ePublishing Reflective Essay

The Direction of the Market

The death of the desktop is a common theme in computing news right now. It seems reasonable that the desktop’s era of dominance is past–the average user does not want or need a dedicated workstation with its attendant cords, cables, monitor, mouse, and keyboard, taking up space in their home.

However, the death of the desktop is a hysterical overreaction to the natural evolution of personal computing. For the foreseeable future, web developers, animators, film editors, engineers, financial analysts, and many other working professionals will need more power and (this is the key feature) more screen real estate than mobile computing can provide.

Even if we can solve the processing power and screen size issues through folding media or projection, some industries still need specific physical inputs to streamline their work. Designers use tablets (sometimes very large tablets), and mechanical engineers have very elaborate systems that I don’t have names for.

 

How Desktop Trends Connect to ePub

At the far end of the spectrum, I expect a product like Google Glass to displace cell phones and ereaders. If the technology can be made sufficiently robust and ergonomic, I anticipate the switch from cell-toting to ‘wearing’ to happen very rapidly. (Despite Richard Feynman’s objections to prognostication…)

Someday we may look back on tablets and tablet-like devices as a blip in the transition from installed computing to wearable (and implanted?) computing.

In the near term, the industry is hampered by outdated legal restrictions. Common features like pinch-to-zoom do not work in ePub formats, making today’s ebooks a poor format for graphic-heavy content. Compared to print, the steps to epub maturity are happening very fast, but in a business and legal sense, print is a millstone around electronic publishing’s neck.

Legal policy is shaped by politicians with staggeringly low technological literacy, and fed by a legal culture that is pathologically averse to risk. It would be fun to see how electronic publishing would evolve if their influence could be reduced.

Questions About eBooks

Questions about eBooks

  1. Compare the first book ever printed with the first work ever turned into an eBook.  What do they have in common?  (Hint:  Use your handouts from Monday)

They are religious texts. They sought to distribute knowledge to the common person. The first product in a new field is a strong indicator of the passions that drive the inventor / innovator, and possibly about the society that birthed them.

 

  1. The first publishing house of print books was established in 1472; the first publisher of eBooks, in 1985.  Observations about the time frame?  Format?

Printing press: 1452. It took 20 years to create the first publishing house.

Personal computers: It took about 1 year to open the first publisher.

Digital drives innovation at a greater pace than previous technologies, but the leap from first press to first publishing house is also bigger. The first ebook publisher did not have to invent the idea of publishing, they merely needed to adapt it to a new medium.

 

  1. Note the various formats digital books have been published in since their introduction.  What can you say about this period of eBook development in light of what you have learned about pBooks?

We are probably not very close to anything that resembles a “final” set of standards for epublishing.

 

  1. Born digital works have been around since the 1950s but Stephen King raised their profile with the release of his novella in 2000.  Go to http://www.pcworld.com/product/947815/stephen-king-s-riding-the-bullet-.html.  What observations can you make about the book and its readership of this book today?  What obstacles did King face 14 years ago when he released this work?

This link is broken.

 

  1. What do you think drove Random House and HarperCollins to begin selling the print books in digital versions?

Fear of being left out.

 

  1. We see Kindle released in 2007 and Nook in 2009.  No mention is made of iPhones in 2007.  Why?  What bias is showing in this “history”?

There is an inherent bias against cell phones. Reading a book makes you look smart, but reading on your phone makes you look dumb.

Alongside this, I would note that mobile phones as reading devices are a very simple innovation–the big leap is mobile reading and e-reading. The specific nature of the platform is less significant.

 

  1. The history ends in 2010 with the release of the iPad and eBooks overtaking the sale of pBooks.  Where are we in 2014?  Where are we headed in book technology?

In 2014, eBooks have become more customized, yet standardized at the same time. Cheap print books are slowly dying out.

Mediums Chart

mediums-chart

I also have a Prezi of this material at:

mediums-prezi

http://prezi.com/tt1wf9xmfedl/mediums/

 

Davidson, Chapter 7 Questions

Chapter 7  The Changing Worker

1.  What two things does Davidson say we need in order to “succeed at work in the future” (236)?

Collaboration and Context (Page 220, Nook) — changing our point of view can mean the difference between problem and opportunity.

