New Media Faculty Dev. Seminar – FA2010

"Awakening the Digital Imagination" – a Networked Seminar

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Scott McCloud on Comics

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McCloud’s explanation in comics form of how comics “work” was fascinating. I had never thought of the mechanics of how comics artists get their story, action, and representation of time across to the readers.  I think writing this book in comics form was a great and entertaining way to literally illustrate the many points he makes about the different conventions and techniques that comics artists use, and how the reader understands and perceives the story, action, and the passage of time.  If one was talented in this area, which sadly, I am not, wouldn’t this be a fun course to take?

I also loved McCloud’s speech on TED and his pictures and other graphical representations of what he was saying. Very interesting, entertaining, and fast-paced. He would be great to hear and see in person.

Deschooling? Scary

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I really enjoyed today’s discussion of “Learning Webs” in Deschooling Society. My fellow participants had some great comments and insights. While the author made some good points, it is scary to think of changing the educational system in such radical, major ways all at once. I would be afraid the students, and indeed, everyone, would not be motivated or knowledgeable enough to be in charge of their own learning. Sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know. The educational system and the society the author described sounds too different to actually conceptualize it. I can’t see it happening the way the author described it.

Turkle, Video Games, and Flow

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I’ve played a video game twice, I think. The first was Pac Man, which I remember as being kind of fun, although I felt that I was not very good at the game. The second, I think, was Grand Theft Auto. I remember trying and failing miserably, to keep my car from crashing into things. I felt very out of control. My kids laughed and explained you were supposed to crash into things, not try to avoid it.  I didn’t enjoy that game at all.

So, I’ve never experienced the “altered state” while playing a video game that Turkle described. However, I can understand what she described as “muscle memory” or “flow” as being similar to sports when the mental and physical come together, and the body knows what to do without one being aware of the mind telling it what to do. I had a good friend who was an excellent golfer and he explained that feeling while playing golf. I used to play the piano and remember that feeling of “flow” — like my hands and fingers were moving on their own without my thinking about it.  

I can understand those who play video games and experience this feeling and use the game to kind of “self medicate” in order to unwind, de-stress, or feel in control of something. With me, it just won’t be video games I use to do this. I’d rather be reading a good book! To each his own!

Laurel-Computer as Agent

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One of Laurel’s points that I related to was her question “Can computers think?” Of course not, but the author describes the Aristotelian point of view that an agent, is “one who takes action” , and the more accepted legal definition of “one who is empowered to act on behalf of another”. We accept that our computers are our agents, performing actions at our request. However, it is easy to forget that momentarily and to attribute the action to the computer. I find myself doing this all the time. In fact, I did it during the day’s discussion of this reading. I was complaining about my ipad “doing this” and “not letting me do that” when I was confronted by a fellow seminar participant (Thanks, Stephen), and was brought up short and realized, “Oops, yes, I’m doing just what is described in the article” .  What an illustration of the author’s point!

Condominiums in Data Space?

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This reading made me think about things in a different way. Bill Viola actually makes a lot of sense. I was intrigued by thinking about life as an “unbroken thread” and that we “have been living this same moment ever since we were conceived”, that it is only memory, and sleep that make us feel that our lives are made up of discrete parts or sections instead of one connected, unbroken whole. He uses nature to demonstrate how everything is connected. He gives the example of creating a jigsaw puzzle by first starting with the whole, and then dividing it up into little pieces. The puzzle worker feels that they are creating something when putting the puzzle together, when in reality the whole already exists and  is “out there” somewhere.

Getting back to how this relates to new media, Viola describes the 1980’s era phenomena of the computer merging with video. He describes what sounds like todays video/computer simulated games, “the ultimate recording technology” of “total spatial storage, with the viewer wandering through some three-dimensional”…”prerecorded or simulated scenes”, with “possible pathways, or branches”…which the user chooses and which “must already exist at some place on the disc”… but which “may never be encountered”. It exists in “data space” somewhere.

Viola describes the shift from constructing something piece by piece in a temporal sense, to the process of carving out many possible programs in data space dependent on the user and his choices.

Viola writes: “despite the anti-technology attitudes”…”the present generation of artists, filmmakers, and video-makers”…”who continue to ignore computer and video technology, will”…”find that they have bypassed the primary medium, not only of their own fields, but of the entire culture as well”. This could almost be true today as some of us continue to resist technology instead of seeing its possibilities.

