New Media Faculty Dev. Seminar – FA2010

"Awakening the Digital Imagination" – a Networked Seminar

Browsing Posts published by Me

Post source: publicintellectual

As I prepped for teaching a course on short stories this term, I struggled a great deal with where to begin. The longevity of a "short" story is well recorded, with myths and folk tales, as is its potential to become ephemera, with "You'll never guess what happened last week." Because of the vast distances that stories both can and cannot travel, it grows difficult to ensure relevancy beyond the discipline. Sure, short stories are a form that rose to popularity with the growth of subscription publications like newspapers and magazines in the early 19th Century, but they are more than that.

Viola's "Will There Be Condominiums in Data Space" gives perhaps a perfect example of the relevance of the short story in his use of the fable at the end. While it is told as a personal anecdote, this, combined with the personification of the porcupine and the merging of the "I" with their car, has all the hallmarks of a folktale or fable.

As with many of Aesop's fables and those collected by the Grimms, the location is both described but also vague, "Late one night while driving down a narrow mountain highway." Additionally, the players, porcupine and the man/car, each take on aspects of society or human nature. The porcupine is proud, stubborn, and natural, while the man/car is large, powerful, kind, and technological. The conflict is obvious and reflects the conflicts that Viola traces throughout his writing. It is a call for progress and and acknowledgment of the limits of personal perspective, but the framing as a fable has additional importance.

GK Chesterton writes, in his introduction to a translation of Aesop's Fables,
This is the immortal justification of the Fable: that we could not teach the plainest truths so simply without turning men into chessmen....by using animals in this austere and arbitrary style as they are used on the shields of heraldry or the
hieroglyphics of the ancients, men have really succeeded in handing down those tremendous truths that are called truisms.


To us, this means that Viola's use of a nearly universal and ancient narrative form communicates and demonstrates the points about tradition and technology that he seems to point out at various places in the chapter that there is

the importance of turning back towards ourselves...The sacred art of the past has unified form, function, and aesthetics around this single ultimate aim. Today, development of self must precede development of the technology or we will go nowhere


This reminds me of some recent trends in sacred spheres to return to more traditional forms of representation in order to recombine and recreate the now, including the monastic walk/prayer labyrinth:



and the both ironic and non-ironic appreciation of religious icons:



Interestingly enough, a friend of a friend's blog gives a very simple explanation of why icons look they way they do, and its theological importance. Not unsurprisingly, it has a lot in common in the discussion of space and ideas that comes up in Viola's chapter.

Note: I somehow lost the two posts that I did for last week. I'm going to recreate them from my notes and post them on Monday and Wednesday of next week.

Some Ideas About Tech…

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Post source: publicintellectual

I'm going to take a break from discussing and interacting with the readings until later this week. Don't worry, I have plenty of things to say about Nelson's "Computer Lib/Dream Machines" and Kay/Goldberg's "Personal Dynamic Media", and in some ways, I want this post to bridge between my Nelson-esque rant from last week to a discussion of implications for actual use.

All of this ties into the fact that...
I got an iPad!

This is fascinating to me primarily because I have always had to be supremely self-motivated in my technological direction. Other than my father's devotion to the sadly overlooked and under-appreciated Commodore Amiga,



most of the technology in my life has had to have been self-selected, vetted, and thoroughly argued for/purchased with my own money.

From my alarm clock to my numerous Walkmen, personal cd players, laptops, desktops, pager, cell phones, iPods, flash drives, home theater system, video consoles (PS, PS2, Wii), Kindle, and anything I might have left out, I have spent hours talking to people, checking out Consumer Reports, surfing the web, all in the service of not purchasing something that I would not get solid use out of.

This iPad gives me to opportunity to interact with a media technology on a different level, a reactive level, which has been quite informative.

I want to give one negative aspect and then a bunch of positive things.


Bad- Difficulties of Output
The abilities of the iPad to connect, combine, store, and access a wide variety of media is fabulous, but the difficulty of getting things off of the iPad. I assume that these will be corrected/simplified as things progress, but I would love a couple things: higher quality audio/video output, easier wireless printing, and data/file transfer via bluetooth/WiFi.

Yes, before you start inputting comments, I know that these all have workarounds that are ok, but for my use, as an educator who goes to different rooms with different set-ups (often of widely varying decades of equipment), I'd like to have one thing that I can carry with me with my presentations, online encyclopedia, Kindle access, gradebook, streaming audio/video, etc. all in one. Right now, I have to install Silverlight/Kindle on the computers that I use in the classroom (assuming that the priesthood allows such things), have a selection of flashdrives, and a connection to Google Docs.

