Monthly Archives: February 2012

An Award-winning Book!

ACRL just announced that Char Booth has won the 2012 ACRL Instruction Section Irene F. Rockman Publication of the Year Award for Reflective Teaching, Effective Learning:  

http://www.ala.org/news/pr?id=9485

Note paragraph 3, where the announcement indicates that many library “book groups” are already using this book as a guide :)

Congrats, Char!  We’re definitely looking forward to reading this book as a group this semester.

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What is the medium of the internet?

If the medium is the message what is the medium of the internet?
I would hypothesize that the current medium of many sites is profiling for advertising purposes. I say this because the primary method used to monetize internet sites/resources is through advertisement.

Assuming profiling as the medium, one can parse the medium and content of the most popular sites:
Facebook realizes the medium through the content of interactions with your social network, that is Facebook deduces your interests from that of you and your friends; Google realizes the medium through the content of your searches, that is Google deduces your interests via your search queries; Youtube realizes the medium through which videos you watch. I contend that most major internet sites can be viewed through the lens of profiling as the medium.

What does this mean?
This is different than the realization in the art world that the consumers of art needed to participate in the art. The art world viewed this as more of an invitation to participate in the art in order to make it richer, this was a more transparent interchange…even if the consumer was at first unaware that they were participating in the art. In the case of Google or Facebook the medium is almost completely unrelated to the content…it is a bait and switch. The user is nearly unaware of how they are being targeted and tracked, although this is possibly starting to change.

What direction should be go?
Perhaps we should follow the lead of the art world and make the user a more witting participant to the medium. Having more control over and transparency about how the medium is representing you seems to be the solution.

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Meta-Medium

“Self-awareness is more useful for sophisticated self-congratulation than for readiness to go out onto that unknown plain with the Red Crosse Knight, Una, the dwarf, and the donkey.” <dripping with the sarcasm accordant any devout curator/champion/nomad of the meta-level>

I have found that blogging with the frequency we discussed in vtclis12 class is very difficult for me.  At the surface, we could call it an excuse for a busy life (like we all have).  Or, we could say that I’m disinterested, un-reflective, unwilling to apply anything in my life.  Rather, I find it an interesting, somewhat unique but infinitely familiar foray into my own mind and approach to interacting with the world…

I think a lot.  I am passionate about many things.  I am a determined puzzle-piece-putter-together.  But, I often feel like I am on the verge of the insight that just won’t come.  Like I have a story to tell, or something to share… but that I just need to pull one last piece together before I can tell it.  The word articulate to me is this gypsy of a verb.  I have a lot of things to say, but I just don’t want to say them until they sound just right in my head.  <classic introvert?>

So – blogging to me, is this beautifully messy space where ideas and connections can be tried out.  As an educator, I love that.  For me personally, I find it eternally frustrating (in an incredibly healthy way), because it requires me to spit things out before I’m ready.  To invite feedback and collaboration before I’ve “solved the problem” or “solidified my opinion” or “wrapped my head around the interpretation.”

It has been and will continue to be one of those beautifully karmic bite-you-in-your-butt things.  I value messy ideas and the space to create them.  I value how collective reflection or exploration can affect individual meaning-making.  I value disruptive, uncomfortable experiences so long as they are done in a safe environment.  I believe that our knowledge, emotions, and actions need to be dynamic, intentional processes.  And I “hate” that all of these values are the perfect intrinsic justification for me needing to blog more often when I’d rather stay within my comfort zone.  Don’t you just hate it when that happens?

What are you learning about yourself while blogging?


 

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Perspective.

<vtclis12-ers, sorry if this post isn’t your cup of tea.  I’m taking advantage of the freedom (protean nature) granted by Alan Kay being our recent author to say something on my mind.>

One of the things I think I love the most about my typical day-to-day is that I am constantly being poked, prodded, and challenged in my way of thinking.  In LDRS recently, we have been talking a lot about “perspective-taking” as a critical skill for us each to cultivate as part of that whole being-a-better-human “life learning objective.”  In talking with one of the leaders from SERVE on Thursday, I had an “aha moment” that broadened the concept of perspective for me.  It wasn’t a totally new insight perhaps, but rather one of those moments where you feel like you finally discover two seemingly independent small chunks of puzzle pieces actually connect together (Nelsonian deja vu?).  Let me try to describe — the two chunks were (1) how I usually think of perspective.  A little video/image montage goes off in my head of looking at things from multiple angles.  A thought bubble: How does this look from your eyes?  How does this feel from your heart? and (2) Story.  The many experiences and our interpretations that weave together to make us who we are.

The “aha” came from a conversation about a water bottle.  We were talking about how whenever she goes to throw away a water bottle, she thinks of where it could end up – the many places she has seen it before, floating in the water, rolling into a gutter in a city, piled up somewhere in a mound of trash that kids might play on.  <!!!! head explodes !!!!>  Our brains do funny things.  Something about this story (likely because it was a bottle, and my engineering research involved thinking about the full life-cycle of products and all the energy that made them) started this movie in my head “the life of the water bottle” — how it came to be, what/where it was filled, me drinking it, and then the infinite possibilities that exist afterwards.  Perspective is not only about the angle, the mood, the knowledge, the belief, the values, the setting in this current moment.  It is all the angles, moods, knowledge, beliefs, and settings in every moment brought to bear right now in this moment.  The shoe metaphor for perspective-taking is more insightful than at first glance.  It is not a simple instantaneous teleportation.  It is not the switch from first-person camera to different first-person camera.  It is not just “walking a mile in someone else’s shoes.”  It would be walking everywhere the shoes had ever been.  <!!!! head explodes again !!!!> And then shoes fail us.  Because even having walked and seen all of a story, I can still only process that story from my own lens.  Shoes don’t have feelings and don’t make meaning.  And meaning-making, perception, is uniquely different for each person.

Perspective-taking as a skill will always be beautifully flawed.  I still deeply value striving to listen to stories, to authentically know as much as is given, and to use that to be more considerate and more compassionate.  But, at the end of the day, no matter how skilled, no matter how empathetic, we must always remember that shoes are not enough.  The beauty is, that this means we must always engage.  We must always ask.  We must always affirm the agency each has to write their own stories and to make their own meaning.  So go – catch stories, use them to cultivate skills in perspective-taking, use those skills to navigate the world in better, more compassionate ways, and embrace the beautiful tension that exists as we try to use as skill that focuses on judgement and prediction in a way that also needs to be affirming of an individuals voice.  Said another way… I must carefully balance that my attempts to understand you better, to act more compassionately, to broaden my own horizons, that I don’t somehow stomp on your stories and your voice.  That you maintain your ability to tell me how wrong I am and how I misjudged.  How can we remember that while we may use judgements and categories to effectively navigate the world, that they are in need of continuous refinement?  How can “perspective-taking” become “perspective-sharing”?

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Instruction Learning Community!

This is the official first post of the VT 2012 Instruction Learning Community!  Although this post was written and published via my personal blog (https://blogs.lt.vt.edu/informationlitany),  it is also published on the Instruction Learning Community mother blog.  This blog will aggregate all the posts from the 13 learning community participants–and I have the distinct privilege of being the first author to have my post aggregated on this site.

Soon, many other reflections will be posted here.  I can’t wait to read them!

(p.s. Ignore the posts that came before this one–they were posts that I wrote on my “information litany” blog for another community)

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Why Do iPhone Users Buy the iPad?

With the introduction of the iPad in April of 2010 came a lot of skepticism. What was this device? What are we suppose to use this device for? It seemed a bit unnecessary to be honest. However, if this was the case how did it become popular? Also, it didn’t just become popular, it became popular fast. And by fast i mean, FAST.

The consumers obviously performed some research about the product before dropping $500 on it. What exactly were the perceived benefits of the product? Did the perceived benefits outweigh the hefty price? Well, the iPad is define as “a line of tablet computers designed, developed, and marketed by Apple Inc., primarily as a platform for audio-visual media including books, periodicals, movies, music, games, apps, and web content.” At this time it seemed to be the only product in its product class. Other tablets had not been introduced to compete with the iPad.

A research project performed by CNET News outlined 7 reasons consumers gave for purchasing the iPad. These reasons included:

  1. Apps.
  2. For the computer-averse.
  3. Didn’t have a laptop.
  4. Coffee table tablet.
  5. Novelty.
  6. Not a computer, as we know it.
  7. Impulse buy.

Though the iPhone and iPad contain the same apps, the apps are executed in an entirely different fasion. The iPhone is simply too small to enjoy certain apps to their fullest potential. For those who are not computer savy, the iPad offers an easier way to surf the web and to e-read. For those who do not already own a laptop, the iPad offers a less expensive alternative that provides essentially the same characteristics as a laptop. The Wifi and 3G options allow users to surf the web whenever wanted. The iPad also became an alternative to the Nook and Kindle to read instead of a paperback book. The iPad became a Nook or Kindle on “crack” with much more to offer than it’s previous competitors. This opened up a whole new market and forced the Nook and Kindle to expand it’s product line. Lastly, the iPad was purchased due to the fact it was a gadget many had not experienced before. Users were curious about the product and were willing to blow the money if it was not considered a large purchase. The rage initiated by these early innovators and early adopters led the way for the late adopters, late majority, and laggards to later purchase the product. 

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Generational Technology

I think today’s computer users take for granted the immense capabilities we have.  It was only when I read Personal Dynamic Media that I had this epiphany.  Kay and Goldberg envision a computer system that handles information “in quantities” similar to “human sensory systems” (394).  That sounds pretty spectacular if you ask me and that is precisely what I have, what we have, at our very fingertips, at this very moment.  A system that processes information faster than we can even fathom, a system comparable to something we only marvel at in a biology lecture when the workings of our nervous system are broken down.

The idea of not having a “personal computing medium,” tailored to my specific needs sounds absurd.  It’s amazing how different technologies become the defining factor for different generations.  Generation Y (my generation) is characterized by an increased use of digital technology and media.  The following generation, “Generation Z,” is characterized by even more advanced technologies, like tablet computers and the iPad and iPhone.  How appropriate that the next generation is referred to as “iGeneration.”  It is interesting to think about this, especially when I browse through the delicious stack entitled “Humans are Machines” because the stuff on there sounds a little science fiction to me but I know that with time, these far-fetched ideas will become our reality, just as Kay and Goldberg’s Dynabook did.

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Information TO GO

Last night I read the prologue and first chapter of “World Wide Mind” by Michael Chorost. It really caught my attention as I was able to make many immediate connections with my own life. Mostly, I was struck by the prologue “A Dead BlackBerry”, pointing out not only the accessibility and portability of so much information that the BlackBerry gives us,  but also how much we rely on such devices on a daily basis. When I read “Personal Dynamic Media”, I immediately drew the parallel of the similar theme of portability that the Dynabook would give us.Kay/Goldberg could only guess what a portable device such as the Dynabook would give us, how it would affect us and how our society would benefit it. There was prediction of how helpful it would be, but while reading World Wide Mind I realized how big of an impact similar versions of today’s “Dynabook” really has on us. There is literally endless amounts of information we can carry around with us when we carry a device like a BlackBerry, Droid, or iPhone. I can’t even begin to count how many times a day I use my iPhone to look up the current weather outside, reread my emails so I know which room I’m meeting someone in, look up a lunch schedule, a due date, a word’s definition, a gym class time, a person’s name or birthday I forgot. The list is endless. We carry with us this resource whose value and capabilities of informing us are endless. If I forget my phone at home I literally feel lost and alone. I feel like I can’t do anything, like I am incapable. I act like my phone is my life line. I use my phone as my watch, my means of communication, my calculator. I use it to look people up, to contact teachers and friends. One point I found extremely interesting was that one day, maybe even in the near future, it will be considered rude to not google someone before meeting them. The thought of driving a far distance without a phone is terrifyng. What if I got lost and didn’t have my GPS? What if I ran out of gas in the middle of nowhere and couldn’t call someone to come get me? Carrying a smart phone gives you access to almost any information you would ever need. It is connecting us to the rest of the world where ever we may go. It’s a pretty amazing idea if you really think about it.

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Snags

Just as I had written a wonderful blog post about how to explain how complex and captivating technology and the Internet is, I experienced a snag. A simple message popping up on my computer saying “error” when I tried to publish. I immediately felt that disheartening feeling of hard work going to waste because I didn’t hit the “save draft” button. Ugh computer problems. Why do these messages always occur at the worst possible moment?

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The not so malleable tool

In the last week or so I have had several semi-related conversations and read several articles about the malleability of the computer as a tool. The reading for tomorrow’s class, “Personal Dynamic Media,” has a vision statement at the end that reminded me as to the importance of these conversations: “What would happen in a world in which everyone had a Dynabook? If such a machine were designed in a way that any owner could mold and channel its power to his own needs…”

Computers have fallen pretty flatly in developing malleability of the medium by all users for all tools. How many users feel any real agency towards the modification of their interfaces or computer systems? Even more worrisome is the siloed data on websites like Facebook, prohibiting even the most technically skilled among us from utilizing our own data.

Recently I was at the PIM workshop at CSCW in Seattle and a few related subjects were discussed. The first related topic that was discussed was the co-adaptation of interfaces and users. This topic led directly to the second topic, the inflexibility of data to be represented in different mediums or tools.

The co-adaptation of interfaces is referring for the ability for users to not only adapt the tool that they have been given, but also for the tool to adapt through usage or customization. In the current state there are very few interfaces that are customizable, especially by novice users. A few examples of adaptable interfaces that I can of are some game interfaces like World of Warcraft and text editors like VIM and Emacs. VIM and Emacs take a relatively high degree of skill to customize, as they are aimed at mostly programmers. Users can write code that directly modifies or extends the tool, as well as, download code that others have written. These usually take a relatively high degree of technical knowledge and stick-to-it-ness to get working just right. A somewhat more malleable interface is that of World of Warcraft, while users can write their own code there are enough user friendly modifications that they can consume them with low technical knowledge. The experience of using these interfaces adapts with the user, embodied in particular by the same user having different configurations for different types of characters. Perhaps some of these lessons can be transferred to more general user interfaces and users can customize their work environment a bit more. One would imagine that a programmer would have a much different configuration than a movie director or an accountant. These different users likely would prefer a different representation for the same types of data, perhaps messaging (i.e. emails) would be presented in different way…around code or film or a spreadsheet, as opposed to having to reference the different artifacts indirectly.

Which brings us to the problem with data only being represented by a specific tool or tool-set. For example, emails are viewed in email clients and documents are viewed in word processors. One usage scenario would be me wanting to see all of my correspondence with my advisor (tweets, facebook, files, emails, etc.), currently this involves going to many different tools. Instead what if there was just messaging, some short and some long, and they were presented in different ways…in fact this is what one group, m.c. schraefel and Max Van Kleek, is trying to do with Webbox http://eprints.ecs.soton.ac.uk/23200/.

To realize the vision of Kay we need to construct more malleable data and tools for users, imagine if every user could actually mold and channel its power to their own needs…

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