Sunday, December 31, 2006

new reviews in cyberculture studies (january 2007)

[via RCCS] a new set of book reviews for january 2007:
  1. From 9/11 to Terror War: The Dangers of the Bush Legacy
    Author: Douglas Kellner
    Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2003
    Review 1: Robert Tynes

  2. Media Access: Social and Psychological Dimensions of New Technology Use
    Editors: Erik Bucy & John Newhagen
    Publisher: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2004
    Review 1: Cheryl Brown
    Editors response: Erik Bucy & John Newhagen

  3. Media Debates: Great Issues for the Digital Age
    Editors: Everett E. Dennis & John C. Merrill
    Publisher: Thomson Wadsworth, 2006
    Review 1: Tim Dwyer

  4. No Safety in Numbers: How the Computer Quantified Everything and Made People Risk Aversive
    Author: Henry J. Perkinson
    Publisher: Hampton Press Inc, 1996
    Review 1: Robert Whitbred
coming very soon:
    Sean Cubitt, The Cinema Effect

    Christina Garsten & Helena Wulff, New Technologies at Work: People, Screens and Social Virtuality

    Andreas Kitzmann, Saved from Oblivion: Documenting the Daily from Diaries to Web Cams

    Lev Manovich & Andreas Kratky, Soft Cinema: Navigating the Database

    Bradley Quinn, Techno Fashion

    Richard Rogers, Information Politics on the Web

    T. L. Taylor, Play Between Worlds: Exploring Online Game Culture

    Joseph Turow & Andrea Kavanaugh, The Wired Homestead: A Sourcebook on the Internet and the Family
also coming very soon: a massive list of new and exciting books looking for reviewers. stay tuned.

Friday, December 29, 2006

happy birthday sarah!

looking for some bob dylan

yesterday, sarah's parents and i drove over to st. paul to see the minnesota historical society. the place was packed, with little kids all over the place. the crowds were there, we were told, to see "baseball as america," a travelling exhibition of over 500 artifacts from the baseball hall of fame cooperstown.

but i wasn't there for baseball. i was looking for some bob dylan.

dylan's from minnesota - from hibbing to be more precise. in 1960, a nineteen year old dylan left hibbing for minneapolis, where he enrolled at the university of minnesota but, um, never had much time for classes. instead, he hung out in the cafes in dinkytown, learned and played folk music, and eventually got hold of some records by woody guthrie. shortly thereafter, he set out for new york city. although dylan spent much of his career trying to escape his minnesotan roots, he seemed to return to the north country - physically and musically - over and over again.

before coming to minnesota, sarah did some online research and found me some dylan at the minnesota historical society's library. i filled out a request slip, turned it in, and five minute later found myself sitting at a desk staring at dylan's original pen-on-paper lyrics for "temporary like achilles." this is what i came to see.

the bob dylan scrapbook, 1956-1966, published in 2005, first introduced me visually to dylan's writing process. seeing some lyrics handwritten on a hotel napkin - written, rewritten; scrambled, rescrambled - intrigued me. songs seemed to stream from dylan nearly complete, but, as i learned from this book and this book, he would edit them meticulously into shape.

it was the editing process that drew me to the minnesota historical society, to the library within it, and to these two sheets of paper that contained two different drafts of what would become "temporary like achilles."


i've been thinking a lot lately about drafts and the abhorance of drafts many of my students seem to have. too many of my students think that writing is the collection of words and sentences that first gush out of their heads. editing? what's that? second draft? why? multiple drafts? please.

a beautiful lesson plan grew and unfurled in my head and i nearly ran from my desk to the librarian to ask permission to take pictures of dylan's drafts with my digital camera.


i asked if i could, um, at least make xerox copies of dylan's drafts.


i'm sure there's some reason behind this - copyright; potential damage to primary sources - but still. it seems so boneheaded. if a library holds the original, shouldn't reproductions be encouraged, thereby increasing the value of - and, more importantly, curiosity in - the original? wouldn't a jpeg distributed via the web serve to further promote the library's holdings?


it surely wasn't the librarian's fault, so i smiled, said thanks, and left the library to meet up again with sarah's parents.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

in which we leave the warm, heated home in search of some art and culture

today, four of us bravely crept out of the warm, heated home and went to the walker art center, the recently reopened contemporary art museum in minneapolis. the building itself, unfortunately, was quite underwhelming - too much aluminum! not enough windows! but fortunately the art and work within was quite the opposite.

