Letter from the Editor // An Exciting Year Ahead

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2017. A year of collaboration. A year of focus, determination and discovery. A year of shaping the human experience to inspire next-level thinking.

Our first collaboration is with San Francisco-based Gershoni Creative. The event series, called No Show, is a hybrid of our pop-up ThinkTank format and Gershoni Creative’s cross-disciplinary approach to building brands. No Show invites industry leaders to come together, to drop pretense in favor of cross-pollination, engagement and innovation, tackling issues central to the human experience — nourishment, belonging, attraction, design & power, and legacy & heritage. Details from each dialogue will be shared throughout the year.

No Show is a series open to the community -- if you’d like to nominate an innovative mind to take part, please be in touch.

Gershoni Creative pop-up ThinkTank Photo credit: Vinobosh Photography 

Gershoni Creative pop-up ThinkTank Photo credit: Vinobosh Photography 

Our second collaboration is with the Berlin-based DO School. The Do School is known for their unique approach to innovation strategy, bringing together leaders and young entrepreneurs to solve challenges. Complementing our cross-disciplinary critical inquiry process, together we will be working internationally with both late-stage startups and Fortune 500 companies to move the needle on the future of people, product, and purpose for organizations and brands.

More and more, our work has uncovered the need for human-to-human connection in business. We’ve worked with companies like Lyft, Google, and Kaiser to shift perspectives, inspire action, and organically script the path to results.

One topic that needs a shift in perspective is power. So much so, we felt a deep-dive is necessary. This year we will bring over 30 cross-industry thought leaders together to address how the topic of Power is articulated, contested, and informed in the 21st century. We will expand our signature pop-up ThinkTank session to extend across multiple days, employing a wide spectrum of perspectives to move the needle on the topic’s critical role in pressing business and social issues. By connecting across disciplines, the Dialogue series will use deep inquiry to form a collective intelligence that can have a cross-cultural, cross-generational, and cross-gender impact.

We’ll continue to communicate monthly -- our blog interviews with the likes of Ivy Ross, Tomas Saraceno, and Erica Deeman, among others, will go-live in the coming months.  

For those of you who have been loyal followers from the get-go, we thank you. And for our new friends - stay tuned, this year is shaping up to be the most exciting yet!

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a holiday message

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Dialogue is a practice.

 
In dialogue, we discover ourselves in relation to others.
We question, bridge difference, form a collective intelligence, and cultivate new understanding.

2017. How can we all create more of this?  

Happy Holidays.
 

 
Artwork & studio: Richard T. Walker 

Artwork & studio: Richard T. Walker 

 

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Interview: In DIALOGUE // Shantell Martin

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Shantell Martin is a British visual artist whose work is a meditation of lines. Creatures, faces, and conversations emerge in Shantell's stream-of-consciousness pieces, as she combines fine art, technology, and performance art. In our conversation, we hear about the evolution of her work, the exploration of identity, and her latest collaboration with a team of MIT neuroscientists, decoding the artistic process into a creative DNA. 

 

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visual artist, shantell Martin on her creative DNA

Photo credit: Catalina Kulczar

Photo credit: Catalina Kulczar

 

Rimma Boshernitsan: How did you grow up, and what made you pursue Art as a medium?

Shantell Martin: I grew up in Southeast London, in a place called Thamesmead, built in the late 1960s. It was meant to solve a lack of housing at the time, a place for people of different races and economic status to live together, but it didn’t really work.

It ended up being a predominantly white, working class place. Being mixed-raced meant that I stuck out. I didn't look like anyone around me at school, in my home, outside of school, which contributed to me becoming an artist. If you look like everyone around you, there is more pressure to fit in. But if there's something different, you're given a passport to be the different person.

At that time, I didn't know art was a thing you could do. Art wasn't around me — there were no galleries or museums. I didn't know any artists and I didn't know it could be a career. I did art instinctively. I think I got into it because it was the one thing someone taught me I shouldn’t do. I remember one of my teachers said, "Don't apply to art school, because you won't get in." And because I have a bit of a defiant nature, I said, "Well, this person thinks I can't do it, so I'm going to apply to art school."

Once in art school, everything shifted. You could be different, and it was celebrated, rather than rejected. It also was a revelation to understand that what I was doing naturally, was actually art.

RB: Did you realize that when you were in art school already, or was it before that you came to that realization?

SM: Going to art school made me realize that I was much more confident than many people around me. I think this was a side-effect from growing up in Thamesmead. You had to have a touch-look on the outside, otherwise people would beat you up.

I went to Camberwell College of Arts and did a one-year foundation there, graduated with distinction, and then went to Central St. Martins to do my 3-year BA. I graduated with first class honors. It was good because it reflected how hard I had worked, but also hard because it put pressure on me for the final assignment.

Before art school, I could fail and it didn’t really matter because there were no expectations. Now, I was at the top of my year and suddenly felt a lot of pressure, as if everyone was asking, "Well, what are you going to do?" I felt that people now expected something from me.

RB: Was it pressure from yourself, or did you feel pressure from others?

SM: It was internal. I never had people expecting me to achieve great things or waiting to see what I do next. But it was hard to quiet the voices that say, “you don’t deserve this.”

At that time, I was academically successful, but I didn’t understand what success in life really was. There were all these eyes watching me, but I didn’t even know my next step. It brought up internal conflicts within myself.

As I look back at some of my old work, I think, "Wow. Who is that person?” Outwardly, I was very confident, but internally, there was a deep sense that I didn’t deserve my accomplishments. As I’ve gotten older, these conflicts have subsided. I work hard. I understand that we're all unique in what we are able to give to the world. We have to discover what it is, and we have to work at it. It takes a lot of practice -- but if you work hard enough, you should feel like you deserve to give what you have and receive in return.

RB: What inspired the use of markers over other tools; lines and drawing or painting?

SM: I’ve tried everything, but I've always gravitated toward drawing, even when I was young. Anyone can pick up a pencil or a pen or a marker and draw. It's the most simple, accessible form of art.

After art school I moved to Japan, a country that is very craft-based. There you see generations of craft mastery. One family makes swords, another has mastered ink-blots, or calligraphy, and they do these crafts with such skill. They master it. Being in Japan, and experiencing its culture, I thought to myself, "If I'm going to master one thing in this lifetime, what could it be?"

Photo credit: George Evan Andreadis 

Photo credit: George Evan Andreadis 

I thought, "What if I make a line, the most accessible element available to all of us, and master that? What if I take a single line and make it look like me? What if I take line and make that my fingerprint, my identity?"

...I thought to myself, “If I’m going to master one thing in this lifetime, what could it be?

RB: Do you feel like your work evolved tremendously after you came back from Japan?


SM: It's a mixture. When I moved to Japan, I was young and no one knew me. I didn’t speak the language and I wasn’t trapped by certain stereotypes of who I should be. Being there, gave me space to ask, "Who am I? Who do I want to be?"  Without a confirmed identity, I could explore. The entire experience was really valuable.

My work in Japan was predominantly digital. I was half-doing these very detailed drawings with pen and paper on one side, and then on the other side, I got into live-performance and drawing live. I would draw under camcorders, and do visuals in clubs to alongside DJ's, dancers, and musicians. I would connect my computer to a drawing tablet and then connected that to a projector.

The great thing about having hours and hours to draw in a club, digitally, to music, is that you don't have time to think about what you're doing. You don't have time to hesitate, you don't have time to be anyone else. You just create a line.

Just imagine you've done that for hours in the club, and then you pick up a marker and you put that marker in your hand, and you're like, "Oh wait. I can just draw. I don't have to think about drawing, and I don't have to look at what I'm drawing, and I don't have to stall or hesitate about what I'm drawing, because I did this for so many hours in the club." It works with a pen in my hand on the wall or on a car, or on a shirt, or on a face, so the work I did in Japan really laid the foundation for what I do now.

