Hello everyone, here is a quick reminder of the presentation schedule
10 minute presentation
5 minutes for q & a after presentation
These are informal, but they should be substantive. Your presentation should provide:
See this as your last opportunity to get feedback from the class before you prepare your final project for Core II.
The final project should be a more formal and argued version of what’s above, 15-20 pages in length, and will be due May 24.
If you will be producing significant media for the final paper — a working web site, for instance — your paper can be shorter in length. Discuss this with us before hand.
Upload your final paper to our Commons Group with your name in the filename (lukewaltzer_finalpaper.pdf or doc or whatever).
First of all let me apologize for the lateness of this post. I’ve got a handful of excuses, but I’ll skip them. Before I get to this week’s topics en masse, let me address the initial reading. The conclusion of Zittrain’s “The Future of the Internet – And How to Stop It” had some great points, but I also found it to be all over the place. This is probably because it is the conclusion of a book I haven’t read. The crux of what I believe to be a summary of the full text meandered from a collection of thoughts on One Laptop for Child initiative, to cybersecurity, to a possible role for the University in the internet’s future, and then back to one laptop for child. Zittrain seems to have a complicated set of feelings in relation to personal computing (what it is and what it should be) and the net that connects us. On one hand he seems interested in positive philosophies of how a computer might be best used (making, coding, gifting piecemeal control to the most ethical of computer scientists), but he is also especially paranoid of how he sees it evolving. His writing became confusing now and again, challenging my understanding as to whether he was behind a certain initiative of pushing against it. My issue with Zittrain is an issue that I think most that write about networked technologies share — a projected belief that he understands what exactly the net is at its core, even if he must unflinchingly push that knowledge into abstract forms now and again to cover the fact that a comprehensive understanding of all the ins and outs, all the quiet phoenixes waiting to rise and all of the black hats plotting their schemes — these are ultimately unknowable variables. For all the use of “techie” vocabulary, the conclusion of this book, at least, is riddled with emotion that may or may not be displaced.
As for the success of one laptop per child outside of this reading I would direct you to this post:
Seems the kids hacked the machines pretty hardcore in 5 months. I don’t believe the machines they received had the interface that Zittrain describes in his conclusion, I’ve been following OLPC’s progress over the past 5 to 6 years and they have definitely had a lot of problems that have only recently been ironed out. That said, in the end, their ability to hack the machines and program them to a degree has been a success, obviously a core part of the initiative since the beginning.
Personally, I’m not sure how I feel about any of the assertions (and anti-assertions) Zittrain made (and unmade). I don’t pretend to be cosmopolitan enough to wrap my head around the entire late order capitalist system of which the internet is obviously becoming more and more a shocking and pulverizing force within, and how this system effects, say, Ethiopia (where the OLPCs have recently been hacked). But I also think that much of Zittrain’s defeatist utopianism is at worst ill-formed and at best exaggerated pockets of truth. He creates a dichotomy consisting of the bad hackers and noble geeks/computer scientists that I can say is flawed. The grey-hat is the hat worn most in the hacker community, just as most black and white issues are best when seen as something explicitly hazy, instead of hazily explicit. Again, these are thoughts based on the conclusion of a book I have not read.
Moving onto “The internet of things” I feel like I actually might have some actual expertise in this area:
Here I am on BBC World News talking about the Espresso Book Machine:
I’d be happy to talk about how I feel about some of this stuff in class, may not want to make all of my views available on a public blog. I no longer work for OnDemandBooks, but I have no axe to grind with the company itself. I will say I once had a much more positive view of this coming “Internet of Things” and now I’m quite a bit more ambivalent. On one hand I am most definitely a subscriber to the maker philosophy, and I’m much more comfortable designing objects both virtual and capable of physical manifestations in a computer mediated environment than I am with a pile of wood and a hammer, on the other God help us if I represent any kind of coming societal norm. I have traditionally thought about those things from a selfish perspective. I am less combative toward the technology itself, but more perturbed by the corporate systems that manipulate how, when, where such technologies are deployed. Because of the systems that controls these technologies, we do indeed have reason to worry. We talk about creating homes, musical instruments, artwork with this technology, but what is it that is sure to get more sales? Just ask the good ol’ boys over at Defense Distributed. They done printed themselves out a firearm that is going to outsell anything Modular Housing LLC and Les Paul has on the horizon: http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2013/05/the-first-entirely-3d-printed-handgun-is-here/
This MOOC came to my attention a month or so ago and it struck me as particularly interesting. We’d talked previously in class about the effectiveness of the MOOC and the concerns and questions it raises about best practices in teaching, but I don’t think that at that point, anyone had talked about the existence of a composition or writing-based course.
