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2003.12.28 - sunday, 6:53 p.m.
a year in review of sorts
i have taken this entry in my weblog from an email message i sent to stephen - my twin brother - who had unexpectedly sent me christmas greetings via email nd with whom i have not been in communication for several years
actually, i hadn't planned to wite such a long message, nor had i planned to use it as an opportunity to write a "year in review". however, as the message unfolded i remembered that i have been wanting to write a summary of what has happened in the last year, and that this might be a great opportunity to being that. what follows is from the message to my twin:
i have been very much focused inwardly for the past several years however, it feels as if i am ready to make a transition in the very near future into a more public and visible way - and among other things, developing some new ways of connecting with my sprawling network of family and friends
one of the key development for me in this transition is the weblog / diary that i have recently begun - at http://robert-p.diaryland.com - and that offers a challenge for me - both the process of writing, and the task of describing just what it is that i do in the many, many hours - generally the large majority of my waking hours - in front of my computer, exploring and creating spaces in the amazing world of the internet and information and communications technologies, and researching the inner and outer dynamics of information ecosystems and information ecology
did you know that andrew is now in his first year as an undergraduate at the university of maryland, in college park, maryland - just north- east of washington. his favorite course last year was on mathematics and games, and is very much enjoying being at university.
justin has just finished a semester at the school of forestry and environmental studies at yale, and in january will switch over to do a year at the school of management, to finish up with a joint degree, justin visited us for a couple of days this week, which was fun.
we don't get to see much of tanya and will these days, eve though they are living in brooklyn. unlike justin - and to a lesser extent, andrew too - tanya does not understand what i have done with my life and believes i am a failure who has squandered his talents, and isn't interested in hearing what i am up to in my life. tanya is teaching at montclair state university in new jersey, and commutes their by train three days a week. she is doing very well, and has a book she edited titled shakespeare's theater: a sourcebook that will be published by blackwell very soon and is completing another book to be published by oxford university press
i hadn't planned to write a long letter when i began this, but it seems to be unfolding to be longer, and a chance to get down somewhat of an overview of the last year, so i may as well keep going, as i have been feeling a need to do that for a while - partly inspired by my interest in writing in my weblog
most - although not all - of the important developments this year have been online - beginning with preparations for the 2003 gandhi-king season for nonviolence, for which i have been maintaining the web site - at www.season-for-nonviolence.net - a key part of what i had worked on was on the reorganization of the "64 ways for 64 days" of daily messages into a series of weekly and daily themes to be sent out on a daily basis during the seasons - january 30 - april 4
however, overshadowing the observations of the season for nonviolence were the imminent preparations of an illegal and immoral was based on revenge and anger - and a cowboy mentality towards the arab world and its "bad guys"
we had attended the initial meeting of a uniting for peace coalition focused on invoking a landmark un resolution on uniting for peace - general assembly resolution 377, that gave the general assembly the right to convene an emergency session of the general assembly under conditions where the permanent members of the security council are unable to reach consensus
in the course of discussing how to follow through with this issue, a small and active group came together and decided to organize an online petition calling on the united nations to invoke the uniting for peace resolution in relationship to the u.s. iraq conflict
through a lengthy and intensive online conversation, supplemented by several long telephone conference calls, we eventually reached consensus - with my ending up playing the role of editor / clerk looking for ways to reconcile the different priorities of the members of the drafting group - through a progressive series of revisions in the face of a diversity of strongly held opinions as to the length of the petition and number of point, as well as to what it was essential to include in the petition
in the middle of all of this, my computer crashed, and for a while had to use an old computer - which was very, very slow - however, thanks to john german who works with an organization called non-profit computing, i was able to get a donation of a new, faster computer, albeit with a somewhat
the petition for an emergency un resolution on iraq was finally released on may day - may 1, 2003 - too late to stop the invasion that had already taken place, but not too late to collect almost 6,000 individual signatures and more than 200 organizational endorsements - including greenpeace and the anglican communion - and help to generate a flood of email to united nations missions. i also posted the resolution on www.uniting-for-peace.net - a site i had recently registered - updating the site to record additional endorsements, and to include french and spanish translations
while working on the petition, we had connected up with a small group of artists who were planning an exhibition featuring digital art and digital artists at the westbeth gallery, where several of the prospective artists lived. westbeth is an artists community on the lower west side in manhattan that was the first such artists' community to be funded with the support of the housing and urban development, in the 1960s
i realized that i needed to put together an exhibit based on the light and colour cubes that i have been working on for several years - and this eventually materialized during the exhibition at habitat.igc.org/bridges - along with a web site for the exhibit at www.digital-bridges.net - a domain i had re-registered after discovering that arnold wechsler and toni dalton, two of the artists living at westbeth, had come up with the title digital bridges for the exhibit
after the intense focus on words during the work with it was a good change of pace to be working with artists - and we had a number of reasonably well-attended events
as for iraq, i had reached a point of feeling that i had to let things unfold in terms of the consequences of the invasion, realizing that the un was not in a position to do anything, nor was there a clear focus of political will as to how to respond to the invasion, other than to continue to expose the lies that had been used as justification and to find fault with the heavy-handed way the occupation was being administered.
