research project. I think it’s important to note that Think NOLA, the New Orleans Wiki (both now defunct) and Alan Gutierrez were instrumental in organizing the Nola blogosphere into a cohesive group and deserves a lot of credit for doing so.

The abstract from Daisy’s paper reads as follows:

“With the growing familiarity of the blog genre, much has been published about the use of information and communication technologies for grassroots and community endeavors, but there is still research to be done, particularly of placeblogs that coincide with sites of natural and/or national disaster. Unlike other scholarly Internet inquiries where issues of identity might influence the structures and processes of the research, the population discussed here stands out in its transparent use of blogs and other Web 2.0 technologies.

The New Orleans blogger community proves to be one built upon the shared experience of Hurricane Katrina and is thereby focused on reporting the facts surrounding and actions needed for recovery to take place. While their individual blog audiences may be small, their disclosing details about their lives ‘after the levees broke’ allows these ‘NOLA Bloggers’ to be in control of their storm stories and potentially receive feedback within minutes of sharing, which is fundamental during times of crisis.

After a brief overview of my autoethnographic research methods, I present a profile of a blogger whose writing presents readers with a truer understanding of what life is like in post-Katrina New Orleans. Since the hurricane hit in 2005, Charlotte’s writing has progressed from emotional outpourings of survivor’s guilt to reflective posts illustrating the way web 2.0 technologies have empowered her local identity since the storm. “

Several bloggers and/or blogs from the NOLA blogosphere who were posting immediately after the storm are mentioned in the paper, including:

Humid City
NOLA Slate (Sam recently guest posted for NOLAFemmes – you may read her post here.)
DotCalm
Polimom
Wetbank Guide
Maitri’s Vatulblog
Think NOLA

Also mentioned is the list of New Orleans Bloggers and the Rising Tide Conference.

After the success of last year’s 5th anniversary project on this blog, I had hoped to publish a series for the 6th anniversary featuring some of the NOLA bloggers that I personally read after the storm, people who came to mean so much to me, but personal issues prevented me from seeing that project through. Maybe next year.

There’s really nothing more I can add except, read this paper. Scroll down the programme to Friday and click on Daisy Pignetti’s name after which you can download the paper. It’s fascinating reading and gratifying to realize that all our ranting and kvetching about life post-Katrina was heard and really is a little piece of history.

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*Daisy Pignetti is an Assistant Professor in the Department of English and Philosophy at the University of Wisconsin-Stout. A proud New Orleans native, her research into the rebuilding of New Orleans through new media endeavors can be read in scholarly journals such as Computers and Composition Online and Reflections: A Journal of Writing, Service-Learning, and Community Literacy as well as on prominent blog sites such as the Open Society Institute’s Katrina: An UnNatural Disaster and the Harvard University hosted Publius Project. She credits these publications and opportunities to the wonderful group of Internet researchers, faculty, and staff she met during the 2007 Oxford Internet Institute Summer Doctoral Programme.

Sunday Afternoon in the City: The Lower Garden District


When you were a kid did your parents take your family on Sunday afternoon drives? It used to be something average Americans did on Sundays, back in the day, when the day was slower-paced. Sunday used to be a day for families to get together around the dinner (lunch) table after church then spend the rest of the day visiting and teen-agers weren’t exempt (as I well remember!). Sunday drives were often a part of that ritual. Well, sometimes, my friend Chris and I drive to different parts of the city just because. And we take photos. Here are a few I took recently in the lower garden district where there’s definitely no shortage of exotic, colorful homes to admire. When was the last time you drove through a city neighborhood…..just because?

The Too Much Information Age

OK. I admit it. I am of the age now (sigh) that I receive the AARP magazine. Which I did not ask for and which goes straight from the mailbox to the recycle pile every month. And, yeah, I freely admit it’s an ego thang.

This month’s issue, though, grabbed my attention because Valerie Bertinelli is on the cover. There she is, over there to the left looking fabulous. (Maybe I’ll rethink my AARP predjudice – George Cluny’s in it too.) I’ve always liked her beginning in the ’70′s when One Day At A Time was one of my favorite TV shows. Then she married Eddie Van Halen. EDDIE VAN HALEN!  How freaken cool was that? Anyway, blah, blah, blah…..time moved on and I just always liked her. So I opened the magazine and read the very nice story written about her.

But that’s not what this post is about.

No, this post is about The Too Much Information Age of which I have been pondering for a couple of weeks now. Obviously, the cosmos is in tune with my thoughts because it keeps throwing related information (ahem!) into my galaxy, forcing me to read and ponder and think to myself that I really need to do something about all this mental stuff going around in circles inside my head. So as I’m browsing through this magazine I come to an article entitled May I Have My Attention, Please?

“Welcome to the Attention Crisis—also known as the “culture of distraction,” information-fatigue syndrome,” or simply “modern life.” It’s what happens when technology’s flashing, beeping, dun-dun-daaahhhing stimuli scramble your focus, shred your nerves, and squander your productivity.”

Scrambled focus, shredded nerves, squandered productivity? Umm, yeah, sounds like the black hole I’m in.

It all started so innocently about 5 years ago with my discovery of blogs. Fastforward to the present and it’s extended to a healthy (unhealthy?) list on Google Reader of 123 subscriptions (recently culled down), 4 blogs of my own,  2 Twitter accounts, 4 emails and Facebook. I’m not even mentioning other social sites I’ve joined & neglected or just forgotten about. Facebook alone has been a tremendously voracious eater of my time. And I don’t own a Smartphone, Iphone or anything even remotely akin to them and I don’t want one. The same day I read the AARP article I watched a story on NBC Nightly News about how Tweeting and internet surfing on Blackberries, etc is taking time & attention away from the kids of their tech-addicted parents. Several people actually admitted to it and expressed dismay but didn’t seem willing to change their behavior.

I have to my admit my addiction as well, though. I don’t have kids but I do have a husband who constantly complains I’m on the computer too much…..and he’s right. I haven’t been willing to give up my blogs, the reading, the tweeting, the status updates, etc, etc, etc until recently. But I think I have finally maxed myself out and I blame it on the oilspill.

Like most everyone here, I have been reading everything I could get my hands on about the oilspill – even having a Google Alert set up to catch every piece of news that mentions “Deepwater Horizon”. For the past month or more I’ve scanned every item coming over, reading about half (and that’s a lot) and either tweeting or posting on Facebook much of it. I’ve clicked other people’s links to oilspill stories. I have immersed myself into the oilspill to the point that I feel like I’m drowning in information. It’s just too much and it’s affecting my mood – not for the better.

Focusing on one thing to the near-exclusion of everything else in life is not good mental health. So I’ve stopped checking my email as soon as I get up in the morning and try not to turn on the computer until after 3:00pm. I’ve stopped updating my Facebook status everyday and limit the links I post. I’ve cut waaaay back on Twitter and on my own blog posts. This is what I’ve done so far but more (rather, less) is coming. Every day I tell myself that I don’t have to know everything that’s going on in the world every minute of the day. Really. I don’t.

Already my days seem longer…I’m spending more time outside, more time with the dogs and husband and more time reading actual books. More importantly, I feel like I’m on more of an even keel emotionally. And it’s feeling really, really good!