Well a group of us are off to Daylesford tomorrow for a three day research come writing retreat. It is partly informed by my e


On Tuesday evening I watched an owl by my street.


Have been listening to Jim White’s “Drill a Hole in that Substrate and Tell Me What You See“. That title is

Tables and Classroom

Where I work we are in the process of designing (refurbishing) a building to move in to. It is possibly exciting. Part of this activity is to rethink what a teaching environment could be, and will be, in say, 30 years. Some of these spaces will be used for the sorts of computer based activities that I teach. A blended learning space. In spite of having a team of ‘experts’ the best they have come up with to date is a room with a single screen (so it has a front), and a sort of Ikea tear drop shaped table that 6 students can sit around. Why six? It is a small group size. Why a fixed table, to supply the electricity and the ethernet. This is a vision of the future firmly grounded in 1980. In response I’ve written and distributed the following memo. It took a few minutes of thinking and is something I would think of as a beginning, not an end. If I’m lucky it will end up as an end.

1. The structure seems to predetermine group size.
2. The labs/teaching spaces that would seem to be most about the new mobile/porous educational environment (ubiquitous networking, laptops, high end infrastructure) are actually very nearly the most locked down teaching spaces in the new design. (Many of the other spaces will let you move tables for example, but not here?)
3. Appears to only have one idea of direction which would be a single projection screen. This seems very old fashioned and teacher centred.

An Idea
1 .Have at least 2 data projectors so that there is no ‘front’?
2. Have at least 2 data projectors so that the second could be used for other content, perhaps students using MSN to discuss the class? A live video feed from somewhere else? An academic in one institution could be on one screen and an academic from another on the second. Or students, (Vietnam on one, Hamilton on another.)
3. Instead of the tables have a room with a series of islands.
4. these islands are the same height as the tables in the room (they’re like breakfast benches).
5. each island has enough power and ethernet for, say, 6 computers
6. they are spread through the room, but as islands at table height they don’t obstruct the view
7. They might be shaped in some sensible way (think Lego) so that you could attach the tables in the room to islands as needed.
8. For example imagine a simple flower shape for each island. The tables could be similarly shaped so they can be used as tables anywhere in the room, or ‘docked’ as a second ‘petal’ (apologies, this isn’t quite what I mean but I think it is graphic enough to get the idea).

9. Tables could or could not be attached to these islands.
10. The arrangements of tables that can be formed can be of differing sizes (one island might have two tables attached, another 4, as needed by the students/teaching requirements)
11. If the tables are of an appropriate shape then they can be highly modular so each island could have a cluster grow out of it, for example the edges may fit together so that not each table in a cluster would have to join the island (eg, table joins to island, second table fits into first table to form a wing out from the island since 4 students want to work in a row together).
12. It makes the room more malleable to different sized groups.
13. If the room were just being used for group work then the tables could be arranged anywhere, yet laptops and other devices could still be attached to the bench node thingies for power if needed.

I do want to reiterate the point that the room that in many ways is where the teaching around these porous activities would happen (the integration of the network into the space of teaching) appears to be highly constrained so that risk repeating the common mistake of making network access conform to the space rather than vice versa. The proposal above is a compromise as it provides the hardwired locations for the grid but does not lock students and teachers to this.

A Really Dumb Way of Thinking About Video Online

In December 2000 I made a short vog which played a bit with compression. I was interested in compressing the video hard, moving towards abstraction. It was a way of trying to explore and show a way of thinking about video that was poetic and could work with available bandwidth. Bandwidth. That’s the really dumb thing.

There will never be enough bandwidth. Just as everyone seems to be pod and videocasting and of course we have enough bandwidth to make YouTube viable YouTube proves that compression doesn’t matter. It might matter to the film maker, it might matter to someone trained in the field, it doesn’t matter to most of those watching most of the content on YouTube. It also doesn’t really matter to TV, just look at what they show, for example out of a war zone on a pixellated satellite phone. The logic here is footage, quality and ‘broadcast’ standards comes second.

Why will there never be enough bandwidth? Well just as we can now start easily sharing our videos someone will want their video to be full screen, full motion, DVD quality at a minimum and of course as HD. And people will then want to download several of these at once. And so on. (And even on DVD there are numerous compression artefacts, just look at any dark scene with plenty of blacks, it’s crap.)

Worrying about compression artefacts, insisting that it must be some sort of perfect image quality, this rubs against the grain of this medium. It is like going to make films in 1905 and declaring that since there is no sound or colour you can’t possibly work. Or that every frame is a rectangle. It is like standing before any of Monet’s Rouen Cathedral series in the Musée d’Orsay and boldly exclaiming that you can see the brush strokes! Compression are our brushstrokes. They’re the very fabric of what video is when it goes online. It is not film, a chemical indexical record of light, but digital. Its elements are pixels, and compression lets us play with the pixels.

On The Train From Brussels to Paris

This was shot on my Sony Ericsson k750i, whilst sitting on the TGV inside of an early Sunday morning. I’ve placed them i

like 6

Another iteration of the like series. L loads the video. P plays, and S stops it. It uses child movies so that each of the vid

Soft Rhizome Essay

An essay I wrote nearly two years ago is nearly ready to see the light of day. It is terribly florid, so I think the preprint

Community, Development, Show in a Box

Jay Dedman, Ryanne Hodson and their band of marauding video blogging evangelists (I’m yet to meet Jay and Ryanne but plainly he knows how to motivate people and bring them on board) have been putting together Show In a Box dot TV (SIAB). It is a customised setup of WordPress which is videoblog specific. The right plugins, video friendly styles/themes, and so on. The idea is package it all up and get it as near as possible to a simple anyone-can-doit-install. All listed at the project wiki.

Observations. I really (I mean really) like the spirit of this stuff. It’s like the early days of the ‘net (taps pipe bowl against rocking chair) where community was foremost and there was a common purpose to why you were online and why being online mattered in itself (as opposed to dating, porn, selling, buying, distributing, consuming).

They get things done. Enric of vPIP fame for instance. I asked if vPIP could support targeting the QuickTime Player, explained why. He said yes, then said it was difficult, then worked out a clever solution. Twenty four hours or so later it’s been implemented. This is what happens when people care, have the skills, and things stay modular. Fast ideas, fast prototyping, seeing it where it goes as it is done.

Patrik Svensson on Cyberinfrastructure

Patrik will be in Melbourne next week and is dropping by. Lunch and a public lecture. The lecture is on cyberinfrastructure fo

QuickTime Javascript for Video Blogging

Andreas has written a javascript for correctly embedding QuickTime into blogs. Provides access to all the embed tag features, and does one job (embedding QT) very well. He’s a whiz that one.

I’m Sure It’s Got A Name

I regularly miss deadlines. Or if I don’t miss them then find myself scurrying and stressed trying to organise things at