Marshall McLuhan

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I enjoyed the clips shown in our group this week: Woody Allen and Marshall McLuhan in Annie Hall and the Mad Men clip spouting  “the medium is the message.” I did not realize Marshall McLuhan and his writings were such a large part of the cultural/social landscape back in the day. 

As I told my group, when I read the first part of  “The Galaxy Reconfigured”  excerpt, I really thought McLuhan must have been on drugs when it wrote this.   More probably, it was over my head. The latter part of the excerpt, however, made more sense to me. He put the history in perspective when he pointed out, “that every generation poised on the edge of massive change should later seem oblivious of the issues and the imminent event would seem to be natural enough.” … “It is felt at those times, that the future will be a larger or greatly improved version of the immediate past.”

The second excerpt, “The Medium Is the Message” was interesting. While we must, of course, pay attention to the content of messages, McLuhan was correct, in a sense, that “the medium is the message”. He said “the ‘message’ of any medium or technology is the change of scale or pace or pattern that it introduces into human affairs”. The adage McLuhan pointed out “if it works, it’s obsolete” rings doubly true today than it did then.

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I loved Kay’s and Goldberg’s vision that everyone should have their own personal computer (their Dynabook) and that they should be simple and used efficiently even by children. It was interesting to see their mock-up of the Dynabook, which looks like the modern day notebook or netbook computer, except it looks like the screen lies flat and slides to cover the keyboard.

While thinking about their idea that the Dynabook should contain some general, commonly used tools so that people don’t have to recreate the wheel but that beyond that, people should be able to design the tools they need (and it should be so simple that they could do this), I am reminded that today, there are SO MANY tools out there already, that if you need it, most likely, “there’s an App for that”.

Thank goodness for their work in this area  of personal computers and their belief that this was better than more powerful timesharing of computers. Yuck!

Post source: Gail'sNew MediaBlog

This was an interesting article, and it was nice to read something not so technical as our recent readings. According to our reading’s introduction to Ted Nelson’s Computer Lib/Dream Machines, Nelson, like Thomas Paine’s with his Common Sense,  spurred the public to rally around the cause of demanding that computers be designed to do what we need them to do, and not accepting the excuse that they don’t work that way. He proposed, (yeaah!) that designing computers should be a creative process designed with the user in mind, and that the end result should be simplicity of use.

It was interesting to read his words and see much of what he said come true. For example, he says, “computers will be embraced in every presentational medium and thoughtful medium very soon” , “not only will computers be much cheaper, but their usability will improve”, and “when the real media of the future arrive, the smallest child will know it right away… That…will be the criterion. When you can’t tear a teeny kid away from the computer screen, we’ll have gotten there”.

Also intriguing are Nelson’s ideas about education – that we have squeezed all the natural curiosity out of students by boxing them into structured subjects that can only be looked at in prescribed sequences. Nelson proposes starting with the big picture and allowing the student to pick and choose which path to take in satisfying his or her natural curiosity to learn about life. Nelson does acknowledge this would be challenging to teachers.  Hmmm. Discussion of this should be interesting this week.

Post source: Gail'sNew MediaBlog

I’ve been sick this week so I’m a little behind, and the dog ate my homework! know everyone has moved on thankfully to the next reading. I had the advantage of being able to read everyone else’s posts before I read this week’s reading and so was forewarned.  That said, I agree with others that Engelbart’s technical writing is very dry and not aimed at the general audience (us). However, I kept reminding myself to imagine I was reading this in 1968 and to remember the Wow factor that was there at that time. I was still impressed with his use and vision of using the computers for  work and also with how he superimposed users’ faces on the terminal with their data so that one user was seeing the second user’s data and image! Now that’s pretty cool for 1968! Pretty cool for 2010!

Post source: Gail'sNew MediaBlog

I’m glad I had the opportunity to read this excerpt from Douglas Englebart’s Augmenting Human Intellect, in order to learn more about the legendary Mr. Englebart. He had lofty goals, an organized mind, and  a clear vision, or “framework”, as he called it. He apparently was way ahead of his time in envisioning the possiblities of technology to augment the humand mind with it’s ability to store, manipulate, and recall information.  

His example of  writing a sentence with a pencil, and then fastening a pencil to a brick and writing the same sentence that way, was illustrative of the  “de-augmentation” process, and thus of the augmentation concept.