Happy Christmas

Ho Ho Ho!The semester's done, travel impends, shopping's nearly finished, and of course it's 70 degrees and rainy in Tallahassee. I'm listening to Christmas music downloaded to iTunes and playing a cool Yule log animation downloaded from WGN 'cause it's too hot to light the fire.

May 2007 bring you new discoveries and pleasant surprises.


Anschluss: Colbert Nation


Milling around after watching Stephen Colbert's typically hysterical sendup of bourgeois rectitude at last Friday's Homecoming Powwow, the younger crowd I was hanging with expressed interest in seeing if we could get an autograph. Yours truly led them downstairs to the civic-center loading dock. A small clump of obvious autograph hounds were hanging out some distance away, but there was clearly a door into an area of backstage activity and it was clearly not being closely monitored, so we waltzed in to find a small knot of people also lying in wait for Senor Colbert.

We were lucky; only two more people crept in before the security guy started bouncing 'em at the door. Apparently the small group of about a dozen was OK, though, and after 10-15 minutes Hizzoner came out and graciously signed autographs and posed for pics.

Lindsay, Laura, and Will were ecstatic, as was our friend Jennifer.

All in all, a very truthy evening. Quite a hoot contrasting the rah-rah sentiments of the pep rally with Colbert's lampooning of our "racist war chant" and proposing a new "trail of cheers" tradition to go along with the tomahawk chop and "spear it night".


Evolutions in Academic Publishing

This recent piece from Inside Higher Ed does a good job of describing some of the evolutionary issues I brought up the other day in our research methods class when we were talking about the "conversation of scholars" that takes place via peer-reviewed journals.

To me the most interesting aspect of this is the connection with academic prestige. Note the comment in the opening paragraph of the IHE piece: the move away from print is a "crisis" for reasons that are mostly extrinsic to the publication medium. In other words, the lack of books is not the problem, it's what depends on book sales. So many parallels with the similar "crisis" in the music-recording industry; in both cases, "success" has been defined in terms that are inherent in an industrial process (pressing books and CDs) that is only indirectly related to the quality of the content.

When that industrial process changes, we're left with the Vetting Argument: publishers serve a valuable purpose by filtering content. But what value is that filtering if it emerges partly from a resource-scarcity model? Does Journal X only publish five articles because those are the only 5 good ones submitted, or because that's all that the current issue can support?

I don't know, but it's an interesting question.

Related developments can be seen in the British Medical Journal's decision to "out" reviewers (the article discusses several criticisms of peer review), Nature's trial of "open peer review", and the publish-then-review model used by Philica. The latter is not so outlandish as it seems: if you know that it's not the act of publishing but the reaction of an audience of peers that matters -- and that reaction is completely open for analysis -- it may lead us to a different model, wherein nearly everything (dreck and all) gets published; what would matter most would then be who commented on it and what they said about it. Further, that "reputation" of a scholarly work could continually evolve over time in a very connected and accessible way.

One possible outcome might be the reduction (or even elimination) of the journal's mediating role -- not a welcome prospect to many, I'm sure. But think of it for a moment: publishing via a standard rather than a publishing house, and letting the reviewers make their cases as to the validity of the message. It would certainly be more difficult to identify quality research if we could no longer turn to editorial boards.

Is that entirely bad?


At Summer's End

IMG_0270.jpgThe dog days are upon us.

No matter; in a few weeks we'll have either a cold front or a tropical system. There will be football and hallowe'en and oysters and camping to ponder. I'm ready, though I need to get some more swimming in before it's all done.

This summer has been busy as hell. The anniversary party was a complete success; took Mom & Dad totally by surprise and a good time was had by all. Same with the Fennell family reunion that came right on its heels. These two family events came after a summer of classes and workshops that paused only long enough for a week in Panama City; I came back to fall conference presentations for faculty and new TAs (n.b. - teaching FYE was excellent warmup and rejuvenator for these) and simultaneous orientation week for yours truly. One of the highlights of the latter was attending the university-wide convocation with Lindsay.