there was:
  • a beautiful piece by yoko ono called a painting to hammer a nail in. the hammer was made of glass and the painting was made of a mirror, thereby making the viewer - you - part of the work. yoko ono rules, and i'll be sure to see her retrospective, grapefruit, at the berkeley art museum.
  • an inspired collection of postwar abstraction, called the shape of time. the work ranged from robert rauschenberg and jasper johns (including two works by johns from the collection of my brother-in-law, jean castelli) to pop artists like roy lichtenstein and andy warhol.
  • a massive walk-through installation by thomas hirschhorn called cavemanman. made primarily of cardboard and tape, with posters of pop and porn stars, cans of soda pop, and a library of left-leaning books on philosophy, oppression, and revolution, the piece is a series of caves, a labyrinth of tunnels, serving as a metaphor, hirschhorn tells us, for our minds - littered, distracted, and filled with garbage. curious? the village voice has more.
unfortunately, "my complement, my enemy, my oppressor, my love," the first full-scale american retrospective of the work of kara walker, wasn't yet opened and won't be until february 17. also filed under unfortunate: walker's screening of zidane: a 21st century portrait ("using 17 synchronized cameras, the film tracks the world-class athlete from the first kick until he leaves the field") takes place well after we leave minneapolis, between february 9-11.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

a day in the city with a friend from another country

from 1985-1986, veit gerlach lived in san luis obispo, california. he was a high school exchange student from stuttgart, germany. we met my senior year at san luis obispo high school.

two decades later, veit returned to california! using nothing more than our feet, we went from north beach to chinatown to downtown to lower haight to the castro to the mission. good, good times.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

grading is over and winter break is here

today, i finished grading my fall courses and independent studies. it takes a lot to teach college students for an entire semester, so turning in grades is like crossing the finish line. i submitted my grades online and it actually worked.

that means winter break is here. on christmas day, sarah and i fly to minneapolis to join jini, don, pat, and jewlee. we'll be back in the city by the new year and classes don't start until january 22. i wanna chill. i wanna eat fresh food. i wanna explore the city. i wanna read books.

but before that, here's a few big things that i learned this semester:
  • my students' knowledge of digital media and culture varies greatly. i think the department needs a more general course, a prerequisite to classes like digital democracy, that would be something like "introduction to digital media and culture." some usf media studies students are insanely wired; some are not.

  • my students' research skills need significant improvement. they need to stop relying on google and wikipedia. they need to stop fearing books and libraries. and they need to start asking questions that take days - or maybe a week, or a few weeks, or even a year - to answer.

  • in the old days, it took multiple class sessions to teach stuff like unix, html, dreamweaver, and - ack! - ftp. today, powerful applications like blogs, flickr, and youtube are fairly easy to learn and afford us tools for massive creativity and collaboration. this semester, my students reminded me that we just might be living in interesting times.
and now ... winter break!

technorati tag:

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

organic information design

papers and projects are in; i'm grading.

riffing off something irina suggested when i was silver in seattle, i've been building a slideshow on flickr:

it's not as nicely designed as the white male president graphic below, but it sure is interesting to watch it grow and grow and grow.

back to grading; graduation is this friday!

Monday, December 11, 2006

good information design

good information design communicates deep and deeply-rooted problems quickly and effectively:

(from "The Pattern May Change, if ..." by adam nagourney and jeff zeleny.)

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Saturday, December 09, 2006

usf award: this is cool

the carnegie foundation for the advancement of teaching has selected 76 community engaged colleges and universities in the country and the university of san francisco is one of them.


USF's press release has a lot more information and includes a great quote from gerardo marin, associate provost of USF:
    "Our faculty are engaged with our community doing research that improves people's lives and promotes social justice. Our students are engaged in and out of the classroom finding the truth as they become change agents. This designation clearly shows that we are indeed committed to educating minds and hearts to change the world."
USF should design some kind of web site that brings together our many community engagements. that way, students, faculty, and staff would have a better idea about the projects going on and they would have a better sense of how they can participate. considering departmental internship opportunities and the university-wide service learning requirement, a site like this would be, i think, quite useful for students. the key of course is a web site that students don't just visit - they help build it, annotate it, tag it.

the carnegie recognition is the kind of award that a campus community can feel proud about. congratulations to all those - students, faculty, and staff - whose work the award recognizes.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

holiday party on the fifth floor

the fifth floor of USF's university center building is an interesting mix of professors' and departmental offices. instead of putting professors in the same department next to each other, the offices are, more or less, on shuffle: a communication studies prof's office is next to one in media studies which is next to one in sociology which is next to one in peace and justice studies. it's awesome.

