Short Post


A hot-button topic since the start of the digital age as we know it has been music sharing. We all remember when Napster went to court several years back, or even when we got that pesky email from ITS last week telling us to stop the illegal downloading. The issue is ownership over intellectual property—shouldn’t artists be receiving royalties on the music that is rightfully theirs?

I think that people who are the rightful owners of their intellectual property should definitely be compensated somehow; but I also believe that file sharing is an appropriate use of the internet and aids in the dissemination of information or media in ways that can only be helpful to aspiring music artists. I look at what some bands like Radiohead have done—they offered their album In Rainbows for download from their own website for a donation of the downloader’s choice—and I while I know that they can afford this because they are well-paid and famous—I think other artists could take a page from their book. Their impetus is to distribute their art to whoever wants it, regardless of privilege associated with the ability to afford a $9.99 album download from Itunes. After all, shouldn’t it ultimately be about the music and not the money?

A friend of mine who goes to SUNY Purchase is taking a class in Second Life! While I don’t know too much about it, he explained to me the basics: the class meets twice per week in a computer lab. They conduct some of the class as their avatars and some of the class in real life. Additionally, their coursework includes spending a certain amount of out-of-class time in Second Life observing the people there and participating (it is a Sociology class).

I did some more research on college classes in Second Life and found an interesting article about a Comparative Literature class at DeSales University in Schnecksville, PA. In their class the professor was able to recreate the setting of the book her class was reading, so it was like they were literally having class in the book.

To me, this seems to be getting the most utility possible out of a resource like Second Life. As their avatars, the students could experience the book as if they were characters—what a cool interactive experience!

This opens a lot of doors for other subjects. Chemistry students could potentially perform dangerous experiments with inaccessible chemicals in Second Life, or medical students could even practice procedures if the technology would allow them to (perhaps it already does; I don’t know).

Additionally, there is a forum for educators who want to utilize Second Life for the ultimate classroom experience. They can exchange information or bounce ideas around with fellow teachers and professors who are also becoming accustomed to this new and developing technology. As a graduation senior, I have to say that I am sad I will never have the chance to experience a college class in Second Life.

Reply to Gabrielle’s April 28th post:

I totally agree with you about our obsession with fame and I think there’s also something intriguing about the tangibility of these famous people. Especially in terms of celebrity gossip blogs, I think it’s not so much about being famous ourselves but about being close enough to the celebrities to know their personal secrets or vulnerabilities, to sort of demystify their fame—not necessarily with the intention of invalidating their fame, but with understanding it.

Personally, I enjoy reading blogs like Dlisted or PerezHilton because it allows me temporarily to escape from the daily grind and to catch up on popular culture. I don’t particularly care for the posts of Britney flashing her crotch to the paparazzi or of who’s-dating-who this week. But by browsing through them, I am if nothing else preparing myself for a week’s worth of cultural references (as you also note, Gabrielle).

And I do think that even subconsciously, we get a certain amount of pleasure out of knowing that people who have it so much “better” than we do, in a sense, are imperfect. In some sort of twisted way I think it dismantles a lot of the more “legitimate” forms of popular culture and reminds us that they aren’t real. If we see a flawless Kate Moss on the cover of Vogue, we’re not looking at the “real” Kate Moss. The photos of her, un-made-up and walking down the street with her kids, or even that somewhat upsetting shot of her snorting cocaine from a few years ago—those are the most authentic we can find.

User-Interface

Since its inception and rise to popularity in the mid 80’s, what is largely understood as the “desktop metaphor” for interactive visual computer interfacing has barely so much as been challenged as the dominant form of computer interaction. Even with the rise of smart-phones and pocketable computers, the user-interfaces remain derivative of this metaphor.

It’s easy for us to translate the screen-scape as a desktop for several reasons. First, the PC largely implanted itself in the consciousness of humans via its rise to ubiquity in white collar workplaces, where it actually did replace the desktop. What was once a physical, three dimensional system of file drawers and “work” space was easily replaced by the two dimensional folders, and work/image processors. Second, it’s easy. By not radically shaking our understanding of data systems and workflow, it can be a quick transition to understanding the systems. But is easy necessarily right? is the goal of computer interface designers to make the easiest system, or the most natural, or the most logical?

What is your understanding of user interfaces? Do any of you use or have used alternative interfaces? Command line? Virtualization? Do you think it is important that interfaces change? Do you think it is strange that the speed and ability of computers has improved drastically in the past 20 years but the way we interact with them has largely remained unchanged?

Because I firmly believe that theory is only one portion of scholarship, here is a list of resources that can help anyone who is interested move from rumination to action.

Some of my favorite scholars on digital worlds:

Michael Wesch is an anthropology professor at Kansas State University and has made a series of videos with his students that address some of the issues we have discussed in our exploration of digital ecology.

This one in particular made me thing of a lot of points brought up in the classroom (some directly, some indirectly).

This video has come up in several different contexts for me in the last year. On one level, this is a video about students, “how they learn, what they need to learn, their goals, hopes, dreams, what their lives will be like, and what kinds of changes they will experience in their lifetime.” But it was created in the collaborative context we have discussed this semester – real time edits to a Google Doc. And what it reveals is a student body inextricable from the technology they utilize and that surrounds them. In fact, technology is a huge focus in this video.

My favorite quotes:

“When I graduate I will probably have a job that doesn’t exist today.”

“I will write 42 pages for class this semester. and over 500 pages of email.”

“I am a multi-tasker. (I have to be).”

Me too.

In the past few weeks, friends of mine have been buzzing about the new(ish) facebook chat application.  Launched less than 2 weeks ago, facebook chat does not seem to have gained much momentum in terms of popularity.  I have yet to been “imed” (a slang term meaning messaged via an instant messenger) by anyone on this chat, nor have I taken the opportunity to use it myself.  I wonder why this application has gone basically unnoticed, at least to my knowledge?

 

I believe that instant message users become very comfortable with their messaging service and it becomes difficult to switch over. Also, it seems that instant messaging is a more involved internet practice, whereas checking facebook is almost as popular of an activity as checking your email.  So will facebook chat gain as much momentum as facebook itself?  Or is communicating directly with peers non-appealing?

Next Page »