2.  The discussion about Specialisterne workers suggest a different approach to labor and views toward disability (238- 239).  What is it that this company is doing that is drawing attention?  Why does Davidson suggest that it serves as “a metaphor for work in the future” (240)?

They employ autistic workers in quality assurance. The autistic employees are not bored by the repetitive nature of code analysis. This is an excellent example of collaboration and context–where other employers might see a disabled worker, Specialisterne found a group who thrives where others struggle.

Sonne tries to structure assignments and work spaces to the particular needs of his employees. Trying to “force everybody into one mold… Just causes stress, and workplaces already produce too much of that.”

3.  “What is relevant in a new, decentralized world of work may not even be a skill for which we know how to measure or test” (242). What are the parallels between work and education, based on what you learned about changes needed for education and assessment?

Wayne Gretzky did not test better than other hockey players in any of the detailed analyses–he was better than other players because he could predict the position of the puck and the movements of other players, allowing him to start moving before anyone else.

The inability to measure something does not mean it does not exist. In this example there is evidence that there is no way to measure one’s ability to be successful in a workplace without placing the student in a productive work environment. Tactile learning is different from book learning. The experience of touching and feeling the ice and watching other players cannot be expressed or measured by traditional methods of education, but is still a real skill; a necessary part of being successful.

4.  What makes FutureWork’s approach to work unique (244)?

Check out their website at: http://www.futureworkinstitute.com/

Taking life desires into account, not just work ambitions. Some people like 80 hour work weeks. Others perform better working 25. The flexibility to change with life’s requirements can be important as people raise children and deal with health issues.

They seek to take the pre-industrial model where people shaped their work around their life, and bring into the post-industrial era.

5.  Do you agree that “[w]orkers have changed more than workplaces” (247).  Why or why not?

I agree, the information age has really allowed people to begin thinking more creatively and this is beginning to spread. People are changing to be more flexible in where they can add to their work environment. Entrepreneurship is becoming more valued, no longer is it enough to fit into one title. It’s more important to fit into many categories with a range of skills. Success is more likely if you have more than a single skill, and in turn that makes the workplace shift from isolated cubicles to pods and rolling chairs.

6.  DIY and Do It Together drives the work structure so unique for Wikipedia (252-253).  What are these two concepts and what does it mean for the Wikipedia workplace?  (Hint:  See pages 252-255)

DIY and Do It Together are the two methods for getting things done. They indicate a balance between meeting personal goals on one’s own, and working together, collaboratively to meet a goal. For Wikipedia it is a structure that largely uses crowdsourcing for its informational entries. Users are not required to be certified experts on the subject  in order to contribute to its bank of data. Though there are experts and employees of Wikipedia who monitor the information for errors, it largely relies on users to fill its pages, much like the world wide web.

7.  Davidson cites three principles that make for a successful workplace (258-259).  What are they?  Have you worked in a job that embraced one or all of these?  What were the results?  What example does Davidson provide to illustrate them?  (Hint:  See pages 262-267)

1) How we think about ourselves.

2) How we view our future at any age.

3) How we imagine aging in the future.

The best example of embracing these principles is the CMDC program. It offers a chance to make some great connections and fill a multitude of roles. There is a range of disciplines offered, and the extent of a student’s involvement is only limited by the students themselves. The program reaches further than just our campus, it stretches into the community and gets involved in putting on exhibits and attending city functions. It encourages collaboration and entrepreneurship and provides opportunities for the students to exercise those skills to effect change on the world. Davidson talks about the CEO of Proximity hotel and how he was a businessman, a developer, and entrepreneur.

