Robots As Publishers: Curation Conundrums in the Digital Age

NWP Daily NewsIt’s been some time since I shared out my curated NWP Daily News via Paper.li, and I use that word “curate” very lightly here, as the robotic overlords who feed on algorithms are the ones who gather up news and sharing from a Twitter list of National Writing Project folks (670 peeps, listed as of this morning … wait .. make that 669 … see below), and somehow, it comes together in what I think is a moderately interesting daily collection of media, tidbits and more.

But I received a direct message on Twitter from a person in my NWP network about their inclusion into the “newspaper”  this week and the notice of their Twitter handle in an auto-tweet that comes out every day. They clearly were not happy with it, and they wondered how their Twitter account got so entwined with mine. They suggested that it was a misrepresentation of both of our Twitter accounts. I think they thought I have been intentionally scraping their content and representing it as my own.

Have I, inadvertently, doing that? Not in my mind.

I messaged back to them, politely, and then removed from them from my NWP List, so as to avoid putting them in the same situation in the future. The last thing I want to do is make anyone uncomfortable when the robots take over. To be honest, I’m not sure bringing other NWP folks to their Twitter account or bringing a small spotlight to something interesting that they shared out or wrote about is such a bad thing, but that’s not for me to decide.

Or is it?

Here I am, making a “newspaper” of Twitter folks who self-associate with the National Writing Project, and that message reminded me that I never do ask permission of anyone to become part of my NWP Twitter List. I just add them in. I also assume that the tweets from public accounts are public and that if you tweet something out into the open, then you are signaling your approval in having it viewed and collected  — or, in this case, curated under an unofficial NWP umbrella (“unofficial” because NWP bigwigs did not sanction me doing this, nor did I ask permission.)

I realize now that it is a bit of a can of worms, indicative of the Information Age.

On one hand, I hate the lack of agency I have in actually curating the darn Paper.li thing. I don’t think I can manually add content, just people’s streams of information (or at least, I can’t do that with the free version I use. I’m not sure about the paid version.) On the other hand, I am grateful that the algorithms do all that work on my behalf, so that I don’t have to spend the time each day. Because, you know, it wouldn’t get done, otherwise. I’m a realist.

It’s the typical Digital Age Cunundrum, right? How much agency do I give up to technology in order to achieve what I hope to achieve with the smallest amount of effort? And if I give up too much, am I really achieving what I wanted to achieve?

I don’t have the answer to that. (Do you?)

Instead, I just read my NWP News most mornings, and think, these NWP folks are doing some amazing things, and I enjoy reading about it. I get inspired by them. I learn from them. I guess you could say, I made this “newspaper” for me. But I am happy if others enjoy it, too. I even get a kick when someone who get mentioned shouts out some thanks to me, via Twitter, and all I can do is say, “You’re welcome. I had little to do with it. The robots are in charge!”

What I hadn’t realized, until this morning, is that not everyone would be so open about it and grateful to be part of my NWP experience. I guess that part of curation — the view of the skeptical curatee (is that a word? The one who is being curated?) — never crossed my mind until this morning. Maybe it should have.

Peace (on the page),

Kevin

Hello There, Hypertext

I’m in the midst of reading an interesting interview with Ted Nelson, who coined the phrase “hypertext” and then presented about it in a paper in 1965 (the year before I was born). In my mind, I think of the hyperlink/hypertext as the significant element that makes the Internet different/unique from other kinds of texts, and yet, we often forget about the magic of the idea.

A hyperlink, which is just one element of hypertext, not only transports us to other online spaces and media, it creates an associative element to how we write (this will connect to that) and how we read (this will bring me there). It also creates rabbit holes for readers (this will be bring me here, which brings me here, which brings me here, and now, where was I?).

Interestingly, Nelson, who identified himself early on as a filmmaker with screens as storytelling platforms, thinks we have become too narrow-minded on the Web by associating “hyperlink” with “hypertext” and his original idea of connected documents, seen on the screen at the same time along with the “bridge” that connects the documents reminds me of the FedWiki project, in a lot of ways.

