Wire 106: Week 15 – Time to Get Real with the Final Projects

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Credit: Imran Ahmed (who rules)

This is where we start winding down the perpetual motion machine that is #ds106. You all have been on your A-game throughout the semester, but finals are fast approaching and this semester cannot last forever, unfortunately. There will be some wrap-up assignments next week that will include reflecting on your final project, reflecting on the class, featuring your own work, and generally wrapping up loose ends.

But for week 15, here’s the deal:

Course Evaluation: Fill out the course evaluation that was emailed to each of you. Do this, it’s good for Paul and I, it’s good for you, and it’s good all around. Bag the class, praise it, remain disinterested if you can, but do the evaluation anyway.

Wire Episodes: Finish up season 4, if you didn’t do your three video discussion sessions, you need to take care of this sometime before now and the end of next week with at least a group of three students. There is a Google Doc for this I sent to everyone, be sure to get in there and start organizing.

Daily Creates: Do one, have fun.

Assignments/Final project: Over the course of this week you need to be working exclusively on your final project, continuing to develop out the social media presence of The Wire character you chose. To this end, you have to complete 8 stars worth of assignments from the point of view of your character. For so inspiration, check out the work Travis Peed is doing with Randy Wagstaff, and Amy Wallace is doing with Roland Pryzbylewski. Share your favorites in the comments.

Additionally, you need to interact with at least four other Wire characters through their various social media sites from the perspective of your character. In other words, you need to start playing your character in the context of all the others. If you don’t know where to find the various social media profiles of the other characters, we created a spreadsheet for that (some of you need to update/edit that spreadsheet ASAP).

Sundries: As per the syllabus, there are a number of sundry tasks many of you have already done, but some of you will need to pay attention to before the end of the semester. I am outlining them below:

That’s it, all of this is do no later than 11:59 on Monday, December 8th.

Dope on the Damn Table

The title of this post is actually the epigraph to Season 1, Episode 11 of The Wire: “The Hunt.” It’s spoken incredulously by Lieutenant Daniels when learning the brass wants to make a show of seized drugs, guns, and money, without any real interest in following any of it back to a real source for fear of what they might find. It’s just one of the many ways the show critiques the display of law and order that often masks some fundamental institutional dysfunction, and preserves a broken status quo.

Anyway, as Wire106 was wrapping up this past Fall, I discovered the Baltimore Police Department maintains a rather active presence on Twitter. They tweet out a variety of tips, resources, community outreach, news, as well as crime details. In fact, on more than a few occasions reports of homicides cross my Twitter stream:

It’s an extremely sobering and human Twitter account. At the same time, I can’t help but follow it through the lens of The Wire, and it’s remarkable how many times I see a “Dope on the table” tweet with accompanying image. Below are just a few:

It’s remarkable how much this Twitter stream demonstrates some of the profound accuracies of the HBO series. At the same time, I find that there’s an actual person behind the Twitter stream oddly reassuring. In fact, he or she responded to Paul Bond when he replied about the insignia on one the guns on the table tweets (can’t seem to track that back and forth down right now—any help, Paul?).

After following the account for over a month, I’m noticing an interesting sense of virtual community policing that gets captured on a platform like twitter. Now, I have to acknowledge this might simply be more “dope on the damned table” publicity. Simply a public relations show that elides the deeper structural and institutional issues. At the same time, I would be lying if I didn’t acknowledge that such a portal into the criminal world through a virtual space like Twitter remains a mesmerizing look at the digital storytelling of law and order in urban cities. The archives we are creating astound me!

The Wire Come to Life

For the final project in Wire 106 students were asked to chose a character from the HBO series The Wire and build an online presence for them across several social media sites. It’s been interesting experience these narratives because they hit me at the strangest times when I’m not looking for a story. For example, a couple of weeks ago Omar Little request to follow me on LinkedIn. I never setup a LinkedIn account, but after getting the email from Omar I felt compelled—but only a bit by fear—to comply with his wish :) After setting up a LinkedIn account and following Omar, it turns out he  didn’t have much in his account as of yet given it was brand new, so I soon moved on.

However, a number of people have been discovering I am on LinkedIn now and started following me. I’ve been avoiding following people back because I’m fairly certain this experiment on LinkedIn will be short-lived, but I have been fascinated by the job culture of this network. We recently had Phil Windley and Kelly Flannagan from BYU here at UMW to talk about the work we’re doing with Domain of One’s Own. We had a great day, and the work they’re spearheading at BYU in terms of imagining a university-wide API is truly visionary, but I’ll save my thoughts on that for my next post.

Anyway, after the visit Phil followed me on LinkedIn, and I clicked on the link to check out his profile. Once I did I noticed a small notification on the right-hand side of the page that Omar Little has a new job.

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I was intrigued and followed the link.

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Turns out Omar got a job as  a cafeteria worker at BWI Airport. Now that might seem arbitrary to those of you who’ve never seen the series, as well as for some who have. But this is an important detail from the show. Omar tells his grandma he works in a cafeteria at the airport because he knows she’ll never go there in order to hide his true life as a stick-up artist.

The beauty of this kind of distributed, transmedia project is all in the details. And this one blew my mind because I wasn’t expecting it, it hit me while I was going about my “normal” life on the internet. That said, it led me to imagine the true power of such a narrative for the class. Not only because it suggests a close reading of the show, but also because it in many ways subverts the whole enterprise of LinkedIn. This act highlights the subterfuge at the hear of a long gone patina of respectability and dignity in the American workplace. No character in The Wire knows better that the game is played by gangsters and professionals alike—and just as ruthlessly. How’s that for the power of a single status update?! Kudos to Melinda Albrycht, the mastermind behind the curtain of Omar, she did a brilliant job with the entire class, and her transmedia version of Omar was no exception.

You might have also noticed that Frank Sobotka was one of the people LinkedIn thought I might know, and it turns out I did know Frank. We go way back to days before the containerization of the dock. But that’s a tale for another post. As you might imagine, the rest of the evening was lost to a Wire 106 transmedia rabbit hole that highlighted how much the beauty of this form of storytelling lies in its truly liminal position between the worlds of fiction and non, imagined and real, virtual and concrete. And this is just one of many, many examples. Stay tuned for more.

Wire 106: Week 16 – Game Over

Seemed like just yesterday we were preparing for the big adventure that was #wire106.

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But 50 episode of The Wire later, and 2336 posts of awesome, as of this moment, looks like the game is over.

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Given it is finals week, and ds106 has been a ton of work this semester (Paul and I do apologize kind of), you might be feeling like this:

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Or even this:

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But that feeling of elated relief will pass, and you will come to the discovery, much like Bodie does in the scene below, that this game is rigged:

#ds106 is not a course, and you are not a student. This is a community (some say a cult), and you are officially #4life.

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Image credit: Martha Burtis

There is still season 5 to watch, which many argue is not the best, but we’ll be watching, tweeting and making art around it. We hope you do too. What’s more. with over 2300 posts published in 15 short weeks there’s no way any of us could read everything. But the beauty of ds106 is it isn’t constrained by time or place, there’s world enough and time to return to each others work and continue being inspired.

There are no assignments for finals week, but if you find some time, let folks from around the ds106 community know what work inspired you and leave some comments to spread the love.

Image credit: Jack Mulrey’s ds106 Propaganda Poster

You have been an amazing group, your work has been brilliant, and your willingness to learn openly not only alongside one another, but  a broader community has been inspiring. You all ruled the school. Until your next masterpiece, take care and comb your hair!

Captain Remix

The great Bryan Alexander passed along this remix of Captain America: the Winter Soldier in the genre of a 1980s VHS trailer. It’s right on the mark in terms of tone, and suggests the revisiting of the Marvel super hero films is kind of a Disneyfied return to the over-the-top action films of the 1980s. I think this trailer helped me realize why I hate films like the The Avengers so much. There so safe and sanitary despite all attempts to be edgy. There a world away from Robocop, and when you remix one of these films with scenes from that gritty 80s action film you begin to realize the gentrification over the last twenty years was not limited to cities.

More to the point, a remix or mashup, at its best, should push you to think about just these things. How does the tone and aesthetic of another era help us understand our own, or vice versa. Bryan couldn’t have timed this any better given today marks the end of a two week foray into mashup and remix culture for the ds106 internauts. There’s an art to the remix and mashup, and so much of it has to do with understanding how much ideology is embedded in the media we are constantly bombarded with. But rather than simply railing against the “evil media,” remix/mashup culture can empower one to reframe that media to subvert the message. I think that’s why video mashups are still my favorite genre on the web—the suggest that subversion and reframing of dominant cultural tropes can and should be fun.

Thanks Bryan, big fan!

Morning in Baltimore – notes on episode 11

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The title of this episode is “A New Day.” In the script, it specifically refers to the new mayoral administration and to the New Day Co-op that Prop Joe runs with the other drug kingpins. The epigraph is “You play in dirt, you get dirty,” which is what McNulty says about Officer Walker. “Dirt” is referenced a few other times in the script – when the kids are plotting payback on Officer Walker, when Bunk presses Prez for help with getting Randy to talk, and in the discussion of city finances: “Finance, of course, doesn’t deal with the dirt under the nails tangibles, unless you consider the money itself to be dirty.”

“A new day” could also refer to the major crimes unit getting back to business. Daniels calls it “morning in Baltimore.” Lester goes back to the unit’s office and turns on the lights, symbolic of a new day/morning, and starts digging in the dirt and reviewing case files. There’s some eloquent visual storytelling going on in the scene. We see a box labeled “subpoena returns,” so we know we’re looking at the trail of dirty money. We see Freamon pull a folder for Ed Bowers, and the scene cuts to a fundraising gathering where the new mayor is hobnobbing with the city’s elite and gets introduced to Ed Bowers. We go back to Freamon looking at a subpoena for Maurice Webber, then cut back to Carcetti in conversation with another person. His name tag reveals him to be Maurice Webber. We can expect the new mayor to quickly find dirt under his fingernails.

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By intercutting those two scenes, and juxtaposing just the right shots and just the right dialogue, we get all that information in a fraction of a minute – another example of masterful editing.

Wire106: Weeks 13 and14 – Re-ups & Mix-mas

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Imran Ahmed Rules!

Wire Episodes
Season 4, episodes 5, 6 & 7 (week 13)
Season 4, episodes 8, 9 & 10 (week 14)

Video Discussions
Week 13
Season 4, Episode 5: Wednesday, 2:00 PM
Season 4, Episode 6: Thursday, 7:45 PM
Season 4, Episode 7: Friday, 10:30 AM

Week 14 TBD

Sign-up for video discussion here.

Assignments

For the next two weeks we will be focusing on Mashups & Remixes as well as the final project.

Mashups and Remixes
Mashups – 8 stars (make at least one of your mashup assignment The Wire related)

1 Remix – See Remixing a ds106 Assignment on http://ds106.us/open-course/unit-11-remix-mashup/ for directions on the Remix Generator, or choose any assignment and use the Remix It button.

From the ds106 open course:
For this unit you’ll be exploring the culminating ideas of ds106, remixes and mashups, the recasting of existing media into new forms by creative combination and editing. This will build off of your previous work in all media forms. And we will even remix our own assignments.

Some will split hairs over the differences/definitions of remix and mashup. Let’s try to say that remix is usually a creative edit of one form of media, such as the recut movie trailer below or the musical remixes of Girl Talk; mashups refer to the mixing of media/content of from disparate places. Both involve the creative act of making something new from previous works. We ask you to try and sort it out and tell us if the difference really matters.

Mashups and remixes come in many forms and there are a bunch of ways to approach them, some of the best examples are from students of ds106 past. Below are some excellent video mashups and remixes from the Fall 2010 ds106 internauts. Get inspired!

Some mashup examples from last semester’s ds106 course:

Lindsay Walker’s “Louis & Marie Meet B.I.G.”

Kevin Cherniawski’s “The Expendable Rangers- Recut”

Morrgan’s “Shutter Island and Harry Potter 4/5″

Garrett Bush’s Andrew Disney/Walt Ryan Mash-up

The Car: a ds106 mashedup production

The Car Mashup from Jim Groom on Vimeo.

Final Project
To keep you moving on you final projects, do 6 stars worth of assignments from any media category from the P.O.V. of your Wire character. In other words, if your character is Major Rawls, you would create a design assignment, audio assignments, visual assignment, etc. from his perspective—as if he were doing the assignment. What’s more, you share out these various assignments across the social media platforms you have created for them—and link to them on your own blog so we can find them.

In other words, walk a mile in your characters shoes.