I have to say that it's not bad. I like it much more than making overheads/copies, tapes, VHS, posterboard and so on that was the norm when I was learning to make presentations, in undergrad, but how nice would it be to walk into a classroom with my iPad, have the projector automatically recognize the iPad, establish a connection (with log-in), and allow me to type, draw notes, show videos, play audio, all without cords, remotes, or a big console?


Good- Community of Discoverers
One of the most exciting parts of new technologies is the growth of supportive communities towards the use and maximization/enjoyment of their use.

I remember the weekly Amiga BBS/SysOp meetings at the University of Delaware campus that we'd attend. We've all seen the continuance of such communities for longer periods too (motorcycles, HAM radios, classic cars). The iPad seems to have some potential towards these sorts of connections, and I'd like to share a couple:

One, is the TWIT network's iPad show, "iPad Today" (if the link is not active, it's because it is blocked by Websense, which is causing some problems). The Twit Network is an interesting podcasting network helmed by Leo Laporte, who I first saw 10 years ago on Tech TV. More interesting than the weekly show alone is the establishment of live, chat communities, wiki's, Buzz's, twitter accounts, blogs, and other outlets that grow up around it.

Second, is the "ideaplay" website that a friend at the tech and Ed, PhD program at Michigan State turned me on to.

These sorts of discussions and communities not only serve to teach one the rules and possibilities of the central subject, but they also test those rules and abilities. We can weigh the costs of "jailbreaking" an iPad without having to put yours at risk (not that there's really a big risk). In other words, they establish boundaries but also push against these, or at least they do in the best of potential worlds.

Mobility

The potentials to move and interact with content is really excellent with the iPad. The screen is clear, sharp, and just begs to be touched. I don't find the keyboard overly difficult to type on for most purposes, although I do wish a wider shift key and more ready access to number keys. I'm sure that different keyboards will come in time. The sheer portability and design profile of the iPad make it very easy to pop into a bag, even more so than a laptop or netbook.


Accessibility
The use of the iPad is very simplistic (overly so in some's opinion). There are a select number of apps per page arranged without much variability. Clicking in and out to single applications fits most uses on a daily basis and simplifies a work-thread in a way that might be advantageous for a creature that cannot truly multi-task.

Pure Potential
There is nothing really innovative to the iPad. As many have said, the tablet PC is not new, and others have actually done it better in some ways. What Apple provides is a a convergence and synergy that makes the iPad a potential and simple locus for almost all connection/access, in a similar way to what some Microsoft people have seen with the XBox 360 with Zune-pass.

I cannot wait to see where things go and test out trails going forward.

Some Ideas About Tech…

No comments

Post source: publicintellectual

I'm going to take a break from discussing and interacting with the readings until later this week. Don't worry, I have plenty of things to say about Nelson's "Computer Lib/Dream Machines" and Kay/Goldberg's "Personal Dynamic Media", and in some ways, I want this post to bridge between my Nelson-esque rant from last week to a discussion of implications for actual use.

All of this ties into the fact that...
I got an iPad!

This is fascinating to me primarily because I have always had to be supremely self-motivated in my technological direction. Other than my father's devotion to the sadly overlooked and under-appreciated Commodore Amiga,



most of the technology in my life has had to have been self-selected, vetted, and thoroughly argued for/purchased with my own money.

From my alarm clock to my numerous Walkmen, personal cd players, laptops, desktops, pager, cell phones, iPods, flash drives, home theater system, video consoles (PS, PS2, Wii), Kindle, and anything I might have left out, I have spent hours talking to people, checking out Consumer Reports, surfing the web, all in the service of not purchasing something that I would not get solid use out of.

This iPad gives me to opportunity to interact with a media technology on a different level, a reactive level, which has been quite informative.

I want to give one negative aspect and then a bunch of positive things.


Bad- Difficulties of Output
The abilities of the iPad to connect, combine, store, and access a wide variety of media is fabulous, but the difficulty of getting things off of the iPad. I assume that these will be corrected/simplified as things progress, but I would love a couple things: higher quality audio/video output, easier wireless printing, and data/file transfer via bluetooth/WiFi.

Yes, before you start inputting comments, I know that these all have workarounds that are ok, but for my use, as an educator who goes to different rooms with different set-ups (often of widely varying decades of equipment), I'd like to have one thing that I can carry with me with my presentations, online encyclopedia, Kindle access, gradebook, streaming audio/video, etc. all in one. Right now, I have to install Silverlight/Kindle on the computers that I use in the classroom (assuming that the priesthood allows such things), have a selection of flashdrives, and a connection to Google Docs.

