Category Archives: the internet course

iPod Liberalism

This week we had an interesting series of panel discussion about the political, social and economic implications of the web in the Internet Course. The way Paul and I run this course, almost all of the content is researched and shared by the students presenting any given day. So this past week it was cool to see that Dalina Beckham started us off with an RSA Animate video of a talk by Evgeny Morozov to talk about the problems with cyber-utopianism. It was a great discussion starter around the limits and possibilities of the web as a vehicle for political change.

It’s been interesting just how much of this class has been driven by moments like these where the presenters will share a particular video that speaks to an issue and the conversation proceeds from there. It’s a pretty compelling way to run a discussion course, and I am enjoying it immensely.

iPod Liberalism

This week we had an interesting series of panel discussion about the political, social and economic implications of the web in the Internet Course. The way Paul and I run this course, almost all of the content is researched and shared by the students presenting any given day. So this past week it was cool to see that Dalina Beckham started us off with an RSA Animate video of a talk by Evgeny Morozov to talk about the problems with cyber-utopianism. It was a great discussion starter around the limits and possibilities of the web as a vehicle for political change.

It’s been interesting just how much of this class has been driven by moments like these where the presenters will share a particular video that speaks to an issue and the conversation proceeds from there. It’s a pretty compelling way to run a discussion course, and I am enjoying it immensely.

A Resource on Copyright and Fair Use

Screen Shot 2014-10-01 at 10.28.07 AM

Josiah, Sheldon, and Desiree did an excellent job presenting to The Internet Course last night about how copyright and fair use play out in a digital, connected age. I thought the presentation of their material was so good I wanted to share it, along with a couple of points.

  • The built this site using an html5up template that is very elegant, responsive, and does a brilliant job presenting their material.Screen Shot 2014-10-01 at 10.28.21 AM


  • They loaded this template through their own domain and web hosting, suggesting the world of possibility where students teach us how to best use this space.

Screen Shot 2014-10-01 at 10.28.34 AM

  • This is now an open, accessible resource for others looking for information about copyright and fair use in the internet age.

Screen Shot 2014-10-01 at 10.50.29 AM


That Thing: The Napster Phenomenon (2000)

During a brilliant presentation on copyright and fair use in The Internet Course tonight, the presenters shared a relatively short video called “The Napster Phenomenon” (2000). It was filmed while Napster was in the midst of its legal battles. It’s a pretty fascinating look at how much the question of copyright is tied up with seemingly indisputable notions of the recording industry as the source of great music, and by extension music as necessarily a commodity. I felt like it got at so many of the issues around control in such an industry that perpetuates a model regardless of its relevance.

But, beyond that, it has some classic moments featuring Lars Ulrich‘s campaign against Napster. No wonder this guy has become such a target for his idiocy when it comes to copyright and the music industry. If you are look for a treat, here’s the link directly to the minute or two of Ulrich spewing his uninformed bile :)

Independence Day Virus

STATE THEATRE 12-19-12Today the whole family went to the State Theater in Culpepper, Virginia to watch the 1996 alien disaster movie Independence Day, which seems approporaite on the 4th of July. It was the first time we went to this historic theater since it was re-opened after twenty years of sitting dormant. It was returned to it’s 1930-era moviehouse grandeur with art deco adornment, a single screen auditorium as well as a balcony. It’s equipped for projection of digital, 35 MM, and nitrate films. The last two formats are particularly relevant given it’s around the corner  from the Library of Congress’s Packard Campus. And the two have a working relationship which means the State Theater has access to one of the greatest audio visual archives in the world.  It’s cool to see Culpepper embrace the fact that it’s poised to be a film mecca in the middle of rural Virginia. I really love the incongruence there.

As for the feature, the last time I saw Independence Day was in a movie house in Los Angeles—although I can’t remember which one. I was not a fan, but I was also at the height of my film education so my standards were a bit more stringent. The film is certainly a Hollywood pot boiler, but it laughs at itself and is a lot more tongue-and-cheek than I gave it credit for the first go around. It’s notable for bringing disaster films into the era of compuer generated special effects. And, to be honest, there’s no greater guilty pleasure on the 4th of July than an over-the-top patriotic celebration of the U.S. of A. Love it or leave it!

