Creativity and Smartphones

On the way home from work today, I listened to an article on NPR, Bored ... And Brilliant? A Challenge To Disconnect From Your Phone. It asked the question

Are we packing our minds too full? What might we be losing out on by texting, tweeting and email-checking those moments away?

The article talks about a study which found

the participants came up with their most novel ideas when they did the most boring task of all — which was reading the phone book

Yet they seem to conflate daydreaming with boredom. Being busy reading the phone book is very different from daydreaming. Indeed, playing casual games on a cellphone may be closer to reading the phone book than being disconnected. I find most casual smartphone games pretty boring.

They are suggesting a project which will “will collect stories and provide tips for keeping your phone at bay”.

It seems particularly ill conceived to me. I spend a lot of time on my cellphone and on top of that I spend even more time on my laptop. I would suggest that my use of time is, perhaps, a more beneficial approach towards fostering creativity.

I spend time connecting with people via social media. Listening to what others are talking about, searching for new ideas. I visit sites like Open Culture. Today, I watch a video they share of Patti Smith and David Lynch Talking About the Source of Their Ideas & Creative Inspiration. It seems much more interesting than trying to keep access to other ideas at bay.

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From MOOCs to Badges

With the snow and cold, I decided to take it fairly easy this weekend, resting and reading. Mostly what I’ve been reading has been material from an EdX MOOC about Walt Whitman and a Moodle course about Teaching with Moodle.

Interspersed with this has been Dadaist films on OpenCulture and A look inside Charlie Hebdo. I’ve been having some additional discussions about DeanSpace which I plan on returning to later.

For this evening, however, there are a few things that caught my attention from the Moodle course. The Moodle uses Badges as part of the system; particularly Mozilla OpenBadges>. I earned my first badge in the course which I’ve placed in my Open Badges Backpack. So, one of my todos is to learn more about Mozilla’s Badges and Backpack.

One of the first issues I ran into was that the badge I received from Moodle was for my work email address and the backpack was set up for my private email address. In exploring this, I managed to get my work email address added and come across Mozilla’s Persona.

Each of these are things that I need to explore in more depth.

Before DeanSpace, there was …

In November, David Weinberger put up a blog post, Before Facebook, there was DeanSpace. It highlights a video of Zack Rosen, a founder of DeanSpace, talking about how DeanSpace came to be and what it was all about.

But before DeanSpace, there was Hack4Dean. I’ve recently been reading though some of the email archives of this group and wanted to note a few things. It’s interesting to reread some of this today in light of all that has gone on since 2003.

In one example, there was a discussion about Creative Commons licenses: One post suggested

My choice is to require all people who sign up using our code to concede all rights to their material to a Creative Commons share alike attribution
liscense. (or they we could give htem a couple other options for different
CC liscenses).

In this, we here precursors of discussions about who owns or should own content on social media sites. The DeanSpace idea stayed with each person owning the content and making it available for others to use via a Creative Commons license. As much as I like Creative Commons, I argued against the requirement, believing that each person should have as much say as possible over their own content. We were, after all, trying to reduce barriers to participation.

In a different post, Zephyr Teachout put the issue we needed to address in very simple terms:

there is a more basic role for
Deanster, and the reason for its urgency (w/the idea of experimenting
w/this functionality on top of it).

People can't find eachother.

Dean supporters in the same area can't find eachother.

Dean supporters w/the same interests can't find eachother.

We have, incredibly, a nationwide movement of people who happen to run
into eachother if they use the get local tools -- or show up wearing
buttons -- or are on a listserv. Imagine what it could be if I could
search for local people to ask them to join me?

Here we are twelve years later. We have Facebook and Twitter. We have presumed front runners for the 2016 Presidential election. Perhaps there are or soon will be autonomous emergent campaign organizations, but I’m not seeing them right now. To play off of old clichés, mostly what I see now are cat videos and assorted memes. We see polarization and people unfriending one another over discussions of racism and white privilege. About the only campaign I could see emerging from Facebook right now is Grumpy Cat for President.

Can we rekindle to DeanSpace fire? What would it take?

One Favorite Poem

I'm taking a HarvardX MOOC course on the poetry of Walt Whitman. Getting going, we have been asked to introduce ourselves. As part of the introduction we've been asked to list our favorite poem. There is no way I can narrow it down to one or two poems, so here is what I wrote:

Hi. My name is Aldon and I’m from Connecticut. I’m taking this class for a few different reasons. One is simply that I’m interested in always learning new things. I’m interested in how learning takes place online. And, I’m interested in Poetry, in 19th century America and Walt Whitman.

In terms of favorite poems, I’m going to break the rules, because I just can’t narrow things down to a few. Growing up in New England, I was exposed to Robert Frost early on and he was one of my earliest favorite poets. Stopping by Woods… Two Roads Diverged… In fifth grade, I had to memorize a poem, and it was John Masefield’s Sea Fever, which also remains a favorite of mine today. e.e. cummings was another poet I liked early on. domenic has a doll… anyone lived in a pretty how town….

It was probably in High School that I first encountered William Carlos Williams and So Much Depends Upon and The Great Figure became favorites. Later I wandered into the poetry of H.D. and many of her poems became favorites, such as Sea Rose.

When I studied the bagpipes, I immersed myself in Scottish culture and developed a love for the works of Robert Burns. My Heart’s in the Highlands… My Love is like a Red Red Rose… To a Louse …

I spent a bit of time reading Richard Brautigan in high school, but don’t remember many of them. The Winos on Potrero Hill comes to mind.

In college, I had the opportunity to hear some great poets. Nikki Giovanni, Ego Tripping remains a favorite. I can’t remember if Maya Angelou spoke at my college, but Still I Rise became a favorite poem of mine. We also had Denise Levertov speak. She read, A Tree Telling of Orpheus. It was the most magical experience I ever had listening to poetry, and many of her poems have become favorites.

The flip side of this was hearing Allen Ginsberg read Howl. I had read it many times and held it in deep reverence. In my mind it sounded ponderous as if it should be read by James Earl Jones. Ginsberg sounded nothing like James Earl Jones.

After college I binged on Keats and Blake. Yeats became a favorite, especially Lake Isle of Innisfree. I read a bit of T.S. Eliot in an adult Christian Education class in New York City, and still come back to the Four Quartets and The Wasteland.

Many of these poets became what I read to my children when they were young, along with Wordsworth’s Daffodils, and Whitman’s Crossing Brooklyn Ferry.

These days, I watch videos of poets reading. I like Sarah Kay’s If I Should Have a Daughter. I like Billy Collins Forgetgfulness and Richard Blanco’s One Today.

If I spent more time, other important poems would come to me as well, but I’ve already gone well beyond the one favorite poem.

Remembering Charlie and Mohammed

I remember Charlie. For a while back in junior high school, he was my best friend. We were an unlikely pair. I think his father was a sociology professor, or something like that at the college. Charlie was incredibly bright and didn’t have many friends. I lived on the outskirts of town and didn’t have many friends either. My father, also very bright, was an outcast conservative ideologue. He spoke disparagingly about Charlie’s dad, calling him a Marxist.

I learned about Marxism from Charlie, but more importantly, I learned the word “lampoon”. Charlie was a master at lampooning people. His comments were funny and thought provoking.

That was, of course, until the day he turned his lampoons against me. I was devastated. His words hit to the core, for he knew my faults and my frailties. It was the last time I spoke to him.

A few weeks later, he lampooned the junior high school’s track star, Mohammed. Mohammed was one of the few black kids in town and everyone loved him. He had an older brother that was always in trouble with the law. After one incident, Charlie turned his wit to Mohammed. Where I had just turned away broken hearted, Mohammed lashed back and beat the crap out of Charlie. Mohammed was expelled and Charlie was hospitalized.

Everyone felt sorry for Charlie as he recuperated in the hospital. They turned against Mohammed and the family ended up moving out of town. I felt sorry for both of them.

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