Dia de los Muertes in Second Life


Postcard from Penelope in Second Life

The Smithsonian Museum Latino is about to launch their Second Life presence. This will coincide with the Day of the Dead, a Mexican day honoring the ancestors. Astrodime is sponsoring a collaboration between Lesley University, and the Smithsonian Latino Center as part of our Scientific American/La America Cientifica year long project. This has also come out because of the hard work from the Critical Pedagogy committees and Diversity committees at Lesley University. AstroDime member sam smiley will be visiting the real world Smithsonian Museum Latino this week in D.C.

You can get to the Smithsonian Latino Project by going to: http://latino.si.edu/education/LVM.htm

Or you can join virtually by going to

Smithsonian Latino 2nd Life

Smithsonian Latino 2nd Life

To take part in the festival virtually, participants must have an avatar in
Second Life and can
join by going to:
Dia de los Muertos is celebrated in Latin America, particularly Mexico and
Central America, and in Latino communities in the United States to honor deceased family and friends through altars called “ofrendas” and by decorating cemeteries and individual tombstones. Offerings traditionally
include sugar skulls, marigolds, “pan de muertos” (a special Day of the Day
bread) and the material goods the deceased enjoyed while alive.
“With the growing number of Latinos in the United States, including people
of Latin American descent, it is no surprise that this holiday, traditionally celebrated Nov. 1 and 2, has become so popular
in the United States,” said Melissa Carrillo, director of New Media and
Technology at the Smithsonian Latino Center. “Illustrating this important aspect of Latino culture in a broad platform such as Second
Life will allow users from across the world an opportunity to participate in
and see firsthand, spiritual customs that have been passed on from ancient Mesoamerica.”
Highlights include a community altar in the virtual museum’s “Placita” (town
square) and a companion community altar in Virtual Native Lands, a partner site in Second Life focused on highlighting Native American culture and practices. Virtual museum resources include Smithsonian
Latino collections, a user’s guide, glossary, lesson plans and resource
links for educators. Teaching tools for teachers about key elements of the observance include the Spanish arrival, customs and
beliefs, traditional dancing and the importance of the return of spirits.


October 27, 2009 at 4:30 pm Leave a comment

LATEST astrodime journal now available!

New Intransit Journal

Starring Julia Tenney!

Wow! we did it. The latest INtransit Video Journal is out and freed from discmakers. Yay!

INtransit V. 5: Can You Hear me Now? is available to purchase. This journal provides distinct looks at the historical successes and failures in communications technology. Including a performance re-enactment of the first Trans-Atlantic cable, this journal captures true and re-imagined moments of telecommunications history. You have to see this!

Come and get it. It’s $25.00 for individuals and $50.00 for libraries. Special offer..if you buy ALL of our previous INtransit journals now we will give you this for free.canyouhearmenowsmall

October 17, 2009 at 3:28 pm Leave a comment

Astrodime at Maker Faire Rhode Island

Astrodime at Maker Faire Rhode Island

Sept 30 2009 by Amanda

This is a recap of Astrodime’s experience at the Maker Faire festival in Providence, RI. The website for the festival is at http://makerfaireri.com/.

On Saturday, September 19 the Astrodime Transit Authority demonstrated our tin can telecommunications system at the Maker Faire Rhode Island festival. The technicians of Astrodime, including sam, Julia, Lisa, and Amanda worked directly with adults and young children in using the AstroCan communications systems. Many adults were eager to prove to their children that the tin can system worked just as well as their iPHONES.

Set in the heart of the Financial District in Providence, Astrodime’s exhibition consisted of 2 videos displaying the most current INtransit journal “Can You Hear Me Now?” and “Secret Decoder”. Also on display were the hand-crafted iCANs, tin can phones, and wire tapping devices. Between 2pm and 10pm locals and out of towners experimented with our iCAN, tin can party line, and tin can phone wiretapping. Throughout the day, over 200 people tested the tin can communication device, and sam experimented with our wiretapping capabilities.

Maker Faire is the foremost event for grassroots American innovation. Being the first Maker Faire festival in Providence, this event attracted over 50 makers, inventors, and artists to showcase their most recent inventions. One of the highlights of the day was the disco bicycle party, designed by the custom frame bike-makers Circle A Cycles; another rare gadgeteer was Tellart, and they installed an interactive mixed reality pong game that people could play by wearing helmuts with IR LED’s attached. As Maker Faire continued into the late evening, the Providence River was set on fire as the themed “Celebration of Life” Waterfire festival took place!

