New Media

iPad, serious writing, and kafka

Cam-11.jpgOk, I’ve been slow getting back to the blog for the season, but Joe’s post on the iPad winds me up a little. Sure, he likes it in general, but grudgingly.

I’m sad to report reading online websites, including newsmagazines, is less appealing. This, clearly, is a transitional problem. If you make the font large enough (that’s right, I’m old and nearly blind), you have to use the scroll bar.

Joe: There is no scroll bar on the iPad. You flick. The fact is, at least you can increase the font size, making reading (aka skimming) web pages sweet.


Imagine my surprise, then, to find I could only project from Keynote, Apple’s app for presentations. Apparently it’s also a filter, a way of erasing the Internet in terms of visibility and empowering Keynote. Ugh. And folks say Microsoft is evil?

Response in obligatory bullet list:

  • 1. It shouldn’t have come as a surprise – especially to an Early Adopter – that there would be limitations to VGA out.
  • B. It ain’t true. Loads of apps can route to the projector. You have to find them but that’s part of the exploratory spirit of the Early Adopter.
  • III. It isn’t greed, it’s early development – Ok, it’s greed, too. $10 a pop for Keynote x 2,000,001 will pay a lot of graduate tuition. There are alternatives to Keynote that work with the VGA out port – apps that do more than slides. Like concept mapping. Like plain old text. Drop a few dollars in the App Store.
  • > MS is evil. So is Google. But that’s another story.

Speaking of Keynote, an app that drives users towards the lecture, I’m with Joe all the way on Apple’s difficulty envisioning new teaching models when they address us academics. This sounds too familiar:

The lecture model! Isn’t that amazing? Apple gets some of USF’s best tech folks together and then tells them what they already know, what, as the speaker repeatedly mentioned, could be downloaded from the Internet! Jeez, just pass out 20 iPads, break us into groups and have us brainstorm! What can we learn from each other. This is new stuff. Where are we going, educationwise?

Every Apple-presented event I’ve been at for 20 years has been the same damn lecture. It might be those young Apple presenters getting their own back on faculty who lectured them for four years.

But here’s where I have to depart from Joe the most:

The iPad isn’t a writing device, it’s a reading tool, an injection system. Right now I’m logged into a wiki page and visibility is murky: If you want to do some serious writing, get your laptop.

It’s serious enough for me, Joe. Works with my wikis just fine. Maybe it’s the wiki you’re logged into, Joe. Maybe you need a more modern wiki.


I do get the sense of playfulness Joe’s hinting at. Typing with the on-screen keyboard seemed toy-like at first, and some of the apps on the scene work the real-world desktop metaphor far too hard. Notebooks on the iPad don’t need a leather-bound or a legal pad interface; and journal apps don’t need to use some awful script-like font on just as awful bogus-antique paper background. That’s just silly, and it feels silly. (To be fair, even Apple places these apps in the Lifestyle category rather than the more … er… serious Productivity category.)

In fact, it’s a lot like the early days of the Mac. Back then, in the DOS days of urine-yellow text on black screens, the Mac apps looked like toys. Serious work couldn’t be done in MacWrite or MacPaint. Whizzy-wig? Windows? Black text on white ground? That’s for… amateurs. A lifestyle choice.

But the iPad can be serious. Intimidatingly serous. When students present at finals, I usually take notes with pen and notecards, or, occasionally, at one of the desktop machines in the classroom they present in. A couple of days after I got an iPad, I used it instead. It was nice. I don’t suffer from carpel tunnel syndrome, but my handwriting has gone to hell over the past few years, so being able to take typed notes during presentations is brilliant. And I could move around the room, as I typically do, nod a lot, keep the presenters moving. But a couple of presentations in, I realized that the presenters were becoming more anxious than usual. I asked, and one student said, “That iPad thing is intimidating. It’s like you’re taking notes for Kafka.” I put the iPad down and went back to notecards. getserious.jpg

Spoiled my fun for the day – but I did use the Intimidation Factor at an administrative meeting later in the week. If taking notes on the iPad crooked in my arm, moving around the room and nodding, looks Kafkaesque, I’m going to use that kind of seriousness.

The newness of the device, the novelty of writing with it like a turbo-powered clipboard, might be the intimidating factor. This will pass. But after a while, the toy-like feeling, the novelty, slides to the background. I use a bluetooth keyboard when I’m typing extensively on the iPad, so it feels more like a laptop. But I can also get a lot of serious work done

The big issues for me: File management; it takes too much cognitive overhead to think about getting files on and off the iPad. Don’t like the tethered synching with iTunes. Single-tasking. Interface inconsistencies, as Nielsen mentions. PDF annotation is rough around the edges. Might need to switch to html when editing in WordPress, and wikis on are not worth editing using the iPad: too much code.