And so now I am really in grad school again. I'm getting to know the other doctorals, who seem to tolerate Joe Geezer pretty well. Nice folks. And I continue to enjoy the Comm faculty I'm meeting -- had some nice conversations at a reception last Friday night. I'm taking an introductory research methods course and an outside course called "Saving the Apalachicola" that should both be fascinating. The former is a refresher and I like to geek on epistemology anyway; the latter will entail some interesting field trips. It'll be a busy term, but full of learning & growing, too.


Wedding Bells

Lindsay and Will were married this weekend and it was lovely.

The wedding took place
and people came
from many miles around.
There was plenty merriment
cider and wine

As FOTB, I was a major player & so have very few photos of my own to share, but other attendees were snapping away. I'll post links to any when I update this post. A grand time was had by all, and as my mom put it, "It was a very Lindsay wedding." More to come!


Long weekend unbridged to the mainland

alberto.pngSpent four nights on the Dog last weekend, with Nancy at the Co-op House with my sibs Paul and Susannah and their families. It was hot as blazes, but clear and dry for the most part, with amazingly translucent water for this time of year. Nancy saw dolphins leap, and I saw a few groups myself - including one individual with what looked like a damaged dorsal fin. Saw a few black skimmers, too; they always enthrall me with their exotic looks and specialized feeding niche, and they remind me of childhood boat trips off Mobile Bay.

Blue crabs were out in droves along the shore and could be easily dipnetted at night by the dozen. Awesome colors in their claws. At the island fish fry on Sunday night, someone brought a covered dish that consisted mainly of steamed bluecrab halves - mighty tasty though labor-intensive. We all got to know our island neighbors Brad and Ann a little, along with their gorgeous daughters, who were in turn captivated by Caiti, Ben, and Liam (sporting an outrageous mohawk lately). Turnout was good at both the Yacht Club barbecue and the fish fry; there is an enjoyable and a bit quirky sense of community out there, though one does always feel somewhat the hanger-on.

The island is recovering nicely from last year's storm surge, or so it appeared to me. Sea oats were in beautiful abundance and all the debris piles were gone. It was too hot to make hiking attractive, but I look forward to visiting the east end and the bayshore again come fall.

We also sat in on the Dog Island Conservation District board's quarterly meeting, always a small but interesting affair given the uniqueness of the island's circumstances. Issues included a replacement dock in Carrabelle, barging over limerock for island road repair, tiedowns for aircraft at DI Int'l (grass strip), and other details of island life.

The island was as crowded as it gets - seeing a dozen cars parked at any one place besides the harbor is a rarity, but the main road was lined with at least that many during the fish fry. And there was plentiful boat traffic in the harbor; we saw at least one large group coming in to the Pelican Inn, and watched a gaggle of people unload a pickup bed's worth of fireworks at the Yacht Club (for the fish fry finale).

Nancy and I rode over with Cap'n Dick on Friday AM's mail run. Ed brought Susannah and Benj over around 7pm then went back to Lanark for a second load, by which time the encroaching darkness and his unfamiliarity with the route caused him to get lost; meanwhile Paul & Jenny & kids were motoring down from Tally to make an after-dark run in a larger boat equipped with a Q-beam. After a bit of nail-biting and near-misses they ended up convoying over together around 11pm -- a trip both Paul and Ed said they never wanted to make again; despite the mild weather it was not a real familiar route and they ran aground twice in the dark. Fortunately they were moving very slowly.

The return was far less eventful and took place way too soon, as always.


One term leads to another....

A busy season for yours truly. Just finished two weeks of workshops on student assessment, developed and delivered by myself and Cadence Kidwell. Delivered a guest lecture on Web Design trends to Wanda Brown's Textiles class, conducted two Blackboard workshops for FYE instructors, and traveled to Orlando for a cool mini-con on "millenial" students, quite timely for my class of First-Year Experience freshmen that starts tomorrow and runs for six weeks.

Student activities contributed to the whirlwind feel of the past two weeks: the Political Rhetoric class wound up week before last with two papers due in as many weeks. Not only did I ace the class*, but the last meeting was over beer at a local eatery, a pleasant echo of the first Communication class I took way back in 1977 -- which also ended over beers, a tradition I kept up as an adjunct teacher until they changed the drinking age. One more reason to teach graduates, no?

