I am just a broken machine, / And I do things that I don't really mean
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Motivation and social networks
The following is an assignment for my class in Interaction and Interface Design at the University of Baltimore. The basic parameters were to find and summarize two articles from the ACM Digital Library on the topic of MobileHCI as an initial step in a larger research project connected to group projects we are working on. My group is working on a mobile application that would incorporate an element of sharing personal progress through a users' social network. As I have taken on the User Research Lead role in my group, I was particularly looking for articles that dealt with this social component. it's clear that the growth of mobile computing and online social networks have gone hand in hand, and a prominent activity in this domain is the sharing of personal progress of all sorts, from the infamous "what I had for lunch" tweet to games that broadcast players' achievements to publicly tracking one's progress toward personal fitness goals. I am especially interested in the motivations behind this behavior. While the particular search for this exercise may not have been optimal for finding research on this topic, I did turn up a couple of interesting papers touching on it. Here, then, are the summaries:...
I've been doing some re-connecting with people I'd lost touch with over the years, and my first step has generally been to point them toward April's Just the Facts post so I wouldn't have to go through all that exposition each time. But those facts are getting a bit outdated, so I figured it's time advance the exposition a bit....
Tagging the future
I am going to Toronto next week for the Hypertext 2010 conference. I attended my first Hypertext conference in 1996, and from 1999-2002, I went every year. A number of factors (work, family, distance, timing, and my own inability to do any sustained critical writing) have prevented me from getting to the last several, but this conference still holds a special place in my heart. I've been to a variety of academic conferences, small and large, and I generally manage to enjoy myself at them (even that infamous midwinter fear festival, the MLA), but the Hypertext conferences have been, hands down, my favorite. The size is manageable, the quality of the work presented is high, the organization typically first-rate (HT01 in Aarhus, Denmark holds the distinction as the single most beautiful conference I've attended), but most importantly, I have always felt strangely at home amid the odd mix of computer scientists and humanists the conference attracts. So I am approaching this conference with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. Having been away from it for so long, I wonder if the atmosphere will be the same, and whether I will still feel the same connection to the field as I used to. I am hoping the answer is yes, and if not, there's always the NXNE Music Festival going on in Toronto at the same time....
"She moved so easily, all I could think of was sunlight"
At the risk of looking like I am bragging (when, really, I am just trying to bask in some reflected glory), I have to announce that Sylvia's been awarded a Fulbright fellowship for the coming year. This was part of the plan for the Great Adventure all along, but the Fulbright people took their sweet time in making their decision, so we had to decide whether we were going to go through with it regardless of the result or not. Obviously, we chose the former, and we were prepared to make it work that way. But the award makes it all easier, not to mention more glamorous. Mostly, I am happy for Sylvia because it provides the culmination of tremendous effort and initiative on her part. In the 15 years I've known her, I've never seen her fail to accomplish something once she put her mind to it. I am proud to know her, and if the fact that this intelligent, dedicated, and consummately professional woman allows me to associate with her casts me in a somewhat better light, well, I'll ride those coat-tails as far as they'll take me.
I am in California (Anaheim or to be really precise, Garden Grove) for the Association for Educational Communication and Technology conference. There's an odd disjunction (mentioned by Stephen Downes in his opening keynote Wednesday night) between the sedate academic atmosphere of the conference and the natural disaster taking place all around us. While Anaheim proper has not been hit by the wildfires, you can smell and often see the smoke from them when you are outside. The view flying into John Wayne Airport was even more striking. It's strange to have that kind of destruction hovering just at the edge of your consciousness while sitting in a presentation on, for example, knowledge life-cycles....
My blogging colleagues
I recently discovered that two more of my Morehead colleagues are blogging:...
The myth of mastery
Mark Bernstein argues today that "artists need to master everything," specifically that they need to master programming and other technologies. The issue seems to have struck a nerve:
The hope that we can be excused from mastering programming is the child’s plea to the teacher, "Will this be on the exam?" It's the hope that we may be permitted to fail, and that our failure will be overlooked because we're so cute and wonderful. We don't need to master programming (or hardware, or graphic design, or information architecture): we're just artists and either someone will buy us an expert to do the work or they'll simply ignore any shortcomings because we are so intrinsically wonderful.
Our esteemed flagship institution, the University of Kentucky, received funding from the state this past week to support their Top 20 Business Plan, which aims to put UK among the top 20 public research universities by 2020. While I am happy the legislature made higher education funding a priority, and I support the broader rationale for the plan (namely, the connection between quality education and the economic future of Kentucky), my personal assessment of UK's chances of fulfilling their ambitions is, well, zero....
Tribble gets pwned by Walker
Jill Walker has just been awarded a prize from Norway's Meltzer Foundation for her blogging as a form of research dissemination. Besides being a well deserved honor for her, the award is a perfect smack-down for the Ivan Tribbles of the world, who would no doubt look past the scholarly content of Jill's blog and complain about her lack of 'commitment' to her field. After all, someone who spends so much time playing World of Warcraft and taking photographs can't be a serious academics, can she? ...
Memes against theocracy
Look out folks! Darwin Day is fast approaching (Feb. 12). If you still haven't gotten into the festive spirit, go make yourself some Charles Darwin has a Posse stickers (brainchild of Swarthmore biologist Colin Purrington). If you are lazy and/or have some disposable income, you can buy ready-to-wear stickers from FPDImages. While you're at it, buy some as presents for your state and local representatives, since some of our government officials still don't understand the difference between a "theory" and an "opinion" (or, apparently, the difference between "graduated" and "dropped out").
I am at the Kentucky Higher Education Computing Conference (KHECC) and I am taking my first stab at conference blogging. My notes are going up on the professional education/technology blog that I recently got up and running (I guess this also serves as my official announcement of said blog). So far, it's an interesting experience. I don't take notes the same way as I do when it's just for myself: I'm making more of an effort to listen and then digest information for posting (when I'm just writing my own notes it tends to be constant and stream-of-consciousness). I certainly feel like there's more of a purpose to my note-taking than usual. OK, back to the conference...
Relevance of the humanities
Re-reading my Ivan Tribble rant, I realize that I may be construed as stating that the humanities have no relevance or practical application. In fact, I believe quite the opposite. The methods of inquiry and habits of thought that are at the heart of the humanities are relevant and, in fact, desperately needed today. Rhetoric, narrative, ethics, logic, critical analysis, historical perspective, aesthetic judgment, working with sources, synthesizing information — all of these humanistic faculties are regularly called upon in people's daily lives. ...
Return of the Tribble
The Chronicle of Higher Ed's pseudonymous gadfly, "Ivan Tribble," returned earlier this month with a follow-up on his controversial "Blogger's Need Not Apply" column earlier this summer. I am late to this party, and others have done a good job of defending the honor of academic blogging from Tribble's largely specious arguments (see the ivantribble thread on del.icio.us). A few notable responses:...
I was very pleasantly surprised to receive my copy of The Ezra Pound Encyclopedia (Tryphonopoulos and Adams, eds. [Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2005]) today. Pleasantly because I contributed a few entries (on Pound's critical reception 1908-1920 & 1945-1980, on the essay collection Pavannes and Divagations , and on an obscure prose sketch by Eliot called "Eeldrop and Appleplex" ) to the volume and this copy is my reward for those efforts; surprised because this project has been in the works for a long time (I was first invited to contribute in the fall of 1999 and submitted my draft articles in 2001), and I was beginning to wonder if it would ever be published....
Last week, I gave a workshop for faculty on blogging. I stuck mostly to the basics: giving some definitions (many thanks to Jill for helping me re-find hers), deciphering some of the jargon, showing a few examples, and finally (briefly) touching on the educational applications of blogging. ...
The Educational iPod?
Since the announcement last year that Duke University would give all incoming students an iPod, I've been watching with some bemusement as others have hopped on this bandwagon: the Drexel University School of Education recently announced that they would launch their own iPod initiative; Apple has set up an iPods in Education site; a some quick googling reveals a slew of other sites either advocating or musing on the educational impact of Apple's music player (see iPodEd and articles at MacUsingEducators and IN3 network). To my mind, this is an example of education's infamous faddishness at its worst....
An exchange about blogging a couple weeks ago on the Humanist listserv got under my skin, and is still sort of itching me. It's a pretty short exchange, so I'll reproduce it in its entirety. I'll leave out the names because I don't want to make this to be construed as a personal attack or a gripe with anyone in particular. Rather, I think this touches on a rather prevalent attitude towards bloggers and blogging. The exchange (edited to show the sequence of comments):...
What is work?
A significant part of my job is to answer faculty members' and other people's questions when they get stuck, or confused, or just plain intimidated by technology or computers. Rarely do those questions have anything to do with topics that I've made a conscious effort to inform myself about (such as blogging, syndication, MOO programming, CSS arcana, or hypertext theory). Much more often, I come up with answers that draw on some buried nugget of tech knowledge I gleaned doing something entirely different and seemingly unproductive. For example, I've become fairly proficient with Microsoft Excel, managing to put together a nifty workbook that tracked demographic information about participants in a large grant project. I credit all my Excel prowess to several years I spent trying to use it to get an edge on my opponents in a fantasy baseball league. Does that mean that all the time I berated myself for wasting as I assembled my giant spreadsheet of player statistics are suddenly "billable hours," so to speak? Does being able to answer my dean's question about putting a desktop link to the university's administrative server (which must be telneted to) in OSX justify the frightening number of hours I have spent logged on to alt.org's nethack server (for which I wanted a desktop icon of my own)?...
IA obit in Chronicle
The Chronicle is running an article on the closure of Invisble Adjunct (which I noted here). It's a good, sympathetic read. (Via Torill Mortensen).
File under: Academe .
The end of something
I'm sad to report that Invisible Adjunct is calling it quits. I only discovered IA in the last few months, but I have found it to be welcome resident of my aggregator. I was initially drawn, of course, to its pointed, yet rigorous critique of the academic labor system (an early post, "Thinking about graduate school in the humanities?", should be required reading for all PhD applicants), but IA offers much more than a gripe session for underemployed academics. What I have seen on IA has been smart, funny, thoughtful, intriguing... all the things one might hope for from intellectual discourse. I will certainly miss it, and it's obvious the community of readers who have centered around IA will miss it as well. Perhaps some other invisible adjunct will take up the mantle (and the blog) so that this perspective can continue.
Jeff Angus's Management by Baseball column a few days back discusses the prevalence of "hazing" rituals in both baseball and business: "A frequent bad management trick is to unconsciously or intentionally make someone go though some hazard course that the manager had to go through when he was just a player. " Substitute the word "student" for "player" and you have a terse description of American academia, especially the system of graduate and professional education. On my various stops in the academy, I have seen both the intentional ("They came to believe that the hazing they received was an important part of their training [after all, why would they have chosen to endure it rather than leaving -- a subtle logic trap]. So they abused the agent trainees the way they had been abused.") and unintentional ("managers tend to just imitate managers they've had themselves [who, in turn, probably developed their managerial behavior portfolio the same way].") flavors of hazing. As Angus points out, such practices, besides making people needlessly miserable, tend to entrench bad practices and squander potential. It repeatedly surprises me that intelligent people, trained in critical analysis, can be so glaringly uncritical when it comes to their own institutional practices. ...
Grad school "camp"
Just discovered (via Invisble Adjunct), Jane Bast's ongoing Chronicle column on applying to grad school. In the current installment, Bast has a "realization" about the real purpose of grad school.
My eureka came when I realized that graduate school is not a summer camp for intellectuals; it's more like boot camp for future academics. The purpose of graduate school is to train students for a profession. It's like an apprenticeship of sorts, except for at the end of it, you're not necessarily going to find a job.
Andrew Stern at grandtextauto is bothered by the term "digital storytelling":...
Couldn't wait till after the holiday to post this: Jill Walker survived her thesis defense and is now a doctor! Rock on, Jill!
File under: Academe .
Now appearing in print
Today I finally got my courtesy copy of DRH 2001 and 2002: Selected papers from the Digital Resources for the Humanities Conferences at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London in September 2001 and at Edinburgh University Library in September 2002 (whew!), on pages 57-70 of which one can read yours truly's paper on The Gromboolia Project. At the time I delivered the paper (2002), I still had high hopes that it would become my dissertation. Alas, it was not meant to be. The diss died, but Gromboolia lived on: it can be found on LinguaMOO (or login and
There's a post from Dorothea Salo on Misbehaving.net about being an "accidental techie," i.e., winding up in a technical field without a background in computer science or any of the other qualifications. Salo speculates whether gender is a factor:...
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