Book Review: Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Account Right Now

Jaron Lanier is a well-known name in Silicon Valley, and I’ve enjoyed some of his books in the past. His latest — Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now — is not as strong as some of his other books, and he gets too cute with his explanatory acronyms at times, but the book has merit for informed reading.

I won’t go through all his arguments, but it boils down to this observation from a technology evangelist from inside the technology industry (with a decidedly humanistic approach to technology):

Companies like Facebook and Google that have created algorithms that sell user personal data to third party companies (See Cambridge Analytica controversy) have created a toxic atmosphere that feeds on negativity because the powerful emotions of negativity — anger, sadness, frustration, isolation — fuels interaction, and interaction with the technology leads to profit for companies.

The only way companies will get the message to change their course is for users to stop using the technology. In fact, Lanier argues that this current business model is unsustainable in the long run, and that if Facebook and Google don’t consider other models of profit, they will be doomed. Until then, though, the degradation of experience will continue.

Unless you make a choice to stop.

Lanier argues that we make that choice, and quit. Not the Internet itself. Not the connections we make. But quit the social networking systems that don’t value users as people, and whose algorithms (now set in motion and running rather autonomously) nurture dissent and friction. He cites examples from Black Lives Matter to the revolution in the Middle East and more, as examples of how the use of social media begins positively and then quickly turns negative when the algorithms amplify negativity for engagement.

He also acknowledges that everyone’s situation is different, and quitting for one person might be easier than for another. His final message is, be informed and make an informed choice.

Interestingly, Lanier is not entirely pessimistic. He believes there is still time to change things for the better. He offers up some different solutions, including the idea of users paying a small fee to use social networks, but also, the idea of social networks paying users for any content that engages people on the same network. So, you would pay (creating a new financial system for companies) and they would pay you to write and create interesting content.

Would it work? I don’t know.

Will people really quit in numbers enough to effect change? I don’t know.

Is the current system sustainable? I don’t know but I don’t think so.

Peace (through networks),
Kevin

Beyond the Single Button World: Technology Interaction


Blue vivid image of globe and space tin can flickr photo by Patrick Bombaert shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

“The switch is either on or off.” — Jonathan Josephson

In another video from an intriguing collection around transformation of storytelling, Jonathan Josephson explores the ways we interact with our technology, reminding us that the binary basis — the ones and zeros that make up the backbone of our technology — is both limited and non-intuitive for telling stories.

Josephson is part of a company doing work around technology interaction, so there is a commercial thread to this work. Even so, his observations of the tension between technology and people is worth a look and a consideratoin.

Jonathan Josephson – The Future of Interaction from Future Of StoryTelling on Vimeo.

Peace (interact always),
Kevin

Writing Scripts to Film Stories

Lessons from the Screenplay

This might be helpful for those of us, and our students, who want to go deeper into the movie-making medium. Lessons from the Screenplay is a YouTube channel with tons of videos on how to write for the screen. All free. Cool.

Thanks, Terry, for the mention in your newsletter on this one.

Peace (filming it forever),
Kevin

NCTE Journal Review: What’s Next with Digital Tools and Social Media

The May 2018 edition of the NCTE journal – Voices from the Middle — arrived in the mail and immediately caught my attention. It’s part of a series of “What’s Next” themed editions of the journal (an edition about what’s next in reading was intriguing), and this one is entitled “What’s Next? Digital Tools and Social Media” and, if you know me at all, you know that is something I am interested in as a teacher and a writer (and a parent).

I was not surprised to Troy Hicks writing an introduction of sorts, as he framed the way technology is shaping our writing practices, and how our writing practices is shaping our use of technology. Yes, it goes both ways, and Troy has been writing and sharing and teaching us strategies about digital writing for many years now. (And Troy, thanks for the shout-out in your piece.) I was interested in the way Troy ended each section with an insight about digital writing, and what it means as we look ahead to teaching and writing.

