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It’s kind of challenging to live and document the living at the same time. You need to have your full focus in two places at once — one, on actual life, and the other, on creating a meaningful record of the actual life. I was never the kind of person who was able to take photographs while on vacation. I’d return home with a roll (or memory stick) with about a dozen photos from the first two days, and not much else. You’d think I’d lost my camera.

The question becomes, for me, how do I leave a trail — one that I can annotate — of a process like running for public office? How do I — but only inasmuch as I need to to earn a degree — document something that is fraught with emotional and intellectual investment, without losing that sense of investment, while at the same time conveying a convincing, affective sense of how the process worked?

The first great thing is that I can create an archive of every email I sent and received about the electoral process. This is relatively easy — I just need to find a place and a way to store this stuff (preferably online) that gives me the tools to annotate it. We’ve been looking at Omeka for another project, but making an Omeka site as the comprehensive documentation of what has been happening to me lately seems like a really good possibility, as well.

This is also useful because eventually we might make a book about this. Filled with reproductions of campaign ephemera, transcripts of speeches, and early drafts of official documents (including those scrawled on by friends and such), and ideally bound with a version of our campaign poster, I’ve been thinking about this book for a while now.

The other thing of it is — I need a little help parsing what happened these past few months. I feel a little like I took everything I understood about what I am and what I’m doing with my life, upended it, and shook it. A lot of stuff fell out. A lot of stuff got rearranged. The future today looks different from the way it looked at the beginning of the semester. That’s good, in a way. It’s also frightening. But, as Shasti said, say hello to the new normal.

(On that note this site is going to be getting an overhaul soon. Might be offline for a few weeks.)

This has been a rough semester for me. I’m really glad to say it’s almost over, and it hasn’t been a total wash. I really did need grad school to kick my ass a little bit and remind me to be humble, justify myself better, and keep being a curmudgeon. I’m working out some really interesting stuff for myself with regards to the role of play in civic engagement and bureaucracy, the role of fun in governance, and the importance of gamic attitudes in grappling with major social issues. I’m paving this path with good reading, some experiments, and the simple act of standing up for what I believe is right.

I’ve started having thoughts about what it means to “document” an event, though. I got my ass kicked in first year review for presenting work that was in process (apparently a faux pas, but I didn’t know that at the time), and not having documentation for the work that I have been doing. I feel a bit like a cranky awkward camera user, but I don’t feel like it’s my job to document the things that I make happen. I generally leave a pretty good paper trail in most instances, but there is something about my own bias as the maker that makes it seem to me like I shouldn’t be doing my own image production or video production to show what happened.

On the other hand it seems a little exploitative for me to say, “document what happens yourself.” Kyle pointed out that I can always ask friends to lurk around with cameras (which sometimes happens of its own accord), because they’ll probably find the things that other people would find interesting to record. At least there is always the possibility of them creating footage I couldn’t, and I can take some editorial freedom with what gets included in, say, a video documentation of a performance/play action.

I still don’t know. There is something about creating documentation for something that is designed to be experiential that is very unappealing to me. If you weren’t there, maybe you should have been. Maybe what I should do is get one of the documentary filmmaker grads to follow me around with a camera. (But of course that seems more than a little conceited.) Of course I’m going to have to suck it up and document things, because at some point I need to show that I’ve been doing work and so deserve the eventual degree that comes from that. Nevertheless, the whole idea of it kind of leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Shouldn’t I just be doing what I want to be doing, for the sake of doing it or because it’s the right thing to do?

(Maybe I’m just bitter.)


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