Monthly Archive for May, 2008

Human 2.0: Trading Individual Power for Collective Consciousness

As cold as it seems, it’s always interesting to see a robot is coordinating humans in any given activity. Even more so when you consider the juxtaposition of Honda’s ASIMO conducting the Detroit Symphony Orchestra to perform “The Impossible Dream” (See song’s origin).

While it’s more compelling to see this in the flesh, throughout history we’ve been trading individual power for collective consciousness by way of signaling machines. In the name of efficiency, we’ve obeyed traffic lights, referenced Google search ranking, and even shopped based on Amazon’s recommendation engine.

What’s happening here?
Computing machines are incredibly apt at mundane, complex decision processes, and we often use it as signals for coordinating our collective behavior. Given too much power, humans might not be able to cope with too many inputs and they have been subject to corruption. We are intrinsically selfish creatures after all. If you were to reduce our key evidence of existence, it could be narrowed into the action of mimicking for survival, or what we call memes.

As a unit of cultural evolution, a meme in some ways resembles a gene. Richard Dawkins, in his book, The Selfish Gene (1976), recounts how and why he coined the term meme to describe how one might extend Darwinian principles to explain the spread of ideas and cultural phenomena. Examples include tunes, catch-phrases, beliefs, and fashions.

Given that machines do not have intrinsic motivations of their own survival (yet!), they are ideal at performing less appealing tasks. I do wonder if that leads them to exist outside the sphere of our cultural evolution… hard to say since we design them, bit of ourselves exists in them.

If our goal is efficiency, it is not hard to imagine us putting machines to coordinate larger sets of human behavior. We might often think of a future outcome of this in light of the fictional Skynet, but does it have to be that dreary?

Ray Kurzweil's Countdown to SingularityAlex Halavais pointed out a great video on what the next version of humans (2.0) would be. There is a moment in the near future that scientist believe will transform the notion on what it is to be human. Ray Kurzweil depicted this in The Age of Spiritual Machines (1999), which spoke of the future course of humanity, where he sees a merger of artificial intelligence and human consciousness. Such a moment is what he calls Singularity.

After the jump is a documentary about how Ray Kurzweil’s Singularity could occur, and the arguments for and against it:
Continue reading ‘Human 2.0: Trading Individual Power for Collective Consciousness’

CIT 2008 // Vox Populi: What’s your top three Web 2.0 tools for academia?

Inspired by my Facebook friend, Steve Cavrak, I asked CIT 2008 conference participants about their favorite three Web 2.0 tools they use for their academic work.

Not surprisingly, responses included people (expert) searching through social networks as equally significant as searching library databases. Also, I found that sharing what you know online was just as important as consuming from others, as it helps one to actively embody the knowledge.

CIT 2008 // Day 3: Everything I needed to know I learn from the Simpsons

CIT2008 The Simpsons

Billie Bennett, Ph.D. and Steven Doellefeld, Ph.D. come from the Institute for Teaching, Learning and Academic Leadership at the University at Albany. and they presented on how educators could infuse pop culture into their classroom. Here are excerpts from this morning:

Intellectual Praise
Stephen Hawkings: What did he think of “The Simpsons” TV show, which has had Hawking as an animated guest star? “It’s the best thing on American TV.

Books based on the Simpsons
The Gosphel According to The Simpsons (2001)

Media Studies and The Simpsons
Janathan Gray’s Watching with the Simpsons: Television, Parody, and Intertextuality (2006)
Leaving Springfield: The Simpsons and the Possibility of Oppositional Culture (2003)

Billie and Steven explain that across 19 season’s worth of Simpsons episodes, there are tons of references usable for various academic disciplines.

Science and The Simpsons
Eat my lab coat by Michael Gross, The Guardian 30 Oct 2003

What’s science ever done for us?
Paul Halpern on Intellectualism

The Simpsons in the Classroom
Used to teach concepts in psychology, sociology, political science, economics, literature
Good catalyst for discussion

Shows examples of Simpsons clips useful in different disciplines
Very well researched (they watched 19 seasons over and over again!) presentation!
Last slide features a meta-argument on stealing animation, that throughout history, cartoons rip one another off!

Questions & Answers
Someone asks where can she could find relevant Simpsons clips for her class. Billie and Steven suggest starting with The Simpsons Archive and googling your discipline and the Simpsons, as others have already used them for pedagogy. Another participant recommends having students find relevant clips for class.

