Live on YouTube! Build Better Worlds Chapter Reading and Q&A with Kyra Wellstrom and Michael Kilman

Good morning everyone,
Today, Kyra Wellstrom and I go live to read a sample chapter from our worldbuilding book and answer worldbuilding questions on YouTube at 11am MST. You can find the stream at https://youtu.be/QS3Yse-rv3g

The discussion will be recorded so if you miss it don’t fret! You will be able to find it at the same link. But if you can come live, we’d love to field your questions about worldbuilding and anthropology.

See you soon!

Anthropology, Mindfulness, and Navigating Turbulent Times (HPSfAA Spring Conference 2021)

Last weekend the High Plains Society for Applied Anthropology had it’s annual spring conference. We had lots of wonderful presentations. All of the talks will be available shortly on YouTube (all are currently uploading) at this link.

My presentation is more of an open conversation about the relationship between studying and working in the field of Anthropology intermixed with mindfulness. You can find my presentation, titled Anthropology, Mindfulness, and Navigating Turbulent Times, here.

Virtual Anthropology Conference this Weekend!

Most of you reading this probably don’t know that I am the sitting president of the High Plains Society for Applied Anthropology. This coming weekend we are hosting a virtual conference. I have included images of the program below. For my own part I will be giving a talk at 2:45 called Anthropology, Mindfulness and Navigating Turbulent Times.

You can register online to participate on zoom at https://www.hpsfaa.org/Events

Or watch on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KD-d87Bvjzo

If the livestream cuts out you can find a new link at https://www.youtube.com/…/UCP8RdXawW0bU4wH1jL9…/featured

What is the Value of Art?

Here is a bit of spoken word poetry I just wrote called, What is the value of Art.

“Center of All”

What is the value of art?

It is our birthright, our education,

it’s the smashing of all our limitations,

it’s the last breath as death collects us

In an ever winding energy nexus

It’s the movement of words and thoughts and dreams

Of a plurality of reality, and a sequence of scenes  

It’s what’s delicious and nutritious for the mind and soul

So luscious and rich with wonders to behold

It’s our essence and presence as a universe to witness

A study of truth and the quickest path to fitness

Of our species survival all threatened by meaninglessness

In the hearts of greed where we find only deafness

Or daftness and a lack of meaningful madness

This Art is our madness, our collective sadness,

All balled up and beat up long past the gladness

It’s the laughter of life and the meaning of love

It’s the universe in our hands and as below so above.

So you ask, what is the value of art?

It’s all this and more

For our humanity

is lost

if we lose

it’s core.

Build Better Worlds: An Introduction to Anthropology for Game Designers, Fiction Writers, and Filmmakers, Is Now Live on Amazon!

I am so incredibly happy to announce that as of this morning, our new book, Build Better Worlds: An Introduction to Anthropology for Game Designers, Fiction Writers and Filmmakers is now available for purchase on Amazon. Next week the first paperback copies will also come available.

This book is a product of a solid year of work with my amazing co-author Kyra Wellstrom. While my specialty is cultural anthropology, hers is biological anthropology giving the book a well rounded approach from both directions of the field. In many ways this book is an introduction to anthropology that you might take in a college course, but with a twist, it contains tips and ideas for building fictional world and lots of references to other pieces of fiction. We created this book to be a tool kit for creatives so that they can seriously consider real world cultural systems as they construct the world of their imagination.

In many ways this book was inspired by my several posts on Worldbuilding. This book is a much more expansive treatise on elements of real world and cultures. I hope those of you out there looking for a deep dive into cultures to improve your own work find this volume useful. Best of luck on all your projects!

Buy Build Better Worlds Here!!!

Further Myths of the Mammoth Man (Custom Made Story)

This past Christmas in a gift exchange I wrote my brother a joke story. Recently he recommended I post it. Why? Because he suggested that maybe some people out there might want a custom made story of their own. I specialize in outrageous humor. It doesn’t have to rhyme of course but this one did. It can be a wide variety of genres.

Rates are as follows:
$100 for 250 words
$150 for 500 words
$250 for 1000 words
$500 for 2000 words.

If you are interested you reach me by email me at LoridiansLaboratory@gmail.com

So if you are interested in hiring me to write a custom made story for your friends or loved ones, consider the sample below.