I have to say that it's not bad. I like it much more than making overheads/copies, tapes, VHS, posterboard and so on that was the norm when I was learning to make presentations, in undergrad, but how nice would it be to walk into a classroom with my iPad, have the projector automatically recognize the iPad, establish a connection (with log-in), and allow me to type, draw notes, show videos, play audio, all without cords, remotes, or a big console?


Good- Community of Discoverers
One of the most exciting parts of new technologies is the growth of supportive communities towards the use and maximization/enjoyment of their use.

I remember the weekly Amiga BBS/SysOp meetings at the University of Delaware campus that we'd attend. We've all seen the continuance of such communities for longer periods too (motorcycles, HAM radios, classic cars). The iPad seems to have some potential towards these sorts of connections, and I'd like to share a couple:

One, is the TWIT network's iPad show, "iPad Today" (if the link is not active, it's because it is blocked by Websense, which is causing some problems). The Twit Network is an interesting podcasting network helmed by Leo Laporte, who I first saw 10 years ago on Tech TV. More interesting than the weekly show alone is the establishment of live, chat communities, wiki's, Buzz's, twitter accounts, blogs, and other outlets that grow up around it.

Second, is the "ideaplay" website that a friend at the tech and Ed, PhD program at Michigan State turned me on to.

These sorts of discussions and communities not only serve to teach one the rules and possibilities of the central subject, but they also test those rules and abilities. We can weigh the costs of "jailbreaking" an iPad without having to put yours at risk (not that there's really a big risk). In other words, they establish boundaries but also push against these, or at least they do in the best of potential worlds.

Mobility

The potentials to move and interact with content is really excellent with the iPad. The screen is clear, sharp, and just begs to be touched. I don't find the keyboard overly difficult to type on for most purposes, although I do wish a wider shift key and more ready access to number keys. I'm sure that different keyboards will come in time. The sheer portability and design profile of the iPad make it very easy to pop into a bag, even more so than a laptop or netbook.


Accessibility
The use of the iPad is very simplistic (overly so in some's opinion). There are a select number of apps per page arranged without much variability. Clicking in and out to single applications fits most uses on a daily basis and simplifies a work-thread in a way that might be advantageous for a creature that cannot truly multi-task.

Pure Potential
There is nothing really innovative to the iPad. As many have said, the tablet PC is not new, and others have actually done it better in some ways. What Apple provides is a a convergence and synergy that makes the iPad a potential and simple locus for almost all connection/access, in a similar way to what some Microsoft people have seen with the XBox 360 with Zune-pass.

I cannot wait to see where things go and test out trails going forward.

Post source: publicintellectual

In reading Engelbart's reports laying out the research center, I had no problem engaging with the text. Perhaps it is my love of bureaucracy and reports, but I enjoy seeing a vision/idea laid out in such specific terms that they seem manageable.

In these not-too-lengthy pages, Engelbart lays out a plan that would lead to all sorts of amazing things: the mouse, Cloud computing, YouTube, and We Rule. What's not to like? What's not to admire?

Well, here you go:




Yup, the information for Pandora is blocked. It's exciting to have an iPad and look at ways that I might incorporate it into my teaching. I love audio and would love to find clips of NPR stories or better yet the C-SPAN app to discuss rhetoric and give us specific content to respond to, but as I go to the App Store....




You want to know why? Well, on the campus system and WiFi, iTunes, NPR, C-SPAN Radio, Pandora, etc are all blocked because Engelbart's dream of a Research Center is not really progressing to the sort of organized and informed opportunity for self-managed and designed computer systems.

As frustrating as it is, it's understandable to a degree. After all, the system is not the closed one of ARC. It is vulnerable. Those vulnerabilities cost money and leave information to be potentially stolen, altered, or destroyed. There are all sorts of reasons why a community college might want to protect their wired and wireless networks, but they all boil down to one thing:

PEOPLE

People are the problem. The people that design, the people that manage, the people that use, the people that misuse, and all the rest form a constantly fluctuating mass that is dangerous, powerful, and unwieldy. They are nowhere near the "skilled user" that Engelbart and English keep referring to being able to do things like "readjust his view to suit immediate needs very quickly and frequently."

Those managing and paying for our contemporary networks want as little "readjust"-ing as possible from the user's perspective. "Readjust"-ing costs money in fixing things when they go wrong. Allowing users, apparently even faculty in new media seminars, to actually use and test their abilities to integrate that technology is a cost without sufficient benefit.