RB: Would you say that your work while in  laid out the foundation for the work that came out of artist residency at Autodesk, Pier 9?

SM: Yeah, I think my residency at Pier 9 was an evolution. When I got to Pier 9, I was comfortable with my line. But I had to ask myself, “How do I continue to grow? How can I get uncomfortable again? How can I be vulnerable again?” So I started inventing tools which allowed me to draw two lines, or bold lines, or multiple thickness of lines at the same time. The work that I did at Pier 9 evolved out of trying to get uncomfortable again.

RB: Did the residency at Pier 9 change the way that you connect with other artists?

SM: Yes and no. When I got back from Japan and arrived in New York, I would visit galleries and they would say "We love your work. Where have you shown?" and I'd say, "Oh, I haven't," and they'd respond, "Oh, well thank you, but no thank you."

It was a catch-22 — if you hadn’t had your work in a gallery, others assumed you couldn’t sell your work, and wouldn’t take the risk of giving you a show. It was all about commerce. So I had to take galleries completely out of the equation. If galleries weren’t a platform for my art, I would create a new platform.

Now, I’ve built a career on being an independent artist. I've shown at institutions, at museums, I lecture, I teach, I travel, I produce my own shows, I work with brands. Yet I’ve continued to work against the boxes people try to put me in. Why do people put artists in a box? Well, because it's easier to sell. I think we need to work on combating the perspective that art is only for people who can spend money on it. I’m on a journey to make people feel welcomed into the world of art. Art has such a huge benefit to us as a people, and we need to make it more accessible, not exclusive and elitist. It it a movement, and it is growing.  

RB: Would you say there's one person or several people that have inspired your work? Or has it been something internal?

SM: It has been more internal, especially since most of my work is spontaneous. It's intuitive. Yes, there is a layer of process and practice underneath, but the bottom line is, I am meditating through drawing, through spontaneity. It takes a lot of intention to be intuitive. You have to allow yourself to open, to draw it all from the inside out.

I am inspired by external forces when I see people who are committed, working hard, being compassionate, and selfless. When I see those types of people, I think to myself, "Wow. I want to be more compassionate like that person," or, "I want to be more forgiving like that person." They are values we can all aspire to.

RB: Has it meant anything for you to have people watch you as you work?

SM: Immensely so. It is important to have people watch what I do for a number of reasons, mostly selfish ones.  First, it keeps me honest, and it keeps me working. If I'm by myself, it's easy to get distracted. But when people are watching me, I remember who I am — an artist. I have to do what I do. Secondly, I am passionate about engaging with my audience. Rarely is the audience involved in the practice of creating the art. Usually the artist will work in a studio and then their work turns up framed in a gallery. The engagement opens up possibility. Perhaps I’ll get inspired from an interaction.

Also, I feel as though there is a collective magic in our joint creation. When you have a final piece of work, everyone will engage with it in their own way, bringing their own emotional baggage in their perception. But when the work is actually being produced, we all share that experience. For me, that process is the work, that moment when the drawing unfolds and people join me there.

RB: It sounds like the evolution of your work has changed your perception of connection.

SM: Definitely, connection is sharing, and if I can share my moment of what I do, then I'm connecting with people, and visa versa.

RB: What’s next for you?

SM: I'm working on several things at the moment. I have a show at Albright Knox opening early next year. It is after the Picasso show which is pretty exciting.

An ongoing project that I'm excited about is a collaboration with a PhD Neuroscientist, Sarah Schwettmann, from MIT. She's in the Brain and Cognitive Science (BCS) department. Turns out that we are asking very similar questions in our work, such as "where does the creative process come from?" and "what is our creative fingerprint?"

This project is an attempt to decode the creative process into its core elements, similar to how we think of human DNA, in hopes of finding the fingerprint of each particular artist.

