Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Thanks for a fine semester

Folks, grades have been posted and I want to thank you for a fine seminar. You've inspired me to teach an overload seminar on "the information society" in Fall 2009, so watch for an announcement if you haven't graduated yet.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

I hit the "Save Now" button instead of "Publish Post"

When I was going through my RSS feed this morning to delete the posts from LIS 640, I realized that my post about the book I read did not show up. Looking back on the website, I found that I saved my post as a draft instead of publishing it because I hit the wrong button on the bottom of the page. I attached the original text that I was going to put up at the bottom of this post. Sorry that this was a little late.

Thank you to everyone for a great semester. Although I was the token undergraduate in the class, I felt that you all had a great impact on the lessons that I took away from this class. Have a great summer.


Alison Armstrong and Charles Casement’s book The Child and the Machine: How Computers Put Our Children’s Education at Risk provides insight into the world of computer technology within elementary education. Throughout the book, Armstrong and Casement look at the issue of integrating computers into the classroom through different examples. The majority of the book talks about the cognitive development of children and how computers have a negative impact on evolving thought from concrete examples, such as learning to count with Cheerios, to abstract skill sets. Specifically, the authors breakdown how children learn how to read and also how to write. The reading process requires children to think and have a “sensory” connection with the text, such as moving their hands across the page of a book as they read a sentence. Also, the writing process consists of logic rules. Armstrong and Casement feel that computer technology simply spits out images and provides immediate feedback for children, preventing them from thinking on their own.

            The second issue that Armstrong and Casement try to address is the cost of computers within the elementary setting. The Child and the Machine looks at cost through different perspectives, ranging from the initial face cost to the amount of money it takes to update and maintain a stable network environment. There are additional costs, such as security measures to prevent theft, which Armstrong and Casement describe. Armstrong and Casement make the argument that the most important cost that school districts do not successfully implement is the money it takes to provide teachers and other faculty members with adequate technology training. In order to have a successful training program, Armstrong and Casement make the claim that school districts need to allocate 50 percent of their technology budget to training programs. Most schools, however, only provide 1-2% of this budget.

            Overall, the book provided a look into the politics of computers within the classroom and how technology impacts the cognitive development of young children. I felt that the book could have taken a more abstract look at how computers affect the future of students and their socioeconomic placement within the United States. Also, the book is quite outdated and does not mention the impact of Internet technology within the classroom. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Apple snags ex-OLPC security chief

(Sorry, just can't stop!)
Apple snags ex-OLPC security chief

Former director of security architecture at One Laptop per Child (OLPC) Ivan Krstic has joined Apple to help thwart hacker attacks against the Mac operating system.

Krstic, a well-respected innovator who designed the Bitfrost security specification for the OLPC initiative, joined Cupertino this week and will work on core OS security. His hiring comes at a crucial time for a company that ties security to its marketing campaigns despite public knowledge that it’s rather trivial to launch exploits against the Mac.

More at

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Reliability of Wikipedia

Hey all,

I just found this interesting blurb about how quickly information can be passed on in today's technological world. Unfortunately, it was deliberately falsified info that was entered on Wikipedia as a sociological experiment. Wikipedia removed the false quote quickly, but journalists used it anyway. Glorious. Whatever happened to fact checking? This is an interesting commentary on the weight that people tend to place on Wikipedia. Even the Wikipedia spokesman, Joe Walsh, stated: "We always tell people: If you see that quote on Wikipedia, find it somewhere else too...."

