I was meaning to blog this when it happened a couple weeks ago. I was unduly pleased to receive a celebrity Twitter “favorite” to a smart-ass retweet:
One of things I love about this exchange is that Micheal McDonald’s Twitter bio clearly indicates he is aware of the wonderful no-budget web series Yacht Rock, and he seems willing to roll with the occasional joke. (BTW, if you have not seen Yacht Rock, do check out episodes 1-5, 8 and 11… The other ones are for fanatics only.)
And if you are still wondering what Yacht Rock even is, here’s a definition from smooth music DJs Captain Jack and Summer Breeze, from their much loved DS106 Radio show “Daiquiris on the Dock” (currently on hiatus):
I noted the apparent efforts by unknown actors to alter the history of MOOCs on Wikipedia in my previous post. Partially in response, Darren asks “Am I safe in assuming $ has something to do with so many anxious to rewrite history?”
I’m pleased to see that Audrey Watters is indeed looking into this process:
To respond to Darren’s question, I suppose it is possible that this effort is motivated by simple (or unfathomably complex) ego, but I think money is a far more likely explanation.
For the past year, Arturo Silva, a full-time employee at BP’s Corporate Communications department in Houston, Texas, has evidently been writing draft articles about BP and asking Wikipedia editors to upload his content to BP’s official Wikipedia page.
Silva, whose Wikipedia moniker is “Arturo at BP,” is the head of BP’s Wikipedia engagement team, which interacts with Wikipedia editors to improve BP’s Wikipedia page, according to a statement provided to The Huffington Post by Scott Dean, a BP spokesman.
Attempts by various actors to influence Wikipedia articles are nothing new. To me, the most fascinating phrase here is “he appears to have stayed within Wikipedia’s guidelines”, a fact repeatedly argued in the Wales User talk page referenced above. Indeed, Arturo at BP insists “my affiliation with BP is abundantly clear to all parties I may interact with on Wikipedia.” His efforts have proven to be uniquely successful.
I can’t mount an argument one way or the other right now, but I’ve wondered for some time about ways that openness may in fact leave systems uniquely vulnerable to dedicated manipulation. As Stephen Downes notes, rewriting history favours “those with time and money to do so.” Just to say it again: British Petroleum has a “Wikipedia engagement team”. A team.
It’s not as if “closed” systems are particularly resistant to the influence of money and power. But resting assured that “openness is the best disinfectant” is likely to fail us as well.
Stephen Downes’s recently wrote a post on the great rebranding of MOOCs, arguing “MOOCs were not designed to serve the missions of the elite colleges and universities. They were designed to undermine them, and make those missions obsolete.” It clearly struck a nerve with a lot of people I know, generating a remarkable amount of commentary from the likes of Jim Groom, David Kernohan, Martin Weller, Tony Hirst, David Wiley, D’Arcy Norman, Pat Lockley, Richard Hall, and undoubtedly others… The back-and-forth in the comments on Jim’s, David K’s, and D’Arcy’s blog posts are passionate, even angry, illustrating just how deeply these questions can cut.
My own contribution to this discourse will be somewhat trivial and self-centred in comparison to the discussion above, and I feel just a tiny bit guilty for that. I’m prompted by this post by Darren Draper:
To be clear, Stephen’s assertion of a great MOOC re-branding smacks of Edupunk (2008-2011, RIP). In spite of the first-sentence claim in the Edupunk Bible that this favorite movement died in 2011, Edupunk’s rebellious redolence and distaste for all things formal can still be felt throughout online conversations today. Yes, the Edupunk spirit lives on; promulgated by Stephen and obviously flourishing among those who enjoy life in the “Schools Are Broken” fringes of society. To me, there is very little difference between the “We can do things on our own, who needs institutions?!?” attitude of an Edupunk, and the “We can do things on our own, who needs everyone else?!?” attitude of most private schools. Both attitudes are elitist, and ultimately in both sibling camps, some people win while other people lose. Perhaps in the end, it really is a dog-eat-dog world, as the fight for an educated populace continues to be trounced from nearly every possible angle.
I think Darren’s post is astute and worthy for all sorts of reasons, but must protest the characterization of edupunk as “who needs institutions”? There may be people who identify as “edupunk” who feel that way, but that was not the initial intent. I can say a little about how edupunk was originally conceived, because (and I know I literally sound like the aging hipster who has lost his edge when I say this) because I was there. In fact, this may be the exact moment that edupunk was born:
Fine NYC host that he is, Jim had taken us to Freddy’s, and man, am I grateful that he did, because that bar was something special. But the location set a tone deeper than the ambiance, as Freddy’s was living out its last days, under a death sentence of gentrification. Maybe that set us off on a somewhat darker course, and when discussion turned to the day’s announcement that Blackboard had “gone social” by introducing some things they called “blogs”, “wikis” and “mashups” into their suite of reasonably priced learning management solutions, we couldn’t help but see the co-opting as a form of creative destruction similar to what was killing Freddy’s. As I recall, we worked ourselves into quite a lather of righteous doom-mongering fury. It was great fun.
