Category Archives: video

The Complete Package: Firefly

For this assignment, we were to make a trailer for a TV show that’s run its course. I chose the tragically short lived sci fi/western Firefly. Apparently you can watch the entire series on YouTube, plus it’s on Netflix. For anyone who hasn’t watched it yet, you’ve got some binge watching to do.

What’s the deal with this trailer then? Well, it’s a product of the evil wizard Nameijustmadeup. You see, Nameijustmadeup mind controlled all of the executives at Fox into cancelling the show early. However, Firefly is so awesome even someone as vile as Nameijustmadeup couldn’t help but be moved by. Thus, he made this trailer, hoping that at least more people would watch the current episodes.

First, I found the music I wanted to use. Then I took clips from the first episode and edited them into the order I wanted.

movie maker firefly screenshot

It was actually a fairly involved process. I spent a lot of time cutting out the right clips and playing with the volume settings. It definitely took a lot longer than I though it would.

That Bleeping Censor: Pulp Fiction

For this assignment, we were tasked with taking a movie clip and ruining it via censorship. So I thought to myself, “what good movies have lots of swearing?” Well, anything Quentin Tarantino would work, so I went with Pulp Fiction.

Why exactly would someone want to censor Pulp Fiction? After all, who would do such a thing to such a brilliant cinematic classic? It must be the work of some advanced alien race. They are trying to demoralize us before they take us over. It’s the only possible explanation.

The assignment page included a helpful video that details the process of censoring a video. In lieu of a tradition bleep, I decided to go with an old-timey car horn. The only tricky part was pinpointing the exact segments of the video that contain the swear words. That took a little bit of trial and error. If you feel the need to watch the video with every nasty syllable in tact, here’s the original:


Wearable technology is something that has a lot of potential for human usage. Wearable technology is already present in much of the current and even dated media, which is indicative of its potential for use. Some examples of wearable technology are jetpacks, glasses, and watches. This video provides a visual representation of wearable technology. The clips I chose all show examples of wearable technology. My favorite clip would have to be the fake Nazi propaganda video. The video is different due to the fact that it shows the United States being invaded by flying Nazis, which is intense to say the least.

Like Punched Cards in the System

Tim Owens pointed me to the 1964 IBM promotional/instructional video “Once Upon a Punchcard”. It is yet another video in a growing collection of media resources for the Internet Course I’m teaching alongside Paul Bond this summer. This one is interesting because it frames an alternative vision of computing in the mid 1960s. Rather than far out visionaries like J.C.R. Licklider imagining an integrated network of virtual connections, computing in this video is framed as a machine organized around the principles of business efficiencies, streamlining processes and scaling operations. Punching your timecard becomes metaphor for routinized factory work under the watchful eyes of the bosses. The punchcard became a symbol of power and control, and it was based to some large degree around organizing and storing information. In Wikipedia article about punch cards includes this bit under the cultural impact of punch cards:

In the 1964–65 Free Speech Movement, punched cards became a … symbol of the “system”—first the registration system and then bureaucratic systems more generally … a symbol of alienation … Punched cards were the symbol of information machines, and so they became the symbolic point of attack. Punched cards, used for class registration, were first and foremost a symbol of uniformity. …. A student might feel “he is one of out of 27,500 IBM cards” … The president of the Undergraduate Association criticized the University as “a machine … IBM pattern of education.”… Robert Blaumer explicated the symbolism: he referred to the “sense of impersonality… symbolized by the IBM technology.”… ––Steven Lubar[51]

I love this, the UC Berkeley student protests were framed around the broader, data driven culture that makes students feel like an insignificant number within a lifeless, soul sucking system. At least the UC system had affordable tuition back then ;) This instructional video belies a deeper discontent with the idea of machines as extensions of an increasingly impersonal and pernicious educational system.

Teaching BitTorrent by Way of Snow Ball Fights

Rick Mendenhall, Jeff Scott

Image credit; The Eye’s “Images from our perpetual winter weather”

After I wrote this rather emo post about my teaching woes as a result of last Thursday’s class, the follow-up session on Tuesday was awesome. The “How It Works” panel did a phenomenal job of leading the class through a series of discussions about how the underlining technology of ARPANET worked, what TCP/IP means, how TCP it’s different from UDP,  and much more (Maddy even told this geeky Computer Science joke about UDP). Paul and I both concurred it was what we were hoping for when we dreamed this approach up, and all it took was me finally shutting up and letting them run the show.

Unfortunately this panel wouldn’t get an encore performance because UMW was closed today due to a snow storm. This is the second class meeting cancelled so far, and I feel the pain of colleagues who have had even more classes cancelled due to the weather this semester. UMW History professor Jason Sellers wrote about his last minute efforts to save from missing a second full week of one of his courses by running the discussion through Canvas.

I was in a similar predicament, so on Tuesday night I warned the Internetters that if class cancelled we would route around this problem, much like the internet routes around obstacles. Plan b was to have each of the panelists create a 3-5 minute video in which they explain how a particular technology works. Once they do this, they were to tag it “snowday” and the videos would show up on the frontpage of the course site by 6 PM. After that, the rest of the students would have 24 hours to have a distributed discussion of the seven videos through the comments.

Now, I understand that for some this might not necessarily “replace” the experience of a panel of students discussing how internet technologies work in a classroom. Nonetheless, if you’re flexible and use some of the tools at your disposal, you might get something different but equally instructive. Like, for example, the following four minute video Lex Adams created to explain how BitTorrent works to the rest of the class.

Lex reinforced for me just how powerful a good metaphor is at explaining a concept to someone who might feel like they have no context (it’s what my edtech career has been based on). I asked each of the panelists to make a video, be creative, and incorporate the theme of snow. The last element being a fun limitation that I hoped would inspire some novel approaches. In the case of Lex it did just that. He used the example of a snowball fight to explain the difference between how FTP and Torrent file transfers work. It was a pretty brilliant metaphor to start getting people to work through two radically different ideas so that they can begin assimilating a somewhat esoteric techncial concept.

This, in turn, got me thinking  we should consider building something like this into the course. The use of metaphor to explain how a particular technology works opens the door into the technical details. Once the interest is piqued you can provide links that send people out to various defintions, examples, etc. Additionally, I tend to think that crafting a precise and memorable metaphor to explain a concept is the best possible demonstration that you truly understand what you are talking about.