Archive for October, 2011

October 28, 2011

RISK eBusiness: Moving to a Just In Time Method of Teaching

Trapped in a Tar Pit

Metaphorically speaking, a dinosaur is any entity lacking the capacity to adapt to environmental changes in a timely fashion. While a dinosaur may well possess the ability to adapt it may be an unfortunate accident of biology or culture that predisposes it to an internal rate of transformative change that is relatively static compared to the rate of change in the environmental factors that, normally, support and optimize conditions for its survival. This inability to match the pace of change places the dinosaur at a competitive disadvantage that eventually pushes it to the margins of relevance and results in its eventual extinction—both literal and metaphorical.

No creature would invite change for its own sake and—humans being like most other creatures—expend enormous amounts of energy attempting to stabilize our situation and achieve a form of stasis that allows us not only to survive but to thrive in relative safety and comfort. We tend towards mitigating the effects of the unknown and the unpredictable and this requires apprehending and utilizing knowledge of the environment in order that we might exploit it to advantage.

Our ability to utilize binding symbolic language and symbolic artefacts and to fashion tools that—according to Marshall McLuhan—extend, enhance and accelerate our effective selves, creates a buffer between us and a natural order that challenges us with the timeless struggle for survival.

The fact that we will soon be uneasily celebrating the turnover of our biological counter to the 7 billion mark is a testimony to how successful we have been at disconnecting from or minimizing the risks that the natural order presents. One could argue that this disconnection could be better characterized as a complete domination and subjugation of the environment that carries with it a dire corollary for our long-term survival and that the technocomplex that we created constitutes its own environment with its own evolutionary pressures.

The Silicone  Pit

Iterative improvement and automation have resulted in the sort of hyperbolic innovations that engineer Gordon Moore predicted in the mid 1960’s. The rate of change is dizzying and poses significant challenges to our capacity for adapting to the changes they usher in. The explosion of new technologies, whose cycles of innovation and obsolescence relegate one to the status of instant expert or instant dinosaur in the blink of an eye, constitutes our greatest environmental challenge.

Having knowledge of one’s object of inquiry has traditionally meant being able to give a name to it—to plot its co-ordinates and assay and record its characteristics. This sort of knowledge has traditionally conferred on the inquirer a degree of power and control over their object of inquiry—it is a form of experiential mapping, if you will. However, this is not so easy with respect to characterizing much less predicting the evolutionary trajectory of our modern technological landscape. Mapping the contours of our ever-changing, ever-expanding information and techno-complex is intractable as mapping sand dunes or clouds—the particulars are so infinitely complex and changing that it defies linear, rational and concrete approaches to knowing. It is a phenomenon that has rapidly emerged into a quantum state where power comes from making sense of the relational dimensions between the elements of this complex rather than knowing the particular qualities or quantities associated with the constituent elements themselves. Understanding, then, assumes a holistic character where inductive logic gives way to deductive and intuitive processes that may benefit more from a metaphor or narrative thread with which to frame or anchor one’s understanding of the infinitely complex. This form of knowing differs from the traditional detached objective methods of scientific knowing. Instead, this form of knowing is experiential, immersive and, simultaneously, transforms both subject and object.

Consider that, in using a technology, you have changed the manner in which you interact with the world around you and this results in the emergence of new patterns of behavior, new modes of interaction, shifts in language, value systems and culture and we are irrevocably changed and the system within which this technology has been used is changed too. This implies that the relationship between subject and object have also shifted. In short we see the world in a different way for the simple reason that our internal value systems have dramatically shifted and the world that we inhabit has also dramatically changed. While we highly value information that is accessible and searchable many with the means to do so would pay millions of dollars for a highly inaccessible “original” painting by, say, Rembrandt, while few of us would be willing to pay for a digital version of it. An objects potential for ubiquity works in tension with its unique instantiation. An object that can readily be reproduced and reducing its value to near zero in a commodity-based economy where value is predicated on scarcity. The web-enhanced age in which we live is one of infinite abundance and, hence, traditional economic value cannot be derived from the objects produced in this ecosystem but, rather, from the relationships that it facilitates. While scarcity and  authenticity are still significant arbiters of value today we see from the runaway success of social resources like Face Book

