Categories
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.

Who?

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 Brightkite.com 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, Amanita.net.
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.

Categories
The Mundane

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 – Chronicle.com]

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.