High archive weirdness

The slogan for the Bralorne Pioneer Museum is “Their Past Lives Here.” One might be forgiven for thinking the future lives there as well.

Check out this picture off of the online archive. (Full size here.)

Reopening of the South Fork Bridge after flood in Nov. 1940
1941 (?), South Fork Bridge, Gold Bridge, B.C. Canada

The dude with the hipster sunglasses, print t-shirt and (maybe, I can’t see it clearly myself) portable camera in his hands seems a little out of place… er, time.

Possessing no relevant expertise or knowledge… if I had to guess, I would say this is one hell of a cool prank. Or maybe some unexpectedly hip viral marketing from the Virtual Museum of Canada?

Via Disinformation: “Time Traveler Caught in 1940 Photo?”

It’s also possible, as discussion at fogetomori (entry and comments) suggests, that there is nothing all that unusual about this photo, really… But what’s the fun in that conclusion?

PS: My scoop was scooped by Boing Boing, and therefore has been read by the entire internet before I hit ‘publish’ here. ‘Curses’ indeed. But I post too infrequently to delete this… Must. Have. Content.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The internet as TV? Pass me the remote, get out the credit card…

Internet NO será otra TV
Internet NO será otra TV, click to see larger version, or see original at http://internetnoseraotratv.net/en

Image above via Transmedia

“I’m not nearly as upset with the fact that there is such a thing as the iPad, I am not necessarily an iPad hater, rather my contempt is preserved for all the folks who are claiming that the iPad is the second coming of educational technology.” – Jim Groom

“For a company whose CEO professes a hatred of DRM, Apple sure has made DRM its alpha and omega. Having gotten into business with the two industries that most believe that you shouldn’t be able to modify your hardware, load your own software on it, write software for it, override instructions given to it by the mothership (the entertainment industry and the phone companies), Apple has defined its business around these principles. It uses DRM to control what can run on your devices, which means that Apple’s customers can’t take their “iContent” with them to competing devices, and Apple developers can’t sell on their own terms. ” – Cory Doctorow

“A federal appeals court on Tuesday dealt a sharp blow to the efforts of the Federal Communications Commission to set the rules of the road for the Internet, ruling that the agency lacks the authority to require broadband providers to give equal treatment to all Internet traffic flowing over their networks.” – F.C.C. Rules for Broadband Fairness Set Aside by Court (New York Times)

“We write in the box that Google gives us.” — Douglas Rushkoff, Program or be Programmed

Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments

Freedom as in beer… as in free beer

Webster’s own shared CC by Garrettc

If you read this blog, or seen me give a talk, you’re probably familiar with the concept of the learning party as thrown by the Sustainable Living Arts School. It’s a simple and social way of sharing skills and having fun, whether it’s getting a sense of what bees do for us (and what we can do for them) or learning how to make kimchee.

But there has been one gap in my own learning that has left me feeling very vulnerable in an increasingly harsh and unmoored consumerist society. I’m talking booze security. With the price of liquor, beer and wine continuing to climb, it’s hard not to fear what an uncertain future may hold. A sobering sober thought indeed.

So finally, SLAS has stepped up and is organizing its first ever home brewing learning party:

Our guide for the day: John Margetts

“I first pitched some yeast into a beer kit a little more than twenty years ago but I really started making beer about 11 years ago. That was when I first met Dan [of Dan’s Homebrewing Supplies – a sponsor of this learning party – BL] and he taught me how to use a mash tun and the value of using fresh hops.”

There are so many reasons to brew your own beer: it’s cheaper, it’s tastier, it’s often better for you (unfiltered, unpasteurized) and has real food value, it’s less predictable (i.e., more interesting), it’s educational and empowering to do it yourself. It’s one step in the right direction- avoiding mindless consumerism. The old saying about chopping your own firewood applies: it warms you twice, and it’s fun.

Teachers provide some guidance, but the real learning comes from the student her/himself and their experiences. I think the best way to learn how to do something is by working with someone with experience and then just doing it and learning from your successes and failures both.”