yesterday, the middle row of offices on the fifth floor had their annual holiday party. through the grace of teresa moore, i - a non-middle row office person - was invited to join the festivities. good lights, good snacks (mmm, pomegranate guacamole; mmm, homemade perogies - thanks lydia!), good drinks, and good people make for good times.

earlier that day, i attended the department of computer science's SLS/CS speaker series. the speakers were students - seng konglertviboon and yiting wu presented "extensions to," a project sponsored by professor dave wolber, and tony ngo presented "rjax: a web-based gui for river," a project sponsored by professor greg benson. i believe the presentations were the culminations of large research projects and the students presented to a nearly packed lab of students and faculty. impressive.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

a trip down market street

on september 24, 1905, filmmaker jack kuttner attached a hand-crank camera to a san francisco streetcar and filmed a few miles down market street. kuttner's 9-minute footage is vintage - you see old, grand san francisco, you see very busy downtown traffic with death-wish buggies darting in and out, and you see a few humans running in and around the frame who seem to know, and relish, that the whole scene was being filmed. six months later, in april, the 1906 earthquake and fire devastated the city.

100 years later, filmmakers melinda stone and liz keim decided to recreate the historic event. on september 24, 2005, they hosted a free and public film screening in a park across from the ferry building. they screened the original 1905 film as well as new 2005 trips down market street. by all accounts, the evening was magical. fortunately, a lot of it is captured on a dvd called a trip down market street 1905/2005.

personal context: melinda stone and i teach media studies at the university of san francisco. she's on sabbatical, building and living on stonelake farm, where sarah and i visited and met emily chapman and chris "my blog is a typewriter" fettin. emily was melinda's research assistant, a contributor to the film, and an integral part of the project; chris was an actor on one of the 2005 clips ("w.w. stone and the lincoln monument league of 1914"). on saturday night, emily and chris joined sarah and me and we ate, drank, and watched a trip down market street 1905/2005.

the dvd is incredible. there's multiple ways of watching it but we began with the source: kuttner's "a trip down market street 1905" (9 minutes, originally shot on 35 mm) with an amazing musical accompaniment composed by beth custer and performed by the beth custer ensemble. then we watched "market street after the fire 1906," filmmaker unknown (4 minutes, 35 mm), courtesy of rick prelinger (a portion is available at the film records a stunned population walking towards and away from the heart of the city, a ghost town, a city that has been destroyed by an earthquake and fire. accompanying the footage is dave cerf's sounds, sound clouds, and sound storms. the first film is silent and vibrant; the second film is scathing and haunting.

after refilling our glasses, we moved to the 2005 films! the dvd features commissioned films by kerry laitala, rachel manera, katherin mcinnis, tomonari nishikawa, and ken paul rosenthal. it also has short/shorter films by christian bruno, emily chapman (who's fantastic short, "honey," is "inspired by the 1970s spirit of Sylvester and the Cockettes"), and melinda stone. there's also some documentary footage of old market street including "vj day celebration," by c. r. skinner, narration by dick bartel (4 minutes, 16 mm) which captures spontaneous celebrations on market street on august 14, 1945, when world war two ended. in color. incredible. may we live in such times. and finally, there were a few historical re-enactments, filmic representations of days gone past. my favorite was "w.w. stone and the lincoln monument league of 1914," directed by melinda stone, which explains:
    "When Melinda Stone could not find original footage of this organization and their attempts to change the name of Market Street to Lincoln Boulevard, she decided to make the footage herself. More information on the LML can be located in the San Francisco Room at the SF Public Library."

what fun it is to watch a film while sitting in the same room as the lead actor!

the pathway we took with the dvd ended with "a trip down market street 2005" by melinda stone and sprague anderson, with a score by - again - beth custer and performed by the beth custer ensemble. as far as i can tell, melinda and sprague were able to convince MUNI to let them attach two cameras - a 35mm hand-crank camera and an HDV camera - to a street car and film market street 100 years after the original. just like kuttner's trip down market street, this one is full of the city, full of buildings and cars and streets and bicycles and traffic, full of people (including marina, zane, milo, and sirrus, not to mention a smiling sam green in a nice green shirt). but most of all, it's full of perspectives - perspectives of a city so many of us can't get enough of.

what fun it was to watch the films with emily, chris, and sarah. emily was a cookie jar of sweet stories - project stories, stories about the original trip down market street (look closely and you might just see - six times - the same car driving by the camera), and stories about san francisco. what fun it was to hear chris' stories about the film, his role in it, and the night of the public screenings. and what fun it was - or rather is - to find myself in a working and living environment where inspired ideas come to fruition.

