Clowns and Krumpers

Yesterday evening the ABC in Australia showed David LaChapelle‘s film Rize (2005). The film has been shown previously on ABC in Australia and was reviewed by Margaret Pomeranz and Triple J in 2005.

Rize introduced me to clowning and krumping as alternatives to membership in gangs. A review of Rize gives some background about the founder of this form of dance Tommy the Clown and its social context.

There are few career paths open to the children of these neighbourhoods (South Central Los Angeles) and drugs and gang culture offers a seemingly quick way to earn money and prestige, and as many of their families and friends are involved in gangs it can prove difficult to break out of this way of life. Krumping not only provides a physical outlet for young peoples frustration but can also creates alternative social structures and allows young people to gain respect from their peers and their community. For Tommy the Clown the success of his dancing has turned his life around and dance has provided him much more than just a steady income. After a spell in jail for drug dealing he was asked to perform at a kids party and began a business as a hip hop clown. His art and his business has grown from there to include a Clowning Dance Academy and number of high profile ‘Battle Zone’ dance competitions in huge stadiums with thousands of spectators. Whilst dancing can help people work out their emotions, it can also offer alternative career paths. The Krump dancers featured in the film have gone on to use their dancing to actually escape the ghetto and are starting out as dancers and choreographers. Dancer Miss Prissy choreographed and starred in Madonna’s new video Hung Up and others have also been snapped up by the likes of Missy Elliott and the Black Eyed Peas.

This 2007 video and report provide more information about Tommy and Krump. One reviewer of Rize observed that “By allowing the story of Krumping and Clowning to come from the mouths of those who live and breath it, he (Lachapelle) brings to the fore the relationship between dance and society with startling clarity and inscribed on the body of the dancer.”

There is a Battle Zone within Krump:

The Battle Zone is fierce, kinetic, no-holds bar dancing, where the objective – much like with breakdancing – is to put your opponent to miserable shame. So the krumpers and the clowns dance fast and they dance hard to be crowned the best by an audience of their peers.

There is a Cage version of this battle Zone that is “grimey and reps what Krump was when it started but with the highest levels of Krump. The battles were all in good vibes and even the beef battles brought everyone closer.”

By the end of Rize I was sold on clowning and krumping. Perhaps it was because I had spent part of the day reading Digital Habitats that I saw a wonderful opportunity to explore stewardship from a different perspective. Tommy the Clown has many of the characteristics discussed by Etienne, Nancy and John with regard to the rhythms of togetherness and separation:

Time and space present a challenge for communities. Forming a community of practice requires sustained mutual engagement over time. It takes more than one transient conversation; it does not arise from merely having the same job title in different locations. It requires learning together with enough continuity and intensity of engagement that the definition of the domain, the weaving of the community and the development of the practice become shared resources.

I was thinking too about communication. The evolution of krumping prompted me to think about microblogging and its transformation since 2006. Perhaps I am overworking the issues here but the colonisation of a mode of expression has some real parallels for me with digital authorship. I like the ideas around the rhythm of communication and the opportunities to find the edges around shared interests.

Photo Credits

Rob Helfman D_18278A

Tommy the Clown

Tommy the Clown y’all

Chaz Wags lasgueritas


Today I have been checking HootSuite in between gardening in the intense heat of a Mongarlowe Summer.

By good fortune I came across a link to Tim Kastelle, John Steen and Mark Dodgson‘s Innovation Leadership Network Blog and their post about Networks and the Information Glut. In a discussion of the Republic of Letters project at Stanford University they observe that:

The fundamentals of innovative thought haven’t changed since the 18th Century – it’s always been aggregate, filter and connect. The great thinkers of earlier times corresponded extensively because it helped them aggregate information from a wide variety of disciplines and sources. Once they did this, they had to be skilled at filtering the data to figure out what was useful, and then they had to connect up the filtered data to create innovative ideas.

And, of course, once they had the great ideas, they had to execute them, and then get them to spread. Even though the media that transmits the data to us are different now, aside from that, not much has changed.

Their post is illustrated with Stanford’s video of Tracking 18th century social network through letters. They acknowledge Mitch Joel and he in turn thanks Hugh McGuire (“I can’t recall where I found this, but it’s very very cool”) for the link to the video

I am fascinated by correspondence and pursued the Stanford Project details (CCK08 instilled in me an inveterate interest in networks).

There is a wonderful visualisation tool for the Republic of Letters project. For 1629-30, the database has this information:

Over 196 years, the correspondence network looked like this:

The Mapping of the Republic of Letters project at Stanford observes on its home page:

Before research universities and disciplinary colloquia, scholars depended largely on correspondence networks for the dissemination and exchange of ideas. These informal communities, collectively known as the Republic of Letters, pose considerable challenges to the modern historian, as their contours blur and shift over time. With the help of advanced visualization techniques, this project is literally “mapping” the Republic of Letters, by plotting the geographic data for the senders and receivers of correspondences. These maps will allow researchers to perceive the larger patterns of intellectual exchange in the early-modern world and raise new questions about the importance of places, nations, and cities, in the circulation of knowledge.

Tim, John and Mark point out that:

Even though we often feel like we’re overwhelmed with information and data to be absorbed, the information glut is nothing new. Think about the volume of connections shown in the video. Or think about Charles Darwin – over the course of scientific career he sent over 15,000 letters. It’s safe to assume that he received just as many. Think about how much time he would have spent reading & writing letters, and how much new information and ideas would have been included in that – it’s probably more than we’re spending writing our blogs, updating our statuses and twittering.

The blog post and the Stanford project reminded me of the role cartographers played before the time of the Republic of Letters. They aggregated stories of travels and visualised them. The Fra Mauro map is a wonderful example of the role trusted sources played in aggregating a global sense of place.

I note that the Stanford project is exploring larger patterns of intellectual exchange. The digital exchange of ideas is amenable to mapping too and I have been very interested in Valdis Krebs‘ work in this regard. I liked his discussion of Paul Erdos’s work.

Paul Erdõs … was an expert in the mathematics of networks. Erdõs practiced what he preached — he was a weaver of social networks and thus a builder of social capital. Erdõs was known for traveling the world and collaborating with mathematicians on problems and proofs he found interesting. He would actually live with his collaborators for a week or two while they worked out the proofs. Then he would travel on to the next collaboration. Many scientific papers resulted from these intense face-to-face collaborations. Erdõs had 507 co-authors, some of whom collaborated with each other.

I think the sociology of knowledge has a great deal to add to this debate too. A personal learning environment has profound social connections and embodies the classical sociological juxtaposition of private troubles and public issues. Whenever I check HootSuite or the Nourishment section of my blog I am staggered by the productivity of the new age of correspondents but thanks to Tim Kastelle, John Steen and Mark Dodgson understand that busy people work hard to communicate.

This thought took me back to 1629 and Thomas Hobbes’ letter to a European correspondent. I wonder if the letter started:

Please excuse me writing to you but I have an idea for a book

The reply came back in 1630!

I think 1651 would be a good year to publish … Can you send me a chapter a year … but remember to back up your work!

Photo Credit Message in the Bottle

Listening Pleasure: Thinking About Performance

This week on my journeys into Canberra I have had an opportunity to catch up with ABC Classic FM and Radio National. Three items in particular helped me think more about performance. Two were symphonies played on Classic FM and one was a discussion about writing on Late Night Live.

The two symphonies were:

1. Aaron Copland conducting Appalachian Spring (1979)

2. Henryk Górecki‘s Symphony of Sorrowful Songs (Symfonia pieśni żałosnych)

Aaron Copland’s performance as a conductor composer encouraged me to think about how tacit knowledge is made available and confirmed my fascination with performances of understanding. Goriecki’s symphony was so beautiful (it was the first time I heard it) it prompted me to think about performance beyond words and how resonance is a fundamental relationship we have we each other and the world.

The Late Night Live conversation was between Phillip Adams and Mark McGinness. This is the web site trail for the interview “The obituary has had a relatively short life, becoming a regular fixture in Australian newspapers in the early 1990s. However, obituaries have become almost mandatory reading, offering up a celebration of life amid the usual gloom. But how do obituary writers get such an insight into the dearly departed?”

It was a delightful interview and I was left with a very clear sense of the precision required to share a life. It made me think about how coaches communicate and how writing whilst going beyond the 140 characters of Twitter can have an intensity that celebrates lives through thick description. This obituary of Michael Romanoff encapsulates the themes of the interview.

Photo Credits

Simon Ilic Leaning Tree

Michael Sarver Appalacian Trail

Janusz L River Sings