Davidson, Chapter 4 Answers

Chapter 4 How We Measure

1.  When teaching methods are introduced, why must innovative ways to assess student work follow, according to Davidson? (Hint:  See page 122-123)

A. When you change teaching methods, old methods of grading may not accurately assess the student’s knowledge.

2.  Where did grading potentially come from and what were the activities worthy to assess? What American school used letter grades?  What kind of assessment method became known as “the symbol of American education” and when was it introduced? (Hint:  See pages 129-130)

A. Letter grading may potentially have started at Cambridge University, with numerical or letter grades supplementing written comments on compositions in a few cases by a few dons sometime at the end of the eighteenth century. Yale was one of the first American universities to implement letter grades, public schools started to use them in 1897. The multiple-choice test became the symbol of American education in 1914.

3.  If current modes of assessment generated from the 20th century “assembly-line model,” then what model should a 21st century modes of assessment be derived from?  (Hint:  See page 131)

A. For assessment, Davidson thinks we should stop using end of the year exams. She thinks testing should be more flexible and have more variety. It should be casual and carry less weight, (a smaller impact on overall grades.)

4.  “College is a place to learn how to educate oneself rather than a place in which to be educated” (134).  Do you agree or disagree with Kelly’s statement?  Why?

5.  What is ultimately the problem with standardized testing, according to Davidson?  (Hint:  see page 141).  How does Cohen and Rosenweig’s H-Bot show that “search functions on Google have rendered the multiple-choice form of testing obsolete” (143)?  What do these findings lead Davidson to suggest for changes to assessment practices? (Hint:  see page 144-148)

A. The problem with standardized testing is that it doesn’t teach creative thinking and critical problem solving. This may be shown by the H-BOT, which was created by a student. H-BOT used algorithms able to read test questions and browse the internet for answers. The H-BOT was able to score 82% on a National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) that was designed for fourth graders. Davidson says that she would first stop, immediately, the end-of-grade exams in public schools because the tests are irrelevant to the student’s actual learning needs.

Davidson Reflective Essay

Cathy Davidson is a skilled writer, never slipping into incomprehensibility. She offers a variety of insights about our educational world, and pairs them with useful examples. Despite these strengths, Now You See It should be the most controversial book in our curriculum.

Her analysis of standard education and its focus on standardized testing as an outdated relic of the Industrial Revolution is compelling. The numerous examples help connect the conceptual models to their real-world costs and benefits. All-in-all, this is a very good book.

However, Davidson does have one glaring weakness. She repeatedly presents evidence that multitasking is not free—that when we divide our attention we pay a penalty of some sort—but instead of following that thread, she consistently backpedals.

The book’s conclusion may offer the best example. The section begins, “We worry about what it means to be surrounded by a ceaseless assault of information…” (page 286 in the Nook version) Here Davidson quotes concerns from a CNN Health article that published results about the risks of constant multitasking—which she immediately dismisses on the grounds that the mind is a “chaotic” place even in our quiet moments.

In the attention science world, Davidson’s view on this subject appears nearly unique: Other researchers describe attention as a limited resource, and they believe that multitasking is a trade-off between width and depth.

Take the following paraphrase from the methods section of Supertaskers: “We asked subjects to operate a driving simulator, while answering simple arithmetic problems and memorizing a short sequence [2 – 5] of random words.” (Watson, 2010)

The study subjects were all licensed drivers, perfectly able to perform each of the three tasks. The researchers were surprised to find that 2.5% of their study could perform all three tasks simultaneously, without errors—not because most people failed, but because of the few who succeeded.

Davidson’s view of attention blindness is useful. Society needs the full range from hyper-focused single-subject savant to skilled multitaskers. In a software company the first is the programmer writing kernel code for your next release, and the latter is the manager who makes sure each project has the appropriate resources. Davidson’s flaw is in failing to see the needs of hyper-focus.

When I work, I do it in a quiet place as free of distraction as I can manage. I never attempt deep logical problem solving in a group setting. In the rare cases where I must break this rule, I get by with headphones and a nature soundtrack—simulating quiet and solitude. But after a day like this, I go home and sit by myself, away from my family, and play something mindless like Solitaire for several hours. I often feel sick the following day. I would not survive long if forced to work in an open area, surrounded by distractions.

Dr. Clifford Nass, Stanford University, believes that the shift toward always-on media consumption and the removal of distraction free environments in work and school are isolating a subset of people who find it harder and harder to cope. I am one of the casualties he worries about.