Sunday, December 03, 2006


homemade hovercrafts + shuffleboard + nighttime in seattle + beth freakin' kolko + the insanely creative bre pettis =

Friday, December 01, 2006

teaching carnival #17

ah, the first of december, the time of the year when we teachers grow two brains - one to cover all the grading that will soon appear and one to dream about all the vacations waiting to be taken.

and with that, we bring you teaching carnival #17!
wanna get involved? if you blog about higher education teaching, consider tagging your entry or contact xoom who will fearlessly lead the next teaching carnival.

guest lecture: anil dash

digital democracy meets in a classroom on the third floor of lone mountain. throughout the semester, we have experimented with the best way to configure the room. i'm starting to think that this shape, a u-shape, is the best for class discussions. in this configuration, all of the students are able to see and hear the speaker and see and hear each other.

a few days ago, veanne, a student in digital democracy, introduced me to anil dash and he agreed to be yesterday's guest lecturer. anil is vp of six apart, the folks behind typepad, moveable type, livejournal, and now vox. anil has been blogging since 1999.

if this whole blogging thing doesn't work out, anil should consider becoming a teacher. he gave an hour lecture and then took Q and A's for another 45 minutes. he had all of our attention.

anil described his passion as helping people make media, and later described his job as "building tools so people can make media." he began his talk by taking us back to 1999, the year he began observing what we now call the read/write web or web 2.0. he described the company he works for, shared what it felt like when they went from 3 to 145 employees, and noted that there are 15 million people using the tools they developed.

anil had a ton to say about online community - although i don't recall him using that term. he said: know your readers; know what your goal is; and understand what your space is. anil shared his findings that suggested when a community - community here being a readership around a blog, a group of people on craig's list, or a community of writers/editors on wikipedia - becomes too large, it becomes unruly - at one point he said, "people are bad in mobs." he gave numbers when trolls can be expected and he gave numbers when nasty or simply unproductive blog comments come into play. knowing a good number, anil seemed to suggest, is related to knowing what your goal is. if your goal with a blog is to become big and famous, go for it - and good luck. but if your goal is to, say, keep in touch with family members, maintain friendships online, or share ideas on a specific, shared interest, then a smaller readership is most desired. finally, to explain the last point - understand what your space is - he referred to the classroom and said that within the class we had a common goal: to learn. understanding what the goal is and how to configure an online space (or offline, as in the case of the u-shaped desks) to make that goal thrive is key. he ended this point by mentioning the dunbar number and, like a good professor, told us all to go home and learn more about what that means.

he talked about blogging in iran. he talked about what it means to develop tools that store things most precious to people - like their baby pictures (anil: "there's things you just don't want to disappear"). and he talked about vox and the next step of blogging - a kind of blogging that brings together our multiple online identities and communities. (last night, while talking with sarah, i noted that if microsoft's passport attempts to bring together our multiple consumer identities, an application like vox tries to bring together our multiple creative identities.)

he also scared the bejeezus out of many of my students by saying something that i've been trying to say for years: that when employers like six apart receive applications the first thing they do is google / facebook / technorati them. (at this point, the collective anxiety of my students, perhaps recalling some of the pictures they uploaded to facebook, raised to the roof.) he explained that our private identities are as public as they get, but he also said that this can be an opportunity: he encouraged the students to be aware of their online identity and to make sure it reflects their full selves. (for the record, this is an issue i am working on with multiple colleagues and students as part of USF's campus-wide digital literacy task force - more on that someday soon.)

there was so much more that happened within the hour and forty five minutes. one of the best parts was when we opened up the session for questions. there was a particularly fascinating exchange, prompted mostly by hilary's excellent questions, about whether we are becoming too mediated - whether there might be something very unhealthy about the mediated spaces are lives increasingly occupy. there were questions about the future and questions about the past. and there were questions about digital democracies and digital divides.

anil said two things that i hope, hope, hope my students heard. first, he said that the best job is one you feel passionate about, one you actually enjoy doing. second, he said that computer scientists are not the only kind of person firms like six apart are hiring - they need media scholars, media makers, anthropologists, people who study human behavior.

all in all, an excellent class - a perfect class to get the students' and my mind racing as we head into the last week before finals.

update: a quick pic of what the class normally looks like, sans the u-shape configuration: