digital stories/ digital study spaces, following-up

The word “follow” suddenly looks really strange to me.

A few quick follow-ups from last week’s posts:

The Ryerson student who was threatened with expulsion for administering a study group in Facebook will not be expelled.  There will be some fallout from this episode that sticks with him, but he was not found guilty of 147 counts of academic dishonesty.  There’s been a lot of talk around my corners of the web about this, with probably more people than not coming down on the side that the kid was cheating.  But nothing I’ve seen has really pushed me off my original position.

I agree that the invitation to the group (which, I believe, this particular student did not write) was badly worded.  But until someone can show me that the students were actually getting grades for work and learning they did not do – I don’t see the cheating.  And I still think that because this study group was virtual, if cheating had happened, the evidence would be there to collect and display.

The first experiment in digital storytelling from Penguin is up at  The story, The 21 Steps, is a thriller by Charles Cumming, and the platform for the telling is Google Maps.  I’m only partway through -but I’m having fun so far.  If you didn’t see Adrian Hon’s comment on my previous post about this project (ooh! alliteration) — he’s written a post about this kind of storytelling that gets into some really interesting stuff about how the medium affected the creative process.

(I believe you might find a rabbit hole on the main project page as well)

digital publishing, ARG’s and collective storytelling – one stop shop!

Well, maybe. I don’t think we know for sure how all of those things are in here…

Anyway, I was talking yesterday with a group of colleagues from my library and across my campus about the potential for ARG-type things on a college campus such as, say, OSU. And one thing we kept coming back to was the importance of the narrative, or the story, to lift a game beyond “scavenger hunt” or “puzzle.” And even beyond this — the importance of creating an experience where the player (or reader) of the game plays an active role in creating that narrative. if:Book yesterday articulates really well what I mean by co-creating – it’s something more complex (and compelling) than allowing the player to choose between a set of pre-defined plot directions.

Which makes this project (also briefly mentioned by if:Book today – hive mind?) interesting, connected as it is to Penguin Books, home of lots of people who know how to tell stories really well. It seems like this project is going to launch in some form on March 18, but I wasn’t able to find anywhere that seems to know exactly what form it will take. What we do know –

The site itself has changed a few times over the last few weeks – initially displaying this quote from Alice in Wonderland, favorite resource for ARG designers everywhere:

Alice was very nearly getting up and saying “Thank you, Sir, for your interesting story,” but she could not help thinking there must be more to come, so she sat still and said nothing.

There was also an image of the Cheshire Cat with seven tails — very mysterious. The early developments and a little bit of speculation are easy to catch up on at the unfiction forum.

Now the image has shifted to focus on the first of the six digital stories that will launch here over the next several weeks. There’s nothing that immediately jumps out and yells ARG on this page – but there are game designers connected to the project and they’re calling it an ARG. Penguin itself is calling the site an experiment in storytelling, but they’re also highlighting their connection to the ARG community at unfiction.

So it’s looking like there will be some ARG component to this, beyond the digital narratives promised on the website, but one reason I’m pointing this out is that it might also be a pretty good first-ARG experience if that’s something you’ve been wanting to try out. Even if I don’t have time to get involved in the actual game, I can lurk a bit and still get the fun of reading the stories, right? And the fun of thinking about new ways to tell stories – what digital publishing might mean beyond e-books and Amazon Kindles — which I think is a useful thing to think about.

Six to Start, the group behind whatever this is, includes many members of the creative team behind Perplex City, which they call the first “self-sustaining” ARG. I’m going to talk about a couple of them for a few more minutes here, because they’re recently been discussing this question of writing for the web, or “designing” for the web –

Naomi Alderman was the main writer behind Perplex City, and she’s also a published novelist (by Penguin). She wrote an article in the Sunday Times (UK not NY) about the Kindle, but which really goes much farther than that in talking about what writing for the web could be – beyond the device we use to access it.

(For an interesting look at Alderman’s experience with ARG writing – look at this short article in the Telegraph)

(For a disappointing article about how she sees libraries – look at this short article in The Guardian.  I’m not sure it’s intended, but the subtext I’m getting is that she doesn’t see libraries as part of this new kind of storytelling.  And that makes me sad.)

