Monthly Archives: July 2010

body language and cyber language

my new-found friend sheldon from the kitzul connection wrote this the other day:

given the world we live in with social media dominating our relationshipscapes, why all the love??!

i have had this brewing in the back of my mind for a while now. but it really hit home during a recent trip to the interior. i am an avid twitterer and saw that a connection from there was also traveling to kelowna the same time i was there. i sent her a message and asked if she would like to meet for coffee or a drink. she agreed. my friend and i went to meet her one evening and during our conversation we talked about how easily we give up trust in people we meet this way. i have had many recent examples where i meet people from twitter or elsewhere for coffee. having never met each other, without fail, one party always leaves their belongings at the table after the hand-shake to go get a coffee. somehow, having never met you in person, i’m willing to leave my laptop, keys, cell phone etc with you. i have just transferred my trust to you.

in kelowna, the woman we met with told us that her husband had offered to come along and she declined feeling that she trusted us – two strangers. did she have enough information from our tweets and blogs to know we were trustworthy?

being the woman in question, i thought i`d say something about this. in fact, i, too, think that this is a very interesting phenomenon. just one observation, about what i’d like to call bodylanguage and cyberlanguage.

you know how they always say that social media is a poor method of communication because we`re missing the body language? it is true that in written social media we miss body language (not so much when it comes to video, of course) but there is an equivalent in social media – let me call it cyberlanguage. i’m sure linguists and postmodern woollymouths have created a term for it but – well, let’s leave that for now. this cyberlanguage is quite rich. let’s look at twitter and just some of the many ways we communicate outside of the informational content of the text:

  • mode of interaction with others. do we reply to others? is there evidence of actual conversation with others? what is the nature of that interaction? friendly, hostile, fun, etc.?
  • evidence of self-involvement. does the person tweet nothing but her or his own “wisdom”, or references to their blog or web site?
  • what do the avatar and twitter backgrounds say about the person? fun? boring? interesting? unusual?
  • what does the bio say? is there a link to a web site or blog?
  • what is the writing style? formal, informal, flowery, abrupt … ? can they spell? how do they use punctuation and symbols?

and the list goes on … i often think people are developing their own unique cyberlanguage, their own internet voice print, so to say. the more time we spend online, the better we are able to discern the subtle undertones and colorations of these voices. we can judge them according to more common standards (e.g. use of swearwords, uniqueness of twitter background, amount of retweets, etc.) but we can also attune to our own resonances. maybe the person uses certain expressions that really appeal to me. maybe the person has a ratio of conversation to just-talking-to-myself that makes me feel comfortable.

and then of course there is also the content, both of the tweets and of the bio and the web sites that the bio leads to. in my case, i did go to sheldon’s blog, where i had been before, and discovered that he spoke favorable of research on drug addiction by bruce alexander, one of my favourite psychology professors at sfu.

did all of this guarantee that sheldon was a good guy and not a serial killer? of course not. but how different is that from real life?

what do you think of the idea of a unique cyberlanguage?

haibun: moon over kelowna

full moon in the summer

the lavender here in this desert-like town is long and hard and spiny. its smell is harsher here, more pungent. and with the heat and the dry air comes a rising moon that lifts itself pure over the hills. pure, white, into the azure it emerges – and azure, really, that’s the only word for it. blue? many things are blue. jeans, cars, the background on a computer for sale at walmart. this sky, though, up here over the hills that cinch the long, narrow, deep lake, this sky is azure. tinged with a bit of violet and yellow at the fringes in the west, where we remember the sun has gone. the car lights up and down the street compete with the moon, seem to win for a moment, but they move in and out, leaving no trace.

the moon rises.

when humans are gone
insects with names yet unknown
will still sing your song.

mad pride: salmon insanity at gallery gachet

salmon art

are you in vancouver and looking for something to do on saturday? how about going to salmon insanity, run by gallery gachet apropos their mad pride events. gallery gachet is a collective of vancouver artists who have been affected by mental illness. i like how they make the connection between mental health and ecological health.

here’s their invite:

are you a salmon-lover or would like to be one?? local bands converge with run-of-river activist groups to network, update and rock the salmon as our precious “backbone of the west coast.”

