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Audrey Watters: The Future of Ed-Tech is a Reclamation Project #DLFAB

Audrey Watters Media Predicts 2011
Audrey Watters Media Predicts 2011 (Photo credit: @Photo.)

We can reclaim the Web and more broadly ed-tech for teaching and learning. But we must reclaim control of the data, content, and knowledge we create. We are not resources to be mined. Learners do not enter our schools and in our libraries to become products for the textbook industry and the testing industry and the technology industry and the ed-tech industry to profit from. 

via The Future of Ed-Tech is a Reclamation Project #DLFAB.(by Audrey Watters)

Really philosophical article about what it is Higher Ed is trying to do here. It’s not just about student portfolios, it’s Everything. It is the books you check out the seminars you attend, the videos you watched the notes you took all the artifacts of learning. And currently they are all squirreled away and stashed inside data silos like Learning Management Systems.

The original World Wide Web was like the Wild, Wild West, an open frontier without visible limit. Cloud services and commercial offerings has fenced in the frontier in a series of waves of fashion. Whether it was AOL, Tripod.com, Geocities, Friendster, MySpace, Facebook the web grew in the form of gated communities and cul-de-sacs for “members only”. True the democracy of it all was membership was open and free, practically anyone could join, all you had to do was hand over the control, the keys to YOUR data. That was the bargain, by giving up your privacy, you gained all the rewards of socializing with long lost friends and acquaintances. From that little spark the surveillance and “data mining” operation hit full speed.

Reclaiming ownership of all this data, especially the component that is generated in one’s lifetime of learning is a worthy cause. Audrey Watters references Jon Udell in an example of the kind of data we would want to own and limit access to our whole lives. From the article:

Udell then imagines what it might mean to collect all of one’s important data from grade school, high school, college and work — to have the ability to turn this into a portfolio — for posterity, for personal reflection, and for professional display on the Web.

Indeed, and at the same time though this data may live on the Internet somewhere access is restricted to those whom we give explicit permission to access it. That’s in part a project unto itself, this mesh of data could be text, or other data objects that might need to be translated, converted to future readable formats so it doesn’t grow old and obsolete in an abandoned file format. All of this stuff could be give a very fine level of access control to individuals you have approved to read parts or pieces or maybe even give wholesale access to. You would make that decision and maybe just share the absolute minimum necessary. So instead of seeing a portfolio of your whole educational career, you just give out the relevant links and just those links. That’s what Jon Udell is pursuing now through the Thali Project. Thali is a much more generalized way to share data from many devices but presented in a holistic, rationalized manner to whomever you define as a trusted peer. It’s not just about educational portfolios, it’s about sharing your data. But first and foremost you have to own the data or attempt to reclaim it from the wilds and wilderness of the social media enterprise, the educational enterprise, all these folks who want to own your data while giving you free services in return.

Audrey uses the metaphor, “Data is the new oil” and that at the heart is the problem. Given the free oil, those who invested in holding onto and storing the oil are loathe to give it up. And like credit reporting agencies with their duplicate and sometime incorrect datasets, those folks will give access to that unknown quantity to the highest bidder for whatever reason. Whether its campaign staffers, private detectives, vengeful spouses, doesn’t matter as they own the data and set the rules as to how it is shared. However in the future when we’ve all reclaimed ownership of our piece of the oil field, THEN we’ll have something. And when it comes to the digital equivalent of the old manila folder, we too will truly own our education.

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mobile surveillance wired culture

Doc Searls Weblog · Won and done

Doc Searls
Doc Searls (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This tells me my job with foursquare is to be “driven” like a calf into a local business. Of course, this has been the assumption from the start. But I had hoped that somewhere along the way foursquare could also evolve into a true QS app, yielding lat-lon and other helpful information for those (like me) who care about that kind of thing. (And, to be fair, maybe that kind of thing actually is available, through the foursquare API. I saw a Singly app once that suggested as much.) Hey, I would pay for an app that kept track of where I’ve been and what I’ve done, and made  that data available to me in ways I can use.

via Doc Searls Weblog · Won and done.

foursquare as a kind of Lifebits I think is what Doc Searls is describing. A form of self-tracking a la Stephen Wolfram or Gordon Moore. Instead foursquare is the carrot being dangled to lure you into giving your business to a particular retailer. After that you accumulate points for numbers of visits and possibly unlock rewards for your loyalty. But foursquare no doubt accumulates a lot of other data along the way that could be use for the very purpose Doc Searls was hoping for.

Gordon Moore’s work at Microsoft Research bootstrapping the My Lifebits project is a form of memory enhancement, but also logging of personal data that can be analyzed later. The collection or ‘instrumentation’ of one’s environment is what Stephen Wolfram has accomplished by counting things over time. Not to say it’s simpler than the My Lifebits, but it is in someways lighter weight data (instead of videos and pictures, mouse clicks and tallies of email activity, times of day, etc.) There is no doubt that foursquare could make a for profit service to paying users where they could collect this location data and serve it up to subscribers, letting them analyze the data after the fact.

I firmly believe a form of My Lifebits could be aggregated across a wide range of free and paid services along with personal instrumentation and data collecting like the kind Stephen Wolfram does. If there’s one thing I’ve learned readings stories about inventions like these from MIT’s Media Lab is that it’s never an either or proposition. You don’t have to just adopt Gordon Moore’s technology or Stephen Wolfram’s techniques or even foursquare’s own data. You can do all or just pick and choose the ones that suit your personal data collection needs. Then you get to slice, dice and analyze to your heart’s content. What you do with it after that is completely up to you and should be considered as personal as any legal documents or health records you already have.

Which takes me back to an article I wrote some time ago in reference to Jon Udell calling for a federated LifeBits type of service. It wouldn’t be constrained to one kind of data, but all the LifeBits aggregated potentially and new repositories for stuff that must be locked down and private. So add Doc Searls to the list of bloggers and long time technology writers who see an opportunity. Advocacy (in the case of Doc’s experience with foursquare) on behalf of sharing unfiltered data with the users on whom data is collected is one step in that direction. I feel Jon Udell is also an advocate for users gaining access to all that collected and aggregated data. But as Jon Udell asks, who is going to be the first to attempt to offer this up as a pay-for service in the cloud where you can for a fee access your lifebits aggregated into one spot (foursquare,twitter,facebook,gmail,flickr,photostream,mint,eRecords,etc.) so that you don’t spend your life logging on and logging off from service to service to service. Aggregation could be a beautiful thing.

Image representing Foursquare as depicted in C...
Image via CrunchBase
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blogtools media technology wired culture

Owning Your Words: Personal Clouds Build Professional Reputations | Cloudline | Wired.com

My first blogging platform was Dave Winer’s Radio UserLand. One of Dave’s mantras was: “Own your words.” As the blogosophere became a conversational medium, I saw what that could mean. Radio UserLand did not, at first, support comments. That turned out to be a constraint well worth embracing. When conversation emerged, as it inevitably will in any system of communication, it was a cross-blog affair. I’d quote something from your blog on mine, and discuss it. You’d notice, and perhaps write something on your blog referring back to mine.

via Owning Your Words: Personal Clouds Build Professional Reputations | Cloudline | Wired.com.

I would love to be able to comment on an article or a blog entry by passing a link to a blog entry within my own WordPress instance on WordPress.com. However rendering that ‘feed’ back into the comments section on the originating article/blog page doesn’t seem to be common. At best I think I could drop a permalink into the comments section so people might be tempted to follow the link to my blog. But it’s kind of unfair to an unsuspecting reader to force them to jump and in a sense re-direct to another website just to follow a commentary. So I fully agree there needs to be a pub/sub style way of passing my blog entry by reference back into the comments section of the originating article/blog. Better yet that gives me some ability to amend and edit my poor choice of words the first time I publish a response. Too often silly mistakes get preserved in the ‘amber’ of the comments fields in the back-end MySQL databases of those content management systems housing many online web magazines. So there’s plenty of room for improvement and RSS could easily embrace and extend this style of commenting I think if someone were driven to develop it.