Bruce H and I are talking collaboration over a ghost-story project, next weekend is a long holiday one out at Dog Island with two of my sibs and their families. Lindsay and Will get hitched on July 22, and it's off to Panama City for the Fennell reunion on August 6, with more workshops to deliver when I return and Fall term starting up August 28th.

Yes, I do like it.

*Please excuse the brag, but c'mon, I get some props heah. I tend to be grade-obsessed anyway, and here I am tiptoeing back into my academic discipline after a 22-year hiatus. I'm allowed.


Someone let him out of the can, I guess

alberto.pngScreenshot of NWS radar graphic shows Alberto -- not quite a hurricane -- dumping water on the Big Bend. And we need it! Tonight there's a cool wet breeze outside and it has been raining steadily for the past three hours. It will be very hard to get up in the morning; Alberto is scheduled to be coming ashore around Keaton Beach just about that time. Fortunately the areas hit hardest by the Dennis storm surge last year are west of the center, but that's still a lot of sucking day-fee-neet-ly going on in Apalachee Bay. NDBC reports gusts close to 40kt in Cedar Key already, with some of the offshore buoys picking up 18ft swells.

Hurricane Season 2006, Hello.


History Flow

History Flow graphic on IBM websiteFrom IBM's Collaborative User Experience Research Group, this concept is awesome in its elegance. How better to graphically represent the activity on a wiki, in terms of who posts how much? I wonder what Tufte would have to say about it?


Achieving Our Country?

Our first reading assignment in this summer's Poli Rhet course, a collection of recorded lectures by the Pragmatic philosopher Richard Rorty called Achieving Our Country, was a breath of fresh air for this writer, disillusioned as he is by both the more-republican-than-thou New Democrats and the insatiable postmodern victims in the Academic Left.

What does Rorty give us? First, he defines and embraces the supremacy of leftism: social justice, rather than unlimited choice, leads to true human liberty. He unabashedly embraces the secular humanism of Dewey and Whitman as something uniquely American: a god of process (democracy) rather than product (state of grace).

Rorty wants us to have pride in this American ideal. The healthy individual can imagine something they'd rather die than do, but having done it, they chose to continue living. They elect redemption rather than eternal contemplation of sin. Similarly, we can deplore American mistakes without hating our country. (I loathe -- publicly -- the small-minded on the right who insist that almost any criticism of American motives or acts implies a lack of patriotism.)

Rorty describes the long pre-60s history of the reformist, anti-communist Left, which paid more attention to economic injustice (Rorty uses the term "selfishness") than cultural issues surrounding the treatment of Others ("sadism"). He says Vietnam split the left into the radical (and thus utopian) Left, which, seeing no possibility of utopia, retreats into pessimistic carping and mere "cultural libertarianism" (a reviewer's words).

And he critiques the new, academic left as remote, impossible to please because it's just as idealistic as the god-haunted right. Both supplant pragmatism with idealism.

His critics argue that if he is a pragmatist (ideas are judged by the effectiveness of the actions they inspire), he cannot judge the Left to be a good idea, given its failures. However, he does argue that the cultural (new, academic) left has had remarkable successes in reduction of sadism just as the old left made gains against selfishness. Is the post-60s shift to the academic left a temporary stumbling block that may be pragmatically overcome (I think this is what Rorty would argue), or does it truly condemn leftism?

For action, he favors "campaigns" over "movements" - the pragmatic application of specific reform efforts that can be seen to have closure.

The book rejuvenated me, despite its detractors (see below), who do raise good points. It reiterates the frequently ignored economic aspects of leftism vs. the merely cultural, a point also well made in Thomas Frank's What's the Matter with Kansas? It provides a vigorous, positive, and distinctly nationalistic Americanism that's even more stirring than our current exportation of "freedoms" at gunpoint and the cultural and economic imperialism (and IMO decidedly unAmerican forces) of corporate globalism. It makes me question my pretenses of hippiedom and think more about Beatniks, linthead agitators, and pissed-off railroad workers.

For some thoughtful (if occasionally rather transparently ideological) reactions, see Kevin Mattson, "Having His Cake and Eating it too: Rorty on the Revitalization of the Left" Negations, Winter 1998 and David Gordon, "Deconstructing Rorty," Mises Review, Summer 1998. There's also a review and a huge list of Rorty-related links on this page at the "Brothers Judd" website from January 2002.


First Day o' School


A few weeks ago I was talking with Comm prof Felipe Korzenny about my return to grad school after 20-something years and he surprised me and warmed my heart by saying, "Welcome home." Tonight was further evidence of that intellectual and spiritual homecoming as I basked in a 2-hour discussion of the rhetoric of the left and right wings of American politics, the rhetorics that create and maintain and our sense of a duality (and not a plurality) of choices, the role of mere words in the creation of political realities that constrain the dropping of bombs and the funding of abortions....

0_62_1Twas bliss, and prof Danielle Wiese was our goad and personal fitness trainer and cheerleader, brimming with energy and joy as she led an overstuffed classroom (easily 25 students, impossibly huge compared with my sweet memories of 6-person seminars) through a brief summary of U.S. political history and a thumbnail sketch of American rhetorical bipolarity, concluding with a delicious review of -- of all things -- logos, ethos, pathos, syllogisms, and enthymemes.


As we made our brief introductions around the crowded table, I was struck by the number (and youth) of political operatives present, though I shouldn't be, for this is Tallahassee, after all. Legislative staffers, political coordinators, PR-firm employees -- from both sides of the aisle. Plus a cabal of poli sci and interactive media grad students, many of whom are doing their last six weeks of Master's coursework in this ephemeral summer session.

And me, Joe Greybeard, the guy who's so old it's almost cute, apparently.

Outside, as dusk fell, I reminded myself that there will only be eleven more times that I will walk to my antique VW bus in the sultry summer evenings of my first doctoral class. Oh, to be able to immerse myself in these moments!

P.S.: OK, well, yes, I'm feeling a bit Whitmanesque this evening. No matter; I am large.


MLA Language Map

Certain to send shudders down the spines of linguistic xenophobes everywhere, the new MLA Language Map is a cool tool for graphically presenting the languages spoken at home by people in the US, broken down by state, county, and zip code. Data cover about three hundred languages and can be displayed as raw numbers or as a percentage of the population.

Blogs as a Political Tool? No Way!!!

Rob Enderle of TechNewsWorld appends some political ruminations to a technophiliac piece about new toys from HP, describing a method for political manipulation of the blogosphere during the next presidential election campaign. Media manipulation is old news, of course -- the methods just get a little more high-tech and a little more cynical over time -- but Enderle's description is especially worth reading for those who might be interested in jamming such an approach.



There's a great post by Mark Morton of the U of Waterloo (Ontario) in the Educause blogspace that skewers vapid student ratings of professors (I was chuckling through half of it) -- and at the same time offers some great advice for co-opting those inane perceptions and turning them into "teachable moments". Given the absymal state of information literacy in this country today (vide recent elections, etc.), we need more ideas for ways to counter the insipid "education as product/service" attitude so prevalent in our millenial students. Thank you, Mark!

PS: Don't miss the slideshow linked from the blog post!


We're much too wonderful to be guilty of error, aren't we?

Me ranting in response to an article and commentary about "Dr. Doom" in Inside Higher Ed:

"ClioSmith's implication that all human institutions are as natural as elk-matings (and therefore, presumably benign and wholesome) is specious. Behaviors (including aspects of human culture) and physiological characteristics may indeed be the product of evolution -- but the conditions under which they evolved may no longer exist, rendering what was once a successful adaptation a suicidal proclivity. That is, in fact, what some have argued more eloquently than I can about certain aspects of modern humanity, especially the Ponzi scheme of growth-requiring economic systems, overdependence on positivistic science, etc. Some of these behaviors might have been advantageous when there weren't quite so many of us. They aren't any longer. So will we use our vaunted intellects to adapt, or will we let the hammer and anvil of natural selection do the job?