bring a blank t-shirt for the free “salmon are sacred” and “gateway sucks” DIY screen-printing station!

express your love for salmon through creativity at our art table, including body painting and tattoos.

our featured musical talent includes

rick buckman coe

ranj singh and the discriminators

watasun

image by naturemandala

mental health camp recap #2

here’s another report from mental health camp. for some reason, i just can’t bring myself to get all official about it and write it from the point of view of the organizer, so i’ll write it from my personal point of view. so here are a few fragments, which do not do justice to the whole big event but which nevertheless will give you a bit of a taste:

our logistics on the day of were a little wonky; influenced, in part, i think, by the more official feel of the location. the event was in a beautiful building, the aquatic ecology research lab at the university of british columbia; the first one had been at the very intimate location of the sadly now defunct workspace. one of the things that were wonky were that the first presenters did not get introduced. steffi, who spoke about “ripping off the scabs through writing”, was understandably not very happy about it. what i liked was that we were to hear this complaint without getting defensive, and immediately rectified it, with the help of wonderful people like sue macdonald from the CMHA and kemp edmonds. (these two and our other volunteers were highlights in and of themselves!)

perhaps the thing that most stuck with me was the role that art and creativity played at mental health camp. there was steffi talking about her writing. there was j peachy who presented a whole session of sound therapy radio, complete with a live band (ranj singh and the discriminators), each of whose member was standing in front of a painting (see here for a video clip of it). that session also featured a young woman talking openly about eating disorders for the first time, as well as creative participation by the whole audience. j peachy is part of gallery gachet, a vancouver collective of artists who have experience with mental health issues.

also part of gallery gachet was a lunchtime presentation of the beautiful film crooked beauty, which “explores positive and compassionate models for transforming the experience of madness in our culture.” it features one of the founders of the icarus project, ashley mcnamara.

the icarus project envisions a new culture and language that resonates with our actual experiences of ‘mental illness’ rather than trying to fit our lives into a conventional framework.

exciting stuff.

there was michelle clausius, who gave a presentation about the artistic endeavours of the young people who contribute to on the house, the award-winning blog of covenant house. this is what covenant house does:

covenant house exists for those young people for whom there is often no one else — young people aged 16 – 24 who have either willingly fled physical, emotional and/or sexual abuse, those who have been forced from their homes or those who have aged out of foster care. we bandage their cut-up feet from days and nights walking the streets; we give them hot food and a warm bed and we support them in their choice to change their present circumstances while helping them heal from past traumas.

another session where i experienced high creativity was katarina halm’s presentation on focusing. i loved how she used the yellow balls pressed against our bodies almost as “speakers” to help us feel our bodies better.

doing this with my good friend raul was a pleasure, once again. we feed on each other’s ideas and calm each other down when we fly too high. there were a few instances when we really needed that, most of it as a result of nasty troll comments directed at some of the presenters and also at ourselves. because of our support for each other, i hope we can say we managed to stick with our core philosophies: inclusion, compassion, and clear communication. thank you, raul!

going up the country

yeah, i’m goin’ up the country, for my yearly week in the sunny okanagan, canada’s version of california.  for some reason, after mental health camp, my batteries are taking forever to recharge.  maybe because i never fully recovered from my trip to germany.  maybe because i had a mental health blip (was it a mini episode of depression?  or what?  it sure felt like the wiring in my brain was going all bzzzzzz and chrkhrrrrk) a few days before mental health camp.  maybe because there was some drama there.  maybe because work has been very intense.  maybe because i haven’t repainted my toenails yet.  who knows.

but as always, there is some learning.  i feel uncomfortable that i’m not back to form yet.  i should be back to form!  i should get things done and not be so friggin’ unproductive!  i should not get all squirmy and guilty when i say “no” to people and events.

well, you can hear the shoulds.

the truth is, it takes as long as it takes, and no-one but i can take responsibility for looking after myself.  there is no mathematical formula whereby i can calculate how long it takes for my batteries to charge.  it just is what it is.

so i’m going up to kelowna, where i’ll do as much relaxation as possible and you know what?  if i’m back and i still don’t feel recharged, i’ll just have to relax some more.

shoulds be damned.