Thursday, March 30, 2006

the folks at facebook seem pretty cool

the big facebook news these days is whether or not they are worth $2 billion and, if so, who will buy them. wired campus is doing a good job providing updates.

but i've got a different kind of facebook story. as some of you may recall, last quarter, i taught com 300: basic concepts of new media and one of our main topics of study and one of our main platforms of publication was facebook. i thoroughly enjoyed teaching this course and although i have not yet received my student evaluations i believe the students learned a lot. the students worked on a level of creativity that i haven't seen in college students for quite a while.

the final project encouraged students to go beyond academic writing and instead build projects -- facebook experiments with identity, facebook experiments with photo albums, facebook experiments with offline events.

one project was called Best Project Ever and it pretty much kicked ass. it was a group project - thought about, discussed, debated, designed, and produced by nine students: anna h, frankie c, jackie n, jen k, jessie h, jessie s, joleen j, kim m, and kristen h. (that's a lot of students with names starting with j!)

the project was smart. the nine students: a) assembled a list of dream features for facebook, b) asked the rest of us to rank them in terms of what we want to see/use on facebook, and c) designed a detailed print package describing five new features. and then, d) they sent the package to the headquarters of facebook.

this week, facebook wrote back!

first, anikka fragodt, executive assistant to the chairman & ceo of facebook, wrote:
    Greetings Jessie H., Frankie, Kristen, Anna, Joleen, Jen, Kim, Jackie, Jessie S. and David,

    I want you to know that we've received your suggestions. As you guessed, Facebook does receive many suggestions from our users although typically they are done through our suggestions page. I will forward your suggestions to the team dedicated to reviewing and evaluating all suggestions and who knows, maybe one (or all five) of your suggestions will be implemented.

    I hope your instructor (David) gave you a high mark on your final project.


rock on, anikka!

then, randi zuckerberg, director of market development at facebook, wrote:
    Hi Jessie & co.,

    I just wanted to write to let you know that we received your team project on ideas for Facebook. I think you did an absolutely fantastic job. It is really wonderful to see that students like yourselves are so excited about our site that you are willing to devote the time to do a thorough analysis of future opportunities for us. You clearly gave this a lot of thought and did a great deal of research - it shows because many of the ideas you sent us are ones that we have been discussing here for months already!!! So, great work - you all could have a great future working for the Facebook product team! I can't tell you which ones, since it is pretty confidential, but make sure to watch the site over the next few months and you may just see one or two new products roll out that are very similar to things you mentioned in your project brief.

    Again - this is really excellent work. Thanks so much for sharing with us,

    Randi Zuckerberg
    Director of Market Development
rock on, randi!

what a great new chapter to an already great course. congrats to all com 300'ers! let's follow what happens, eh?

good stuff happening near you

good stuff on the horizon:
  • this book series (conveniently pdf'd by professional-lurker) looks really, really interesting - deadline for abstracts: april 28, 2006.
  • this conference looks really, really cool - convened by the volunteer-run journal first monday, the university of illinois at chicago (UIC) university library, and the maastricht economic research institute on innovation and technology, may 15-17, 2006.
  • and this conference looks really, really great, too - sponsored by man medium machine [M3] and the school of communication, technology & design at södertörn university college, september 14-16, 2006.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

new reviews in cyberculture studies (april 2006)

an excellent new batch of book reviews this month:
    Aaron Ben-Ze'ev, Love Online: Emotions on the Internet (Cambridge University Press, 2004). Reviewed by Mary Chayko, associate professor of Sociology at the College of Saint Elizabeth in Morristown, NJ, and author of Connecting: How We Form Social Bonds and Communities in the Internet Age. Author response by Aaron Ben-Ze'ev, professor of Philosophy and president of the University of Haifa.

