"To inspire them to realize more and more of their capacities for living meaningful lives. Because there certainly is meaning to life."
-John Coltrane on Uplifting Others

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Democracy and Stuff

How truly free are we under our republic? I know several strung out acquaintances would yell "Legalize Pot!" at this moment to express their disapproval for America's form of government. Others would cite existing gun laws or abortion as proof for or against democracy. But I wonder how well they or I understand these principles.
John Locke wrote in "Of The State of Nature," "A state also of equality, wherein all the power and jurisdiction is mutual, no one having more than another ... But though this be a state of liberty, yet it is not a state of license; though man in that state has an unrestricted liberty to dispose of his person or possessions ... no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions" (69). What does this mean?
My high school government teacher summed it up this way. He said, "We have laws because my rights and liberties might infringe upon your rights and liberties." I don't readily understand all democratic principles that Locke, Rousseau, Burke, and Jefferson espoused centuries ago. I do know that Mr. Berry was on to something. Anyone have a suggestion for a book on democracy for imbeciles like me?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Quick Review

Let me take this post to recap what I've learned thus far in Digital Civilization.
-Transition from Ptolemaic to Copernican system shifted authority; similar to shift from Britannica to Wikipedia
-Humanists elevated the power of words; Microsoft Word doesn't compare, but I use it anyway
-Metadata details and categorizes data; metafiction attempts to define the importance of writing fiction
-Open source is interesting, and I am still trying to grasp the concept surrounding the idea
-Protestantism and Personal Learning Networks work in a similar fashion; both break from traditions (Catholicism and traditional organizations) to create something new. I posted about this earlier.
-I read Bowling Alone by Robert Putnam to understand the decline of traditional organizations, but I took his ideas further into the digital age.
-I interviewed and was hired for a job teaching English using Skype.

Digital media or concepts that I've tried so far this semester:
-Google Blog Search
-Crowdsourcing (Goodreads and Amazon)
-Just Paste It
-Google Docs publishing
-Edit Html on Blogger
-Flickr Commons and the Commons on Wikimedia

Monday, September 27, 2010

Abundance and Scarcity

I just finished reading this post on Economics, and couldn't help but see a contradiction. Namely, I saw the shift from necessity (scarcity) to abundance. While there is an abundance of consumer products that came with the Industrial and Digital revolutions, the prices for staples (food especially) are rising. Some may chalk this up to inflation, but there is a scarier trend happening.
Recently Mozambicans rioted because of rising food prices(see picture above); hundreds were injured. CNN wrote an article on "food security;"I'm still not sure what that means. However, I realize the implication. While we have abundance in bandwidth and other technological goods, food and water are becoming scarce. Here's another article about the problems we're facing.
Are there people using today's technology to enhance food productivity, other than genetically enhanced fish or pigs?

Who is This?

CNN says it is Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, but doesn't it look like this man?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Swagger of Life

If we haven't met in real life, I must admit I sport a sick 'stache. Because of Dressing and Grooming Standards at BYU, I am limited in the amount of facial hair, and was somewhat hesitant about the moustache. I denoted it to creepers and jerks from 80's movies. Then I tried it, and life changed.

There is a certain lifestyle associated with moustaches. Like wearing cowboys boots, a moustache brings a change of pace; it sets the individual apart from the world. I enter into a brotherhood with Burt Reynolds, Charles Bronson, and Tom Selleck, amongst others. I want to share this brotherhood with you.
I recently joined a group on Facebook called the BSS. It is completely devoted to Boots, Staches, and Sweaters. I'm sending an invitation to you.

Man's Need for Labeling

This cartoon came to mind when I read d'Alembert's thoughts on Language. In the light of Saussure, d'Alembert is an idealist with linguistic signs. He sees the evolutions of language as embodying man's need to convey abstract thought with clarity.
But how clear is language? Does the word dog look like a dog, or is it an arbitrary collection of linguistic signs we have readily accepted as defining a canine?
In my postmodern American literature last year, we discussed the fallibility of language. I thought of this during my creative writing class, and reinforced the thought when reading the Preliminary Discourse.
For the record, I love language. It's the best we've got, but I think it important to question just how effective our communicative skills are, especially when facing a digital world that has multiple languages and variations of language. It would be interesting to look into the digital language that is being created to overcome these communicative hurdles. Any ideas?

Just Paste It

I follow a blog entitled Free Technology for Teachers, and they mentioned a website called Just Paste It. With it, you can cut and paste texts, video, images, etc., which they make into notes. I tested it out by making this note for Diedorot's thoughts on Dreams.
Compared with Diigo, Just Paste It doesn't hit the mark. While the concept is cool (making individual notes to share with friends), I cannot tell if there is way of tracking notes, other than keeping track on a blog. With Diigo, you have a Library where your bookmarks are found.
Then again, I might be comparing apples and oranges. Maybe they are two different sites and function in different ways. I invite you to try the website out for yourself. Leave your thoughts in the comments section.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Publishing with Google Docs

I read Autumn's post about reading The Road, which for the record is one of my favorite novels of all time. I couldn't help but think of an essay I wrote for my English Teaching application. I published it using Google Docs (never new you could publish web pages with Google Docs. The things you learn in this class.) Here is the link. I would love to hear your thoughts on this essay; I can make another post about it.