The Renaissance Through the Looking Glass

The age of now has oft been described as one of digital tribalism where the age of empire, standardization, control and concentration of power and influence have given way to chaotic and barbaric forces that truculently refuse to be defined and controlled by the old paradigms. We are advancing toward the past—almost medieval, semi-literate forms of informal, quasi-embodied social interaction where the emphasis is on the relationship—on being there (digitally) and participating in the conversation. It is Walter Ong’s Post-literate society or age of “secondary orality.” We are leaving the time where meaning was defined in terms of rational scientific constructs and entering a new epoch where our old science creates more questions than it is capable of answering—adding to an already infinite data set. We are entering a new mythopoetic age where it is pointless to look at the massive complexity of our modern technological and information ecosystem and hope to induce meaning and significance through observing it. What is significant is that we are not detached from it (as the old science would have it) we are caught up in its turbulence trying to keep our heads above water, as it were. The more sane approach would be to recognize that this leviathan chimera unleashes enormous pressures on us and to not ask what this means but, rather, to demand “what do we wish this this to mean for us now and in the future” and to hold it to account for this vision. We must not embrace technology simply for its own sake, rather, it should be subsumed in the service of our collective vision for the future and, in that sense, we are called upon to dream and to do so boldly. To envision a world where technology and information serves to nurture humanity requires that we come to understand who we are at our root and to what purpose must our hearts and our minds be put. These questions resonate with aspects of spirituality that seem antithetical to the project of science. However both science and technology have no life or no meaning without being grounded in the context of life—of attending and attaining to being fully human in a world that is rich,  diverse and healthy and to this end all human projects should bend their respective backs to the task of enriching life on this planet and, thus, must be held fully accountable to this demand. Human health is linked to a complex web of inter-relationships that extends out beyond the human sphere to include the entire created order. Our evolving technological landscape has the potential to allow us to discover who we are both individually and collectively in relation to the broader world and to deepen the veracity of relationships that putative modern western science, and the tsunami of uncritical progress it unleashed, has unwittingly compromised.

Why Are We Here and What Are We Doing?

The philosophical perspectives/worldview that I outlined in the preceding paragraphs were not derived from gleaning through the tomes of savvy and erudite pop culture gurus (although I owe a great debt to Harold Innis, Eric Havelock, Marshall McLuhan, and Walter Ong and have enjoyed sharing insights articulated by the likes of Richard Ogle, Don Tapscott and Malcolm Gladwell), rather they came from a direct experience of some fundamental changes that I was experiencing in relation to my subject area and my relationship with my students.


2:44 PM Permalink

Content and the Malcontent: A Reflection On the State of Educational Publishing in Canada

A colleague of mine raised the issue of Cartels in relation to discussions we were having on the state of Educational Publishing in Canada and it caused me to reflect deeper on the issue. I would like to share my thoughts on the subject.

Cartel culture runs deep in corporate Canada. Publishers, Media Consortia, Telcoms and, abominably, Beer Producers being the most culpable. Unfortunately, this has stifled innovation because the bottom line for any Cartel is predicated on maintaining the status quo. Recent announcements on a collaboration between Pearson Publishing and Google may signal a change in the wind, however, I remain cautiously skeptical and I cannot help but feel that it might be nothing more than a savvy co-branding exercise.

Canadian publishers have had an entitlement to the wallets of our students and they have been soundly rebuffed by them over the last 10 years in their flight from the bookstores. From the announcement alluded to earlier, it would seem that publishers would like to enjoy the same level of control over the emerging landscape. Why else would one approach the emperor of the internet (Google)? It is a truism to say that the net ecosystem by its nature is infinitely complex, decentralized and  democratic and it will be curious to see how a Cartel mixed with a virtual monopoly can provide a product or service that resonates with the vox pop of the wired generation.

While educatonal publishers still have an important role to play in the media ecosystem they need to eat  humble pie in my estimation. Something inside me tells me that this meeting between Google and Pearson is like lavalife for publishers. Google is the Yenta who is powerful enough to force an arranged marriage that we scholars and our students didn’t necessarily ask for or want.  Using Google in this manner avoids the messy business of having to engage with the very audience who has rejected your offer of marriage in the first place! The scene reminds me of a titled aristocrat desperately seeking a hasty marriage to a well endowed bride in order to shore up his sagging fortunes.

For the less cynical, perhaps, the threat of extinction has caused them to consider what is at stake and they have listened to a constituency that they have largely ignored in the past. The publishers in Canada need to understand the new ecosystem into which they have been unwittingly mired in—an ecosystem where the “consumer” has a significantly different set of attributes and a demonstrably greater degree of power to shape and even create the very content they consume—it is an exquisite act of self-cannibalism. One might say that we are at the dawn of a renaissance in vanity publishing—my blogging activity, for example. And this is where publishers might actually be able to add value in ensuring that vainglory does not trump quality of content. Other factors in the media ecology are also worthy of consideration and may present opportunities for the hungry publisher. They should avoid the lure of trying to create a leviathan content technopoly (I suspect this is why Google is involved) and work on building value for their audiences. I get the sense that they wish to use these technologies to simply lock down and secure a distribution channel for their content and continue with the status quo. The challenges are much greater and it hinges on technology.