Sure, having all the kids on campus with their phones and computers connected to Pandora constantly would probably eat up some bandwidth. That is a problem in need of a solution. However, this brings us back to Engelbart and English's "A Research Center for Augmenting".

The beauty in this plan is that they PLANNED for it to be manipulated and changed before they let people into it. Our current systems is not designed or planned, it's patched and stretched. It's the same as the difference between a tailored suit and one that's "adjusted" for your rental.

Darn it! I want technology to be tailored, and I want in on the consultation because whoever makes these decisions clearly does not think forward. They think backwards. It is not about using technology to make connections and explore possibilities on the campus now. It's about controlling access.

This is a fundamentally different process that is, sadly, a necessary evil to some at least.




Post source: publicintellectual

In reading Engelbart's reports laying out the research center, I had no problem engaging with the text. Perhaps it is my love of bureaucracy and reports, but I enjoy seeing a vision/idea laid out in such specific terms that they seem manageable.

In these not-too-lengthy pages, Engelbart lays out a plan that would lead to all sorts of amazing things: the mouse, Cloud computing, YouTube, and We Rule. What's not to like? What's not to admire?

Well, here you go:




Yup, the information for Pandora is blocked. It's exciting to have an iPad and look at ways that I might incorporate it into my teaching. I love audio and would love to find clips of NPR stories or better yet the C-SPAN app to discuss rhetoric and give us specific content to respond to, but as I go to the App Store....




You want to know why? Well, on the campus system and WiFi, iTunes, NPR, C-SPAN Radio, Pandora, etc are all blocked because Engelbart's dream of a Research Center is not really progressing to the sort of organized and informed opportunity for self-managed and designed computer systems.

As frustrating as it is, it's understandable to a degree. After all, the system is not the closed one of ARC. It is vulnerable. Those vulnerabilities cost money and leave information to be potentially stolen, altered, or destroyed. There are all sorts of reasons why a community college might want to protect their wired and wireless networks, but they all boil down to one thing:

PEOPLE

People are the problem. The people that design, the people that manage, the people that use, the people that misuse, and all the rest form a constantly fluctuating mass that is dangerous, powerful, and unwieldy. They are nowhere near the "skilled user" that Engelbart and English keep referring to being able to do things like "readjust his view to suit immediate needs very quickly and frequently."

Those managing and paying for our contemporary networks want as little "readjust"-ing as possible from the user's perspective. "Readjust"-ing costs money in fixing things when they go wrong. Allowing users, apparently even faculty in new media seminars, to actually use and test their abilities to integrate that technology is a cost without sufficient benefit.

Sure, having all the kids on campus with their phones and computers connected to Pandora constantly would probably eat up some bandwidth. That is a problem in need of a solution. However, this brings us back to Engelbart and English's "A Research Center for Augmenting".

The beauty in this plan is that they PLANNED for it to be manipulated and changed before they let people into it. Our current systems is not designed or planned, it's patched and stretched. It's the same as the difference between a tailored suit and one that's "adjusted" for your rental.

Darn it! I want technology to be tailored, and I want in on the consultation because whoever makes these decisions clearly does not think forward. They think backwards. It is not about using technology to make connections and explore possibilities on the campus now. It's about controlling access.

This is a fundamentally different process that is, sadly, a necessary evil to some at least.




Post source: publicintellectual

Problems:
The main problems with getting excited with Douglas Engelbart's visions and plans for us reading today are two-fold:

1) We are not NACA engineers:
2) We have the expectation of the technology that we've always had.

The combination of these factors leaves us underwhelmed by the descriptions and details of the process by which Engelbart performs what is essentially an amazing feat of combining vision with engineering and programming.

In short, we are not impressed because many of us have lived with this level of technology for 20+ years. Our students and younger colleagues have even greater difficulties in imagining the amazement at being able to coordinate data in the ways suggested.

However, I do not want to stay on why it is difficult to engage with Engelbart. I want to engage with his vision and ideas. As the former winner of the Delaware BASIC team programming challenge in 6th grade, I am fascinated by the level of detail and attention needed to get a machine to coordinate these different categories of information that lead to the invention of the personal computer (even as Engelbart does not really intend to envision a personal, consumer computer).

Engelbart v. Engelbart
In reading the first Engelbart/vision essay and comparing that with the second (Engelbart/English proposal) and the video of his presentation, I'm really seeing two different ideas.

On one hand, Engelbart/English propose a work terminal system to analyze and support research into ways of analyzing and supporting research, but in the renowned live presentation, Engelbart introduces the potentialities of the technology in word processing and mapping, interestingly combined with the narrative of his wife calling and asking for him to do the shopping. The development of handheld organizers in the late 1980s, PDAs in the mid-late 1990s with devices like the Newton & Palm Pilot, and continuing with advertising for smartphones and tablets also often confronts the consumer with the ability of this hand-held device to help with....gasp...shopping, maps, and relationships.

