More Students

Continuing the list I made the other day here are some more of the individual entries students have sent me to assess. Oh, I should explain. To assess blogs students nominate ten individual entries and send them to me. They have complete control over which ten.

Morrowind Blog

Peter Bayliss is a student here in Applied Communication who is doing an honours year. I’m his honours supervisor and he’s using Espen’s proposal for an empirical methodology to do what is, basically, a close reading of the latest Morrowind. He’s just beginning to get into the writing and is maintaining a blog.

My Myth of Good Teaching (1)

One of my myths that I grew up with as I “learnt” (yes, it needs scare marks since no one in those days actually taught you anything about teaching at a university) was that a good teacher made lots of comments on student essays. Really good teachers, it followed, made even more comments, and of course they ought to be really good comments. Hence in my rigourous vigour my comments on some essays become essays in their own right, regularly up to 1500 words exploring, in response to the student’s essay, the nuances of a particular theoretical position. This is a myth.

Most of my students, most of the time, never collect their essays. Because they were ‘bad’ students? No. Because an essay is a form of (reverse of cumulative assessment?) assessment where, from the students’ point of view, the work is finished when it is handed in. No additional marks result from reading the comments or collecting the assignment, the task is closed. This is unfortunate, but hardly exceptional. The defence regularly appears to be that students need to learn how to argue in the essay form because this is the best way of demonstrating a causal chain of reasoning. It probably is, and I’ll leave aside for now the question about why causal reasoning remains the canonical (and singular) form of thought examined in most universities.

As a professional academic my milieu is similar. Most of the work I produce is likely to be in essay form, and I receive referees’ reports on my work. Very good reports help me to realise what I have not adequately expressed or explored, and may suggest alternative views, references, and so on. Notice the difference here. A referees’ report is received before final presentation. Before the work is ‘handed in’. That is why they matter, and why they help.

So in 2005 for my students most of the major assessment tasks will receive feedback before final submission. This is so that my comments will actually contribute to the quality of the work, and affect it. I will generally not provide comments on finished work, only a mark. Where students believe they want qualitative feedback they can make an appointment to see me and I’ll provide it. I expect most to simply be happy receiving their marks. The difference is not that I’ll have to do less assessment (though that may be an outcome), but that the moment of assessment will now be waiting towards the work in progress with a view to improving the finished piece. Lots of comments does not equal good teaching. It mistakes the end of teaching (which of course should never be experienced as an ‘end’) with all that you wish you could have done during the semester. Get over it. Get on with it. Feedback is not feedback if it does not return into the system.

Water Lillies

Another vog, another commentary. Water Lillies (commentary three). This is three child movies. The video panes are child movies, mousing in changes their playback speed. The text track and commentary is also a child movie. Mousing in pauses the soundtrack (and text track). The blue text are links that will load urls. Here’s the transcript:


RSS and Enclosures (2)

OK, I wasn’t being that dumb. First of all Josh Kinberg has a MT plugin, MTRelEnclosures, that goes in the plugins directory, the readme with it explains things very very well. Josh also explained for me that the Yahoo RSS proposal is stuff that you’d have to stick in the RSS feed but first of all you need something that will automatically pull out the video’s to stick in to the feed, in the same way that the feed automatically knows about a permalink and text. So, after Christmas I’m hoping there will be something that does this for us all!

RSS and enclosures

Having an attack of the dumbs. RSS enclosures for video is taking off, and I can’t for the life of me work out what I have to write where to add enclosures to the vog. I’m hoping it is something very obvious which is, of course, why I can’t see it. Or I’ve just missed the page that explains it. Anyway, Yahoo have proposed a Media RSS Module, based on RSS 2.0. This is very important, partly for the reasons outlined on the specification page.

BlogTalk DownUnder

There’s a conference in Sydney this coming May, modeled on the BlogTalk series. Below is the call for papers, I’ve also provided it as a pdf: BlogTalkDownunder.pdf

An official call for papers that address any of the conference themes, but not restricted to these, is announced.

Papers are welcomed from academics or practitioners across all levels and disciplines. Early career researchers and students are also encouraged to submit abstracts for papers.

Suggested conference themes:

  • Weblogs in education
  • Weblogs in language & literacy
  • Weblog application tools / software
  • Weblogs in organisations
  • Weblogs as a medium: genres, styles, aesthetics, discourse etc
  • Weblogs in social studies
  • Weblogs in journalism
  • Weblogs in cultural studies
  • Weblogs in political arenas
  • Weblogs & technologies – RSS, graph theory, network mapping
  • Weblogs and knowledge management
  • Emergent trends – including moblogging, audio-blogging, vlogs
  • Future issues

Abstracts of no more than 500 words are required in Word format – emailed to:
Please include:
Your name
Institution or Organisation
email contact
URL (if relevant)

Acknowledgement will be sent via email within 48 hours of receipt.

