Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Cool on (Massively?) Multiple Levels: This Spartan Life

The repurposing of video games to animate new content (machinima) first came to me in the form of Red vs. Blue. This Spartan Life is an innovative use of the same technique to reinvent the familiar genre of talk show. Billed as "a talk show in space", their interviewee list includes media pioneers like Bob Stein and Marty O'Donnell. Episodes also include DJ OCTOBIT and the Solid Gold Elite Dancers -- the funniest synchronized movement I've seen since the SNL men's synchro swimming skit.

Better yet is the intelligent discussion about the promises and challenges of new media. Here's a typical quote from the Bob Stein episode:
Imagine a company's manifesto written today and fast forward 150 years since it was written. You would have not just the 50-page essay, you'd have the comments of millions of people who would not only say 'yea' or 'nay' about various points, but they'd make links to other arguments etcetera, etcetera -- you know every few years, the authors -- Marks and Engles -- might come around and they might actually look at everything everyone had said and reissue a new version so that after 150 years you have a corpus that's literally millions of pages. So the problem becomes how does an editor make navigating through such a large data space useful?

All this and the Solid Gold Elite Dancers? Awesome.

Tune in and get fragged.

Screencap from thisspartanlife.com Posted by Picasa

Co-locating Text as Life-Hack

Giles Turnbull over at O'reilly describes his attempt to "organise all my work, all my personal stuff, all my writing, in one huge text file?" -- the most extensive attempt at textual coordination I've heard to date. Read his post and the 43 Folders post that told me of the attempt to learn more about the rationale and pros and cons of the approach.

Friday, August 26, 2005

"The great-great-grandfather of the Hipster PDA"

43 Folders links to a blurb about life-hacking forefather Thomas Jefferson's portable note-taking device.

Jefferson's hipster PDA [from monticello.org] Posted by Picasa

Speaking in Ignorance (of Audience and Context)

I now know how my students feel. In my field, student writing is often criticized for being poorly thought out. I believe bad communication is more the fault of ignorance about the situation in which it will be used. And students, through the mere fault of being young and inexperienced, are often ignorant of the contexts in which writing occurs. This happened to me yesterday with my voicemail.

I'm a brand-new faculty member at DePaul University. Yesterday, I tried to set up my voice mail. It's been years since I had a real job, let alone voicemail; and setting it up is quite different from setting up one's answering machine at home. It was the task of making three separate recordings that put me in my students' place.

  1. record your name
  2. record a message for external calls (coming from outside of DePaul)
  3. record a message for internal calls (coming from within DePaul)

The problem was, other than #1, I had no idea how these recordings *ought* to differ, because it's been so long since I used or experienced voicemail in this way, that I had no idea of audience expectations or contexts. I had to *guess* what would be useful for these two different audiences. And I don't know when my recorded name gets invoked either. So here were my best guesses:

  1. "Shaun Slattery" (I had the option of also stating the extension number. I decided against it, but don't know if that was a good or bad decision.)
  2. "This is Shaun Slattery at DePaul University; I can't take your call right now. Please leave a message and I'll get back to you."
  3. "This is Shaun Slattery in the Department of English. Please leave a message and I'll call you back."

Are these sufficiently distinguished for internal and external calls? Do they provide information useful to those two audiences? No. Idea. Whatsoever.