21st century education
A Conversation with Art Oluja

A Conversation with Art Oluja

RP as Artist

[09:08] Izzy: It’s interesting how significant the “RP as Artist” is in SL. For example, “Creative Writing” is our largest department at MU. Also, by goals stated on application, they are probably the “most serious” students. Yet it seems like some have not had too much experience writing. It seems to be more of a “dream” than exactly a “current mission.” Perhaps some will turn that “dream” into a “goal” and others will let it linger more as a “dream,” but either way, it seems to be a place where we feel free to claim an identity with less “burden of proof” than IRL.

[09:12] Art: When I first came on SL I named myself “Artistik” because I had that “dreamy goal” of discovering a creative path that I hadn’t realized before, but in reality I just lingered in that dream for YEARS, and rarely produced anything of my own. well I have but I’ve always been a little too shy to show it. But anyway, for me it eventually did lead up to something tangible because my love for creativity (both writing and arts and SL awesomeness) inspired my completion of a degree I hadn’t imagined I could handle.

[09:13] Izzy: that’s a great story!

[09:14] Art: I always thought the research aspect, me observing others create, was always just a way to inspire myself to be the one creating. Along the way I somehow stumbled into a BA and MA degree.

[09:14] Izzy: fantastic!

[09:15] Art: it is I guess, in real life terms, but ironically I usually feel frustrated with myself because I’ve never been able to just commit to just creating, without anything else distracting away from it.

[09:15] Izzy: so the initial “dream” didn’t get past “dream” stage, but in the process of not getting past it, or trying to, you discovered a whole new conceptual space / way of working!

[09:15] Art: yes exactly!

[09:16] Art: but I still yearn for that original dream. I always think of myself as an “almost” artist. What I do love is that along the way I’ve explore and experienced creativity in so many different ways, and was the artist/writer in some cases so it was pretty good.

What’s in a Name?

[09:16] Izzy: So, “Media Archaeology” isn’t bad, although “Digital Ethnography” might be even better!

[09:17] Art: digital ethnography! you do come up with awesome terms! What is it about the latter that you think fits better?

[09:22] Izzy: well, IDK if “Media Archaeology” is or is not an “actual” term. Archaeology suggests digging up something physically. Whereas Ethnography suggests participant-observation. So in that sense DE could be a better fit. However, for sure, DE is a “real” term, which is cool, but then invokes the institutional baggage of whether what you’re doing does or does not fit in a contemporary anthropology department. Now I have to search and see if “Media Archaeology” is a “real” term or not!

[09:23] Art: its that “institutional baggage” that I was worried about. I’m worried that the institution baggage police might come over and tell me off for sticking a label on myself that is invalid.

[09:24] Art: I did look up media archaeology and apparently it is a “real” term and seems to be grounded in some specific methodologies/theories towards the history of media and its (non)linearity.

[09:28] Art: The labels really shouldn’t matter, unfortunately in RL people put too much emphasis on them. I used to joke to friends who asked what my thesis work was about, that it was about metapoetics of the metaverse. They’d go running!

[09:31] Izzy: It’s nice when you can use common terms. Digital Ethnography is nice because it takes anthropology forward into new spaces, but brings the discipline and tradition along with it, making anthropology newly relevant, and legitimizing virtual space, and giving practitioners a space to congregate in. So all good. Interestingly,I asked why not “Virtual Ethnography” which seems more closely on point than “Digital”. The answer was sort of that “people just hate the word ‘Virtual’, it’s a turn off and a non-starter – so we stick with (the safety of) ‘Digital'”.

[09:31] Art: its hard to explain to people who have never heard of virtual worlds especially.

[09:32] Art: I’ve noticed the turn off with virtual. I usually use cyber. But that seems just as iffy to people! I am a literary student at the core, so I feel like I’d be accused of fraud for calling myself anything near ethnography.

[09:33] Izzy: somehow “Digital” seems to be the SAFE, if LESS PRECISE, word.

[09:33] Art: yes that’s true!

[09:34] Art: I’m trying to think of a digital version of a literary comparatist. that always sounds so boring. Even when I say I’m a comparatist of cultural studies. Still very blah.

[09:36] Izzy: Metapoetics of the Metaverse is actually VERY good! Although if “virtual” is a turn off, I don’t suppose “Metaverse” is ready for prime time!

[09:36] Art: I used to name my thesis file META X META and when my supervisor saw it once she gave me a deadly look!

[09:36] Izzy: I think it’s more important to play TO YOUR AUDIENCE than to defend against the flack from your NOT AUDIENCE.