I glanced over it again last night, after our discussion on peer review in the classroom and how to structure effective peer reviews– modeling, the amount of time given to sections of papers, whether students should be paired or put in groups, and so forth. The FAQ section states that this MOOC goes as far as to give peer reviewers the authority of being the only feedback they will receive on their writing and the basis of the grade in the course (and presumably, the verification of completion necessary to receive the Statement of Accomplishment).
I feel like this not only complicates the model of the MOOC, with peer review based assessment and composition as a topic, but also assumes a lot about peer review. Is it even remotely possible that several hours of lectures on MOOCs could make a peer so effective that their feedback is the basis of the grade? Online peer review has been immensely more complicated than in class review for my students this semester; coordinating emails and communication has been challenging and it becomes near impossible when students withdraw from the course or don’t “show” for a week when a peer review is expected. When peer review is online AND the basis for assessment of performance throughout a class AND the completion rate of these courses is so low, is there any way that this can possibly work? Or is this just an experiment in (a potentially colossal) teaching/education failure?
I’m trying to figure out how all these readings fit together and it seems like the theme is maybe less “failure” than it is a caution against over-simplification. In an effort to smooth out ideas or projects and make them seem coherent we often lose the complexity that makes them meaningful. I see these readings as cautions against trying to do work that is too perfect, which for a lot of people (myself included) is pretty similar to a fear of failure.
In The Aesthetics of Failure Cattelan tackles “the paralyzing fear of disgrace” and “the impossibility of doing something” that results from letting your imagination about what others might think of your finished product get in the way of your attempt to produce anything at all. This is familiar to me. It is the kind of perfectionism that leads to procrastination. It is why I have so many incompletes on my transcript. Similarly, in “the Rise of Worse is Better” Gabriel warns us against trying to do something exactly right the first time around. Put something out there to get people interested, and once people are hooked, take time to improve it. There is no point in producing something brilliant if you don’t even have an audience. Both of these pieces seem like lessons for grad students as we try to navigate our relationship to the publics many of us hope to reach. The lessons I take away are: trust in your ability to say worthwhile things publicly, and don’t wait the full seven years it will take you to produce a dissertation to “put things out there”.
How do these lessons apply to what we’re doing in this class? To pedagogy? As the semester closes, these pieces read as gentle reminders to stop talking about our projects and just do them. And these readings suggest that in trying to pull together an innovative project, it will be necessary for us to make some mistakes along the way. It is hard to remember that it is ok to make mistakes in teaching because it feels so high-stakes (I do think that as an adjunct without training I’ve made more mistakes than I needed to). This week’s content suggests that those mistakes are necessary.
In Scott Berkun’s hour-long lecture “The Myth of Innovation” his lesson, I think, is that a lot of breakthroughs we imagine in retrospect to have been isolated strokes of genius were actually preceded by many many failures. History’s great innovators tried and failed for years before they made their breakthroughs. They were persistent and bold, they tried many different things, that is why they succeeded, also historical conditions must be right, and economic conditions must be right, and innovation will just happen if you give your employees space to innovate, and if you need to make them obsolete by inventing brilliant machines that replace their bodies make sure you let them know sensitively, get them on side first. Wait, what? Nevermind. Buy that guy’s book. (But seriously – I’m going to leave most of that lecture be because there is too much crazy self-help management BS in it that I can’t even handle thinking about it. Lets just generously take his point that innovation requires failure, and move on).
I also disagreed with much of what was in Tufte’s piece The Cognitive Style of Powerpoint, but hopefully disagreements with that piece can lead to productive discussion. I think Tufte’s Provocative Piece about PowerPoint raises important questions, Particularly in the context of thinking about Interactive Technology and Pedagogy. In the illustration accompanying the article Tufte suggests that slideshare software like PowerPoint is Stalinist. Within PP, there is only one way to do things. Tufte insists that PP is reductionist, presenter-oriented, preoccupied with form instead of content. Does it have to be that way, one might ask? Tufte says yes: PP is inherently these things. Tufte’s case studies include a powerpoint presentation given to NASA employees that so simplified information that it essentially caused an aerospace disaster; and a powerpoint re-telling of the Gettysburg Address. Both of these things seem like straw men to me. Like, OBVIOUSLY incredibly detailed aerospace problems should not be communicated via bullet form. Nor would most people trying to make inspirational speeches likely turn to PP. In both these cases the problem seems to be to be the context in which PP is chosen, not PP itself.
