What the Magnificent Ambersons can teach us about the Internet

Last night I stumbled upon Orson Welles’s The Magnificent Ambersons (1942) on TCM and I have to admit I’d never seen it before. In fact, I didn’t see the whole film I just caught a piece of it, but it was enough to blow me away, and even stop watching so that I could watch it through from beginning to end. I’ve heard a lot about this film over the years, and it really doesn’t need anymore promotion, but the scene I happened to catch seemed to speak to our very moment so directly I can’t help but reproduce it below.

In the following scene an early car manufacturer, Eugene Morgan (Jospeh Cotten), talks about how automobiles will not only change the the physical and social landscape, but also subtly alter “mens’ minds.” What’s great about his short monologue is that it acknowledges the fact that the invention of the automobile, while not necessarily a positive force, it’s an undeniable one. I can’t help but feel that the conversation at the dinner table at the turn of the 20th century about the automobile is in many ways ours now. The discussions about how the internet will subtly rewire our minds, transform institutions, and dramatically shift our notions of space and time.

Like Morgan notes, we can see the great shifts in our culture as a result of the automobile internet plain as day, but the larger question as to whether or not these transformations will remain a generative force is what fascinates me. I’d be the first to admit that some overarching idea of the internet as a necessarily positive or negative force is a gross oversimplification of the complex cultural accretions that make it both possible and powerful as a platform for connection. But given how this space is often connected with the rhetoric of liberation and possibility, the real complexity emerges when we start to realize how much of our infrastructure for personal expression is made possible by the emerging Fords and GMs of our time. The idea of a freedom of expression built on the infrastructure that is in no way a public work, but almost from the get go a private toll road. Infrastructure seems to be a lot more than content to me, it seems to be the more basic idea of networked access.

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Chapter 1

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
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Slavoj Zizek on the Horror of Tulips

In the following clip from The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema, Slavoj Zizek riffs on tulips a la the opening to David Lynch’s Blue Velvet.

Found via Mikhail Gershovich’s YouTube channel for his Fear, Anxiety, and Paranoia film class. How cool to have a YouTube channel for your film class—and the clips he has aggregated there are brilliant, what an awesome class.

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Back to the basics

I really was at least thinking about taking a hiatus from blogging last week, even though it was couched as a joke, but it’s clear that’s impossible for me right now—I like having this space of my own to mouth off way too much. At the same time it is also clear to me that I can’t see the forest for the trees these days. I really am in a pretty serious mental funk, and while most self-respecting people in this situation do the right thing and avoid the online space while in such a mindset, I embrace it all the more—which may not be the best of strategies.

So, I’ll be working on finding my way back to things that are actually useful and fun to write, kudos to Cogdog for setting me straight in his comment thread, and even though I am constantly tongue-in-cheeking him, I have to say his comment here hits a little too close to home for me and it is time to figure out why—I guess that’s what friends are for.

In some ways it would be the easy way out to to say I am not blogging anymore, but I can’t because I know that would be a lie. But, with that said, I will be trying to bring the bava back to the ground for a while and write about that little patch in Mississippi where I started from.

Image credit: “Randall Home Street View” by Cogdogblog

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Bava Manbaby

Mr. Charlie Rocket has been nothing but pure gold in the Digital Storytelling course I have been running this semester. His digital story consisted in a teaching himself Photoshop tricks and hacks, and relfecting and sharign the process, and the results have been stellar, you can see a few here for yourself.

And, as an added bonus, his latest installment was that of making me and Miles the cutest Manbaby pair ever, and I couldn’t be a prouder papa.

Fine, fine work, Charles, you are my hero!

