I’m parked at the free camp spot on Kingston SE’s foreshore in the South East of South Australia. It’s a really lovely site that’s quiet enough to get some work done (while looking at pretty views) and close enough to the township if you want to stroll in and be more social. The locals are lovely here, so friendly, I always enjoy visiting.
I’m working on a project down here, a campaign to Save Nora Creina‘s pristine coastal conservation area from being turned into a golf course. This is one of many trips I’ve made to the Limestone Coast region, meeting the locals, getting the lay of the land and working with the community on extending their campaign. (more on that to come real soon).
So I’m sitting in #homeJames in my favourite corner of the free camp spot when a car pulls up.
“Hey, enjoying the campsite?”
“Hi! Yeah, I love it here, and always love a free camp, especially one this beautiful.”
“Did you find it on WikiCamps?” [an app where you can add and comment on free camping spots around Australia; invaluable for a nomad]
“Yeah I did, a while ago now but I found it there the first time I was in the area.”
“Did you leave a comment there?”
“No, I haven’t actually. I do sometimes but I haven’t with this one yet.”
“Can you, please? You see, we had someone down here recently who bagged the place.”
“Really? Ugh, some people are just idiots. They expect hot showers and shared kitchens and people to clean up their rubbish wherever they go. If you want those sorts of services you go to ‘proper’ campsites – or a hotel! I prefer this sort myself.”
“Yeah, well, you see this Council is quite rare; they provide this camp spot for free but they also run the caravan park here too. We want to make sure this site remains free, so it would be really useful if you added a comment, you know, to show that was only one negative amongst many positives?”
“Sure! I’d be happy to. And thank you for caring enough to ask.”
We have the usual chat about where I’m from, where I’ve been, what I do, where I’m going next. I tell him about the campaign in Nora Creina. He says “but there’s already a golf course down there, isn’t there?” I agree, there’s one in Robe, another here in Kingston, one in Millicent and Beachport and another development just approved for Kangaroo Island… we chat about the absurdity of personal profits overulling concern for the environment. I tell him that I’m about to publish a survey and website and make a short film about it all (which is what I’m sitting here working on as he drove up).
I wish I had something to give him now so he could contribute and pass it around the town, but it’s not ready yet. So I ask for his email address so I can forward it to him when it’s live. Without hesitation he tells me his address, being careful to spell it all out so I have it down correctly. I ask his name, “Rowdy”, he says. We share a grin appropriate for such a moniker and say our goodbyes. As he leaves I ponder what else about this lovely gentleman lead to the nickname. Maybe I’ll ask him when I send the email.
Thanks Kingston SE. You’ve reinforced my love for this spot. Expect your WikiCamps comment before the end of the day x
Facebook has changed its algorithm, again. Cue critics of change, critics of Facebook, critics of anything-anti-business; especially those businesses which (quite remarkably) are the ones being demoted with this latest shift. Or so it would appear.
“People told us they wanted to see more stories from friends and Pages they care about, and less promotional content”, their update says. In theory this should be a good thing. In practice it comes only shortly after the rollout of “Topics”, the auto-inserted tagging system. Databasing ‘thought’, shared.
For those like me (who do not want their posts to be neatly commodified into saleable, trendable packages for the benefit of Facebook’s commercial partners) you can remove those tags before hitting ‘publish’. However if you happen to edit your posts (which I frequently do, to correct typos or add extra links or updates) and hit ‘publish’ for the second time, those tags mysteriously, frustratingly, re-appear. There’s no ‘opt out of auto-tagging everything’ option, so I find myself meticulously re-checking every post, even scanning whole pages of posts to check that errant Topics haven’t been added ‘for my convenience’, and removing them when they invariably have.
Last night I noticed something that really concerned me. I’d shared a post, the voice of someone I know from Australia who was at the protests in Dallas. Manal Younus is a powerful spoken word performer and writer. Her post shared her perspective of a day full of so much beauty and love, conflicted with grief and horror. It’s a beautiful read for its humanness, its simplicity, its reveal of abundant togetherness and solidarity in the face of a world driven by hate and fear. But it had the hashtag #blacklivesmatter, so of course Facebook auto-tagged it “Politics”. (Manal also happens to be Muslim; given what came next I’m grateful Facebook does not, yet, auto-tag by religion).