"What IS it with the crowd who can't tolerate the notion that humans and their institutions might be flawed? Especially when they are often the same ilk who cleave to the doctrine of original sin? Must our self-depictions be ever-optimistic? Can we not stand a modicum of humility, or must any criticism be met with accusations of misanthropy and self-loathing?

"And about stewardship of creation? Even if you don't give a rat's ass (vulgar pun intended) about the rest of the life on this planet, attending to our behavior's impact on the environment is surely worthwhile from a position of self-interest. If nature tanks, we go along for the ride."


Credibility Commons

I read about this effort in the Chronicle's Wired Campus Blog and at first was wondering how they will tackle the issue in a culture fraught with wacko preachers, crooked pols, sold-out media, and bought-out research. Where the most inane of ideas can be given equal time in the name of "teaching the controversy". Credibility itself seems to have been replaced with credulity, and even in the best of worlds we're slowly facing up to the increasingly persuasive critiques of positivist epistemology.

But read the manifesto on the site - it's quite thoughtful and pragmatic, and what sold me was their inclusion of paperless voting as an object of research. An effort well worth watching.


While I was standing there thinking about treehugging,

DSCN2785.jpgthis huge live oak snuck up behind me and stretched out its boughs to give me a squeeze of its own, just seconds after it snatched my camera away and snapped this photo.

Ya gotta watch 'em.


Nice Quote, Gorby

Isn't it ironic that the former leader of the "Evil Empire" is doing more about the global environment than any of our recent Reagan-derived leadership? Consider this quote from a piece Gorbachev wrote for a special issue of Civilization, a magazine of the Library of Congress, back in 2000:

Water, like religion and ideology, has the power to move millions of people. Since the very birth of human civilisation, people have moved to settle close to water. People move when there is too little of it. People move when there is too much of it. People journey down it. People write and sing and dance and dream about it. People fight over it. And all people, everywhere and every day, need it.

We need it for drinking, for cooking, for washing, for food, for industry, for energy, for transport, for rituals, for fun, for life. And it is not only we humans who need it; all life is dependent on water to survive.

Thanx to Jan Aceti for posting this on the Fostering Sustainable Behavior Listserv (fsb@cbsmlist.com).



Today's mail contained my letter of acceptance into the Ph.D. program in Communication at FSU! I've been on pins and needles since I heard the review committee was meeting last week. I thought I had a pretty good shot, but didn't want to count my chickens, having counted many a nonexistent clucker in the past.

I'm in! Officially start in the Fall but will try to take at least one course this summer as a warmup. Here's an excerpt from my application letter that describes my current thinking about research interests:

I met with Communication Dean John Mayo back in December 2005 to discuss program options, and he recommended that I talk to members of the faculty whose interests appeared to parallel mine. Based on his (and others') recommendations and a look at the department's website, I spoke with Ulla Bunz, Davis Houck, Donna Nudd, and Andy Opel -- all of whom were most encouraging. The conversations energized me, made me feel welcomed, and helped me better conceptualize and articulate what interests me.

Two general areas seem the most compelling. Computer-mediated communication and related areas are obviously related to my professional (and avocational) interests and skills; I've been involved with online publishing and academics for over ten years, and my computing experience (interface design, CBT development) goes back even further. And I've been an active Netizen since the pre-web days of Usenet, gopher, Archie, and Veronica.

The other area is communication and social action: political rhetorics, social movements, and so on. This interested me twenty years ago when I was pursuing my M.A., and it still does today. I have to thank Andy Opel for mentioning environmental communication, because here is something very close to my heart -- which also should be apparent from my published fiction and essays.

I've been investigating the subject of environmental communication since our conversation, and have already given myself a reading list. I am especially interested in the (perhaps increasingly computer-mediated) rhetoric and discourse of competing groups regarding issues of water management, aquifer condition, and marine environmental quality in and around Florida. Dr. Opel mentioned the possibility of coordination with the FSU Dept. of Oceanography, and I'm very interested in how that plays out, as I consider myself a well-read layperson in marine biology / biological oceanography.