Palm ads here and here. (Interesting history of Palm Pilot here from the Computer History Museum)

The Case of Newton
Apple's Newton Intro Video here shows that a direct connection exists between Engelbart's vision and this kind of device. Watch the video and be amazed as the Newton users are excited about being able to get down and manipulate their thoughts on the device in a variety of ways, including drawing/design/handwriting, etc.

But, there's an interesting addition about a minute in. Now, the Newton will do things for the user, not just be an augmentation. Don't know how to put text and images together well? Don't worry. Newton will do it for you. Newton will not only assist you. It knows enough about what you are doing to do it for you.

This sort of personification and extension of technology beyond being an extension is even clearer in this Newton TV ad. Newton is now not just a thing or an assistant, an adjunct. It is a separate being who is friendly and worldly and intelligent.

While this might appear to be a minor shift from helper to friend used to achieve a marketing goal, it also reflects a vital shift rhetorically that has real consequences. Engelbart envisions a device that works on a hierarchy of symbols that he and his team devise and program into the system.

In fact, he envisions that these sorts of machines will always comes as a product of a team that analyzes needs and wants and develops a system that serves to allow users to manipulate those symbols in meaningful ways to achieve their goal. In essence the technology becomes a product of individual/small-group's needs and wants.

However, as we see the evolution to the PDA world, we realize that what has happened is that devices have been produced on the large scale where the individuals need to now be assimilated into the system of symbols developed by the engineers and programmers. In effect, the augmentation has taken over.

It is not just a tool to be used and shaped at will. Jobs, actions, wants, and needs must be shaped to fit into the use of the tool, as shown by the instructional videos on how to use a PDA.

And while the Newton perhaps tried to do too much and cost too much, the iPad and other augmentations of today seem to be facing less resistance. Built on an iPhone UI, the iPad seems "instinctive" and "responsive". No, it's more than that.

Apple wants it to be "magical"

And it is, but what is lost is the knowledge of how it works and the ability to shape the technology to the standards and hierarchies or OUR symbols. The process of learning about how we learn has been sublimated to make invisible what might be better made visible: the construction and sharing of symbolic systems.

Without an understanding of the logic behind the systems of symbols, students and users become consumers of symbols and leave their creation and manipulation to "magic."

The problem, from a cultural studies POV, is that these systems of meanings and symbols are not segregated from reality in an ether of pure entertainment. They are heavily ensconced in the networks of economics/class, culture, language, race, ethnicity, politics, gender, sexuality, and differences of all kinds. The order and preferences that are given to some symbols over others carry with them ideological values and meanings beyond the symbol and its meaning alone. Pure data connection is not possible.

Therefore, shouldn't we be aware of how, why, and when these sorts of decisions get made and by whom?






Post source: publicintellectual

Problems:
The main problems with getting excited with Douglas Engelbart's visions and plans for us reading today are two-fold:

1) We are not NACA engineers:
2) We have the expectation of the technology that we've always had.

The combination of these factors leaves us underwhelmed by the descriptions and details of the process by which Engelbart performs what is essentially an amazing feat of combining vision with engineering and programming.

In short, we are not impressed because many of us have lived with this level of technology for 20+ years. Our students and younger colleagues have even greater difficulties in imagining the amazement at being able to coordinate data in the ways suggested.

However, I do not want to stay on why it is difficult to engage with Engelbart. I want to engage with his vision and ideas. As the former winner of the Delaware BASIC team programming challenge in 6th grade, I am fascinated by the level of detail and attention needed to get a machine to coordinate these different categories of information that lead to the invention of the personal computer (even as Engelbart does not really intend to envision a personal, consumer computer).

Engelbart v. Engelbart
In reading the first Engelbart/vision essay and comparing that with the second (Engelbart/English proposal) and the video of his presentation, I'm really seeing two different ideas.

On one hand, Engelbart/English propose a work terminal system to analyze and support research into ways of analyzing and supporting research, but in the renowned live presentation, Engelbart introduces the potentialities of the technology in word processing and mapping, interestingly combined with the narrative of his wife calling and asking for him to do the shopping. The development of handheld organizers in the late 1980s, PDAs in the mid-late 1990s with devices like the Newton & Palm Pilot, and continuing with advertising for smartphones and tablets also often confronts the consumer with the ability of this hand-held device to help with....gasp...shopping, maps, and relationships.

Palm ads here and here. (Interesting history of Palm Pilot here from the Computer History Museum)

The Case of Newton
Apple's Newton Intro Video here shows that a direct connection exists between Engelbart's vision and this kind of device. Watch the video and be amazed as the Newton users are excited about being able to get down and manipulate their thoughts on the device in a variety of ways, including drawing/design/handwriting, etc.

But, there's an interesting addition about a minute in. Now, the Newton will do things for the user, not just be an augmentation. Don't know how to put text and images together well? Don't worry. Newton will do it for you. Newton will not only assist you. It knows enough about what you are doing to do it for you.

This sort of personification and extension of technology beyond being an extension is even clearer in this Newton TV ad. Newton is now not just a thing or an assistant, an adjunct. It is a separate being who is friendly and worldly and intelligent.

While this might appear to be a minor shift from helper to friend used to achieve a marketing goal, it also reflects a vital shift rhetorically that has real consequences. Engelbart envisions a device that works on a hierarchy of symbols that he and his team devise and program into the system.

In fact, he envisions that these sorts of machines will always comes as a product of a team that analyzes needs and wants and develops a system that serves to allow users to manipulate those symbols in meaningful ways to achieve their goal. In essence the technology becomes a product of individual/small-group's needs and wants.

However, as we see the evolution to the PDA world, we realize that what has happened is that devices have been produced on the large scale where the individuals need to now be assimilated into the system of symbols developed by the engineers and programmers. In effect, the augmentation has taken over.

It is not just a tool to be used and shaped at will. Jobs, actions, wants, and needs must be shaped to fit into the use of the tool, as shown by the instructional videos on how to use a PDA.

And while the Newton perhaps tried to do too much and cost too much, the iPad and other augmentations of today seem to be facing less resistance. Built on an iPhone UI, the iPad seems "instinctive" and "responsive". No, it's more than that.

Apple wants it to be "magical"

And it is, but what is lost is the knowledge of how it works and the ability to shape the technology to the standards and hierarchies or OUR symbols. The process of learning about how we learn has been sublimated to make invisible what might be better made visible: the construction and sharing of symbolic systems.

Without an understanding of the logic behind the systems of symbols, students and users become consumers of symbols and leave their creation and manipulation to "magic."

The problem, from a cultural studies POV, is that these systems of meanings and symbols are not segregated from reality in an ether of pure entertainment. They are heavily ensconced in the networks of economics/class, culture, language, race, ethnicity, politics, gender, sexuality, and differences of all kinds. The order and preferences that are given to some symbols over others carry with them ideological values and meanings beyond the symbol and its meaning alone. Pure data connection is not possible.

Therefore, shouldn't we be aware of how, why, and when these sorts of decisions get made and by whom?






Bush-y, Bush-y, Bush!

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Post source: publicintellectual

The Good:
Bush's article clearly articulates that technology holds vast potential beyond the ability of engineers and scientists to develop ways to kill more people more quickly or more efficiently. In fact, it can help fellow researchers more readily share information about how past peoples have used technologies to kill more people more quickly and/or more efficiently.

All joking aside, Bush's attempt to look towards a future of connection and relative interaction is fantastic and exciting. What hipster would not want a memex? It's got a cross between Mad Men and steampunk aesthetic and does all the work of a mid-90s Palm.

Ok, I wasn't quite done with being sarcastic yet. I'll admit it. I love technology. I love being able to take pictures, like the one below, on the fly and not have to worry about getting it developed.




It is truly amazing to be able to follow my college acquaintance as he drove across America on a Craftsman lawnmower this summer.

The Bad:
One might immediately notice the potentials for abuse (or at least not positive use) of tiny cameras that people can take anywhere. A surveillance culture, every success or failure living on indeterminately, pornography, and cats, lots of cats, appear to be the products of the tiny cell-phone camera.

This remains to be the problem with almost any advance in technology. The technology always precedes the abilities of the culture to incorporate the possibilities in primarily positive ways, at least to the status quo.

And to some degree, that is a good thing. It allows technology to even the field between the oppressor and oppressed, a la the use by Iranians of twitter to subvert media blackouts and connect to the rest of the world. We love to hear this. It's exciting and hopeful. It turns our attentions away from the fears that technologies bring with them and that technologies distribute even more quickly and constantly than before.

However, it is this technology that allows for our attentions to be diverted so quickly. Recently, I listened to a Fresh Air where Terry Gross interviewed Matt Richtel, a writer for the New York Times, who has been working on investigating issues of technology, society, and the science of the brain for the past year or so ("Your Brain on Computers" articles: here and here). In short, he has discovered that the research is beginning to show that our brains cannot take the quantity and diversity of information being presented to it on a near constant basis. The pleasure potential of a new e-mail coming in keeps us constantly checking the inbox like a rat with a randomly distribution of food from a slot. I find it fascinating that technology is beginning to have the equivalent effect of allowing, nee forcing, us to carry little slot machines with us (Yes, there is an app for that.)

I see it in both myself and my students. I check my e-mail right when I leave my office, and 20 minutes later, when I get home, I feel a strong urge to open up my laptop and check again. I know, intellectually, that nothing of significance has come in during the last 20 minutes. I know, emotionally, that I should sit on the floor and read or play with my son rather than reconnect to the screen, but the "pull" is powerful.

The Dangers:
What's amazing to me is that so many seem willing to plow headlong into more reliance on technology that increasingly proves to be dangerous or detrimental when used on a broad basis. I can't drive anywhere in this city without nearly getting plowed into by someone on their cell phone or texting. At Baylor's campus, I've repeatedly heard of students nearly being hit as they are walking, absorbed in their phones or iPods, and not noticing that they are going into traffic.

Would these people engage in dangerous or distracting behavior of one kind or another anyway? Sure, why not? But, the point is not that technology presents the only danger of violence, distraction, or incipience of whole levels of intelligence or thought vanishing, but rather, that technology makes those problems easier to develop and harder to resist. Furthermore, the culture places a negative value on those places or people that choose to not use those technologies.

I think that E.M. Forster's "The Machine Stops" gives a highly astute and prophetic view of the dangers of these kinds of connections of knowledge and thinking to machines. It is not so much the problem of storage that Bush's plan helps to solve. The danger lies in losing the ability and inclination to train the mind and body to work together through diverse media to obtain information and synthesize it.

It's precisely because it IS so easy to "Google It" that renders to desire and pursuit of knowledge as a process only the tiniest of realms within society, pushed back into the Ivory Dungeon, only to be let out to service the cry that a populace with more "higher" education will fix fundamental problems in the economy.

Forster's story describes technologies and interactions not to far afield of Bush's, only with an oppositional perspective and thirty-six years before. Forster describes the use of machines to encode knowledge, making actual research unnecessary and accessible at the touch of a button. Forster's dystopia does not end well (like any do), and human beings die in droves in the dark as the machines run down with no one to understand their processes after generations of efficiency.

Final Thoughts:
Rather than end on a negative note of complete ruin, I want to propose a solution or a potential solution. In recent years, STEM education has represented a significant push for American education at all levels of schooling. However, in reviewing much of the literature, little is done to pair discussions of technology's abilities with the potential ethical issues of that technology and science. The focus has been on the question, "Can we do X?" not "Should we? How should we? What are the social/cultural costs of X?"

No, it's been left largely to specialists within fields, secondary/tertiary debates at conferences, or, more likely, those crazy "humanities" people who keep saying, "Umm...remember this other time that we did something like that? It didn't turn out well."

If we could institute education of STEM that includes the implications of these actions and ideas, from the earliest of levels, then we might have a population more prepared to adapt to new technologies in healthier ways, rather than getting bloated on the processed/technological "food" that Bush praises in his article.

Bush-y, Bush-y, Bush!

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Post source: publicintellectual

The Good:
Bush's article clearly articulates that technology holds vast potential beyond the ability of engineers and scientists to develop ways to kill more people more quickly or more efficiently. In fact, it can help fellow researchers more readily share information about how past peoples have used technologies to kill more people more quickly and/or more efficiently.

All joking aside, Bush's attempt to look towards a future of connection and relative interaction is fantastic and exciting. What hipster would not want a memex? It's got a cross between Mad Men and steampunk aesthetic and does all the work of a mid-90s Palm.

Ok, I wasn't quite done with being sarcastic yet. I'll admit it. I love technology. I love being able to take pictures, like the one below, on the fly and not have to worry about getting it developed.




It is truly amazing to be able to follow my college acquaintance as he drove across America on a Craftsman lawnmower this summer.

The Bad:
One might immediately notice the potentials for abuse (or at least not positive use) of tiny cameras that people can take anywhere. A surveillance culture, every success or failure living on indeterminately, pornography, and cats, lots of cats, appear to be the products of the tiny cell-phone camera.

This remains to be the problem with almost any advance in technology. The technology always precedes the abilities of the culture to incorporate the possibilities in primarily positive ways, at least to the status quo.

And to some degree, that is a good thing. It allows technology to even the field between the oppressor and oppressed, a la the use by Iranians of twitter to subvert media blackouts and connect to the rest of the world. We love to hear this. It's exciting and hopeful. It turns our attentions away from the fears that technologies bring with them and that technologies distribute even more quickly and constantly than before.

However, it is this technology that allows for our attentions to be diverted so quickly. Recently, I listened to a Fresh Air where Terry Gross interviewed Matt Richtel, a writer for the New York Times, who has been working on investigating issues of technology, society, and the science of the brain for the past year or so ("Your Brain on Computers" articles: here and here). In short, he has discovered that the research is beginning to show that our brains cannot take the quantity and diversity of information being presented to it on a near constant basis. The pleasure potential of a new e-mail coming in keeps us constantly checking the inbox like a rat with a randomly distribution of food from a slot. I find it fascinating that technology is beginning to have the equivalent effect of allowing, nee forcing, us to carry little slot machines with us (Yes, there is an app for that.)

I see it in both myself and my students. I check my e-mail right when I leave my office, and 20 minutes later, when I get home, I feel a strong urge to open up my laptop and check again. I know, intellectually, that nothing of significance has come in during the last 20 minutes. I know, emotionally, that I should sit on the floor and read or play with my son rather than reconnect to the screen, but the "pull" is powerful.

The Dangers:
What's amazing to me is that so many seem willing to plow headlong into more reliance on technology that increasingly proves to be dangerous or detrimental when used on a broad basis. I can't drive anywhere in this city without nearly getting plowed into by someone on their cell phone or texting. At Baylor's campus, I've repeatedly heard of students nearly being hit as they are walking, absorbed in their phones or iPods, and not noticing that they are going into traffic.

Would these people engage in dangerous or distracting behavior of one kind or another anyway? Sure, why not? But, the point is not that technology presents the only danger of violence, distraction, or incipience of whole levels of intelligence or thought vanishing, but rather, that technology makes those problems easier to develop and harder to resist. Furthermore, the culture places a negative value on those places or people that choose to not use those technologies.

I think that E.M. Forster's "The Machine Stops" gives a highly astute and prophetic view of the dangers of these kinds of connections of knowledge and thinking to machines. It is not so much the problem of storage that Bush's plan helps to solve. The danger lies in losing the ability and inclination to train the mind and body to work together through diverse media to obtain information and synthesize it.

It's precisely because it IS so easy to "Google It" that renders to desire and pursuit of knowledge as a process only the tiniest of realms within society, pushed back into the Ivory Dungeon, only to be let out to service the cry that a populace with more "higher" education will fix fundamental problems in the economy.

Forster's story describes technologies and interactions not to far afield of Bush's, only with an oppositional perspective and thirty-six years before. Forster describes the use of machines to encode knowledge, making actual research unnecessary and accessible at the touch of a button. Forster's dystopia does not end well (like any do), and human beings die in droves in the dark as the machines run down with no one to understand their processes after generations of efficiency.

Final Thoughts:
Rather than end on a negative note of complete ruin, I want to propose a solution or a potential solution. In recent years, STEM education has represented a significant push for American education at all levels of schooling. However, in reviewing much of the literature, little is done to pair discussions of technology's abilities with the potential ethical issues of that technology and science. The focus has been on the question, "Can we do X?" not "Should we? How should we? What are the social/cultural costs of X?"

No, it's been left largely to specialists within fields, secondary/tertiary debates at conferences, or, more likely, those crazy "humanities" people who keep saying, "Umm...remember this other time that we did something like that? It didn't turn out well."

If we could institute education of STEM that includes the implications of these actions and ideas, from the earliest of levels, then we might have a population more prepared to adapt to new technologies in healthier ways, rather than getting bloated on the processed/technological "food" that Bush praises in his article.

A Step Closer to "Public"

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Post source: publicintellectual

Hey, happy, happy-ish news! I'm beginning to live my "public" part of intellectual a bit more than in conferences and classrooms (stupid article publishing being so hard and long). I was contacted a while ago by Anna David (I thought it was a joke/spam at first) to talk about my use of reality TV in the classroom, something that I've blogged about at times and been trying to publish here and there.

Well, the article is finally here. I think that it does a fairly good job of giving an overview of the approaches to reality TV including, but not limited to, it's study as a genre in media studies. Since I've shifted my teaching and research to be more of using popular culture in order to get to other academic points, I've felt a bit of the outcast. This did a fairly good job of bring these odd threads together. Maybe I'll propose that TWOP needs a "higher ed" column or Chronicle needs a "Reality TV" column.

Thanks, Anna. I'm sorry that I thought you were porn spam initially.