What a Loving and Beautiful World

Photo: Harvard Crimson

We are producing a new set of videos for the Radcliffe Institute (Harvard’s institute for advanced study) and as part of the process I got to document the installation of What a Loving and Beautiful World at the new Johnson-Kulukundis Family Gallery in Byerly Hall.

This amazing melding of technology and art is a work of TeamLab, a collective of several hundred Japanese artists, designers, engineers, and programmers.  They work in a non-hierarchical mode with the collective assuming authorship of each piece.  What a Loving and Beautiful World is one of the best meldings of technology and art I have seen (another example is wonderful microscope imagery on display in the lobby of MIT's Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research).

The TeamLab piece involves large interactive projections on all four walls of the darkened gallery.  At first, Chinese and Japanese characters float across a minimal landscape.  As viewers touch these characters, they transform gracefully into the images they represent.  Those images then interact with each other – the bird flies to the tree, the sun makes the flower grow, etc. – to create a unique experience for every viewer.

Toshityuki Inoko, one of the creators, told me through a translator, “When we are living in the city, feeling our modern lives in the city, we don't necessarily understand that all of our actions somehow affect the world, resonate with the world and affect one another.  By creating an artwork like this, which is highly interactive and which one has agency to make the world of the space, to mold the environment, we like to think that one is made more aware of one's actions in the world as well. This is a work in which we hope people take more agency in the world.”

What a Loving and Beautiful World will be up at Radcliffe through December 19.

To learn more about Radcliffe, check out Investing in Ideas, a video I made for them in 2013.

21st Century Skills

Our video Incorporating 21st Century Skills in the Classroom, produced with Jobs for the Future, has been uploaded to the Students at the Center Hub. This website is funded by Nellie Mae Education Foundation and offers a wide range of resources for families, students, and educators interested in student-centered learning.

In this 20-minute video, U.S. History teacher Charles Willis and Chemistry teacher Leanne Collura share their strategies to teach not just their subject matter but 21st century skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, communication, collaboration, and creativity.  We spend a few days in their dynamic classrooms as Willis's students take the lead in exploring the lead-up to the American Civil War and Collura's students apply stochiometry principles to air bag design.

Revere High School principal Lourenco Garcia also highlights how the school's flipped classroom model develops 21st century skills by giving students more agency in the learning process.

This school is amazing and I loved getting to know the students, teachers, and staff there! I hope to have a chance to visit and further document their development.

Transmedia Story Full Launch!

Melissa Ludtke and I have just launched the website for our transmedia series Touching Home in China: in search of missing girlhoods. Now we add a website - functional on desktop and mobile - to the project's presence on FacebookTwitterInstagramYouTube, and iBooks. Our launch coincides with the 20th anniversary of Hillary Clinton's declaration that "women's rights are human rights once and for all" at the UN Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing.

The project explores girlhood in 21st century rural China through the eyes of two Chinese-American adoptees and the girls they meet in their "hometowns." The first of six stories has been uploaded, and the remaining installments will come over the next few months.

I have learned a lot about this new medium through our collaboration, and am excited to add more stories!

A Circle at Strong Oak's

On Monday my assistant Anna Graham and I had the privilege of filming a circle meeting of Boston's Restorative Justice Collaborative in the Berkshires at the home of Strong Oak Lefebvre.  Strong Oak (center, with talking piece) is an indigenous restorative justice leader and one of the founders of the Visioning Bear circle to prevent sexual violence.  (Visioning Bear has been recently addressing other issues of concern as well.)

In typical circle fashion, the conversation was honest and spontaneous and involved a lot of personal storytelling - in part around the question of what it means for non-native people to use a tradition that originated with native peoples. Participants also talked about what drew them to circle practice in the first place.

It was a moving conversation, and I hope to include it in my upcoming documentary, The Circle: A Story of Murder and Reconciliation in Boston. If you are interested, please follow the film project on Twitter or like it on Facebook!

Camera Format Workshop

I had loads of fun today doing a camera format workshop with my Intermediate Video class at Rhode Island School of Design. We shot video on six different cameras ranging from tiny consumer cameras to large-sensor cinema cameras.  I was amazed at how much the GoPro Hero can do for just $400 (including the ability to monitor etc. from a cell phone using a free ap) and how beautiful the Black Magic Cinema camera's images are... I guess I see what all the hype is about!

Inquiry-Based Learning

I spent several months observing and filming a senior composition class taught by English teacher Jenny Wellington, and with editor Shondra Burke put together a video called Inquiry-Based Learning at Pittsfield Middle High School. I learned so much from Ms. Wellington's masterful unit design, classroom setup, facilitation of student-moderated discussions, and supervising of meaningful student projects and presentations. It's wonderful to truly see students at the center of their own learning!

This video was funded by Nellie Mae Education Foundation and will appear on their Students at the Center Hub.

A Robot at Radcliffe

We really enjoyed meeting Francesca Rossi and her robot friend at Radcliffe last may. Francesca is a computer science professor at the University of Padova in Italy and her research focuses on artificial intelligence.

She introduced us to Pierre, a NAO humanoid robot made by French company Aldebaran. Pierre is designed to be a companion for elderly people, children, and others needing help around the house.  Francesca borrowed Pierre for the day to show him off at the Radcliffe Fellows certificate ceremony for the 50 fellows.

We interviewed Francesca briefly as part of a new video we are producing for the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard - a signature video that the institute will use for their capital campaign.

In 2012 we produced a series of 10 videos which included portraits of fellows Radhika Nagpal and Douglas Rogers.