I did what I always do, de-tagged the Topic and hit ‘publish’. Then I realised I’d tagged Manal’s personal profile not her Page and, both respecting her privacy and wanting to help connect those who want more access to her work, I edited it to change the link and hit ‘publish’ once more. The ‘Politics’ tag had re-appeared, so, sighing, I hit ‘edit’ again. I was using my mobile (where I hadn’t noticed this problem before) where this time it seemed I didn’t have access to ‘remove topics’ . Worse, when looking for the ‘remove topics’ link, I saw something I’d never noticed before: an invitation to “Hide posts about Politics from Reallybigroadtrip” (my page).
I talk about Politics a lot (“no kidding”, says everyone who’s ever met me). I happen to think everyone should talk about Politics; indeed they do, they just don’t think they do. I talk to a lot of people who say they don’t care about Politics, who say they have no opinion. Yet lean toward the slightest questioning and watch as opinions and values roll out. Politics isn’t cool. We shouldn’t rock the boat. We have it easy, we shouldn’t complain. It’s not ‘our place’ to speak out.
Far too many people have been given the impression that Politics isn’t their domain. It is. It’s everyone’s domain. The thought of excluding all mention of it frankly appals me.
We already know Facebook is an echo chamber. It (and other closed-web platforms) reinforce our bubbles, show us what we should be reading according to where we are, who we know and what we’ve previously liked. This streamlining might make us feel more comfortable but it does nothing to open our eyes to the world outside. Being able to additionally remove all mention of something that Facebook’s algorithm deems “Politics” can only harm us, sanitise us further from seeing through the eyes of ‘otherness’ and the empathy that brings.
My Facebook feeds feature Governmental Politics and creative social change embedded within contexts of art, technology, buslife, intentional communities, natural environments. They include reminders of extreme beauty and harsh truths — often juxtaposed in the same status update. I try not to preach and I’m trying to get better at ‘show don’t tell’, but I often fail — the curse of both privilege and generations of preachers in my ancestry (I’m a begrudging Vicar’s daughter). So if someone doesn’t want to be preached at, even occasionally, even unintentionally, then they’re probably best off not following my social feeds. But when they do, and when there’s art and beauty mentioned alongside the politics of fear and hatred, why should they be denied access to both simply for Facebook asserting the dominance of one?
So much of society’s problem is precisely due to this dominant assertion; otherness is best kept out of sight, out of mind. When reading that invitation to exclude, “Hide posts about Politics from Reallybigroadtrip”, part of me wanted to shout “Seriously? You want to read Reallybigroadtrip but only when there’s no mention of Politics? Then unfollow me, because you won’t see much else” but that would be doing exactly what their invitation intends to — distancing the communication, compounding the problem. I spend much of my time in random conversations with strangers specifically because I want to hear from people with views that are not my own. Of course this comes with difficulties; I don’t enjoy hearing bigotry, but I do want to understand why someone can be bigoted, and the only way that’s possible is by actively conversing with bigots.
I applaud Facebook for changing their algorithm away from preferencing business, but I continue to dislike their commodification of our thoughts and ideas into re-sellable packages. I reject that my thoughts, all thought, are deemed a meagre product in their trends analysis. And I deeply mistrust their intentions when inviting exclusion to entire topics, never mind when those topics are determined by algorithm.
“When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression” is the regular mantra delivered in response to the straight/white/male norm. Those who believe they are becoming oppressed have had it all their own way for so long they can no longer even see it for what it is. The monopoly of mainstream media, the homogeneity of TV and Film, and the proliferation of echo chambers do nothing to challenge this norm. It has to be your decision to look beyond. You choose to pull back the curtain, or you comply and accept the status quo.
