Friday, July 13, 2012

Step Away from Ray Bradbury's Bonfire

creative commons licensed
Vaultboy (Flickr)
I do not like speaking ill of one of my favorite authors, just as I hate to sound critical of fellow teachers or lovers of literature, since we share common cause in learning and the life of the mind. But a bonfire is burning, Bradbury's bonfire, and we who believe we care about books had better pay attention that we do not join him, tossing to the flames the very things we thought we cherished.

Bradbury burning books? The author of Farenheit 451? What high school student has not chilled at Bradbury's depiction of those firemen of the future ferreting out books and burning them? Who has not sensed that something is terribly wrong with any group who will put the torch to the written word? Those who burn books are the ignorant, the tyrannous, the bigoted, and the anti-intellectual.

They may be us, if we do not take care. Some are more culpable than others. I once chided my wife for throwing out a manuscript of mine, but of course she would never have done so had she realized the content. And that is why those who value the content of books are especially culpable if we are party to any bonfire of the books.

But that is what I am accusing us of. We, like Bradbury, may end up destroying the thing we love by clinging too closely to the physical format of the book. As Staci Kramer pointed out in an editorial right after Bradbury's death in 2012, a terrible irony attended his passing. With so much attention to this man and his works, almost nothing of his could be found in electronic form. Why?

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Digital Citizens Unite! Announcing Our Final Event

Digital Citizens Unite! We need YOU to become more active in our digital world. 


Let us show you. 

Come to our free and food filled event and discuss topics like reforms in education, open government, and technology in the arts. 
Think you know enough about technology? Think again. Come to our Digital Citizens event right here on BYU campus and learn how you can better participate in the world around you right from home. 
Can’t make it to campus? Don’t fret. Just visit and watch the entire thing via our live stream. Be sure to participate by tweeting your comments and questions at #digiciv. 
WHEN: April 11th
TIME: 7:00pm MST
WHERE: 251 TNRB   and
This is one event you don’t want to miss. We need YOU!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Organizing our Final Project

Today we regrouped in order to begin our final project for DigiCiv 2012. While students had been grouped both in historical period groups and a digital culture topic groups, we have now organized them into content groups or production groups. Our students will continue blogging at least twice weekly, but their focus now will shift to developing the content for their assigned group.

DigiCiv Content Groups:
  • Art & Music
  • Business
  • Education
  • Government
  • Inquiry
  • Intellectual Property & Creative Commons
  • Openness
  • Science
We are producing an eBook as our core project, complemented by a YouTube channel, an image gallery, and a final event to launch and showcase our work.

DigiCiv Production Groups
  • eBook
  • graphics
  • video
  • event
Two students head up each of the content or productiongroups (based on expressed interest and on content they had produced to date) and all students will serve as resources to the other groups.

As outlined in the Prezi presentation embedded below, each week each content group will supply content to the eBook leaders by noon on Monday for a "build" that the eBook leaders will create and publish for all to review on Tuesday.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The 18th Century and Participation Media

As our students explore the 18th century and the concept of participation (as in digital culture and Web 2.0), I'd like to connect the two areas in a couple of ways.

In the 18th century, a new sense of "the public" emerged. There were many reasons for this, but high among them was the emergence of mass media. Sure, printing had been around since the mid-15th century, but it was in the 1700s that printing was both frequent and cheap enough for literally hundreds of thousands of people to be regularly consuming the same content tied closely to current events. This is the time when periodicals emerged and when newspapers began to take off.

London coffee houses were
vital social centers in the 18th century
We've taken for granted this sort of thing for centuries, but think about how much that changed the way people thought and acted.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Why Cloud Computing is a Big Deal

Another day at RootsTech, and today I want to focus on cloud computing and how it is fundamentally changing the Internet. So what is cloud computing? It is the ability to store information in a large collection of servers on the Internet, so it is always available whenever you need it. Josh Coates gave a great definition of what this means for a developer in his keynote address yesterday:

  • the illusion of infinite resources,
  • no up front commitment, and
  • pay as you go.
You use cloud computing when you create a Google document, access your genealogy at, or backup your data with Mozy.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Can an Apple addict be an advocate for openness?

Can an Apple addict be an advocate for openness?

That's the sobering question I ask myself today. This comes in the wake of challenging students in our Digital Civilization class to be more critical about the open movement (we have been studying openness in its many exciting varieties this week).

I have found students too easily agreeing with open science, open government, open source software -- as though openness were a self-evident truth that the founding fathers overlooked in the Constitution; as though openness were a techno-utopian condition that only morons or devils would disagree with.

Frankly, some of the advocates for openness play the devil rather well. (I get uneasy when I find myself on the same side as that Anonymous group, even just a little.) When openness becomes a kind of irresponsible liberalism or the toy of anarchists, it starts to lose its shine. And despite my own strong statements in its favor, I must admit that openness can't just be about rapacious publishers too benighted to understand the virtues of open access, or about venal congressmen and MPAA lawyers coming down on life-as-we-know-it-online with ham-fisted censorship legislation. SOPA was wrong; does that make all openness right?

Time for some soul searching. "Okay, Gideon," I asked myself, "where are you truly committed to a closed or restricted system? Where is it that you are most hypocritical when trumpeting openness?"

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Gamification: Using Games to Change Behavior

At RootsTech today, I attended a session on gamification, the process of using game mechanics and game dynamics to engage users and keep them visiting your site.  The session was taught by Dave McCallister, of Adobe, who has clearly thought a lot about this issue.

Here's a quick sense of how gamification works:

These stairs were created as part of The Fun Theory, an initiative by Volkswagen to show that making something fun is the easiest way to change people's behavior.  After the stairs were installed, 66% more people than usual chose the stairs over the escalator.  Once the stairs were removed, half kept taking the stairs anyway!