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Technology

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…
 

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)

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

Ingredients:
  • 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
Method:

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

A Dutch road lights the way

These gorgeous glowing lines are actually the roadway edge markers on a stretch of highway in the Netherlands. They are also a proof of concept for Dutch designer, Daan Roosegaarde – and something I desperately want to see appear here in the US. Cutting down on street lighting by employee solar-charged glow-in-the-dark paint is just the beginning of reshaping the urban streetscape. Check out the Wired article to see his bioluminescent tree as street lamp concept and continue through to his portfolio for even more smart concepts like the electricity generating dance floor.

SimCity turns 25

One of the most influential things I did as a child was spending time on my aunt’s Mac when I’d visit in the summers.  That little LC series machine in the early 90s was my window to a lot of things that would later become a huge part of my adult life (including my current career).  But one thing that stands out as particularly memorable was a packet of 3.5″ disks that contained a game that would shape my entire worldview.  Yes, I’m talking about SimCity, the little black & white game that infected my brain starting around the age of seven – and hasn’t stopped.

SimCity 5

one of my most recent cities – because, yes, I’m still playing

Doug Bierend sat down with SimCity’s creator, the venerable Will Wright, over at the re:form collection on Medium to discuss his games and their enduring legacy on the 25th anniversary of the Sim game that started everything.  I’ve pulled a few quotes that do a really good job summing up my love for the Sim games, but the entire piece “SimCity That I Used to Know” is well worth the read.

Wright’s games—if you can call them that—were uniquely influential for a generation of kids with access to computers in the 90s. […] An imaginative player could weave their own stories […]

These toys were especially effective for kids who were at an age when the real and the imaginary seem less distinct. Watching as the little cities exhibited behavior in reaction to the player’s actions created a link between us [and] the game.

“I think that play, in a more general sense, is fundamentally one of the ways that we understand the world, the real world,” says Wright, “as is storytelling. I think the two are both kind of educational technologies, and that’s the part that interests me […]”

“Players right off the bat were forced to sit down and in fact pick their goals,” Wright says. […] “At that point, they’re also having to clarify their internal model of the way a city operates…all of a sudden your assumptions become clear to you.”

I certainly emerged from my hunched sessions with my pet cities carrying a new appreciation for the world around me.

Touring the Energy Innovation Center

View from the Penn State Center

view from the soon-to-be Penn State Center offices

I had the pleasure and good fortune to be invited along today on a tour of the Energy Innovation Center led by the incredibly informative Thomas Bartnik. My invite was proffered by Deno De Ciantis, director of the Penn State Center, a partner in the project that has been transforming the former Connelly School into a new hub for all things sustainable, forward thinking and transformative in the region. The Penn State Center will be moving offices to a wholly renovated, 11,000 square foot space in what had been teaching work shops for trade students – giving them ample room for their growing menu of programming and community outreach. As you can see above, the views are pretty great, too.

Penn State Center offices

long view of the Penn State Center offices

I was joined on my tour by two instructors from Greater Allegheny’s campus and a dozen STEM program summer students as well as representatives from another local organization interested in sustainable practices. Hard hats were required, as were reflective vests and protective eyewear, so we definitely looked the part as we made our way through a very active construction site. The entire project got started just 18 months ago and, considering the Connelly School covers 180,000 square feet, is moving at a staggering clip. So fast, in fact, that the Penn State Center expects to take control of its space in just a few more weeks.

My own interest in the Penn State Center is two-fold. Many Media Commons projects across the Commonwealth see students taking on service learning-type projects with local community groups. Having a strong ally in the Center would allow for Media Commons to connect faculty assigning these projects with non-profits and other organizations in and around Pittsburgh to create great educational opportunities. Additionally, the Center itself would be a spectacular spot to bring together the campus and wider communities for training, research and traditional teaching – while, at the same time, putting our media production resources in front of a much larger audience.

And this is just from my sphere. Other spaces and amenities coming online will include a 750+ seat auditorium, shared 100+ person conference center, workshare spaces in the PGH Green Innovators offices, sustainable systems teaching opportunities (with exposed, color coded infrastructure) and flexible events spaces throughout. The potential impact of the Penn State Center in Pittsburgh on all areas of Penn State’s mission of bringing education to the Commonwealth is absolutely thrilling.

Check out the rest of the tour photos here and stay tuned for more developments:

Funded: a frame from the future

With just under a month still to go in its campaign, I’m happy to say that I’ve become one of the backers that have pushed the EO1 from Electric Objects well (read: 811% as of this morning) past its funding target.  It’s going to be a long wait until May 2015 when I can get my very own infinite-art-collection-in-a-frame.

Watch: Warhol’s lost experiments

I had the very good fortune of attending the debut of this latest episode of the Hillman Photography Initiative’s video series, The Invisible Photograph, over the weekend at the Carnegie Library/Museum of Art. The film is just 20 minutes or so long and covers the nerdtastic work of artists and retro computer boffins who extracted Andy Warhol’s mid-80s Amiga experimentations.

The event itself was both a screening of the above video and a panel discussion with Cory Arcangel, Golan Levin, Keith Bare, Michael Dille and John Ippolito – the latter being my favorite part as it was both deeply philosophical and extreme humorous. What’s more, some of the original Commodore engineers who were tasked with working alongside Warhol in preparation for the Lincoln Center Amiga reveal turned up in the crowd and shared amazing anecdotes.

Definitely check out the Hillman Photography Initiative via NowSeeThis.org.

Also turning 30 this month

I’m happy to say that I’ve only spent 20 days in a world without the Mac.  It’s really come to define my day to day life as a platform and a phenomenon and I’m not sure where I’d be professionally or creatively without it.  And that’s not just fanatic gushing – the Mac was how I taught myself to be who I am in my career today.

Check out Apple’s entire Thirty Years of Mac feature for more on what others think of the little computer that could do so much.

Watch: “Do Digital Natives Exist?”

I can’t tell you the number of times that faculty (or my mother) have told me that they just don’t understand computers in the way that I do because they didn’t have them around for their entire lives.  I certainly understand the sentiment, but it really falls apart on closer inspection.  The first computer that I used (an Apple IIe) bears very little resemblance to the iPad mini I use to browse the web for videos like this one.  Those that are considered “digital natives” are forced to adapt just as much as those born before computers existed.  And they also need training and support on tools that they are unfamiliar with, just like anyone else.  So you can imagine my moment of “right on-ness” with this latest Idea Channel transmission.  What do you think?