[09:39] Art: I think Metaverse Metapoetics is pretty darn accurate, even though its not an actual term that’s out there as far as I know.

headshot of MU Creativity editor Art Oluja wearing a white t-shirt with a cat print on it, a black jacket, glasses, smoking a cigarette, and her hair in a sort of spikey updo
Art Oluja

Metaverse Metapoetics

[09:40] Izzy: I think we don’t generally do enough meta, and should do a lot more. We’re so quick to run off to war, or get into a romantic relationship, without really doing the meta And then a few years down the road, it’s like, WFT was I / were we, thinking!?

[09:40] Art: lmao haha! that’s hilarious and brilliant! You reminded me of a very nerdy quote! I’m going to have to put it on a plaque here or ill never forgive myself

I’m So Meta, Even This Acronym

[09:42] Izzy: the thing is you can’t, I don’t think, “live” in meta. So we need to THINK more META, but BE more, uh, CORPOREAL? I think while we need more meta, that if you ONLY meta (not most people’s problem, but if you did) then, are you really living?

[09:43] Art: OMG. I agree on that. And to an extent I think for a while when I was deep in my thesis I did get TOO META. And totally lost touch with reality. It’s like you get so meta about everything that it becomes an out of body experience, literally!

[09:44] Art: so yes.. its great to THINK meta, to consider the meta, to observe yourself.. but to keep your toes planted on the ground.

[09:44] Izzy: probably not as bad as… IDK… a heroin addiction or something! :P… but perhaps a sort of tightrope walk, or fire dance… that you have to do to complete / get through that work.

[09:45] Art: yes what a great metaphor! When you’re walking the tightrope you really cant take your eyes off it, and look at the audience or tent about you or the ground below, because your so caught up in the details of that tightrope. Can’t see the forest from the Marguerite trees!

Language is a Virus?

[09:48] Izzy: I heard the idea recently that LANGUAGE is more important for talking to yourself, than for talking to others. That obviously talking to others is HUGE, but that even more fundamental, is that an inner-narrative, inner-monologue, is the very definition of self-consciousness, of self-awareness, and that, to a degree, you can’t robustly have those without language.

[09:48] Art: oh wow! that’s an amazing idea and seems so obvious as soon you give it some thought.

[09:49] Art: now I’m wondering what a non-linear inner-narrative looks like, how it would read as a novel.. but of course it would be non linear how could it not be. I guess that is the ideal example of a non-linear work of art/writing that no networked cyber creative project could ever replicate.

[09:52] Izzy: Back on “Metaverse Metapoetics”. I think that’s a term that could lose some, perhaps too many, not sure, but that would be fairly inspiring when falling on the right ears!

[09:53] Art: yes and yes I agree 🙂 What do you think is the best middle ground?

[09:59] Izzy: well, for ME, “Metaverse Metapoetics” is GREAT! And even if I don’t exactly know what you do,I almost have to have a sense that you do something I might be interested in and should find out more. But if “Virtual Ethnography” is too fringe and a non-starter… then I’m probably not the right person to gauge how significant MM’s negatives are… then again… so many times people / departments / fields have a tendency to claim everything… so a term that turns off the people you weren’t really talking to anyway, might be good. When it comes to things like tenure, or getting hired in the first place, that could be messier. Hard to say. One institution might dismiss you straight away just because they hate your term. Of course another might appreciate the progressivitity of seizing something fresh. It could be a big success, but pragmatically it might be alienating too many.

[10:03] Art: hmm OK that’s food for thought. Especially when you bring in the whole career aspect. I have mixed emotions about that because on one hand of course I have to be pragmatically acceptable especially if I actually walk around using the term in pragmatic situations.. on the other hand.. its refreshing not to worry about where the use of a term could lead to, for better or worse. Realistically if anyone at this moment asked me what my field was, I’d just say comparative literature with a straight, bored face that undermines the refreshing take I’ve explored within that field. but pragmatically it is the safe and uninspiring thing to do lol. But if someone like yourself asked me how I’d DESCRIBE what it is I’m interested in.. yea I’d probably throw them the metapoetics of metaverse line hehe. or the digital archaeology line. And a huge factor is that I’m saying that to someone who is sitting in SL.. so yea it would throw someone off who is alien to it all.

[10:07] Art: foof sorry as much as this is wonderful electric brain juice, I have to log off for a bit. Will love to continue this discussion later. Who knew a Studio Door Card could be the seed of such a thought provoking topic! ttyl!

[10:11] Second Life: Art is offline.

Blog It!

[10:28] Izzy: thanks for a great conversation! Can I blog it? Or would you like to? I’m really a blog-o-holic! And just as we said that language generates meta-narrative and consciousness itself, “I talk to myself, therefore I am.” So, I love blogs both for the meta-awareness function and their documentary function. Like “talking to others,” it’s great when others read your blog, or even comment on it, but all that’s extra. Even sans readers, it’s still a place for YOU to come to terms with what it is that you are doing or thinking or care about, and a document for your future self to recall your emergent process, and perhaps even to pull up just the right link to your past ideas when someone wants to know about them.

