My journey with the Meta-team started out as a confused one. Confused as in “I have no idea what a “meta-team” is”. It was also a little horrifying when Dr. Campbell said he didn’t have a clear idea about it either. Essentially, we were told to be “participating observer”, which was a very interesting concept. In order to observe something, we must be “outside” of it looking in. However, in order to be participants, we must in “inside” the something, doing whatever it is.
Meta- (from Greek: μετά = “after”, “beyond”, “adjacent”, “self”).
So, the Meta-team is the team about the TEAM. Our project is ourselves. We are to be engaged and participatory, yet able to remove ourselves from the class and view ourselves and what is going on from the outside. This is daunting and comforting at the same time to me. To be honest, it is sometimes nice to be told what our project is, since I really didn’t have a clue what I would have done. Yet, this is daunting because even though we know (vaguely) what we aim to accomplished, we had so idea how to go about doing it.
Because of the nature of the class, each of the participants of the the class generates a lot of content. There are blog posts, tweets, links and so forth. So, the Meta-team must first not only archive these contents, but also make connections within, and hopefully makes some sense of it all. Our immediate thought was to utilize a website. The class was already about the internet, so have the meta-team’s meta-project on the internet seems extra meta. We were drawn to Jordan’s idea of using “Wordles”, which is a webapp that analyzes text for the most frequently appearing words. The Wordle itself is artistic arrangement of these frequently appearing words, with the most frequent word rendered to be the largest in the final product, and so on. The nice thing about these Wordles is that at one glance we are able to see what words are the most frequently used. For the input text, we plugged in the text of the blogs of our colleagues. Depending on the purpose of the Wordle, different blog entries were used. For example, we made a Wordle pertaining to Douglas Engelbart, where the input text were blog entries written by everyone during the week we read about him. On some other Wordles we made, we picked a broad theme related to the class, for example, “Learning”. We searched all blog posts and tweets that contained the word and compile those into the Wordle. At first I was a little afraid that there would be too much noise the resulting Wordle would not be representative to the theme we picked (Turns out that in a class titled “Cognition, Learning, and the Internet” we use the word “Learning” a lot in most of our blog posts, go figure, right?). However, the output Wordle are often very enlightening. For example, for the Wordle with the theme “Media”, the most often appearing word (minus common English words like articles and propositions) is “People”. How cool is that!
Once we have the Wordle idea settled, we needed a way build upon this representative framework of our thoughts during the course of the class. So the we bounced around the idea of making a website that is a bit non-traditional. Jordan was familiar with the website-making online platform called “Wix”, which makes attractive, modern-looking websites with a very easy to use online interface. How easy was it? Well, suffice to say that I’ve never made a website before and I was able to pick it up with literally no learning curve at all. Basically if you know how to use Microsoft Powerpoint to make slides, you can use Wix with ease. We spent a good amount of time thinking about the aesthetics of the website, but more importantly, how to made connections with all of the ideas and thoughts we (as in all of us in the class) generated during the past semester, on a very wide variety of subject areas.
The Wordles helped a lot in organizing out thoughts. Jake and I had the idea that to identify key words (that is, the big ones; the ones that appeared frequently for a particular set of texts), and link those to the content that we generated. For example, the word “Language” appeared very frequently in blogs pertaining to Brenda Laurel. We then link the word “Language” in the Laurel Wordle to a blog post specifically discussing language in the context of Laurel’s article. We repeat the process for a lot of the prominent words in each Wordle. Things become interesting once we start cross-linking within the webpage. “Media” is another word the appears frequently in several Wordle. In that case we link from one Wordle to the “Media” Wordle. The idea is that we can show how ideas are not exclusive to a subject. This is an notion that is especially prevalent in this class. The readings that we read are not strictly classified within an identified theme. While Illich talk more focused with the topic of education and learning, his discussion bleeds into the subject area of cognition and thoughts. We can see this especially in recurring words in several Wordles.
Another thing we tried to do is to link outside our generated content. There are videos and other web content that we discussed and tweeted about (and some we posted on Delicious), that we would link to as well. For example, the word “Education” appears a lot in the many Wordles. On some of these we would link to the TED talk the Ken Robinson gave on revolutionizing the education system. We would also link the word “Read” or “Reading” to Addison record of books related to the word. Sometimes, just to be devious (and recursive) we would link some words to other parts of the Website. The word “Thoughts” on some Wordle we would link back to the main page titled “Insert Cognition Here”. On the word “Comments” we would link to the page on which the visitor can leave a comment about the website to us. Overall, we are trying to achieve a very crazy (schizo, as some would say) criss-crossed network connecting our generated contents, both to each other, but also to outside content as well. All this is to show how interconnected the ideas we discussed so far is.
The final hope for this project is for it to be sustainable. We hope the next Meta-team will be able to pick up where we left off and perhaps evolve the webpage into something more. The website is set up such that the template is there, and the content is easily changed. Also, attached to the webpage is a Gmail account, where comments left by visitors would be sent to. The Gmail account can also be passed on so that the next Meta-Team would have access to those information, and hopefully be able to use that information as another level of the meta-ness.
Well, it is my, Jake’s, and Jordan’s hope that all of you would be able to enjoy the website. The coolest thing is that YOU help made this website! So thank you, it’s been an interesting, recursive, meta-journey.