Why do I find myself defending PowerPoint? In the class I taught last term the “smart classroom” was down for the first half of the semester so I conducted the lecture-part of class time using my voice, my carefully constructed narratives, and occasional blackboard drawings. When the smart classroom was fixed, I started putting up slides while I delivered lectures. On the slides were carefully constructed bullet points that were the essence of the lesson, the central point I wanted my students to take away. The engagement and understanding of my students (as represented by the quality of classroom discussion following the lecture) went way up. This makes me wonder: does a simplification of material using PowerPoint necessarily exclude the possibility of a nuanced understanding of material? Can boiling a concept down to a set of bullets actually act as a complement (an anchor?) in the context of a more complex picture being painted? It is really hard to boil a complex concept down to a few key bullet points, but if it can be done well it can be powerful and productive, in my opinion. Like trying to figure out what your thesis statement is before you set out to write a paper.
I think part of this has to do with learning styles. I have trouble listening to something unless I am also at the same time either looking at something else, or doing something else. When I doodle, I do so because it keeps me focused on what I’m listening to. When someone has powerpoint slides accompanying their talk, looking at them helps me to focus on (and therefore connect to) what it is they’re saying. I just recently realized that not everybody listens in this way. Nonetheless, it seems worth noting that Tufte’s idea that we need to “just talk about” ideas in order to capture their nuance doesn’t jive with MY experience.
However, this raises the question – does the visual accompaniment/enhancement to our speaking have to appear in PP form? While engagement and interaction could be achieved with a well-thought out PP presentation, should we use PP? Tufte insists that PP is so limited in the way it allows us to present information – linearly, superficially, passively. Prezi seems to offer solutions to this by allowing us to present ideas in non-sequential patterns. Is Prezi inherently better? Why is it so dizzying?
Is form really that important? Or does it just distract us from the more important discussions about content? How does this discussion about PowerPoint relate to the over-arching question about “failing better”?
As we discussed in class the other day, we’d like for you to try to get a local WordPress install up and running prior to the workshop we have scheduled for next Thursday.
Here’s one set of instructions to help you get going if you’re using a MAC environment, courtesy of our friend Boone Gorges.
If you’re using a Windows install, try these instructions.
If you’re using Linux, we assume you’re geeky enough already to figure this out.
Once you get your install up and running, try turning it into a WordPress Network (aka, a WordPress Multisite install). Here’s instructions for that process.
Please try to spend some time on this before class on Tuesday so that we can devote some time to troubleshooting if necessary. We want you all to be equipped with an install for the workshop.
If you do NOT have a laptop that you can do this on, please let us know with a comment here so we can prepare an install for you.
It seems like I keep gifting myself with (volunteering for?) the responsibility of blogging about Larry Lessig, the Creative Commons, copyright/left, open access, and their ilk. And try as I might, I still feel ill-informed about this confusing legal terrain. So, I invite you to join me in my vast confusion.
Some questions & thoughts on CC:
Some questions & thoughts on Ashley Dawson’s piece:
Dawson proposes that, with support from their institutions and/or not-for-profit foundations, scholars publish in digital open access archives and bypass academic presses with closed access to information systems. He notes, however, that traditional presses fulfill important curatorial roles, ensure peer review, and utilize networks and social capital. Additionally, he stresses that “digitization is not necessarily emancipatory” (267). The conclusion he reaches is to resist any privileging of theorists’ labor in imagining the revolution. What is needed, instead, is a “‘recomposition’ of the workforce…the elaboration of praxis that recognizes the strategic importance of the networked commons while refusing to subordinate struggles over other instances of the commons to the perspectives and tactical orientations of the cognitariat” (269). What I take away from this is larger than any debate on open/closed access: it speaks to a vision of the university as a vehicle for social justice not only in word, but also in deed. It reminds me of the POOC’s mission to enable opportunities for graduate students to conduct critical and participatory research with communities (not *on* communities). The larger project is redefining knowledge as an ecology of knowledge, or linking academic knowledge with the knowledge of the people. What are some of the challenges in this proposal? Is this linkage an easy feat in your discipline?
Michael Mandiberg recently organized a roundtable on “Experiments in Extra-Institutional Education” at GC, bringing in twenty folks to discuss their DIY approach to education. While not all of the showcased organizations offer programs that are free to the public (some charge fees/tuition), they all seemed to share a common punk-esque ethos. The link to Social Text above lists the participants’ affiliations, which ranged from the Brooklyn Brainery to Occupy University. What has been your experience with education outside of the traditional classroom? I’m now going to blatantly steal Mandiberg’s guiding questions and post them here for your intellectual curiosity:
The COGNITARIAT: Amazingly, this construct to describe immaterial laborers (that’s you and me, comrades) is also an open access journal of contingent labor. It appears to be very fresh off the digital presses and edited by Masood Ashraf Raja, Assistant Professor at the University of North Texas, who explains that he is not in a precarious work situation, but has experienced “moments when I had to weigh my words for fear of some form of consequences. We all have experienced this feeling: and this feeling, this anxiety is the very narrative of current state of capital” (Raja, 2013). He continues by stating how alarming is the state of the neoliberal university and how the system depends on the largely unacknowledged labor of teaching assistants, lecturers, and adjuncts. The advised action is to voice the humiliations of the insecure workforce and stand in solidarity with them. I haven’t read the whole journal, but I wonder about its audience. There are a number of radical publications that address the plight of the precarious worker (Socialist Worker, Jacobin, etc.), but that are newsletters or magazines that follow journalistic rather than academic structures. I’m wondering how we reconcile refereed journals with the call to develop an ecology of knowledge…in order to ensure that a journal doesn’t become another mouthpiece for academia to talk to itself in a mirror, should reviewers be explicitly invited from outside of academia?