I believe the only way we are going to get past increasing unrest is by allowing the outside in, by embracing otherness for all its wonder instead of building yet more walls to keep it out. I long for the day when more people see more diversity, more marginalised voices, more otherness. In order for society to heal and move toward a more open and balanced collective harmony, we need to start seeing, start hearing. Doing so loses nothing and gains everything.
So, no, Facebook; I do not want to hide Politics. I do not want Facebook to even offer the hiding of Politics. And I would warmly welcome anyone who has hidden Politics from Reallybigroadtrip, or any other page, to come and talk to me about it. I promise I will listen.
“never read the comments” bracelet. image credit: jessamyn west CC: by-nc-sa
The whole arts sector has #freethearts; peak arts bodies have ArtsPeak; visual artists and visual arts orgs have NAVA; performing arts has the Theatre Network; Majors have AMPAG… but there is NO ONE to represent the needs and concerns of the interdisciplinary, inter-dependent artist in Australia. So a few of us have decided to come together, as The Protagonists, to fill that gap within the sector-wide discussions.
As part of our short-term strategies for a stronger voice for the indies, we’re calling for a NATIONAL DAY OF ACTION on JUNE 17th. The idea is for anyone, to do anything, anywhere they like. All we ask is that you share your action with us so that others can join you, or be inspired to create their own. We don’t have time; we don’t have money; we are not organising anything specifically other than collating everyone’s actions; we know how bloody hard it is to do ANYTHING without the security of a regular income; but WE CAN DO THIS!
DO READ THE COMMENTS!
My action is something I’ve been thinking about doing for ages, originally as an anti-TPP approach, but I’ll see how this one goes and then quite possibly do it again. Or YOU can, coz, yknow, it’s a free country (sort of).
We all know the adage, “Never read the comments!”. It’s what we say whenever there’s a positive article about a niche issue in mainstream media, which we read with delight (‘yay they hear us!’) and then we read the comments (‘UGH’). At which point we want to gouge out our own eyes with our fingernails and slit our throats with a paperknife… because if that’s how the ‘average Australian’ thinks, well, we frankly must deserve the impending annihilation of our species.
BUT WAIT… what if these aren’t the voices of the mainstream? What if they’re the voices of a few people who genuinely don’t understand the issue or who have been brainwashed by haters? What if we actually engaged in open, friendly, dialogue with these people? Couldn’t we, maybe, possibly, actually change their minds and even learn something ourselves in the process?
So here’s the plan:
Register with all mainstream media websites for the day (you should be able to get a trial for free);
Search for all arts commentary within each site and read/respond to every comment that speaks negatively to the arts;
DO: be positive, open, constructive, friendly, and above all, listen. DO NOT: be sarcastic, aggressive, patronising, shouty, or feed the trolls.
Not all argumentative/opinionated people on the internet are trolls, many are simply defensive because they’re expecting to have to defend themselves. If you’re not sure whether they are actually a troll or not, I generally go for the ‘three strikes’ rule: If they are argumentative, try responding in a gentle manner that explains you’re simply trying to better understand where they’re coming from. If they can’t provide any semblance of rational, open exchange within three responses: stop all communications with them immediately (no matter how much they attempt to trigger you).
If you have particular trouble and need advice or backup, I’ll be around via @feesable (or any other form of contact) on the day and would be happy to join your convo and provide direct support if needed.
If you don’t know what a troll is, you’re a Very Lucky Human!
So, there’s my action. It’s small but I’m sure will make for a busy day!
What will YOU do? Share your action via our Call to Action page, and above all: have fun!
my sign at the rally against the proposed $8.5million cuts to South Australian arts funding
And so it begins. The bad news rolls in for some, while others breathe a sigh of guarded relief. We all know how fragile things are, for everyone. Fuck.
Arts organisations across the country are finding out this week if they got their four-year funding or not. The next funding round won’t be until 2019, so for (far too) many, that means closure. This is the outcome of last year’s $104.7million Australia Council for the Arts heist by Senator Brandis (a year to the day, pretty much). The entire arts sector has been on tenterhooks ever since — like we needed any additional anxiety to cope with. Hopefully we’ll oust this fuckwit of a government in a couple of months, but even if we did (and even if we got more money for the sector because of it), for many it would be too little, too late. For South Australia, where we have the threat of a further $8.5million cuts looming, this could mark the end of the Festival State… but it’s OK, because we will be saved by Toxic Waste, right? Ugh. No.