Hope everyone's papers are going well.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

if you broadband it, they will come...

writing papers and stuff as i round out my final semester at UW, and i stumble upon this little gem that plays into a few of the topics from a while back:

Rural America not ready for broadband? Hogwash, say ISPs

given the documented evidence, it certainly seems like "Rural America is both hungry for broadband and anxious to use it." i (being a skeptical person) am skeptical since this information is coming from the actual service providers and other people who are going to be benefiting from getting this out there, but regardless of any of that, i am pretty much down with getting this broadband internet thing out to rural america so granma and granpa joad can set up their 4chan account asap.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Beyond Barbie® and Mortal Kombat: New Perspectives on Gender and Gaming

“The debate about gender and games has always operated at multiple levels: it was first a debate about how to ensure that young girls had access to the technologies that would shape their futures; it was also a debate about how more women could participate in the emerging digital industries; and it was also a debate about representation (about what kinds of stories and play experiences were going to circulate broadly in our culture).”

Beyond Barbie® and Mortal Kombat: New Perspectives on Gender and Gaming (MIT Press, 2008)
Edited by Yasmin B. Kafai, Carrie Heeter, Jill Denner and Jennifer Y. Sun

As a female who has spent significant time gaming (though I wouldn't call myself an actual gamer -- thus reflecting some ambivalence that I'm sure a lot of females might feel), I was really interested in seeing the conclusions and suggestions posed by this book, along with the hows and whys and trends of girls and women in gaming.

The book was published last year as a sort of update to a 2000 book called From Barbie to Mortal Combat. That book was co-edited by Justine Cassell, who contributes an essay to this book. Cassell's book took both an academic and industry view of gender and gaming. What IS the experience of girls in gaming? What SHOULD the experience be like? Do games targeted at girls merely reinforce the socialization of gender differences?

The editors of this book come from varied backgrounds, but it seems like they all share a focus on "serious games" -- those encouraging learning or behavior change, particularly in education and training (for all ages) and in the areas of health/social change. However, they did a pretty good job of selecting contributions that discuss perspectives in game design, gender research, etc. from outside academia.

Where Cassell's book focused on the inequality of playing time as a standard, this book looks more into the whys and hows of how females play and how gender is expressed and repressed within a game. The editors posit that it is still important to consider gender in the design, production and play of games.

Since 2000, the gaming world has changed dramatically. In particular, gaming has become more community-oriented and less arcade or single-player based. Many popular games offer a more flexible experience, including gender play thanks to anonymity of internet: In WoW (World of Warcraft), estimates say that half the female avatars are played by men. Participatory, player-generated content (e.g. Second Life) draws in both females and males. This can also lead to increased technological expertise and exploration (though the editors still point to this as a mostly-male phenomenon).

It's important to note that many games popular among females (so-called pink or purple games, along with serious games, puzzle games and card games) are still not considered "real" games by many in and around the gaming industry -- despite the fact that one survey listed females as the dominant presence in casual games and that females make up an equal or dominant presence in some MMOs (though they're still a mnority in most).

BUT… concern about huge development budgets leads to indie companies and games, thus hopefully leading to better opportunities for diversity thanks to lowered barriers to entry.

Based on this, the editors’ concept of the digital divide seems to be multifocal, as stated above – changed from playing time to expression of gender and more. In this way, the gender gap seems to be closing, with the advent of more flexible, player-customizable content.

My own concept of the digital divide is heavily based on the idea that other social constructs (e.g. poverty, education, etc.) influence the presence of a DD more than the other way around. To some degree, this is supported within this book, but it is not really addressed. The book focuses more on socially-based concepts like being considered an anomaly, etc. for being a female gamer.

Fair use? Copyright violation?

After reading and viewing the materials for Chris's book and presentation, I found an article on a new kind of pre-fab home, the i-house. The house is solar powered, bamboo flooring, catches rainwater, and has other green features. I'm not a fan of pre-fab homes (usually not very well built and can leak at the seams), but in addition to the green aspects, was I found intriguing was the name: i-house. The creators are admittedly big fans of Apple, but state that the i stands for innovation, inspiration, intelligence and integration. Do you think this will come back to bite them? Maybe Apple will not go after them because they are fans? It is not exactly fair use and the punctuation is different from how Apple markets their "i" products. It will be interesting to see what happens and I found the timing fortuitous.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Freedom of Expression® by Kembrew McLeod

i knew from the outset that my book Freedom of Expression® by Kembrew McLeod, was going to be something of a slight stretch to fit into the discussion of the digital/divide. i had never read the book before, but copyright law/fair use exemption/etc are of great interest to me, and i felt that the envelope was open to being stretched a little bit.