[11:18] Second Life: Art is online.

[11:21] Art: sorry I had to run out like that! but yes I loved that conversation and I have a feeling I’m going to enjoy lots more here with you! sure I wouldnt mind you doing whatever you like on your blog! I’m not a blogger myself but I love reading them. I’m working on putting some parts of my thesis onto a website right now, but it wont be in blog form, more like you said a place to express myself and get a different perspective on my thoughts as a reader and not the person who wrote them hehe

[11:24] Izzy: I do love the blog format, and I’m specifically quite a WordPress fan. However you do it, the possibility that anyone on earth can hear about your ideas, vs the 3-6 people who read your thesis, that seems powerful and fundamental.

[11:26] Art: yes I agree! I’m putting up little informal.. blurbs of ideas, with tons and tons of links, and hopefully it will turn out to be a little inspiring to more than the few who will ever read the actual thesis! Stripping it down to the bits that inspired me in the first place, I guess that’s what I’m going for 🙂 hopefully it will progress in sync with this project I’m working on here, that’s the plan

[11:28] Izzy: haha, for future reference, it’d be great to do it the other way around! To accrete all those bits on the website / blog, and then have that formalized eventually into the thesis or book. As to whether or not we still need theses and books, or if the metaaccretion of the metaverse is, formal enough in itself, no doubt opinions may vary! Esra’a Al-Shafei said she will NEVER write a book. Given how compelling her work is, I was quite influenced by her thinking.

[11:30] Art: that IS how I first started my thesis lmao!! it started as a blog/online diary that I never ended up publishing online. Then I turned it into an outline here in SL! Then I showed that to a supervisor, and despite how messy and chaotic my thought process was she saw something and let me run with it.

[11:32] Art: I believe in books that are allowed to roam so to speak, I don’t think printed books that are trapped on a shelf are the future

Thesis Online?

[11:35] Art: do you know if people usually feel comfortable sharing their theses online? I have no idea what is common. I’ve been thinking about just putting in up on my website for whoever to share and criticize. But I keep hearing advice not to do that. Especially as someone who isn’t published, that it could work against me.

[11:43] Izzy: The Academy has not rewarded this type of activity. Tenure & promotion have been based on publishing in prestigious journals. The fact that the general public neither understands that writing, nor even has access to it, isn’t a consideration. Conversely, the academy has not rewarded Public Access, or Open Access. For me, as a Free Culture advocate, it’s surprising, and sad, how much work is unnecessarily locked down. Both locked down legally with things like copyright, and mechanically with dead formats like PDF. I can’t say enough about the Open Web.

[11:46] Art: That’s a great point and even when it comes to copyright and plagiarism concerns, an open free source access to information wouldn’t increase the risk of someone’s writing being stolen. If anything it would help identify it to more readers.

[11:48] Izzy: As for your thesis – for sure breaking it down into smaller chunks and writing for a more general audience would be a big help, but it could also be A LOT of work! Whether you set that task for yourself is a judgement call. But even if you just took the whole (how many words is it? 50,000?) say 50,000 words and dumped them in one gigantic WordPress post, it’d still be a live, and searchable document on the open web. So given words or turn of phrase might be accessed by interested parties.

[11:49] Art: its just over 30k words. And yea that would be pretty awesome to let it be openly accessible and searchable. I might even get some really insightful feedback on it.

[11:52] Art: you know what.. I think I might just do that. as a masters thesis it doesn’t look like it has publishable potential anyway so I might as well. That would be much better than keeping it hidden and it would just be outdated and irrelevant soon enough. Definitely can’t grow if its just sitting in a folder.

[12:04] Izzy: 2 things to consider. First: remember that on the web, it’s not “If you build it, they will come”, it’s the opposite, “if you build it, they will not come”. There is SOOOO much choice online! 2nd: be sure that you really DON’T have plans or possibilities for publication. You might be able to publish in spite of being available online, or even because of, but for a document that might represent quite a lot of work, it’s worth being sure you aren’t giving a possibility up.

[12:07] Art: IF doing that happened to HELP someone who was trying to find some connections or links or sources then that would be awesome!

Popular Time!

[12:18] Art: seems like this is a popular time for the sim! gonna take another jog around the place and head off for the day, great talking to you Izzy!

[12:21] Izzy: wow, 16 peeps on LEA23! That’s the most I’ve noticed here at once so far! 😀

[12:21] Art: that’s great! its got a nice social vibe to it 🙂

[12:22] Art: bye for now see you later 🙂

[12:23] Second Life: Art is offline.

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