Additional samples of some of my short work include Man in the Mirror and Simulacra

Further Myths of the Mammoth Man

Many years ago I told a tale so tall

That those who heard it felt a little small

It was a tale of a man of a mammoth proportions

So tall was this tale that some accused me of distortions

The Mammoth Man tale’s tale might be tall but it is true

So I decided to return to his native land and resume the story for you

When I returned to Colorado from afar

I found that the Mammoth had done quite well for himself and even had a nice car

No more lemon vehicles that break down on sight

And the mighty mammoth man became a mascot of sorts in sports on many nights

His mighty arms would guide a great screen in stadiums like magic

And from what I understand his paycheck isn’t what you call tragic

In his domestic sphere, had had done pretty well

He had caught the eye of a kindhearted southern bell

They live in a large house in Aurora where they and their daughter Cimi happily dwell

And the southern bell doesn’t even seem to mind how much his feet smell

Or perhaps when they do she makes him sleep in a hotel

All seemed well but, Did he live happily ever after you say?

Well, it wouldn’t be much of a story if that’s all I had to share today

You see the Mammoth shared a story that’s unbelievable but true

It involved a ham sandwich, some aliens, and a giant emu

What came next was fantastic and strange

It began late one night on a highway interchange

Driving in his mammoth car listening to rock and roll 

He slowed down on the road to pay a toll

Suddenly above the sky filled with a bright light

And the Mammoth man sighed knowing it would be a long night

When the aliens descended they brought a large machine

Because they needed something more powerful than the normal abduction beam

They couldn’t lift the mammoth man because his shoes alone were size nineteen

As the mammoth man ascended side by side with the alien crew

He realized that this wasn’t the strangest thing he was forced to do

After all there was that time in Tahiti with swarm of cuckoos

And of course the time with the priest who practiced voodoo

He wondered for a moment how he always got in this situations

But then the aliens asked him if he would be willing to represent all earth nations

At a galactic council where humans were on trial

To try an determine if earthlings could transcend their greed and guile

Of course Mammoth man knew they were probably wondering if invasion was worth while.

So as he entered the ship he just nodded and smiled

He just hoped they wouldn’t destroy his sweater made from argyle

It wasn’t a council chamber they brought him into

Instead it was a large enclosure that looked like a zoo

Many creatures were in cages including an emo and a kangaroo

The mammoth man asked, just what do you plan to do

The aliens looked at their feet and admitted their real plan

They told of their obsession with YouTube and how they had discovered the tale of the mammoth man

In fact, the aliens revealed that they were really big fans

And wanted him to stay for the rest of his lifespan

But the mammoth man thought of his southern bell at home

And about how small the ship was and how little room there was to roam

He politely declined but the aliens sprayed him with a strange foam

It hardened and solidified and trapped him in a dome

But the aliens underestimated mammoth man’s strength

And that they would be able to hold him for any length

He smashed out of his prison in minutes and broke free

But he could find no obvious way off the ship to flee

He looked around for a helpful ally from the zoo

And his eyes settled on the cage with giant Emu

He smashed open it’s cage hopped on it’s back and together they broke through to

The door to the bridge of the ship and threatened a coup

The aliens resisted and fought a hard battle

But as it turns out he had  something that would really give them a rattle

In his pocket was a ham sandwich and when it fell out

It caused all the aliens to fall to their knees and beg to end the bout

For it seemed the aliens were allergic to ham

Apparently in the wider galaxy everyone preferred fresh lamb

He threatened the creatures that he would slam and cram the ham

Into their mouths like a battering ram

The aliens with faces sad acknowledge their defeat

And the mammoth man threatened them to never again lie or cheat

Or he would return with a treat they were allergic to eat

So the aliens landed their ship in a field of buckwheat

The Mammoth demanded they set all the creatures loose

That included the emu, the kangaroos, and even moose

The aliens took off not long after the truce

And promised that their abductions would be severely reduced

As the mammoth man drove home he shook his weary head

And he thought about how most of the animals had already fled

But not the emu for it chose to stay instead

He thought about how he would explain to the southern bell his new pet Ed

Perhaps she wouldn’t look on it with quite so much dread,

If he offered her a ride on the back of his new giant emu thoroughbred

The tale of the mammoth man is done for today

Perhaps we will check back in on him in few years and see if there is more to say

Maybe once the mammoth man is old and gray

We will hear a final tale as strange as the one today.  

