Friday, December 21, 2012

The Maker Movement: An Overview

The Maker Movement is making a big noise right now. A bit like my son, Perry, seen here in action in one of the two bands he's been playing in. Perry has discovered, like so many nowadays, that the digital environment is rejuvenating the art of making things in the physical world. Maker culture is rising in tandem with digital culture. This post will give you an overview of the Maker movement. 

I'm speaking more as an observer than a participant, though as I've read Chris Anderson's Makers (2012) it is inspiring me to try (in my own way) to become a "maker." That's not easy for me, having few crafting skills (with things; with words, that's different). In fact, in the past I have been taxed to my limit to help my sons create their pinewood derby cars for boy scouts. But Perry is showing me the way. He has become a legitimate maker. 

Perry has been making his own drum set -- but not by himself. He has told me how much helped he has gotten from an online community devoted to making drums ( You can see Perry's drums that he has been making in the photos. In his performing and recording, he actually uses the things that he makes. 

So, I've assembled some basic info on makers and the maker movement, which I've put into my digital culture wiki under "maker" (reposted here):

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Digital Culture: 13 Issues

What are the key issues in digital culture? I'm sure I've missed a few, but this list of 13 summarizes what we've explored in a semester of studying digital culture. What do you think? (Taken from the essay exam portion of my students' final for the course). See the questions in detail below the list:
  1. Connect or Disconnect
  2. Openness vs. Control
  3. Beta vs. Formal 
  4. Public vs. Private 
  5. Evolving Literacy 
  6. Coping 
  7. Creativity in the Digital Age
  8. Virtual Worlds
  9. Video Games and Gamification 
  10. Digital Civics 
  11. Identity 
  12. Print vs. Digital 
  13. Change and Innovation

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Socially Optimized Research into Virtual Worlds (part 1)

Check out my model for socially optimized research on Prezi
I want to model to my students how I go about doing socially optimized research while I explore another important topic in digital culture: virtual worlds.

I've been revising my "Socially Optimized Research" presentation as I've been trying to follow it. The new graphic tries to keep the focus on connecting with people while pursuing inquiry.

We are so conditioned to print-paradigm ways of knowing that even with all these ways of reaching other people, there is a strong tendency to use isolated modes of inquiry (such as looking up something in a library catalogue, or doing a basic Google search. Believe me, this is a hard habit to break. But the more I try it, the more convinced I am of its benefits.

Taking my own advice, before I began this blog post I posted to Twitter and to Google+ the following: "Virtual worlds: serious educational / social uses, or techno-utopian time suck?" That was 18 minutes ago and I've already started conversing with two different people from my social graph: Quinn Warnick and Laura Gibbs. These are both academic colleagues. Take a look:

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Go Visual to Communicate Simply

It's easier to grasp a character
profile that's visual
I'm gradually getting converted to using more and more visual elements for communicating. Earlier, I posted about using drawings to get going on a project. But now I'm seeing the importance of going visual when one is mid-project, as a way of pulling back and getting clarity. A drawing, idea map, picture, or storyboard can help you to get back to basics, to simplify.

And so, as my collaborative novel group is ramping up on inviting people to contribute 1500-word subchapters to their outlined novel, I thought I would use some visualization to assist myself and others who wish to contribute to the novel to get a better sense of the characters they will be writing about.

Right now, the group has laid out a set of character biographies on their project wiki. This is work well done, since everyone can be on the same page about who is who. But from another angle, the very problem is that people are being taken to pages -- rather than pictures -- and so it is hard to grasp what these characters look like, or their relationships with other characters. I spent time today reading through each of those biographies carefully and then remixing / translating that information into a Prezi presentation. I know this will help me keep the characters straight when I write my segment for the novel. What do you think of the following?

Keeping Confusion out of Collaboration

One of my student project groups is conducting an experiment in creative collaboration. They are crowd-sourcing a novel whose characters are already set up and whose plot is also fixed (divided into chapters and subchapters or "segments"). People sign up to complete a component of the whole.

I'm excited and scared by this idea, and immediately I'm seeing the messiness of collaboration: there are too many ways into the information about the novel and not a clear enough path for the would-be contributors to get to the info that they need:

  1. A clear concept of the experiment and what their role in it could be. (The pitch needs to be as clear as the NaNoWriMo concept)
  2. A quick, inviting overview of the story and its world (Potential contributors need a quick teaser into the genre, characters, and general plot of the novel -- but without having to read an entire detailed plot summary. Right now, my only choice is to got to a complete chapter outline. That's too much info too soon!)
  3. An easy way to sign up for a portion of the project (Something that guides them through a process rather than giving them a lot of links to get lost in.)
Much of this confusion has been fixed through a new wiki. They are getting there! But I still think that the way that they have all their information online shows that they are not keeping straight the three different groups of people for which they are providing resources:

Monday, October 22, 2012

Consider the Spiral

Spirals occur in nature (like the DNA molecule) and artificially (like a spiral staircase). There is an efficiency to spirals: one comes back around to where one has been before, but at another level -- perhaps with added height or perspective. Repetition is not recursion, but amplification: a spiral can expand the circumference of its circling, like a spiral galaxy.

I'm drawn to the spiral as a powerful metaphor because it is a model for iteration, and I am an advocate of iteration for learning and for developing meaningful content or projects.

I also like the spiral as a metaphor because it is a way of combining linear concepts (such as progress) with circular concepts (such as wholeness or eternity). Whenever I hear those water metaphors for the digital age ("surfing" the web, or the "drinking from the fire hose" of information) -- I like to substitute the spiral metaphor. It goes somewhere by circling back. And circling back is exactly what we often need to do if we are ever to move forward.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Draw Upon Drawing when Developing Projects

See this crude drawing? I just grabbed an index card and a marker and drew this. It's a mockup for a scenario that could be the basis for a novel chapter. Took me 30 seconds. Now, why would I inflict my lack of art on you all? I mean, look at that man's head! Is that even a head? And the flying saucer -- looks more like a sinking speed boat. Please.

Crude though my drawing may be, you do get a very clear sense of what the dramatic tension is all about in my fictional fictional book.