In the interview with Nelson on Boing Boing, celebrating the 50 years of the introduction of the concept of hypertext at a conference, some of his answers to questions were very interesting, and worth collecting.

Oh. Yeah. The hyperlink to the interview is here.

No one could imagine what an interactive screen would be. No one I talked to could imagine what an interactive screen would be, whereas I saw and felt them sensually in my mind and at my fingertips. Yet to me this was an extension of literature as we had always known it. – Ted Nelson

 

There was nothing standing in the way of computers for the public except for imagination, it seemed to me, and so I was trying to supply that. – Ted Nelson

 

Movies are events on a screen that affect the heart and mind of the viewer, right? And software—interactive software—is events on a screen that affect the heart and mind of the user, and interact, and have consequences. – Ted Nelson

 

I thought hypertext would lead to a millennial system of changes, and so it has, but much less influenced by my own work—my designs and ideas—than I’d hoped. – Ted Nelson

 

Other people’s hypertext just use jump links—that’s what the World Wide Web is, just jump links—whereas I consider it essential to see pages side by side, as in the Talmud, as in medieval manuscripts, as in any number of documents over the centuries. This is an essential part of the electronic document which we don’t have yet. – Ted Nelson

Peace (in the text),
Kevin

 

Using PicMonkey to RangerMe

I am sure some of my CLMOOC friends would like to join in on the RangerMe impromptu make. So, here is a tutorial using the free but powerful PicMonkey photo editing. I chose online so that it can cross platforms.

First, you need to have the template ready for upload. Go to the photo in my Flickr account and download it.

Rangerme Template

Second, go to PicMonkey and click on “edit for free” link in upper right corner of the page (or create an account). Now, follow this visual tutorial:

How to RangerMe with PicMonkey1How to RangerMe with PicMonkey2How to RangerMe with PicMonkey3How to RangerMe with PicMonkey4

And be sure to share out!

Peace (in the make),
Kevin

Views from a Digital Writing Marathon

Last week, I facilitated a Digital Writing Marathon through our Western Massachusetts Writing Project. Part of the intent was to invite folks from various ongoing WMWP initiatives together to play and tinker and reflect on technology.

I began by sharing the Gary Hayes Social Media Counter as a visual reminder of why we need to be at least considering the impact of technology on the lives of ours students. This sparked a discussion about the Media Lives of young people, and the important role that teachers play in helping students navigate technology.

We then moved into some collaborative writing, and we riffed off the recent #celebrateteachers concept of teachers writing about educators who influenced their lives. I really love this kind of reflective writing, and we used a simple Google Slides format to collaborate together on a single presentation. Although nearly everyone in the marathon has Google Apps for Education in their school, very few have tapped it for its collaborative power, and this activity sparked some great conversations about possibilities for shared projects and more.

From collaboration, we shifted into identity in digital spaces, and how best to help students think about how they represent themselves — and protect themselves — in various social spaces they use outside of school. I brought the group from the Digital Marathon into our Bitstrips for Schools space, and we spent some time making avatars to represent ourselves, and then shifted into how teachers might use online webcomic sites for engaging writers. Bitstrips was a hit, with lots of laughter and making.
WMWP Tech Marathon comicsWMWP Tech Marathon comics
I wrote about the next activity the other day, as a WMWP colleague led us through an activity that turned a math word problem into a Google Sheets learning experience and ended with a video essay format to check for understanding.

Wmwp tech workshop 2015We then moved into the world of coding and programming as literacy practice, and I introduced the Hour of Code and the Flappy Birds game activity that ends in the creation of a Flappy Bird game. I framed it as another way to engage students in technology in a meaningful way. This activity was sort of hit or miss, as some seemed to get bored with it or not all that interested in programming elements (whereas my students get highly engaged). Wmwp tech workshop 2015

Finally, I showed them Padlet as a place for exit tickets and reflection, and I asked them to leave some thoughts on technology and learning, and a few knew of Padlet, but many did not.

WMWP Reflection

The day went by quick, even for four hours of PD, and I think it had just enough balance of play and reflection to make a ripple in some classrooms this fall.

