Aaron Koblin: Artfully visualizing our humanity

“An interface can be a powerful narrative device. And as we collect more and more personally and socially relevant data, we have an opportunity, and maybe even an obligation, to maintain [our] humanity and tell some amazing stories.” (Aaron Koblin)

Not sure how I managed to miss this when it came online back in May 2011 – but thankfully came across it this weekend: a brilliant presentation from the artist Aaron Koblin, who specialises in data and digital technologies, using real-world and community-generated data. You may be familiar with his work from The Johnny Cash Project and the Wilderness Downtown music video. In this talk, he presents these along with other projects – all stunning examples of crowdsourcing, collaboration and visualisation. If you haven’t seen it already, it’s definitely worth checking out.

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The Joy of Teaching: Learning Journeys and Transformations

One of my undergraduate students posted his weekly course reflections earlier this evening, and I was really moved by this post – extract:

“I cannot shake the growing feeling of “loss” which comes from moving to another semester and the introduction of new lecturers and their module content whilst in the same breath saying goodbye to the friends I have made.”

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ALT-C 2010: Personal highlights

A 4am start the morning after the ALT-C Gala Dinner isn’t what i’d have hoped for (on the way to another event), but on the plus side it does mean there’s some time for bleary-eyed train reflection on what has been a fantastic conference…

ALT-C montage

Where to begin? Well, I could start with Donald Clark’s provocative opening keynote, which certainly caused a bit of a stir. It must be disconcerting for a speaker to visit a conference hashtag (or ‘harshtag’) and realise that they haven’t been received quite so warmly as they may have hoped – brings to mind danah boyd’s heartwrenching post about her experiences at Web 2.0 expo, although i’m guessing the ALT-C crowd would empathise with danah, and bar the immediacy of the twitter back-channel (which wasn’t shown on the screen during the ALT-C keynote) the Web 2.0 expo/ALT-C audiences probably had different expectations and experiences of the speaker’s overall thesis. Luckily the other keynotes didn’t suffer the same fate, including our very own Salford Vice Chancellor Martin Hall, who really impressed the audience with his realistic and informed perspective on new technologies, the codification of knowledge and what this might mean for formal university education.

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Foursquare and Gowalla: some thoughts

Like many others, I’ve been swept up in the geo-app craze lately, specifically Foursquare and Gowalla. This semester I’ve set a couple of MSc projects where my students are using geo-apps but I’m also keen to explore their wider educational potential and have lots of ideas for the coming semester so it’s something I’m pretty excited about. Obviously I need to have a good handle on the apps if I’m going to start using them productively in the ‘classroom’ so I’ve taken advantage of the fact that I’m in a beautiful city (Stockholm) and away from the day-to-day to immerse myself in Foursquare – and to a lesser extent, Gowalla. Continue reading