Key Dates:
Submission of abstracts
31 January, 2005

Paper acceptance
28 February, 2005

Final versions of papers
31 March, 2005

Final Papers:
Final papers are due by 31 March, 2005. A maximum of 3,000 words.
Paper presentations will be a maximum of 20 minutes, with 10 minutes for discussion.

All papers accepted will be blind refereed by 3 people and eligible for DEST.

Workshop Sessions:
Submissions to conduct a half-day (3 hour) workshop are also welcomed.
A detailed outline, including objectives and topics to be covered, will be reviewed by the organising committee.
Participant attendance will be at additional cost to conference registration. Costs of the workshop and fees will be negotiated with presenters.

Innovation and Institutions

While reading an interview with Mark Stefik, I read this gem:

A recurring theme is that most organizations evolve to optimize their routine work. Breakthroughs are not routine. They are out of the ordinary. A consequence is that organizations tend to get rigid in ways that inhibit innovation.

Now of course working in an institution I can see this all the time. But I’m more interested in this pedagogically. I think it is reasonable to say that most assessment methods used most of the time (certainly in universities and definitely in most Learning Technology Systems) have evolved to optimise routine work. Hence they stress assessment at the end of activities (I write this as 75% of my students’ work from the semester sits on my floor, it will not be collected), which is well after any assessment or feedback is going to help the student, or improve their mark. The consequence of this is that how can a student be encouraged to be creative and innovative, if their result is locked up in a final task? You’re betting the farm on that piece of work.

Hence it would seem that routine needs to be not routine, which includes assessment, to let students develop these skills. Personally I think understanding risk and innovation is more important than getting an A for an essay.

Canberra Mall vog (to stutter)

This is, more or less, the commentary attached to today’s vog. The footage is from October when I was in Canberra, but the commentary relates to recent interests. The vog is from the mall.

I was going to make the entire movie clickable for the links, but that was going to involve finessing with transparent images compressed only with the animation codec in LiveStage Pro so that they could be ‘transparent’ sprites (so mouse events could go through to the sprites below). But that’s a bugger and not very intuitive so I just added dumb text that asks “link?” when a link is available. You have to click the link text to follow the link. Which isn’t quite the intent but it leaves room for another experiment.

The commentary:

Like the Contemporary Art Centre vog, aka flickering light, this one is also two child movies in a simple parent movie. Oh, that was a link by the way, you know, when I said “Like the Contemporary Art Centre vog” you could have clicked and it would have loaded that page for you. Go on, you can still do it, I’ll tell you when you can’t, and its probably useful to realise that I could have loaded the other video into exactly the same space as this, into this very page, or take you to its webpage. Which is kinda cool, but well, weird since why should a vog with a different title, date, content, time of publication and all the rest of it appear on this page?

And this one has a soundtrack. A normal soundtrack that is a part of the movie. Not a child movie. But watch what happens. You mouse into either of the video panes and it slows down. The sound track doesn’t. This is because the video movies are being loaded from outside this movie and are playing independently of this movie. Pause this movie, this soundtrack stops. But the videopanes keep going.

Think about that for a moment. A movie with movies with independent durations. This rewrites all that we think cinema is in relation to duration, temporality, and representation.

Ok, too late, the link ain’t here anymore.

Canberra is the national capital. Well, my nation’s capital. It is probalby a lot like United States state capitals, a city that was purpose built to be the capital – though only because Melbourne and Sydney couldn’t agree on who should be the capital so they split the difference and invented a city.

It is small, wide streets, no traffic. On weekends closer to a country town than a cosmopolitan centre. And everything is prefixed with ‘National’. The national museum, national gallery, national observatory, national botanic gardens, national bicycle museum (really). You start to see that they have a chip on their shoulder.

This was shot on my 2 megapixel still camera. Anna was lying down enjoying the warmth under a large elm, after we’d been mall rats for too long. The sandwich board about god was out in the street. I couldn’t resist, particularly the ‘debaptise yourself now’. Very odd to see something like this in Australia, a resolutely pragmatic horde of mostly atheists.

By the way, if you’d have clicked during all that you would have opened a new browser window with stuff about Canberra in it.

I like this vog. I don’t know about anyone else. Which is the whole thing about vogs as blogs isn’t it? It reminds me of a trip to Canberra, what I enjoyed about my time there. It suggests minor moments in the trip that are, of course, the most important. It is personal. It is small in scale (this isn’t cinema). It is brief (this is the Web). It makes more sense not as a single work (the cinema model) but as part of a series. Just like blogs.

