Posted by: pilgrimtraveler | March 3, 2011

The “Engelbart” App

Last week I promised my peers I would write about the two supplemental readings we used in our New Media seminar here at USC Upstate.  Seminar leader Cindy Jennings sent us this blog post by Jon Udell, Fear not, book lovers. The future of marginalia is bright!  After reading his post I also read the instigating NY Times article, Book Lovers Fear Dim Future for Notes in the Margins.

The NY Times article is about marginalia and how useful margin notes have been for researchers handling the actual texts owned by authors, scholars, and others.  Margin notes can be seen as a conversation between author and reader that the modern scholar gets to overhear.  They are a useful scholarly resource.  The article bemoans the difficulty of making and saving “marginal” notes on electornic texts.  As we increasingly move away from printed on paper texts we may be losing a valuable resource for future scholars.

Jon Udell responds to this article by recommending a “network of cloud-based personal data stores.”  Jon comments on the problems of old style marginalia, i.e., only accesible to person holding the book.  if you lose the book, then you lose the comment, etc. He notes the “long” tradition of intra-work citation available through the web.  He notes some of the earlier tools used and also describes their drawbacks.

As we discussed this in our seminar we noted how Doug Engelbart’s dreams included ways for this accessibility and intra-work and multiple work linking to take place.  My idea, and I am not a coder, is for someone to create an “Engelbart” App.  A web-based app that would work on any OS that would always be on that could be instantly used to link an article or post with current comments and citations and immediately save it to one or more locations.  One location would be cloud based and another could be the readers/commenters computer, and another might be an institutional server (if a university or corporation).  This would be good Knowkedge Management practice and a way of logging the creative process and output in at least a skeletal format.

Interested coders take note!  This idea is available and the market for an app like this should be huge!

Posted by: pilgrimtraveler | October 13, 2010

Personal Dynamic Media, the Notebook, and Alan Kay

I really enjoyed this reading from the New Media Reader.  “…Kay thought computers could be used even by children, and could be used creatively.”   The idea that small portable computers would become general-purpose tools for everyone was very forward thinking in the mid-1970’s.  Even the idea of personal desktop computers was an advanced concept–let alone making those computers portable.  All of his ideas seem centered around using computers creatively with user designed software.

I was taken with the concept of children creatively using computers for play.  The Dynabook concept of the dynamic manipulation of information in creating it and editing it via drawing, painting, animation, and music and that these things could be done by children.  The creation of the Smalltalk programming language made it possible for anyone to create tools that would allow them to do more creative things.  This encouraged a process where users (of any age) could build on their previous work and improve tools for greater creativity and higher levels of usefulness.

I got intrigued by Smalltalk and began doing some research and found this history written by Alan Kay.  I discovered that there are very active Smalltalk user and development groups still working internationaly on this language and that it was included in the OLPC (One Laptop per Child) computers. It is open source and available in several places including Squeak, here, and the link above.  Smalltalk is where the GUI (graphical user interface) was first developed.

Alan Kay is still working creatively and challenging us all.  He demonstrates some Smalltalk in this 2007 TED presentation.  I think I’ve become an Alan Kay fan which is not a bad thing.

Posted by: pilgrimtraveler | October 6, 2010

Gaining Clarity

Just in case I have been unclear by being brief and just implying the connections and meanings that I intend I will make another effort.  I find the material we are reading to be incredibly interesting in light of times in which they were written.  If I had read these things in 1973 and 1974 when I took the only two computer programming classes that I have ever taken, I might have immediately gone to graduate school or a working situation where I could learn more.

Reading them now still encourages and inspires me about the possibilities for education and creativity to be extended as the ideas, theories, and dreams of the authors of these works are still being developed and implemented.  The impact of Bush, Engelbart, and Nelson have inspired a generation of creative artists, writers, academics, coders, and hackers (hacker in the sense of creative innovation [see mashup]).   Now there are new leaders, thinkers, and technologies with much to offer.  Consider immersive technology as a way to learn and teach which is part of Gardner’s student’s dreams, Jill Walker Rettberg’s writing and teaching about electronic/hypertext literature, and Lilia Efimova’s writing about blogs.  These scholars would not be dreaming the dreams and doing the work they are doing today without the work that has gone before.  This list of those to whom we are indebted is not comprehensive.

So thanks to you Gardner and Alan for extending the invitation to us in outlying areas to learn along with you and all your other students.

Posted by: pilgrimtraveler | October 6, 2010

Computer Lib/Dream Machines and Gardner’s Young Colleagues

Computer Lib/Dream Machines speaks to me.  The message I hear from Ted Nelson is that computers are a versatile creative tool accessible (in the sense of graspable) to anyone who is willing to learn, experiment, and play with them.  It is that sense of creative play that energizes me when I read Computer Lib/Dream Machines.  Nelson clearly advocates computer knowledge/access for everyone.  Also, that computers are tools for the creation, sharing, and display of media.  Nelson’s thoughts on education are also worth considering, especially letting students have more control over their learning.  This wasn’t to radical since Summerhill has been around since 1921.  Nelson is visionary and has lots of ideas, though not all easily achievable.  Hypertext is one of those ideas that has changed the world.

Yesterday, after finishing the Computer Lib/Dream Machines reading I was thinking about what I might write for this blog.  It was then that I read Gardner’s blog about his undergraduate students and the work Gardner was participating in in Barcelona.  I began to get fired up thinking about his students contributions to OpenEdTech 2010.  I liked his students ideas about creating learning environments that are MMO games.  Where students help create and extend the environment while learning through the completion of quests.  Some quests might be solo and some require small groups or the whole class to achieve.  Students could toggle between the MMO and resources available in another browser window.  I think their ideas could enhance learning for many students.  Thanks Gardner for sharing their thoughts with us.

These ideas are extensions of the creative dreams that Ted Nelson was having 30 plus years ago.

Posted by: pilgrimtraveler | October 1, 2010

About A Research Center for Augmenting Human Intellect

I found our latest reading to be more understandable, i.e., less dense.  It is rich in its implications as well as the applications it describes.  The applications can readily be seen in the Mother of All Demos series of video segments.  The hardware innovations are pretty amazing for 1968, but are not the most important part of the work that Engelbart was doing.

I think the most important part of what Engelbart was doing has to be the process he was creating and refining for working in groups. It is the way he took the “bootstrapping” aspect of the ARC and ran with it.  Here is a statement from the introduction to the essay.

“ARC worked on a “bootstrapping” principle—in which users would use their tools both for their work and for the creation of better tools.  Engelbart envisioned users creating tools, sharing tools, and altering the tools of others.”

In 2d3 Engelbart and English write and I’ll paraphrase it, “…the evolving system itself is designed to augment the system-development team.”  Then in 2e, “This “bootstrap” group has the interesting (recursive) assignment of developing tools and techniques to make it more effective at carrying out its assignment.”  And that they did.

Thierry Bardini says in Bootstrapping (2000), “But Douglas Engelbart never really gets credit for the larger contribution that he worked to create: an integrative and comprehensive framework that ties together the technological and social aspects of personal computing technology.”  Bardini was seeking to give Douglas Engelbart the credit he deserves as are we who continue to study and learn from his work and his vision.

Thinking about Engelbart’s research process and the learning that was taking place in that inspirational cauldron brought to mind a contemporary of his in the field of instructional design.  Robert Gagne wrote, The Conditions of Learning in 1965.  His “Nine Events of Instruction” mesh pretty well with the process that Engelbart was using.

It seems to me that the ubiquity of computers and the internet of today go well beyond what Engelbart was imagining in the late 60’s.  We use computers for entertainment, routine work, communication, and problem solving.  But the great problem solving and enhancing of human intellect that Engelbart had hoped for seems only to be a small part of what computers get used for today.  Nevertheless we owe a great deal to Engelbart’s vision and creativity.

Posted by: pilgrimtraveler | September 22, 2010

Another Leg of the Journey

I had some trouble making my way through Engelbart’s Augmenting Human Intellect.  What helped me most to follow and comprehend his writing was to mentally come at his work, not as the computer literate person I am now, but the novice I was 37 years ago when I first learned to program BASIC.  When I did that, I could more easily see how Engelbart’s terms and descriptions fit the practices that did not include a GUI.  It helped that I could remember the frustration of typing code on a teletype keyboard (and saving it on paper tape) and then trying to run the program and figure out what I did or didn’t do that kept the program from running properly.  Engelbart was already ahead of where many computer classes were at that time.

The beauty of what Engelbart suggested was a more intuitive way of handling our thought processes and using a computer to do it faster and organize it in ways that could quickly assemble and reassemble our thinking (research).  I think associative thought trails are ways of doing this and for some may not be as intuitive a process as it is for others, but what he was invisioning was flexible enough to be used by anyone regardless of their preferred learning process or thinking style. 

I think the difficulty of following Engelbart’s thinking is his using linear text to describe what is clearly a non-linear process.  He was already using his augmented process with some ease, but in this report he was limited to a description of the process he was using.  I think all the video’s of his work and the examples he used communicate so much more completely his ideas.

Posted by: pilgrimtraveler | September 21, 2010

Wordle of the Day

Now that I’ve read Vanevar Bush’s As We May Think and Douglas Engelbart’s Augmenting Human Intellect (my textbook finally came) I have all these terms running through my mind and somewhat jumbled together.  So, I created this Wordle with the key terms and ideas that I gleaned from them.  These will need to percolate a while as I think about where they were then and where we are now.

This word grouping seems pretty expressive to me.  I am looking forward to our next class!

Note:  I tried pasting the Wordle code in, but I could not get it to work.  Those who are more tech savvy feel free to offer assistance.

Posted by: pilgrimtraveler | September 16, 2010

Good Book (IMHO)

Doing our readings and paying attention to blogs, etc.  led me to remember a book I read this summer that includes concepts we are discussing.  It is a science fiction book series by Robert J. Sawyer and the first book in the series is WWW: Wake.  This link is to a neuroanthropology site writing about this book.

Posted by: pilgrimtraveler | September 16, 2010

TED talk rocks!

USC Upstate NMS moderator Cindy Jennings pointed our group to an inspiring video yesterday in class and later sent us the link.  Here it is…

Crowd-accelerated innovation is the heart of New Media and its influence on all of us.  This accelerated learning is, I think, the heart of what Vannevar Bush, Doug Engelbart, and the later works of Marshal McLuhan were all aiming us toward.  This is exciting stuff!

Posted by: pilgrimtraveler | September 16, 2010

Fear of Blogging

I know this has been written about before, but after the discussion we had in our New Media Seminar today I thought it wouldn’t hurt to revisit this.  I’m sure our group is not the only one facing this issue.  My thoughts on why some of us struggle with starting a blog is just a lack of confidence.  We may lack confidence in what we have to say, or we may not be confident of our technical skills.  There may be a negative voice in our heads saying something like,  “Who cares what you think?” or “What makes you think your experience is important enough to share with others.”

Why do we fight the fear and do it anyway?  We decided the most important thing was to write/speak about whatever we are passionate about.  If we do that, then our blogs will communicate what is important to us and enthusiasm is contagious.  We engage others out of our enthusiasm.  Learning occurs best through engagement (ours and our students).  The passionate expression of our thoughts and feelings illicits a response from those who experience what we express.

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