Before the trolls come out with “I don’t want my tax dollars wasted on you artist dole bludgers”, let me say this. The problem with these cuts is not that a few plays or exhibitions won’t be happening; it’s about the bigger picture, the long term perspective, the ecosystem. These cuts will leave a big gaping hole where less genuine meaning comes into our lives, even if just on the periphery. Everyone who has ever read a book, listened to music, been to the movies, watched a play or attended a Festival… all those stars you admire, who make you laugh or cry, who you follow on social media to feel a deeper connection to their lives because they MEAN something to you… they all had to start somewhere. Even the ‘high arts’, the swanky “Major Performing Arts” companies (who have mostly remained deathly silent over the last year), even they will notice when their orchestras, ballets, operas and stages fall silent.
Think about the sporting ecosystem. If there were no youth teams today there could be no World Cups of the future. It’s that simple. It’s the kids who won’t get to be part of a youth theatre group, the experimenters who won’t have anywhere to go to find out if their insanity might not actually be golden. We’re suffocating our future for the sake of an offensive drop in the budgetary ocean. And we’re doing it while storing planes we don’t fly and building subs we won’t use, while tax sits rotting in offshore havens. We have the money. We can afford to give ourselves a reasonable, human, existence. And art is a vital part of that existence. Art’s value is long term and meaningful, not short term and economic. We’re killing our souls, just like we’re killing our planet.
Some say that artists have it easy by comparison to, say, those affected by the end of the car manufacturing industry, or the gaping hole of transition required once the mining industry goes down (which it will). We certainly have it easier than the hundreds of asylum seekers locked up in our concentration camps or the Indigenous communities still living in asbestos-ridden homes. And yet our failure to identify arts and culture as a core element of life is one of the reasons we have ended up so commodified and dehumanised in contemporary society. We have lost touch with nature, beauty, pause and reflection. Isn’t it time we recognised that and put the needs of our souls on the same priority level as feeding our bodies and advancing our minds in these upcoming elections? Conversations about art are so often made about money in these times, but that misses the point. Life is about so much more than how much we earn, what car we drive, where we live.
Some say that yes, this is harsh, but it will be good for us in the long term. Necessity is the mother of invention, limit the artist and you lend them wings, yes, all of that for sure. We will rebuild, again, and we will be stronger because of it, again. But this is gonna hurt before it gets better.
So to my friends and colleagues across the country struggling with the rollout of news, please do something for me. Please give yourselves a big fucking hug. You’re all brilliant, strong, resilient motherfuckers, even if you don’t feel that way right now. I have the utmost admiration for all of you and what you do and I am proud to have so many of you in my personal corner of this vast ecosystem. This is shitty, really really really shitty. But you’re cunning little buggers, the lot of you. You’ll either find another way to keep going, or you’ll reinvent. After all, making the beautiful from the blank is what you do. And wow do you do it well.
After you’ve give yourselves (and each other) a hug, regardless of outcome or even your proximity to these announcements, please allow yourselves time to grieve. You may not feel you deserve to, you may feel more sorry for others than you do for yourselves, but we are all in this together — what hurts one, hurts all. Recognise the need to grieve for yourself, for your colleagues, for youth arts and for audiences of the future.
And then get angry, but turn that anger’s focus outward, toward the election. All that creative energy you have exploding within you is perfectly designed to become direct action, small or large. Organise Flash Mobs. Participate in rallies. Lie down on the streets in tutus. Read — and reply to — the comments. Door knock in Tory districts. Get out on the streets and talk to strangers. Ask if their kids enjoy dancing, playing an instrument, art class, circus school, etc etc etc… then remind them that none of that will exist if we allow this neoliberal onslaught to continue. My hope is that even Conservatives might, maybe, possibly, have souls too. Let’s use our creative passion to help them relocate theirs. We don’t need to argue in economic terms, we need to connect in emotional ones.
