A varied and sometimes erratic record of what I'm learning inside and outside of the classroom

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Point We're At in Our Final Project and Web 2.0

A little girl (who also happens to be Dave's niece) that we
interviewed for our project. Isn't she precious??
First of all, a big thank you to Dave Potter and Shuan Pai, my group members, for being so much more on top of posting about our final project than I am. I'm striving to mend my ways, as evidenced by this post. :)

We discussed Web 2.0 in class today, and how, as opposed to, say, Web 1.0, it is less about selling products and posting information and more about building community between people of shared interests. More and more websites are incorporating user generated content, creating a sense of community among their viewers, whereas before all content came from the maintainers of the website themselves. Web 2.0 is, in a word, INTERACTIVE. This interactivity is not just between the user and the computer (and the information it provides) via the interface, but also between the faces behind the interface.This kind of person-to-person interaction through the Web is what the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is moving towards through their new website (made official today) and use of digital tools to share the gospel. My group is becoming a part of this interaction through our creation of a Mormon Message for the Church's International Video Contest (see the site for our project here). I'd like to discuss our project in light of a couple Web 2.0 concepts from our reading, the article "What is Web 2.0? Ideas, technologies and implications for education" by Paul Anderson.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Future Shock & Facebook Etiquette

In Digital Civilization class on Thursday we discussed the ideas of Alvin Toffler as set forth in his book entitled Future Shock. In his essay entitled "Future Shock Re-assessed," Richard A. Slaughter explains,
Writing during the late 1960s Toffler summarised this thesis thus: in three short decades between now and the turn of the next millennium, millions of psychologically normal people will experience an abrupt collision with the future. Affluent, educated citizens of the world’s richest and most technically advanced nations, they will fall victim to tomorrow’s most menacing malady: the disease of change. Unable to keep up with the supercharged pace of change, brought to the edge of breakdown by incessant demands to adapt to novelty, many will plunge into future shock. For them the future will have arrived too soon.
So basically, the idea of future shock is that the world around us is changing so quickly that we are unable to keep up; besieged by a tide of technological information, we are left confused and scrambling, trying to understand what just happened--and what keeps happening. Call it cultural whiplash, if you will. I'll admit it--I've gotten Future Shock pretty bad. Sometimes it makes me want to lie down with my feet up and a cold compress on my forehead, just like they teach you in Boy Scouts. (Not that I'm a Boy Scout or anything, but with five brothers going through the program, you pick up a thing or two.) Anyway, an idea we discussed in conjunction with this was that the constant change makes it difficult to establish social norms and rules of conduct for Internet interaction. Now, we can all see where this is leading: Facebook. Out of curiosity, and in the name of bettering the lot of mankind by educating the world (okay, at least the readers of this post) on Facebook etiquette, I have searched through and compiled a list of  a few of the more popular results (taken mainly from these three sites):

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Wonder of (Clean) Water

Photo credit: Roger McLassus
Today I was reminded to be grateful for something that I hadn't thought about for a long time--the ready, constant supply of clean water we have available to us. It also seemed fitting considering I got sick last night, and I am grateful to know that the water I'm drinking isn't going to be riddled with disease-carrying organisms and make me sicker or even kill me. People living at the beginning of the 20th century didn't have the same assurance, when sewage and other waste was dumped directly into streets, as well as rivers and other sources of drinking water, leading to outbreaks of diseases such as cholera, dysentery, and typhoid. The purification of urban drinking water on a large scale is the product largely of the last 100 years, and it is an ongoing process as developing nations struggle to provide clean, safe drinking water to all of their inhabitants.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Peer Blog Review: The Epicness of Andrew DeWitt

Photo credit: Wakalani on Flickr
Okay, so this is a little bit late; I had to work right after school today, and I apologize for not being more on top of things. Anyway, for our midterm evaluation in Digital Civilization I had the pleasure of evaluating my classmate Andrew DeWitt's blog, entitled "Epic Doesn't Begin to Describe."