 

Works Cited

 Davidson, Cathy N. Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention will Transform the way we Live, Work and Learn. Penguin Group. 2011.

 Ophir, Eyal. Nass, Clifford. Wagner, Anthony. Cognitive Control in Media Multitaskers. Stanford University. 2009. Web. Accessed 23 April 2014. <http://www.stanford.edu/~nass/Cognitive_Control_Final.pdf>

 Watson, Jason. Strayer, David. Supertaskers: Profiles in Extraordinary Multitasking Ability. Psychonomic Bullitin & Review. 2010. Web. Accessed 23 April 2014. <https://www.psych.utah.edu/lab/appliedcognition/publications/supertaskers.pdf>

10 PRINT Reflective Essay

10 PRINT CHR$(205.5+RND(1)); : GOTO 10

10 PRINT explored a number of concepts: variation, randomness, innovation, and inspiration— to name only a few. This is one line of code with a large social footprint, open to simple modification, with a fascinating visual outcome. In short, 10 PRINT (the program) is a great teaching tool, but 10 PRINT (the book) left out an important word: emergence.

The maze that appears when one runs 10 PRINT is not a maze by design. It is nothing more than a series of random choices between forward slashes and backward slashes that take advantage of the Commodore 64 architecture. Two quirks—the proximity of these characters in the PETSCII table and the fact that these characters reach the edges of their tiles—allow 10 PRINT to produce a more attractive pattern than ports written in other versions of BASIC.

However, none of the relevant features were created with mazes in mind. 10 PRINT’s classic look is pure emergence, which is the source of many technical innovations and features. Figure 15.2 in the book shows Claude Shannon positioning Theseus the mechanical mouse in a special maze. Within two years Shannon’s work was incorporated in telephone switching technology (your call is the mouse, the telephone network is the maze.)

Paul Ceruzzi would call this convergence, and it is. (Convergence is another word that does not appear in 10 PRINT.) But the truth is, separating ideas like convergence, emergence, and synergy can be—and should be—difficult, because they overlap in many ways.

Emergence is a key ingredient in our daily lives. In 2006 four guys put their heads together and created a new social networking tool. They envisioned a service that would allow simple communication from one person to a small group. The basic idea was, “Your life in 140 characters or less.”

It took more than a year for anyone to mention hashtags in connection with Twitter; they weren’t part of the original design. Users adopted hashtags because they needed a way to group tweets, and Twitter has subsequently added features that make hashtags more powerful. In short, Twitter did not set out to create theplace to pick up trending news.

I’ve mentioned this connection to a couple of people, and both of them replied with, “I don’t use Twitter.” I don’t use it very often either, but this misses the point: We all consume news, whether directly or second-hand, and reporters use Twitter as part of their information gathering, which means that whether we use Twitter or not, we’re still affected by it.

People may be tempted to dismiss 10 PRINT on the grounds that a one-line program generating pseudo-random mazes is trivial. We might also ask, “Who cares about a mechanical rodent that can ‘learn’ mazes?” The truth is, you care. Next time you call your mom, check Facebook, or send a tweet, you’re taking advantage of Claude Shannon’s work with Theseus.

Rushkoff — Reflective Essay

Our world is increasingly digital. Many of us spend significant time on a variety of news and social networking sites, and in many cases anonymity is the norm. However, we need to remember that anonymity is a sign of dysfunction*. Healthy relationships—and societies—do not need masks.

Rushkoff’ argues that all digital interactions reduce our sense of empathy. Loss of body language, tone of voice, and other queues make misunderstandings easier—and careful parsing of text cannot bridge the gap. We cannot see the wink that tells us “this is a joke.”

Added to this problem is the temptation to act like a jerk when we think we won’t get caught. The more anonymous our contacts become, the easier it is to say and do things that dehumanize ourselves and the people we contact.

Nancy Fulda** notes that computers have been able to pass themselves off as human, but only when shielded by anonymity and only because they have been programmed to make extensive use of profanity. In other words, a computer can start flame wars as effectively as a human.

