Scholarships

I received this via email recently:

The American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) is pleased to announce its new Digital Innovation Fellowship program, in support of digitally based research projects in the humanities and humanistic social sciences. These fellowships, created with the generous help of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, are intended to support an academic year dedicated to work on a major scholarly project of a digital character that advances humanistic studies and best exemplifies the integration of such research with use of computing, networking, and other information technology-based tools. The online application for the fellowship program is located at http://ofa.acls.org; applications must be completed by November 10, 2005 (decisions to be announced in late March 2006).

Don’t you think that’s amazing? They’re providing enough money for up to 10 academics to spend a year on a major digital scholarly project. The ambition, and the recognition that this ought to produce major work, is admirable.

iVog Take 3

I’ve mentioned a research development grant I’ve received from the Apple University Development Fund to develop a plug in for iMovie. At the moment I’m struggling to find a computer science student at RMIT interested in doing this (in spite of the fact that you get a fully specced 15″ powerbook for a year) so if you have the abilities to build a plug in for iMovie, able to achieve what the project describes, drop us a line (adrian dot miles at rmit dot edu dot au) and perhaps a CV. If you’re off campus, even off shore, there will be a very specific contract you’ll be entering into (we’re not sending a brand new powerbook – which does have to be returned at the end of a year (around June 2006) without some binding agreements!) but I’m seriously interested in hearing from you.

Quotidian Media

This semester I am working with students to explore video and audio blogging, networked interactive video, and what I’m increasingly thinking of as quotidian media. Quotidian media is media from, in, and about the everyday. It is the media of blogs, mobile phones, podcasting and video blogs. Its qualities are immediacy and the aesthetics of the everyday. This means grunge from low bit rates, domestic hardware (single chip cameras, video shot on digital still cameras or even mobile phones), poor lighting, little editing, and so on. Just as blogs are not that anxious about the odd typo, muffed gramma, and so on, so too with quotidian media. It is not about excellence where ‘excellence’ is only ever equated with ‘professional standards’.

Quotidian media is from the everyday, about the everyday, embedded amongst the everyday. It is the media of the ordinary. Mass media is all about news as exception (which is yet another reason why they so often struggle to understand networked media such as blogs), blogs are celebrations of the ordinary. Popular network literacy – what you get when lots of non specialists can publish rich media on our networks – produces quotidian media.

Dijjer

Dijjer is a bit of client software that you can install that is a peer to peer system to help with the distribution of popular and/or large files. Had hoped to install it in our labs at RMIT but it uses a port that the firewall has blocked, so that’s that. I had hoped it would get through, and that I could let students learn a bit about things like bittorrent and the new generation of peer to peer tools being developed.

Blogging Is…?

One of my current second year students makes two interesting points about blogging. She has nominated these for me to specifically read as a part of her assessment of her blog. The first, is about blogs augmenting knowledge, while the second uses a useful analogy to think about blog etiquette and style.

Recent Moments

Quick update. New PowerBook arrived. 1Gig RAM, 100Gb hard drive, extra VRAM, superdrive. Thought it would have the fancy lit k

How Often Should I Write In My Blog?

This is a common question from my students (all of whom are required to have blogs). A minimum number of posts for me would be 3 per week. That is posts in general, and not posts just about course content. By minimum I mean that would get you into the ballpark to actually pass the subject. Less than this, and you just haven’t been blogging consistently enough. Now, more blog posts does not equal a higher mark, so that 12 per week does not equal a high distinction. This is to confuse quality with quantity (a common confusion).

(The reason for this is that 12 poor posts are always going to be 12 poor posts, just as when writing a 2000 word essay writing 4000 words does not translate into double the mark! This is why the assessment of your blogs is always based on you submitting posts that meet specific criteria, because it is the ability to use your blog well, and consistently so, that is important.)

Now, of this 3 a week minimum 2 of these should be related to your course. Any less than this and you really aren’t using your blog to help you learn, all you’re doing is using it to document something for me. This doesn’t mean 2 posts each week about the lecture, the reading, or some theory. It means 2 posts a week that relate to your learning.

What it means to use your blog well means different things. It varies depending on the subject you’re doing, and how you want to use your blog. It might mean using your blog to record various useful web resources you’ve found (remembering that del.icio.us and similar social bookmarking sites are also useful in this context), it could also include using your blog to document (note, discuss, think out loud about) problems you encounter, things you learn, hard bits that you know you really should think more about, good bits that excite you. It will also include just using your blog for you.