Someone who teaches astronomy notes that our generation watched The Simpsons, while students are watching Family Guy, which is more risque. Steven recommends finding and using other TV shows as well.

WHat copyright issues d you have to deal with? Steven says that it’s nefarious. Teachers are doing it in the classroom for educational use, so it should be fine if you don’t overdo it. Someone I can’t verify, possibly an IP law professor, notes that even such use is limited to two years of course use, after which you should purchase rights to it.

“Twitter Tricks for Tenacious Teachers” (for my upcoming workshop)

Twellow search ranks Singapore twitter users
Twellow’s search ranks Singapore’s top twitter users by no. of followers

After today’s lunch at the CIT 2008 conference, Ken wanted to know how I fed my online activity (i.e. lifestream) into Twitter. He was referring to those links I have automatically published with prefixes , [], and so on as seen in my twitter archives.

Picking a rather nice technology lecture room, I showed him (and intrigued passer-bys) how I used, by giving it my twitter credentials, feeding it various RSS feeds (I gave three), adding prefixes, polling times and so on. I stressed that this sort of service could easily be abused, and recommended polling once an hour with 1 item per feed so as not to flood or spam the entire twitter stream.

For instance, I were to share 5 new blog posts within one hour, Twitterfeed will only tweet the latest one. Think of it as a tease for your twitter followers.

Apart from this demo, a major portion of my recent real-world conversation has been dominated with talk about twitter, which has prompted me to think of it as the a suitable topic of my next web workshop. As I’ll be addressing an academic crowd at the Teaching & Learning Center (TLC), the tentative workshop title will be “Twitter Tricks for Tenacious Educators Teachers”.

Potentially useful beyond academia, I’ll be showcasing the various twitter tools you could use for 1) networking, 2) tagging, 3) surveying, 4) visualizing trends, 5) media monitoring, and much more…

As third party twitter tools improve, so will the resolution of our twitter dataveillance. For example, my early method for deriving Twitter user population by country (April 2008) can now be more granular and persistently updated.

As seen above, I just played with Twellow and found it to be a specialized twitter search based on individual profiles. You can browse twitter users based on profession, or as I’ve tried, go by country (Singapore) and possibly any keywords. Results are ranked by users with the most followers, as an indicator of personal influence or reputation (not too far from how Google Pagerank works). This is more useful than how I used’s built-in search to find users by geography.

I’ll also be covering the shortcomings of researching within the twittersphere. Top of mind is how the recurring service downtime has a cascading effect on all related services. This is probably why most of the third party Twitter search engines are either displaying older results (e.g. your followers count on Twellow is out of date), or missing entire parts of your twitter stream (e.g. summize doesn’t have 100% of your archives).

That’s a taste of things to come.

As always, I tend to share notes, slides and videos of the presentations I give. If you know of anything I should cover for this upcoming twitter workshop, do drop me a line!

CIT 2008 // Day 2: Trying, Filmmaking, Second Life, and Hitachi’s “Better” Smartboard…

CIT2008 @ Genesee Community College (Day 2)
Click here to see the Seero interface up close…

For the second commute to the CIT conference in Batavia, Mark McBride drove, with Ken Fujiuchi riding shotgun. I was behind the scenes, taking the opportunity to try out live video streaming with GPS tracking via

As you can see, I’m in the back seat managing the HP TC1100 tablet PC, connected to a Logitech webcam clipped to the driver’s headrest (FlexClip rawks!). I also have the Qstarz BT-Q1000 Bluetooth GPS recorder on my right lap. Finally, for Internet connectivity, I used the Nokia E51 and installed JoikuSpot to turn the Symbian OS cellphone into a wifi router, fed from its 3G data connection. While I was all prepared with extra power supplies, the real fail came from the wireless connectivity from both the Bluetooth GPS and the spotty 3G data connection along the Interstate highway. As much as I loved what Seero does, I couldn’t make it happen today.

CIT2008 @ Genesee Community College (Day 2)

When we finally reached Genesee Community College, Mark and I went for a presentation on “Using non-fiction filmmaking in the classroom” by Chris Gallant (UB). Googling his name, I learned that Chris Gallant won an emmy for his Anthony Capozzi HD documentary “They Made a Mistake”. At the UB Law School, he trains law students on making documentaries for building cases. Given his professional experience in production, he has students use Final Cut Express instead of iMovie. Chris noted that he makes his law students shoot video over and over again, where practice makes perfect. It would be three weeks of shooting, and the remainder of the semester on post-production. Interestingly, Chris had students check out film equipment using their library cards, quick and simple. Being legal documentaries, one of the student videos we sampled included an interview with a Jamaican musician who had trouble crossing back to the U.S. from Canada, even though he was a Green Card holder. Quite compelling.

CIT2008 @ Genesee Community College (Day 2)

Next, I joined Ken over at the Second Life presentation. He live-tweeted the panel so I’ll reproduce it here:

CIT2008 – Second Life: What is next for SUNY and SLN? (Panel Discussion)
Presenters: Alexandra Pickett – SUNY System Admin., Larry Dugan – Finger Lake CC, Terry Keys Monroe CC

Presentation available here…

Questions: How does higher ed use SL? How does it affect online and Face2Face? How does SL promote community for the online student?

SUNY Learning Network Island in Second Life (SLURL location)

Showing the Ohio University SL introduction video.

Demoing SL, but couldn’t teletport to Finger Lakes CC island. Now on Monroe CC island

Touring the Finger Lakes CC island now. Teleport finally worked

GED advisement support in SL

SUNY Live! Project. A 1.5 year experience in SL

Regular meetings on Tuesdays at 12:30 EST at the Monroe CC island.

SUNY Project Live! wiki:

MUVE Ahead Conference for K-16 educators in SL:

Back to SlideShare presentation: How can we support SUNY Live! Project beyond their grant?

Proposal: Student SL Commons and Learning Center, Faculty Innovation Center, and SUNY SL Plaza

look at the goals and implementation ideas from the presentation…

…but they are looking for ideas and participants to make SUNY SL sustainable.

Soon it was lunchtime, and today we had a nice spread of salad, hotdogs and chicken burger. All the food on this campus seemed healthy for some reason. Ken and I decided to tour the technology vendor booths and while we have the usual classroom projectors, computing furniture, etc, one thing that stood out for us was the Hitachi Smartboard.

CIT2008 @ Genesee Community College (Day 2)

Hitachi’s “better” smartboard used IR (infra-red) cameras instead of RF (radio-frequency) markers, so you can simply use your fingers to digitally draw and navigate the smartboard. Since no markers were needed, you won’t lose or have to buy additional components. I’ve seen lots of smartboard in my time, and this one was quite amazing to me because of its simplicity. Ken noted existing $99 wii-mote hacks that achieve similar results, but even Johnny Lee’s infamous low-cost smartboard solution required an IR light pen. Here’s a video of us exploring the vendor booths and about 4 min 20 sec in, you’ll see the Hitachi’s Starboard FX-Duo-77 smartboard in action…

In addition, my friend MrBig tipped me off on “Building your own Multitouch Pad” using Touchlib.

Finally, there was ice cream over tea-break! Perfect way to end the second summer day at CIT 2008…

CIT2008 @ Genesee Community College (Day 2)CIT2008 @ Genesee Community College (Day 2)

CIT 2008 // Day One // Video: Thoughts of the day…

CIT 2008 // Day One // Video: Replacing student textbooks with Portable Apps

Title: There Are Many Ways: New Approaches to Teaching Information Literacy
Date: Wed, 28th May 2008
Time: 2.30-3.00pm

Mark McBride, Ken Fujiuchi and Mike (student) of Buffalo State College Library present their experience using customized portable apps on USB flashdrives as open spaces for students to freely explore with web technology for research goals. They offered this in a research class, as a possible solution to an otherwise closed school computing environment where students couldn’t install their own applications and web browser plugins for their work. This initiative is intended to spur new modes of knowledge creation.

CIT 2008 // Day One: First time at Genesee Community College

CIT2008 @ Genesee Community College

I was recently sponsored by the University at Buffalo Libraries to attend the CIT 2008 conference held at Genesee Community College in Batavia. From Wednesday to Friday, various faculty and staff converge to present their experiences with various instructional technology to further learning and education.

CIT2008 @ Genesee Community CollegeCIT2008 @ Genesee Community CollegeCIT2008 @ Genesee Community CollegeCIT2008 @ Genesee Community CollegeCIT2008 @ Genesee Community CollegeCIT2008 @ Genesee Community College
CIT2008 @ Genesee Community CollegeCIT2008 @ Genesee Community CollegeCIT2008 @ Genesee Community CollegeCIT2008 @ Genesee Community CollegeCIT2008 @ Genesee Community CollegeCIT2008 @ Genesee Community College
CIT2008 @ Genesee Community CollegeCIT2008 @ Genesee Community CollegeCIT2008 @ Genesee Community CollegeCIT2008 @ Genesee Community CollegeCIT2008 @ Genesee Community CollegeCIT2008 @ Genesee Community College
CIT2008 @ Genesee Community CollegeCIT2008 @ Genesee Community CollegeCIT2008 @ Genesee Community CollegeCIT2008 @ Genesee Community CollegeCIT2008 @ Genesee Community CollegeCIT2008 @ Genesee Community College
CIT2008 @ Genesee Community CollegeCIT2008 @ Genesee Community CollegeCIT2008 @ Genesee Community CollegeCIT2008 @ Genesee Community CollegeCIT2008 @ Genesee Community CollegeCIT2008 @ Genesee Community College
See the entire CIT2008 photoset here…

First thing that hit me when we finally reached the conference venue, was how beautiful the community college was. Having no luck finding free coffee in the morning, Ken Fujiuchi and I took to the various scholarly panels, and live-tweeted two particular talks. I’ll be sharing the excerpts as published on the twitterstream…

CIT2008 @ Genesee Community College

Wed, 28th May, 11.30am (#alexreid)

Alex Reid, Suny Cortland, now presenting “Authorship & Research in Web 2.0 Publication. Nice blog

Gap b/w traditional and Web 2.0 academic publication: 1) process vs. product 2) multiple authors 3) dynamic content 4) longevity

Web 2.0 = open standards. Scholarly publishing suggested to follow Dublin Core Metadata Initiative

Our job as scholars is to study culture and to connect with broader public about it. Web 2.0 space accessible for that goal.

How? Support for web2.0 scholarship, incorporate into grad work, guidelines from professional org (APA, MLA), Open Access Journals

From Alex’s Q&A session: Most faculty here concerned about typical problem of reputation (e.g. print vs. open access journal)

@digitaldigs Hello from @LibraRonin and I. We’re live-tweeting your talk on scholarly publication and shift from print to Web 2.0

CIT2008 @ Genesee Community College

Wed, 28th May, 1.45pm (#wowedu)

Now livetweeting @ CIT2008: World of Warcraft for education #wowedu

Michael Van Etten (State University at Buffalo) presenting cognition and pedagogy within World of Warcraft. How-tos for classroom.

Someone said does Second Life count? Michael says, no narrative, different ludology. Now showing South Park + WOW episode (Pop Culture)

WoW is driven for accomplishing goals, rewards. Can we drive commitment from game to education? Fun over, now Powerpoint…

Stats for WoW subscription. Economics outpaced movie industry. Student growing up with gaming culture. How to include in class?

Defining character elements, NPCs to real-humans. Identity formation, decision-making. What is playing the game?

From Constance Steinkuehler: 5 Interpersonal Elements – Routine Activities, Identities, Enculturation, Literacy Practices, Discourse

Michael now logging into WoW on gigantic projector screen. Demos “routine activity” via quest log, gain exp. WoW gold fucks over US$

Demos “identities”, shows multiple charcters. Mike has 8 avatars, 3 x lvl 70, on light and horde side. We want to suspend disbelief.

Mike basically demos the 5 points in WoW. It’s quite obvious, so I’ll wait till he explains how we could adapt this for teaching :)

OK, advancing deeper into Constance’s points. You’ll want to google for them. Explains Socially & Materially distributed cognition.

Mike cites Brian Sutton Smith’s “The Ambiguity of Play” (2001)

Later afternoon, Ken and his colleagues, Mark and Mike (all from Buffalo State College), presented a talk about “Flash drives as textbooks”. I’ve got a video of that which I’ll share later. That’s all we noted from our first day. Stay tuned for more…

Join me at “Video Vortex 3″ in Ankara, Turkey (Oct 10-11th, 2008)

Photos from the earlier Video Vortex Conference in Amsterdam by Anne Helmond.

Thanks to an invitation from my online academic friend, Alper Sarikaya (aka radiognome), I’ll be speaking at the Video Vortex 3 conference, held on October 10-11th 2008 in Ankara, Turkey (see Google Map). I’m excited because 1) I will see the possibilities of video, 2) it’ll be my first time to Europe, 3) travel and accomodation expenses will be covered.