Posted in digital storytelling, fun, Uncategorized | Tagged | 4 Comments

Texas innovating with iPad: Introducing the iPaddle

While everyone has been waiting for the future to arrive thanks to the latest and greatest technology, Apple’s iPad, one school district in Temple, Texas, has decided to take the bull by the horns and create a cutting edge application of both old and new technologies. Given Temple’s unanimous school board decision to resurrect the tradition of paddling their students last May, they decided that the best way to garner support and make the move more palatable for the rest of the country (particularly the social media crowd) was to conflate this draconian practice with the hype surrounding the iPad. And as a result, the latest tool in educational technology and classroom management was born: the iPaddle.

And while most school districts across the country banned paddling of students long ago. Texas sat that trend out. Nearly a quarter of the estimated 225,000 students who received corporal punishment nationwide in 2006, the latest figures available, were from the Lone Star State. In an attempt to revitalize the image of paddling in Texas, which is currently under federal scrutiny, the school board in Temple, Texas decided to illustrate that paddling is in may ways the future of education, and what better way to make that point than to give every teacher an iPad which can easily second as an iPaddle with a few basic customizations provided by the custodial staff.

“It just made sense,” one teacher notes, “when you realize that the federal government has outlawed physical punishment in prisons, I think the time schools start distinguishing themselves from these increasingly fangless institutions is nigh. We have an opportunity to redefine the future of education, and let’s face it, you can’t do that if you don’t partner with Apple in some way.”

Several companies have already started creating apps for the iPaddle, including the fun-loving Whoopy Cushion app, the “thank you sir, may I have another” app, and, best of all, an app that will play the tune of the school’s song while the miscreant is being paddled.

Residents of Temple, Texas said restoring paddling is less about the punishment and more about the threat, which is also true of the iPad—which is less about education and more about the hype—which makes the marriage of these two technologies in our schools both complementary and curriculum appropriate.

Source article available from the Washington Post here (beware the registration wall!).

Image credit: The ever great Martha Burtis.

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If I should stay, I would only be in your way….

Via Joey Baires.

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Prof Hacker Hacked

I break my prolonged radio silence and come out of retirement to update you all on a pressing matter.

You see, it looks like our friends over at Prof Hacker have been hacked. And in case the site disappears shortly at the hands of their evil occupiers, let me reproduce the proof below from this post.

As I write this post, the ProfHacker numbers look a little something like this: since we launched on July 26 our authors have written 510 posts, our commenters have left 3,985 comments, and our readers have loaded 308,901 page views. We’re all so very grateful for the interest and enthusiasm with which this project has been greeted, and we’re surprised (in a good way!) with how quickly it’s taken off.

And now for some big news.

You won’t be seeing any new posts for a few days. We’re taking a short break in order to pack up and move our project to its new location. Starting Monday, April 19, ProfHacker will be hosted by the Chronicle of Higher Education.

What does this mean for you, the reader? Well, the subject matter, style, and tone of the site will remain the same: our contract allows us to maintain editorial control. Furthermore, the crackerjack team of ProfHacker authors will remain the same.

The web address will change to something new, but fear not: the old address will continue to work by sending you to the new site. As of Monday if you type into your web browser, you’ll automatically be re-directed to our new location. If you click on an old link to one of our posts–like –you’ll automatically be redirected to that post’s new location at the Chronicle web site. So if, for example, you’re a blogger who has written something that links to one of our posts, your link will still work. If you subscribe to our RSS feed, you’ll need to change the address of the feed to which you subscribe, so check back next week for what that new address will be.

I know you’re used to getting your 3-post-a-day fix from us, but just be patient for a bit and please come join us on Monday at the Chronicle!

Now, we all know that this is a hacker, I mean who would parade their staggering numbers over the past 10 months, and quote post and comment numbers stats only to drop a bomb like “We’re moving to The Chronicle of Higher Education“? This couldn’t be a devout group of digital humanities professors looking to spread the good word and grease the wheels of innovation in higher ed, right? No way, these folks are committed, they understand the power of audience and readership, and the fact that people depend on a sense of intimacy and unmediated relationships to form larger communities within this emerging field. I mean, no digital humanities profs worth their salt would enter into a contract with a reactionary publication that would force them to reiterate that they are being allowed “to maintain editorial control.” No way, impossible. I mean you have a good thing going, and even if your blog is more akin to a Chicken Soup for the Soul of HigherEd than say a strident voice of freedom and self-defining will which characterizes the inimitable bava, there’s no way you would sharecrop (thank you, D’Arcy) on the servers of the Chronicle under a contract that turns your readership into pageviews because of a quick start, and renounce any sense of true ownership in order to shill for the Chronicle. Inconceivable!

So, I want to send my best wishes over to the fine folks at Prof Hacker, and hope that they soon straighten out their hacker problem. It’s never fun or easy to be hacked, it’s so violating—it really makes you wonder what this whole space is about sometimes. I mean, I wouldn’t be surprised if after this experience they got a bit gun shy about the whole idea of starting a blog and providing semi-useful information to folks on a regular basis—it can be dangerous work with all kinds of seductions and shortcuts.

My thoughts are with the Prof Hacker crew in this, their darkest hour.

In other news their is a great movie coming out this Monday titled “Shill or be Shilled” —looking forward to that one.

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I’m done!

Image of the bava as closedIt seems like the internet refuses to realize that I made it. I have been a source of sweetness and light for the edtech blogosphere for almost four and a half years now, selflessly giving everything I have to anyone who wants some. But it seems that is not enough, now it turns out people actually want my analogies to be intelligent and subtle, and that is where I draw the line. NO MAS! Looks like you won’t have Jim Groom, a.k.a. the bava, a.k.a. the Reverend, to kick around the internets anymore.

I’m officially resigning my position as the leader of the edtech blogosphere, and will sit by and watch it devolve into chaos as a result, and then you will all realize just how much I made each and every one of you.

So long chumps, and I hope the page load hits you in the ass on the way out.

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The iPad: It’s all about the designer label

While smoking a cigarette on my back patio early this morning I got to thinking about the iPad (which I do not and will not own) and the cultural cache of designer clothing labels throughout my formative years in high school during the 80s. And keep in mind I grew up in possibly the most materialistic bastion within the most materialistic country on earth: Long Island.

Everyone flaunted their Guess jeans, Timberlands, Capezios, Champion sweatshirts, Ralph Lauren Polo shirts, etc. as they walked down the hallway, all of which immediately signaled an idea of attractiveness—if only through a sense of style under girded by both its cost and wide acceptance. It was conspicuous consumption on shameless parade any given day in my high school, and what I found as a teen is that punk provided me a way out of that insidious logic of self realization that was so directly linked to consumption. Punk music, and just about any art in my experience, provided a means to both question and challenge the dominant logic that thousands of people in my high school ate up like good little mannequins.

And, sadly enough, when I think about the iPad, I can’t help by draw the connection to my experience with designer labels in high school. I think, in some ways, edtech is regressing to the level of a high school hallway/catwalk taken right out of Long Island during the 1980s. Every one is prancing their little iPad around like their brand new Ton Ton sweatshirt, and rather than just trying to be noticed, they are tacking on to that claims that the newest sensation in designer computing will actually change everything forever. Hey, I just read a post tonight that links the iPad with the end of public education—what a depressing thought.

It’s funny how unthinkingly designer labels were accepted as the predominant logic for fashion in the 80s, kinda similar to how unthinkingly designer tech has become the predominant logic for the future of education. The way I see it, wishing the iPad on educational technology is like asking for a slicker BlackBoard. It is the same kind of pay-to-play lockin logic of the LMS, and while it has the open web and I can hear the detractors already, I just wonder how many of your super special apps will work on other platforms? Do all students need to wear the same designer labels? Will we come to see a stratification based on tools rather than standards and open platforms? Probably, but their are always alternatives, that’s what Heavy Metal, Punk, and New Wave provided in the 80s as a way out, and I would like to think we are building those alternative spaces to escape the clamor around designer technology so that we can get on with the open web, and leave designer labels to the tools.

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