One rarely has the good fortune to experience epiphanies, even minor ones, but in the subject of environmental communication -- especially as I have characterized and focused it above -- I find the possibility of exploring interests and concerns that have been with me since childhood.

It will be interesting to look back on this statement in a few years and rate it for both pretentiousness and naivete!


Juggling, Beatles music, 'Net humor - the lot!

Chris Bliss kills 'em with one of my favorite Beatles medleys and some of the most balletic jugling I've ever seen. See some of his comedy routines, too.


Almost Gigeresque

Artkrush's latest ish features this disturbingly curvilinear image by Marina Abramović, on display in New York this week.

Not particularly germane here, I guess, but I've just been perusing Giger's website (marveling at its humble design more than anything else) after picking up a faux Necronomicon (yes: redundant) at an Amazon-inspired buying frenzy at the Paperback Rack in Tallahassee tonight.

Along with the ersatz Lovecraft, I scarfed up a couple of tomes on Florida environment & culture, my first Castenada, and a book on sanity by Michel Foucault. Oh! And a wonderful find: a 1941 edition of Don Blanding's Floridays, full of delightful monochrome illustrations of palms, gators, herons....

But no scorpions.

P.S.: Lovecraft fans will especially enjoy this screenshot from my online evening.


Reference tools

I stumbled across two del.icio.us-like reference tagging tools while looking for bibliographic software: Connotea and CiteULike.  Both have enhancements designed for the researcher.

I've pulled in a bunch of content into the former and am trying it out.


At Week's End

DSCN2617.jpgOn the first friday of the month the local UFF chapter gathers at a local watering hole. Today we met at Paradigm, whose entire glass front rolls up garage-door style to create a very tropical-bar atmosphere. When we left the sun was setting beyond FSU to the west, silhouetting Westcott Hall's towers. And there was this wonderful congruence of moon, palmetto, and my bus, waiting patiently.


The disappearing line between online and meatspace

Fascinating discussion on the Association for Internet Researchers list about shifts in perceptions of online interactions among teens (broadly defined), the gist of which is that there is less distinct characterization of (and thus stigma related to) online interaction per se, and more granularity of value for different activities (IM, MySpace, etc.).  This is consistent with growing familiarity and ubiquitousness of the medium (media, really) -- these kids were born into it.  I found comments by bloggers Dana Boyd and Angela Thomas especially insightful.

The conversation made me think of something seemingly unrelated: speculation a few years back about how the increasing ability to ape "reality" with (e.g.) cinematic special effects might lead us to question the verity of experiences outside cyberspace as well -- and which leads one to further ruminations about epistemology and what one considers to be real anyway.

The aforementioned teens don't make that real/unreal -- offline/online distinction so much as they evaluate the quality of the experience, it seems.  Will they be better or worse epistemologists?


Those wacky quantum computers

Pretty soon we'll be learning of computing that takes place in another dimension. From ZDNet:

Quantum computing without computing by ZDNet's Roland Piquepaille -- The optical quantum computer designed by researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) can find the answer to an algorithm without running it by using "counterfactual computation." Even the leader of the scientists' team thinks it's bizarre: "To my mind, quantum mechanics doesn't get any more mysterious than this."

I first saw this story in the Chronicle's Wired Campus Blog.


Widgets Ahoy

A simple post from Google's new Blogger.com dashboard widget for the Mac.  My Mac.  My new iBook.  Oh, hours of timewasting ahead!


The Persistence of Ephemera

Anyone who's cringed at their own intemperate mid-90s Usenet rants preserved for all eternity via Google Groups knows all about this: how conversational and interactive forms that once felt ephemeral -- or that we continue to want to believe are ephemeral, like IM -- are more and more often recorded and can be retrieved, reviewed, etc. long past the context of their original utterance.

What you may not have known is that there's an Eighth Annual Workshop and Minitrack on Persistent Conversation during the Hawai'i International Conference on Systems Science next January. And they're calling for papers.


Is it Safe?

Jeff Rice writes about the reported dangers of blogging in Inside Higher Ed: the fear that something one writes will offend someone somewhere, and thus damage one's employability.

(It's probably too late for me.)