Independence Day Virus GIF

ID4 virus

All that said, my fascination watching it for the first time in nearly twnety years had less to do with American Empire than technology—can we distinguish the two anymore? The plotline of the movie depends on humans figuring out the weakness of these ruthless alien trawlers of our natural resources. While they’re a far more technologically advanced civilization, the story ultimately rests on infecting the alien network with a virus which needs to be uploaded into the Mothership’s local network via computer. You can view the scene that provides the explanation of this theory for giving the aliens a virus here. It’s absurd for a number of reasons, but the idea of human computers seamlessly interfacing with an advanced alien civilization’s network is foremost amongst them. And much has been written about this already on the internet.

Although if you you can suspend disbelief, the film also marks a moment wherein the idea of networking becomes akin to our own designation as an advanced technological civilization. It’s 1996, a large part of the U.S., and the world beyond, is just getting familiar with the everyday idea of networking on a personal level. With the meteoric rise in popularity of the World Wide Web, the introduction of a virus through a network to an alien species wouldn’t seem nearly as crazy as it might have just three years earlier. It’s actually something can actually relate to. The plotline of Independence Day is in many ways about a broader conceptual global shift in humanity as a highly technological civilization. We actually are beginning to understand the basic implications of networks on a rudimentary level as a populace.

This is something the film is conscious of given its playful reference to another film about dramatic advances in humanity’s evolution: 2001: A Space Odyssey. The moment when the characters played by Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum are heading off to save the world, when Goldblum opens his laptop he is greeted with an image of the eye of HAL and a playful “Good Morning, Dave…”

This is yet reasong to create the database of internet technology as seen in film and TV that I discussed already in this post.

#tic104: Back to the Future

I’m sad to say that the summer session of The Internet Course Paul Bond and I were teaching for the last five weeks has ended. It was a pretty amazing class, and Paul and I remained faithful to our vision of having the students effectively design and run the course. The combination of a condensed semester and small cohort meant we had them running a projet a week for the last four weeks (the first week was dedicated to research).

The course wiki was where the class collaboratively built each of the four projects, and you can find them all here. I wrote about this already on this blog, but I found this particular classes use of the wiki  for their collaborative projects was really effective. So, for the fifth and final week’s project—which we called “Back to thr Future”— each of the students were charged with collecting clips from various television shows and movies to suggest how the future of the internet (and technology more generally) has been framed for us through the culture industry. For example, how are specific topics such as The Internet of Things, Cyborgs, Wearable Technology, Artificial Intelligence, etc. been protrayed in film and television? What’s more, what might it tell us about these possible futures as well as our own moment?

As has been the case for the previous three projects, a wiki page was created, topics were delineated, and film clips were added. The wiki page offers an interesting collection of clips from a variety of films that frame future visions across the spectrum of topics. Interestingly enough, there is no real database for this kind of stuff that we could find. When talking with other folks at DTLT, there was some discussion that we might frame something like thisand open it up for anyone to contribute to.  I think this would be an interesting resource for folks to use and share. How does film and television feed us our future?

Anyway, once everyone added their various clips, each student was charged with creating a video using at least five film and/or TV clips to explain a particualr topic—an adaptation of the video essay assignment we’ve employed for years in ds106. As usual, when you charge students with something difficult, yet fun and creative, they usually rise to the challenge and then some. That’s exactly what happened here. Six video on everything from Cyborgs to Artifical Intelligence to Virtual Reality to Big Data. James Dawson, the capable director of the final week’s project, curated all the videos into one page on the course site, you can find and watch them all there.

Below I want to feature two of the video essays made by members of the class. First is Jessi Clark’s examination of big data using the films 2001: Space Odyssey (1968), 1984 (1984), Fifth Element (1997), Minority Report (2002), and Eagle Eye (2008).

Additionally, check out Steven Hartzell’s discussion of artifical intelligence using the films Blade Runner (1982), Terminator (1984), and Her (2013), as well as the TV series Battlestar Gallactica and Star Trek. 

I have much more to write about this course and how fun it was to teach over the psst five weeks, but if I try and wait until I have time to articulate it all I’m afrtiad thsi post will enver get written. So here it is, and I hope you check out some of the awesome work from this summer’s internauts!

#tic104: Mapping Collaboration through the Wiki

What the Internet looks like?

What the Internet looks like?