    Laura U. Marks, Touch: Sensuous Theory and Multisensory Media (University of Minnesota Press, 2002). Reviewed by Ted Kafala, professor of communication and media at the University of Cincinnati's College of Applied Science. Author response by Laura Marks, associate professor and Dena Wosk University Professor in Art and Culture Studies, School for the Contemporary Arts, Simon Fraser University.
it's always a thrill for me - and, i think, for readers of RCCS - when authors take the time to supply a response to the review. thanks mary and ted for the excellent reviews and thanks aaron and laura for your excellent rejoinders.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

com 495: sex, drugs, and rock n roll

tomorrow, spring quarter begins. i'm teaching one class, com 495: sex, drugs, and rock n roll, with thirty students.

i'm excited to teach this course for a number of reasons, including:
  • i have wanted to teach a class on 1960s america for years, dating back to when i was a graduate student in american studies at the university of maryland.
  • a class on 1960s america lets us approach all the topics that desperately need to be talked about, wrestled with, and taken seriously. topics like racial differences, gender differences, sexual differences. topics like dissent and rebellion and revolution. topics like idealism and believing in something and trying like hell to fix a broken country.
  • having been in a social science department for five years now, it feels so good to unfurl my humanities/cultural studies wings. what a pleasure it is to assign tom wolfe's the electric kool-aid acid test! what a pleasure it is to assign a novel!
  • i'm experimenting for the first time with a wiki. in the past, i've had my students design and build web pages, virtual exhibitions, blogs, and facebooks. but i've never worked with a wiki in the classroom and i'm psyched to see what happens.
  • the class roster reads like a UW all-star list! out of the thirty enrolled students, i know, have worked with, and have learned from over half of them. there's something about this roster that whispers, "great things will happen."
i love teaching spring classes in seattle. during winter quarter, when it rains every single day, campus falls under what appears to be a collective depression. as we head towards spring, with luck, the sun may appear soon and we can have classes outside!

Thursday, March 23, 2006

pew internet & american life project

the pew internet & american life project, a non-partisan, non-advocacy research organization based in washington dc, continues to churn out interesting and important reports on the state of the internet, digital culture, and american society. their most recent report, "online news: for many home broadband users, the internet is a primary news source," by john horrigan, confirms what many of us have increasingly thought was true - that more and more americans, especially young americans with broadband access, are turning to the net for their news. for those of us interested in politics and political participation, this report is worth our time.

i have recently become a member of the project's advisory board and i look forward to contributing to their ongoing efforts. i have met the project's director, lee rainie, a number of times and he's always got a lot of new ideas and questions. i've spoken with, and used the work of, amanda lenhart, and admire her ability to explain complex concepts in simple terms when interviewed in the media. and i have known, taught (when i was at georgetown university in 2000), learned from, and laughed with mary madden, who is my go-to person when i have a question about music and the internet. i'm excited to be a part of this project.

jay babcock

i've always loved the music writing of kristine mckenna so it was quite fitting that she wrote this great piece about jay babcock.

who is jay babcock?

jay is my best friend from college - we met at ucla's co-op, were roommates for a while, and shared a group house (with hot tub! and veggie garden!) in west la. jay is the mind and muscle behind arthur magazine - the best magazine (and free!) out there today. he is a writer, he is a cultural historian, and he may be a shaman. he runs a record (and now dvd) label - bastet. and, recently, he organizes rock/cultural festivals (arthurfest, arthurball) that offer something new for everyone. jay is a thinker, a big, big, big thinker. he's also a dreamer and a doer.

(he's also the guy on the right in this pic.)

he's also, sometimes, a real pain in the ass! like most visionaries, he's hyper-focused, exceptionally driven, and super stubborn. but most of the times he's just plain inspiring.

most of my friends and colleagues spend an inordinate amount of time ranting against that which they don't believe. jay - and arthur and bastet and arthurfest and arthurball - reminds us all to also celebrate what we believe.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

tacoma reads together

tacoma reads together is a great program. it was born out of september 11 and born off of nancy pearl's masterpiece, what if all seattle read the same book?, which encourages neighbors to read and discuss a common book. in the past, the shared reading - selected by the mayor of tacoma - was harper lee's to kill a mockingbird, ray bradbury's fahrenheit 451, julia alzarex's how the garcia girls lost their accents, and mary shelley's frankenstein. this year's book is actually a play - arthur miller's the crucible - a play about a witch hunt, hysteria, paranoia, panic, and fear. relevant themes for today's united states, eh?

tacoma reads together events are organized by the tacoma public library's manager of community relations, david domkoski, and this guy is really inspired. events take place at four tacoma libraries - fern hill, main, moore, and swasey libraries - as well as at king's books and the SOTA theater. moreover, the events are diverse and engaging, and include: book discussions, book readings, staged readings, an impressive film series dedicated to hysteria and mccarthyism, and community conversations.

last night, at the main library, over 100 people attended a community conversation about hysteria and american media. panelists included: paul larosa, producer for the newsmagazine 48 hours and author of tacoma confidential; karen peterson, managing editor of the news tribune; dave ross, radio talk show host; and myself. i also served as the conversation's facilitator.

i loved being part of this event! why?
  • people cared - they took the time to come to the library and discuss issues that matter. people were engaged - the event was supposed to run from 7 to 7:45 pm and instead it lasted until nearly 9 pm. people were into it - there was a ton of questions, comments, and ideas from the audience.
  • it was diverse. among the 100+ attendees were a few dozen high school students (yes!), young adults, adults, middle-aged adults, and senior citizens.
  • it was a reminder of the important and inspired role of public libraries. anyone could attend. it was free. and it offered a spectrum of ideas. yet another reminder that public libraries = the heart of a functional democracy.
  • it was fun. the conversation was lively and engaged but it was also humorous. yes, our times are tough. yes, this war is insane. yes, oftentimes our media seem to have no attachment to reality. but we explored these topics with passion, respect, and humor.
  • people listened. it was amazing to witness an audience member speak while a whole room listened. and it was beautiful to watch people in the front row turn around to look at and listen to a speaker in the back.
events take place through march - if you are in or near tacoma, be sure to check them out. congrats to david domkoski, the tacoma public library, and most importantly the people of tacoma for an outstanding evening.

update: john larson from the tacoma weekly wrote this article about the event: "media panelists examine hysteria, hype."

in the news ...

a smart, non-hysterical article about facebook in today's seattle p-i. title: "students misbehaving could pay price for posting photos online." author: christine frey.

the article covers the recent trend for colleges and universities, including the university of washington, to use facebook to bust students for various acts. it also features some sensible words from my student and friend jerome mccuin. yours truly is also featured at the end of the article.

equally important, i was also part of an excellent article in silver chips, the outstanding and award-winning newspaper of montgomery blair high school in silver spring, maryland! title: "SIM-ply obsessed: blazers spend hours creating fantasy lives in popular computer game." author: katy lafen. i had no idea high school newspapers could be this good.

(and a quick shout out to my friend and colleague, alice marwick, who, in this article, provides the media with sensible ideas and observations about online identities.)

Sunday, March 19, 2006

something big happened at UW last friday

on friday, UW, in response to a superior court judge ruling in october, agreed to give $17.45 million in back pay to faculty members. for a great - and brief - overview, see this article. title: "UW to give $17.45 million in back pay." author: christine frey.

key points!
  • duane storti made this happen. it was professor storti who filed the lawsuit and hired the law firm. storti is a professor of engineering.
  • the decision upholds the idea that once a merit increase is promised it has to be paid.
  • the day before the decision, mark emmert, president of UW, received a 5.11% pay raise - retroactive to september. emmert now brings home $494,000 a year, making him the #8 highest-paid president of a major public research institution.
rock on duane storti. and rock on AAUP - UW Chapter for their continued work on our behalf.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

sweet! sixteen

today, UW beat illinois to get to the sweet sixteen - against either u conn or kentucky. what a strange, intense game! what a nervous, nail-biting ending! and what a sweet bracket!

i got interested in college basketball as an undergrad, at ucla, my freshman year in 1986. it was fun to party with friends in rieber hall and then stumble down bruin walk to the legendary pauley pavilion. ucla had the skinniest, most trash talkin', most clutch shootin' player i had ever seen - reggie miller - and it was a thrill to watch him shoot, shoot, and shoot some more.