A Wistful Winter

A long cold walk on a nature trail on a snowy day sometimes leads to self reflection and sometimes creative fire. Here’s something I wrote on a long walk this afternoon.

A Wistful Winter

The cold strips us bare as it works its way through our layers with terse touches

Its winding work penetrates below where our heartbeats, and spreads its cold kiss

But there is stillness here in the cold and long nights.

All the dead leaves are waiting, resting, in soft snowy stillness.

Peaking above the white dusting, leaves show their faded colors,

But only for a moment, before they retire to rest.

As should you.

And perhaps when we retire we will remember the silence by the hearth as we rub our hands diligently in gratitude toward a flickering flame

And the fire will teach us light and warmth in a period of long darkness

It is how we measure things that matters.

Our self-measurement is much like the falling snow,

Frail and wispy.

But in great number it can pack weight and depth,

Hanging heavy on our heart.

In stillness, we can watch it cascade from the sky and let it be.

How will you measure now that you took your first peak above the layer of cold and dark?

And as we walk on white paths lined with skeletal memories like some undiscovered country,

Will you feel a snowflake give its life as it casts itself onto the warmth of your face and flesh?

And when you return to home and safety,

Will you stoke the fires of your emotions as you stoke a log with your intention and iron?

Can you cast sparks like stars into the long dark?

Mind those sparks,

For those little pinpricks of light are a map to your soul.

If you trace the path, you will find the warm fertilizer of being

There is no better moment than now to look and see

CoTGM now available on Kindle Unlimited and Other News

Happy New Year 2021!

As of this morning my sci-f books, the Chronicles of the Great Migration, are availabe on Kindle Unlimited. You can find them here Read Chronicles of the Great Migration on KU The books will remain in KU for the forseeable future. This includes the final two books in the series.

In Non-Fiction News:

Build Better Worlds: An Introduction to Anthropology for Game Designers, Fiction Writers, and Filmmakers is in it’s final stages (we have been reediting it from the textbook version to make it more accessible to the general public for the last ten weeks) and we will be launching it on Feb 1st.

In Book 5 News:

The Children of AEIS (CotGM Book 5) is well on it’s way now (hit 25k words this week) and will be my main focus for the January version of NaNoWriMo. At the moment I am shooting for an April 17th publication but this book is turning out to be even bigger than I imagined (in a good way) and may well top the aprox. 600 pages of Serah of the Runners so it could get pushed back some.

In Audiobook News:

Mimi of the Nowhere is finished recording. It is now in editing it. I am shooting for a January 17th release of the audiobook of Mimi of the Nowhere. With the other’s following on its heels.

In Anthropology in 10 or Less News:

Two new episodes of Anthropology in 10 or Less are in post production and coming in the next few weeks with scripts mostly finished for 2 more episodes (probably released Feb). The goal is to put at least 2 episodes out a month for 2021 and possibly more if they gain some traction in views and patreon support. The more time I have, the more I will make.

More updates as I have them. I hope you have all had a wonderful start to the new year so far.

An Anagram for 2020 (in rhyme)

Black Steam Train on Building
Go to hell 2020

Let’s be honest, 2020 was a train wreck no matter how you look at it. As the year winds down I find myself reflecting on all the crazy stuff that happened in the last year. It’s pretty unbelievable how much has happened so, I thought I would create a humorous way of remembering the years insanity with a little poem…

An Ode to 2020 in Anagram

A is for Abomination because after the failure of our political leadership this year I needed liberal libations with a side of alliteration.

B is for that bathroom turned bog, because when you can’t buy toilet paper and you have a clog it causes a major backlog.

C is Czech Republic, cause when Poland accidently invades you, you gotta make that shit public

D is for the Dog that was born green. People thought it was a prank, but apparently it wasn’t trying to make a scene.

E is for Election for a new president’s selection. A lot of misinformed people had an objection and called for further inspection, but the courts gave it a rejection.  

F is for Fucked. This year sucked.

G is for Gas, oil prices dropped low, after the conflict Russian and Saudi Arabia, they had nowhere else to go.

H is for Hornets of the Murder kind, they were here and gone fast so I guess… never mind?

I is for Impeached, cause watching Trump’s pathetic attempt to defend himself was like watching a whale that’s beached.

