Salinger’s Death

“I’m sick of not having the courage to be an absolute nobody.” – Holden Caulfield in Catcher in the Rye.

It’s strangely comforting knowing that Salinger got our future so right. The quote from Salinger might explain a lot about the motivations behind the usage of a lot of web 2.0 tools. Perhaps it’s not the connection but the promotion that people get out of it. Certainly, connections are important, vital even, to life. But is that what we want when we tweet, or update our facebook? Do we want a connection, or do we want our fifteen minutes of fame? Are there times where we might want one and not the other? Does the near limitless connections we make create fame? We’ve seen that in blogger-land, where certain blogs have enough followers that the person behind them become celebrities of sorts. In that case, is Perez Hilton really making connections or just making statements?

What I Learned This Week (Part 7)

I haven’t had a hodge-podge of links for a while – so this collection dates back a couple weeks.

Topsy: New-ish Twitter search engine that provides a ranking of your popular tweets, and attempts to navigate the network of links between your tweets, retweets and more. I think we’ll see many more of these sorts of popularity tools for Twitter pop up over this year as the general public tries to make sense of it.

Compare My Docs: I can see the plagiarism checking benefits for this (by comparing source material to essays) in addition to the versioning comparison that the site is aiming at. Sure, Turnitin is more robust, but it’s also a pay-to-play service.

WordPress Opens Up in an effort to improve their overall design and user experience. I never really found WP to be that bad, although at times I can see how user experience can be improved. A good idea to outsource this to the crowd, we’ll see the results fairly soon I suspect.

Gen M

I was reflecting on the affinity we have as a culture for naming things – categorizing them into boxes and such. We have my generation, Generation X, and Generation Y as the one that followed us. The current generation, the one my daughter belongs in, with their focus on mobile technology should be Gen M. I hope that this generation will be more mobile, able to change gears quickly and still have a moral compass attached to themselves and each other, rather than what the M could stand for: money. We’ve seen a couple brief attempts talking about the grassroots movements brought to the forefront from youth, and a recent report about the mediated lives youth live, which is increasingly mobile and on-the-go.

First Impressions

I’ve harped on a lot about how good visual design helps manage  the first impression someone constructs. Here’s a link to the article that discusses the way we process first impressions (in PDF format) and the Guardian article that discusses it. What’s fascinating is the conclusion that we process our first impressions of people the same way (and the same part of the brain) that we process our first impressions of objects. Now, I’m slightly skeptical of the methodology – they used pictures of people on a screen rather than real people – which to me is perfect to study how people make first impressions of pictures, maybe not ideal otherwise. Additionally, it’s interesting to see that part of this is done by an area that controls emotion, so logic is out, emotional responses in.

Quick Thought About Bringing External Websites into the LMS

Many modern LMS’s allow instructors and designers to bring external websites wholly into the learning environment, either by embedding them in an iframe or a windowed frame. I often wonder if doing this works for students, or is a hindrance. Should I link out and be explicit about where the student is going, or bring the content to the learning environment. The benefits of both are obvious to me.

An explicit statement of where students are going gives them a resource to draw on later – if they no longer are allowed to login to the LMS, they still have access to the learning resource. They can bookmark it and share it. Serendipity allows students to find new and different perspectives. The downfall is that it can be chaotic – too many open windows, too fragmented a learning experience, too much content can overwhelm. It doesn’t provide context, or context isn’t as immediate. Meaning can be fragmented.

Keeping links internal to the LMS provides a better guided road. Some students will be comforted with the idea that they don’t have to go all over the web to get information. The context of the information is a stronger connection. The user experience is more uniform, leading to less cognitive load. The downfall is that it can be too restrictive, too constraining and too much like school. Also, what happens when you can’t login? You’ve lost all your resources.

I think the way one works will put forth the way they design courses, and how the LMS is used. I’m fighting through this issue, and will struggle on as always.

Relevance of Being Irrelevant

I was reading this posting about Being Online or Being Irrelevant, and while I do agree with the idea of being online, I  see the other side of the coin as well. There are some brilliant lecturers, for whom being online would make them irrelevant. They just don’t adapt well to an online existence. They either don’t adapt or can’t adapt. We should allow for these people to be relevant.

Also, in the first paragraph, the question is posed “What does photography do to our concept of art?”, which immediately begs the question, “What does e-learning do to our concept of learning?” On one side of the argument will stand the sentiment that e-learning does nothing to our concept of learning, because no matter where learning occurs, it’s still learning. The other side of the argument is that it changes almost everything. Most of us will fall somewhere in the middle, acknowledging that e-learning has an effect on learning, much as learning in a classroom is different than learning in a workshop. I don’t have answers, just more questions.

5 Things To Do To Improve Your Visual Intelligence

I’m using the term visual intelligence to refer to an ability to produce an aesthetically pleasing photograph, document or web page. Much like any other skill, experience is king. You have to learn by doing. The inspiration to do is sometimes a key problem. Here’s a couple of photography exercises that will help your visual intelligence.

1. The 365/10 project. On Flickr, take a photograph everyday and post it with the 365/10 tag. I’d go one further to geo-tag it and give it descriptive tags to help people find it.

2. The Dailyshoot is along the same idea, shoot something every day/week, but this time grouped around a theme. It goes one further to post a link via Twitter. Sometimes having someone give you constraints is a good way to focus on technique rather than finding something interesting to shoot.

3. Digital Photography Challenge is another photograph on a theme challenge, but it’s also a contest where you can vote on best shots.

4. Running From Camera is something Alec Couros posted on Twitter moments ago, but a cool task for a different shot. Of course, looking through the entries, some of them are composed very similarly. I wonder if you could work within the constraints of “running away” but shooting on a diagonal? Would the picture still work?

5. In addition to shooting more, critique more. Be very critical and selective about shooting and framing. Be reflective in your practice, think about what you could do to improve your shot selection. If you can’t come up with what you can do to improve your shots, review the basic theories that govern design, and choose one to work with exclusively.