but i really caught the college bball bug as a grad student, at the university of maryland, sometime between 1995 and 1996. going to games with q-dog (aka kelly quinn, one of the best college teachers i know), we spent years watching laron profit (prof), terrance morris (t-rock), steve francis (whoa), juan dixon (who now plays for the portland trailblazers), steve blake (ditto, also with portland), and chris wilcox (who now plays, i think, for the seattle sonics). watching stevie francis, even if it was for only one season, was a thing of beauty. it was also pretty sweet to watch all those ACC superstars - like tim duncan, vince carter, stephon marbury, and an endless stream of ballers from duke.

here at UW, it's been fun to watch the games, especially in the last two or three years. at the same time, it's sort of frustrating - i wish the university of washington spent the same amount of energy on teaching students that they do on entertaining students.

sweet sixteen - sweet! congrats, guys, and good luck.

brand hype

brand hype - what a fantastic resource. i wish this site were up and running last quarter, when i taught intro to communication. i'll definately be using this site in future classes.

brand hype is a web site "designed to foster informed debate about product placement in the movies." includes among other things a searchable database, a discussion forum, a few academic essays, and a gallery (don't miss the letter from sly stallone). great example of digital cultural studies.

(via cultstud-l and tedlog.)

coming together, face to face, to share ideas

great article (free to read, registration required) in the new york times on friday. title: "in the age of the overamplified, a resurgence for the humble lecture." author: dinitia smith.

the gist is this. across new york city, public lectures and readings are increasing and attracting very large audiences. at new york public library, events organized by director of public programs paul holdengräber are attracting crowds of 900. at the YMCA on 92nd street, they have gone from poetry readings on monday nights to lectures, debates, and forums nearly every night. readings and discussion groups at the new school for social research are attracting crowds of over 500. even at bars, like at the kgb bar, readings take place, attracting up to 75 reader-drinkers.


why is this happening? why now? what explains the current trend of public readings, public lectures, and public discussions?

the article offers three possible answers.
  • first, media saturation. in our time of overwhelming media saturation, it's nice to experience things in the flesh - off the computer, offline, off the phone, off tv.
  • second, september 11. according to the article, september 11 has generated a renewed interest in public dialogues. witness geismar katz of the 92nd Street Y: "Before 9/11," she said, "it was difficult to sell a ticket to something on foreign affairs." But now, Ms. Geismar Katz said, "we can't keep a ticket in the house."
  • and third, face to face is fun. as new york public library's holdengräber notes: "I'm asking people to give me two or three hours of their time," he said, "and I will entertain them. I will bring them into contact with other people," Mr. Holdengräber promised. "They will feel something happen that night that they have never felt before."
two more things. first, it is encouraging to note that many of the attendees are young people. second, in describing his goals with public programs, holdengräber notes, "I wanted to go beyond academic discourse and speak to a very large public, and to the common reader." rock on.

(thanks jeff young for making me aware of this article.)

Thursday, March 16, 2006

grading, nene, and sienna

yesterday, the students in com 201 took their final. for the most part, the scores are really impressive. the best part is that a ton of the 95 students improved their scores from exam one to exam two to exam three. for me, that's the best. this class and these students were more than special and i hope to write more about them both when grading is finished.

i continue to house-sit and cat-sit for sarah while she's in italy. her pad is in capital hill, about two blocks from victrola cafe on 15th, walking distance to everything. every morning and every evening i feed sarah's cat, nene, and with each feeding she becomes more and more nice to me. she has neither scratched me nor bitten me for three days!

when sarah returns, spring will be nearby, which reminds me of this picture - taken nearly two summers ago.

two nights ago, sarah called from sienna. she had just returned from a day trip to florence and was practically speechless from what she had seen. sarah returns sunday night.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

critical cyberculture studies

i've just received word that an anthology that adrienne massanari and i edited, titled critical cyberculture studies, will be available soonish from nyu press. it is exciting to see the book come to life (almost!) and it has been a terrific experience working closely with emily park and her team at nyu press.

i was psyched to learn that howard rheingold, one of my favorites in the field, supplied a soundbite for the back cover: "As studies of the Internet and cyberculture begin to mature, it is a particularly important time for critical studies - critical of the subject matter, and critical of the emerging field itself. The consciously interdisciplinary approach of Critical Cyberculture Studies, and the depth and breadth of the contributions, make this an important foundational work at the beginnings of a new field of studies. If only we had a critical study of communication when the Gutenberg revolution was beginning!" - Howard Rheingold, author of The Virtual Community and Smart Mobs

here's the table of contents:

