The Realities of Being a Writer in the Age of New Media

As always, Tony Pierce is the man. Here’s what he had to say to a group of young aspiring Journalists the other day (straight from the legendary BusBlog):

i said you might come into the office and they look at you and say, can you make it to LAX to interview the CEO of Virgin and review the Donnas playing right there in the terminal and do it with a flute of bubbly in your hand, and can you speed back to the office and write about something else, and help fix this person’s HTML and help fix Typepad, and help resize photos in a web based photo application thats not Photoshop and can you handle it all before it gets dark?


i said write when you come home from the club drunk. i said write when youre sad cuz your dude just broke yr heart. i said write when youre mad write when your glad write when you believe you dont have shit to say. all of thats practice. all of that is so that you can knock out one piece after another when youre getting paid to do it. but you hafta do it when youre young. cuz if you cant do it when youre young you will make up some lameass bullshit when youre not young and then you’ll realize you probably werent a writer in the first place.

I fucking love Tony. He lays out in better language than I could why I try so hard to get my students to blog, to use Ning and Wikis, to do journals about their Second Life experiences. You need to learn to use the tools, because as Tony points out, being a writer is more than just sitting down at the typewriter, like some romantic vision of Hemingway. Today, to bring it, you’ve got to have all sorts of mad web skills. Tony knows. He’s doing one hell of a job revitalizing the LA Times (and he has my eternal thanks for bringing me the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Blog). And this is why I try to get my students to write more, even when its on “frivolous” projects like Ning or short blogging assignments. Work on writing, honestly, the small stuff now. Learn the tools. Then with hard work, persistence and some luck, you can make a go of it. Just like my man Tony.

Now get out there and blog you bums!

Recommendation for PS 235 Summer 2008

Attention Conservation Notice: This post is intended for UK Students looking for a good class to take in the summer. If you’re not a UK student, please ignore. Thanks.

Summer classes are a great opportunity to pick up a USP requirement or a pre-major course in a small classroom environment. It’s one reason why I enjoy teaching classes like PS 101 American Government in the 4-Week session this year or when I taught PS 212 last summer. It’s great to work with a small group of students in a course which would normally be quite large. So, if you need to take a USP or pre-major (100- or 200-level) course, summer is a great time to do it.

I wanted to let you know that one of our best Teaching Assistants, Barrett Osborn, will be teaching PS 235 World Politics in the 4-week session this summer. If you need to take PS 235 to meet a university studies requirement or Political Science major requirement, let me encourage you to sign up for Barrett’s class. also, please spread the word about this opportunity. I have replicated Barrett’s course flyer below.

PS 235-010: World Politics

Iraq…Terrorism…Darfur…Global Warming…These are just a few of the current policy challenges that will continue to play a significant role in World Politics in the coming years.  In a globalizing world community, international discourse and foreign policy behavior are increasingly important to understand and interesting to discuss.

If you have an interest in discussing global problems, their solutions, and learning how global discourse transpires in a smaller classroom setting, you should consider registering for PS 235 World Politics offered in the Summer I Session.

PS 235: World Politics
Summer Session 1: May 2008
Meeting Time: Monday-Friday 2-3:20PM
Instructor: Barrett Osborn

Registration Deadline: April 14-15

Second Life at UK & PS 545 American Political Thought

Since a few of you have been asking, the url for the PS 545 American Political Thought wiki is It’s where the class members are keeping their journals and group projects for the digital ethnography project.

You can also find out more about what’s going on at UK’s Second Life Island by visiting there’s a great bit up now covering Oz’s building of the new Art Gallery. Check out the UK flickr group for more pics on that.

Slideshow of my UK Second Life Island Presentation

For those of you who were unable to make it to the Totally Awesome University of Kentucky Second Life Island Grand Opening (whew!) last Thursday, here is the slideshow from my presentation.

