Quite fun to watch. H/T Shayla Thiel-Stern
McLuhan on the 1976 Carter-Ford Debate Oct 16, 2012
Of Privacy and Parsimony Oct 2, 2012
Every academic publication makes small asides and fleeting or tangential points on the way to its big argument. Most of the time it’s that larger case that’s remembered, the smaller points easily forgotten.
But every so often as a reader you come across a summary, description, or insight an author has made in passing that sticks with you for years. For me one of those is from Anton Alterman’s 2003 article, “‘A piece of yourself’: Ethical issues in biometric identification [PDF],” which in making a larger argument about—as you may have guessed—ethical issues in biometric identification, attempts to boil down the privacy concerns surrounding other prior information technologies into three brief sentences.
No doubt this is the author trying to be parsimonious in his lit review, with an eye toward the journal’s length requirements. Nonetheless, the distillation of such a broad field of study into a small paragraph is the sort of high wire act that makes reviewer-worn academics bite their nails as they begin reading. That’s, perhaps, one reason the passage has stuck with me so long.
The other is that those few sentences turn out to be incredibly incisive and useful. They likely leave some things out, of course. But each year, when discussions of online privacy issues come up in my new media courses—as they will this week—my thoughts inevitably return to Alterman’s brief set of categories, which seem to so beautifully capture so much:
One [privacy concern] is that someone, say a stalker, or the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for that matter, will legitimately gain access to information about you and utilize it to locate and harass or harm you in some manner.
A second is that information you provide for a particular purpose will be retrieved or purchased, say by direct marketers or credit bureaus, perhaps to be be correlated with other data, and used for purposes that you would neither have predicted nor agreed to.
A third kind of concern is that the data will be stolen or illegitimately released, exposing you to risk, embarrassment, or other harm. (p. 140)
Alterman, A. (2003). “A piece of yourself”: Ethical issues in biometric identification. Ethics and information technology, 5(3), 139–150.
[Image Credit: "Privacy" cc-by 2.0 Alan Cleaver]
Charlie Gibson at QU Sep 24, 2012
The obligatory Charlie Gibson-spoke-at-my-university post. I remember being a lowly intern in Washington at Nightline when people would all chat about his activities up in the New York office. So it was fun to meet him in person.
"When we started, we weren’t as intimately familiar with how this industry worked. Just telling people, ‘Yeah, you should go ahead and cut the cord’ without being able to watch the Olympics or the American Idol finale doesn’t work." Sep 17, 2012
Watching Boxee transmogrify itself over the last five years from a software tool for hacking your television into a legacy content industry-friendly appliance has been utterly fascinating.
The Department of Film, Video, and Interactive Media at Quinnipiac University, of which I am a part, has just posted an opening for an assistant professor, tenure track. The “successful candidate” would be teaching primarily in our masters program in interactive media. Individuals with substantive industry experience who may prefer not to take on the additional responsibilities of tenure-track faculty may also apply for the post as renewable term faculty.
As an added bonus, US News just ranked Quinnipiac the top up and coming university in the northern United States.
[Image Credit: Arnold Bernhard Library and Clock Tower]
"Video exceeded half of global consumer Internet traffic by year-end 2011. The sum of all forms of video (TV, video on demand [VoD], Internet, and P2P) will be approximately 86 percent of global consumer traffic by 2016." Sep 16, 2012
—Cisco Visual Networking Index, as quoted by Akamai
Issues of Free Speech on YouTube Sep 16, 2012
In the wake of the recent unrest in the Middle East, the questions the events raise for YouTube concerning how it should moderate videos with the potential to incite political violence are becoming a subject of news and discussion. This isn’t the first time YouTube has confronted weighty political and moral issues surrounding user-generated content, nor is it the first time the service has been asked by politicians to pull sensitive content. I recently published a paper with Tarleton Gillespie that looks in greater detail at some of these issues and troubles and compares them to those confronted by more traditional media. Here’s a brief excerpt:
Though these services present themselves as open platforms and play down their interventions into content, they do in many ways “curate” what they allow users to make available: to protect their user community from seeing troubling things, to protect their service from becoming something more disreputable and hard to seek sponsorship for, and to protect their company from legal liability. These services often imply in their public proclamations that there is little tension between hosting citizen journalist footage of violence in the streets and homemade videos of adorable cats, between personal status updates and real-time information feeds. … Providing the news and fostering the public discourse are noble causes, but they open the door to different, and sometimes conflicting, obligations regarding the circulation of troubling content and the curation of unruly dialogue.