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blogroll diy technology wired culture

Picture This: Hosted Lifebits in the Personal Cloud | Cloudline | Wired.com

Jon Udell
Jon Udell (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s not just photos. I want the same for my whole expanding set of digital objects, including medical and financial records, commercial transactions, personal correspondence, home energy use data, you name it. I want all of my lifebits to be hosted in the cloud under my control. Is that feasible? Technically there are huge challenges, but they’re good ones, the kind that will spawn new businesses.

via (Jon UdellPicture This: Hosted Lifebits in the Personal Cloud | Cloudline | Wired.com.

From Gordon Moore‘s MyLifeBits to most recently Stephen Wolfram‘s personal collection of data and now to Jon Udell. Witness the ever expanding universe of personal data. Thinking about Gordon Moore now, I think the emphasis from Microsoft Research was always on video and pictures and ‘recollecting’ what’s happened in any given day. Stephen Wolfram’s emphasis was not so much on collecting the data but analyzing it after the fact and watching patterns emerge. Now with Jon Udell we get a nice kind of advancing of the art by looking at possible end-game scenarios. So you have collected a mass of LifeBits, now what?

Who’s going to manage this thing? Is anyone going to offer a service that will help manage it? All great questions because the disparate form social networking lifebits take versus other like health and ‘performance’ lifebits (like Stephen Wolfram collects and maintains for himself) are pointing up a big gap that exists in the cloud services sector. Ripe pickings for anyone in the entrepreneurial vein to step in and bootstrap a service like the one Jon Udell proposes. If someone was really smart they could get it up and running cheaply on Amazon Web Services (AWS) until it got to be too cost and performance prohibitive to keep it hosted there. That would both allow an initial foray to test the waters, see the size and tastes of the market and adapt the hosted lifebits service to anyone willing to pay up. That might just be a recipe for success.

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media technology wired culture

Accidental Time Capsule: Moments from Computing in 1994 (from RWW)

Byte Magazine is one of the reasons Im here today, doing what I do. Every month, Byte set its sights on the bigger picture, a significant trend that might be far ahead or way far ahead. And in July 1994, Jon Udell to this very day, among the most insightful people ever to sign his name to an article was setting his sights on the inevitable convergence between the computer and the telephone.

via Accidental Time Capsule: Moments from Computing in 1994, by 

Jon Udell
Jon Udell (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I also liked Tom Halfhill, Jerry Pournelle, Steve Gilmore, and many other writers at Byte Inc. over the years too. I couldn’t agree more with Scott Fulton, as I still am a big fan of Jon Udell and any projects he worked on and documented. I can credit Jon Udell for getting me to be curious about weblogging, Radio Userland, WordPress, Flickr and del.icio.us (social bookmarking website). And watching his progress on a ‘Calendar of Public Calendars’, The elmcity project. Jon’s attempting to catalog and build an aggregated list of calendars that have RSS style feeds that anyone can subscribe to. No need for automated emails filling a filtered email box. No, you just fire up a browser and read what’s posted. You find out what’s going on and just add the event to your calendar.

As Jon has discovered the calendar exists, the events are there, they just aren’t evenly distributed yet (ie much like the future). So in his analysis of ‘what works’ Jon’s found some sterling examples of calendar keeping and maintenance some of which has popped up in interesting places, like Public School systems. However the biggest downfall of all events calendars is the all too common practice of taking Word Documents and exporting them as PDF files which get posted to a website. THAT is the calendar for far too many organizations and it fails utterly as a means of ‘discovering’ what’s going on.

Suffice it to say elmcity has been a long term goal of organizing and curatorial work that Jon is attempting to get an informal network of like-minded people involved in. And as different cities form up calendar ‘hubs’ Jon is collecting them into larger networks so that you can just search one spot and find out ‘what’s happening’ and then adding those events to your own calendar in a very seamless and lightweight manner. I highly recommend following Jon’s weblog as he’s got the same ability to explain and analyze these technologies that he excelled at while at Byte Inc. And continues to follow his bliss and curiosity about computers, networks and more generally technology.