Vogs are serial. Personal, and should aspire to the minor. If that doesn’t make sense, um, its like how Gilles Deleuze (a dead french philosopher) discusses Kafka as a minor writer, which is sort of counter intuitive. By minor he meant that within a major genre (the novel) and a major language (German) he wrote outside of both (novels that don’t end and an unofficial dialectic) and so made the major stutter. Vogs make television and cinema stutter. (Incidentally Deleuze said the same of Godard in relation to cinema.)

And yes, that was another link.

Canberra Art Space (commentary) vog

Have just finally published another vog. There’s been a lot of chat on the videoblogging list about definitions and practices so in the mad rush before Christmas I’m putting together some examples plus commentary. The commentary below is the narration from the Canberra Art Space vog.

Is this a movie?
Is this a videoblog?
What is the difference?
Should there be a difference?

Technically this is a parent movie with two child movies. The moving image part of this movie, what we usually think of as a movie, are the child movies. The container or parent movie is just a 360 x 160 pixel black rectangle.

So this movie is three movies. All at once. Two of these movies contain video, one doesn’t. The two child movies, which play alongside each other, are completely independent of each other, one plays regardless of the other.

Oh, it’s four, since since sound track also plays as a child movie.

This means if you mouse into one of them, it slows down, repeatedly mousing in exponentially decreases the playback. But only of that particular child movie. Not the other. If you click inside it returns to original speed.

Each child movie loops.

If the viewer can vary the playback speed, and so the relations between each of the two movies, does this mean they somehow are involved in editing, or at least montage, or at least collage. I think so.

And if this is the case, then what does it mean to say “I’ve watched this vog?”. Does that mean each of the two videos until they loop again, or does this include all possible variable relations between the two videos?

That doesn’t really have an answer, and it should always remain a problem posed as a question.

These is video I photographed using a 2 megapixel still camera with its dinky little movie mode. It was a brightly sunny day in Canberra, in the forecourt of Canberra’s Contemporary Art Centre (though I think I’ve got the name wrong). The Centre is in a small arts precinct building that used to be the boarding house for government employees, the courtyard is what separated the mens from the womens rooms. I was taken by the light through the leaves, always a metaphor for the cinema itself (abstract flickerings of light and dark), from well at least Vertov’s Man With A Movie Camera but no doubt earlier.

Protest Sketch

From an email I received today:

Invitation to a Sketch-in Protest
@ National Gallery of Victoria
(NGVi & NGVa)

Friday 10 December, 2.30pm

The National Gallery of Victoria now prohibits all forms of sketching and notemaking in its pay-to-see exhibitions. And it vigorously enforces this prohibition. Artists, art students and others making any form of notation in these exhibitions are approached by NGV security personnel and told they must stop.

General consensus among artists, art students and others affected by this miserable rule is that it is “absolute bullshit”.

Artists, art students and others are planning a protest against this NGV ‘No Sketching’ madness. (“See something in Melbourne to really scream about.” NGV International advertisement, ‘The Australian’, 4 Dec. 2004)

The protest will take the form of a sketch-in.

Please join us.

We are asking that protesters arrive individually and quietly, buy a ticket (sorry about that, another issue for another day: why, for instance, was the Colin McCahon show free at the Art Gallery of NSW and pay-to-see at the NGV) to either the Munch exhibition (NGV International) or the James Gleeson exhibition (NGV Australia), and enter the exhibitions. Arrive and be inside well before 2.30pm. Enjoy the work, or not, as the case may be.  Should you happen to bring with you a small pencil and notebook, perhaps in a pocket, at 2.30pm the sketch-in begins.

At the appointed time, each of us will take out a notebook and pencil, and begin making whatever sketches or notes we feel inclined to jot down. Whether this be sketching, copying, reviewing, information gathering (copying information from NGV labels in these exhibitions is not permitted), doodling, creating original art or just adding to one’s Xmas shopping list … just behave normally. That is all we are asking to do.

Don’t block others’ access to the artworks. Don’t give the NGV authorities any justification for their present shameful behaviour.

There is not going to be a march to the barricades or similar mass arrival. When artists arrived to protest against NGV treatment of artists’ rights in 1975, they found that the NGV had closed off all its galleries of Australian Art. Maureen Gilchrist reported in ‘The Age’, (Local artists call for better deal: 22 August 1975), “Before the  meeting National Gallery staff stripped the walls of the Australian gallery of most of its paintings in case of violence. But the gathering was peaceful.”


Kenyatta’s VogBrowser made Wired.