Making Sense of Old Media in New Ways

I’ve been reading about sensemaking lately, mostly about dealing with information abundance, filter failure and information overload. Most of the articles deal with text and some other form of media, be it video or audio. We have a few tools to help with text based websites, like Google and Bing as well as trust based networks like the ones we build with blogs and twitter. But we haven’t really dealt with information abundance with videos. Recall back less than a decade ago, prior to Google, where we had AltaVista as the best search engine and ranking was based on a series of on-page items. There was  a wealth of deception based on the ability of unscrupulous webmasters to spam keywords unrelated to the content on page to boost ranking. Google changed that by factoring in links to the webpage, and the text describing that link serving as an annotation of that page being linked to. Which leads us to the number one user-created content on the web…. video.

Specifically, how are we going to make sense of these thousands of hours of video, and assess it for quality? Adaptive Path seem to think that video needs a flickr-like revolution, an interpretive layer on top of the mass of tools we have to share videos. The problem that I see is the same as the problem with AltaVista, keywords and tags can be gamed, and made irrelevant. So we’re relying on text to describe video. Is there a better way? Maybe some way of visually linking instead of describing a video? Maybe a selection of key frames from the videos to describe the video profile?

Hot and Cool Media

I’ve been reading a lot of Harold Innis and Marshall McLuhan, and not been blogging a lot about it because I’m not sure how those ideas affect education per se. Innis is well known for his time and space-biased media, which basically states that the mode of media used to transport knowledge has a time or space bias. Time-biased media are long lasting but do not travel. Space-biased media are portable, but not necessarily long lasting. I suspect that Innis would have rethought this concept now, considering that almost all media are long lasting and almost immediately available worldwide. McLuhan has further pushed the idea to hot and cool media – which works better as a continuum than as an either/or dichotomy. Cool media is high in participation, which is the prevaling trend – media is becoming universally higher in participation.

Perhaps it’s time to reframe the media classifications that have served us well for the last fifty years. Certainly it’s difficult to classify some of the trends we’re seeing. How do you classify a viral video? What constitutes participation in it? Does continuing the viral aspect of it through e-mail How does someone classify a mashup? Do these classifications make sense anymore? I guess I’ll have to get reading some more modern media and communication theory to see what has been done in this realm.


I’ve heard a couple of people talking about the power of Pull, and pull technologies. In one context it was Will Richardson talking about pull, another was through the Twitter feed for NMC 2010. I think all this talk about pull is forgetting that people also have to push for others to pull. So as we end up pulling more, people might push less. With less information being pushed out, popularity becomes a motivator to push – and as we know, popular does not always mean good (sure it’s good sometimes, and certainly entertaining, but not always both).

There will have to be more research into this push-pull dynamic because this flips some of the existing media theory on it’s head. To pull from McLuhan – is the web a “hot” or “cold” media? Using McLuhan’s criteria, it’s both hot and cold. Hot in the sense that it’s engaging the visual sense almost entirely. Hot in that it’s engaging and allows for communication. Cold in that it’s nonlinear. Cold in that it’s a detached medium. Or do we have to segment the web further? Do we have to look at video posting as different than blogging, tweeting or other web 2.0 activities?  I think that might be the case. Certainly, different tasks lead to different goals. Posting a video on YouTube engages people differently than posting a video on Vimeo – which is mostly driven by two things. The first is the aesthetics of the video’s surrounding environment (the context of the video). The second is the immediacy of related videos change the context as well. If we derive meaning from the videos from the “related links” we are relying on the algorithm of the related links – through Google in the case of YouTube (I’m not sure if Vimeo has a hand-rolled relational script, or if it uses Google’s algorithm as well) – to make sense of the video in addition to the video itself.


So I took the StrengthsQuest profile. I was already pretty sure I knew where I fell, you aren’t a reflective learner if you haven’t thought about yourself… Anyways, for those who are familiar with StrengthsQuest here are my top 5: Ideation, Deliberative, Analytical, Input and Learner. So basically, I’m fascinated with ideas, will collect data to prove or disprove new ideas and will pass on that information to others. Sounds like an education to me. Of course, I’ve always focused on my weaknesses and deficiencies as a person, so I can better address those issues and figure out ways around them.

Mobile Technology Friendly Programs

So, Mobile Technology is a marketing scheme to attract students, eh? I find the original article, and the subsequent corresponding article (sorry about the paywall, but you get the drift) a little suspect. Sure, the programs mentioned are using Mobile Technology, maybe they are even using it well (and there’s no way to tell at this juncture). But what’s their relation to IvyWise? Is this a thinly veiled attempt to drive enrollment to those courses?

