Do You Hear Me, Do You Care? What Are Words For?

About a year and a half ago, I started journaling what I actually do throughout an entire day. Every day, somewhere near my bedtime, I have spent a few minutes noting what I managed to do throughout the day. Two days ago, I realized that I was getting close to the completion of my Bardic Grade studies, and thought it would be interesting to take a short step back and see where things have gone – not just in my studies, but within me. Naturally, I stepped over to this little journal of “things done” and started reading.

I spend a lot of time at my computer keyboard. From just a short reflection, I would say a rough calculation is a little more than two-thirds of my average day. Of course, a lot of that has to do with my job as an Assessment Analyst. I spend time pulling data, analyzing trends, starting studies, and looking at the trends developed from those studies. Seemingly, I am prized for my analytical abilities. But there are certainly times I wonder.

Pursue it further and another thing you’ll find
Not only are they deaf and dumb they could be going blind and no one notices
I think I’ll dye my hair blue

Two of my three degrees are within the field of Information Systems. Back when I started my Bachelor’s degree (2000), the field was growing and expanding its base of ability. The knowledge sets were already in place, though several other aspects would eventually grow from all of that. Data mining, once feared in the mid 1990s by the general public, had taken hold in the background of the daily processes that people brought their daily world around. The Information Age had truly started. Big Data at that time was a slippery, somewhat unknown concept. Of course, that has changed, and Big Data is now a firmly entrenched aspect of everyone’s daily lives, even if they are not aware of it.

The explosive growth of social media was the final piece of the Big Data puzzle. People wanted to declare themselves online. Facebook profiles gather all kinds of information that is willingly supplied by its users. But that’s something for another conversation. The more insidious aspect of social media is what people post. Quite a few years ago – and still in some aspect of “vogue” – was the process of taking pictures of the meals that individuals were about to eat. I never really understood all of that, but those posts are data-mining gold. It shows trends of what people eat, their tastes, and the timing of their dining out experiences. And that’s ust a small example.

But there’s another aspect of it as well. While our social media habits provide all kinds of data points to corporations on what we – the general public – are willing to consume, where, and when; we also talk about topics with our social media friends. We post our opinions on our Facebook walls about all kinds of topics. Sometimes, conversations ensue in the reply threads. Sometimes, arguments erupt. But the frequency of that is not always that great in comparison to the number of posts that are made.

But what becomes of those conversations, debates, and arguments? Are opinions changed? The probability of that is extremely low. More often than not, we seek people who agree with our perspectives. Those that disagree, tend to be shouted down, rather than listened to. Or even worse, they get removed from the Friend’s List and are blocked from being able to see what we post. In essence, we turn Facebook into a social media echo chamber that we calibrate accordingly through the culling of the herd through unfriending and blocking.

And given the wide use and acceptance of social media as a way to stay connected with the majority of our friends, we are starting to lose the concept of critical thinking. We do not want to hear dissenting opinions. We want to hear the people that agree with us. There’s no thought or credence given to the other side of an argument.

When I taught in the classroom, I did my very best to provide space and time for the opposite point of view. I cannot say with certainty that I did a great job at it, but I know that I tried. After all, I am just as human as anyone else. I do have my biases. And I am just as guilty of creating a Facebook echo chamber on my own wall. I am not claiming to be a saint in all of this, whatsoever.

We are currently in the heyday of the Information Age. You can turn anywhere and get stories about this point of view or that one. Information flies past us on every neews site, news aggregation site, podcast, streaming radio station, instagram post, and what else might be out there. This past election cycle is an example of all of that. The problem is not the amount of information, but rather the veracity of that information. There are news parody sites that are held up as factual information. There are many people out there that distort the facts to provide backing for their own opinions. Many of these people make a living off this disinformation. The result of all of this is a growing degree of cynicism concerning the information that is available to the general public.

I might as well go up and talk to a wall
’cause all the words are having no effect at all
It’s a funny thing am I all alone
Something has to happen to change the direction

What little filters through is giving you the wrong impression
It’s a sorry state I say to myself
What are words for when no one listens anymore

I am not sure that there is any way to change this imbalance to the information world. At least not in a way that keeps the freedom of the information we have. Certainly laws can be created to staunch the flow of disinformation, but who gets to decide what is disinformation and propaganda and what is not? Recently, I posted a story about a Water Protector who may lose her arm after being hit with a concussion grenade. I was told by an acquaintance that it was merely propaganda. That she was actually part of a group of these “violent protests” that were creating bombs with propane tanks. Now, I am not going to get into the veracity of what I am pointing to here. The point of the example is this – the storyline as I received and disseminated it came from within the camp of the protestors. The storyline that my acquaintance was using to refute my point came from the Morton County Sheriff’s department – the opposite side of the protest. There was no neutral party covering this to report one side or the other. Why?  Because the mainstream news media has ignored the Dakota Access Pipeline protests since the protests started. With no news coverage, there is no third-party neutrality to accurately report the news. Thus, both sides of the story are susceptible to inaccuracy and exaggeration. Which is more accurate? When the veracity of something cannot be determined, the cynical attitude of what is or isn’t news begins to creep into the equation.