First of all, the artistic part of me can't help but comment that Andrew has a very clean, cohesive interface; all the factors of his page work together for a pleasing effect: the color scheme, the titles, the background, etc. I can tell he is using digital literacy tools, because he has incorporated them into his blog; along the side are widgets for Diigo, Twitter, and a Creative Commons liscense. His incorporation of all these things has made me want to be as cool--excuse me, EPIC--as he is and do some of the same. I'll work on that. :)

In reading through Andrew's posts, I see how these digital literacy tools have helped his learning; for example, he refers to his Diigo bookmarking in his post on Modernism. This particular post (and his posts in general) are well researched and well thought out, often referring to classmates' blogs and discussions in class. He often chooses a starting point from a blog, discussion, or article, fleshes it out with his own research, and explains why it is significant. He displays an excellent understanding of the historical content we have covered, and does a great job of implementing his own interests and personality. One of my favorite posts? The one entitled "Math, Computing, Logics, and Me." Entertaining and enlightening at the same time. :) His posts are also frequent and timely. Kudos to you, Andrew--the "timely" part is something I'm trying to improve. I also thought the book club project, a video of his group giving a review of The Count of Monte Cristo, was a unique idea, and implemented well the principles of consume, create, and connect as well as displaying digital literacy. (I enjoyed the natural flow of conversation in the video, by the way, and the implementation of historical and digital concepts.) In summary, Andrew does an excellent job of meeting all the learning outcomes, which are clearly evident in his blogging.

So that is my evaluation, but in order to get the full experience with Andrew's blog, you must visit it yourself; for, if epic doesn't begin to describe, then I certainly can't. :)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Reflections: Round 2

© Copyright David Maclennan and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
It's interesting to look back and see how far I've come and the areas I still need to improve in in this class. Sometimes I still feel a little overwhelmed with the nature and volume of everything I need to do and fitting that all in the time I have to do it, but freak-out sessions are becoming fewer and far-between. I've learned to focus my learning more and not worry so much about all the content I can't cover in my blog posts. I still feel like I come to class every day and learn something that blows my mind. This is a good thing. I still feel like I'm digitally illiterate, but though I don't have all the digital skills I would like at this point, I feel that I know better how to acquire them. I still feel like I need to improve in every area--blog posts, self-directed learning, commenting, digital literacy labs, and so on--but I am definitely better at managing these things than I was before. It's a continual process, and I am trying to be patient with myself and remember that I can't make everything perfect all at once. So, that said, I've evaluated myself in the three areas listed below.
  1. Historical Content: I do my best to hit every historical period within the week it is assigned with a post on my blog; frequency has been a bit of a challenge over this evaluation period due both to some trying personal circumstances and the fact that I've been without a computer for the past month (I can hear your gasp of horror). I've been using the ones at the library and/or borrowing from other people, but I FINALLY got down to the computer rental place this week and now have a laptop, even if it is an older PC and extremely slow. Oh Mac, I miss you--how far I have fallen. Anyway, through my own research, reading my classmates' blogs, and going to class, I feel that I have a pretty good sense of the ideas and events that constitute each period we cover. I have also been able to make connections to the material we are covering in my other classes and use what I've learned to increase my understanding--for example, I'm writing a paper on Romanticism (see my post on the subject) right now, and I have a much better idea of what I'm doing due to what we covered in this class.
  2. Computing Concepts & Digital Culture: I think due in large part to Dr. Zappala's ability to explain computer concepts effectively to non-computer science majors, I now have some basic knowledge of important concepts to understand for the average computer user (for example, the importance of password diversification) and can now have an intelligent conversation with those who have always known more about computers than me (i.e. my younger brother who likes to ask such things as Stump-the-Ariel questions, but will now be foiled in his attempts). This knowledge has also come in handy in the ongoing quest to get my computer fixed before the semester is over.
  3. Self-Directed Learning: I still sometimes have a problem with the wild horse of Consume running away with me, but I have come to realize that part of the beauty of this class is that I don't have to cover everything by myself; I focus on one or two things in my blog post, and then I learn about all the other things my classmates have done by reading their blog posts and listening to the discussion in class. Hey--it's like Adam Smith's invisible hand; I do what is my self-interest, producing what I can do most effectively, and by all my classmates doing the same thing and trading information, we all come out better off than we were before. And economics isn't even my best subject. Nice. And I have learned to focus my consuming better because I've gotten a better feel for the strengths of my classmates and can draw on their knowledge; Jeff Whitlock is quite the economics whiz, for example, and his post helped me to better understand Keynes idea of the government spending multiplier. However, commenting on my peers' blogs could use some improvement, as could digital literacy labs, although I do know what kinds of things I want to do (Twitter, connecting my blog to Facebook, Wordle, etc.) and have explored a few things that I have not yet reported on (new web browsers, Goodreads, and blog search).