October 3, 2009 at 5:44 pm Leave a comment

Conference: Futures of Science, Race, and Gender

Report on MIT Program in Womenś and Gender Studies: Futures of Science, Race, and Gender
Sept 26 2009 by sam \(^_^)/

This is a summary and digest of a conference I went to at MIT. I was looking to research for Scientific American/La America Científica. The web site for the conference is at http://web.mit.edu/wgs/twentyfive/

Panel 1:
Mentoring Women: Four Generations of Women Scientists at MIT

This session was an intergenerational panel of women who work in Cognitive Science. (specifically cognitive neuroscience). The discussion was primarily about intergenerational mentoring, and all the women on the panel had mentored or been mentored by the others. It was quite an interesting “lineage” as it were. At the end of the whole session, the audience response took it into another direction entirely (noted below)
Molly Potter began by outlining a history of women at MIT over the past century and into this one. She said an interesting thing, when McCormick hall (residence for women) was built at MIT, there was an upsurge of women students. Seems like a no-brainer? but sometimes the institutional barriers are so obvious they are hard to notice, paradoxically.

Nancy Kanwisher talked about the importance of mentoring.She made an interesting comment about the relation of neuroscientists and psychologists and their different ways of studying the mind. So when brain imaging (PET) scan came along it was a long time before psychologists were able to use this technology because the medical field had it and didn’t want to let it go.

Rebecca Saxe and Liang Young spoke in brief, about mentoring and their relations to their mentors. Both of them do not feel so much about ¨being a woman in the field” but just being in the field.

A question for me that came out of this: what is the critical mass of women where being a women ¨doesn´t matter”? that it’s “not an issue?” i.e. your self recognition of yourself as female does not come up constantly in a job with respect to promotion.

and is this a generational break in feminisms? (At least North American feminisms?)

Part II (i.e. holy crap!)

So after the talk (which was largely about these intergenerational collegial relationships) the audience had questions.One audience member asked how did white priviledge influence the panelists’ success. Actually the question was more like you all were white, how did you benefit from being white? NOTE TO SELF: the youngest panelist was Asian, i am wondering how she thought about being described as white. Rebecca Saxe intervened and said actually Liang was Chinese not white.

The issue exploded as a second questioner said that Liane Young is “basically white” because she is a model minority. (NOTE TO SELF: WTF! what is Basically White, anyway?) At this point it was actually painful to be in the room.
Another audience member intervened (fortunately) and said she appreciated the idea of ¨lineage” and mentorship ideas in this talk, and felt that should have been the main theme. Dr. Potter did some mediating on the spot, there was an awkward closing, and the group dispersed for lunch. Bottom line: 4 brilliant women in cog sci in panel, 1 audience meltdown discussion at the end.

Wow. how did this happen? Meltdown! I guess having a conference on race and gender ..is going to engage with race and gender throughout. Panelists self identifying as white or a person of color..would that help? these are hard questions and i wonder how that will unfold in future discussions.
[NOTE TO SELF: it didn’t substantially]

some notes from Panel 2

some notes from Panel 2

Racialized Bodies
Pilar Ossorio, Sandy Alexandre, David Jones, Amy Marshall

I missed Sandy Alexandres introduction..my mistake. too long at the MIT book store. I entered in the middle of Pilar Ossorio’s talk. one of her fields is developmental biology. the field in this talk was the topic of genetics, and ¨pharmacogenetics” and race in discussion of science and medicine. Ossario talked about race as a social construct, but said race can influence where people live, work, and get healthcare. She talked about the use of ‘racially differentiated biologies’ and should they exist. her theoretical influence is standpoint theory.

David Jones began his response with this question: is all of biology reducible to genetics?
He asked, how do differences accumulate on the body, and bodies. He explained Pharmacogenetics as being how genes affect drug absorbtion. He said there are other issues to be considered in that question..such as..things you eat can have an effect on drug absorbtion and so can “non compliance” ie not taking the medication. he said not enouf studies have been done on the effect of non compliance. He ended by asking should science research be directed by differences or common experiences?

Amy Marshall, another respondant, and an alumni of the Women’s and Gender studies dept at MIT talked about the problem of the definition of race in genetics.
David Jones also mentioned how it is easier to get scientific funding for genetics research (pharmacogenetics) than for studies of non-compliance.

Summary: overall a nuanced and interesting session on the issues of race and genetics in context of scientific and medical research.

Notes from panel 3

Notes from panel 3

Race, Gender, and In Vitro Fertilization in Ecuador: A reproductive economy.
Speaker: Elizabeth Roberts

Elizabeth Roberts is a medical anthropologist who did an ethnography with women in Ecuador as they got assisted reproduction. She talked about her assumptions prior to do this..that Ecuadorian women were too poor, catholic, or overpopulated to want assisted reproduction. I appreciated her sharing that..a reflexive approach.

In-vitro fertilization gained ground in the 1990’s in Ecuador. She noted that in Ecuador, there is intense privatization of health care, the public system is not good…race and class are intertwined with whether women get private or public health care.

She also noted about race in Ecuador, that race is perceived as a form of shape shifting..she claiims that it is possible to shift race over the course of one’s lifetime.i’m not sure how that can be possible.as long as color of skin is connected with perception of race. I do understand that in different countries, race has different histories, and different nuances. I wanted more details on that and less on assisted reproduction at this point.

respondant: Corrine Williamsshe talked about the ethical issues of picking the gender of a child (that was her field of study)

respondant: Rachel Dillon
she talked about transgender surgeries in relation to in-vitro fertilization, and the similarities and differences in negotiating them. For example, both surgeries tend to be out of pocket costs, so they are hard to get by lower income people (in the United States) But the differences rest in family non support for trans surgeries.
Also it is hard for trans men to get surgeries such as voluntary hystorectomies, in the United States, there are barriers for trans men to get surgeries that might stop potential reproduction.

