Sunday, December 03, 2006

Blog improves outreach of a church

As a group project for a course at Emily Carr, I helped to update the website for a very small congregation called "Christ Alive Community Church" in the West End of Vancouver.

We came into contact with the church through one of the members of our group, an exchange student from Holland, who had found the church with Google when she first arrived and was looking for a Sunday night traditional service. She was welcomed by the tiny congregation, but it was apparent that they needed to improve their outreach in order to survive.

Our goal was a simple appearance, better navigation, easy updating, and increased visibility on the internet to people from outside Vancouver. On a local level the people in the church are involved in community service projects, but the ministry also has an important role as a location where same-sex couples from all over the world can come to be legally wed in a traditonal worship service.

We didn't tell the pastor we were giving him a "blog" until we could show him our final product, since many people think that they are only for teenagers reporting on last night's party. He was very pleased with the results.

Here is a link to the site of Christ Alive Community Church

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Digital cameras and your life

Digital cameras let you review and delete photos immediately, meaning that you can catch unique moments and save money on processing. Cameras that use film require a waiting time to see the results, and often your subject (or vacation) is long gone before you see if you need to retake any shots. We all have drawers or cardboard boxes in storage of envelopes full of photo prints that we paid for but which didn't turn out.

I've just finished giving three workshops in using digital cameras to seniors who are in recovery from strokes. This was part of the "Lines of Life" project, offered by the City of Vancouver. I found people eager to learn, but anxious about how complex and delicate the entry-level cameras would be. Confidence rose after we repeated "camera calisthenics"(turning it on, taking shots, reviewing, and deleting)as a warmup every session. It was very exciting to see how much people enjoyed themselves. Our primary goal was to give people a useful skill, but we also got some interesting photos and text.

One thing I learned for myself was that I wanted some of those features I was teaching on my own camera! I especially wanted to be able to take video. I am impressed at how people can now afford to be carrying around the tool to record the stories of their daily lives (or even news events they happen to witness). I took my new camera to a two-day 50th birthday party and, using the software that came with the camera, edited the small movie clips and still photos together into a 3 1/2 minute piece called "Sisters" which has a storyline about the interconnectedness of women. The first night, Sarah read us a story that inspired her, so I took portraits of her with each friend, and had them read a bit of the story as a voiceover. Many digital cameras record digital audio now, as part of their video function. Many have the option of recording a "sound memo" for verbal notes about still images.

I'm an art student and have access to lots of great equipment, but only until I graduate. It is a relief to me to know that I can still put my content and stories out there with consumer-level tools. Also, increasingly my interest is in assisting people to take control of their own image-making -- so I'm all excited about showing how you can produce your own videos without having to be able to afford video cameras and editing equipment.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Problems learning the computer

When Linda, the author of the blog Fiddlehead Farm Memoirs, made the comment that "Learning computers is way harder than learning how to milk a goat", I asked her to write down some reflections. Please feel free to add your observations by clicking on "comments" (the underlined blue phrase at the end).

"At my age of 68 I am finding several challenges working on a computer. One has to ask at some point 'Do the benefits outweigh the frustrations?'

There is no doubt that the information of the world is at ones fingertips. The question is at what price do you pay? It is easy now to stay in contact with friends. BUT does it take the place of face to face talking and visiting? My grandson age 16 says his best friend lives in New Jersey. He also may be his only friend simply because he spends so much time on the computer he doesn't have time to develop other relationships. That is sad and not for me.

All of our brains learn in different ways.The failures of our school systems have certainly proven this. Many of us see in pictures and or learn experientially.

I do not want to lead a sedentary life . At my age I need to get more exercise not less. It is also important not to increase my stress level. There is nothing more frustrating than a crashed computer, or one you can not figure out.

Every individual needs to decide for himself just how much this tool should control his life."

Monday, October 02, 2006

A blog provides a place for reconnection and story collection

In an email with the subject line "Linda with a blog" to potential contributers, the former owner of Fiddlehead Farm begins: "It has taken my retirement to be able to begin to learn my way around a computer. This form of communication is not my favorite. I did realize that if I wanted to reconnect with the travellers to fiddlehead the only way I could do it was through the internet."

The Fiddlehead Farm Memoirs blog is an ongoing collaboration between myself and Linda S. She is a person who, for philosophical and practical reasons, is very careful about how much of her time and energy she invests in communication which isn't face to face. Over a thirty year period, Linda created instant community for hundreds of young people, from students to international travelers, at a unique place in the rainforest near Powell River, BC.

The history of Fiddlehead is, I believe, a very strong narrative in its own right. Fiddlehead was always a place of community. From a sixties commune, it evolved into an alternative school for "at-risk" teens in the seventies, and then into a youth hostel that was quietly famous among backpackers. I became a regular visitor in the early nineties, just before the secret of Fiddlehead got out. For example, Vancouver Magazine, in its "Nirvana Report" -- linked to Linda's blog -- revealed to the BC locals that it was a place "which will loofah the cynicism out of the most hardened urbanite".

Linda retired in 2003, and sold Fiddlehead to a man who promised to continue to run it as an eco-recreational place: a horse-riding retreat. Instead, he clearcut the forest and burned the handmade buildings. It took Linda years to get over the shock. But last June, at a Fiddlehead reunion, it was clear to me that she had recovered and was ready to think outside the box.

We spent time together in July, scanning her photos, while she clarified three objectives. First, she wanted to find a way to reconnect with individuals who still consider their time at Fiddlehead as having been an important part of their personal history, but whose physical addresses were lost when the logbook was burned in 2003. She also wants to collect stories and photos about the Farm from many points of view, since she has already been approached by a filmmaker and by someone who would like to help her do a book. Finally, she wants to preserve her own aging photographs, and create a digital archive of photos from diverse collections.

Over the rest of the summer, Linda not only opened her first email account, but also launched the Fiddlehead Memoirs blog. Here is the link to her blog.

Fiddlehead Farm Memoirs

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Old documents preserved by scanning and burning to a CD

Over the summer of 2006, I taught my friend Nancy H. how to use the scanner and a cd burner at my art school so that she could create a digital copy of a very old photo/handwritten family tree archive. She is a descendent of the gentleman above, who, on May 10, 1907, used a timer and a glass-plate camera to make a portrait of himself working into the night on his labour of love.

One hundred years later, the wet black ink we see in that old photo is brown, the paper and photos brittle and fading. Nancy's objective was to have a copy for preservation and safety, and also to be able to provide the images in digitized form to another family member who is writing a history book. That project is now completed with her objectives achieved.