Technology is a thread that is ubiquitous in all disciplines and continues to be an invasive (gaining access into areas traditionally not enabled with technology) and disruptive species that causes social and economic turbulence or “disruption”. There is no “settling” of these turbid waters—no period of calm where we can establish the lay of the land and start utilizing it in some meaningful way. By the time we think we comprehend it, it has morphed into something else. This means that we must come to terms with the fact that there are no “set pieces” in education and that this means a significantly lower ROI on assets generated and a much shorter window in which to capitalize on any generated content and it is at “content” and its authorship/ownership where I think the publishers are, unfortunately, nostalgic.

We no longer live in an age where an artefact or content is the thing valued, rather, value inheres in the ability to connect, stay connected and maintain and explore the dynamics of a relationship (ie. Facebook). Content is a by-product of these relationships but the value to the participants lies not so much in what is produced but in the relationships themselves. At the root of internet content generation on social networks is a fundamental human need to instantiate our being in vis-a-vis the “other”. Nowhere in history is it more true than the internet age. Only pre-literate cultures enjoyed such a degree of radical interconnectedness.

If publishers could grasp the fact that their future lies not in securing and indenturing content rather, as brokers of deep and transformative relationships, they may actually be able to bring significant value to the current ecosystem, otherwise they are doomed to be horse traders in the age of the automobile. As content producers they have failed to deliver in terms of price, usability and timeliness. If every domain of human activity is technologically enabled in some way it stands to reason that the diffusion cycles of these technologies will be fairly aggressive and cause knowledge to obsolesce in 12-28 month cycles. Teaching and Learning and Educational Publishing, like it or not, are inextricably linked to the innovation cycle and demand agility in our adaptation to the new ecological niches they create. This is an incredibly demanding task and I don’t believe that traditional publishing workflows and value chains can support this. We need to explore adaptation strategies that engender collective co-authorship and collaboration even highly fragmented forms of  micro-monetization (App Store comes to mind) that allows everyone to participate in a YouTube style economy. The traditional “customer” has a significant role to play in the generation and shaping of content in this new economy with a larger share in both the benefits and the responsibilities. Facilitating this process, with a view to encouraging and promoting excellence is, to my mind,  the new publishing paradigm.

Facebook has categorically proven the value of relation over content and that the sense of authorship has morphed into a domain of co-creation and collaboration. Our students should actually be participating in building learning domain architecture, experiences and content. Not being considered as the bottom of a vertical food chain!

I have been working for the past 8 years on building a “Knowledge Garden” This project at GBC School of Design (an experimental lab in developing crowd-sourced approaches to educational content creation, curation and distribution) has and will continue to support  experimentation in new paradigms of engagement and I would be very keen to develop a partnership with an interested publisher to share in the co-creation of new learning methods from the ground up. We could certainly benefit from their expertise in content management and distribution and we could show them how this can be transformed into something new and meaningful for the wired generation.

2:42 PM Permalink
October 19, 2011

Check out the Adobe Design Achievement Awards finalists!

ADAA 2011 Finalists

I strongly suggest that if you are interested in digital artistry (including; installations, app development, browser-based design, mobile, animation, game design, print, et cetera) you head over and check out the Adobe Design Achievement Awards finalists for 2011.

You can read about each finalist, view team members, see samples of the work, and even comment or share via social media. Really amazing work from people all over the globe can be seen over at

Plus, if you want to attend the awards ceremony in Taipei, there is an open invitation this year!