Peace (in the tech),
Kevin

PS — here are some extension activities I put in play for them. We never got to them, but they have our website to refer back to and share with colleagues.

The Internet as Public Space 2: We, the People

The Internet Map

The Internet global network is a phenomenon of technological civilization, and its exceptional complexity surpasses anything mankind has ever created. In essence, what we are dealing with here is a huge quantity of utterly unstructured information. The Internet map is an attempt to look into the hidden structure of the network, fathom its colossal scale, and examine that which is impossible to understand from the bare figures of statistics.

The Internet Map is an interesting site that calculates the connections made of people moving between websites to create a visualization of the Internet. Sort of.

As the developer says:

The Internet map is a bi-dimensional presentation of links between websites on the Internet. Every site is a circle on the map, and its size is determined by website traffic, the larger the amount of traffic, the bigger the circle.

Use the search engine at the Internet Map to look up countries and you quickly notice a trend: Google is everywhere. Seriously, if we open up our definition of Public Space to include the Internet (which we should), then it becomes clear rather quickly how enormous a reach Google has on the world through our search engines.

What does it say about us that we let a private, for-profit company have such a hold on the public sphere? It says we (me, too) value speed and convenience over privacy and data protection. It says that most of don’t even recognize the changed world from this vantage point because we don’t take the time to see the world this way.

But if the Internet is a public domain, or if it should be, then we all need to do more to protect that space from the encroachment and control of private companies. Are governments up to the challenge? Not likely. That just means we, the people of the world — the People of the Internet — need to be more vigilant and informed about our elected officials. We need to ask questions about privacy and Internet freedoms and more.

I also came across an interesting chart in a post the other day. It is entitled “Where the Internet Lives.” While the focus of the piece was on the visualization of who has connectivity, I kept wondering about the opposite: who does NOT have connectivity and what does that mean for the future of those places? I’m not saying the world is turning on technology alone, but lack of access should be a major concern of all of us.

Image: Ralph Straumann, Mark Graham, Oxford Internet Institute

Peace (and insight),
Kevin

Exploration of Public Space: Chapel Falls

The facilitators of this week’s Make Cycle of Making Learning Connected MOOC are encouraging folks to use digital storytelling to capture and document the public spaces around them. I’d encourage the use of the free Adobe Voice app, which has to be one the most simple-to-use digital story apps I have come across.

Here, I took my boys (and our dog) to Chapel Falls, a remote series of waterfalls perfect for swimming and the returned home to document our fun day.

Chapel Falls

Peace (in the outdoors),
Kevin

PS — this kind of Make will also be perfect for next week’s Make Cycle (hint)

Feeding the Dawg: A Contraption Maker Contraption

Dang. This is fun. I learned about Contraption Maker from a friend, Melvina, in the Making Learning Connected MOOC when I was sharing out a Rube Goldberg contraption the other day as part of systems thinking (the train of ideas just keeps on rolling), and decided to give Contraption Maker a try.

Am I ever glad I did!

making the dawg

First of all, it solves my own puzzle around teaching Rube Goldberg contraptions: how to move from the visual literacy component of systems thinking and design to having students construct a contraption without spending weeks on a project? And how to move even more science, and Next Generation Standards, into our writing class in an engaging way?

Second of all, Contraption Maker folks reached out immediately to an email I sent them via the educator section of their website. Seriously, Deborah, their helpful educational outreach person, was responding not long after I sent a query with helpful advice on how to get started. And they gave me a free license. Listen: I’m not that special. They apparently are giving free licenses to teachers … and licenses for all classroom computers for students!

Say that again? Free for schools? Yes. I guess they make money when kids get hooked and want it at home, which is where a family would have to purchase a license. I’m fine with that model.

Third, I was pleasantly surprised that you can record a video of your contraption in real time and export it to YouTube for sharing out (see above). It was a great motivator for me as I was tinkering. There is also multiplayer mode.

Now, the Contraption Maker program is a software download, so keep that mind, but there is a teacher dashboard for keeping track of student progress and work, and plenty of video tutorials, and it has play modes and design modes (my focus) as well ways to go even deeper into the code design (I think … still going over it all).