But, truth be known, I come to the iPad having learned the interface on the iPhone, so greeting the expanse of the iPad is like finally getting out of the cabin after a long winter snowed in. (Obligatory north woods cabin fever metaphor.)

4489021464_72b3fde27f_m.jpgIn mid-July, I’m presenting with Joe and Matt Barton at the WPA Conference. I’ll be using my iPad to draft my part of the presentation and will no doubt use it when we present. I expect members of the audience to take notes with their iPads, and those with 3G to backchannel with them. Sure, there will be a few taking notes with their clunky old serious laptops, and it will be a pleasure to talk with them. But I want to go to the bar with the iPad users, not the laptoppers. bar photo by jeffwilcox.

New Media

weblogs projects started

Projects have started at Weblogs and Wikis.

More students are using Tumbler than I expected, but that speaks to some pretty tightly focused projects like Music Meeja and Red Sox Nation.

Social Commentating 101, which is making use of longer posts, is on WordPress.

And a few are tying two platforms together, either tweeting the highlights of their posts on Tumblr, or interlinking between mini-blogging and long-form blogging, as don’t panic and bizefingers.

Anyway, all good choices in media and integration.  And all taking an experimental attitude towards the project – an attitude that I hope will pay off.

New Media

one mil investment for advice


From BBC News – Tories ‘would pay £1m for public policy making website’]

Seems the Tories have discovered crowdsourcing – a little late.  Shadow culture minister Hunt says,

“It is crazy that [policies] have gone wrong when you’ve got lots and lots of, for example, retired health professionals, retired policemen, people in the teaching profession, who have huge knowledge and expertise…

“Is there a way that we can use the internet … to try and avoid some of these howlers so a future Conservative government can not just have good policy ideas but execute policy in a much more considered and thought-through way?”

Of course there’s a way of bringing people into the conversation, Mr Hill, and Lib Dem Jenny Willot (bless) is willing to give the Tories advice for free.  Well, almost free. She gets an obligatory snipe in at the end.

For the Liberal Democrats, Work and Pensions spokesperson Jenny Willott MP said: “This prize is clearly a publicity stunt and a total waste of taxpayers’ money.

“There are already a multitude of ways to communicate with large numbers of people online, from Facebook to discussion groups.

“Maybe the Tories are so out of touch they don’t know what’s out there, but they shouldn’t waste £1m of public money reinventing the wheel.”

Of course, crowdsourcing won’t solve the problem of Getting It Right unless you listen to the sources.  So here’s hoping that a £1m investment means the Tories would value what their sources tell them.

New Media The Mundane

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.

New Media The Mundane

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?

New Media

wrestling for control of the megaphone

I won’t gloat, but students and I were addressing the matter of universities controlling the cultural discussions a few years ago with The Lodge, and the matter crops up now and then when an unsanctioned voice gets the access to the megaphone. Here it is in Ohio:

COLUMBUS: Ohio State University said Monday it will allow postings on its Facebook page that don’t always paint the university in a positive light.

Last week, the university deleted comments by a graduate student who asked about OSU President E. Gordon Gee’s service on the board of an energy company criticized by environmentalists.

After deleting the postings, Ohio State then blocked comments of any kind from appearing on the wall of the university’s Facebook page.

The university, the country’s largest, reopened the wall Friday to all posts. University spokesman Jim Lynch said Monday that Ohio State may not have responded appropriately to the initial posting about Gee.

”It’s a new feature and it’s a learning curve,” Lynch said. ”We’re willing to take the bad with the good.”

Not that we’ve come much further than Ohio has in the 3 years since The Lodge; we still want to control the exchange – not quite trusting others to think well of us.

But it’s not a learning curve issue, either, not really. There’s nothing really new at Ohio. Scoble and Israel gave mainstream attention to the matter back in 2006. Richard Lanham takes it up in The Economics of Attention (especially in chapter 6: “Barbie and the Teacher of Righteousness”). I’ll be adding a unit on Controlling the Conversation to E-Rhetoric for 2010. It’s even discussed in a PR piece in a MindJet newletter – in PR terms – and with a poster!

Ohio, however, gets the jump on the rest of the universities because they had the epiphany. There’s an article in it, Mr. Lynch. Go for it.

Reportedly, “Ohio State’s Facebook page had more than 21,000 friends Monday afternoon.” That’s a lot of support. It’s easy enough to let fans sort out the good and the poor for themselves.

New Media The Mundane

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.

New Media

debate in sl

200901241005.jpgI found the note that SJU was going to hold a debate in SL underwhelming at first.

This week Stephen Llano, the director of debate at St. John’s University, in New York, announced what is billed as the first tournament debate held in Second Life. It will take place on February 4 at 8 p.m. Eastern Time in the university’s virtual campus (shown below).

[From Wired Campus: College Debate Teams to Face Off in Second Life –]

But, as The Chronicle points out, the event will test how effective debate modeled on face to face exchange works when mediated by SL:

College debate matches can be physically intense — with participants rattling off arguments at top speed and gesturing dramatically. So it will be interesting to see if a debate contest can work in Second Life, the virtual world.

What they find might inform our ideas about how lectures, student exchanges, and even guide-on-the-side mentoring work in SL.

My sense is that the debaters will adapt their vocal delivery to the 2D cartoon world, and I’d bet they’ll find that the appearance of the avatar is going to be pretty significant to the effectiveness of the argument. It’s not just canned gestures here. Gender, wardrobe, hair, height and weight and body shape are all rhetorical affordances in SL.

New Media Wikis

rough notes on personal learning environments or how i spent my xmas vacation

PLEI spent most of my semester break messing with looking at some social networking apps and how to link them up. I was familiar with a few of them already and had been using them regularly: flickr, delicious, facebook (not so regularly), tumblr, twitter. I added brightkite, friendfeed, and Righ away, brightkite and friendfeed struck me as useful for what I wanted to do, and less so. Brightkite fuses image and text and geotags them both. Friendfeed aggregates feeds to a common stream and allows connecting those feeds with others.

On the browser side, I tinkered with Flock for a day, but went back to Firefox and installed add-ons to coordinate some of my feeds; I wanted to put them in the same app if not the same frame. I’m currently working with Flickerfox, Sage-Too for rss feeds, TumblrPost, and Twitbin. I’m watching for a Brighkite add-on, but Sage-too makes it possible to put an rss Friendfeed stream in the sidebar.

I haven’t added browser-based notes, however. I’m still using the browser mainly for access to content and working with other apps like Evernote and DevonThink for collection and text production.

This catalog of web apps, social apps, and plug-ins looks geeky, I know, put there’s a point to it.

Spurred on in part by using an iPhone more and more, I started to get interested in how to pull the apps together in some kind of more or less coherent set. I got interested in creating an informal PLE.

Gloss from Wikipedia

Personal Learning Environments are systems that help learners take control of and manage their own learning. This includes providing support for learners to

* set their own learning goals

* manage their learning; managing both content and process

* communicate with others in the process of learning

and thereby achieve learning goals.

A PLE may be composed of one or more subsystems: As such it may be a desktop application, or composed of one or more web-based services.

Roughly, a PLE is a more or less hacked together system or space to work in – and that’s a pretty good idea of it, for me, for right now. My wife has a PLE for her work. It’s her studio. Al Gore has one. It’s called his office.

But PLEs extend beyond office and studio walls to include sites and sources, the devices used to access those sites and sources, and the devices used to manipulate the content of those sites and sources. Desktop computer, laptop, iPhone, mobile, digital camera … You get the idea. Hardware, software, people, content, places.

The memex was an early conception of a PLE. Englebart’s Study for the Development of Human Augmentation Techniques a 1968 overview of the idea. And his mother of all demos is an early demo of one: hardware, software, people, content, and places.

Martin Weller has a lot more to say on the matter than I do right now. Brian Lamb has posted on PLEs recently. And he’s picking up on comments made by Stephen Downes.  A Collection of PLE diagrams presents a range of visualizations about PLEs.

To my mind, is experimenting with informal PLEs. In their work, streets and parks and buildings become part of the PLE, which also includes other people, both present and past. Their work emphasizes the material in the environment, where learning takes place by creating and manipulating maps and boxes, and by physically and virtually annotating physical spaces. See Social Tapestries, for instance.

Creating or using a PLE of any complexity is going to demand some fluency in transliteracy.

I made some remarks on PLEs from a side angle in Wikis, Blogs, and eFolio: How wikis and weblogs trump eportfolios and No One Stop Shop. My sense of PLEs is the learner mashup rather than the prepackaged OfficeMax D2L. Having just reread these drafts and notes, it looks like the PLE is a common thread in my thinking, one that might open into a more extensive article.

More notes

I’m a late-comer to the PLE party, so a review is in order:

A PLE – VLE continuum

on the PLE

A Collection of PLE diagrams

E-learning 2.0, Stephen Downes

More later.

Blogging New Media

why hockey via twitter is boring

image1947819809.jpgBecause it’s all one way. Twittering game action seems like a good idea to keep the sport in the public eye, but twitter is being used by BSU Hockey as one-way broadcast when the medium’s strength and user expectation is in dialogue.

Getting a conversation going about the game as it plays out, bringing other voices into the stream, and talking with others who are following the stream might create the buzz they’re hoping for.

They might arrange for two or three fans to post to twitter as the game goes on, either from the arena or in response to the twitter stream. Exemplify the convo. Then encourage others to join in the exchange. A pic now and then wouldn’t hurt, either.

The steady stream of beaver logos and one way comments belies how exciting the game might be. Get the medium to enact the game.

Hockey fans: Follow them. Then during the next game you can engage the commentator in conversation. See what happens.