In other articles in the journal, I appreciated the exploration of digital imagery as a connection to understanding and uncovering the inner lives of our students, the strategies for battling the fake news phenomenon, how infographics might extend writing practices and the use of argument, and the way technology might open more doors for students of color to have a voice in the world. There are solid classroom examples, and lots of resources, to explore in these pieces.

Overall, the theme from this wide range of writers and teachers is to remember that technology is a tool, not the thing. Students need to remain at the center of the learning and the writing, and educators — from the veteran teachers (like Chris Lehman’s piece about the imperative of pre-service teachers getting experience with digital literacies and Linda Rief’s piece about long-time teachers relying on students to teach us) — and the key to the work we all do to adapt to the changing world is, as the Cathy Fleischer notes, is “making this work sustainable” by connecting and sharing with other educators.

You can access a few of the pieces for free at the NCTE site, but many of the pieces are in the journal that comes with being a NCTE member. Since Troy’s piece is open and free, how about joining me in using Hypothesis to annotate his column?

Read and react to The Next Decade of Digital Writing by Troy Hicks

See you in the margins.

Peace (exploring what’s ahead),
Kevin

 

 

What Pew Found: Teens, Social Media & Technology 2018

We were just having a conversation about YouTube and television use in my sixth grade class two days ago. They are writing arguments about whether schools should allow cell phones or not, and we were reading a magazine piece about kids and technology that clearly has some outdated statistics about television use and Youtube … in fact, we agreed that the numbers should be flip-flopped, as my students admit to watching almost no television and many hours of YouTube on a regular basis.

If you pay attention to kids, the latest survey of youth about technology from the Pew Research Center will hardly be surprising. Still, it makes visible what many of us teachers know through anecdotal discussions: more and more of our students are highly connected, often through expensive smart phones, and they mostly shun Facebook and instead, lean towards Snapchat and Instagram, and they use YouTube for just about everything: entertainment, music, learning, etc.

All social networks face a natural decline over time, although Facebook has held on longer than I would have suspected, perhaps because the loss of young users has been balanced out by the addition of older users. Still, when a space is losing huge amounts of young people, trouble is surely ahead (see:MySpace, Friendster, etc.). I am not suggesting that is a bad thing, by the way.

It’s been clear for the last few years, in surveys I do with my sixth graders during our Digital Life unit, that Facebook holds almost no appeal to young technology users. Some of that is that the network is now mostly adults, and what kid wants to hang out there? Another is the design of the site. And of course, privacy issues have become front and center.

It’s worth noting how the use of technology has become an obsessive component for many young people, and whether that is good or bad is not yet clear. We don’t know if this connectedness will open up new ways of thinking and spark innovation, or if it is just doing strange stuff to their brains via screens. As a father and as a teacher, it is worrisome, this amount of screen time, even as I teach how to use technology for meaningful projects and learning.

I think the chart about the positive and negative elements of using technology is intriguing.

We educators should use this information from Pew and others to think about how to build on the positive while finding ways to help our young people battle the negative. Clearly, our young people are insightful and seeking positive venues, and they are having experiences that are shaping how they interact with each other and the world through technology.

Let’s harness that possibility.

Peace (in tech),
Kevin

 

A DS106 Thing: GifMeme Creative Workflow

via GIPHY

I haven’t often written about my daily creative wanderings for the #DS106 Daily Creates (or at least, not in some time) but this morning’s call to make a meme out of a music video got me thinking, I should at least explain my process.

First, check out the Daily Create prompt.

This had me sipping my coffee, thinking of music videos. The thing is, I don’t watch as many music videos as I used to, you know? I thought about Peter Gabriel (Sledgehammer, anyone?), but then wondered if that would be too obvious for strangeness. Then, I remembered The Cars video for You Might Think, and although the peeping tom element is a bit unsettling, I remembered a clock face.

In my Chrome browser, I have an add-on called Gif It, which is integrated into YouTube, and this makes grabbing gifs from videos a breeze. It’s so simple to do. Just feed in the time of sequence and you get a gif in seconds.

But the prompt was for a meme, not just a gif.

