First Recipient of the GLOBALL Rover.
13:32 PST, 08/23/17, South Park, San Fransisco, California, United States of America, North America
1. Tell us anything about yourself
This is always tough. What do you highlight? What do you leave out?
Right now, as I write this, I am preparing to leave the US, uprooting myself from the self I built here. Along with leaving my job, my city of 20 years, my neighborhood of a bit less than that, and all the social capital I have built up in this region, I am also leaving my language competency, since I will be moving to Japan, a place where I don't know the language. I hope to gain literacy if not fluency, but this is a major change.
As a result, in some ways, I don't know this 'yourself' you ask me to tell you about. In other ways, I know my demographics (white, cis-male, late 40s, etc). I know I grew up outside of Cleveland (Berea), Ohio. I know I went to school in St Louis. And I will soon put the past 21 years in the San Francisco Bay Area (mostly in San Francisco's Richmond District) in the past tense. I know I worked for a financial software company for 17 years. I know I am married to a wonderful woman for soon to be 9 years and counting. I have ideas about how all those experiences have defined me.
Considering all that, my present 'self' is in an unstable state. But I will soon be a white guy in his late 40s living w/ his wonderful Japanese wife in Tokyo, where my focus will be on teaching English and learning Japanese. If I get to write about films as I have in the past (South Korean films, films portraying physical disabilities, sports films being my primary focus), that will be great. But my primary focus will be on my family, my job, the new communities I will be a part of, and learning the Japanese language. My primary focus will be on who I will become, more so than who I've been.
2. How did it feel to receive the GLOBALL Rover from Oliver?
It was an honor and a big responsibility, since I will be the first person to be taking the GLOBALL abroad. It is a material representation of over 30 years of friendship between Oliver and I. By passing the GLOBALL Rover to me, Oliver has solidified our relationship, you might say. It's also special that I'll be taking it to Japan since Oliver's maternal lineage traces back to Japan.
3. Who are you giving the GLOBALL Rover to and why? What do they mean to you?
As a material social network, what creator Oliver Warden likes to describe as 'a social network made out of wood', GLOBALL has become a wooden representation of my transition moving from San Francisco to Tokyo. In San Francisco, where I lived for 17 years, I developed a diverse network of friendsips. In Tokyo, I know a few folks casually, but my only close friendship here is with my wife. I was deeply touched that Oliver would give me the first GLOBALL to cross international borders, the GLOBALL Rover. Yet, by moving to a new city in a new country with a language new to me, I went from a rich on the ground social network with multiple strong nodes to a sparse network of a few weak connections vectoring off from a strong hub that is my wife. The only person worthy of my handing off GLOBALL Rover in Tokyo is the person with whom I have my deepest friendship, my wife. So in many ways it is appropriate that I give GLOBALL Rover to my wife, my dearest friend, but she laughs knowing she, in Tokyo, she is also my only friend.
The limited face-to-face social network I have in Tokyo has enabled GLOBALL Rover to become another signifier to our commitment to each other as a couple. I am leaving my country where I know the language, where I have developed a great deal of social capital, and I am heading towards a country where I do not know the language, which makes it difficult to build up social capital (let alone economic capital). My wife and I didn't make this leap without discussing what it would be like for me to lose so much of my social capital. We discussed how I would be sad from the loneliness of not having any close friends nearby, how I might be too dependent on her, how she might get frustrated that I will not be the person I could be in my own country. We talked about the need to step back and think of the new context each of us is individually placed in before we pinpoint the 'problem' we want to address in the other's actions/inactions.
As we start this new adventure, (which by the way, comes with a log of positives too - the food, the coffee, the train system, being able to tackle most of our errands via bike, I could go on . . .), giving GLOBALL Rover to Seiko is a way of re-committing our wedding vows. I have, in a sense, married her all over again, as she has me, by making the leap across the Pacific to this country lesser known to me and requiring re-acquaintance for her. My having the GLOBALL Rover has helped me think about this new stage and how I'm delighted to be experiencing all this with Seiko by my side. Now I hand off the GLOBALL Rover to Seiko to see what it will help her better understand about her new life here in Tokyo and what friendship means to her at this new stage in her life.
4. What does the GLOBALL project mean to you?
I view the GLOBALL project as a way to return social media to material face to face interactions. This is not to speak disparagingly of social media. I have some very dear friends whom I've met through Twitter, for example. But 'social media' is a term that has arisen from the internet, a 'disembodied' space, so it is nice to return to an embodied social media before we had that term, 'social media'. Oliver's giving the GLOBALL Rover to me was a very special moment, so I look forward to explaining the mission of GLOBALL to others who see the GLOBALL Rover in our apartment. I can tell them about my friendship with Oliver, Oliver's conception of the product, and my own interpretation of GLOBALL. Through these conversations, and the touching of the GLOBALL Rover, noting it's heft, it's texture, a social media will become embodied beyond our conversations online and off.