A few of the things I’ve been really impressed with while teaching the Internet Course this summer is how the class has gotten into a rhythm, taken responsibility for their projects, and worked collaboratively. The collaboration is nowhere more apparent than in the class wiki. It’s an old school MediaWiki install loosely tied to the course aggregator blog with a simple link, but in terms of  this class it has become the shared space for building out each week’s project. We could have used Google Docs, and so many do, but I always feel like Google Docs s jsut Word online without the email attachment, it’s not necessarily the web.

You can see the way they used the wiki for organizing week two’s timline (the actual timline’d in action over here). Same goes for the wiki page where they planned week three’s HTML resource page (see the HTML page here). And once again week four’s currently under construction project that will be mapping the social impacts of the internet.

It’s really been cool to see how the amazing work Ryan Brazell and Sue Fernsebner did with the Taiping Civil War site has impacted my class. Jessi Clark, who is one of the directors this week, was a student in Sue’s course, and she made the compelling case in this post—and the subsequent comment thread—why mapping the social impacts of the internet using the Google Spreadsheet Mapper could help understand the broader, global impact of this technology more clearly in time and space.* What’s more, she understands that this is just the beginning of a project that students in future sections of the Internet Course can build upon—an approach all three projects have built into their design. The culture around this stuff an UMW is based on a horizontal, collaborative community, just like a good wiki ;)

We already have three solid projects about the internet’s history, how it works, and the social impacts, and the class is currently working on a fourth and final project. Something we’re referring to as “Back to the Future,” a project that uses clips from a variety of Hollywood films to examine how the future of internet has been framed for us already through film history.

So, not only am I thrilled that the class is taking ownership of their learning and collaborating to build resources beyond the course. But I am also thrilled they’re doing this in a wiki that maps their collaboration on all of these projects and provides an artefact of their learning. It makes me excited to finally get my head around the Smallest Federated Wiki Mike Caulfield has been writing about so compellingly as of late.


*It’s worth mentioning here that I was supposed to seed the discussion about what we would be doing during the fourth week of classes. But before I could Jessi already had written the post, started the conversation, and taken control of what we would be doing week 4. That’s pretty awesome.


#tic104: How it Works Guide

How it Works Guide

The Internet Course, which I can’t stop writing about :), continues to blow me away in thought and deed. This post will focus on a deed done dirt cheap! Last week the course focused on the topic “How it Works,” and the idea was that all seven students focus on succinctly and clearly describing how the various technologies that make up the itnernet work. And that’s what they did to great effect, and major kudos are due to auditor (that’s right, auditor!) Steven Hartzell for running week three so seamlessly. [How many classes are there in which an auditor runs the course for a week? None, that's how many.]

Steven came into week 3 with a clear plan, he broke down how it works into six categories: hardware, protocols, languages, data, networks, and ISPs. We brainstormed what might fall under each category—you can read more about the process and brainstorming here—and after some discussion we came up with one more category: software. Each student took one category and based on the brainstorming went off to research their work and popualte the wiki page for week 3 with what they found. We spent much of Tuesday discussing what they found, vetting the sources, and generally deciding on an agreed upon format.

By Wednesday all the research was basically done and Steven kicked in part 2of his plan: the class would code their own resource page in HTML and style it with CSS. Learn how it works by creating it, baby! He guided us through a tutorial on how to write HTML, use a local editor, uploading .html pages and media to public_html through the file manager on cPanel (did I mention how much I love Domain of One’s Own for making this dead simple?), exploring relative links, and generally playing with HTML. It was awesome, the entire class was actively learning how it works, and it was all business because it was directly related to the project at hand. Everyone was required to code the information for the topic they did their research on.

On Thursday we reviewed each person’s HTML page to make sure they were working properly. After that, we dug into CSS (which blew me away because I didn’t think we could get that far). Steven asked the simple question, “How do we want out site to look?” We talked about inline styles, internal stylesheets, external stylesheets, the revoltuion of cascading stylesheets for design, and more. It was a fun discussion, and by the end of two hours everyone created their own local stylesheets thanks to Steven’s guidance, at the same time they all agreed on a very minimalist, yet effective, design for their collection of old gold HTML pages discussing how the internet works.