J is for all the jobs lost, and that while many suffer, the Senate and McConnell were more concerned with spending costs.

K is for klaxon, you know, the warning bell. Rona made us see all the things in our culture that weren’t going so well.

L is for long. No rhyme needed, but perhaps I could write a song about how wrong it was to make a year this long?

M is for misinformation that spread across the nation, because half of us can’t tell the difference between correlation and causation.

N is for Novel, a word that means new, masks and stay at home orders were something we all needed to do.

O is for odd, that despite decades of evidence otherwise, people still believed in voter mail fraud and other lies.

P is for pathetic. We learned again that many people in our culture aren’t very empathetic and would rather believe rhetoric.

Q is for those who follow a conspiracy that ends in Anon. For this year they carried the crazy baton and didn’t realize it was nothing but a con. Perhaps they should follow their own advice to get over it and move on?

R is for Racism and Race. No matter how people protested, they were told it wasn’t the right time or place.

S is for star, you know, the one that went missing? That’s bizarre, and it’s not something we should be dismissing.

T is for Tiger King, but for the life of me I can’t understand why this was ever a thing.

U is for UFO’s because Aliens figured, why not keep us on our toes? The pentagon told us… ‘who the hell knows?’

V is for virus and vaccine because COVID-19 messed up our whole daily routine.   

W is for wildfire because half of Australia and the United States were practically a funeral pyre

X is for the exit to this year, Thank god the end is almost here. And for those of you who say that doesn’t start with x, let me assure you, doing this is pretty complex.

Y is for yellow because even though our president is orange, his behavior this year showed us he is a cowardly fellow

Z is for zig and zag, there was so many things that happened this year it made it seem like we lived in a time lag.

I hope you got a chuckle or three out of this. May the year 2021 bring you happiness and joy and the end of all things insane.

How to Fix Social Media??? An Open Forum for Discussion Here

Mobile Phone, Smartphone, App, Networks, Internet

In the last few years numerous films, books, research papers, and podcasts have been published on the problem with social media. I address some of this in my previous blog Why Social Media Can Be Such a Dumpster Fire but that blog only highlights some of the social difficulties of navigating platforms as an individual and why there is so much conflict.

Social media is creating and/or reinforcing massive problems in our society. So here I wanted to write something short and open a forum for discussion of how we could possibly fix these systems and make them work for us, rather than the other way around.

My background is an as anthropologist, but more specifically, my area of research during my time in graduate school focused heavily on media systems. I read quite a bit of literature and research and conducted some of my own (You can find the documentary version here) on the relationship between culture and media. However, I would hesitate to call myself an expert, especially on social media. So what I am going to do here is outline what I know, a few ideas I have, and then, hopefully in the comments below people can engage in some serious discussion or propose ideas. My ultimate goal is to gather some of the best ideas and hopefully create an open letter for public consideration. Perhaps we could send these letters to some of the heads of these platforms or even state or federal representatives and propose action. There is no doubt that we must address the problems on social media, because we know, pretty clearly now that some elements of these platforms are making our world a worse place to live. Like any good tool, we must learn to wield them wisely.

This is a bottom up approach, something that anthropologists called, collaborative methods. This is when you source the wider community to formulate questions and answers that people may not have considered.

How do you understand media systems?

The most helpful element of graduate school that included a large component of media research was that I learned how to ask better questions about media. Generally, there are three major sites of research in media (of course there are more but these three cover a lot). These sites also have their own power dynamics, politics, and are areas that shift culture and representation. These three areas are, Production, Distribution, Consumption.

  1. Production – The site of production is, where is the media or platform created. Who is making it? For what purpose? The entire production and post production side of media systems is all of this. Social media is less concerned with the production side of things, since most of the content isn’t produced on these platforms. That doesn’t mean how the platforms are built isn’t a concern though.
  2. Distribution – A large portion of the issue with social media platforms is distribution. There is some overlap here with production via algorithms, but algorithms are largely centered in the distribution side of things. You may have heard already how YouTube’s algorithms shifted a lot of people toward wild conspiracy theories and helped spread fake information like wildfire. They have corrected some of this but have a long way to go.
  3. Consumption – This is the site of consuming the media. What are they watching it on? How long are they watching? What habits do people have surrounding consumption? Do certain algorithms change consumption habits or not? Do people watch this stuff individually or do they share it with others? What makes something go viral? How do things like confirmation bias prevent people from consuming different viewpoints?