As a tentative focus, I’ll be sharing my experiences and perspectives on real-time (and semi-realtime) interactive video environments such as (lifecasting), (mobilecasting), Viddler (inline commenting), Seesmic (video twitter?), and Seero (live GPS + video). I’ll attempt to delve into concepts of evolving media richness, presence resolution / granularity, cognitive engagement, and memory prosthetics. Your thoughts are welcomed!

Organized by the Department of Communication and Design at Bilkent University, in cooperation with Institute of Network Cultures, Video Vortex 3 Ankara Edition is the third in succession held after earlier successful conferences in Amsterdam and Brussels. You can experience previous conference through their video documentation page, photo and videoblogs, or join the Video Vortex discussion list.

Video Vortex 3 Ankara Edition organizers have put out a call for participation, and since this is an international conference, I’d like to urge friends in North America to join in. Deadline for submissions is 15th June 2008. Details after the jump…

Continue reading ‘Join me at “Video Vortex 3″ in Ankara, Turkey (Oct 10-11th, 2008)’

China’s New Groove: “The information opening is the disaster relief best weapon”

Photographing a Wedding and then an Earthquake
A rare glimpse from a Sichuan wedding haunted by the three minute earthquake (via

In recent weeks, there seemed to be an incredible number of reports of natural disasters happening around the world. While most of us might attribute this to the brunt of climate change finally dawning upon us, this is also likely the effect of a highly networked society, where peripheral news that would otherwise be left out from mainstream media (i.e. what’s fit for print), would come full center in most netizens’ conversations. The recent earthquake in Sichuan (China) is no exception, except for the fact that information came forth uncharacteristically freer than before.

As a topic of my dissertation, the Great Firewall of China has been subject to immense pressure from the Western media, yet appears to be a non-issue to Chinese netizens themselves. Simply put, there has been enough personal freedom in their Internet use that most of them don’t feel compelled to take issue with their political freedom online.

While such is the case, this isn’t to say that the Chinese government hasn’t been as open as it should be on civil affairs. In 1976, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake hit Tangshan province. Chinese censors were quick to clamped down on news of the actual death toll from the event, which was estimated to range between 240,000 to 779,000 (via Washington Post)

Having notice the flurry of information about the recent Sichuan quake, especially photos and twitters (some possibly translated), I called out on twitter for any information pertaining to an apparently new “open” information policy put forth by the Chinese government (as hinted on Gizmodo).

Thanks to the wonders of twitter, @AOmoon responded with how he read about it in a recent Chinese publication and offered to dig out more concrete information. Not long after, he came back with this Chinese article, which when translated under Yahoo’s Babelfish yielded the following optimistic headline amongst a series of quake related articles:

The information opening is the disaster relief best weapon. Zhang Jieping, Tan Weier, Qiu early morning

@AOmoon later noted that “it took them 13months to prepare the law but only less than 12 days to use it. Info is China greatest weapon to fight the Quake”

The next day, @AOmoon rewarded me with a comprehensive English language article from The China Teaching Web, which explained what I now know as State Council Decree 492. The article pointed out that the Chinese government’s decision to allow unrestricted flow of information in the aftermath of the Sichuan quake was a natural surprise to many, but it should be noted that this decision was “in fact made last year when the State Council passed the People’s Republic of China Ordinance on Openness of Government Information”.

Article I in the ordinance succinctly sums up the purpose of the ordinance:

This ordinance is instituted in order to ensure that citizens, legal persons and other organizations may obtain government information in accordance with the law, to raise the transparency of government work, promote legal governance, and thoroughly bring into play the service function of government information in the productivity and lives of the masses and in economic and social events.

Interestingly, the ordinance did not go into effect until May 1st, 2008, the earthquake in Sichuan this week was the first real test that the new policy has faced. As astutely pointed out by the writer,

Releasing information about an earthquake is one thing; releasing information about what happened in Tibet in March or what ocurred at Tiananmen Square in 1989 is quite another. Only time will tell […]

Head over to read the entire article on “How State Council Decree 492 Affects the Earthquake Aftermath“. Also check out a good summary of this from the Associated Press.

In other news, China to airlift giant pandas from quake-hit Sichuan to Beijing.