But Rice encourages us all to take things a little less seriously, pointing to a long history of vigorous and intelligent, yet playful, experimental, and even eccentric writing.

There's nothing really unique about blogging from a writer's perspective, other than its current faddishness. The same things were being said about posting to newsgroups and publishing websites. And the same can be said of casual conversation, if/when overheard by others and taken out of context.

Be brave.


Portal Pages 2.0

Here are two customizable "portal pages" that might even make me want to use them. Both allow you to select existing or new feeds, search features, even embed del.icio.us and flickr data (de rigeur these days to be truly web2.0ish):

I've always disdained pages that asked you to make them your start page -- but these might be worth it.

Springdoo "talking emails"

Springdoo is another Ajaxy web-audio tool (reminds me of Odeo, whose phone-in audio capabilities are free), but with a neat angle: "speak your email" and Springdoo will stream it to a web address contained in an email message you send out. The address is permanent and so can be linked from another web page for repeated access.

Another score from 37signals

Basecamp is a nice lightweight project-management tool from the same folks who brought you Backpack and, more recently, the group chat tool Campfire.

Smart interfaces, thoughtful features, applicable functionality.


I've been swamped by a tidal wave of socialweb tools lately

I'm slowly catching up with what all the cool people know about:

  • Openomy gives you free online storage organized by tag instead of directory
  • Ma.gnolia may be giving del.icio.us a run for its money
  • PXN8 lets you edit images online for free
  • YouTube is yet another free online video locker
  • Surveymonkey gives you free online survey tools
  • Lulu may be the ultimate in vanity publishing (besides any webmonkey with a text editor and an FTP account, of course)


3-D Presurgery with the Dextroscope

"The Dextroscope works by fusing multi-modality images - such as CT and MRI - into 3D volumetric objects that, when viewed through special stereoscopic goggles, are transformed into virtual reality, 3D images. The suspended brain images give surgeons a detailed advance visualization of the complex anatomical relationships and pathology of the patient's brain."

Brain, schmain -- I wonder how much longer it will be before bootleg full-body Dextroscopes of Brad Pitt and Pam Anderson are being bit-torrented to eccentric fabber owners for a little Fifth Element-style de-deconstructionism?

"Uh, hey dude, did you rip the latest dex of Jenna Jameson?"


Agrarian vs. Militaristic Patriotism

I just finished reading an as-yet unpublished paper by Ken Zagacki that approaches the rhetoric surrounding a controversial Navy project in North Carolina, using the ideas of Kenneth Burke. One of the sidelines in Zagacki's treatment highlights something I've often (mostly privately) noted: how War on Terror rhetoric frequently directs American citizens to sacrifice or compromise core American values in the name of expediency ("security") -- and how infrequently the irony seems to be noticed.

It calls to my mind the old saw (usually attributed to Ben Franklin) that a people who too easily give up freedom in the name of security deserve neither. (The counterargument to this, often expressed as "the Constitution is not a suicide pact," doesn't wash with me; I prefer Patrick Henry's "give me liberty or give me death" as a more quintessentially American sentiment).

But on to the empirical question: How does a society that values "liberty" persuade its citizens to give it up in order to preserve it? Are more universal (or more basic) values evoked, such as self-preservation? And if so, how is self-preservation shown to be a distinctive right of one social group (nation, people, culture) over another? What if self-defense requires sacrificing what makes something worth defending -- i.e., the assumed special place of America as beacon of liberty and prosperity? How is that worked out in the language and symbolic acts?

Ken's paper suggests that agrarianism -- perhaps as central a component of the American myth as "freedom" -- can be used by opponents of government actions who wish to remain perceived as patriotic and not "tree huggers". For those with a different agenda, is there a corresponding cultural component that allows sacrificing freedom yet remains both distinctly (ideally, uniquely) American and is as "noble" as Liberty -- i.e., not mere selfish self-preservation? What is that component?

No doubt there's already an entire literature on this. . . .


I've done it now.

Well, the ball is rolling. I just submitted an application for graduate admission at FSU. I'm going for the Ph.D. in Communication, a dream long deferred. Of course Rhetoric continues to interest me, but I'm also very curious about research in Computer-Mediated Communication and -- this one really charges me up -- Environmental Communication.