Assessment Matrices

Over the last few years, as part of my Process Based Learning efforts, I’ve tried to make assessment criteria very explicit. The problem with this is that since I’m into assessing process it is quite hard to make this explicit. After all, I’m not saying, if you get 10 out of 10 answers correct then you get this sort of of mark, I’m saying things like “I’m assessing the quality of your ideas in your blog, which is indicated by the depth and detail of the ideas you pursue in your blog”. Sort of still begs the questions “what is depth?”, or, “what constitutes detail?”.

One way round this, and here blogs really are exemplary, is that the work is public and so students can (and do) pay a lot of attention to each others writing. In this way they do get a sense of the differences between each other’s work, and they are also able to see differences in quality (indeed one of the good things that has happened is that some students now take this difference and comment on it).

Another way is to describe these criteria in the assessment matrices that I provide. These usually describe in reasonable detail what qualities work within each mark range would exhibit, but again, for those students who don’t understand what I mean by ‘qualilty of ideas’ this doesn’t get us very far.

Now, in these assessment matrices (this years are available), I used to write up a background section which provided context for why this was being done and assessed. Sort of like turning the assessment document (you know, here’s a list of essays, choose one and answer it in around 1500 words) into a brief. So, for this semester, I’ve dropped the background heading and have used ‘assessment rationale’ instead. Not sure why, or what difference it makes, but in this I want to make explicit why this task is being assessed, and why that matters. The point is to try and align assessment to learning outcomes as strongly as possible (if I’m assessing participation, then I need to be explicit about what constitutes participation, and why assessing that is useful to the student in the first place).

So the new heading, ‘assessment rationale’ is me explaining just why this is worth what it is, why it is justified in being assessed, and how this relates and is relevant to what students might learn. I guess the otherside to something like this is that it also means I can declare up front what is going on and why, so that there shouldn’t be any mysteries as to what is being learnt, or why, in the subject. Probably useful in my teaching since I’m so all over the shop.

iVog, Takers?

In relation to the iVog project. At the moment I still don’t have a computer science student willing to undertake this project. Not sure why not. After all, you get a brand new 15″ PowerBook for a year, developer software, and you can make some cool stuff.

So, if you reckon you have the skills to do this, and are seriously interested in getting a higher degree, let me know. If you aren’t in Melbourne then yes, at some point you would have to spend a few months here (you would need to turn up to our Graduate Research Conference once a year, which for a Masters would probably be twice). And yes, if you aren’t from Australia or New Zealand it would be fee paying.

A New Category

In the process of writing my promotion application I did note that a blog becomes your professional portfolio. Problem with that is I haven’t got a category here that is ‘teaching portfolio’. So I’ve added it.

(I thought about adding a Research Portfolio category too, but that made no sense, it’s covered by a pile of the existing categories here and I do keep insisting – perhaps too loudly – that this is a research blog [stamps foot].)

iVog: iMovie Video Plugin Project

In collaboration with Dr Seyed Tahaghoghi of computer science here at RMIT I’ve been successful in getting an Apple University Development Fund development grant (now that’s a silly title isn’t it?). The aim of this is to develop a plugin for iMovie that will:

  • compress your edited video to appropriate format (ideally a decent mp4 file)
  • export this compressed video directly into your blog CMS
  • allow text entry to accompany the blog post (including title of post)
  • automatically allow selection of categories and the usual raft of additional things that blogs support (comments and trackback enabled, date and time of publishing)
  • automatically extract a series of still frames to produce a micron (micro movie) for use as poster movie (say, 20 frames from throughout the video)
  • make this micron autoplay when mouse in event occurs and load vlog clip when mouse click event occurs

Since we are using a senior student to build this our timeline is slow, we are currently recruiting a student capable and able to build this, and then the work has to fit their curriculum (in other words start and finish at the right time for them). I hope to have a beta with some capabilities available by the end of the year. The project is to be completed by June 2006.

Digital Humanities

Next year’s Digital Humanities conference (the ACH/ALLC joint conference) is in Paris. Details available. The digital humanities dot org site is a new umbrella site reflecting a new umbrella organisation, The Alliance of Digital Humanities (ADHO). I’m an underperforming member of the Association of Computing Humanities, though what I do generally appears to be on the edges of most of the work these organisations do. They are serious set of computational philologists, and they’re all happy to converse in (any of) English, French, German and, I suspect, Latin!

(I’m on their margins because there is a broad concentration on text here that often expresses the oldest, grandest, anxieties about images.)