the basic premise of the book is to examine the ways that the copyright rich (generally corporate entities) are privatizing their copyrights beyond what the law allows, and thus harming the copyright poor (bloggers, youtubers(?), remixers, djs, students, documentary artists, etc, etc) who are more often than not simply using the languages of our society which are becoming increasingly based on these corporate entities.

through dozens of interesting and applicable examples from a wide array of disciplines, a hefty background in art history and semiotics, and a pranksters eye for pointed mischief, McLeod presents a reasoned case that the copyright rich among us, while attempting to protect their copyrighted content, are in fact potentially irreparably harming society on the whole and violating the wishes of the framers of the Constitution.

the stretching that i am trying to pull off here is to look at the gulf-like divide between these two currently warring entities (copyright holders and users), and address the ways that digital technology is changing the ways that people disseminate, use, abuse, and are in fact entitled to utilize the copyrighted works seeping into every aspect of the ways they live their lives and percieve themselves and the world around them.

i'm not sure whether the book was a primer for the documentary, or the other way around, but there is a documentary of the same name that plumbs very similar depths as the book, but it seems to have a more outward slant in favor of a tremendously cavalier attitude towards fair use:

the book, by comparison, has a wider ranging approach, focusing much on art, remix culture, and other easy examples that are ready, willing and able to be used to defend fair use as the cultural saving grace that's teetering on the verge of extinction in the face of corporate lobbyists, as well as spending many pages discussing the controversies of patenting genes, monsanto's terminator seeds, and what happens when a student applies for a patent for a biological product he invented on university time/equipment (initially he got three years of jail time spent on a chain gang) amongst other issues that are peripheral to the copyright cause.

the subjects addressed on the book, like the issues surrounding copyright, are vast and include everything from genetic trademarks, peer to peer software, sampling laws, the RIAA/MPAA lawsuits, documentary filmmakers, the length of time it takes for nitrate film to decay, and many other initially unrelated thing which upon reevaluation seem quite attached to the ideas of the book.

overall, i'm not certain how well the book fits into the class, and i definitely found myself doubting some of the stretching i did to try and twist it to fit into the framework of the class, but still absolutely agree that fair use and many of the other "open" movements discussed peripherally and indirectly in the book are on the side of bridging the divide (if it in fact possible to stand on either side of a divides bridge?).

of course, you don't have to take *my* word for it, the book is available as a creative commons licensed pdf so try (or remix or cite or collage or make it into a kindle ebook or almost a million other things) before you buy.

The Dumbest Generation

The main thesis of The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes our Future [Or, Don't Trust Anyone Under 30] by Mark Bauerlein (2008) is summarized by its title. Bauerlein is a professor of English at Emory University and was Director of Research and Analysis at the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). Using studies done in between 2000 and 2007, including the 2004 NEA study "Reading at Risk: A Survey of Literary Reading in America," Bauerlein documents the decrease in leisure reading, participation in other fine arts, and the increase in online activities by young people. He then links these trends to the assessments of student reading, writing and other academic levels, which have either decreased or shown no improvement over the last few decades.
I chose this book in part because I plan on being a college Reference Librarian, and I thought that I might encounter other faculty with attitudes towards digital media and student achievement similar to Bauerlein’s. However, I was hoping for a more balanced portrayal of the arguments for and against online participation and learning. Bauerlein has very strong opinions, and he doesn’t hesitate to state them, to the point of not only using the term "the dumbest generation" in the title, but throughout the book. He uses very traditional student assessment tools to support his arguments. His thesis can be summarized with this statement: "Among the Millennials, intellectual life can't compete with social life, and if social life has no intellectual content, traditions wither and die. Books can't hold their own with screen images, and without help, high art always loses to low amusements." (p. 234). While I think Bauerlein made some interesting points, and as a librarian I couldn’t help relating to his love and support of books and reading, ultimately his perspective was too didactic and condescending to be persuasive.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Continued extistence of the digital divide