For example -- In my artistic process, I start with a single line. I think of it as the DNA. Once I’ve finished that line, I see the negative spaces and depending on its shape, I either see a tree or face. It is almost as if the drawing is completed in my mind before I’m finished. But I was curious to examine if seeing a completed image from this one line, will allow me to see something similar in two weeks? In a year? So we sought out to have artificial intelligence learn my drawing to see if we could discover a creative fingerprint of Shantell Martin.

Imagine if we’re able to collect the data of an artist throughout their entire career to see how they evolve.

A lot of this process starts with data collection, which tracks the trends of my work across hundreds of pieces, so we can start to build out the DNA. We can synthesize all of this to show that, for example, 98% of the time I will put a face in a particular shaped negative space. Eventually, we want to set up an experiment to test if someone who has never seen my work before would drag and drop similar elements into the lines I create. Is there a pattern? If it is the same as me, am I still unique? How does my “fingerprint” play out here? Or how is collective consciousness tied into this process?

This is all just the first stage, but at some point we could create a software which allows people to try this out for themselves, ending up with their “creative fingerprint,” or perhaps I could devise a tool for myself to record all the data from my drawing.  

I wish I could go back to when I was young and weird and start recording data then. We can't do that, but what if I could have a device that captures and analyzes the evolution of my line for the rest of my life?
 

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FIVE QUESTIONS WITH... // LIAT SEGAL

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Liat Segal, a multidiscplinary artist and former researcher at Microsoft Innovation Labs in Tel Aviv, joins us for our second installment of 'Five Questions With...'

In her work, Liat harnesses information, software, electronics and mechanics to build installations and machines that connect the physical world with virtual ones. Observing inconsistencies and dissonances that rise when personal lives meet ever-evolving technological environments, Liat questions issues such as intimacy vs. alienation, privacy vs. over-exposure, identity and originality as they reflect in technology.

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In dialogue // LIAT SEGAL

Photo Credit: Liat Segal

Photo Credit: Liat Segal

Rimma Boshernitsan: Tell us a little bit about your background, where you grew up and how that influenced your current work?

Liat Segal: I was brought up in Israel of the 1980's. I was a middle child with two brothers. My parents are both self-made people ("Life Hackers") who creatively built their own trajectories. Their way taught me that boundaries are a mental state and that I don't need to perceive definitions and instructions too seriously. I learned that it's more fun when problems are looked at as riddles, forming constraints that invite creativity.

As a child, I used to build physical structures, and what today I can maybe call 'installations', but I also always had a passion for science and technology. So when I needed to choose what to focus on during my studies, I chose computer science and biology. Only later, after finishing my master degree and while working in the hi-tech industry, I started playing with electronics and made projects that got more complex with time. Then I very quickly understood that I found my medium as an artist. 

Today I create with technologies, whether traditional and commonly used or state-of-the-art, use them out of their original contexts and give them new and intimate purposes. The final artworks consist of several dimensions; a physical structure, motion and mechanics, electronics, software and data. The act of building the machines and activating them is significant to me. I feel that the technical choices I make affect the final artwork just as much as the touch of a painter affects a painting. 

RB: What turns you on creatively, spiritually and/or emotionally?

LS: I love the concept of serendipity. Serendipity is a fortunate discovery that is made unintentionally, without searching for an answer to a specific question, but rather by being perceptive to the occurrence and development of events. A known example for serendipity is the discovery of penicillin by Alexander Fleming. After being away from his lab for a month, Fleming returned to find that his bacterial cultures had been contaminated and destroyed by a fungus. In many labs prior to that day, bacterial cultures had been contaminated and thrown in the garbage, but Fleming saw the potential and kept the cultures. The discovery of penicillin occurred due to a flow of accidental events and because of Fleming’s attention, observation and his ability to "catch the chance."

As an artist and as a person, I feel that it is important to be able to recognize and be inspired by meaningful patterns and to make significant links within the flow of accidental occurrences. This depends, to a great deal, on being present and observative, a task that is nowadays becoming more and more difficult. 

RB: What was the impetus for you to start your artistic practice? 

LS: I've created for as long as I can remember. However, it took me many years to start calling what I make 'art'. One of my earliest memories is of a 'Rube Goldberg Machine' filling my childhood bedroom, which I built around the age of seven. As I grow, my narratives, tools and environments change, but the same forces that got me to create, are still ones that drive me in my work today. 

My artistic practice got a major boost when I found the expression medium that gives me most passion and inspiration. Then, for the first time in my life, I felt that I was in the right place.

Who are you most inspired by? 

LS: I am inspired by 'border-less' people who make things in their own way; by people, who in the face of obstacles can take a breath, observe what is in front of them and start playing to create something completely new. I'm inspired by people that have the ability to turn 1+1 into 3. 

How would you want to be remembered? 

LS:  New. I would love to be remembered via analogue memories rather than just digital ones.

 

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Liat graduated her M.Sc studies in Computer Science and Biology and the Interdisciplinary Program for Fostering Excellence at Tel Aviv University. She worked as a researcher at Microsoft Innovation Labs and taught at the Bezalel School of Arts and Design at the Hebrew University.

Liat's recent works were exhibited at the Israel Museum Jerusalem, Museum für Angewandte Kunst, Frankfurt, National American Jewish History Museum Philadelphia, Hansen House, Jerusalem, the Amsterdam Light Festival, Jerusalem International Light Festival and others.

 

Interview: IN DIALOGUE // Nikki Silva

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Nikki Silva is a radio producer and museum curator, best known for her work as part of the duo, The Kitchen Sisters, as well as her extensive production background with NPR. Having been a past guest at our Dialogue ‘On Storytelling’, we sat down with Nikki to get her thoughts on the future of radio, life on a commune, and work with collaboration partner, Davia Nelson.

 

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NPR RADIO PRODUCER & STORYTELLER, NIKKI SILVA

Nikki at DIALOGUE Vol. 5: On Storytelling -- Photo Credit: Vinobosh Photography

Nikki at DIALOGUE Vol. 5: On Storytelling -- Photo Credit: Vinobosh Photography

 

Rimma Boshernitsan: How did you grow up?

Nikki Silva: I grew up in Oakland. I’m an only child, but I come from a big, extended Portuguese family with lots of cousins. My grandmother came over when she was twelve and by the time she was twenty, had five kids. She was married off to a man who worked in the shipyards. It was kind of rough and tumble. I don’t know how she got the nerves, but she just kind of picked up and walked out with her five kids.

She got a job at Mother’s Cookies. I remember always having dish towels, growing up, that were made out of flour sacks from my grandmother’s work. She re-married and I used to go over there every day after school. It was a tight-knit, emotionally complicated type of family, but that’s how I grew up. I was the first to go to college.

My mom was a great influence on me - she was a great storyteller. She could type a hundred words a minute without a mistake. She would tell stories and keep me on the edge of my seat with the skeletons in the closet and the goings-on in the neighborhood.

RB: How did NPR discover you?

NS: Davia Nelson and I were doing a live radio show on a small community radio station, KUSP in Santa Cruz - it was very eclectic. We played old jazz and had live interviews with filmmakers and authors that were coming through town. We would come back with 30 hours of tape from these oral histories and quickly we realized that nobody was going to listen to 30 hours of tape. We taught ourselves how to cut quarter-inch reel to reel audio tape with a razor blade and Scotch tape. Nobody at the station where we were volunteering was doing that kind of work, but we figured it out and cut things down to ten minutes.

One of our friends said, “You should really send this over to NPR.” We had never heard of NPR. Because NPR was only about ten years old and not being broadcast in our area, neither of us had ever listened to it. Somebody sent in a tape we did about the Road Ranger. One day, Alex Chadwick calls and says, “Hi, I’m from NPR.” and we said, “Oh, yeah sure.”

He said they loved the work we were doing but asked what equipment we were using, because the sound quality was pretty rough. That was the beginning. They played our piece on Morning Edition, and they encouraged us to get some training to improve our skills. We were pretty much self-taught, but that experience upped our game a lot.

It was a great time for NPR - they were trying to figure out who they were. They were taking a lot of chances on independent producers.

RB: How would you say you impacted storytelling and these long-form documentary style interviews?

NS: We were just making it up as we went - it just felt right, sounded right. We knew Jay Allison, Ira Glass, Joe Richmond, Dave Isay and all that first wave. At that point it was so new and it was an open field. Everyone was influencing everyone else. We were women - women on NPR were really breaking ground in news. As far as independents, there weren’t that many women. There were a few, but because there were two of us, it was a novelty, and we were collaborators. I think that influenced a lot of younger women who found that partnership possibility in their own lives.

RB: What feels different about your work?

NS: When you look at formal oral history - we’re not very formal. We definitely have a plan going in, but we’re willing to go all over the map. We do really long interviews which makes it a lot of work in terms of transcription.

 
If you’re going for a certain stream of information, it is not the most efficient way, but the approach has always been out of curiosity. That’s what we like to do.
 

RB: How did you meet Davia?

NS: We met in Santa Cruz. We both went to UCSC but never met while we were in school. After college, I got a job working at the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History doing exhibits about local history and art - oral history without a microphone. Davia was interested in doing oral history with a microphone. She was very into radio and audio ever since she was in high school. She had done radio at the college station at UCSC. And she was doing a live weekly show on KUSP Santa Cruz. We were both doing the same kind of work but in different mediums. People started telling us about each other.

We met at the museum one summer afternoon. We sat on the porch from about 2 pm until sunset. We just sort of “fell in love”,  talking about all the things we wanted to do and about everything in life. It was an instant friendship. We started going out on oral history expeditions and I started doing the weekly show with her, and things evolved.

RB: How is it working together? What is that dynamic like?

NS: It’s just better. It’s hard. It’s like a marriage, like any relationship. You have to pay attention and work on it. We both have strong ideas and personalities, but they complement each other. Ultimately we are both very good at what we do, and we do things by ourselves as well. But when we work together there’s something more -- the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. We are each bringing our own sensibilities to it. One of us will love a certain line or character or story and say, “Over my dead body, this has got to be in this piece!” Then we’ll argue it, try to convince each other. In the end, we often switch positions. This is an interesting editorial process. I think it makes our work deeper, richer, broader, with the two of us bringing our sensibilities to it.

We live two hours apart now, so we text constantly or pick up the phone. It is different from the early days of being in the same room with one another for 24 hours a day and cutting tape together shoulder to shoulder. That’s very different now. But there’s still a lot of that feel. We know what each other thinks. Anticipate how the other will react. It’s like having another conscience hovering over your work.

Photo Credit: Vinobosh Photography

Photo Credit: Vinobosh Photography

RB: What did the trajectory of your projects look like over the years?

NS: In 1998, Davia was on a National Endowment for the Arts panel, and people were gearing up for the millennium with all these projects. She later came back and said -- maybe we should do a project about 100 years of recorded sound. We always used archival sound in our stories -- early news broadcasts, old home recordings made on 78 records. People were making home made records and sending them back and forth overseas during World War II. In one, a woman made a home recording in her kitchen and sent it to her husband overseas. It was so revealing --  it captured the language, the feel, the pathos, the pause, the heart, and the emotion of things. It wasn’t a written thing. It wasn’t a letter. It was the sound of the voice and it had so much impact.

We wrote a grant and suddenly NPR wanted to do it, ten stories at the turn of the century. Then NPR decided they wanted to do it weekly! We ended up doing a big national collaboration with producers around the country and it was a moment of going from analog to digital. It was a frightening moment where we had to teach ourselves new technology. At that same time, I had had breast cancer, was going through chemotherapy, and had two kids at home. It was a life-changing moment. We went for it and that began Lost and Found Sound, which led to the Sonic Memorial Project for 9/11. We went on to the Hidden Kitchens project, which was about bringing together communities through food, then Hidden World of Girls, The Making of, our podcast Fugitive Waves, and it goes on.