6:19 PM Permalink
October 17, 2011

Multi Screen Development Issues

A student and I are working together on making my teacher site user friendly for a smart phone, tablet and desktop screen. We have been using Dreamweaver CS5 to accomplish this mission and the Media Query option.  Everything is working out ok (so far) except….The java script code from the mobile site is interfering with the ability to move to a different page on the desktop and tablet site.  We are using the mobile site  and javascript that Dreamweaver developed.  We are using images for the links. For example, when setting up on the desktop/tablet site <a href=”index.html” target=”_self” > the image will not work as a link at all (it acts as a regular image.) If we do not include a target is also does not work .  When we include “target=”_blank” the images do act as links but then go ahead and open up each internal link in a new window which clearly we do not want.  So in summary, the image links on the desktop/tablet file will not work unless we have target=”_blank” which then opens each link a new window (not what we want when they are internal links.)  Any solutions to this problem.  We did try changing the images to text and that did not work either (same issue.)  Any guidance would be greatly appreciated. Lori Cullen 🙂

2:29 PM Permalink

Parenting in the 21st Century

Two kids, two jobs, home, cat, soccer practice, piano, and everything in between.  I was sitting around in the living room with my kids one night.  I was trying to figure out how I was going to pack in another activity for my son.  My daughter is a singer, my son an artist.  We started singing lessons for my daughter and my wife and I wanted to keep activities somewhat balanced between the kids.  I could not figure out how I was going to fit in art lessons for my son.  Every night of the week was already packed with family commitments, then lighting struck me, well not really, but a bright light came on in my head.  One word echoed in my brain, “Connect!, Connect!, Connect!”  Yes, Adobe Connect Profession came through again because  I did not have another hour to drive around, gas tank to fill,  snack bag to pack, but I had my Connect Pro Account, Phone Conference Bridge, Computer, Wacom Tablet, and the CS5 Creative Suite.  I called my friend Judy Durkin who lives thirty miles from me and I asked her to be Rio’s fairy art-mother.  She agreed to work with Rio twenty minutes a week.  Yes, you are starting to clue in on what I figured out with Judy, no driving, no gas bills with my large truck, no meeting place, no cleaning the house before Judy arrives, well I did have to clean up behind the webcam. Yes!,  art lessons from the comfort of Judy and Rio’s home each week.  I setup the webcam, Judy and Rio arrived in the Connect Pro Meeting Room, we shared our screen and Judy asked for control of the space with Rio.  I started the recording so Rio could re- watch the lesson several times before the next session with Judy.  Adobe Connect Profession was my new parenting tool for the 21st Century.  I will update everyone on how the new adventure is progressing with my next blog.



Dave Forrester, Connect Shaman

12:56 AM Permalink
October 10, 2011

Mercury Playback Engine

Earlier this year we decided to upgrade our two Mac Pro editing suites with Mercury Playback Engines. I had been impressed with the demos I’d seen at the AEL Summer School and set about trying to source two NVIDIA Quadro’s. After trying for 3 months to get a price out of NVIDIA and many fruitless e-mails we bought directly from Apple. The difference has been staggering, after a slight issue installing the cards they have worked faultlessly and have handled everything we have thrown at them.

Perhaps the most remarkable project was last July, I designed an installation for the BA(Hons) Digital Media Production course end of year show. I wanted 24 iMacs synced together running video showreels of our graduates work. This was going to be quite a tall order as all the videos would have to be edited frame accurately and all be exactly the same length. I wanted to put in our course logo and branding, synced to appear at the same time at regular intervals. 24 iMacs were chosen so that we could actually spell out he name of the course 1 letter at at time on each screen. Each video was 15 minutes in length and featured 3 students short videos with motion graphics in between. How to edit them in Premiere Pro was a bit of a nightmare to work out, but eventually we came up with the solution of setting up 24 layers of video and turning on and off the layers that required rendering for each movie. We could sync up the motion graphics across all layers and drop the videos in between. We had 24 separate videos to render, each one took about 7 minutes and we were able to set up batch renders of all 24 movies movies together in Media Encoder. The edits, encoding and syncing were performed by our Tech Demonstrator Jason Watkins. The Mercury Playback Engine worked perfectly with no errors at all and apart from a bit of tweaking to get the right combination of videos it couldn’t have gone smoother.

The only problem was then how to sync 24 Macs? Fortunately we had been researching this area for some time and managed to sync 4 Macs for another project a while ago using Max MSP. This led us to an application called MultiScreener, this small application is loaded on to each machine and one machine is set to the master clock, all the others are set as slaves and immediately lock on to the signal generated by the first machine. All the machines are connected by network hubs daisy chained together.

When we set up the installation there was a little trepidation because of the time spent editing and rendering the 24 videos but the whole show ran perfectly. The show ran for 9 days without a hitch with several thousand people viewing the final piece, we received excellent feedback.

The syncing was the easy bit but with out the Mercury Playback Engines I don’t think we would have been able to edit so many videos so accurately. Our Mac Pros have been given a new lease of life and we have managed to achieve solutions that we had never considered feasible before.

You can see a video of the installation here:

9:50 PM Permalink