You can probably tell that these three sites of research have a lot of overlap, because well, creation of any medium is a cycle and creates all sorts of feedback loops, both positive and negative. Take algorithms for example. While algorithms determine what get’s distributed where (distribution), someone makes those algorithms (production) and then the viewers behavior (consumption) changes how the production and distribution cycle works. Over time these algorithms are refined to work better in both distribution and consumption. Better of course is a relative term here. If your goal is more revenue, that can create all kinds of problematic algorithms and is why YouTube accidently promoted massive amounts of conspiracy theory videos that had no basis in fact.

So why break it down? Because rather than tackling the whole system at once, it’s important for us to break down each site of research and understand the dynamics of each layer, so that when they are viewed as a whole they make more sense. It’s similar to how we learned how the human body works. We took it apart, analyzed it, and overtime our knowledge about how each organ functions in relation to one another.

So, I leave you with an approach (it may or may not be the best one) to try and think about these issues. I am going to make a few suggestions of my own here below for things I think would help move social media platforms in a new and better direction, but the point here is to source ideas from a variety of people with different backgrounds and disciplines so that we can come up with something collaboratively to solve this wicked problem.

My Ideas on Solutions:

  • Reinstitute the fairness doctrine and expand it to social media. The fairness doctrine was designed to make sure that all media exposes it’s viewers to a diversity of viewpoints on any topic. Air time had to be given in equal measure to conservative and progressive viewpoints (that is a bit of a simplication but go to the Wikipedia link above for more) forcing the viewer to consider several sides of each story. How could we do this on social media though? I think perhaps any article that is shared on social media, could have a required and connected article already attached to it from an opposing viewpoint. Is the article from fox news? Create a way so that an article on the exact same topic from MSNBC is sitting side by side with it, contrasting both headlines. This way the user and anyone who sees the shared post is required to see the different headlines from the different services. It can be incredibly illuminating to see two very different headlines on the same topic or event sitting next to each other, and it encourages critical thinking. Will many people dismiss the counter article? Sure, but what it does do is help those of us living in our bubbles to realize, there is a completely different way of thinking about the exact same set of facts. Facts are facts, but facts can also be understood from different viewpoints in quite a few cases. Showing different interpretations can at least give us pause and consider someone else’s viewpoint, even if we don’t agree with it.
  • Label Everything. I think a label could be created that sits at the top of every single news article regardless of the source. Blue could represent something that has good factual information. Yellow something that is opinion and needs fact checking. Red could be something that is clear and blatant misinformation. There should also be labels for satire (maybe purple?) as well and labels for blogs like this (perhaps gray) that are not as easy to evaluate because they don’t have a wide reach. Things that are difficult to evaluate could have a note above them saying, not vetted or evaluated for facts, until it is vetted. Labeling things might become annoying for a while, but using labels could help us understand what is good and bad information. Yes, some people will ignore it, but people might be more hesitant to share misinformation it is clearly labeled as misinformation.
  • Open the code for algorithms so people can see how they work and what they are doing. This one is tricky because a lot of these platforms are not interested in sharing their code. There are a lot of trade secrets and very likely, an attempt to force them will be met with a lot of pushback. That doesn’t mean that these platforms don’t need to be reined in and held accountable. I don’t believe that any of these platforms set out to do harm, but there does need to be social responsibility and accountability on these systems so they don’t hurt society. Why should we do this? Well this book Weapons of Math Destruction really helped me to understand how dangerous it is to keep coding closed. We need to understand how to refine and correct these algorithms so they don’t cause unintended harm.

Those are my three ideas for improving social media. Would they work? What do you think? The point here isn’t to throw up road blocks and say, well that would never get passed in congress or something similar. The point here is to brainstorm ideas for solutions. What solutions do you think would work? Let’s collaborate and see if we can take our ideas and make the world a little bit better. Even if we only improved things a little bit, it could have a massive impact on our culture and society. If we want things to get better, we have to try and tackle them. We can’t wait for people in charge to do something, we must find our own ways to source ideas and act. Be the change and all that right?

Please keep your comments and opinions respectful. I will moderate these comments. Differing viewpoints are very welcome (and frankly needed), but I will be sure to keep this a place of respect.