Wish me luck.

Vimeo stores videos free, too

I've just created a personal account on Vimeo, a free video hosting service. I'm testing it as an alternative to Ourmedia, mentioned in an earlier post.


Tiny Elvis Surfs the Web

Tiny Elvis would love these. First, the Shiira Project, which is out to out-Safari the native web browser for Macs, offers a mini version that operates as a Dashboard Widget in OS X.4+.

But that ain't all, hound dog. Get a load of Bitty Browser, the tiny web browser that can be embedded in a web page.

Something to play with while I wait for Opera Mini to be ported to my Motorola V220.



Places to go, things to do, people to tag

Two more new tools to explore. I signed up for Backpack and 43 Things. The latter has people and places variants as well; you list the places you want to go (Hawaii, Sneads), the things you want to do (lose weight, skydive), and the people you want to meet (Ian Anderson, Paul Reubens), and the software puts you in touch with people who have the same dreams -- as well as those who have BTDT.

Backpack is one of oodles of online storage tools using Ajax tech. I'm already experimenting with online image storage (and have been for almost a year), so I figure why not do this with lists and notes to self?

Both tools seem promising in terms of ready access to information you want at your fingertips. I wish I'd had an online project-management gizmo when I was restoring that 1971 Westfalia Camper a few years ago. Nothing like a PERT chart to help you focus on a million overlapping timelines.

Social computing, podcasts on horizon in pedagogy

Well, you knew this, but the recent New Media Consortium / Educause report (mentioned in the Chronicle's Wired Campus Blog) says social computing and podcasting, and related technologies, are poised for increased adoption over the next year.

One of the respondents to the Chron's article also mentioned a report from last year describing driving factors behind tech change in higher ed.




More grist for the Wikipedia trashers: a report in a Massachusetts newspaper disclosing the fact that congressional staffers have been editing entries to "correct" unfavorable information. Not much of a surprise there (though Nature did recently publish the results of a study showing Wikipedia to be about as accurate as Encyclopaedia Britannica, so I'm not giving up on Wikipedia yet).

But I wonder if Wikipedia's open-editing process can be used to more openly track historical revision?

A Master Library?

I've been reading for some time about the controversial Google library-book-scanning project, but a recent Chronicle article brings up something even more exciting (and less controversial): the Open Library and the Open Content Alliance, an effort to scan and make available all manner of public-domain holdings from libraries all over.

I/O Brush uses world as palette

From the website:
I/O Brush is a new drawing tool to explore colors, textures, and movements found in everyday materials by "picking up" and drawing with them. I/O Brush looks like a regular physical paintbrush but has a small video camera with lights and touch sensors embedded inside. Outside of the drawing canvas, the brush can pick up color, texture, and movement of a brushed surface. On the canvas, artists can draw with the special "ink" they just picked up from their immediate environment.


Ourmedia.org stores videos free

but I don't yet have a real handle on how it works. I've just uploaded one video to it so far. But they're partners with the Internet Archive and Creative Commons, so they're worth watching. They store anything, really: video, audio, images, text -- and have a full range of social software features (blogging, tagging, etc.).


Speaking of phoned in,

tonight I made my first moblog posting, on a whim amidst Friday night decompression at Leon Pub.

(Come to think of it, that's where I was when I downloaded the cellphone version of Doom a few weeks ago. There's probably a connection.)

Phoning in a performance....

Test (click post title above) of Odeo's phone-in audio recording service, part of their free package of tools.


I signed up for this over two years ago and never used it (I ended up going with LiveJournal and still use it for a personal blog).

I've decided to reactivate this as a journal of discoveries and observations relevant to my day job and my planned foray into a doctoral program in Communication.

What stimulated this was discovery of the Odeo online audio/casting tool, which -- along with Flickr and del.icio.us -- uses folksonomies, as does this tool. The interconnected sociability of "web 2.0", plus the ease-of-use generated by recent innovations, makes it interesting (to me, anyway) to journal what's happening in my world.

And so we'll see if this goes anywhere.