RB: How did you decide to live on a commune? What’s that community like?

NS: Charles, my husband, was the head of the museum where I worked [laughs]. He hired me and we were really great friends. I went away for a fellowship to NY and was gone for a year. When I came back, he was separating from his wife at the time, and then we fell in love and got involved. I met Davia around that time -- it was time of real change. We were all living together at some point, and Davia and her boyfriend were looking at properties with some of their friends. At that time, nobody could afford to buy property on their own, so we looked at what we could do together.

The thing that has kept it all together all these years is that we eat together every night. Every night one person cooks. Tonight, I’ll go shop for my stuff and cook, Charles will help me. We’ll do all the dishes and clean up. Everyone has Friday nights off.

We sit down at the dinner table, and we may fight, but then we have to come back to the table together the next night because we don’t have kitchens in the individual little houses. We all have to eat, so we are forced into the big house and forced to deal with it.

We get people from all over who want to come and see this place and get ideas for doing it on their own. They want the blueprints, but it has to evolve. And that means time and energy spent and experimentation on the part of the individuals. You can take hints and ideas from this place, but so much of it is investing with each other like in any relationship. That’s what’s going to make it work.

RB: What do you think is better, cooking together or eating together?

NS: We do a lot of cooking because there are so many of us. We have huge Thanksgivings and Christmases. Every weekend someone has some friends over, and during those times people pitch in and help cook. The way the kitchen is designed, is that it is in the center of the main house so even if you’re just visiting, you’re there in the kitchen, you’re there when everyone is cooking.

Cooking together is great, but that is pretty tough to do every night of the week. Knowing there is a meal there every night has allowed me so much latitude in my life and career and knowing that for my kids, there is another mom here.

Cooking and eating together are kind of the same thing because even if it is not your night to cook, you can just come in and sit down around 7 o’clock. There’s no cleanup - you can do whatever you want. We’re all incredibly dependent on each other.

RB: What are you excited about right now?

NS: This is a fascinating time, what is going on with technology and radio. The whole podcasting world is very interesting. It’s a lot like when we started. The readiness to experiment, the ability to push the boundaries of subject matter and time, as well as how we are supporting ourselves because we’ve been so dependent on grants.

Ten years ago, when we were teaching at the Graduate School of Journalism at UC Berkeley, I didn’t know what to say to all these excited young people about the prospects and the potential of being involved in audio or documentary storytellings. Now I feel like it is such a game-changing moment with all that’s happening. All the tools are so accessible and the platforms for storytelling are exploding.

There was a big shift when it went from analog to digital, but that was just a real technological shift. This is a social shift - it is a huge communications shift in the biggest possible way, trying to use the new technologies to expand storytelling.

When we started with NPR it was 22 minutes - that was our time on. All Things Considered. Now, we are fighting for six and a half minutes when you take into account intros. Getting our stories down to six and a half minutes is often so limiting, but with a podcast, we can bust them out! Do other things, talk our way through, and mess around. We can go off on a tangent, which we used to do on our live shows, two hours a week, we would play music and interview people. It was very free-form. I like that, I like that potential. I like staying on as many platforms as possible and pushing things out in different ways. That’s really exciting.

RB: What’s next for you?

NS: We are doing more live performances, and that to me is scary but good - it keeps me on edge! That’s been fun, keeping us involved in new communities of younger people. I like teaching -- I assume we will be doing more of that. There’s lots going on, and the family and commune keep me busy. We are working on another book. I like writing but I hardly have any time for that.

And I’m interested in community radio -- helping to redefine its potential for our communities in the 21st century. There is a real place for community radio, it just needs to be re-imagined like libraries are currently being re-imagined. We need to figure out what the role of community radio is, because everyone is going to be able to access everything online. The need for a radio station in the old sense is just changing, and I want to help redefine that.

 

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