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Following Up: Summer Programming at the Penn State Center

Well, somehow it’s the first day of classes for the Fall term already. Though I’m not in any way sure where the Summer went, I do know that a large part of mine was spent impatiently awaiting the opportunity to write up this blog post because it signals the (very!) successful completion of major milestones in the programming I’d established with the Penn State Center in Pittsburgh.

Preparing to Show and Listen

Intern Orientation - tailored presentation on documenting engaged scholarship projects in Pittsburgh

click the title slide to view the presentation

As mentioned in my previous post detailing the start of this Summer’s engagement with the interns who would be calling the Center headquarters, an orientation session and training kicked things off on May 26th. Since video documentation had never been part of the Landscape Architecture internships the Center had hosted in the past, I wanted to provide students with an example of what would be feasible but also very professional without a lot of technical investment. Eventually, I settled on:

By next breaking down the video into its component parts, I explained to the interns exactly what kinds of materials they’d need to collect – and why – while in the field.  We also discussed sources of additional, legal media, getting consent from interview subjects, using the Mobile Media Kits provided for their work and other related topics before breaking into a more project-specific Q&A.

After receiving a very enthusiastic response towards story documentation from all of the interns (not just the two Northside interns I’d been expecting to work with were in attendance) and their coordinators, I returned with Heather Hughes to offer a follow up workshop based on the We Listen programming on which we had been collaborating.  We Listen aims to raise awareness of difference by applying intentional listening to recording the stories of those in a given community. It also presents a natural fit for these interns as they found themselves working on projects that respond to the needs of city neighborhoods and their residents.

Turning It All Loose – and Waiting

Honestly, after training (and attending the Northside interns’ orientation session with GTECH Strategies so they could learn about their summer projects more in-depth), my main role became that of just-in-time support for the students as they worked through gathering twelve weeks of materials for their projects.

This became the very long wait. And a period of anxious curiosity. (Offset by some really great press via the University-wide news, though.)

I learned that I didn’t need to be worried in the least, though, as the last week of the summer experience arrived and I got to see what had been created by Jeff and Emily during their time with the Community Asset Mapping project in my neighborhood.

And you can, too:

These two both did an amazing job for first-time documentarians and story listeners, especially given they worked with nothing more than iPad minis and their own iPhones. I couldn’t be more proud of the work they put together.

Stories Go Trans-Atlantic

Perhaps it was a bit of a gamble, but Heather and I felt very confident about the potential for We Listen principles and practices at the Penn State Center, especially as it pertained to being piloted in these neighborhood-based engagements for summer. So we submitted a proposal to talk about the experience in London at the Designs on eLearning conference. We must have gotten that confidence across, as well as some of our excitement because we were accepted and will be departing in mid-September to present at Central Saint Martins (!).

We Listen in Pittsburgh

As before, this work at the Center is still developing – as are our slides for DeL. So keep an eye out for not just the full presentation when its finished but also updates on everything going on here in Pittsburgh in the weeks to come.

I’ll never curse Adobe again (probably)

There’s always been a part of me that has pondered what graphic design would have been like as a job pre-InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop (or any other digital tools). This video from Sean Adams at walks through a typical layout job using the analog process.

And…no. Just. No. I would have lost my mind (or, at the very least, cut myself on the hour with an Exacto knife).

Montréal (or “my weight in poutine”)

Much like this time last year, I’ve just returned from the EdMedia World Conference, held in Montréal, Québec (providing me an opportunity to use accented characters frequently). Unlike the 2014 conference, though, I was not only an attendee this time but also a presenter since the brief paper Heather Hughes and I submitted was accepted and published in the proceedings. So, my favorite conference, my first published paper and my first trip to Montréal all in one go?

Most excellent.