over the next few months, i spent a lot of time working on web site development, and in organizing the various web sites and documents that i have written, edited and/or published on line - using a framework that i called project information habitat and that i had originally launched last december on andrew's eighteenth birthday - december 5 - you can see more at habitat.igc.org/classes
the person who had introduced me to the people organizing the exhibit - joya comeaux - who i had originally met through the gandhi-king season for nonviolence - had invited the people involved into on interactive web site - at joya.communityzero.com/joya.tv (note: registration, or an invitation that i am happy to offer to anyone interested) - and i spent a good amount of time, exploring how the site worked and using its features to re-organize and present some of my work - especially that related to the peace cubes / virtual light and colour cubes - and to connect them with the september 21 observations of the international day of peace - where i had hoped to be able to exhibit the peace cubes at a booth that joya had arranged
it turned out not to be practical to get out to the peace festival - in amenia, new york, a couple of hours away on the train - or to assemble the resources to print a good number of sets of templates for the cubes, etc. however, when i realized i would not be able to make it in person, i set about what i believe has turned out to be a more valuable step, namely beginning the process of registering the we sites and images of the peace cubes as "common content" under the terms of a "creative commons" license - see www.commoncontent.org/user/279
i had envisioned the re-launch of the peace cubes at the peace festival in the context of a lead up to the 2004 gandhi-king season, and my ideas for the season received a nudge from an interview with joe hough, president of the union theological seminary, just a few blocks from where we live - on "now with bill moyers" - the only public television program that offers consistently independent and critical perspectives on what is really going on under the bush administration
anyhow, the focus of the interview with joe hough was a challenge to the christian right's failure to address biblical teachings on care for the poor and oppressed - beginning with a verse from proverbs, 14:31 - "those who oppress the needy insult their maker." - see www.pbs.org/now/transcript/transcript_hough.html for the entire transcript
i very much resonated with what joe hough had to say, so i followed up with a phone call to his office, which led to my being invited to an event on reinhold niebuhr - author of the serenity prayer, and a former professor at union theological seminary - and met joe hough and talked about the idea of integrating the issues he had raised with the 2004 gandhi-king season, as it seemed clear that the need to address gross inequalities of wealth was very much in the spirit of both mahatma gandhi and martin luther king, jr
i followed up with a meeting with joe hough's executive assistant which led both to a suggestion that i get in touch with paul sherry who is heading up a poverty initiative at the national council of churches - a block or so from union theological at 475 riverside drive, and an invitation to attend an iftar at union celebrating the end of ramadan
i had spoken to paul a couple of times but we had not yet been able to meet, however, it turned out that he was to be speaking at the iftar and i introduced myself and spoke to him briefly then, and he talked a little about plans for the launch of a people's agenda for economic justice - combining faith-based and grassroots approaches in columbia, south carolina, on the eve of the presidential primary there, with the intention of drawing attention to economic justice as a key issue for the presidential election.
it turns out that the launch of the people's agenda is on january 30-31 - at the opening of the gandhi-king season which runs from january 30 through april 4 - the anniversaries of the assassinations of gandhi and king respectively - and i have been working with the idea of having the gandhi-king season serve as a time for people and organizations to take back the agenda to their communities - and through the use of an online and pen and paper framework, have the opportunity to make recommendations for strengthening the people's agenda for economic justice, and drawing on the unprecedented level of online participation in preparations for the 2004 presidential election offer the rudiments of an alternative forum for public discussion
i have set up a preliminary web site - at www.economic-justice.us - that allows people to register their participation and to offer resources and recommendations on economic justice, and have had some very encouraging responses from people i have already been working with, as well as with others who are working in the area of new forms of online participation and access to information
the development of the site for the people's agenda involved setting up a number of online forms, and i have replicated most of the forms on the gandhi-king season site - which is now accessible as www.gandhi-king-season.net
in turn, because of the links back to information habitat's home page - habitat.igc.org - and the prominent role of the peace cubes in the gandhi-king season site - i also ended up making some significant revisions both to the home page, and to the site for the peace cubes - which has a new home page - www.peace-cubes.net - and i have finally got around to setting it up so that people can make online donations - either through paypal or major credit cards - to support the development and dissemination of the peace cubes
meanwhile, recently in the course of my online meanderings, i came across diaryland and decided to give it a try - and i hope that in the future this will be a way that i can let a few more friends and family have more of an idea of i actually do in the inner worlds of the internet.
there is a lot more that has happened this year, and there is still much that is up in the air vis a vis the people's agenda for economic justice.
btw, in a separate message i will send you an article that christine had forwarded to me from the christian science monitor: "inequity: is it a sin?" - see www.csmonitor.com/2003/1224/p14s03-lire.html - that includes quotations from joe hough and others involved in a faith-based approaches to economic justice - particularly from christian, jewish and muslim teachings
sooner or later i may get at least some of the blanks of the year filled in - however, if you are still reading by the end of this message, you may at least know a little bit more about my comings and goings