No, wait, don’t go!

This is a post about social media that has to do with cultures that love language, and how they may save us from the dreaded drone of fragmented thoughts and connections. Seriously, it’s sexy…wait!

Like I said before, I went to London. I attended the World Social Media Forum and here are some things I learned:

1. London still has the most remarkable and romantic gardens. This has nothing to do with social media, but, it was very esoteric all those walks with myself.

2. People out of the United States still speak in full sentences. None of that, “You know”, “Like” and that dreaded (oh, how I hate this one) “WTF???” If you are going to say, “What the Fuck” say it, don’t truncate a perfectly good curse.

3. People who speak in full sentences with lovely words made up of verbs and nouns have a bit more to say. Perhaps because the word count is up?

All this taught me something: words, the very heart of what we use in social media to chatter on about, are not the same as using language to communicate.

Let me not be so esoteric. Ok, social media is a platform or tool to help us talk. But, it seems to me that we are abandoning the beauty of language itself.  And, by walking away from language, we are reducing cadence, gesture, commas, all those luscious adverbs – all these graceful moments – into pure data. Are we forgetting our voices in the midst of making the loudest social noise? I guess that was esoteric as well.

Ah, but in London, I met people with so many different tones of language: brogue of Ireland, clipped yet exact Dutch, lilt of Turkey, and, the lovely, sneak and wink of British English. And, these folks are ALL OVER social media. Yet, they want to use it to have conversations…not like here where we want to pass, share and sort the metrics of our interactions…the people I met over the pond are interested in the long sentence of social…whatever they choose to develop that into.

Yes, that friend of mine Victor Keegan, that friend that took me to see the Billy Childish show, well we were talking about his App. Now, this app tells the tale I am trying to share here ( — this is an app called City Poems. The poem will have  GPS tracking that will pull up poems as you walk by certain buildings in Central London. Ok, now, that’s a full paragraph of an idea!

Oh, and it’s kinda esoteric. See, that part I love – that I get pinged to stop and not read a tweet, but a long, challenging (or silly) poem from long ago that has been tracked to a place in a city — like a ghost in a machine, right? Like a language inside a phone?

And, Vic was not the first to share ideas about whole ideas, whole words and other ways to use social to make complete thoughts. I met a ton of people who want to use video to share larger, longer ideas within their communities.

This was interesting as well, because they never talked about YouTube – they talked about Skype. Since Skype is more heavily adopted internationally people have gotten used to video and voice (e.g. seeing themselves on video and learning to avoid self critique of bad hair, etc)…they are used to the conversation of as a way to share language, and information, all in one place.

And, as I was telling you, I went to London with my client, Vpype. They have this sweet little live, interactive video app on Facebook ( We were doing the international launch. And, it was there that we were having conversations about conversations and conversations about conversations…and yet, one of the first long version video to come from our european adventures was in a language I cannot speak, it’s from Riga, Latvia

The guy is talking. And, then there is a band. And, then there is all SORTS of things said that I don’t understand.

It’s a portrait of past times: it’s grainy, no jump shots, no quick pans, nothing but a slow conversation and then music being played…for whom? Me?   I was charmed…it is from a place telling a story after years of being so far away from a conversation with the world.

I think I have a crush on this new, long version, social poem of social media I met across the sea.

I hope it Skype’s me back.

Last week in London I saw a lovely show by Billy Childish.

The idea that cult figure Childish has a lovely show tells you more about me than about his work: I am touched by raw pain, especially when it’s sprinkled with dry, knowing winks of belligerence.

His show is at the Institute of Contemporary Arts. The building itself (for an American) is deeply romantic. Well, romantic in a way that had I been an art student wearing crinoline, and been able to study in a building with stairs that went round and round, and up and up, all the way to a top floor with light flooding around one, that would have been wonderful. Wonderful, in a sort of imperialist kind of way: the building is blocks from the Queen and perhaps once “appropriate” art was in there.

That is why I just loved the first picture you see when you enter the hall to the Childish show (“Unknowable but Certain”) that states, quite clearly, “Your credentials mean nothing to me”.

Yet, I didn’t see that poster till I was on my way out.

What I was taking note of was my friend Vic Keegan who is a painter/poet/technology writer for the Guardian who was kind enough to take me to the show. Vic and I had lunch earlier and were talking about pelicans, Apps, painting and London. Not in that order. So, after this insanely great vegetarian lunch in the park, we walked over to the Institute.

Let’s be clear – I really did not know who Billy Childish was. And, I love moments like that – not just because they reveal that I have fantastic gaps in knowledge (or, is it that I don’t make enough fantastic gaps in time to have vast knowledge?) – but, mainly, I love NOT to be in awe.

Awe bums me out. If you are in awe you are done for. That is why when I had a chance to meet Lou Reed at an event I stayed very far away from him. I would not enter the same room.  I did not like the feeling in me when I saw him – that he was hazy, not a real person, somehow a stick figure of a song that I made out to when I was in my teens. Also, he scared me because he was wearing a black and yellow sweater and looked like a hornet…but that’s a different story.

No, I don’t like awe –  it gets in the way of love. And, I really loved the Childish show. I loved it with no context, I only knew that there were paintings that spoke to me.

A man collapsed in the snow.


Wondering, had he just fallen down, or was he about to get up?

Ah, and did I mention that I was sneaking pictures? You are not supposed to do that. I was snapped at by an earnest student for taking a picture of the guy in the snow. Something in me didn’t care.

The part of me that did not care soon learned why I did not care when I went upstairs and saw more of the work. A body of work that has embedded in it the idea of, “Your credentials mean nothing to me”.

Poems were attached to walls, and records were placed up like a montage of sounds you can’t hear, and there was a reverence that seemed odd next to all of this open, liquid, anti-culture, anti-formal, juicy pain.

His poem, The Humility of Love was imprinted side by side with his other poems. Each one exposed, and a bit scary – though direct and fierce.

It took this backwards American to realize I was reading punk poetry. Viewing punk paintings. Listening to the awe of punk breaking around me. Punk, like Baudelaire punk: pained, and free like him.

Which is missing in the world. Which is missing from much of life these days: raw, ripped, fucked up, open expression. Messy, not Tweets. Messy, not metrics. Voice, not narrative.

Your credentials mean nothing to me! He was screaming it, and this kicked my ass, and I shook my head like you do when you wake up after a long snooze in class.  That scream, that voice of Whitman and Dr. Seuss (“Yop!” screams his character to awaken) stayed with me as I walked out of the show, and has stuck with me though the time zones and the plane ride and the jet lag.

Yes, right, credentials make a mess of the mess of discovery. And, it is discovery that is the most exciting part of art and media making – and ok, life.

Your credentials mean nothing to me. Your title means nothing. Your fancy school. Your fancy ideas. The question is, what the hell do you want to say?

Excellent, that’s what a punk ass artist does to you: makes you realize you forgot to ask the right question – and that, although you think you have them all, your credentials mean nothing in the long run.