I took that gif from the video and moved it into Giphy (along with a link attribution back to the original video), where I could then play around with its gif meme maker (where you can add text and stickers and drawings). Giphy allows you to download and also to embed in sites (like here).

Then, I shared that music video gif meme out to the DS106 hashtag on Twitter, and wrote the post you are now reading.

I also tried the process out with Genesis’ I Can’t Dance.

via GIPHY

Not to be stuck in the DinoRock Era, I also dug into some Courtney Barnett songs from her recent album, and found this neat image of her rocking out while standing on a planet for her song Need a Little Time.

via GIPHY

Peace (in the flow),
Kevin

 

The Puzzle of the Unworkable Photos


fail flickr photo by surrender+ shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license

Yesterday, I opened up iMovie for the first time in some time in order to create a small video project for an open learning summer venture I am helping to facilitate (more on that in the days ahead). I had shot video and images on my new Pixel phone and wanted to use iMovie to pull them together.

This is something I have done many times. I figured it would take me about 15 minutes, tops.

The video imported fine. The images? Not.

While it seemed like the images (which I had downloaded from my Google Image application, as photos taken on the Pixel phone automatically upload into that shared multi-device folder) were in iMovie (thumbnails showed just fine in the media section), the photos were clearly not available (all I got was black blank space if I tried to preview the image or tried to drag them into my movie timeline.)

Huh.

I decided to do a Google Search on the problem, but found little help. One person, working on a related problem from an earlier version of iMovie, suggested converting jpg images into png images. I did that. I imported.

Nothing. Blank space.

Huh.

I thought maybe it was iMovie itself, or some update that happened since the last time I used it and upgraded my ios on the Mac, so I found an old image from another project and imported it in. It worked fine.

Huh.

So, I thought now in my detective brain, it has to do with Google Images and iMovie, but not with the format of the photo. I used another browser to do another search (I like Duck Duck Go but its search function is not nearly as powerful as Google, alas). Sure enough, I finally found a discussion thread on this issue. I had to read down far, but saw that the person fixed the problem by … resizing the images.

Huh.

Apparently, Google Images from my phone by default are pretty big, for resolution sake (one of the selling points of the Pixel phone and its powerful camera) and iMovie can’t handle the resolution. So, the fix is to pull each image up into Preview (or whatever photo app you use) and resize the image downward to acceptable size.

I tried it. It worked. Problem solved. Frustration fixed. (Sort of … now I need to go into each individual photo and resize it for the video project. That stinks.)

I share this story here so that I remember (my blog is often the place I come back to when I try to remember things like this) and for you or anyone else who might come up against it.

Peace (problems, solved),
Kevin

 

Book Review: The Art of Immersion in the Age of Digital Media

Quotes: The Art of Immersion

I had purchased The Art of Immersion: How the Digital Generation is Remaking Hollywood, Madison Avenue and the Way We Tell Stories by Frank Rose on my Kindle app during the first week of the first Networked Narratives, thinking that Rose’s text might be a nice dovetail to NetNarr. (Admission: this book review has been sitting in my draft bin … for some time. Interestingly, it still holds together with some of the projects I did in the second iteration of NetNarr)

Quotes: The Art of Immersion

I got caught up in some of other things — including some intriguing NetNarr projects — and only returned to Rose’s text later in the course itself. I’m glad I waited, for I think that our discussions in NetNarr helped frame what I read in the book. Rose examines the way that digital media, and the Internet in particular, is transforming the entertainment field, through technology and other elements of immersive storytelling. He brings years of reporting experience to his insights.

Quotes: The Art of Immersion

I’ll admit: I didn’t ‘deep read’ this book. I power-read it, slowing down in sections that caught my attention and interest, and then pulling out quotes that seemed to connect not only with my personal inquiry around the changing nature of digital storytelling but also in connection to some of the interactions I have with folks in NetNarr, CLMOOC and beyond around technology and composition.

Quotes: The Art of Immersion

Overall, Rose does a nice job of exploring all sorts of terrain, mostly from the entertainment standpoint. I, of course, am curious from the education standpoint, but there were plenty of places where those perspectives overlap. In particular, knowing a bit about where storytelling might be going (no one ever knows for sure) gives teachers a bit of an insight into the skills that might be needed for that kind of landscape.

Quotes: The Art of Immersion

The Art of Immersion is worth checking out, if only to get a glimpse of the world unfolding for our students, particularly those who are becoming interested in media production, where the tools are both complex and simple to use, and the possibilities for bending stories through different prisms, and for different audience experiences, is fascinating to think about.

Or, it is for me.

Peace (written in story),
Kevin

PS — a little promo from Frank Rose

 

Blog Celebration: 10,000 Comments and Counting

Blog Comment 1

I know numbers are not everything. But some events still require a little celebration, right? Yesterday, during the Slice of Life, Chris posted a comment about my interaction with a student, and her comment became the 10,000th comment at Kevin’s Meandering Mind.

Blog Comment 10000

It’s funny because I kept checking in all morning to see if I would reach 10,000 during the morning, after posting my Slice of Life. I knew it would happen because the Slice of Life group is one that regularly reads and comments on Tuesday mornings.

I just didn’t know who it would be or when it would be. Thank you, Chris, for being the one.

I’m still staggered by that number, though. Ten thousand comments. That’s … like, a whole city of comments. A book could be made of the comments here. Pretty cool to consider.

I went back and searched my blog for the very first person to comment here and I found it was Will Richardson on July 27 2006. Will being the first commenter is sort of symbolic in a way because Will’s work early on with blogs, and wikis, and podcasts, helped inspire me to dive in with wonder when I first started blogging as a teacher (this blog came as a result of conversations and work with National Writing Project friends in a Tech Matters retreat in Chico, California, and I still have many close friends from that retreat.)

I went into the Wayback Machine to look for my blog in 2006.

My Blog: Wayback Machine 2006

I am grateful that people still bother to read blogs (now and then, but not as often as it once was, alas) and that they even bother to read mine, and then, take the time to leave comments. It makes blogging feel more like a public act of writing, as opposed to a private notebook posted for others to look at. I wish I were better at using comments to start larger conversations.

Certainly, social media platforms have overtaken blogging in many ways. People (and not just the young kids) are more apt to use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Tumblr (sort of a blog), and more, and the decline of RSS readers (I still use one) as a way to gather aggregated feeds from blogging writers and educators is less a reading experience for many. Blogging isn’t dead, not by a long shot, but it has faded a bit into the busy background of the social media landscape.

So, if you have left a comment here sometime in the last 12 years, thank you. See you at 20,000 comments in about 12 more years … right?

Peace (making note of it),
Kevin

Video: Ethics of Immersive Digital Storytelling

(image via Andrea Phillips)

A conversation recently unfolded on Twitter about Transmedia Storytelling, in which author and transmedia storyteller Andrea Phillips joined in, adding an interesting wrinkle to the discussion.

She voiced concern over the ethics and responsibility of digital storytellers, particularly those who use media to trick/entertain viewers to enter into the story from different angles. (Transmedia is the idea of a story unfolded over different media, technology and platforms — the pieces joined together to tell a story, although each piece could stand on its own.)

(image via Pinterest)

Andrea then shared this Ted-style talk she did on this topic, and I think it is worth viewing, if only to remind ourselves that there is a fine line between reality and story, and between responsibility and creativity.

Meanwhile, I got Andrea Phillip’s book — A Creator’s Guide to Transmedia Storytelling — out of the library and dove in last weekend, reading as she shared her experiences as creating Transmedia experiences and interviews with others. She brings a lot of great insights into the mix.

I enjoyed the inside look, although I came away with the notion that Transmedia pieces are mostly geared towards selling a product — a movie tie-on or a commercial aspect or marketing campaign.

Perhaps this is because that is her job — and if companies are the ones paying your fees, you make what they want you to make — but it struck me as unsettling, that my naive idea of “story for the sake of story” might be out of sync with the world.

Peace (sharing it responsibly),
Kevin