We can do this. We have to do this.
My deepest love to all of you. Be good to yourselves, we need you. x
no, strange dude in a ute, i do not want your esky, nor to shake your hand for the hundredth time. i do not want to hear you’re Aboriginal while insisting that Uluru is called Ayres Rock “after the man who found it” (found it? fuck off), or that your son wants to be a copper, “an honourable job”. i am not flattered that you think that i am “a strong woman”, that you “admire me”, that i have “powerful eyes”.
I have tolerance and patience and an open heart and home to many people, but not you. go take your drunk driving circuits around the car park somewhere else. ideally with the engine shut off and the keys in the ocean.
reallybigroadtrip is calling for expressions of interest from artists, geeks, filmmakers and social change warriors. Join us in a South Australian/APY Lands Aboriginal roadtrip, any time between April – August 2016.
#homeJames, Uncle Chris and I being sent off with a smoking ceremony from the Aboriginal Tent Embassy, Canberra
Digital literacy is often considered to be lacking in Aboriginal communities, yet smartphones, social media, games, music and film production can be prolific. Storytelling sits at the heart of social change, yet (despite increased solidarity) non-Aboriginals often haven’t experienced what life is like for remote communities such as those currently threatened with closure.
This begs the question: How can we harness the power of creative digital culture to improve Aboriginal rights?
reallybigroadtrip invites emerging or established artists, geeks, filmmakers and social change warriors to help respond to this question. Thanks to funding from Country Arts SA, travel (on the reallybigroadtrip bus, homeJames), subsistence and a negotiable artist’s fee will be provided to selected candidates.
Aboriginal applicants from South Australia and the APY Lands are strongly encouraged to apply.
About the project
The overall roadtrip will take place between April and August 2016. We aim to visit a number of Aboriginal communities, with locations and durations determined according to proposals received and permissions from those communities. Potential locations include (but are not restricted to) Adelaide, the Coorong, Point Pearce, Port Augusta, Coober Pedy, Ernabella and Alice Springs.
Our activities at each location will depend on the proposals received and subsequent conversations with selected artists. Anticipated activities include (but are not restricted to) workshops, screenings, exhibitions, creative productions and collaborations within each community. A budget for materials is available but know that we will preference legacy and agency over expensive, hard to access kit.
Expression of Interest
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org with an Expression of Interest (EOI) and a response to the question “How can we harness the power of creative digital culture to improve Aboriginal rights?” by February 22nd, 2016 (UPDATE: this deadline has been extended to March 22nd 2016). Your EOI can be informal but should include your contact details and give us an indication of who you are, where you’re from, what you do, where you’d like to take us, why you chose that location, and what you’d like to share or create in our time together there.
A selection panel will review proposals and contact a shortlist of candidates for discussion around detailed logistics and collaboration. The final selection will be announced in April 2016.
I’m getting a few common questions coming through so will add them and their answers here as we go.
Does my project have to cover the entire April to August period?
No, the overall roadtrip can start in April and will finish at the end of August. Each project can last anywhere from a week or two upwards but are expected to be individual blocks within that four month period. Of course that largely depends on the proposals we receive – some might want to start in April then come back again at further stages, or might have a physical presence in one community then continue as a digital experience across the rest of the time. We’re keen to keep things open until we’ve seen what people want to do.
Do I have to be based in South Australia to apply?
No, the project’s activities will take place around South Australia and the APY Lands, but applicants can come from anywhere in Australia. Sadly we don’t have budgets for international travel, so if you are from overseas and want to apply we would love to hear from you but you will have to seek alternative funding for the international component of your travel.
Can I propose a project but not be involved in the roadtrip?
Possibly… but projects demonstrating an active engagement with community will be given preference. If you think you can demonstrate significant engagement without being physically present then feel free to send in your ideas, but please pay special attention to explaining how you think that can be achieved.
Why are you running this project?
I’ve not actually been asked this, but I felt it would be useful to give some background for those who don’t know me.