So if you can’t tell from that description, this ain’t that swill that cheap frat boys peddle when the keg runs dry, this is the real deal. I don’t ever want to stop enjoying the many different lagers and ales available around the world (hello Pilsner Urquell, how do you do Tree Cutthroat Pale?), but this strikes me as precisely the skillset I need to ensure the tap never runs dry at home.

This workshop is a two-parter. Brewing goes Monday, March 29 from 7-9:30; Part 2 is Bottling, Monday, April 12 from 7-9:30

You will leave not just with invaluable knowledge, but with at least 2 litres of what we brew up. And this event will put the party into learning party, thanks to the kind sponsorship of the Tree Brewing Company (for my money BC’s best brewer… and believe me I’ve laid my money down), who will be providing ample samples of their delightful wares.

If you like beer, want to drink some, and want to know more about it, you can register at: http://slashomebrew.eventbrite.com

I feel as if all the work and learning I’ve done in the public and open education space has merely been a prelude to this learning party. That, and I feel thirsty.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Freedom as in beer… as in free beer

No news day?

Click image to see more of the important stories of the day...

Click image to see more of the important stories of the day...

The image above lists the “must reads” selected by editors of the Toronto Star. And we need professional journalists to protect us from the shabby standards of bloggers, to provide us with experience and judgment in a saturated media environment? Vital to an informed citizenry (cough cough)…

If you click the image above, you can see a wider screenshot of the newspaper’s landing page. Apparently the most important story in the nation is that a professional golfer plans to golf. Other relevant stories include the travails of a figure skater, and the discovery of a body in a river. The only story with any conceivable sense of public interest concerns yet another automobile recall.

The Star is supposedly one of Canada’s better newspapers, and it does employ some good writers. I suppose the publishers would argue that their emphasis merely reflects their need to attract readers. But if this story selection reflects their opinion of the intelligence and debased values of their readership, what does that say about the likely quality of the journalism? And why, when I can consume idiotic garbage content for free in any number of media (including the free newspapers thrust at me at transit stops)… why would I pay for this?

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Curators can bring the crazy

For some time, I’ve thought the notion of curation had some relevance as a model for teaching in rich, networked learning environments. An early proponent of this connection was George Siemens (short presentation here on Leigh’s blog). It’s also a role that has been talked about between Keira and myself in terms of how SLAS learning parties might be fruitful and multiply.

That said, I can’t claim to have a very nuanced grasp of what it means to be a curator, so it’s been a treat to follow Nina Simon’s Museum 2.0 blog the past year or so… (Note to self, check out her book on The Participatory Museum.) Her most recent post In Support of Idiosyncrasy might give a good idea why I dig her perspective:

People often ask me which museums are my favorite. I don’t like to give a list. I’ve only visited about 0.01% of the institutions out there and I suspect that the other 99.99% includes some real gems. But when I really think about it, all my favorites (so far) have one thing in common. It’s not the extent to which they are participatory. It’s not their size or type or subject matter. It’s the extent to which they are distinctive, and more precisely, idiosyncratic.

The conclusion strikes me as particularly relevant to educators:

I understand why retail establishments benefit from becoming bigger, more homogeneous, and more distributed. People like to buy from chains because they know what they are going to get. But consistency should not be the number one value when it comes to providing visitors with educational, aesthetic, social, and hopefully transformative experiences. I’d argue that one of the top reasons people DON’T visit museums is that they think they already know what they are going to get. Especially when it comes to small museums with limited collections, a distinctive personality is often the best thing the institution has to offer. Trying to cover it up or smooth it out in favor of “best practices” does a disservice to the museum and the audience. It creates another forgettable museum.

Indeed, if an emerging open educational resources network starts to build something like a shared infrastructure of learning content, the role of somebody working so that learners don’t ‘already know what they are going to get’ becomes all the more vital. The homogenized alternative is too horrifying to contemplate, all too easy to imagine.