We talked about how best to respond to what we saw as an attack on our beloved forms of DIY online media and our thoughts turned to an older DIY form, zine culture. We talked about an online resource that would detail how to run an ed tech operation without spending money on software, or exerting coercive force on its users. We would author it anonymously, so we could be brutally honest and so questions of authority could be undermined. In my mind I envisioned an applied comic manual something like Hackety Hack by the mysterious Why The Lucky Stiff, but with the aesthetics and pissed-off attitude of a punk zine. We had a blast talking about what we decided would be called edupunk that night, and I flew back to Vancouver excitedly thinking of ways we would build our secret project.
When I arrived home, I learned that Jim had decided to go public with his own, rather wonderful idea of EDUPUNK: “Corporations are selling us back our ideas, innovations, and visions for an exorbitant price. I want them all back, and I want them now!” A couple years later, we co-authored “Never Mind the Edupunks”, a piece that could hardly be described as suggesting “who needs institutions?”, even if it demanded more of them:
…although edupunk was first expressed in reaction against the blinkered and elitist academy (and the proprietary interests that all too often feast on institutional fear, uncertainty, and doubt), it ultimately depends on a common sense of purpose, cooperation, and action to shape a vision for the future. We dream of higher education that embraces its role as a guardian of knowledge, that energetically creates and zealously protects publicly-minded spaces promoting enlightenment and the exchange of ideas. We need green spaces for conviviality on the web. Institutions of higher education—and the open ed techs who work in them—are in a unique position to create and preserve these spaces.
I don’t know whether Jim still endorses those sentiments, he seems to be rethinking them. Fair enough.
These things have unpredictable effects. Just a couple months before edupunk was pronounced dead, I had the immense pleasure of attending ¿El Paréntesis de Gutenberg? and was blown away to learn that edupunk had resonated so powerfully with a group of students at the Universidad de Buenos Aires who were studying with professor Alejandro Piscitelli. Seeing how the idea pushed these brilliant young people to provoke and to push themselves was an unforgettable experience. It also resulted in some moments of genuine chaos during their “interventions” at the event.
In part because of my new interim role, I met earlier this week with Lucille Gnanasihamany, Thompson Rivers University’s new Associate-Vice President of Marketing and Communications. I expected we would talk about university branding, or media buy strategies, and those things did come up. But Lucille seemed most keen to talk about her recent trip to visit TRU’s Williams Lake Open Learning Centre, which “is housed in the Gathering Place and provides First Nations communities in the surrounding area with access to hundreds of Open Learning courses and programs.” She shared some of the challenges students have in accessing online courses in remote areas, and strongly suggested that maybe this is something a Director of Innovation should be interested in… I hope to be visiting Williams Lake with her soon. But if this is where our marketing leader is putting her energies, I worry how successful we will be at achieving our elitist institutional ends.
It took me a while to place the voice, but of course it’s John Cage.
I’m reminded of a day more than a decade ago, when I was working as a “course development researcher” for the doomed experimental university TechBC. Essentially, my job was to find existing online media to incorporate into course offerings. I had been tasked by a few professors to find materials related to John Cage, which was how I first came across WFMU. DJ Kenneth Goldsmith (AKA Kenny G) frequently played Cage and other forms of “unpopular music”… I quickly became a fan, and happened to be at my desk listening to the station’s live feed at work one day when he announced that he would be playing Cage’s Empty Words Part III, recorded during a riotous 1977 show in Milan:
…the sonorous event planned by John Cage morphed into an happening, to quote a term dear to Cage, animated by unexpected consequences.
At first the audience listened to the piece intriguingly, but soon enough it realized that the ‘concert’ it was attending was not anything near to what it could be imagined. Some spectators then began to scream, hoot and protest; some even climbed on the stage to disturb Cage’s performance, while he was quietly reading his text sitting at a desk illuminated by a small lamp.
In spite of the mess and the impolite behavior of a part of the audience – someone even took his glasses off temporarily – Cage continued his ‘concert’ until the very end when, quite unexpectedly considering how the show had commenced, the audience burst into a big applause. Everybody agreed that Cage ‘had won’ and that the audience had rightly paid homage to the composer.
