Category Archives: The Mundane

white christmas


Hooray. It’s about time.  This looks to be one of those long, slow storms that are good for short walks, keeping the fire going, single malt, and the interwebs. A good distraction from Nine Lessons and Carols and rebroadcasts of Just A Minute.

Ten to 15 inches will snow us in solid, until our guy with the snow plow shows up on Boxing Day or later. In some scenarios, this kind of storm leads to Redrum and hide-and-go-seek with hatchets, but not here.  No tedium here. We can catch up on One Man and His Dog or Top Gear. The hours will just fly by.

back to the netbook

At the Hockney Opening c 1982 by mcmorgan08I’m not sure if I have posted here via Windows 7 from the netbook, but here goes.

This is coming in through Windows Live Writer – a blogging client of no real innovation or interest – while I figure out how to embed images from flickr in a post.  Live Writer is set up to integrate MS Live, but not so neighborly with other spaces.

Sure, I can drag and drop from flickr, or anywhere, but handling the image is limited. 

Windows and MS always come in just behind expectations.

I’ve been pirated

EN 3160 .jpgA  for-profit site,, has grabbed a couple of handout exercises I used in a web writing course four or five years ago, and is trying to sell them to students. Right now, the page is here: EN 3160 Bemidji State – Notes, Exams, Homework Answers, Textbook. I don’t know how long it will last. The administration has discovered the site and will be taking action.

It looks like one of their spiders simply scarfed stuff up willy-nilly. The EN 3160 course at BSU is long defunct; and on the site, my handouts are mixed in with PPs and a set of what looks like final papers submitted for a history course. Elsewhere on the site, I found old drafts of reports from campus offices – a real hodge-podge of stuff, pretty much worthless to anyone. It looks like someone’s been raiding the wastebaskets.

The materials from other universities look much better: syllabi, essay assignments, student papers from NYU, BYU, Ohio State, and BGSU, although there’s no telling how current these are. I’m almost embarrassed by the thinness of the booty the pirates found at BSU.

We’re going to get warnings from the administration about locking our course materials behind firewalls. But I see this wastebasket raid demonstrating the advantage of keeping an open net. The materials students need for my classes are already on the course site – offered under Creative Commons Share-Alike with no charge. And that make the materials pretty much worthless to for-profit pirate sites. So ends up scavenging to make a living.

Course Hero also has an interesting method of handling copyright infringement. If they have your stuff, you have to prove it’s yours.

Looks like an interesting week is starting.

mid-summer hammock & CopySend

image1071092027.jpgLately I’ve taken to working in a hammock – when the weather is right. We’ve passed mid-summer, so I’m counting down, rather than up, to startup and classes. A hammock on afternoons is my way of counting.

I’ve also taken to drafting notes on an iPhone – in the hammock – then sending them to a MacBook via CopySend. Just an experiment. Just to see how it works. And it works just fine.

iPhone Apps for New Media, part 1

3568463428_8d0c739875.jpgTake Lev Manovich’s The Language of New Media, in one hand, your iPhone in another, and try these exercises in transcoding.

Bloom. Creates paradigmatic montage, with an applied algorithm creating syntagmatic variations. Takes input to initiate the montage, but also sets up syntagmatic expectations in response. The music is looped, with variations creating a syntagmatic sequencing. But the loops are placed paradigmatically in layers.

Koi Pond: Montage, paradigmatic, to create a syntagmatic scene for narrative, if not a narrative itself. Composites image, motion, sound, and reaction: ripples can be created by touch, and come audio; fish will feed if given food or touch a finger held to the surface. Lilypads can be moved on the surface. Motion and sound will continue without interaction. The app doesn\’t engage narrative, but it encourages experiment with setting for narratives.

Shopper and other grocery list apps: Menu selection from a larger to create a subset, which is then accessed and modified in situ. Might be location based, in which case the app selects the subset. Might be mapped to the store, in which case the app draws on prior use and movement through the store to re-create the narrative movement. Items in these lists do not need to be real objects. The Shopper database can store elements the user sees fit to enter, using paradigmatic alternatives to Groceries. A user can create a fully motivated (if linear) narrative of shopping: Turning into the Tunnel of Love, you purchase a vinyl copy of McGough’s Summer with Monika. Crossing Shaftsbury Avenue, you buy a pickup for your steel guitar.

StarMap and others. A database of stellar objects, presented by selectable criteria: place; time of day, day, and year; direction. Data on each object is accessed in typical ways of touching, zooming in. Access points are mapped to cosmological traditions (constellations) and measures of astronomy (celestial equator, horizon).

Enigmo, Crayon Physics. The object in these is to create a device that achieves a simple goal (get the fluid in the container, the ball to the other side of the screen) by selecting and placing surrogate objects on the screen. The objects interact with the agent (water, ball) and with each other in a simulation of physical properties. In Tetris, we don’t ask how we’re able to rotate the pieces as they fall: physical limits are set aside. In these games the object is to make explicit how agents on the screen can be acted upon. Can create a sense of picaresque narrative – a narrative of trial and error – in that the machine may have to be constructed and torn down more than once to complete the puzzle.

CameraBag. Selection of filters from a time-centered menu. Most of the filters are constructed to degrade the digital image towards material-based techniques: make it look like it was taken with a Holga, a Polaroid. In other cases, the filter vignettes and adjusts the image towards a cinematic frame. This is material nostalgia: nostalgia for lost tools. Even the title – CameraBag – replaces the idea of selection from a menu with a selection of cameras.

More to come. What’s on your iPhone?

three educational uses for Brightkite: some notes

If you have to look for uses for an app, is it really useful? Or are you just making it up? We have to make it up at first to see the possibilities.

Back when the web was just getting going, early users had a sense of what it could be used for, a sense of the potential, even while the actual use at the time struck others as trivial.

You can link to anything. Anything. Like text to an image.

So? What’s the point of that?

You can connect chunk of text to other chunks. Read along paths.

And so?

So go read Vannevar Bush.


Brightkite allows users to send a notification of where the user is geographically and post a note that can be read by friends, or by people nearby, or by anyone on a public feed. With a mobile camera phone, the user can send an image along with the note.

So, outside of locating people or being located, what’s the point of that? What’s the educational point of that?

Brightkite casts its primary affordance as placestreaming:

Placestreaming, as in the stream of content originating from a specific place. We think this really captures what Brightkite is all about. We enable location based conversations. And location based conversations, in aggregate, are placestreams.

While there’s something of the buzzword in placestreaming (along with Eventstreaming and Lifestreaming), its a useful concept to start with.

A list of three

– As on twitter, Brightkite users can follow each other, seeing where others are physically, as well as what each other is doing. That can build community between users. That’s can not will. The quality of the posting is going to be a variable. But there’s something of the game of tag or geocaching in checking in on Brightkite and monitoring who’s nearby.

– The site runs a web app called The Wall. The Wall can be set up to see who’s in a vicinity, and lets non-Brightkite users post using their mobiles. See How the Mattress Factory Art Museum uses the Brightkite Wall. At the Mattress Factory, the Wall itself becomes a performance as people come and go – a little like Flickervision and Twittervision. But run The Wall in a classroom, or as a teacher, or as a member of a Brightkite-linked group. Members can see what others are doing, whenever they choose to check in. So, a professor can send students into the field, monitor The Wall, and gain periodical updates on what’s happening. All the students can see what others in the group are doing. If they are nearby, they can meet up. If they need help, they can ask anyone in the group. As they work, they can post results as notes or images.

– Landscape marking. I’m interested in how we can virtually annotate or tag the physical world, layering virtual observations. On the marketing / daily grind side, it can work like this:

So, I can be visiting a place like St. Petersburg, Florida, and I can check in. I might take a snap of the hotel where I’m staying, and I might add a note like “the coffee here is horrible, but there’s a Dunkin Donuts a few blocks west.”

Someone else in the area who is using the same application might now see this update and realize two things (depending on my privacy settings): 1.) I’m nearby. 2.) That the coffee at the hotel stinks. In both cases, this information is only available through the use of this software.

On the extensive side, Brightkite is an input for place tagging, but (as far as I can tell) the tags aren’t persistent to the geo-location of the place. If you’re not listening in when a place note is posted, you’ll miss it. What’s needed is a way of posting checkins, notes, and images to a more permanent, centralized space on a wiki or blog, or something delicious-like. (The iPhone app graffiti does this, but it’s a mess). This mashup might already exist. I’ll have look for it.

Other links along the way

Why I Use Brightkite,
5 Uses For Brightkite, andrew hyde
The BrightKite That I Hope To See…, SheGeeks
Using Social Media to Get Out of Your House, SheGeeks

Next or soon: the misery of using Brightkite. Checking in takes effort.

humanities doctorates and part-time pros

Thomas H Benton takes a pretty cynical look at humanities doctorates, strategizing the university hiring strategy in the coming current recession:

Just to be clear: There is work for humanities doctorates (though perhaps not as many as are currently being produced), but there are fewer and fewer real jobs because of conscious policy decisions by colleges and universities. As a result, the handful of real jobs that remain are being pursued by thousands of qualified people — so many that the minority of candidates who get tenure-track positions might as well be considered the winners of a lottery.

Universities (even those with enormous endowments) have historically taken advantage of recessions to bring austerity to teaching. There will be hiring freezes and early retirements. Rather than replacements, more adjuncts will be hired, and more graduate students will be recruited, eventually flooding the market with even more fully qualified teacher-scholars who will work for almost nothing. When the recession ends, the hiring freezes will become permanent, since departments will have demonstrated that they can function with fewer tenured faculty members.

Nearly every humanities field was already desperately competitive, with hundreds of applications from qualified candidates for every tenure-track position. Now the situation is becoming even worse. For example, the American Historical Association’s job listings are down 15 percent and the Modern Languae’s listings are down 21 percent, the steepest annual decline ever recorded. Apparently, many already-launched candidate searches are being called off; some responsible observers expect that hiring may be down 40 percent this year.

[From Print: Graduate School in the Humanities: Just Don’t Go –]

But even more to the point for current grad students is this:

What almost no prospective graduate students can understand is the extent to which doctoral education in the humanities socializes idealistic, naïve, and psychologically vulnerable people into a profession with a very clear set of values. It teaches them that life outside of academe means failure, which explains the large numbers of graduates who labor for decades as adjuncts, just so they can stay on the periphery of academe. (That’s another topic I’ve written about before; see “Is Graduate School a Cult?” (The Chronicle, July 2, 2004.)

That’s unnecessarily condescending – the scolding is better placed on the grad schools that socialize rather than the grad student – but it’s a peek at how the humanities operates.

Add to the mix this observation: More and more professionals want a stint at university teaching. For those outside the university, teaching inside the university is a sign of professional and ideological success, as well as a chance to bring their version of Real Life to the classroom – to use the classroom as a bully pulpit. What makes the part-time pros attractive to administration is their flexibility: as part-timers, they can be hired or let go as enrollment waxes and wanes, and as programs become popular and lose popularity.

The humanities doctorate is competing with this group, too.

get a move on

wikitext.jpgI need to get a move on things for spring. I’m using a new text in ENGL 2101, which also needs a new wiki. And I’m adding a new text to E-Rhetoric and Weblogs, and both need a revamp to their statements and syllabi.

And I have to read Wiki Writing.

And a draft thesis.

And my main site needs an update.

But am I doing any of this? No. I’m playing with Brightkite and iPhone apps and the cats.

Maybe tomorrow.

why the britons never bothered to invade n america

The storm came and went. We ended up with 12″ – 14″ over 14 hours. The wind picked up and the temperature started to drop around 2 am, to hit a low of -17F about dawn.

All pretty typical, although we usually don’t get the cold until after the first of the year.

We were snowed in: the snow had packed hard in the drive so we couldn’t get the Rav through, and we didn’t have the energy to even try to dig out. Best to wait for Donovan, our guy who plows, to come by, which he did about 11:00 am.

So, I worked a little, read a little, listened to tunes a little. The cats relaxed. We relaxed.

No one was on the road. Even the snowmobilers were quiet: too cold even for them.

It’s evening now. Viv is making a Christmas cake. I’m making a chicken tagine. We’re onto the wine. Top Gear is on BBC America at 7:00. The prediction for tonight is for -29F, so we brought wood in to keep a fire going all night: load the firebox every 3 hours. Saves on propane. Makes us feel cozy, homey.

Tomorrow we’ll get back to normal.

plowing out  Cat and feeder  IMG_0849 Sun dog