In Conversation with Kurt and Francis

Kurt posted an interesting thought: With the democratization of learning on the internet, is it necessary to go to college and receive a degree? He concluded that it was still necessary, but what intrigued me was the segue into tomorrow's topic.
Francis Bacon wrote a new Scientific method, one based on observation and inductive reasoning. He also warned of the four idols: tribe, cave, market place, and theater. I believe Bacon would answer Kurt's question the same way, and he would base his argument with the Idol of the Cave. To Bacon, a man left alone to gather knowledge distorts reality, adding his own misinterpretations to truth. Likewise, today a man can learn as much as he desires on the Internet, but without the proper training (college), he cannot help but distort it. While there are cases of self made geniuses, they are the exceptions, not the rules.
So what I'm trying to say with this post is "Go to college and get the training you need. Don't live in a cave."

An Opportunity

I just received a call from Eleutian technology, setting up an interview to be a teacher! I cannot think of a job more in line with this class's theme. If I'm hired, I will be teaching English to students in Korea, China, Dhubai, Japan, etc., via Skype. When I first arrived at BYU, I had dreams of teaching overseas after graduation, but with this job, I can teach while studying here.
I'm a little nervous, because this is my first time using Skype, but I take comfort in Kristen and several others who are trying new things. I'm hoping for the best, but we'll see.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Quick Thoughts

1. I won't be in class today, so if everyone can write down impressions (as they see fit) on their blogs, I'll be most appreciative. I was going to ask for notes, but if we're doing what Dr. Burton and Dr. Zapala want, I won't need notes.
2. There is a company in Provo that uses Skype to teach English to students in Korea, China, Japan and several other areas. I have a video interview with them as soon as I can get my webcam to work. If anyone else is interested in this venture, they are hiring. Click here to turn in an application and become a teacher.
3. Interesting that we are talking about strong central governments and the digital world. It seems that the Internet is pretty democratized (except in Iran, China and a few other places), but I'm curious if there are strong central authorities in this new world? If you have an idea, comment on this post.

Open Source and the Talmud

A few months ago, I read The Talmud and the Internet by Jonathan Rosen. I reviewed it in an earlier post. That review is from a teacher and deconstructed perspective, but what after last class, I've thought of it a different way.
The Talmud and the Open Source movement are similar in an interesting way. Any rabbi can add on to the Talmud, but he or she must enter into training and earn a certain level of reputation. Then their writings are listed alongside centuries of others around the original text, which is then read and pondered by faithful members of the covenant.
Likewise, the source code is open to anyone, but it takes experts to look for bugs and clean up. While I can consume their software, I do not have the expertise to enter the source code; it takes training, much like the rabbis with the Talmud, to enter that conversation.
I recommend reading this short novel to anyone who is interested in the ties that bind or in the idea of an "open" book or source.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Protestant Reformation and Digital Isolation

I thought I would kill two birds with one stone. I recently posted about PLN's, and received some interesting comments. Eric's comments about the paradox of the digital age (vicarious connection while isolated) led me to rethink a few of my thoughts; I also want to acknowledge Jeff's suggestion for reading Bowling Alone by Robert Putnam. I'll try to place these ideas into the lens of what Luther and the Reformist desired.

From my understanding, Martin Luther wanted to focus people's faith on the grace and Word of God, instead of the priest as the go between. His 95 theses centered on three main points: man is justified by faith alone, every man has direct access to God, and the Bible is the sole authority. You can hear these tenets in the hymn assigned. Why then, with these isolationist ideas, did the Protestants feel compelled to create churches? If man is justified by faith alone, why does he meet with others of his faith?

This is where Luther and PLN's come parallel. Even though the Protestants believed these tenets, they knew man must have a society. Salvation may be between man and God, but man needs one another to keep the faith. I believe the same idea applies with digital media. In most instances (such as now), people sit alone, writing on blogs, hoping for a communication of sorts. Hopefully they receive this communication, but this digital revolution, like the Protestant Reformation, has not completely destroyed the need for society. I can communicate with Mozambicans through Facebook and Skype, but I also have a network of friends here with whom I have dinner and laughs. It is all about balancing the ideas of the past (church and community) with the Reformations and Revolutions of today (individual salvation and digital communication).

Crowdsourcing and Goodreads

For my digital project, I looked into crowdsourcing, which is a term I did not know. In laymen's terms, crowdsourcing is adding to a growing online project, be it a review on Amazon or an article on Wikipedia. It allows consumers and critics alike an opportunity to opine.
Once I understood what crowdsourcing is, I realized I have actually contributed to a website of this nature: Goodreads. It is a website where you can review and rate books that you have read, are reading, or want to read. A professor introduced me to Goodreads last year, and while I've slacked in adding new reviews, I wrote one today on Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout.
A nice feature with Goodreads is the widget that you can add to your blog. That way, readers of your blog can see what you think of current books. I'm adding a widget right now. Look for it on the right side of my page.
It is easy to add on to these websites; all you need is a membership (and those are mostly free). Plus, with websites like Goodreads and YouTube, a Google account works as your membership.
Are there other instances when you have crowdsourced?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

An Unintended Consequence

I just finished reading Kristi's post on Screencasting. This is not my first time seeing Jing, but she did a great job showing another technology with it. After watching her tutorial on Wordle, I decided to make my own. Thanks Kristi, for showing Jing so well, and for motivating me to try Wordle along the way.
Wordle: My Blog

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Humor U Show

If you are like me, you haven't finalized plans for this weekend. Maybe you have a date planned, but you haven't the faintest what to do. If you want an idea, try this out. Check out Humor U's Best of Spring and Summer Show.
Humor U is BYU's stand up comedy club, and they're ridiculously funny. I've had the pleasure to write jokes with them, so one day I can perform. Until then, take my advice and go see them. Tickets are being sold at the Wilkinson Center's Information Desk.

Leave a comment on this post. That way we can compare notes.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Personal Learning Networks

Have you ever felt like the Reverend Al Green here?

Well, you're not alone. Learning alone is tiresome and lonely. Luckily, with the advent in technology, we don't have to be alone during our education. What Dr. Zapala said during lecture has kept with me; there was a time when you could slip into class, turn in your homework, and not have to interact with other students or the teacher. That is not the case today. Professors ask students to frequently pair up to tackle tougher principles. That's where Personal Learning Networks (PLN's) begin.
Personal Learning Networks are your group of friends, professors, professional associates, blogger buddies, etc. who you turn to when you need help or want to learn something new. You can create your own through classes, blog searches, and Google Reader. For instance, I follow my PLN through Google Reader and Facebook; every time someone posts, I know and can read their ideas. That's the beauty of the class we're in: we can create and connect with people from all over campus and the world who share similar goals.
Doesn't it feel good to know you're not alone?

Monday, September 6, 2010

A Twist on Humanism

As I was reading Mirandola's Manifesto on Humanism, I was struck with the difference between the Humanism of now and then. Today, many humanists disregard or distance themselves from any faith or belief in God. In contrast, Mirandola espouses a different idea for man's role. I cite:
God the Father, Supreme Architect of the Universe, built this home, this universe we see all around us, a venerable temple of his godhead, through the sublime laws of his ineffable Mind. The expanse above the heavens he decorated with Intelligences, the spheres of heaven with living, eternal souls. The scabrous and dirty lower worlds he filled with animals of every kind. However, when the work was finished, the Great Artisan desired that there be some creature to think on the plan of his great work, and love its infinite beauty, and stand in awe at its immenseness.

God created man so that he may look upon his universe and find out about this "venerable temple of his godhead." How then, does this idea of humanism work out for our class journey? Just like God's creations, we have this wonderful digital universe, full of good and evil. And we should think about the beauty surrounding us today. There is so much that man can use, if we're willing to contemplate our ability to create.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Social Learning and Individual Discovery

This blog post might not make much sense, but bare with me as I answer a few questions and put down a few thoughts:
Danny, I took that picture while I was camping in southern Alberta this summer. It is the Red Rock Canyon in Waterton Lakes National Park. Here's another from that trip:

Dr. Burton, I would be happy to teach about PLN's or Google Reader, whichever you would like.
Kristen, I'm going to research Google Wave more and let you know my take on it.
Everyone, if you would like, I also keep a personal blog. Look at my bloglist and you should find it.
That's everything for questions, but now I want to dive into what we discussed in Digital Civ today. We discussed the personal and social aspects of learning, but as we counseled, I couldn't help but feel that they are intrinsically connected. Individually we are all different: different majors, life goals, experiences, etc. What brings us together into this class or society is a desire to learn. With Facebook and these blogs, we are learning from one another in a similar fashion to Vygotsky's ladder. We all bring different backgrounds and levels of digital literacy to the table and in turn we help all learn and expand. This digital learning wouldn't be possible without each individual's unique take on digital culture. What are some of the goals you all have in taking this class? In other words, what do you want to take from this experience?

A Little Behind the Times?

I notice the time on my computer (7:49 am) and realize I have but ten minutes to hastily post on the assignment today. I read Ariel's post about Copernicus and found the correlation between Brian Regan's joke and Copernicus's struggles to find an audience intriguing. The child in the joke woke up to deliver his terribly prepared science project, only to find everyone else's to have been prepared by their parents.
How did Copernicus feel, preparing his theories (which were much better prepared!), only to have the Ptolemaic kids have their parents prepare theirs? As Ariel pointed out, "The big blue one is the Earth" doesn't have the same feeling to it.
But this idea contrasts with the Utopian piece. The narrator is amazed when the Utopians take to learning from the Greeks. However, there is a slight feeling of sarcasm or satire running through More. Is he truly admiring the idea of information dissemination, or is he poking fun at the current trend of rediscovery?
It is now 8:00 in the AM.