Yet again, I’m reminded of my favorite band of mad, bad content curators at WFMU (this year’s fundraising marathon is over, but they’ll still take your money), and how its Free Music Archive places curation at the centre of its mission. There’s an interesting interview on 3 Quarks Daily with WFMU station manager (and killer OpenEd 2009 keynoter) Ken Freedman that cuts to the intersection between freeform weirdness and careful curation:

The term “freeform” is somewhat problematic to me as well, even though it’s what I’ve spent almost my entire live working in. One freeform radio station can be completely different, even polar opposite, from another freeform station. WFMU’s brand of freeform is just one particular brand. We definitely have areas that we focus on, and other areas that we’re ignorant of. We don’t even attempt to touch every genre or everything across the board. It is important not to go for diversity and juxtaposition and as many genres as you can just for the sake of itself; it is important to have some kind of focus.

But it’s also really, really important to let programmers act as curators and to let radio stations act as curators. I think that’s what a lot of listeners will be attracted to, in the same way that the heyday of the independent record store — I remember going into independent record stores when I was in college, and I would go into a store and just buy $100 worth of records. I wasn’t familiar with any of them. The only reason I bought them was, I trusted the taste of the people stocking the record store. That was how I discovered a lot of music. I think radio stations have to play the same role.

They used to play the same role, and if there is one lesson that mainstream public radio and commercial radio and community radio can take from whatever we’ve done, it’s that radio stations should be acting as curators. Listeners should be looking at those radio stations for their taste and their knowledge and to be exposed to new things that listeners don’t necessarily know. And that act of intelligent curation is so much more powerful than the automated curation that we’re seeing in such automated entities as Last.fm and Pandora. Those recommendation engines are interesting, but I don’t think anything can replace an intelligent human curator.

The notion of a radio station as a curator, as a filter, is fascinating to me. Any of us who spend time online or in media can see that this is the time that people need filters, need curators, to help them navigate. They can choose their filters and curators freely, but they will need them if they’re to find something they want. But is it an issue of a core personality for WFMU to have, or a core set of personalities to develop and make, in a sense, reliable for listeners? Is that the essence of good curation?

I’m not sure, because I don’t think WFMU is reliable. We’re actually very, very unreliable, and I’m not sure if that’s a strength or a weakness or sometimes both. I myself turn my own radio station off six or seven times a day, sometimes screaming as I turn it off. Then I turn it on again ten minutes later. We’re not afraid to do that.

If what you’re getting at is “How do you recreate something like this?”, I have no idea. Nothing could possibly create an entity like WFMU out of scratch. We’ve been on the air for 51 years, and it’s a true community radio station insofar as everybody on the air came from the community of listeners. We’ve put out certain kinds of programming. There’s been a certain musical, philosophical, even comedic aesthetic, and that’s attracted even more people back in who got it, who understood it and were able to add to it. On a managerial level, I’m always interested in bringing people in who get it, but are going to take it in a new direction. I don’t want people who are going to push back the exact same thing we’ve been putting out. On one hand, I want people to get it — I want our new programmers to clearly understand what WFMU is and where it’s coming from, but I want them to take it to new places also.

I’d be pleased if a notion of curation as a means of producing surprises and an ethos of going to new places were to emerge out of this field. Obviously, I agree with motivations such as accessibility and economy as drivers for the production and sharing of open educational resources. That said, I can’t get too excited about an educational movement that doesn’t somehow create space for more freedom in day to day life, that doesn’t embrace the wild freaking endless diversity of this crazy planet. I need some dancing at this revolution.

Posted in Uncategorized | 12 Comments

Anatomy of a Twitterjacking

I never thought it would be possible, but there’s a show on CBC radio that I actually find funny. WireTap with Jonathan Goldstein is a little uneven, but is definitely a welcome addition to my weekly podcast regimen.

I enjoyed the most recent episode, “My Imposter”: a rare but evidently sincere WireTap detour into reality, however weird…

Hear about a somewhat uncomprehending Jonathan Goldstein setting up a dull Twitter account.

Hear about the more colourful bogus Jonathan Goldstein Twitter account, one that attempts to “provide a more authentic, satisfying and interactive JG Twitter experience than the real Goldstein.” Naturally, this is the account I’ve been following the past few months, never questioning its veracity.