Honestly, I feel that this class has revolutionized my approach as a student. Like I told Dr. Burton in my interview for his other class, I've had to change my thinking; Digital Civilization has figuratively dragged me out of my little learning box by stretching and challenging me in ways I've never been challenged before, and once I stopped fighting it and learned to roll with the punches, I could stand up and realize that the view is actually a lot better out here. (Please excuse the mixed metaphors.) For example, I had a huge epiphany last week about social discovery--lights going on, bells ringing, sparks flying, etc.--when I realized that our learning becomes more meaningful and significant when it is part of a larger discourse between people, whether by digital or other means. Knowledge does little good in isolation. This realization has motivated me to seek after ways to connect with people not just in my classes, but in general, to share what I know and to learn from them as well. I still have a long way to go to take advantage of all this class has to offer, but I am pressing forward, and enjoying the view along the way. Onward and upward!

    Thursday, November 11, 2010

    2010 Flashback to the Cold War Era

     I thought I was done blogging for tonight, but it was not to be.

    So I'm sitting on the couch pounding away at an essay when my concentration is broken by my roommate's startled exclamations from behind her laptop, where she is looking at the Yahoo news site..

    "Whoa--look at this! I'm so out of touch!" She reads me this headline:

    Top Russian spy defects after unmasking U.S. ring

    Apparently a high-ranking Russian foreign intelligence official betrayed the entire ring of Russian spies in America he was over into U.S. hands back in June, and he has now defected to the United States. It blew our minds to learn that things like this still happen in 2010, a couple decades after the end of the Cold War with the arms race and space race and tension over communism.

    Hunt for Red October, anyone?

    Navajo: The Unbroken Code of World War II

    So our discussion about code today in Digital Civilization and a recent article I read for my linguistics class got me interested in the Navajo code talkers of World War II, and this afternoon I happened to walk by a bulletin board with a flyer advertising a presentation at BYU to be held this evening by one of the few actual honest-to-goodness Navajo code talkers still living. How cool is that? It was especially appropriate with today being Veteran's Day. So I show up at the appointed time, only to be told that the presenter was involved in a minor car accident earlier today; he is fine, but the event is canceled. Darn, darn, darn. I was so excited, too. So, due to this unfortunate circumstance, my research will have to suffice.

    Monday, November 8, 2010

    Economics: Where Is the Key?

    First of all, I would like to point out that I took high school economics in summer school for a reason--to get it over with as quickly as possible. But I think we would all agree that it is important to understand the basics of how the economy works, despite the fact that some of us (i.e. me) have little natural affinity for the subject. So here goes my attempt at understanding.

    A lot of the material I looked at regarding Keynesian economics and the American economy today had a very negative view of the effects of Keynes' system, as evidenced in this rather biased video explaining how Keynesian economics works, with an emphasis on its shortcomings.

    It seems to me that there are only long-term solutions with few immediate effects (i.e. unpopular solutions), or short-term solutions with immediate results that do nothing to fix the long-term problem; if anything, they make the problem worse. Economic solutions are, in a word, sticky. Complicated. Complex. There is no over-arching solution that will magically fix all economic problems with the waving of a wand or the signing of a bill. I think Arnbjorn Ingimundarson, CFA and stock investor, puts it quite nicely in his article on Seeking Alpha.com (P.S. Thank you, Dalton, for sharing this on Diigo):
    At the heart of the problem is what I consider the main flaw in Keynesian economics: it only seems to work in one direction. Politicians who seek re-election have an incentive to give their voters instant gratification. Since people do not feel the pain of fiscal deficits as immediately as they feel reductions in government benefits or a general slack in the economy, it makes political sense to roll the problems forward and let someone else deal with them. When times are good, there is rarely much talk of reducing government expenditures to cool the economy down and reduce the public debt.
    This is one reason some people lose sleep over the national debt; it keeps growing, and what are we going to do about it? What will happen if we keep going the direction we're going? It probably won't be pretty. It seems like the long-term solutions are always the least popular and therefore least likely to happen with politicians seeking re-election. Would the economy benefit from disentangling from political influence? Or would that even be possible with the government and its influence growing every year?

    Echoes of Freud

    This post could also be titled, "How to Find Freud in a Book Where His Name Isn't Even Mentioned Once."

    I was studying for my American Literary History midterm this past week, and my study group was going through authors/poets like Walt Whitman, Sarah Jewett, Emily Dickinson, and others. Inevitably, our Norton Anthology of American Literature would say something in the biographical information of these writers about their sexual relationships and how it affected their works.

    "Oh my goodness--" I thought to myself, "It's FREUD! We owe all of this psychoanalytic thinking and examining the sexual aspects of these writers' lives to FREUD!" It's amazing, really, how deeply Freud's ideas have penetrated modern thinking.

    As I said in one of my earlier blog posts, there is really no excuse to be ignorant about anything, considering how much information we have available to us via technology. So it's time to take my own advice and apply it to the understanding of Freud. I've heard some things about his theories that have repulsed me, and as I've researched more I don't necessarily agree with him, but I can at least try to understand where he's coming from and take a more ethical approach instead of immediately condemning things I don't understand. I was curious to know about Freud's impact in the Western world, and I found an intriguing article entitled Freud's Impact on Modern Morality. It's interesting that Freud himself shares a little of the mindset of taking the approach I was talking about. Robert Holt, the author of the article mentioned previously, writes,
    "[Freud] makes it quite evident, in his clinical writings, that he had to suppress or to hold in abeyance his own repugnance for deviant sexual practices or fantasies...and the like, in order to be able to help the patient to confront and to understand these unpleasant and threatening phenomena. Freud has often been misunderstood on this point. He did not say or mean that 'anything goes,' or that the analyst should in any way encourage or condone most forms of socially deviant behavior, even in the realm of sexuality" (pg. 39).
    So basically, Freud avoided passing moral judgment on his patients while in order to help them in the best way he knew how. It doesn't mean he condoned their "socially deviant behavior." (The article does go on, however, to explain that Freud's theories had consequences he did not intend, and could be in part responsible for the current moral state of society.) As I have grown older, I have found that tolerance and open mindedness do not necessarily constitute acceptance/embracing of all other ideas. Sometimes I will consider all sides of an issue and realize that in light of all this information, I believe my original stance to be best. That said, I still have a lot to learn about Freud and his ideas, but I'm not sure I will ever agree with some of them.

    Thursday, November 4, 2010

    A Passing Thought

    Wow--today I've been so preoccupied with all my thoughts about this Digital Civilization class and its content and applications that I've been walking around my apartment lost in thought for the past few hours. So preoccupied, in fact, that I keep forgetting what I'm doing and doing stuff like leaving my dinner half eaten and forgetting my laundry in the dryer so long that by the time I remember I'm just in time to make it to the laundry room before it gets locked for the night.

    I'm beginning to understand the stereotype of the absent-minded professor. This class and the ideas it presents have a way of pulling me in sometimes and making me forget about whatever else I'm doing, for better or worse.

    Oh yeah--I was supposed to do that one other thing today too. Oh well. :)

    Digital Illiterates Anonymous (But I Don't Want To Be!)

    So you know how the first step of those recovery programs is admitting you have a problem? Here goes my confession.

    I am digitally illiterate. I read Dr. Burton's post on social discovery, and my thoughts were, "Wow--I'm guilty." Of what, you ask? Of writing research papers in isolation. Of not taking my own ideas seriously. Of blogging "into the void." Of not connecting well with other people via technological reasons and just in general. Guilty of the whole gamut. ("Guilty, guilty, GUILTY!" I can hear Bernie from Pixar's Incredibles yelling in my head.) So, to paraphrase Dr. Burton's concluding question, what is keeping students like me from connecting to other people out there? Well, I'll tell you.


    HALTING PROBLEM: Hardware belonging to server <title>ARIEL'S BRAIN unable to compute if mental program run to comprehend content for Class: DIGITALCIVILIZATION 11-4-10 will finish.

    Result: UNSOLVABLE. 

    Program will now shut down.