So just this morning, I was talking to some people on the bus after hearing about how they need to go to the library to have internet access to fill out job applications. Some of their comments really captured the essence of the divide issues we have discussing all semester. One person is having a hard time negotiating the various websites and forms necessary to find a job through an employment agency, which is a very good way to get a job these days. This will be his third attempt at submitting his application. Once submitted, he will have wait for an email, meaning more trips to the library to check. The agencies will not phone until after everything is set up online and via email. Another person knows how to fill out forms and navigate the internet, but does not have access at home because it is too expensive. She has access for a few months at a time, under a promotional pricing program, but then cancels, waits and sets it up again under new promotional pricing. She can only get one provider (Charter) and wants to go back to school, but is afraid of falling behind with several online courses she would have to take. Another person, a father, pays his internet bill every month with a credit card so that his children have access for school. So, on top of $50/month, he is accumulating interest and debt.

In just a short conversation with three people, I heard about the digital divide via education, access, and economics. This also addresses the changing nature of public libraries and the roles of librarians as tech support. This re-affirmed my belief that the divides are still active and relevant to many people. Two of the people believed that things could change through public funding, education, and support, but that is would take time. Then after speaking with them, I found this. There is a motion to only post legal notices online, rather than in newspapers.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Issues with multiple social networking identities

I stumbled across this article this morning ( and I thought that it would fall into the digital divide abyss. The article explains the issues of managing multiple social networking accounts and how individuals can get themselves into trouble when their profiles, as a whole, do not align. The writer talks about recent Pew and Nielsen data from 2008 to show that the use of social networking has drastically increased. At the end of the article, the writer makes the claim:
"...our desire to participate in social networks is outpacing our ability to efficiently manage these profiles..."
Just something to start off your week.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Digital Divide

The readings as well as the discussion of this semester have clearly demonstrated that there is a digital divide, and though the definition and proposed solutions differ greatly, it is there. The arguments from the week on questioning the divide ring hollow and fail to adequately refute its existence. The digital divide is not a black and white issue with only haves and haves not, there are gradations of access and understanding as noted in Warschauer. For me the digital divide reflects a social, economic divide as well as access to technology and the knowledge to use it effectively. This new information or knowledge society demands certain skills and understanding related to technology and those who do not have access or have less access or fewer skills will be disadvantaged. Though I also don’t have a clear idea on how to bridge the gap, I feel that throwing technology at the problem without training or other support is not the answer. Warschauer in the introduction to Technology and Social Inclusion and many others we read clearly show that technology only solutions fall short of the claims that access is everything. I feel that Warschauer’s model of addressing many different resources as well as using the framework of social inclusion would be able to create sustainable, successful programs.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Sex Ed in Texts

Trying to use technology to teach, once again--interesting idea.

Existence of the digital divide

Yes, there is a digital divide. As many others have pointed out, the divide isn't clear cut or even clearly defined. As such, there aren't any easy answers either. The obvious disparities, between those who have little to no access to technology, seem to be the ones that lawmakers, pundits, and the media choose to report on and emphasize. Those divides that are less visible, such as gender or ability divides, concern me even more sometimes. I don't have any real answers to the question of how to close these divides. I am hopeful that things can improve. It seems, at times, that the way our society has been structured will have to change radically for us to address it (I suppose it is rather fitting that I'm writing on May Day...hmmm. Not intentional, I swear). There seem to be psychological barriers, constructed around ideas of identity and who technology is "for"--and these are the parts of the digital divide I think we'll have the hardest time fixing. I'm hoping to address this and try to flesh out these ideas in my paper, particularly around themes of gender and cultural differences.