[slideshare id=320793&doc=presentation-on-ps-545-for-uk-sled-1206452124398947-2&w=425]

Note: I’m not referring to such things as PowerPoint anymore. I’m using Keynote exclusively these days. And with other tools getting more popular all the time, we should start using generic terms like slideshows and slideware.

Awesome Lo-Fi YouTube Explanation of Twitter

This rocks. I especially love the use of lo-fi media (cut-outs, Flash Gordon-style animations) to explain a Web 2.0 tool like Twitter using another Web 2.0 tool like YouTube. The effect is jarring – in a good way – and really got (and kept!) my attention.


UK Second Life Island Grand Opening Thursday

Just wanted to post this invitation to UK’s Grand Opening for its Second Life Island on Thursday afternoon. I’ll be giving a brief talk as part of a panel at 2pm at the WT Young Library Auditorium. You can participate in events in Real Life or Second Life all afternoon. I hope to see you there!

PS, in Second Life I’m known as Ricetopher Freenote. Kthxbye.



You are invited to the grand opening of University of KY Island, a virtual campus in Second Life, on Thursday, March 20 starting at 1:00 pm in W.T. Young Library.

Second Life (SL) is an internet-based 3D virtual world launched in 2003 that has attracted the attention of educators around the world for its potential as a learning environment.  “Residents” of SL can interact in real time, through their avatars, with other individuals or with objects.  Exciting possibilities exist for collaboration, simulation, content delivery, role-playing, experiential learning, and other forms of educational interactions created through the imaginations of faculty and students.  UK is joining a growing list of campuses that offer academic experiences through Second Life.

A description of this event and a detailed schedule (which includes talks by an SL educator in England, two UK faculty who use SL in their courses, a tour of the island, a discussion of educational uses, and more) can be found at  A two-minute video invitation is at

This event and the University of KY Island are sponsored by the Office of Undergraduate Education with support from the Teaching & Academic Support Center and University of Kentucky Libraries.

For more information about the event, contact Patsy Carruthers, Senior Program Manager for AV/DL Networks at the Teaching & Academic Support Center (257-8272 ext. 223,

I need more fiction in my life

How did it come to This? I have become Old Before My Time. I read almost nothing but nonfiction these days – blogs, white papers, books, you name it. The only nonfiction in my most recent Amazon order was the newest collection of Grant Morisson’s Doom Patrol. It’s been that way with my reading for awhile, but now I’ve noticed that this has crept over into my iPod behavior as well. When I’m listening to the iPod in the car or at the gym, I’ve been listening to podcasts like the Manoa Future Studies podcast series or, recently, the podcasts from TED and SXSW.


It didn’t used to be this way. I used to read a LOT of fiction as a young man, especially science fiction. And, as a musician, I listened to a LOT of music: classical, jazz, pop, rock, hip-hop, bluegrass, whatever. It was all good. But now… Now I’m one of those sad old white guys reading and listening for “productivity” and “skills/knowledge enhancement.”

I really need to develop a plan and a budget (money AND time) for indulging in music and literature again. Any suggestions for how to go about this in a disciplined way? How about suggestions for the last good fiction you read (novel or short story) or last good album you listened to?


PS, Also? I need to play more video games. I’m waiting for Robert Allen to come out with a book that can show me not only how to Get Things Done, but how to also Add Three Fucking Hours To My Day.

Transactional vs. Transformational Politics

Digby has a great article on the important difference between transactional and transformational politics over at Campaign for America’s Future’s “Blog for Our Future.” Here’s the money quote from the end of the article:

Cramped transactional politics should not be used as a definition of progressivism. While they are a necessary part of the system, they cannot fuel a transformation of our politics. Our job as activists is to pressure and prod our elected representatives to advance the progressive project and reward them when they do it. Winning office should be the beginning, not the end. Transformation is not just a goal, it’s a process.

So many times liberal and progressives, as well as anarchists, get caught up in the drive for immediate results. “We have to win this race – who’s the most electable person we have?” or “We’ve got to <insert outrageous anarchist act of resistance here> because if we don’t destroy the system now it will keep getting stronger! Fight the Power!”