Tarleton also has an excellent paper, “The Politics of Platforms,” that looks even further at YouTube and the challenges it faces, not just with regard to moderation, but commercially and politically when it comes to promoting its service and hosting the public discourse. He’s working on a book on the subject as well, to which I’m greatly looking forward.
Scrivener as a Syllabus Tool Sep 15, 2012
A few years ago, when it was still relatively new, I wrote my masters thesis in Scrivener. It was a good experience, but at the end of it I didn’t feel like the application had benefited me all that greatly. This isn’t a comment on the software, which is excellent. Rather, I simply found that my personal writing process is just as easily carried out in a traditional word processor as an organizer tool like Scrivener.
But while Scrivener may not have ended up my tool of choice for writing articles and manuscripts, I’ve found it incredible for constructing and revising syllabi. Three features make it particularly awesome for this:
The Corkboard and Drag-and-Drop Reordering of Text
One of the most tedious tasks of building or revising a syllabus is the constant reordering of subjects. Part of making a class hang together is establishing a logical flow for the material, which means deciding on a good order for the course’s various topics.
For me, this is a trial-and-error process, which means reshuffling the various topics until the sequence makes sense. It’s also trial and error in the sense that I learn from experience and revise the sequence of topics for a new offering of the course based on what happened in the previous one.
This is the sort of task for which you’d normally throw a bunch of Post-its on a whiteboard, or toss a bunch of index cards on the floor and rearrange them until you were happy with the result. Scrivener emulates this functionality nicely, allowing you to shuffle the units of your course like so many index cards—in the interface, each “card” stands in for the reading list or description of that week’s class (see above).
And if you’re not a fan of skeuomorphic bulletin boards (I can only handle so much of them), Scrivener makes it just as easy to do drag-and-drop reordering of the topics as points in an outline (see right).
Only, when you’re finished with this process, rather than a bunch of loose index cards that still have to be typed up and contextualized, you’ve actually reordered the text of your existing syllabus. With the exception of a bit of always-vital proofreading, you can rework the whole schedule of your course and output a new complete syllabus in seconds.
Store Notes and Slides Right Within Your Syllabus Document
After a class is over, I often find I’m left with a mess of scattered notes, lecture files, and PDFs of readings, assignment sheets, and handouts. My day-to-day organizer program, Together, is pretty good at handling these and saving me from myself. But now that I’ve begun to keep my syllabi in Scrivener, I can do one better and begin storing these files right within the syllabus document itself.
That’s because Scrivener “documents” are actually Evernote-like binders of files. The software includes a feature that allows you to store files related to your writing project right within the Scrivener document itself. For folks who use Scrivener for extensive writing projects like book manuscripts, this generally means stuff like interview transcripts, field notes, or data tables. But if you’re writing a syllabus, you can use the document’s “Research” folder to store notes, lecture slides, and handouts.
If you decide to remove or swap out a unit from your course schedule, you can also drag it to the research folder. This removes it from the “final” version of the syllabus, but keeps the text in a form that you can drop right back into the schedule if you change your mind.
Once you’ve got a version of your syllabus you’re happy with, Scrivener’s “compile” feature can export it in over a dozen different formats including as a PDF, e-book, webpage, or Word document. This turns out to be very handy when you’re distributing your syllabus to different audiences. The class may want a webpage they can check, you might like a version you can throw on your Kindle when you travel, your tenure review committee needs a PDF, and the next professor to teach the course would like a Word document she can edit.
The output isn’t always perfect—Scrivener itself highlights for users that its strong suit is composition, rather than formatting, and suggests you do some fine tuning in a word processor or layout program. Still, its default output is generally serviceable. I do wish there were a way to add a line or two of custom CSS when I’m compiling a document for the web, rather than relying entirely on Scrivener’s robo-formatting or going back in with a text editor after the fact. But given how Scrivener frames itself and its uses, this is more a feature suggestion than a criticism.
One Other Cool Thing
I use Papers as my citation manager and I recently discovered that it includes support for Scrivener. This will make the latter even better for syllabi, since it will take all the friction out of throwing citations and readings into new courses.
"[T]hree-quarters of the estimated 5 million homes that don't get TV signals over the airways or through cable, satellite or telecommunications companies have televisions anyway." Sep 14, 2012
Mars Landing in High Resolution Aug 24, 2012
So, this is pretty awesome…