Adrian Hon, another Perplex City veteran and Chief Creative Officer of Six to Start, picked up on the theme on his blog a few days ago. This is the part that jumped out at me:

While a lot of ’stories on the web’ today involve some interesting technology, unfortunately, they’re just not very interesting stories. This leads a lot of people to conclude that the format of a book is superior. Of course, I disagree; we need to put a lot more thought into designing stories for the web, and that needs to be a collaborative process between not just writers and programmers, but also people who design interactive experiences on the web…

That feels true – that the problem with some web stories is in the story, not in the web. And the idea that people are likely to blame the new delivery mechanism first also resonates. I liked his suggestion that designing interactive experiences on the web is something special itself, that we can’t assume is covered by “writing” or “programming.”

This sounds a little bit like what a lot of us are lacking when it comes to support for the delivery of instruction on the web. We have the content, we have the programming – but increasingly we know that there’s another special bit in there – the people who know how to do this stuff on the web. And we don’t always have the same access to that kind of expertise — and we probably should.

learning in public and other musings on higher ed

Two things this morning – both touching on issues of digital learning, learning communities, learning socially and the big question – is higher ed closing students off from the kinds of tools and skills they’ll need to be lifelong learners?

Writer Response Theory provides this exercise to help students find their Social Bookmarking Soulmates. Basically the assignment is really, really, really simple — the student finds someone who shares an interest with them on a social bookmarking site, and then writes a profile of that person on their blog. So I think it’s really more of a brain-mate than a soul-mate that’s the goal.

While the output of the assignment is the profile of “here’s my soulmate” on the blog, what they learn about that specific contact is really not the point – the point is to show students that informal, asynchronous collaborative learning spaces exist and that finding these spaces and making connections within them is a part of learning today. And tomorrow – this is a major part of how they will need to learn when they leave the academy.

From the blog –

During the assignment, students are at first skeptical that they will find anyone with similar interest. Usually it is not till they find a “Gem,” or exciting link, through someone else’s tags that they see the value in the exercise. More importantly, the assignment hammers home the ways in which social bookmarking can help them become part of a network of scholars, collaborating albeit indirectly at times.

That’s certainly how this worked for me — I didn’t “get” the value of my network until I found some of those gems, and noticed that those gems tended to come from the same people over and over again.

I don’t think this exercise works if it’s not done in public – in an open, public, virtual space. There was a related post yesterday on Blackboard’s blog about their Scholar product – the social bookmarking service that exists within the Blackboard walled garden. It does look a lot better than it did to me when I checked it out about a year ago — the social networking features are easier to see and use, and there are instructions for exporting your scholar bookmarks out to another service (which didn’t work for me when I tried it, but I didn’t try all that hard).

But I still don’t think that this assignment could work as well within the LMS. Nothing could compare to’ user base, but it goes beyond that. There’s something essential about making these kinds of connections out in the world – interacting with experts, hobbyists, other students, professionals and everyone all in the same place. And in learning how to find those people who are useful connections because they are useful. Learning how to do that kind of information evaluation is, I think, a necessary 21st century information literacy skill – and one that can’t be supported by the closed-off LMS environment.

Which leads me to this story out of Toronto. A first-year student is facing academic honesty charges and expulsion because he is (was?) the listed administrator for a Facebook study group connected to an intro Chemistry course at Ryerson. He’s facing 147 counts – one for each member of the group. None of the other group members have been charged. After the course professor found out about the Facebook group, he changed the students grade from a B to an F and recommended action be taken against him, citing a rule that forbids “any deliberate activity to gain academic advantage, including actions that have a negative effect on the integrity of the learning environment.”

First – what does that even mean? Doesn’t studying in ANY form count as a “deliberate activity to gain academic advantage” ? I mean, the next clause makes it clear that penalties won’t be limited to just those deliberate activities that have an negative effect. But that’s not really the point. The student in question is maintaining that what is being attacked here is the venue – that this virtual study group is no different than the face-to-face study groups you’ll find in any university library on any campus any day of the week.

And it looks like he might be right. The Toronto Star article linked above quotes the student advocate in the case extensively, and she’s clearly advocating one side. But no one has come forward with any evidence at all that students in this group were doing anything more than time-honored study group activities like “I can’t figure out this problem. Can you help me.” No one has shown any evidence (and given that this is a virtual space, you’d think it would be there to be shown) that students were exchanging answers, doing each other’s homework, or passing work they did not do off as their own, which is the main point of this statement from Michael Geist, Canada Research Chair of Internet and E-Commerce Law (crazy title).

Beyond this, the students in this course were apparently given different questions to prevent exactly the kind of cheating this student is being accused of facilitating. What’s really dismaying here, is that these students – if these initial impressions are true – are engaged in exactly the kind of learning behaviors we should be encouraging. There’s no evidence here that the learning that a student would do when it comes to these chemistry problems would be better if it was done in solitude, and I think there’s a lot of reasons to think that the learning could be better with collaboration.

I’m biased here – in favor of social learning and study groups. The Collaborative Learning Center in my library is one of my favorite parts of the whole building.

the CLC in the Valley Library

Tutors and graduate assistants provide drop-in tutoring in the evenings, and during the day they’re joined by supplemental instruction tables where groups of students enrolled in large courses with high failure rates work with a professional tutor on a weekly basis.

Ryerson has more to say in this CBC article than they did in the Star. This quote jumps out –

[Ryerson spokesman James] Norrie said the university understands the nature of Facebook and its groups.

“This is not a bunch of old academics sitting around a table saying, ‘Oh, this scares us.’ That’s not what’s happening,” he said.

They say that, but given what we know so far it really looks like the opposite of this statement is true. Not just that the university doesn’t understand the nature of Facebook and its groups (though it looks like maybe they don’t) but that they don’t understand the nature of social learning online in a much larger sense than this. Which is what brings us back to the social bookmarking ideas above. When these students leave Ryerson, their ability to find groups of people engaged with the same problems they’re trying to deal with — whether they’re professional or personal problems — is going to be a fundamental part of their ability to learn and solve those problems.

And like it or not, a lot of that networking and learning is going to happen online. And it might be scary to think of a world where the number of resources available to students goes beyond a study table in the library or the answers in the back of the book, but that’s the world we have. And our students deserve the opportunity to learn how to learn in that world.

This is not turning into an ARG blog

I almost wrote about something else today, but I found out in time that something I thought was true was in fact false and therefore not worth writing about.

But there’s some really cool stuff going on in this Find the Lost Ring ARG that has my brain back at the question of what these storytelling/ chaotic fiction/ media experiences might mean for teaching and learning.  In our presentation, Rachel pulled out Sean Stewart’s phrase “search operas,” which gets at some of the connections between these games and information literacy.

Caleb connects ARG’s to learning really well – connecting the way that the narrative is discovered and synthesized and created in an ARG with the way meaning is discovered and synthesized and created in the research process.

And then there’s the social aspect – the idea that you put a whole bunch of brains with different knowledge and skills and experiences on a problem and you can get something richer and deeper (and certainly faster) than anything individuals could accomplish alone — put all of these things togehter and what do you see?  Well, I’m not sure that everyone sees learning theory but I bet I’m not the only one that does.

You’ve got the meaning-making of constructivism, and the social meaning making of Vygotsky.  It’s not only learning theory, but it’s learning theory that’s had a huge impact on our understanding of information literacy and the connections between information literacy, problemsolving and learning.

So check out what’s going on on this McDonald’s/ Olympics thing.  Trust me, you don’t need to read all of the blogs or forum posts to see the cool factor here.  It looks like the players right now have located six people around the world with a strange form of amnesia.  The first one, introduced via the rabbit hole is Adriane.  Since then, they’ve found Markus, Noriko, MeiHui, Diego and Lucie.  And there’s some stuff going on in Brazil as well.

The characters are all over the world, and so far they’ve been communicating with the players frequently and at length, by email, IM, and in a variety of social networking sites and blogs — but with a twist.  Some of them want to communicate in their native languages (so far – Japanese, Mandarin, French, Spanish, German and English).

(And in a nice T.I.N.A.G. moment – which highlights the potential legal complexity Michael mentioned yesterday — Lucie’s blog is on Skyrock)

Watching what the players are doing to try and deal with this is really fascinating and really cool.  They’re not just using online translators — they’re pulling in people with language skills, they’ve got a wiki page tracking the languages players have expertise in, they’re brushing up on languages they know and sharing the good online courses with each other, they’re learning Esperanto and encouraging the game characters to do so as well!

It gets at the multiple levels of learning going on when we explore to learn — specific knowledge/skills/concepts (here, the language skills) and the deeper inquiry those specific skills enable.  And it highlights the need for that deeper inquiry — something to give the acquisition of specific skills meaning and relevance.  I mean, these people are jumping to learn Esperanto!  Would this happen – ever – without a larger context?

It looks like the game will develop in Esperanto and English (the amnesiac characters all have a tattoo that says “find the lost ring” in Esperanto), so that this truly multi-lingual phase might not extend throughout – but it’s fun to watch.

Yes an ARG – and over there, and over there too

All of a sudden ARG’s are everywhere – it’s like when you learn a new word and suddenly it’s everywhere? It feels like Rachel and I presented on this topic ten minutes before the Internets done exploded with it!

Michael dropped me some great links in my about this — game designer Elan Lee presented about ARG’s at the O’Reilly ETech conference just yesterday. Most interesting to me was Cory Doctrow’s liveblogged notes on the talk – but his summary at Boing Boing is worth looking at – and there are comments! Three short things about this talk -

1. I love the magnet metaphor. I think that idea that magnets “push, pull and charge” resonated – I can’t wait to see more of the actual talk. But the “charge” idea seems to get at that essential thing about the ARG experience – that it is something co-created.

2. This from the Boing Boing comments got me thinking – “The only problem with ARG’s is once you’ve played one and know how they work it ruins the rest of them.” At first that kind of sounds true. Rachel and I spoke at length about how hard it was to try and go back and describe games that have already been played. As much as we could retell the narrative and show the websites, it was clear that we were missing something about the experience of having played the game. And those kinds of things are often best the first time you do them.

But I wonder if maybe this statement isn’t more interesting in that what it really does is show the importance of the narrative to the experience, as well as the social act of creating the experience with others similarly immersed. It might be hard to recreate one’s first transformative experience with a novel or a movie, but that doesn’t usually ruin the act of reading for the rest of time.

3. I need to think more about the scalability aspect at the end – and by that I mean “I need to see more of the actual talk.” This idea from Doctrow’s notes – “It can’t just be “let me use all the elements of your life to tell you a story. It has to be, ‘Let me look at all your channels (browser, phone IM, etc.) and find a way to turn that channel on specifically for you.’” I want to hear more about how this preserves the social aspect of ARG’s.

And then Wired yesterday speculates that this is part of the rabbit hole to an Olympian-sized ARG – with the Olympics and McDonald’s behind it. And asks – if McDonald’s is involved are ARG’s totally part of the mainstream? There is something simultaneously disturbing and fitting about the idea that McDonald’s couldn’t manage to keep their involvement quiet because they had to cover themselves with the law talk on the website. Some things are just more important than T.I.N.A.G, I guess.

Not an ARG – college coursework as immersive marketing?

I’ve been thinking about this story in Inside Higher Ed all morning — at first because of the academic freedom ideas discussed explicitly, but then the more I thought about the project that the students in this class put together, the more I started focusing on that aspect of the tale –

To recap quickly, about a year ago Hunter College offered a course sponsored by an advocacy group focused on stopping low-cost ripoffs of designer products – the International Anticounterfeiting Coalition.

According to the complaints filed with the Faculty Senate, Hunter agreed to let the IACC sponsor a course for which students would create a campaign against counterfeiting in which they would create a fake Web site to tell the story of a fictional student experiencing trauma because of fake consumer goods. One goal of the effort was to mislead students not in the course into thinking that they were reading about someone real.

There are real academic freedom issues – the course was apparently created outside of regular procedures of curricular review, and the professor involved (as well as others who reviewed the case) maintain that what was taught in the class was also defined by the sponsoring agency. On some level, the problems with this are so obvious I don’t know what more to say about them – but I do have some things I’m thinking about that have to do with the other part of the story – the what the students in this class actually DID part. Just be aware that this stuff I’m going to be saying about ARG’s is not the only thing that matters here.

(When I originally hit “publish” that said “is the only thing” — not what I meant. Probably obviously)

A couple of weeks ago, Rachel Bridgewater and I gave a presentation at Online Northwest called Lonelygirl and the Beast: Alternate Reality Games as Immersive Marketing, Art and Information. And the student project described here goes beyond the creation of a “fake web site.” It has a lot in common with an ARG. But at the end of the day, this is a bad attempt at immersive marketing, and not an ARG. The more I think about it the clearer it seems that the very issues with how this class was conceived and created mean that it could never have accomplished the real immersive alternate reality that an ARG can. At the same time, I think the ways in which this was much less than an ARG can illustrate why a different kind of ARG experience has really interesting potential for teaching and learning.

Alternate Reality Games lure players in with a whisper – they don’t say “hey! cool game here!” Instead, they put information designed to pique curiosity where potential players are likely to run across it – that the normal desire to know more, to find out what happened, to solve mysteries will push these players down the rabbit holes the game designers provide. At Hunter, students saw leaflets scattered around campus. Fictional student Heidi Cee was desperate for the return of her expensive handbag.

Heidi’s blog further builds up this alternate world. She talks about the handbag here, but also mentions her friends at other schools (though she doesn’t provide links to them), links to videos and silly things — she does what you’d expect a normal blogger to do.

Now, the thing is – as immersive marketing, or as an ARG, this really isn’t very good. The world-building isn’t very compelling. I won’t claim that I read the whole blog, but it doesn’t feel very real. She talks about her friends and events, but doesn’t link out to them. So the blog doesn’t reveal more parts of the alternate reality like it should. The blog doesn’t connect you to her Facebook and her Facebook doesn’t seem to be on the Hunter network? And really, this girl would even create a Blogger blog to complain about this? Of course not – she’d use her Facebook. And if she did create a blog, she’d only use it to complain about counterfeiting — she wouldn’t be talking about that other stuff.

Even more, Heidi herself is seriously annoying. I don’t really see people reading this and getting all worked up about her OMG trauma with counterfeiters. At the very least – the world’s puppy lovers are going to wash their hands of her after this:

Anyway, I’m still gonna continue posting up reward money for my bag. I dipped into my savings (sorry mom) for more reward money, because as I said before, this bag is invaluable to me. If I had a puppy, I would give him up for this bag. Really!

Now do you all understand the PAIN I’m going through? It’s making me CRRRRRAZZZYYYYY!!!!!!!!!!

And it’s not surprising that it doesn’t look like it worked very well. I couldn’t find many comments that looked like they came from anyone not in on the hoax.

So – why do I think that the way the class was conceived and executed meant it was doomed to fail? Because it just couldn’t do some of the things that a real ARG needs — even though a real ARG might be trying to get you to see a movie you don’t want to see or play a game you don’t want to play — as a player in an ARG you have some agency. Players and puppetmasters are partners creating the experience of the game. The narrative itself in an ARG is at least somewhat co-created.

In a nutshell – when you create an ARG, you don’t expect to control everything that happens in the alternate reality you’ve created or in the game. You can’t. In this situation, there were no players, just observers. They had no agency, no ability to co-create the narrative, no control over the narrative itself. Beyond leaving comments and friending on Facebook – was there even anything for the observers to do beyond consuming the message?

And the truly disturbing thing, if the descriptions of this class are accurate, is that even the students responsible for creating the game were expected to consume and repackage the narrative. The power of ARG’s as learning exercises in many ways is in how they create a space that encourages creative problem-solving. There’s no indication that the “problem” in this case was ever treated as something that the students were supposed to solve. Instead, it was an exercise in how do we trick people into hearing a message we had no control over constructing.

And honestly, I think this is one of the reasons Heidi’s so annoying. She doesn’t sound real, but like someone mouthing a party line. And one that’s not all that compelling.

A primary characteristic of the ARG is the idea that the players discover the narrative for themelves; it’s never presented to them as a cohesive whole. It’s spread over a variety of websites and media and the players must find, discover, interpret, synthesize and create something out of what’s there for them to find. That means a couple of things. One is that the narrative doesn’t exist in just one place – part of it will only exist in the memories and minds of the players who engaged with the experience. The other is that no puppet master will ever be able to fully control the narrative. And this is one of the things that makes ARG’s so interesting both as learning environments and also as marketing schemes.

The idea of a marketing scheme where the marketers can’t fully control the message goes against much of what we think of when we think of “marketing.” As learning experiences go – look at the list of what ARG’s ask the players to do above, and then look at the cognitive outcomes listed in Bloom’s Taxonomy — that’s some pretty higher order thinking those players can be doing, no? In this class, it sounds like they never intended to give up any control of the narrative — not to the students outside the class who encountered the story. But also not to the students in the class who were acting as puppetmasters. As a learning exercise, this fact alone cut this experiment off at the knees on both levels.

In an ARG, the partnership between players and puppetmasters is not exactly equal, but it’s not exactly unequal either. The players in an ARG are, in a sense, in on the game while they pretend that they’re not. They engage with the scenarios and situations of the game as if they were real, but they expect a certain amount of good faith from those behind the game. These ideas are sometimes referred to as the “this is not a game” or “this is not a hoax” aesthetics. The Hunter community wasn’t in on anything. To them, this was a hoax and it played out as such. Which is the final reason why I think this project failed as a game and as a learning exercise for the campus.

Just to reiterate, I’m not saying this class produced an ARG, or even that it was trying to. I’m saying that it was trying to tap into the same things that an ARG taps into. And I’m saying that it failed. And finally I’m saying that the reasons why it failed as an ARG are also some of the same reasons why it failed as a learning exercise at all.

Oscar doesn’t get YouTube?

CinemaTech pointed this out last year, and again today — the Academy’s attitude towards YouTube is pretty messed up. And I think they’re blowing a terrific opportunity here. Like the Royal Family, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has exactly the kind of content that works on YouTube. They should have the key clips up immediately, just like SuperBowl commercials. But they don’t have any clips from last night up and there’s way less stuff from other people than you’d think — suggesting that they are being pulled soon after they go up.

And why is it that people who want to hang on so tightly to this content are usually so bad at doing anything interesting with it themselves? What I was going to write was that Oscar should have his own YouTube channel – but as it turns out, he does. So now what I’m going to write is that Oscar should have a good YouTube channel.

This is just a weird hodgepodge of clips — some are cool moments someone might actually want to revisit, but most are … not. Like – why do they have Sidney Poitier accepting his honorary Oscar, but not his real one? Seriously, which award is more meaningful? Why do they have nothing about the glitz and glamour – nothing even suggesting that there is a red carpet?

With the video resources AMPAS has – resources no one else has – they could really build a fascinating channel connecting the show and the history of movies and Hollywood and celebrity, but instead it really looks like they just grabbed a handful of stuff that was readily available. Maybe it’s just me just me but it looks like the Academy has something to learn about “show don’t tell” — almost half of these videos are talking heads telling us why the Oscars are important. I honestly think watching the great big movie stars and all those other creative people at the Oscars over the years would tell that story better for me.

It’s insane — if AMPAS understood what YouTube can do in terms of raising interest and awareness and buzz they could be using their archives to build a lot of interest, but with this they’re just reinforcing the idea that they’re (the awards and the organization) increasingly out of touch.

ETA — I’m thinking about what Caleb was talking about last week – when people get information they don’t stop asking questions – instead they get new questions. A kick-ass Oscar channel on YouTube doesn’t mean people will stop being interested in the Oscars – it’ll generate new reasons why they’re interested.

But – to be fair, my favorite moment of last night is up there and has stayed up long enough to get 142,222 views.

ETA — It’s gone now.  I don’t know when it went away, but the IP police have had their say.

cool stuff that’s fun to look at!

For reasons I won’t go into, I recently spent way too much time on the internet looking for magazine scans. (Anyone going to Online NW might soon be able to piece together why). Looking for those I ran across some other things I thought were awesome, even if I’m not always clear on what to do with them.

The Book Scans database

  • I’m linking to the main page – the database page is on the left. I probably lost an hour going through these. The site design is a little old-school, and navigating can be kind of clunky. The site is also intended for the collector community, so it might be perfectly organized for their needs and only clunky for non-collectors. Oddly there’s no notes anywhere about what one can do with these images, or actually anything at all intellectual property-related.

Steven Hill’s Movie Title Screens Page

  • Again, more a browsing space than a searching one, and initially I was like “why would I want to browse this.” Thirty minutes later I still wasn’t sure but I couldn’t stop. These are screengrabs of the title shots from a whole lot of movies. I almost didn’t include this one when I couldn’t find All About Eve, but this one from The Awful Truth was entirely charming so I left it in –

Title shot from The Awful Truth

Vintage Vanguard

  • A big collection of scans of old Vanguard record albums. Both front and back material, which is awesome. I love these because you can see how old they are.

And I also found magazine scans galore — these were my two favorite sites:

The Conde Nast Store

And finally this – cute mid-century French stuff. I’m not sure how to categorize this, but how could I not include it?


scholarship and peer review and 2.0

Over the last few days, i’ve been seeing some similar projects popping up on the landscape — or, rather, fairly different projects tied together by a common thread. The thread is one of particular interest to me – how will things like peer review and traditional media publishing integrate with new ways of communicating and working with information made possible by emerging technologies? Or will they?

So for now, I’m just going to mention some of these things – and undoubtedly follow up with a bunch of tl; dr posts later on the topic.

First from if:book – they’ve adaptated CommentPress to serve as a peer-reviewing tool for a new book project from MIT press. The book is Expressive Processing: Digital Fictions, Computer Games, and Software Studies, by Noah Wardrip-Fruin.

CommentPress has been around for a while – it lets a blog owner allow their readers to comment not only on blog posts, but on particular pieces of blog posts. The reader can pinpoint the argument or the example they want to address, allowing for a different kind of intellectual dialogue about a blog’s content. This is an all-or-nothing decision, you either make your whole blog comment-able in this way, or you don’t.

So you could use CommentPress for peer review before, fairly easily. You just need to set up a WordPress blog that holds the content of your book, article, or set of articles, and let the readers go with it. CommentPress allows them to comment on individual sections, or to make meta-comments on entire posts or pages. Your initial text isn’t revised by the process, making this more like peer review than like the collaborative authoring that would happen if you used a wiki for the same purpose.

One thing that makes the Expressive Processing example different is that the CommentPress level of commentary is only available on some of the posts in the blog. The book is being released, in parts, on an established blog – Grand Text Auto. GTA is a group blog focused on discussion of new media expressions — digital fictions, narratives, poetry, games, and more — with archives going back to 2003. Reviewers will be able to parse the posts where the book is made available down using CommentPress, while the normal discourse generated by the blog continues on the other posts.

I find this interesting because of the way it recognizes the importance of the existing community on this blog. If they’d gone the “special site for the book” route, I’ve no doubt that a community would have formed there (and would have included many members of this one). But the community would have been different, and the resulting discourse would have been different. This definitely bears thinking more about — I’ve been thinking for a while that these knowledge communities that grow up around certain blogs are a powerful thing and I think this project could potentially get at that.

More comments on this experiment at:
Planned Obsolescence and The Chronicle (free for now)

This morning’s experiment comes on the heels of this essay by Alex Reid in Digital Digs, one of my favorite sources for thoughtful commentary on new forms of scholarship. Reid is going to be co-editing the Praxis section of the online journal Kairos, and he muses here about one of the dilemmas inherent in any discussion of new scholarship — how can participating in open, social, collaborative scholarly projects give the kind of professional currency academics need to justify the time and effort their participation requires?

We all know this is an issue – Rachel and I have struggled with it for a few years now with the Library Instruction Wiki, and that’s a fairly simple and straightforward project. While it’s possible that someone might decide to edit or change an entry in our wiki so that the “authorship” of a particular instruction tool wouldn’t be as clear, it’s not very likely that that would happen.

Reid is specifically talking about another wiki Kairos’ PraxisWiki, which was also created as a way for people to share thoughts and commentary about the use of classroom technologies. Still, they’re struggling with how to make contributions “count” enough for academics to use it as a way to communicate ideas. I think he’s spot-on with his diagnosis of the problem — how can we ask academics, whose professional futures depend on their ability to demonstrate the impact of their work to spend their time and effort on us if we don’t give them a way to demonstrate the impact of that work?

Reid doesn’t have any great answers yet either, but I like his idea of thinking of this participation like conference participation. I’ve long wondered if participation in online communities, contributing to the Library Instruction Wiki and blogging isn’t more a type of professional service than scholarship — maybe that’s a useful line of inquiry.

Shaun talked about something similar the other day – on how we value “popular writing” in academia.

Finally, there’s this fascinating discussion thread at Scientific American — asking readers to weigh in on “Science 2.0.” Not surprisingly, reactions fall all over the place. I wasn’t expecting anyone to make the argument that openness in scientific communication would lead to physical injury, but they do. Anyway, lots of food for thought there.

Undoubtedly, much more to come…

Again about reading

This isn’t really a continuation of the Caleb Crain post, more like something you might find on the shelf nearby.

Going through my feeds this morning I came across a couple of different things that got me thinking about reading, reading online, and reading in new ways –

First there’s this project, kind of like social reading — Book Glutton. They are operating on the premise that the time when you want to take notes about a book, or talk about a book, is while you are actually reading it. So it’s part online book reading thingy, part book-related social networking site.

You can read public domain books about Sherlock Holmes or Jeeves and Wooster, online — here’s what the reader looks like when you first launch it:

Book Glutton reader (closed)

But there’s more to the reader than that. Picking up on the “you want to annotate while you’re reading” idea – if you click on that little blue strip to the right of the text, an annotation panel opens up:

Book Glutton reader (annotation panel)

You can read alone, or you can join a group reading a book together. What I find kind of interesting though, is that they’re taking “reading together” a lot more seriously than “join a group of people reading the same thing.” Which anyone already can do in a lot of places online.

Within the reader, if you click on the blue strip to the left, there’s also a chat panel:

Book Glutton reader (chat)

And that’s what I actually find interesting about this site – that the basic premise is that people would rather read books together. I think this goes against a lot of our notions about curling up with a good book, in solitude and silence except for the rain drumming on the roof. Or the idea of “losing yourself” in a book – that doesn’t seem to have a lot of room for other people in it. But maybe that kind of reading only appeals to some, or only appeals in the abstract.

As the Stumbing Funsters, currently reading Alice in Wonderland, say — Rock on. We read, bub. We read. Mostly in the evenings, when we’re feeling social, btw.

So maybe there are a lot of people who would rather do their reading like this? On laptops, in coffeehouses, together? Or maybe this is a different kind of reading?

Then there’s this project, which is very different. Really, there’s nothing tying these together except in my head.

Where Book Glutton is largely replicating the physical act of book-reading, the “digital art publisher” tontonium goes somewhere else. The digital fiction, The Reprover was mentioned on the if:book blog today, and it looks like a fascinating re-visioning of one thing “reading online” might mean.

It’s something that you have to buy, and I haven’t yet. But I’m thinking that if I can convince myself that it will help me with my French, I might be able to justify the purchase.

Meanwhile, you can get a sense of what it is like on this page here, with one exception. if:book says that the fiction includes:

a witty text in French and elaborate English which expands and contracts – the same sentence blooming different additional clauses each time you pass a mouse across it. This is a deeply disconcerting effect at first, but once you’ve got used to it, a whole new kind of three dimensional reading emerges. It’s a fascinating idea which could only work on the web.

I think I’m going to have to justify buying it, just to see that.