Abilene Christian University has increased it’s bandwidth capacity to allow for more mobile devices to connect. Not a sexy statement, but certainly aimed at letting students use the networks for their own research and purposes. They also have a whole initiative about mobile devices. Again, the University as a whole entity has a good holistic approach to technology and mobile technology in particular.

EDIT: And here’s a blog post with links to 45 Higher Ed Mobile pages.

I Hate Bookmark Sharing

I’ll say it. I hate sharing bookmarks.

Don’t get me wrong, I like sharing ideas, but sites like Delicious, Diigo, Digg and the like aren’t doing it for me. I have a variety of interests. I like punk rock records. I’m fascinated by the idea of 21st century literacies. I really like a lot of things that are Japanese. I like the concept of zen. I may not want to share everything with everybody. Yes, I know that I can selectively choose which items go to the public, which go to a select group, which go to family… it shouldn’t be that hard though.

I manage different facets of my online identity, and in the past I’ve chosen a certain identity (dietsociety) to represent my online life, and other ones (jonk, jon_k) to represent my professional life. Somewhere around 2001, I decided to consolidate under one banner (dietsociety). I liked the connotations of a small world, or a shrinking world, and the fact that it was a double entendre – my first publishing attempt was in the late 80’s (as in 1989) as a punk fanzine, “Diet Society”, which was part social commentary, part music.

So why the hate-on for social bookmarking? I hate that the current services don’t tell me why someone bookmarked it, or in Diigo’s case, underplay the annotation feature – or you can annotate a site, but it interferes with the “flow” of the site – changing the experience of using the web. I hate that I have to manually retag things that in the context of my bookmarks menu, makes sense. I hate that bookmark sharing sites don’t tell me the last time I used the bookmark (which might provide interesting ranking data). I hate that I use a total of 11 browsers (across three computers and one device) and I have to manually sync each one. Never mind the fact that I don’t want work data to be the same as home data. Shouldn’t it be easy to do that? It apparently has escaped me how to do this. I don’t mind sharing, in fact, I love sharing. I just don’t see the popularity contest working. I mean, we don’t go to AltaVista anymore because we recognize that popularity is not the best ranking of information, so why are we paying attention to it on Delicious?

The Future of Courses?

I had an interesting discussion yesterday with a faculty member who teach automotive mechanics here at the College. Needless to say it’s a hands-on course that doesn’t have a lot of sitting and learning, but a lot of doing. He was struggling to find meaning for the LMS in the context of his course and he found it in the quizzing, which he could use as a pre-test. That got me to thinking about how effective e-learning is for skills-based acquisition where you have to do something to show mastery. The argument he put forth was that you don’t want to have a guy building your house without the proper skills shown, right? Well, the cynic who’s been on a construction site and watched a few Mike Holmes shows, knows that not everyone who’s building your house is accredited with some institution. That’s why we have housing inspectors (who can be bought off). There are though, some things that cannot be replaced by an online interaction. I would however, be OK with someone becoming an electrician and passing the accreditation without being in a class, as there’s an apprenticeship process that requires showing your hands-on ability.

I’ve enrolled in a CSS course, because even though I use those skills fairly often, I feel like I should know more about it. The course cost $10, is organized by a publisher, and has a relatively small enrollment. I’ll write more about it after I’ve gone through it and know more about it. It’s short in duration, only ten sessions, fairly minimalist in instructional design and looks full of little bits and pieces that will help me. I think these sorts of courses will pop up – maybe even in conjunction with higher education institutions. Certainly this is the future of continuing education – where people who need skills upgrading get a package to go through with some minimal instruction. Writing clear, concise, directive instructions will be a key skill for the designers of these courses. There will be others that suggest these small, modular courses don’t provide context for the work – or even more don’t allow for reflective practices. That may be the case, or maybe those things need to be built.


I’ve been reading about Minimalist design – which intrigued me. In my advancing age I’m less about “more stuff” and more about “good stuff”, so clutter and extraneous things are getting cut (minus my record collection because frankly, I can’t part with some of the bad records I own). When I learned about Carroll’s Minimalist Design for instruction, I was doubly intrigued. Here is an attempt to cut through the clutter of some designs and instruction, to the heart of what matters. The design also suggests some interesting parallels to a lot of what I would consider characteristics of informal and self-guided learning. With that said, maybe it ties in nicely with Connectivism? I see how it acts as a balance for the networked learner. Carroll’s Minimalism comes from computer training from a Constructivist perspective rather than a Behaviourist perspective.