Increasingly pissed off with Facebook’s continued disrespect for our personal rights and privacy, I’ve started using a new platform for my personal ramblings, to begin taking myself out of the anti-Net Neutrality world.
Known lets you publish status updates, etc, which are then pushed to Facebook, Twitter, etc (it’s in beta so there’s a lot more to come too). This means you own all rights to your content rather than giving them away to walled gardens that are more interested in your data than providing the open service you originally signed up for.
Since things are starting to hot-up around here it seems to be time to post a bit about what I mean by “Nomads in Residence”.
These nomads are basically my guests in the bus. They must be from the creative digital culture space but I’m really broad about that. By “digital culture” I mean artists, makers, hackers, coders, practitioners, researchers, games developers, animators, filmmakers, policy folk, arts workers, cultural practitioners… ummmmmmm…. other people who play creatively with technology. The point is to be INclusive, not EXclusive, so if you’re not included by title here but feel you should be included by practice then message me regardless.
I have a list of people I have already personally invited. I also have a bundle of folk I have just loved working with/around over the years and will be contacting in due course. But there’s also folk I stumble on/am introduced to who just spark something and need to be invited. For example, I just contacted my first total stranger because her work suits my thinking perfectly, and there might be the perfect match event coming up next year.
And then there’s the unknown-yet-by-me. Of which there are many!
I do not know everyone (or everything). Obviously. This whole project is about getting out there and seeing who/what I don’t know, as well as sharing who/what I do.
Location: You don’t need to be from another country; plenty of you gorgeous Australians are on my list. I need to see this country through your eyes and be introduced to your networks too.
Your mission: I ask all my “Nomads in Residence” to define where you want to go, who you want to meet and what you want to achieve from your trip.
Networking: Once I know your intentions I can help make connections with people you could meet both with me and outside of your time with me. I really encourage you to spend extra time in this amazing country if you can. I can also follow up on people you tell me I should know about in case we can meet them together.
Duration: I would love you to stay with me as long as you can, but I understand time is a valuable commodity and you are probably travelling a fair distance. When I started visiting Australia from the UK our costs were often split across a few organisations and that worked a treat, but affects timing/demands, etc.
Monies: As you can see from my crowdfunding campaign, this is all very DIY. I would love to offer you travel/accommodation, a nice fat artists fee and a luxurious ‘maker’ budget, but that’s not something I can promise. Especially right now. But I can fundraise (either through crowdfunding targeted to both our communities or through traditional arts funding) and co-productions/shared visits are pretty straightforward to coordinate. You will at least get standard return flights, acommodation/food in the bus and some kind of artist fee.
Accommodation: The bus will have a ‘bedroom’ space, a sofa-bed in the ‘lounge’ space, a swag (traditional aussie sleeping bag/tent), and an extra tent. You can choose which you’d like, even on a daily basis.
The Bigger Picture
This often freaks people out when I talk about it; “Your plans are too big, Fee. Calm down and take one step at a time”… Um, no. I think big missions help you better achieve baby steps… but that’s just me.
The big picture plan is to start the model in Australia but then take the concept all over the world. I’ve already been talking to a University in Canada who likes the concept as a research methodology. At some point we’ll run a co-production together to raise funds for a bus and the same process over there. That bus would of course drive across Canada, down to America and then South America, scooping more locals and international en route. I’m also British, so at some stage I’ll be setting up another bus in the UK, which would go to Europe… and so on.
The really-big-picture is that eventually I would like to have a bus in (or within access of) every continent. While I’m not using it the bus would be available for other digital culture practitioners. If they maintain the bus and continue to support the concept (capturing/sharing data, etc) they can have it for free when it’s not being used. If they want to do their own thing then they can hire it and any proceeds will go back in to the project.
National / International
This really isn’t just an Australian project, it’s a digital one. Like the internet it’s inspired by community, collaboration, creativity and connection. The potential is huge but the baby steps are really manageable and realistic. It just takes a little bit of conversation and we can make amazing things happen together.
So if you’re interested, message me with some responses to the above ‘challenge’ and we’ll take it from there.