Kenny G didn’t just play the recording, but opened up the phone lines so that WFMU listeners could join in and “abuse John Cage”. I have a vivid memory of listening live online (itself something of a novelty in 2001), laughing out loud, realizing I was actually doing my job, and feeling very fortunate in my employment. I’ve been chasing that feeling ever since.
A quick note to share my latest excuse for sporadic blogging. Due to a somewhat unexpected resignation, I’ve been asked to serve as the interim Director of Marketing and Communications for TRU Open Learning until a new Director can be found.
But actually, it didn’t take long for me to accept the opportunity. This is because…
sometimes I am just willfully perverse.
I’m sure I will learn a great deal about things I am wholly ignorant about right now.
the Marketing and Communication (MARCOM) team here is made up of clearly intelligent, charming and hip people. I feel like I need a fashion intervention, but other than that I like interacting with the team a great deal.
it’s not just a marketing and communication team, it’s the web team. This is the group that is responsible for the web here, and they possess a formidable array of skills. [Cue maniacal laughter as I ponder the possibilities.]
So I am hopeful that when this temporary stint ends in a few months I will look on the experience as worthwhile, and that others on the MARCOM team and the organization as a whole won’t feel too differently.
That said, this first week was an absolute blur. Budgets and expenditures that seem massive compared to anything I’ve managed before, a flood of new committees and responsibilities… and I still am expected to keep my existing “innovation” portfolio rolling. There were a couple evenings this week I came home and was pretty much a heaping drooling wreck. And there are a couple of key pieces to this gig with so many moving parts and potential pitfalls I really am not sure how best to proceed…
But for all my reflexive doom-mongering, I maintain an irrepressible, bordering on giddy sense of possibility here. The lines are fuzzy, but I can see an emerging picture of a truly unique and special place of learning coming together here in the British Columbia interior…
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m pouring a beverage and heading out to watch the ice melt, it’s about all I’m good for at the end of this week…
When I am beset by abjection, the twisted braid of affects and thoughts I call by such a name does not have, properly speaking, a definable object. The abject is not an ob-ject facing me, which I name or imagine. Nor is it an ob-jest, an otherness ceaselessly fleeing in a systematic quest of desire. What is abject is not my correlative, which, providing me with someone or something else as support, would allow me to be more or less detached and autonomous. The abject has only one quality of the object — that of being opposed to I. If the object, however, through its opposition, settles me within the fragile texture of a desire for meaning, which, as a matter of fact, makes me ceaselessly and infinitely homologous to it, what is abject, on the contrary, the jettisoned object, is radically excluded and draws me toward the place where meaning collapses. A certain “ego” that merged with its master, a superego, has flatly driven it away. It lies outside, beyond the set, and does not seem to agree to the latter’s rules of the game. And yet, from its place of banishment, the abject does not cease challenging its master. Without a sign (for him), it beseeches a discharge, a convulsion, a crying out. To each ego its object, to each superego its abject. — Julia Kristeva, Powers of Horror
As spring increasingly asserts its will in a back-and-forth battle with winter, the temperature swings are creating wild effects here at Paul Lake. A couple weeks back, a long stretch of very warm temperatures had melted an inch of water on top of the lake’s ice sheet. A quick plunge in temperatures, unusual in that it was not accompanied by snowfall, briefly made the surface perfect for ice skating — we could go from one side of the lake to the other.
More thaw earlier this week, then some freezing and a bit of snow had the lake looking like an unspoiled expanse of whiteness this morning, I took the dog out to wander in the bright sunshine and the reflected whiteout below our feet.
The sounds emanating from the lake as the temperatures rise and fall are haunting and unearthly. I can’t properly describe the moans coming from the depths beneath the ice and snow. Whale song… the echoes of far-away high-altitude jets… certain flavours of electronic music… On the coastline, where the ice has melted a bit along the rocks, the strongest groans are followed by bursts of water pulsating out from under the freeze, sometimes so violently the ice cracks and breaks apart… a dissonant drum beat tracking the synth riff.
The sounds are muffled by the ice and the snow, so my attempts to record them with my phone produced underwhelming results. Thankfully, others have taken this task on more seriously. This recording isn’t quite what we’ve been hearing, but captures a certain effect.