Daily Creates  -2 per week

All of this is due Monday, December 1st, at 11:59 PM.  Good luck!

Wire 106: S04E04 – “Refugees”

In this Wire 106 video discussion, Paul Bond and I were joined by Brittany Scites to look at season 4, episode 4 of the The Wire“Refugees.”  Brittany came very prepared with four clips she wanted to talk about, all of which are included below. Paul also came ready with some great clips and shots. Me, not so much.

I’ve been really enjoying the small, focused discussions with students about the various episodes over the course of the semester. The video discussions have made the class at once online and expansive—something ds106 is very good at, as well as focused and personable—something at the heart of UMW’s mission. This semester has been a cool experiment along those lines, I just hope to do it again soon without Google Hangouts.

What’s more, with this being video discussions number 42, that means between watching the episode and discussing it Paul and I have already invested 84 hours alone. And that the tip of the iceberg. #loveonanadjunctswages

Video Clips

The mayor calls a poker game to reinforce his political war chest.

Bunk and Freamon in a bar. Bunk misses Jimmy; Freamon misses the bodies.

Bunny Colvin tours the school. As Paul noted, might as well have been a tour of Hamsterdam.

Cutty getting schooled on school.

 

Wire 106: S04E03 – “Home Rooms”

In this Wire 106 video discussion, Paul Bond and I were joined by Nick Randall to look at season 4, episode 3 of the The Wire“Home Rooms.”  This is yet another opening sequence for the ages—there are so many amazing beginnings in this series. Numerous opening sequences could be masterpieces in and of themselves. This one finds Omar heading to the local bodega to get cereal without a gun and in his pajamas. What’s more, this scene is so memorable that it was recently sweded by wire106 internauts Brittany Scites and Samantha Reutter:

The discussion was pretty far-ranging, and we covered a lot of ground. We focused pretty intently on the state of public education in the US, and a sense of the dispossession and disinvestment that’s being underscored this season. We also cover McNulty’s domestic bliss, the struggling co-op, Dukie as outlier, and just how far removed from reality higher education is envisioned.

One of the real gems of this discussion was something Paul Bond shared at the very end. Bunny Colvin is trying to convince the academic researcher to focus his study on 13-14, rather than 18-19, year olds given the older kids are too far gone already. To make his point, Colvin interviews an older kids which turns out to be an insanely tense and uncomfortable scene to watch given how insanely aggressive and hostile the kid is. Here is the original:

And now look at that same clip with a laugh track from Married with Children:

Crazy how much sound dictates your reactions and emotions. Audio is some powerful shit, not to be played around with lightly ;) Below are a couple of screenshots we discussed, and that’s just the beginning!

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Wire 106: S04E02 – “Soft Eyes”

In this Wire 106 video discussion, Paul Bond and I were joined by Syd Bauman and Travis Peed to look at season 4, episode 2 of the The Wire“Soft Eyes.” The episode title references a discussion when the teachers are giving Prez advice, and one of them cryptically notes, “You need soft eyes.” This saying is explained more fully two episodes later by Bunk. I shared a bunch of shorter clips from this episode, as well as a few screenshots. I’ll include them below with a bit of context, watch the discussion if you want it all!

I loved the scene featuring Prez preparing his classroom. The colors are great, and as Paul pointed out the chess board is on the bulletin board. The game is still in play. I also like his diligent chipping of gum away from the bottom of the desks. He best not miss the forest for the trees.


Weebay is Namond’s dad?! How crazy is this. Weebay a dad giving his son advice about cutting his hair so cops can’t recognize him? If Weebay wasn’t a complex enough character, frame him as doting father beyond the fish.

This quick shot captures the absent, crushed expression of Lex’s mom as Bunk interviews her about her son’s whereabouts given he’s wanted for murder.

Bunk then describes that very look on Lex’s mom’s face to his colleagues. His ability to capture that expression in such a way you recognize what was bothering you about it is pretty powerful. Writing matters.

In a similar vein, the cast of characters is so established in this series that you can have Daniels doing Freamon impressions, and once again it hits home. Also, is Daniels laughing and smiling?!

Marlo challenges Michael for not taking his money. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

The first of many drawnout “Shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiits” by senator Davis.

Below are a few screenshots I grabbed as well.
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