Well, one reason for the success of the conservative movement over the last 30 years or so has been the willingness to forgo immediate gratification and electoral success in the interest of building a movement. It was the putting into motion of the old slogan “free your mind and your ass will follow.” Where the conservatives started to experience EPIC FAIL is when they started worrying about ways to win elections and use mechanical/procedural strategies and stopped worrying about building and nurturing a movement. Hence the fragmentation of the Republican party during this election cycle. Democrats who were willing to back the Clintons early were also vicitms of this same idea – they never quite understood the need to build a new national movement. This movement building instinct and effort has been what has made Obama’s campaign so successful, I think. This is why I often take issue with anarchists who want the big flashy spectacle now – propaganda of the deed as their only method – rather than focusing on the more difficult, but ultimately more effective, method of transvaluation. System change is slow at first but grows exponentially as it successfully progressive.

This is the difference between transactional and transformational politics.

Head over and read Digby’s article. It’s better than watching Wolf Blitzer on a Sunday afternoon!

Thinking the Future: Kardashev Scales and the possibility of sub-scales

Open Left put up this video today by Michio Kaku on the Kardashev Scale:


Currently, the Earth as a whole  is ranked at roughly a 0.7 on the Kardashev scale. We are not even a Type I civilization yet.

I was very intrigued by Kaku’s discussion of the evolution of structures such as the European Union as stages of development towards a Type I civilization. Clearly the development of a global energy economy, and the concurrent political structural development, are key to driving this change. But they are not the end points. Which leads to the need to begin discussing scenarios for how we may achieve Type I civilization. To do this, we need to understand which aspects of our current globalizations are leading us closer to Type I and which are driving us further away. In order to do this, I believe, we need to begin understanding subtypes on the path to Type I civilization. If we are indeed at a 0.7 level, we need to have a firmer classification system to understand why this is the case, and not just rely upon measures of energy consumption. As Kaku is pointing out, there are a whole set of political and ethical structures which surround this subtype. Wedges, in other words. How do we then begin to think in terms of moving smaller wedges to achieve the larger goal of Type I civilization?

I don’t have the answer here. I just wanted to throw out the idea for further thought. As someone who teaches Kentucky and Appalachian Politics as well as Political Theory, it interests me to think about how we might classify global regions on a Kardashev-type scale. What variables, other than energy, might go into this? How do we measure progress, so as to more efficiently guide our efforts?

(I wish more Political Scientists would begin to incorporate some selements of Futures thinking, or Futurism, into their work.)

But I think the most important part comes at the very end of Kaku’s talk. We always blather on about how “the children are our future,” but rarely do we talk about WHY this is the case, other than some vague notion of DNA transmission and continuation of the species. In other words, the biological meatware answer, not the civilizational software answer.  Kaku suggests that the children are our future (and our grandchildren) because we are at a unique historical vantage point for either reaching for Type I Civilization or falling back into something much more primitive. It will be OUR generation, as well as the following two, which figure out how to use the available fossil fuel/carbon energy economy to get us to Type I without killing us through rapid global climate change. Or not.

As others have indicated, we get one shot at Type I. We either wisely use the available carbon resources to build a sustainable future and then rapidly wean ourselves off of them, or we continue to use carbon until it runs out or we kill off our existing sub-Type I Civilization  because we just couldn’t make the leap. It will take nature millions of years to sequester all that additional carbon again (which is what the Age of Dinosaurs and beyond was all about, really) to stabilize the atmosphere and concentrate the carbon into usable energy. On that timescale, you see, humanity really doesn’t have any alternative. We either use what we’ve got to get to Type I, or its an EPIC FAIL.

So to get there, we need to be thinking about Wedges now. Which Wedges are the best to use, the most effective and efficient, will largely depend on developing scenarios for achieving Type I. This means understanding sub-Type I scales more thoroughly, and using them to build a Type I blueprint.