General Wikis

katrina help wiki

Spun off of Wikipedia, the Katrina Help Wiki is demonstrating some of the strengths of wikis over blogs and discussion boards: full openness (no registration needed), collective authorship (which seeks to keep the entries accurate and current), and persistence of content.

On a related note, Wikipedia, which already has an entry on Katrina, is becoming more and more journalistic. But before anyone bemoans the unholy fusion of news magazine and encyclopedia, keep in mind that the old paper World Book used to keep the set current by each year offering a volume covering the events of that year.


publishing protects

A Chronicle article reports on a student suing a term-paper site for selling one of her papers without her permission. It looks like someone submitted her paper to the site as their own as a way of getting access to other papers on the site. Apparently, a friend of the author’s told her the paper was on the site. The writer says she didn’t give it to the site, so lawyers looking into how it got there.

But here’s the interesting bit.

Patricia Albanese, chief information officer for Mount Holyoke, said that the case is a reminder that professors should not require students to post papers to the Internet, unless they do so using password-protected areas of a college’s Web site, as her office has long recommended.

“If it’s out on the open Web then it’s vulnerable to just what happened” to Ms. Macellari, she said. “We’ll use this as an example of one of the risks and liabilities of having a course published in the open Web that has content like this available.”

I understand the CIO’s concern, but I wonder if her argument really holds up. If a paper is out on the open Web, with the author’s name on it, and even a Creative Commons copyright, it’s less likely to be submitted to a closed area of the web and sold as someone else’s, and it’s probably less like to be plagiarized because it’s so easy to locate the original. If a paper is behind a closed door, the duplication is less likely to be detected – which is one of the selling points of the term paper sites. It looks like the closed-door policy of the term paper site was one of the reasons it took the author a while to discover that her paper had been hijacked.


a fairy tale for europe

The Brothers Grimm is getting mixed reviews, but it’s worth seeing a couple of times. German fairy tale takes on French Rationalism (with the aid of Italian memory) for the hearts and minds of the people – and wins, just as fairy tales won out over Christianity. (“The Christians tore down the enchanted tower, but it grew back.”) The Mirror Queen gets the lead theme, an old one but a good one: Fairy tales are pretty gruesome, pretty terrifying, but they are nothing compared to reality: “Reality is more terrible than your fiction.”

Gilliam says the film is a fairy tale about the Bros. Grimm. The Bros Grimm were intent on recording German cultural tales. So the film works with a second theme of national definition, and the overtaking of oral tradition by print. Oral tales define a culture, so to preserve a culture, preserve their tales; and to conquer a culture, destroy their stories. This is French occupied Germany, so the film has a few comic flips of old WW II German occupation films. When Napoleonic troops crash the jolly German village drinking party, the polka band plays La Marseillaise. The French general in occupied Germany – Delatombe – is served a blood pudding with sauerkraut by a blonde fraulein. And I’m sure I heard a line about “Don’t kiss a frog.” Delatombe’s denouement, in keeping with French Rationalism and echoing the Third Reich is “All I wanted was a little order.”

The fairy tale references come fast, and every time you assimilate one (German ones, Italian ones, and there might be a couple East Indian ones), Gilliam laces in another. The references aren’t spurious, however. This is a tight film that provides a lot to work with. It’s not just a gimmick that the Brothers Grimm are running a con. It’s not just a joke that all the girls in the village are disguised as boys. Ok, maybe the mud mimic cum gingerbread boy is gratuitous, but it’s a mark of the film that whenever it becomes too serious, too terrifying, Gilliam lightens it with a joke. It is a fairy tale, after all, not a tragedy. But behind the multiple references is one master tale – youth sacrificed to maintain an appearance concealing a terrifying reality – which unifies the film.

DVD’s on the wish list.


starting tuesday

Really not a lot to report. The GA pre-service workshop went well: they’re ready. Start up meetings went as expected. Finishing up two syllabi for classes starting on Tuesday. Because they’re building an addition to Bridgeman, I’ve turned on the webcam to watch the progress.

There are two new developments in curricula. I’m putting together a Certificate in Electronic Writing (trying to determine if this is going to be a grad certificate or undergrad certificate or both) and a Minor in Electronic Writing. We finally have the courses to offer these options, so I’ve started the paperwork. The Chair supports the move. It goes to the Department for approval. Then to the Curriculum Committee for feedback and review; we hope to get them through the process this fall semester. Then it’s a matter of publicizing the programs. Balloons. Wrist bands. Clicky pens.

But it will mean that students taking E-Rhetoric this semester will be able to use the course for a minor, and grad students can use if for a Certificate.


hired intellectual hands

Here’s a new twist on IP from Inside Higher Ed :: University as Author? (via TechRhet). The IP debate has been going on for quite a while, and it really heats up when it deals with who owns distance ed course materials: individual author or university? But the debate looks like it’s making another turn, just in time for the academic new year.

The Kansas Supreme Court will soon decide whether the Kansas Board of Regents has to negotiate its intellectual property policy in the future, or whether it can simply hand down a decree – even one that asserts ownership of all faculty work.

If the court upholds the decision of a lower court, public institutions in Kansas will have the right to claim ownership of any faculty work, including books. In the current policy, faculty members keep their book rights, and revenue sharing is built in for technology copyrights, but, “if [the board] can unilaterally enact a policy, then tomorrow they could turn around and say ‘we own it, we get all the royalties,’” said John Mazurek, a lawyer representing the Kansas National Education Association.

Here’s the interesting twist:

In making the decision, the court treated faculty work as “work for hire,” under federal copyright law. Much the way Microsoft owns computer codes written by its employees, the court classified scholarly work as within the scope of employment of a faculty member, and thus granted ownership to the institution.

It’s not just book rights, code, and patents. If the law were applied in Minnesota, it might mean that MnSCU Board of Regents would own my curricular materials, my notes, lectures – and might be free to re-work and re-purpose them at will.

I couldn’t possibly comment.

But I am listening to 107.8 Radio Jackie – The Sound of South West London.


charlie meets the magus

Warning: spoiler coming.

We saw Charlie and the Chocolate Factory on Sunday (an enaged 3:30 afternoon crowd: average age about 15 years – so they laughed at the jokes and applauded at the end). This version (with some reworking from the book, apparently) brings out Wonka as a magus, pulls the corporate greed fable forward, and holds on to the capitalist contradictions that keep the film a fable. This version expands Wonka’s childhood (teeth, braces, over-bearing professional father. Wonka’s not evil; he just had an oppressive upbringing), and brings out his corporate nastiness (closing the factory owing to an act of corporate betrayal and throwing workers [including one of Charlie’s grandfathers] into poverty, the imperialism in hiring aboriginal Oompa Loompas to replace the local workers – a collection of clones who will work for food) on the way to coming to his own understanding of his actions. “Redemption” is too strong a word: Wonka’s final change is a personal acceptance of his father rather than reinstating of the workers, and Charlie promises only to become a corporate heir of Wonka, to continue Wonka’s direction. That may be compassionate, but it’s hardly redeeming.

I wasn’t quite sure what to make of the final moment of pulling back to reveal the meta-narrative construction (coating the entire scene with icing sugar!) for a moment (a Burton addition, no doubt), but it’s a nice grace note on the story-as-fable. The twist is in who’s telling the tale, and in who’s service.

The film reviews have comments and notes on Depp, Bonham Carter, Burton, effects, directing, and the musical numbers. The film is well worth seeing twice for the acting, direction, cinematography, and allegory. You won’t find much about the fable in the reviews. This is supposed to be a good time film (chocolate covered in icing sugar), and so we’re supposed to ignore the mind behind the curtain. That’s part of the fable, part of the joke for Wonka. Play along.

And a bonus random irony: Both Dahl’s of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Wikipedia entry) and John Fowles’s The Magus (a synopsis) are on listed on, The Big Read. If I were teaching contemporary Brit Lit this year, both books would be on the reading list – as would the Burton film. It’s common knowledge that the film version of The Magus was the worst film ever made.

General Wikis

peanut butter wiki and blogger

I know there are other subscription wiki services out there, but this one looks like it might move wikis into the mainstream: PeanutButterWiki. The creators of the service have stripped wiki down to its bones, which makes it easy to start and maintain a wiki. Because the wikis are password protected, there might be some tension between The Wiki Way and pbwikis. But wiki admins can address that barrier by making their wiikis’ password public.

This is going to be another interesting site to watch over the next year.

And given this week’s arrests in Notting Hill, I’m listening to Too Much Pressure from the album “Just Can’t Get Enough” by The Selecter.

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General Wikis

wiki college

Here’s one to keep an eye on to see how it develops:

London’s Ravensbourne College is creating a new program called the School of Computing for the Creative Industries. The whole of the coursewear is Creative Commons licensed and the school itself is organized via a wiki. via Boing Boing

So, here’s the wiki, and an overview of the project. This might be a significant move of wikis into mainstream higher ed. It shows that wikis can be used to organize and maintain large, complex educational projects. And it gives credence to using a wiki for teaching and learning (which I’ve been pushing for a while), giving D2L and its ilk a run. The philosophy of the college – shown in its use of the wiki and CC licensing – is creativity and education driven by openness.

We recognise that the creative professional of the future – the new creative – has a distinctive skill-set and an easy relationship with technology. The new creative is a connected citizen, whose passions and campaigns, ideas and innovations appear first on their blog. The new creative uses the internet as an inspirational resource, drawing on that vast, interconnected meme-pool, but returning far more to it than s/he ever withdraws. Fundamentally, the new creative understands that s/he is defined by the impact and credibility of their online presence.

Like the new learner, so the new university.

Listening to You Will You Won’t from the album “Who Killed The Zutons” by The Zutons

General oblique visual text box

It’s visual but not random. Size has meaning. The page illustrates (or illuminates?) what users are tagging at the moment using text size to indicate popularity.

As an added benefit, the page creates a random noun generator. Take any two or three words in sequence to create a compound that we pretty readily assign meaning to:

  • freeware productivity inspiration
  • language images
  • wireless ebooks
  • stock illustration weblogs
  • cms library forum

Related (loosely, by the kind of box logic that engages) is Eno’s Oblique Strategies.

Listening to Chicago from the album “Illinois” by Sufjan Stevens.
box logic


again in London

Annie Mole and confederates have some of the best immediate reactions. And this from Leslie (of Hackney Proper):

I want to know what they’ve got against Hackney? The number 26, another local bus. I was heading to the tube at Highbury & Islington when the police stopped us and told us that bombs had gone off. Decided to walk home – it’s difficult to get on a bus at times like these. Feet throbbing as was wearing cruel shoes – so that’s really my only injury, sore feet.

Well, for a start, Hackney is nearly unreachable by tube.

Repeat to Fade from the album “The Debt Collection” by The Shortwave Set