For 2015, the conference was compressed (rather suddenly) to three days from four which lent a feeling of urgency to the schedule. Though they were intense days, they were also chock full of interesting sessions from presenters representing institutions around the globe.  Some highlights:

  • A different keynote speaker kicked off each morning and my favorite was certainly Tuesday’s: Jennifer Howell from Curtin University in Australia.  Her presentation focused on the sense of self one both creates and interacts with while navigating many different curated “selves” in digital spaces.  She raised the very good point that we become increasingly disconnected from our true selves as we spend all of our time tending to “best possible selves” across social media platforms and beyond. But she also called for recognition of this trend and the overarching reality of total inundation in media – both our own and others’ –  in our teaching and learning.  Her call to action for the attendees was to shift towards transmediated learning which she defined as “the convergence of popular culture, media, cultural studies, socially mediated connections, networks, technology and learning”.
  • An interesting trend across several conference sessions was commentary on working with indigenous populations. In fact, Monday’s keynote from Norman Vaughn (Mount Royal University in Canada) casually mentioned “A lot of you work with indigenous peoples…”. Another session attended was one on respectful research practices when dealing with these communities presented by a Canadian working in Australia with the Maori. There were more on the schedule, as well. While my initial reaction in the morning was “Do we?”, I actually took a lot away from that later session (presented by Michelle Eady from University of Wollongong) on research practices and realized that, yes, in fact we do something fairly similar when interacting with the diverse communities that make up the campuses and their surrounding regions.  I have a feeling the notes taken here will be called upon several times more.
  • I also really enjoyed learning about mobile and augmented reality tools in a session presented by New Zealand-based educational technology lecturer, Thom Cochrane. His was more a demonstration of the tools that have worked in his own teaching experiences – including examples of student work and hands-on opportunities – than a dry reading of a paper and was a great way to get things kicked off on Monday. I have plans to check out Wikitude for place-based projects with the Penn State Center and hope to find the right instructors at some campuses to try similar tools alongside travel abroad opportunities as they develop, especially for repeating campus trips (setting up past students’ AR map overlays would be a great resource for first time student travelers).

Oh, and that presentation. After getting used to presenting in 50-75 minute class periods, the reality of a 20 minute time slot is that it’s now so short. That is to say, the presenting was done before it even really felt like Heather and I had started. Lucking into a post-coffee break afternoon timeslot was a fantastic boon and the room was nicely filled-out and attendees were attentive. My favorite keynote speaker was even in attendance, which was a very nice surprise. Though time for questions was limited with the next brief paper presenters needing to set up while we tore down, a few good ones came our way from those in the audience and we hope to get more emailed to us once people have a chance to unpack what they learned last week (I know I’ve barely had time to do this just yet).

Download the Paper

Download the Presentation

More photos, as usual, on Flickr
Of course, I did get to spend some time out and about exploring Montréal, too. I kicked off a week of walking everywhere by strolling 7 miles out to Habitat 67, an amazing residential development leftover from Expo 67 (and still inhabited today).  From there, I made my first visit to Old Port and took in the life in the square in front of Notre-Dame Basilica – as well as taking in caffeine at the totally excellent Tommy café. On other outings, I found myself walking 400 steps up to the top of Mount Royal for the spectacular view, hiking a few miles over to Café Venosa, a new cat adoption center and vegan coffeeshop (that might be my favorite discovery) and eating my way through all of the poutine the city had to offer. (I can definitely say I now know where to find a three poutine “flight”, for instance…) Montréal was far more sophisticated and way more inviting than I ever imagined and I’m happy to have learned of yet another North American city that I wasn’t giving enough credit (the first being México City). Always good to know what’s in your own backyard…

Explaining a paradox

Kurz Gesagt (don’t feel bad – first I’ve heard of, too) has published a truly adorable look at the Fermi Paradox, something I find myself pondering more than is healthy. It’s really clear and informative and terribly cute, as well but it mostly caught my attention because of how much it reminded me of these animations from 2005’s take on The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy:

Anything that can remind me of this gem amongst novels and its film adaptation…well, its creators must be “good people”.


Combining two loves

It was with great delight this morning that I discovered the maker’s of one of my favorite art-y games, Monument Valley are developing their own take on digital automobile instrumentation. Ridiculously addictive and visually arresting iPad game + in-car technology + elegant, contextual interface design? *swoon*

There’s a great, detailed write up over at ustwo’s site and you can participate in the conversation as well as downloading the design and code work to contribute to the project.

Nameless (a playlist)

Nameless Cover

There’s not a lot of description for this playlist (much like there’s no name) that’s not going to take this post into “dear diary” territory. What you can have, though, are thirteen sometimes dark, sometimes moody but ultimately ineffably beautiful tracks that I’ve been enjoying over the last few (sometimes sleepless) months.