Media overload bombarding you with action
It’s getting near impossible to cause distraction
Someone answer me before I pull out the plug
What are words for when no one listens anymore

My mundane job falls into the world of Information Sciences. The vast tornadic whirlwind of information, disinformation, accurate facts, propaganda, and the deafening sounds of the world-wide echo chamber came about from my realm of study. We scream into the digital winds from our keyboards, comfortable within our homes, and the ergonomic chairs of our office environments. Others take the streets, attacking the basis of the economic world, determined to bring down what they have come to perceive as the deadly corporate beast that threatens to destroy and enslave us all. We are all affected by words. Words that come straight from the Tornado of Information. Accurate or not, this spinning vortex informs our worlds – immediate and distant. And it is this beast of Information that I fear. More than a Trump presidency. More than fascist tendencies from people, governments, and mobs. And while others may disagree, this Tornado of Information is a product of the Storm. And, in my opinion, it is the immediate effect of where we are right now. And while I would like to offer a way to destroy or tame it….I have no idea how that can be done. Because this Tornado of Information is derived from a human trait that has always been difficult to tame and destroy – gossip.

My lips are moving and the sound’s coming out
The words are audible but I have my doubts
That you realize what has been said
You look at me as if you’re in a daze

It’s like the feeling at the end of the page
When you realize you don’t know what you just read
What are words for when no one listens anymore

What are words for when no one listens
What are words for when no one listens it’s no use talkin’ at all

(*) Quoted material comes from the song “Words” by Missing Persons.

So the History Will Not Die…I Work My Magick

The past week-plus has been one of the most harried and hectic times I have had in the last few years. Re-starting my MLIS (Masters of Library and Information Science) degree has added a huge amount of organizing on my part for the two classes I am taking. Add on top of that, the three classes that I am teaching at my local JuCo…mix in a bit of personal Life, my OBOD lessons….shake and stir…and you have a recipe for chaos. Sort of. My organization skills are far better than they were in 2009, when I first started and stopped this degree program. I have a far better vision of where I want to take this degree, combined with my other three degrees. But still, there’s a metric ton of work that I just added to myself. But, like any degree program, its a matter of being organized, and being disciplined with my time. I can do this, and I know I can do this.

Its interesting though, at least for me. Everything seems to be clicking into place, even when there’s a little bit of effort that needs to be made with some of the puzzle pieces. Instead of carving out puzzle pieces to match the connections as I have in the past – these pieces are fitting together. Perhaps, the best descriptive I can give to the entire process is that its like stepping out of a fog, and into a clear blue, sunny day. And even that descriptive is not quite accurate. But I do realize where all this started – and it was not that far in the past.

Back in December, I finished Emma Restall Orr‘s book “The Wakeful World” and relayed how I had started to find connections between parts of my world in the post “Are We Asking the Right Question?“. Now, I am a few more steps down my Path since that “aha!” moment, and I continue to see connections between areas I could not even begin to fathom as being connected. For instance, my career path has always been along the Technology field. I have been a Help Desk Analyst, a Desktop Support Technician, a Systems Administrator, a Disaster Recovery Technician, a Database Administrator, a Digital Storage Administrator, and even a Vice President of Information Technology (albeit only for 88 days before I made the decision to leave a severely toxic work environment). Up until I started teaching, my focus has been on hardware, and the maintenance of the software installed on those systems. My focus then switched to showing students that these computers were merely tools, which could gather information that could be analyzed and utilized to make informed business decisions. In my second semester of teaching – a compressed Summer session format – I found myself trying to find comparisons to better showcase that perception to my students.

I showed the students how a simple decision-making process concerning the development of software for a company’s needs could be twisted and utilized as a process for shopping for groceries. It was just a matter of changing the terms into something that correlated to this change in the needs geared to the process. I have used this same example in every class since, and have been astonished by the “aha!” moments that I see each time I explain it. Margot Adler details something similar in her book “Drawing Down the Moon“, which I have mentioned previously in “Enough Magick“:

…the people were transformed into the essence of bears, fishing as the bears would – essentially becoming bears in the stream. They didn’t physically change. They remained as human beings in physical form, but they changed the manner in which they went about catching the fish. They did as bears would do. In the way that they envisioned bears would. Their technique might not have been picture perfect as far as bears went, but it was the results that they sought. Perfection of technique was not the answer.

I see the magick of teaching in the classroom. I get the chance to spin examples relating modern information science concepts and technology into everyday examples, which the students seem to understand far better. This allegorical approach seemingly works well, particularly with my students who are vaguely familiar with the computer as an entertainment device, as well as students who are only now coming to terms with a technology that they have eschewed throughout their life.

View From Medicine Wheel

With my background in technology, coupled with my time of being in front of the classroom, and my undying love for the History of our world, and our environment – I can see the true calling for Information Sciences. As a tool, it can be utilized to inform the individual about the world around them. For instance, pictures and blog postings about The Medicine Wheel in Wyoming can convey the beauty of a very beautiful location that lies very much off the beaten path. A Natural Site that holds such a dramatic visual location, and an underlying atmosphere of Gods and Spirits that want to whisper in the ears of those who take the time to visit. Those pictures and blogs can be conveyed to the casual observer through the technologies that comprise the Information Sciences. And this is only a lonely, solitary example of the usage of Information Sciences. Many, many more applications can (and will) be visualized and put into use in the coming future. The magick is in the Information that is to be brought forward to those interested in the topic. Providing the images (and sounds – I plan on taking video at the site in my next visit in 2015), which entice the viewer to want to visit.

And all of this is brought about by connections, seeing how all aspects of our environment are connected to one another. I have stepped out of the mist, and see where my knowledge can lead to. Where exactly I fit on that Pattern, I do not know. I know that my desire is to find ways to preserve the information of our Histories for future generations – the stories, the information, the tales, the knowledge, the images, the sounds…and I do know that the Gods have been slowly nudging me in this direction. I have stepped out into the open, out of the mist, and I see where I am led to. I do not know my place in that final step of the process, but I am willing to move towards it now. With purpose, with determination. I teach, I inform, I work my own Magick…so that others may know and remember…so the History will not die…