We know from Katherine Hayles’ discussion of technogenesis that the tools we use—and presumably our other behaviors—shape the way we think and work. It makes sense, then, that bad behavior in anonymous spaces will shape the way we interact in our ‘real’ lives.

Civil interaction then becomes a necessary step in protecting who we are. Ruskoff advises us to treat anonymous spaces as though they were public and open, behaving as we would at any other time. At a practical level, he points out that when communities are set up to use long-lived anonymous IDs, people will act to protect their alter-ego’s reputation.

 

* When used outside of recreation: Masquerades, for example, can be great, but also include unmasking as a key feature.

** Fulda, Nancy. ‘Artificial Intelligence with Nancy Fulda.’ Writing Excuses. Podcast. www.writingexcuses.com/2014/01/

Rushkoff, Douglas. Program or be Programmed. New York. OR Books. 2010.

Rushkoff — Question Responses — Ch. 5 – 7

Questions for Rushkoff’s Program or Be Programmed

Chapters V-VII

 

Directions: Answer the following questions. You will be asked to read your responses in class and to post one from each chapter on your WordPress site.

 

Chapter V. Scale, “One Size Does Not Fit All”

1. What does the term “abstraction” mean?

Removed from reality, generally to represent the big picture or to bring a particular aspect into focus.

 

2. What does Rushkoff mean when he says that “[d]igital technologies are biased toward abstraction?”

Digital technology is an abstraction. While it can work very well with concrete products, those things need to translate well into abstract ideas. (3d printing seems like a good example.)

 

3. What example does Rushkoff use for highlighting the idea that the “net has turned scalability from a business option to a business requirement?”

Tom’s small music store. Tom’s business did not scale well, at least in part because in an online environment his expertise (available on his blog) was easily separated from his product line—leaving his customers with no reason to purchase from him.

 

4. What is a “vertical” and “horizontal” approach to business?

Vertical – offering a specific set of good or services to a particular market. Example: a dental technician making crowns for local dentist offices.

Horizontal – offering a services to many customers. Example: Paypal.

 

5. Why are neither vertical or horizontal approaches perfect because of digital technologies?

Because it is easy to be under cut by a small change in the market.

 

6. How did scaling up result in a loss of manufacturing, according to Rushkoff?

The economics of central currency are biased toward the lender, not the producer. Thus, the most ambitious businesses attempt to enter the lending markets—or step above that to the derivative markets. (These steps are levels of abstraction, where each step increases the separation between the business and a real product.)

 

7. Rushkoff writes, “What all this abstraction does accomplish here on earth, however, is make everyone and everything more dependent on highly centralized standards.” Can you give a concrete example of what he means?

Rushkoff mentions the computer’s role in disconnecting print from paper. Ebooks are a perfect example: they only work because they are constructed using well-defined standards.

 

8. Rushkoff backtracks a bit from his argument against the biases of digital media by including all media in the problem with abstraction. He cites language as an example. Explain.

Language is an abstraction. I approach you and ask how to bake cookies. You explain. Then I go home and try it. Language disconnects learning from deeds.

9. What makes digital technologies “one further removed from what we think of as reality” than other media?

Hypertext—the ability to link to other documents means that readers may enter or exit the text at many points.

Type-setting, which is not unique to digital works, removes one of the personal aspects of writing.

 

Further thoughts on Chapter 5:

Rushkoff: “The invention of text allowed for contracts, the law, codes of ethics, and even the Bible—a written agreement or “covenant” between people and their new, highly abstracted God.”

One goal of biblical writing was to make God less abstract and more personal. “Good” is an amorphous concept. “Brought you out of the land of Egypt” is specific and concrete. Rushkoff’s analysis of Biblical meta-data is not entirely wrong, but seems to mis-represent the core intent of the material. Given Rushkoff’s cautions over loss of context, this is a significant lapse.

I think Rushkoff should have lead with this point: Abstraction and hierarchy are beneficial—so long as we use them correctly. (p. 119, nook)

 

Chapter VI. Identity, “Be Yourself”

1. How are our “digital experiences” “out of body?”

They rarely have any physical impact on us.