  1. For Now I Am Winter – Ólafur Arnalds & Arnor Dan
  2. Miasma Sky – Baths
  3. Digital Lion – James Blake
  4. Song For Five & Six – Owen Pallett
  5. Romantic Streams – Sleep ∞ Over
  6. You Are You Are – Le Cassette
  7. This Is What It Feels Like – BANKS
  8. Wanderlust – Wild Beasts
  9. An Hour – Forest Swords
  10. Lessons – SOHN
  11. Begin Again – Purity Ring
  12. Hollow – Zola Jesus
  13. Confusing Happiness – Lo-Fang

Download all the lucky thirteen for a limited time here.

A Gulf Tower beacon I’ll be able to read

Gulf Tower Project

So, part of the Pittsburgh skyline that I’ve not really learned how to interpret is the Gulf Tower and its weather beacon lights.  I guess I’ve never bothered with learning their language because I just view them as “pretty” – and then check the weather app on my phone.

Anyway, the very same lights are about to get a whole lot more art-y – and a lot more phone-y – as Antoine Catala kicks off his Gulf Tower Project on February 11th. The installation will transform the building’s beacon into an Instagram-based mood analysis tool for the entire city, lighting up with progressively more red or green as software decides whether posts to the photo sharing channel are negative or positive in tone.

The final results will be part of Antoine Catala: Distant Feel at the Carnegie Museum of Art and is another part of the same Hillman Photography Initiative programming that brought the live premiere of the lost Warhol Amiga experiments documentary I attended back in May.  Should be cool stuff!

(via Engadget)

Volvo wants me back

As you know, I recently defected from my Volvo back to an Audi.  Well, the Swedes are displeased and have put together an ad that was clearly engineered by top scientist to be so pretty as to render me both utterly remorseful and desperately ready to return to their be-coat’d arms.

It’s working.


The generated book

It’s National Novel Writing Month, but for those of you less interested in human-generated works, the National Novel Generation Month might be of more interest. As The Verge shares, NaNoGenMo, a creation of Darius Kazemi, is about celebrating the best in creative narrative writing code, and there are some really compelling (if not entirely readable) works to be found in the GitHub repository. Below are a few of my favorites.

From Generated Detective #1:

a noir comic with Project Gutenberg text and magna-fied Flickr pics by Greg Borenstein

From Threnody for Abraxas:

Pro-tip from the author: The enjoyment of reading this work may possibly be enhanced if one imagines it narrated in the voice of, say, David Attenborough or James Earl Jones.

Elsewhere nearby, the amusingly European sculpture, whose perfect key is cynically surveying the transparent stick and an incredible junkie and the heart behind the classical image, is approaching the mouse-cheesecake and a homunculus under the taxicab. A partly rare escutcheon is leaping on top of an axiomatically salty disease. The tedious oyster is lauding the clementine, while a brain-flavoured après-ski is an extraneous easel.

The breeze is chasing the meaningless entrepreneur and the florid shin-bone, whose shoe is decaying smoothly on top of the spring and a rainy jug of baubles, while the fire extinguisher is curtly caressing a shaman. An iceberg is the robust servant. The shoe is surveying a gooey statue, which is forgiving an irascible ladle on top of a mannequin, inside the sword-swallower. A supersonically cynical quote is the comic book.

“a phantasmagoric Surrealist word/concept-painting” by Chris Pressey 

From Seraphs:

an automatically generated Voynich Manuscript style text by Liza Daly

From The Last Appetite:

Sun Dried Corn Grit Fettucine

  • 310 milligrams of corn grit
  • 660 grams of clam
  • 20 grams of mango
  • 270 grams of mustard
  • 20 milligrams of mozzarella cheese
  • 240 grams of french toast

Stare at the corn grit and clam for 10 minutes. Broil the mango and mustard until a thick layer of mould forms. Marinate the mozzarella cheese and french toast until mushy. Contrive a fettucine. Chill overnight.

modernist cuisine recipes inspired by Nathan Myhrvold, created by Phil Lees

And so the tracking begins…

Grande Sicilia Rolls Out

I got word this morning that my Q3 has been loaded up. It will be making its Atlantic voyage via the Grande Sicilia and seems to have already left the German port of Emden. So, this whole obsessive tracking of the cargo ship thing is about to begin again.

I apologize in advance to those around me for how the next week or two is going to shape up.