Hear the phone conversation when Goldstein calls up and confronts his online imposter. Negotiations on who will conduct what elements of the Goldstein existence ensue.

I can’t figure out how to link directly to the podcast (nice work CBC!), but as I write this it is the most recent episode listed here. If you are reading this is some distant future age, I send you my greetings from the depths of forgotten history, wonder if you fly around with jetpacks yet, and note that the episode takes place on WireTap Season 6, and is entitled “My Imposter”.

Enjoy! Or, ignore! I really don’t care!

Fun fact: my spellcheck is certain that I am misspelling “imposter” – I give up.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Travel $$ for Northern Voice 2010

travel shared CC by Joel Mann

One of the reasons I find working with the other organizers of Northern Voice so satisfying is that everyone wants to keep the conference reasonably accessible. We try to keep the registration fees as low as possible, and this year we are bringing back the travel bursaries, six of them valued at $500 CDN each.

How to apply? All you gotta do is write a blog post. More detail here.

I wouldn’t recommend baiting Canadians as a strategy to get the money, but it worked for this guy.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Travel $$ for Northern Voice 2010

Pay up to support free culture

It’s that time of year again. I have spilled a lot of verbiage about the world’s greatest radio station in this space over the years, and I’m almost at a loss to come up with something more. At this point, it seems clear to me that to describe WFMU in 2010 as a radio station does not work anymore. Instead I think of it as a node of incredible creativity that fuses what is best about the web and free culture.

Over the past year, WFMU has continued to roll out the enhancements: new streams for catchy rock and soul, the wildest of the avant garde, and mashed-up goodness; the Free Music Archive continues to grow into an increasingly essential resource for curated copyright-friendly tunes (this post says it all, and it now features lotsa Canadian content); and the station has just released an absolutely amazing new iPhone app (Android coming soon) that allows for a very rich on-demand mobile listening experience.

Perhaps more importantly, WFMU remains a place where gifted and deeply committed people pursue a vision that emphasizes the “free” in “free culture”… The station is one of those increasingly rare places where things can still go haywire in a truly delightful way.

A big part of its success stems from the elegant simplicity of its sustainability model. It derives all of its funding directly from its listeners, and ultimately is accountable only to its listeners. Of course, this lovely ideal only works if listeners pony up the cash — so if you do listen, or if you feel a commitment to supporting free culture, I urge you to pledge.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Pay up to support free culture

You can’t keep a good moose down

Due to some kind of sporting event that was held in Vancouver the past couple weeks, the Northern Voice weblog conference could not romp in its traditional mid-February domain… But the Moose is indomitable, and I’m pleased to pass on that we are going to be bringing it hard on May 7th-8th, and that we are accepting session proposals until March 9th.

The past few years all the attendee tickets were sold out in a few days, so we have moved the conference to the larger Life Sciences Centre at UBC. Nonetheless, I expect we will reach capacity as we do every year, especially since early-bird registration for both days (including lunches) is only $70. So don’t miss out, register now.

As ever, I hope the community of educators will come through in characteristic style — putting on some of the most memorable sessions, and partying harder, louder and longer than anyone. Knowing who has already told me they are coming, I don’t expect a problem on either count.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Breaking: Facebook patents feeds?

No stranger to creepy behaviour (ahem), Facebook has apparently been granted a patent of the ‘news feed’ – not sure if that applies to what I thought were standards (RSS, Atom) or if the proviso about ‘social networks’ is key. From The Guardian:

But I wonder whether Facebook really inventing anything here that hadn’t already been demonstrated before. After all, Twitter – which uses some of the same ideas – was launched in July 2006, while Flickr had already been trialling a similar system for keeping you updated about activity on the site for a couple of years.

Facebook’s application was filed on August 11 of 2006, a few weeks before it launched on the site but after those rival services were already doing some similar things.

This is very early, more analysis will emerge. But hard to see this as a positive development… Or as reason for confidence in the current patent system.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment