Monday, December 19, 2005

Final Thoughts

  • What is 'social' about social software?
    • It puts people back into the driver’s seat of software
  • How is the notion of community being redefined by social software?
    • Unplanned communities and relationships are just as popular as those that are planned, thus redefining the intended audience of a cause
  • What aspects of our humanity stand to gain or suffer as a result of our use of and reliance on social software?
    • This is a double-edged sword in many ways because simply access to this raw information can lead to a more informed opinion with less filtering, but decrease in efficiency and reliability of information
  • How is social agency shared between humans and (computer) code in social software?
    • Each has a distinct way of representing an environment, with the idea that these representations can integrate
  • What are the social repercussions of unequal access to social software?
    • A generation gap of those using Web 2.0 technology to those using Web 0.0 (nothing)
  • What are the pedagogical implications of social software for education?
    • It challenges the traditional structure of hierarchies by presenting a less structured view that is controlled by the learner
  • Can social software be an effective tool for individual and social change?
    • In theory, yes, but we must realize that we are a select, biased non-representative percentage of common individuals; in reality, check back tomorrow J

Monday, December 12, 2005

IE Reflection: Podcasting

Throughout the course of the semester, I have been evaluating how TC can utilize podcasting in hopes of furthering technology in and outside of the classroom. I initially started out with a few ideas that would tackle the three main areas of focus: global, local and personal level. After identifying these areas, I set out to determine the feasibility, through social software, of implementing this initiative. Globally, an education group that I am a part of, focused on using podcasts in education, used social software (discussion groups) as a central means of information exchange, which allowed me to reach out to a diverse audience. I followed this and started a topic at my work (in the technology branch of the TC library) where I introduced the possibility of the TC library adopting podcasting as an educational tool. The idea was supported greatly, and we will be looking into realistic implementations of this starting in January.

What I have learned about this project is that there are always people who are thinking similar to you. Initially, I didn’t even know if there was a big push for podcasting into education. Then I found a group using social software to address the cause, which pleased me and made me want to contribute the knowledge that I had. I have also learned, as Ulises stated, that the issue entrepreneurship project should not only last until this class ends. Rather, it should be something that you are genuinely interested in and have a realistic possibility to accomplish during your time at TC. This is why I chose podcasting, because I feel that I can utilize my work to push this project into fruition, as it aligns with our goals and the TC library in general. Indeed, this is the case. Next semester, we plan to look into ways of best practice to make this project come to life. It will take some effort, to say the least, but that’s what we’re in school for, right?

Social software has been integral in pursuing this cause because of the nature of the project. Since podcasting is a relatively new concept, especially in academia, I believe the greatest chance of success lies in aligning it with new technological ideas in education (i.e. social software). It is working so far, but we will see if this project can go all the way (which I am confident that it can, because of its inherent usefulness). But, will social software have to step aside in reaching the ultimate goal of widespread adoption at TC, or will it be the key to the door? Only time will tell.


Sunday, November 27, 2005

Device Paradigm

While reading a portion of Feenberg's Questioning Technology, the concept of the "device paradigm" came up in the Technology and Meaning chapter. Borgmann identifies the “device paradigm” as the formative principle of a technological society which aims above all at efficiency. An example of a device paradigm used is how eating fast food accomplishes the goal of providing nourishment, just as eating a traditional family dinner does, but it loses the "focal things" that gather people in meaningful social activities that have their own value.

One recent technology that I have noticed that seems to have taken this device paradigm into account is the Xbox 360. The article mentions that the Xbox 360 is more than just a video game console. Rather, it is a complete media center and anchor into online social communities. The main cost of device paradigms is that it distances us from reality, as explained by Feenberg. The Xbox 360 console allows a different type of reality that blends the virtual atmosphere of video games into a network of reality through the gaming community. This community can somewhat be seen as a sort of family that communes each day (or gaming session, if you may).

The main advancements in video games have come as a direct result to counteract this device paradigm, through more "human" interactions that bring a sense of reality into scope. Borgmann is correct in his conceptualization of the pit that we as a society are prone to fall in. However, with the advent of useful and innovative technologies, along with the multibillion dollar corporations that are willing to back them, we can quickly climb out of this pit and begin a new type of focus towards integrating technology with meaning.

Feenberg, Andrew. Questioning Technology.
Florence, KY, USA: Routledge, 1999. p 206.

- Nabeel

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Democracy and Technology

With the advent of social software, it seems that a lot of the democratic boundaries are being touched upon. After reading a USA Today article describing the increase of Internet usage in Iraq, I noticed some similarities between the article and Feenberg's Questioning Technology.

Specifically, Feenberg talks about the thin democracy, as he calls it. "Thin democracy is mainly concerned with protecting individual rights and as a result it tends to demobilize and privatize the community." There seems to be a parallel of this phenomenon with Internet usage in Iraq. Now, let me stop and say that I do not want this post to stir up any political debates, etc. I am merely relating this article to a section in Feenberg's book. What we have seen is that this thin democracy has left Iraq in a stranded nature, seemingly broken away from society. Now, with the advent of the Internet to more Iraqi citizens, this private community is given more opportunity to mobilize and become more public with their research and lives.

The next paragraph states, "All too often, public interventions into technology are dismissed as nonpolitical or, worse yet, undemocratic because they mobilize only small minorities." This statement is somewhat contrasting to the article because the intervention by the Iraqi regime into not allowing Internet access for its citizens was entirely and explicitly stated as being political. However, the move agrees with the later part of the statement in that it mobilizes only the small minority of the regime (as compared to the majority being the citizens). This mobility now allows greater access across geographic and political boundaries and is the center of controversy and action in efforts to control this medium of communication.

As we can see from the USA Today article and Feenberg's book, technology plays a critical role in the democracy of societies. Democratizing technology may serve to further break down barriers and may provide a future avenue to analyze effectiveness of political processes.


Feenberg, Andrew. Questioning Technology.
Florence, KY, USA: Routledge, 1999. p 153.

Podcasting Update

Since my last IE update post on implementing podcasts into the TC community, I have been in contact with an international group of teachers/educators (~200 members via a Yahoo Group) who are also looking to enhance awareness and visibility of podcasts into their schools. Specifically, I spoke to individuals who are attempting this in higher education, more specifically graduate schools.

It seems that there has been good support from administrations to further this initiative (e.g. through grant money). Further, some schools have noted an 80-90% adoption rate for professors in podcasting their lectures. The best approach still seems to start out with a select group of users genuinely interested in this initiative to serve as a testbed for the entire college.

Locally, I have taken the avenue of using my workplace in the technology wing of the TC library to facilitate discussion and implementation (through our work blog) of podcasts at TC. A group of us will be meeting in the coming weeks (after Thanksgiving) to move forth with appropriate outlets for implementation.


Sunday, November 06, 2005

Integrating Physical Place With Computers

I just finished reading a NYT article titled, The Computer Will See You Now (Feel Better?), which discusses the changes that computers are making into the examination rooms at doctors’ offices. The article talks about the changing use of physical use of objects as medical technology has increased throughout the years.

While reading Dourish’s Where the Action Is book, he mentioned the use of physical place (the way that social understandings convey an appropriate behavioral framing for an environment) in social computing environments (ch 3, pp 90-91). In one of his three design implications, Dourish talks about the changing attention of the structure of the place and toward the activities that take place there. In the article, it is noted that there is unease among patients because of involvement of the computer. For instance, while the patient is talking to the clinician, who is typing on the computer, the patients often feel that the computer is a limiting factor of their communication. What we see is that there may have been an unknown factor involved before implementing these terminals in the examination rooms. The computers were implemented for efficiency and designed for the space, not for the resulting interactions, which is an important difference because many breakdowns in social computing result in an ineffective scope of use.

Another design implication mentioned by Dourish is that place reflects the emergence of practice. Continuing with the article, we see that, when implemented correctly, the computer can serve as an effective bridge to better communication. The doctor was able to appropriate the computer by showing his patient their blood pressure history chart. This goes to show that the difference between space and place is significant and that place can not be designed, but designed for, and that proper usage in space and place can create a better social computing environment.

I believe that it is critical for us to understand how the changing ways in which people conduct themselves in different environments. Once this is understood (and it may have been for the most part), we will begin to see a new wave of innovations among social computing networks.


IE Update: Podcasting

Since my last post, I have been looking into the different applicable uses of mobile computing in education, both in and outside the classroom. As a reminder, my question is: How can we leverage mobile computing for better practices in the learning environment?

Throughout the last week or so, I have been scouring the Internet to see what kinds of ways larger groups have been using mobile computing in education. One of the most interesting sites that I found was the iPod education site at Apple. The interesting part is how Apple is able to market the iPod as an educational tool. We often hear that a computer is only as smart as the person using it. This can also be applied to the iPod. There is a considerably untapped market that Apple is now leveraging their iPods to: colleges and universities (higher education). Recent initiatives with Duke University and other schools have allowed Apple to penetrate this market.

But, what about dealing with issues like increasing access to information via mobile computing. We all know that an iPod is not the cheapest piece of equipment, so what is the best way of entering into education with mobile computing. I believe the answer is podcasting, which looks to increase access to materials through audio feeds of content. In light of this, I have recently joined a large community of approximately 200 individuals across the world to discuss the effects of using podcasting in education and how we can collectively promote the use of podcasts (global level) in education. Recent discussions have ranged from the end user’s cost of podcasting (fear of leaving those who do not have the technology to listen to podcasts behind) to the effect this supplemental tool has on class attendance.

In the coming weeks, I will be evaluating how equipped Teachers College (local level) is in handling podcasts and what plans of action there are in increasing their frequency with courses. I will be leveraging on a pre-existing blog at my educational technology job at TC to foster growth in using podcasts at the college.

On a personal level, I will be “attending” a pre-existing course (not at TC or CU) exclusively through podcasts and note the results and its effect on my outlook.

As always, your thoughts are most certainly encouraged.



Monday, October 24, 2005

IE Update: Mobile Computing in Education

Below is an update of my Issue Entrepreneurship project. First, I would like to thank those who commented on my initial proposal. I have now fine tuned it a little more and will present you with my updated plan of action.

The specific issue I have decided to deal with is mobile computing in education. The question is:

How can we leverage mobile computing for better practices in the learning environment?

I will be exploring a variety of ways in which mobile computing has and can penetrate education for a more viable solution to technology and learning. With the increasing popularity of mobile computing, I have decided to join a community of people with the same vested interest of promoting this in the educational realm. This community focuses on promoting better practices of mobile computing. It uses what we already know about mobile computing and attempts to increase awareness by bridging the gap between traditional uses of mobile devices to a learning environment. We will be advocating this issue to promote better uses in and outside of the classroom. Some of the technologies we will be using to promote and contribute to this cause include:

  • Blogs to increase interaction and collaboration among the community (promote and contribute)
  • Wikis to increase awareness of mobile computing in education (promote)
  • Podcasts that teachers can use for class lectures (contribute)

Some of the areas that I have and will be tackling are using mobile computing:

  • Inside the classroom
  • Outside the classroom
  • As a supplement to instructional activities
  • Transparently with social uses of mobile computing (e.g. text messaging, web browsing)

I will be posting a follow-up with updates of my efforts at the end of the week, so keep a look out for that. Thanks.


Monday, October 10, 2005

Integrating Individualism with Business

I recently read an article posted by Ulises titled The Economies of Peer Production. It talks about how there is a third way of conducting economic activity, called peer production, which essentially allows individuals to create products themselves. What we are beginning to see is less of a centralized role on the business, now that traditional business operations are becoming available on the individual and local level.

I believe that one of the most fundamental ways to increase the popularity and integration of social networks is to strategize an effective way to utilize both the personal and corporate environments with the same application. Let’s think about it. Many of us are working 40+ hours a week and the corporate environment consumes a healthy portion of our lives. Email has become widely used and accepted because it has been transformed from just a corporate way of increasing employee efficiency to a means by which individuals can connect to each other on a social and personal level. In chapter 5 of Community in the Digital Age, the class struggle by e-mail talked of the lessons that corporate giants like IBM and 3COM learned when trying to utilize e-mail in the 1980s solely for suggestion purposes. We have also recently seen the use of instant messaging being allowed in the corporate office as a result of the increased use of it on the personal level. So, as we can see, the individual and corporate levels influence each other to some degree.

Continuing in the Community in the Digital Age book, the role of humans in digital organizations is described as, “We can no longer assume a world of fixed species with fixed traits, such as symbol processing, but must acknowledge that machines and humans are in the midst of a profound process of distinct but interrelated transformation. Maybe this is a prelude of the individualism described in the article. What it further implies is that in order for corporations to stay afloat with the rapid changes they must be willing and able to transcend their traditional boundaries. A classic example of this is the Nike iD, which lets consumers customize their own Nike shoe. This has been an extremely successful program for the past 5 years and continues to allow personalization in the form of mass customization.

The main idea of this effort has to do with empowerment, where consumers feel that they have contributed to the overall solution, which could not have been possible without the community support. I believe that we all want some level of customization in our lives and would feel good if we had a one of a kind solution that met all of our needs. Now, these types of solutions are beginning to prosper and become a reality. It will be interesting to see what creative ways corporate giants devise to counteract or participate in this increasingly popular activity.

Nabeel Ahmad