Steven took up the rear with collecting everyone’s HTML pages via email, and then making sure the pages linked, the styles were consistent, and the links were realtive and posted it on his site. After that he sent me all the HTML pages, and I uploaded them to a subdirectory  on the course site and they all work perfectly. Check out their “How It Works” guide custom-made in HTML and CSS lcoally in Fredericskburg, Virginia :) Did I mention Steven was an auditor? How awesome is he? NOBODY!!!

What’s Next? The Future of Edtech in 1983

The Internet Course is rolling right along, and I’m enjoying this class tremendously. And it doesn’t hurt that the students’ blogging has become a late night rabbit hole for me. Last week Jessi Clark turned me onto an early 1980s Canadian kids’ show about technology  called Bits and Bytes.

 More recently she blogged about the final episode of the Bits and Bytes series titled  “What’s Next?” (embedded above). It’s a little under 30 minutes, and proves to be a fascinating window into the world of computing in the early 1980s. A horizon report for the future of computing, and the list is really wild in retrospect. As Martin Weller noted on Twitter the other day, what will the MOOC predictions look like to us thirty years later?

I recommend watching the video, but knowing time and energy is short on the internets, let me take you through it really quickly below as a kind of teaser.

Feb_11_B_VideoDiscFirst up, the future is all about the Videodisc! Those lovable laserdiscs that I have a modest collection of in my basement—although the rest of the world has all but forgotten them. The highlight of this section of the episode was how the episode framed videodiscs as a great way to provide learning modules for training. The approach being showcased seemed somehow modern in some really depressing ways.

After that, at about 6:30, the episode transitions to the computer as a communication device, discussing the modem as a means of sharing information. What’s interesting is that communication with the modem was still very much conceptualized as unilateral. There was no mention of email, but rather the discussion focused on teletext and videotext technologies. They featured one in particualr, called Telidon, which was imagined as a means of marrying the computer and television to present “interactive” information in a graphical form. The graphcis are wild, and in many ways it was a very early vision of interactive digital signage. So cool.


Around 13 minutes in Adele Goldberg discusses Smalltalk, the programming language developed at Xerox PARC during the 1970s that introduced the first true object-oriented programming language. And it came out of ARPA funded research, which it’s hard to deny defined much of the modern world of computing. 

After that the episode talks about Pilot, what is described as an overhead projector for graphics/doodling. What we might think fo as an early smartboard. There’s also a whole segment on music finger painting by an awesome professor who is entranced by the idea of using these digital technologies to bridge the gap between sound and vision. So cool.

Finally, the last couple of minutes of the episode are dedicated to talking to teachers and administrators in various Ontario area schools about the future of computers in education. It’s truly amazing how similar the fault lines in 1983 are to those in 2014. The transformative power of comptuers to augment the classroom versus there presence as a distraction. It’s really sobering to hear just how controlled the narrative around comuters and eduation has been for more than three decades.

Bits and Bytes explain Digital

The Internet Course is putting together a set of resources explaining how a variety of internet technologies work. You can see their progress thus far on the “How it Works” wiki page, all of this will ultimately be written as HTML pages because they are hardcore! During class today Jessi Clark was talking about the video she discovered to explain the concept of digital, it’s a total gem. After a bit of research I discovered it is from Episode 8 of the 1983 Canadian educational television series Bits and Bytes, which starred Luba Goy and Billy Van. I found their YouTube channel, which has 78 videos with entire episodes, bits of episodes, and other assorted  treasure for explaining how a wide range of technology works to kids. I wonder if this is why the Canadians are so good at edtech. I would pay big money to see a revival of this series starring Stephen Downes and George Siemens ;)

What’s interesting about the video—besides describing digital using fish– is that it defines the advantages of the analog over digital in terms of smooth, graphical representations. Can we still argue that’s the case? We problably crossed that barrier for sound in the 90s, and video in the 00s. What’s the true advantage of analog today? Is there really a purity we’d be missing moving forward? Also, it got me thinking of analog being digital (at least according to this video’s definition) at its core as well. Isn’t 35 MM film the stitching together of fragmented stills to create the illusions of movement?

Reminds me of a tweet I saw early today by William Friedkin in regards to Quentin Tarantino bemoaning the passing of 35 mm films (a reality I can’t help but side with Tarantino).

It’s a digital world, and I feel fine.