Dawson, Ashley. (2012). DIY academy? Cognitive capitalism, humanist scholarship, and the digital transformation. In Michael Mandiberg (ed.) The Social Media Reader (257-274). New York: New York University Press.
Raja, Masood Ashraf. (2013). The cognitariat and the precarity of speaking. Cognitariat 1. Retrieved from http://oaworld.org/index.php/cognitariat/article/view/1/1
I’m not really aware of any open-access journals in sociology, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t any. Indeed, DOAJ lists 160 open-access sociology journals. My lack of awareness stems instead from how rarely I find myself locked outside of paid access journals. Typically I have access through the GC, and if not I can usually find a copy somewhere on the internet. While gaining access would certainly be harder without a university affiliation, quite frankly if I was no longer in the academy I’m not sure how much time I would be spending reading academic texts. What makes the tragic possible jail sentence in the Aaron Swartz case particularly absurd is how few of those texts would have probably been read or even noticed by non-academic readers. For me then, more interesting than regularly old journals that have turned themselves open access are those online journals that have taken up the new possibilities the internet provides to display information and provocation. One example of this is Lateral, the relatively new online journal of the Cultural Studies Association. Lateral is designed to be a “place of experimentation in the range of material forms so that the knowing, feeling, sensibility we ascribe to the cultural can find an elastic and sustainable outlet for expression.” Thus we find lots of text but also maps, games, sound and lots of pictures and interactive graphics. Perhaps the innovative design of Lateral makes it more challenging to cite (what’s the ASA format of a “mash-up” on an interactive website?), and certainly it is harder for students to quickly skim in order to find more sources to pad their papers, but what it loses in ease of use I think it more than makes up for in pushing academics to do work that is perhaps actually interesting enough for things like “open-access” to even matter.
“Publish or perish” is a popular maxim in academia. Recently, in a well publicized case (where I posted a similar comment), the fight for open access truly was a life or death battle.
In less dramatic circumstances I too have grappled with the implications of access to information. While writing my second qualifying exam and sketching my dissertation proposal I experienced the stifling impact of the traditional journal system and the importance of open access. Two journals that begin their titles with the word “Cyberpsychology” serve as a case in point for the debate over open access journals.
Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, formerly known as Cyberpsychology and Behavior is not open access. Fortunately, people at the Graduate Center (CUNY), and likely at other institutions, can access this journals publications from 2000 to one year ago through library databases. I cited one article from this journal (Ko & Kuo, 2009) in a paper for my second qualifying exam. However, I cannot view articles published in the past year. This is somewhat frustrating because I would like to review the most recent articles as I conduct my literature review for my fast approaching dissertation proposal.
In comparison I cited three articles from Cyberpsychology, an open access journal, and one of these articles was published in the last year (Bane, Cornish, Erspamer, & Kampman, 2012). The current system for dissemination of scientific journals could clearly be improved. Much scientific research is federally funded, shouldn’t the public be able to read the reports they helped support?
My experience may be indicative of a larger trend. If academics cite open access journals more – these journals may gain greater influence and perhaps this will pressure more journals to transition to the open-access model.
On a related note I found these two indexes of open access journals:
Baker, J. R. & Moore, S. (2008a). Distress, coping, and blogging: Comparing new Myspace users by their intention to blog. Cyberpsychology 11(1), 81-85.
Baker, J. R. & Moore, S. (2008b). Distress, coping, and blogging: Comparing new Myspace users by their intention to blog. Cyberpsychology 11(6), 747-749.
Bane, C. M., Cornish, M., Erspamer, N., & Kampman, L. (2012). Self-disclosure through weblogs and perceptions of online and ‘real-life’ friendships among female bloggers.Cyberpsychology, Behavior, & Social Networking, 13, 131-9.
Ko, H. C., & Kuo, F. Y. (2009). Can blogging enhance subjective well-being through self disclosure? Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 12: 75-9.