I have to say I think both the respondants got the short end of the stick. They introduced interesting ideas that never had a chance to really get discussed in context with this panel. This could have been a conversation and interesting at that, but it should have been either just 1 speaker, or a panel of 3 with a followup.

SUMMARY: interesting talks but lost opportunity for developed dialogue.

OVERALL SUMMARY: glad i went. Awkward moments. some good conversations. Brilliant women. I did fell that it needed to be written up and posted on this blog. TOok a lot of work. I’m sure i missed some details, but did the best editing i could. Phew!

September 28, 2009 at 2:21 am Leave a comment

Tin Can Telecommunications at NAMAC

On the last day of NAMAC,  Astrodimers MaryAnn, sam, Bebe, and Julia (with some assistance from Walter) did a  demonstration of cutting edge tin can technology at the Park Plaza Hotel. You would be surprised how many people don’t believe tin can phones work!! Sadly we didnt have a chance to demo our Party Line or Wire tapping techniques but we did make the iCAN available. Here’s a few quicky cell phone pix..

Bebe tries out the iCAN

Bebe tries out the iCAN

Maryann and Bebe talk to themselves near the NAMAC table.

Maryann and Bebe talk to themselves near the NAMAC table.

August 31, 2009 at 8:55 pm Leave a comment

NAMAC links and resources

Here’s a short list of interesting projects I saw and heard about at NAMAC. At the bottom of this is a picture of Ed Halter of Rhizome between two long haired people. -sam smiley


New Media Literacies at MIT:Interesting links and resources for New Media Literacy

Data as art as data. it’s ok nothing fancy but fun.

Artist Projects
Thomas Allen Harris
He is a really interesting documentarian and did a presentation of both his community and personal work. I loved his statement about “activating Black photo archives”. It’s such a great way to think about archival resources and making them come alive.

Games for Change – games about social justice

Unmonumental Online curated by Rhizome thru New Museum

Smithsonian Latino Museum online in Second Life

Scott Kirsner (fans friends and followers) kirsner@pobox.com

Grantmakers in Film and Electronic media. Mediamakers, put your grant proposals here!

Ed Halter from Rhizome between a lot of hair.

Ed Halter from Rhizome between a lot of hair.

August 31, 2009 at 8:49 pm Leave a comment

Namac Roundup

some of my wacky notes from the conference

some of my wacky notes from the conference

I will give a quick NAMAC roundup from my perspective. NAMAC stnds for National Association of Media Arts and Culture. (http://www.NAMAC.org)It took place August 26-29 in Boston.

Basically it was a combination of largely folks who work at media arts non profits in one capacity or another, with a smaller group of media makers. There were lots of chances to make different contacts, whether it was about funding or marketing, or meeting other media groups. Sadly there were not a lot of (or any) sessions on media arts collectives and how they work but i had a chance to talk with Michael Kuetemeyer and Deb Rudman from the Termite TV collective so that was helpful. Overall..my assessment. Great place to network, but needs more humor. and wheres the DIY?

It was quite well organized with a great opening party at the MIT museum. Lots to do for folks from out of town. As a townie (of somerville, not boston really) i think NAMAC provided a good sampling of the awesome stuff in and around Boston as far as media.

By far the most useful session to me was a session run by Scott Kirsner, who has written Friends, Fans and Followers. He was very generous and forthcoming with his info, and he gave a great resource site at http://www.powertools.wikispaces.com. His talk was called Cultivating Audiences and Generating Revenue in the Digital Age¨ He was good at giving pragmatic advice with up to date info without too much hype.

I also really enjoyed the Digital Diaspora Family Reunion Road Show by filmmaker Thomas Allen Harris.

My only critique of his presentation was that i think i would love to have seen two separate presentations..the community based one of the family photos and then his own films. There was a lot to see and talk about and i think having one or the other would have left room for both presentations. By the way though i’m really excited for his new film through Through A Lens Darkly, a documentary about African American photographers. First, that is the title of a Philip K. Dick novel and i love the appropriation (knowingly or unknowingly) of the name. Also i think it looks to be an amazing film in the tradition of now deceased filmmaker Marlon Riggs, and i can not wait to see the final cut.

Anyway, this is part one of the NAMAC review..the next two parts will be our totally awesome iCAN demo at NAMAC and also a list of totally awesome art projects and resources i came away with.

also please pardon the text errors iḿ writing this on a netbook and will correct it and add pix when iḿ on a bigger computer

NAMAC state house reception

NAMAC state house reception

-sam smiley

August 31, 2009 at 8:42 pm Leave a comment

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