 

2. What makes anonymity dangerous and “identity” a “liability” in online spaces?

Because ethics are frequently tied to risk. If no one knows who I am, why shouldn’t I make threats, call names, and twist facts? Who will stop me? Ethics are difficult to maintain, and anonymity tends to lead people to show us their worst side. Rushkoff’s story is amazing because he “got in trouble” by defending people who turned on him for his trouble. Sadly, his example is common. Visit the comments under any news article (that allows anonymous comments) and there will be several—sometimes dozens—of people saying awful things.

 

3. Give one example where someone using digital media many “act without personal consequences.”

Any chat or comment board, or other form of social media, where accounts can be created and abandoned quickly and easily. Such accounts can be used to spew hatred and personal abuse that would, under real-life conditions, demand social—and possibly legal—penalties.

 

4. Rushkoff connects conduct in online gaming environments with Asperger’s Syndrome. What is Asperger’s Syndrome and why does he connect it to this form of digital technology?

Aspergers is an autism-spectrum disorder characterized by strong reliance on verbal communication and low recognition of visual queues like body language.

 

5. What are the “real costs” of anonymity on the net?

It seems to disconnect us from our normal senses of empathy and responsibility. Rushkoff says teens who get caught doing something bad online will admit their guilt, but they never apologize. This tells me that some aspects of online lifestyle are dehumanizing, though I’m not yet convinced anonymity is the core problem.

 

Chapter VII. Social, “Do Not Sell Your Friends”

1. What does he mean by “the coevolution between people and technologies?”

He has probably read Hayles (though the text does not say so.) This is what Dr. Hayles called technogenesis. It is the feedback loop of human invention, where we shape tools, but using the tools reshapes us, causing us to redesign our tools…

 

2. What was the original intent of the internet and why did it catch on beyond this intended use?

It was intended as a fault-tolerant communications system that could remain functional during a nuclear war. It grew beyond that because it is just so darn useful—and thank God we haven’t needed it for its intended purpose.

 

3. “[C]ontent is not king––contact is.” Cite an example that makes this point clear.

The Internet is a social medium. People use it to communicate with other people. Most of the content on sites like Facebook has little or no intrinsic value—but this same “worthless” content has enormous value to us and the friends we share it with.

 

4. How do social media cause us to monetize and exploit our friends?

We are encouraged to recruit our friends. You can get points, or free product, or cash rewards for referrals. If you don’t block them, requests to play FarmVille or Candy Crush will take up more space in your news feed than genuine posts.

 

5. What then is the driving force behind our use of social media, really, according to Rushkoff?

The driving force behind social media is our desire to stay in contact. Humans are built to be social.

Rushkoff — Summaries — Chapters 8 – 10

Chapter 8

Digital technologies are biased toward fact and away from fiction. Rushkoff compares the modern Internet to ancient bazaars, with people making the connections they need, with little regard for distance. Modern business remains rooted in models developed during feudalism. Further, large corporations rely on image management, which Rushkoff describes as mythology—which places the standard business model at fundamental odds with the nature of digital technology. This leads to a world where quality of content (or service) defines corporate success, but in order to “tell the truth, one must have a truth to tell.”

 

Chapter 9

Digital technology is biased toward openness and sharing. Copying data is how computers work. No matter how private we attempt to make them, they are fundamentally designed to duplicate and share information. Internet pioneers built these architectures intentionally, and their efforts have grown into concepts like crowd-sourcing, and tools like Wikipedia. This creates conflicts with our currency system, which is designed toward clear ideals of single ownership. There is conflict between our 21st century technology and our 13th century economy. Rushkoff suggests that while society sorts out this imbalance, we are best governed by the golden rule.

 

Chapter 10

A digital world is biased toward those who write the programs. We are faced with the option of learning to create our own code, or living with the choices of those who do. America relies on high technology to maintain our national security and economy, but our education system is falling behind other nations in terms of its computer science offerings. Digital technologies are not just artifacts, through their code they are embedded with their programmer’s purposes. The less involved we are in the creation of technology, the more restricted our choices will become.