    Foreword: Dreams of Fields: Possible Trajectories of Internet Studies, by Steve Jones
    Introduction: Where Is Internet Studies? by David Silver

    PART I Fielding the Field
  1. The Historiography of Cyberculture, by Jonathan Sterne
  2. Cultural Difference, Theory, and Cyberculture Studies: A Case of Mutual Repulsion, by Lisa Nakamura
  3. How We Became Postdigital: From CyberStudies to Game Studies, by Espen Aarseth
  4. Internet Studies in Times of Terror, by David Silver and Alice Marwick
  5. Catching the Waves: Considering Cyberculture, Technoculture, and Electronic Consumption, by Wendy Robinson
  6. Cyberculture Studies: An Antidisciplinary Approach (version 3.0), by McKenzie Wark

    PART II Critical Approaches and Methods
  7. Finding the Quality in Qualitative Research, Nancy K. Baym
  8. Web Sphere Analysis and Cybercultural Studies, Kirsten Foot
  9. Connecting the Selves: Computer-Mediated Identification Processes, by Heidi J. Figueroa Sarriera
  10. The Structural Problems of the Internet for Cultural Policy, by Christian Sandvig
  11. Cultural Considerations in Internet Policy and Design: A Case Study from Central Asia, by Beth E. Kolko
  12. Bridging Cyberlife and Real Life: A Study of Online Communities in Hong Kong, by Anthony Fung
  13. Overcoming Institutional Marginalization, by Blanca Gordo
  14. The Vertical (Layered) Net: Interrogating the Conditions of Network Connectivity, by Greg Elmer
  15. The Construction of Cybersocial Reality, by Stine Gotved

    PART III Cultural Difference in/and Cyberculture
  16. E-scaping Boundaries: Bridging Cyberspace and Diaspora Studies through Nethnography, by Emily Noelle Ignacio
  17. An Interdisciplinary Approach to the Study of Cybercultures, by Madhavi Mallapragada
  18. An Action Research (AR) Manifesto for Cyberculture Power to "Marginalized" Cultures of Difference, by Bharat Mehra
  19. Cyberstudies and the Politics of Visibility, by David J. Phillips
  20. Disaggregation, Technology, and Masculinity: Elements of Internet Research, by Frank Schaap
  21. Gender, Technology, and Visual Cyberculture: Virtually Women, by Kate O'Riordan

    PART IV Critical Histories of the Recent Past
  22. How Digital Technology Found Utopian Ideology: Lessons from the First Hackers' Conference, by Fred Turner
  23. ICTs and Reforming Governance in Asia, by Shanthi Kalathil
  24. Dot-Coms and Cyberculture Studies: as a Case Study, by Adrienne Massanari
  25. Associating Independents: Business Relationships and the Culture of Independence in the Dot-Com Era, by Gina Neff
    About the Contributors
critical cyberculture studies should be out in september.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

urban archives

i've known irina gendelman since september 2001 - she was an MA student in the then-school of communications and i was a first year assistant professor. she was assigned - for two straight quarters! - to be my research assistant and we hit it off immediately.

irina invented film 3 6 9 - a quarter-long film series in week three, week six, and week nine (example: three different david cronenberg films through the quarter). she also designed and taught a technology workshop for undergrads, grad students, and profs - html, photoshop, ftp, flash. irina has a knack for collective action.

she's done a number of community murals in olympia. she organized an incredible, heart-stopping september project in front of the central library in seattle (see pics here and here). and, along with tom dobrowolsky, giorgia aiello, numerous UW librarians, and a gang of undergraduates, irina instigates the urban archives.

urban archives is, among other things, a teaching platform and for the last quarter, a number of UW undergrads have been archiving city culture: signs, streets, stickers, graphics, grafitti, you name it. on monday night, after a little bit of this

we witnessed some excellent student presentations.

desiree w. couldn't make it but sent along her excellent powerpoint of apple-inspired murals in the lake chelan region of washington. beth f. gave an awesome presentation about the transformation of public sidewalks as a result of the recent ban on indoor smoking (like in bars) in the state of washington. chakrya l. presented a number of really interesting murals in the international district and in pioneer square. marissa o. changed things up a bit and showed a woman's yard/public museum that demands reflections on race and racial justice - as well as some interesting grafitti on a local fraternity and various stencils on the burke gilman trail. amy b. presented a series of excellent photographs of buildings in capital hill -- photographs from the turn of the 19th century juxtaposed to photographs from the turn of our century. katrina b. presented an oral history of the james colman school in the central district. and naraelle b. showed us a wonderful set of noirish photographs she took of aurora ave - a seattle road made famous by its neon signs, shady commerce, and the place of some of kurt cobain's last nights. in all, a great evening of ideas and findings.

i look forward to watching the presentations get migrated into the urban archives site.

Monday, March 13, 2006

grow like ivy

i first heard of marc smith when i read howard rheingold's the virtual community in 1993, the book that made me want to study cyberculture. i first met marc when howard introduced us at a computer professionals for social responsibility conference in seattle back in 2000. and since 2001, the year i arrived in seattle, marc's been a good friend and colleague.

marc is many things. he is a sociologist who focuses on computer-mediated collective action. he is the lead of the community technologies group at microsoft research. he is the person behind netscan. he is a husband and a father. he is also one of the smartest humans i know.

marc has the uncommon ability to think about microscopic details and massive overviews - simultaneously. over the years, marc and i have had many long conversations (two, three, four, five hour conversations) about networks, how they develop, how they die, how they can - and do - grow like ivy across the world. his mind is always working and he generates new ideas very, very quickly.

this picture was taken a month ago when we were in los angeles for a brainstorming session convened by usc. having endured months (four? five? six?) of rain in seattle, both of us were quite happy to see and feel the sun. more pictures (including one with my good buddy nancy baym!) here.

update: it sure was fun seeing marc smith in san francisco last week.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

earth day mural & book project - ballard library, march 15

this looks cool. it's a really interesting civic project with multiple collaborators.

my understanding of it is this:
  • to celebrate this year's earth day, there will be a mural done in ballard that addresses local ecological sustainability.
  • the mural's design will be collectively generated at a public meeting at the ballard library as well as on online forums (i'm a bit unsure about the online element of this project).
  • the ideas for the mural will be passed on to students at summit high school (i hope some of the high schoolers will be at the public meeting).
  • community members, including some from sustainable ballard, will facilitate discussions about local sustainability with students at summit high.
  • an art teacher at summit high will work with students who will journal their ideas and experiences (journal in print, journal online, or both?).
  • an artist will work with students to design and paint the mural.
  • with the help of art press books, an art book that documents the whole mural process will be published.
cool. what a great idea.
    community dialogues + high school students and teacher + local organizations, non-profits, and businesses + ecological purpose and vision + community mural = inspired civic action.
if interested, attend the public meeting at ballard library on march 15, 6-8 pm.


by the way, if you live in seattle and have not visited the ballard library, what are you waiting for? a beautiful building, friendly and knowledgeable staff, all kinds of events for community members, teens, and youth, techno-ecological art installations, and a pretty sweet collection of books, magazines, videos, CDs, and dvds. and ... free wireless!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

sarah in tuscany

beginning tomorrow, sarah will spend the next ten days living here. she'll be with her friend becky. sarah thinks her place is the one in the front and center - the one with the sweet looking terrace.

david, meet dream job

this morning, i accepted a job in the department of media studies at the university of san francisco. i am exceedingly excited about this and hope to write more about the new job when the quarter comes to an end.

Monday, March 06, 2006

maps and new maps

in 2004, the first year of the september project, over 450 libraries participated. libraries from all over the united states as well as seven other countries participated -- see our 2004 map. last year, in 2005, over 650 libraries participated. but this time participation was much more global. the project grew, like ivy, through libraries in 34 countries -- see our 2005 map.

the september project's maps - as well as the database that runs the maps and the sign up software that allows libraries to get on the map - are the work of john klockner. i met klock in september 2001, when he was the director of technology for the department of communication and i was a first year assistant professor. i've been working with, learning with, and building with klock for nearly five years. klock is the best and smartest technologist i know.

for 2006, klock has been building a new kind of map, one using google maps. you can see a version of what he's working on right here. please note: many of the links don't work, we are aware of this. another please note: the pins represent a segment of libraries that participated last year.

what i like about this map is by clicking the mouse and gliding, you can scan. you can pan up and down, back and forth. you can zoom in (more detailed zooming in some places compared to others). and you can zoom out.

within the next week or so, klock will be tweaking and perfecting the map. comments and suggestions are welcome.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

i felt the sun today

watching my students build, push, and play with facebook pretty much inspired me to experiment with a facebook project of my own. (anyone - with or without a facebook account - should be able to access this page. if you can't access it, something's not working and please let me know.)

on facebook, you can post pictures, put them into photo albums, and give them titles and annotations. you can tag people in your pictures and link to their facebook profiles. you can set limits on who can and who can't see the pictures. other users can view and comment on the pictures. (the url above does not include user comments; you have to be a facebook user to have access to picture comments.)

i really enjoyed this project because:
  1. i was able to give away stuff i no longer need;
  2. students were able to get stuff that is useful or strange or interesting;
  3. it gave me an opportunity to meet UW students i haven't met;
  4. it gave me some much needed practice with digital photography, uploading, albuming, etc;
  5. it gave me further insight into what my com 300 students are currently going through with their final projects.
in other news, sarah and i went to a bat mitzvah this morning. i've been to a lot of bar and bat mitzvahs, at least a dozen, and i've never seen someone ace it like dany did. the prayers, the songs, the interpretations, the public speaking -- dany did it all and she did it with humor, intelligence, and style. she's 13 years old and she's a thinker. sarah knows dany through a reading group she (sarah) set up a few years ago that brings together youth and their parents to read and discuss books. the afternoon was spent at gasworks park on THE FIRST FULLY SUNNY DAY IN SEATTLE for months. it's been the longest winter ever. living 6-9 months without regular sunshine is doable, but it's not exactly desirable and definately not that fun. on days like these, people in seattle go crazy and soak up as much sun as possible. on days like these, we begin to long for summer, even though it's a few months away.

Friday, March 03, 2006

creativity in the classroom

as we head into the tenth and last week of the quarter, my students in basic concepts of new media have really turned on the creativity. also, they have begun, slowly but steadily, to learn how to share ideas, collaborate, and think collectively.

the course topic -- new media -- is large, unwieldy, and shifting before our eyes. so a few weeks into the quarter, i made a strong move and decided to focus most of our attention and all of our application to facebook -- a social networking service already used and abused by students at UW and around the US. (more info? wikipedia.) having students read about, research, and build on facebook generates much, much more engagement than having them read about and explore older online environments like, for example, lambdaMOO.

due to facebook's newness, there is little academic writing on it. therefore, i had students read about and research the larger topic of social networking services which includes sites like facebook, friendster, myspace, and even flickr. the following were quite helpful:
danah boyd & Jeffrey Heer, "Profiles as Conversation: Networked Identity Performance on Friendster" -- this article is great and generated tons of engaged discussion. a lot of light bulbs went off with this reading.

Eszter Hargittai, "A twist on online communities" -- this is a thought-provoking romp through flickr, revealing the site to be quite more than a simple photo-swapping web site. i had students read this essay and then write a similar essay on facebook.

Alice Marwick, "Selling Your Self: Identity Online in the Age of a Commodified Internet" -- this is alice's MA thesis, a true tour-de-force. i did not assign it in class but throughout the quarter i found myself returning to this work, consulting it, and deriving lecture ideas from it.
the final project, which is due next week, gives students three options: 1) build something inspired on facebook; 2) write something inspired about facebook; 3) explore the intersections between their major (communication, business, psychology, etc) and facebook. the students -- some working in groups, some working alone -- are being exceedingly creative on this project and are really knocking me out with new ideas.

i can't wait to see what they create.