Apparently this phenomenon is known as dispersion:
Frozen lakes are known to give off most noise during major fluctuations in temperature: the ice expands or contracts, and the resulting tension in the ice causes cracks to appear. Due to the changes in temperature, the hours of morning and evening are usually the best times to hear these sounds. In my experience, thin ice is especially interesting for acoustic phenomena; it is more elastic and sounds are propagated better across the surface. Snowfall, on the other hand, has a muffling effect and the sound can only travel to a limited extent. The ice sheet acts as a huge membrane across which the cracking and popping sounds spread. Underwater microphones proved especially well-suited for these recordings: in a small hole drilled close beneath the surface of the water, the sounds emitted by the body of ice carry particularly well. The most striking thing about these recordings is the synthetic-sounding descending tones caused by the phenomenon of the dispersion of sound waves. The high frequencies of the popping and cracking noises are transmitted faster by the ice than the deeper frequencies, which reach the listener with a time lag as glissandi sinking to almost bottomless depths.
Some of the most unsettling sounds today are the deep and powerful cracks under my feet as I walk. A single step cracking a spine thirty feet long. If anything, the experience of walking on the lake is more powerful at night, deep dark silence under a canopy of stars. I doubt I will feel peaceful walking out onto the lake alone tonight.
Would perchance offer, as one galivants out the door like a behankerchiefed Georgian Cad, the suggestion that the open web is but an ether of both space and intoxication with which to sedate ourselves from the true hope, which may be, the democratic development of software
A suggestion that carries a little extra whiff of perfumery in the wake of Google Reader being shuttered, the category of “open like Android open” is worth thinking about. If I understand Pat correctly, he is also making a broader point that what qualifies as the “open web” may well not be building the commons. Something like the distinction between “cost-free” and “open”, and the dangers of mixing those things together.
Before I move on, I would be remiss if I didn’t offer a shout-out for the truly impressive set of WordPress plugins that Pat has developed and openly released, many of them directly focused on enhancing the capacity of highly usable open source software to support open education. If you haven’t checked them out, do so. The dude walks the talk.
The notion of ‘free but not open’ is one I have poked at before, perhaps most substantively in an article I co-wrote with Jim nearly three years ago. We argued that educators’ needs could never be a real consideration in the evolution of corporate Web 2.0. More troubling, we suggested was that the dependence on “free” Web 2.0 tools further entrenched the pre-eminence of advertising as the defining principle for a whole set of social interactions.
I don’t have a whole lot to add to that now, except that nothing has changed since then to allay those concerns.
Digging up long forgotten memories for a generation who spent their formative years glued to the boob tube, Memorex is a veritable nostalgia nuke for children of the 80s. Endless beach parties, Saturday morning cartoons, claymation everything, sleek cars, sexy babes, toys you forgot existed, station idents, primitive computer animation, all your favorite sugary cereal mascots, and so much more. An ode to the hyper consumerism and sleek veneer of a simpler time.
“A tribute to an entire generation who grew up with only a TV and a VCR for a babysitter”. Watching this video, I’m unnerved at how much of this cultural detritus is familiar. I suspect that many North Americans of… umm… a certain age will experience something similar if they watch it. People of my generation grew up immersed in this aesthetic.
The bargain craze of the early nineties shook the name brands to their core. Suddenly it seemed smarter to put resources into price reductions and other incentives than into fabulously expensive ad campaigns. This ambivalence began to be reflected in the amounts companies were willing to pay for so-called brand-enhancing advertising. Then, in 1991, it happened: overall advertising spending actually went down by 5.5 percent for the top 100 brands. It was the first interruption in the steady increase of U.S. ad expenditures since a tiny dip of 0.6 percent in 1970, and the largest drop in four decades.
…Around the same time as Marlboro Friday, the ad industry felt so under siege that market researcher Jack Myers published Adbashing: Surviving the Attacks on Advertising, a book-length call to arms against everyone from supermarket cashiers handing out coupons for canned peas to legislators contemplating a new tax on ads. “We, as an industry, must recognize that adbashing is a threat to capitalism, to a free press, to our basic forms of entertainment, and to the future of our children,” he wrote.
Despite these fighting words, most market watchers remained convinced that the heyday of the value-added brand had come and gone. The eighties had gone in for brands and hoity-toity designer labels, reasoned David Scotland, European director of Hiram Walker. The nineties would clearly be all about value. “A few years ago,” he observed, “it might have been considered smart to wear a shirt with a designer’s logo embroidered on the pocket; frankly, it now seems a bit naff.”
I realize I must sound like a baby boomer nostalgic for the glory days of Woodstock, but thinking about our acceptance of marketing and advertising infiltrating our daily lives today, the contrast in values with that era is striking. I wonder how much of our current complacency results from the Devil’s bargain we’ve made for access to “free” tools that Google, Facebook, et al… provide us. The techniques are more subtle than those on display in the Memorex video, but the implications run deeper. Certainly, it’s hard to argue against the notion that the most prominent instances of digital innovation these days are driven by marketing. And as the wheels come off of what was once quaintly described as “civil society”, these values are increasingly the models for reform of education.
A recent statement on the advertized life, one attributed to an artist who reminds me of the early 1990′s, Banksy:
With the exception of the web browser itself (and I have three different browsers open right now as I write this, as I often do), it’s hard for me to think of a digital tool more integral to my life than Google Reader. I probably do the majority of my online browsing inside Reader, I use it across platforms and devices, treat is as a “bounded search” of websites that I trust, and I’ve worked it deeply into my workflow via its many useful features and a number of IFTTT recipes. So the closure of Google Reader will be a major pain in the ass, and judging from the response of my peers I am not alone in that.
I’m inconvenienced, but I have a hard time working up much outrage. I see something almost pathetic in begging Google to take pity on us and keep the service open. It was a free service, and we never paid for it with anything except our privacy. Obviously, Google decided that intimate knowledge of our reading habits was not worth maintaining the service, and really, what right do we have to complain? To hell with them. There are options moving forward. And yeah, it’s a wake-up call.
But thinking about the bigger picture, a familiar melancholy is amplified. RSS has always been special to me, going back a decade now, it was the first text formatting language that I really loved. It built in dead-easy deeply accessible interoperability and hackability to rapid-fire grassroots web publishing. Back then, RSS support was a sign that an application was with it. And over the years I’ve come to see RSS as something of a benchmark protocol that gauges the health of the open web. So I place this as the latest episode in an increasingly sad story, a sequel to when Twitter discontinued RSS support.
Wow. Google is closing Google Reader. Truth is I don’t use RSS anymore but I know lots who do. What killed this? Flipboard and Facebook for me. Prismatic too. The trend line was there: we are moving our reading behavior onto the social web. Normal people didn’t take to subscribing to RSS feeds. Heck, it’s hard enough to get them to subscribe to tweet feeds.
But this is sad. Particularly shows the open web continues to be under attack. We have to come into the walled gardens of Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn to read and share. Here’s a problem: a few of my friends have deleted their Facebook accounts. Dave Winer and Ryan Block, to name two famous examples.
So they will never see my words here. The open web is going away and this is another example of how.
Shorter Scoble: Pity to see the open web go, but I’m hopeful that mindlessly hyping whatever Silicon Valley is onto today will keep those consultancies and paid speaking gigs coming for me…. Hey look! The KARDASHIANS ARE TRENDING!!!!
I feel really bad for not getting back to Boris Mann when he proposed an RSS Wake. It was one of those ideas so appealing I couldn’t think of the perfect response. It would be fun to get the band back together. In the meantime, the proprietary social web will probably continue to tighten its stranglehold on the hit parade, but screw that loser scene… I’m happier making a racket here in the garage.
"...the project on the idea of innovation looks at innovation as a category and its historical development since Antiquity. It identifies the concepts that have defined novelty through history and that have led to innovation as a central category of modern society." […]
"Whenever technology companies complain that our broken world must be fixed, our initial impulse should be to ask: how do we know our world is broken in exactly the same way that Silicon Valley claims it is? What if the engineers are wrong and frustration, inconsistency, forgetting, perhaps even partisanship, are the very features that allow us to morph […]
"He urges us to destroy a system that he has not made the slightest effort to understand. He sees math added at a particular time in educational history, makes some broad claims about why that might be, and associates the utility of math in the current curriculum with a series of decisions made by thousands of individual administrators nearly two centur […]
"all the joints of the chair are cast in wax with a piece of nichrome wire embedded in the wax. An Arduino with a small switch keeps track of how many times the chair has been used, while a solenoid taps out how many uses are left in the chair every time the user gets up. When the internal counter reaches zero, a relay sends power through the nichrome w […]
"We were so into the net around the time of Kid A," he says. "Really thought it might be an amazing way of connecting and communicating. And then very quickly we started having meetings where people started talking about what we did as 'content'. They would show us letters from big media companies offering us millions in some mobile […]
"Facebook is now recycling users Likes and using them to promote “Related Posts” in the news feeds of the user’s friends. And one more thing, the users themselves have possibly never seen the story, liked the story or even know that it is being promoted in their name." […]
"Comparatively few of the nation’s more than 4,000 degree-granting American colleges or universities …. have the personnel, instructional and technological infrastructure, reputation (brand), and available cash to invest in launching their own MOOCs" […]
Via Scott Leslie: "Returning to our opening example of Blackboard’s interaction design, we can see how verisimilitude to the classroom has been deliberately created to maximize the more efficient management academic labor in order to cut administrative costs and cater to the exploding market within higher education for distance learning. Developing a di […]