Overall, thumbs up for Contraption Maker.  I found it to be a perfect way to play with systems thinking in the CLMOOC this week, too, and can’t wait to show it to students. Go ahead. Give it a try.

Go, Dawg, Go.

Peace (in the engine room),
Kevin

Considering Curation: Google Collections

Google Collections Remediated Poem

One of the more important questions of digital literacy, if you ask me, is how do we curate what we make into something manageable and something reflective. I have yet to come upon the perfect tool. I use Diigo’s Outliner at times. I keep a few magazines on Flipboard. Storify works for some things, and not for others. I could go on and on.

I noticed that Google recently unveiled a part of Google Plus called Collections. The Google folks suggest it is a way to gather up posts and images and more from Google Plus into something more manageable and shareable. (It’s also part of their push to give more preference to Google Photos and move away from Google Communities, I think.)

Last week, as I was working on a poem through various media in the Making Learning Connected MOOC, as part of the reMEDIAtion effort, I decided to give Collections a try, to see if it would help with curation of the work I was doing.

The result?

I don’t know. It’s OK. Just OK.

I was able share links, and add some reflections to put the piece into context. But I didn’t like I could not tinker with the order of posts, nor that I can’t seem to share the Collection outside of Google Plus (no doubt, part of Google’s plan to keep us inside the Google walls.) Try this link. Tell me if it brings you to my collection. Thanks.

But “Just OK” is not really all that good enough, right? Still searching for the perfect curation tool of the digital age. I am open to suggestions.

Peace (in the cure-ate),
Kevin

 

The CLMOOC Word Map

No reason for doing this other than I wondered how it would come out …

I used Word Map, which is a pretty nifty tech tool, if you use a real word. Hashtags are just confusing for the voices.

Peace (on the map),
Kevin

 

Getting All Glitchy With It

It’s always exciting when the first Make Cycle of the Making Learning Connected MOOC kicks off, and yesterday, it finally did.  The faciliators — two colleagues from the Tar River Writing Project — of the Make Cycle want to do a little twist on how we go about introducing ourselves, by bringing a sort of media mediation into the mix.

They write:

The theme this week is Unmaking Introductions. Let’s consider the ways we name, present, and represent ourselves and the boundaries or memberships those introductions create.

Among the suggestions to explore is to slice up and glitch some media. I see the use of intentional glitch as a way to upend our expectations of media, to turn the expected into the unexpected, and maybe find something new in the mix. It’s interesting because we often think of a “glitch” as something broken (like in the clip above, where her glitch is later what saves the day). But mistakes and miscues, and the unexpected are what makes life interesting.

So for this activity, I turned to a few apps to help me out, including one called Fragment that does what it sounds like — it takes apart images and reconstructs them back into unusual images. (It was free when I got it.)

I began with a photo of me and my dog. I use the handle/moniker Dogtrax in a lot of social media spaces. It has nothing to do with dogs, although I often make canine-inspired jokes. You can read more about my nickname here, if that interests you. Hey, I do love dogs. (Cats are cool, too, so no hate comments, please). And my dog, Duke .. he is pretty cool. He puts up with a lot from our family. (We feed him, so that helps).

So I took this photo of Duke and I in repose. He seems like he is thinking: Sigh, here we go again:

With dog

and made this with Fragment. I was really trying to find a ways to layer our faces in different ways and I love that Duke’s nose just hangs out on the edge of the frame on the right:

Dogtrax and his dog

and then this collage with another app. The bottom right image was done in another app, and it was another image where my eyes look up. That simple movement changes the flow of the collage, don’t you think?

Dogtrax and dog

and then I used an online site called Image Glitch Experiment suggested by Make Cycle facilitators for creating “glitch” images to make this version. The small bands of color seem to me as if there is a television set going, and the lower half of the screen — all dark — changes the composition of the image, too, giving contrast to the light.

dogtraxdog-glitched

I’ll keep exploring how media impacts identity. It’s an intriguing topic.

Peace (in the glitch),
Kevin