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Friday, September 13, 2013

Public Speaking in the Changing World of Communications

From the moment the first single-cell microorganism split off from its bacterial host more than three billion years ago to the political and cultural upheavals taking place around the world today, life on earth derives from ceaseless adaptation to constantly changing conditions. 
Communication processes—the sending of signals and exchange of messages within and between organisms—shape the evolutionary adaptations that take place. Entire civilizations arose because of the advantages brought about by new forms of social communication. 

From the first printing press, pamphlets, telegraphy, telephony, and photography through the electronic media and on to the internet, social media, and mobile devices of the current era, communications technology opens up discursive spaces that can be used to challenge tradition and authority. Contemporary examples include how the “bottom-up” Arab Spring uprising and the global Occupy protests reflect a long history of communication’s impact on public discourse, political action, and cultural change. 
Many people dread their public speaking class, because they think it’s “just” a presentation class. Speaking as a dynamic, meaningful and authentic communication experience, not a dreaded requirement. Take ownership of you communication practice. While public speaking is literally a one-way transaction, it is also a transaction with the audience, The best communication choices, and the most responsible ones, emerge from approaching it as fundamentally dialogic. That means that you need to understand how every component of their presentation involves making choices and taking responsibility for those choices to their audience.
We have to think about how to put the “public” back in public speaking, and help you understand the classroom experience as a civic one; our talk in class isn’t just going through the motions for a grade, but is a step toward engaging the larger world of public discourse, which exists right in their classrooms. Yes, these skills will help you  in your personal and professional lives.

Musical Robots Take The Stage For Harmony, Not Domination

NPR News
Click here for the vidoe and audio of this story
Stickboy, Compressorhead's four-armed, drummer rocks out in front of thousands of fans at the Big Day Out music festival
Stickboy, Compressorhead's four-armed, drummer rocks out in front of thousands of fans at the Big Day Out music festival
Shar Try/ekto23
Robots aren't taking over the planet, yet, but they are doing jobs in more and more places: hospitals and offices, movie sets and battlefields. They're making a mark in the world of music, as well.

When it comes to heavy metal, one group has claimed the title of "the world's heaviest metal band." The robot band designed to play real instruments. Stickboy, the four-armed, mohawked, headbanging drummer, who even has a mini-me on the hi-hat. The guitarist, Fingers, has 78 hydraulic fingers — wires stream out from the arms to trigger notes along the entire fretboard. Bones is on the bass.

The robots cover rock classics, some AC/DC, some Joan Jett, some Led Zeppelin. The robot band got to play their biggest stage yet in January at Big Day Out, an Australian music festival.

Thousands of fans rocked out in the blazing sun to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Killers and the robot band they'd never heard of.

The robot band Compressorhead released this video covering Motorhead's "Ace of Spades."
"They have the poses of rock gods, those robots. The bass player's definitely the most photogenic," says Shar Try, who was up on the stage snapping shots of Compressorhead as they banged their heads and swished their hips.

With all of the extra extremities, they can play with more speed and agility than people ever dreamed of. And they're not the only robot band out there.

Troy Rogers is composer and instrument designer studying at the University of Virginia. Rogers and two colleagues run the group are focused on building robots that play original work.

There's a a guitar robot — with only one string and two speakers that look a bit like eyes — a slim cylindrical instrument that resembles a flashy clarinet, and a robotic drum.
While they don't have the same rock-god look as Compressorhead, they are more versatile in their music selections. They were designed to improvise.

This project started a few years back. Rogers was working in Belgium with another set of robots, the world's largest robot orchestra at the Logos Foundation. The group Ear Duo, a saxophonist and a bassonist, was planning a trip there and wanted to jam with the robot orchestra.

Rogers programmed a section of the orchestra to "listen" to the patterns of the human performers — in terms of pitch, rhythm and tamber.

"It was sort of this free improvisation. I didn't know what they were gonna play, they didn't know what the robots were gonna do," he says.

Rogers says the resulting jam session was "magical." He and his team got to work designing the trio of musical robots for the human musicians. Since then, that human band has done

The robotic drum, MADI, can be configured with up to 15 arms. The guitar-like robot, AMMI, can play complicated tunes with only one string and has two speakers that give it a personality.
The robotic drum, MADI, can be configured with up to 15 arms. The guitar-like robot, AMMI, can play complicated tunes with only one string and has two speakers that give it a personality.
Priska Neely/NPR
"The more people who get their hands on these instruments and do interesting things, that's how instruments evolve," says Rogers.

It's talk like this — about instruments evolving — that inevitably triggers fear of a robot takeover. Robots can scan endless pages of music and can be programmed with the rules of a genre. If they can play faster and even tour, will there come a time when human musicians are replaced altogether?

The humans who are building these robots don't think we're in jeopardy. The goal is collaboration.

"The big promise of human-robot interaction is to be able to use the things that robots are good at and the things humans are good at and everybody contributes their own parts," says Guy Hoffman, who runs the of the Media Innovation Lab at IDC Herzliya in Israel.
When Hoffman was a research fellow at the Georgia Tech Center for Music Technology, he worked on a robotic marimba player named Shimon. This robot can improvise and match a human performer in a jazz improvisation. Hoffman . It has four arms, with two mallets on each. It can play four to eight notes at once. It can quickly scan millions of pages of sheet music and is programmed to use that information to improvise.

Plus, the novelty element helps draw an audience. "Everybody wants to see this. I think robots are incredibly sexy to audiences. There's something mesmerizing about a machine that has some quality that we usually consider to be human." Hoffman says.

There are even some musicians you may have heard of who are tinkering around with robotic instruments. Bjork commissioned a massive robotic harp for her latest tour. Jazz guitarist Pat Metheny recorded an album with dozens of robotic instruments. He says working with the robots got him to get to some places he's never been.

Composer Troy Rogers says that's just the point. "I think music is gonna be just fine whether or not robots are involved. But, each one of those tools we make changes music, and in fact changes us," he says.

Besides, Rogers says, as much as we like to think that machines are less high maintenance than fussy rock stars, it's just not true. "If I want what a human performer can give me, I'll gladly work with them. They're much easier than robots to deal with most of the time," he says.

A robot may never ask for peeled grapes or M&Ms with all the blue ones picked out. But it's easier to work with too much personality, than it is to program it from scratch.

To be a journalist

The days of Jimmy Olson cub reporter are long gone. Today to become any form of journalist you need a four year college degree, in communications or some other areas of liberal arts. You are expected to be well-rounded, a first rate writer (and speller), be reasonably good looking, and come across well in print, on radio and on video.

Newspapers require reporters to do blogs, both written and video. Television expects video blogs and to double as radio anchors or reporters. For radio you need to be web-saavy and willing to do all you can to keep the stations web site up to date, interesting and interactive.

There are no fact checkers and often too much for an editor to read, proof or rewrite. News happens 24/7 and all media, including print, are expected to bring you fast and accurate news.

As to accuracy, it is up to the producers and reporters who are expected to report quickly, and not make mistakes. If you make mistakes, you risk demotion, loss of valuable sources, or in the worst case termination (there are always dozens of qualified candidates waiting to take your job).

At the local level money is tight, as advertisers and supporters learned during the height of the Great Recession how to get around large traditional media buys,or were forced to cut marketing budget to keep employees or their company afloat.

All media, including web based media, are struggling to define themselves, to find ways to be profitable and to maintain a credible news reputation, despite journalism dropping to near the bottom on polls of public trust (just above Congress).

But it is a fun,challenging and socially needed profession.

So go forth and do the best you can, make a difference and find strength in helping others.

Do not go in with stars in your eyes, as less than half a percent make those "big bucks" you hear about on network and cable TV.

It's a profession of belief, social responsibility and both vocation and avocation.

Also, live life before you jump into the journalist pool. It will help in your reporting and your career to know other aspects of life, other ways of making a living and how other people think and perceive the world around them.

-Art Lynch