Conferences

The Social Constructed Digital Native

One of the sessions at Podcamp Western Mass a few weeks ago was about social media and education. It was an open discussion hitting a lot of different points, and I found myself approaching it from a contrarian viewpoint that ultimately led me to start considering the idea of the socially constructed digital native.

One of the first people to speak was a college student, who was studying social media, and was frustrated that the courses focused on technical basics of using one social media platform or another, without getting into more important topics like search engine optimization. There was a discussion about how much social media is changing and how some of the social media tools that were discussed may not last more than a couple more years.

Personally, while I recognize some value of search engine optimization, I tend to view much of it as snake oil. I suggested that what is really needed is focusing on skills like understanding the audience and storytelling, because these skills matter, no matter what media is being used.

Others talked about cyber safety issues for kids or social skills like making eye contact, or giving someone your undivided attention. I trotted out Marc Prensky’s idea of the digital native and the digital immigrant and pushed the concept a little further. How much of the ideas that people were talking about were ideas from digital immigrants and how digital natives should live in a digital world?

Are kids without access to social media today viewed the way kids without television were viewed and treated forty years ago? Do we, or should we, value continuous partial attention? How much are these expectations socially constructed? And to the extent that they are socially constructed, how much are digital immigrants trying to maintain old world, analog ways of interacting in a digital world? How much are digital immigrants trying to get their digital native kids to behave as if they still live in the old analog world?

This is not to say that there isn’t value in certain old ways of interacting. The value of understanding your audience remains, whether it is a digital native audience, a digital immigrant audience, or some mixture.

Yet, perhaps, as we talk with people about how to behave digitally, we should take the opportunity to question which actions are really beneficial, as opposed to which actions are done, because that is the way things were always done in the old analog world. Perhaps, instead of prescribing behavior, we should be teaching students how to understand social constructs, and generate new, more pertinent social constructs that can evolve with our evolving technology.

#TEDxVille - Prologue

Still reeling from the death of Bridget and the news that another friend is in the hospital, I got behind the wheel of my rusting 1997 Black Nissan Altima and started my drive up to Somerville to hear my middle daughter, Miranda, speak at TEDxSomerville.

The drive is only a couple hours, much shorter than the trips I used to take when Miranda was in College in Virginia, but to add to my blues was the rain. It seems like every time I drive up to a big event Miranda is involved in, it is raining, sort of like the negative space in a painting.

I’m going through one of those really busy phases at work, and my free time is also at a premium right now. I missed two other important events to go up and hear Miranda. I thought about Bridget. I thought about my friend in the hospital. What is life all about, anyway? I go through the motions every day. I do my tasks at work, hoping to make life better for those around me. On good days, I get a chance to write.

“What I need”, I thought to myself, “is a transcendent moment, a transformational moment, a spark of inspiration.” I go to so many conferences. I gather information. I write about the parts that grab me. This too, has become yet another task, yet another chore, something I do by rote.

I arrived in Somerville, parked in a lot and headed over to the TEDxSomerville venue, Brooklyn Boulders.

Brooklyn Boulders is a climbing community in an old factory. The walls are covered with foothold, handholds and art. It is a great space, but not the sort of space you’d expect to find a TEDx conference. People were climbing as volunteers set out folding chairs and giant beanbag chairs.

I headed towards the Assembly Row blogger lounge. I sat around and talked with other writers, had some amazing champagne raspberry Jello shots, recharged my batteries and got ready for the event.

#pcwm G33k Speak Recap

Like PodCamp WesternMass #4, perhaps the session that I got the most out of was one of the least attended sessions. This year, it was "G33k Speak". Perhaps there were only three of us that self identified as "G33k"s. Perhaps there were too many other good sessions going on at the same time.

So, three of us sat around and talked about technology we were really excited about. I spoke a little bit about Google Glass and Raspberry Pi. Tom Galanis talked about software. He currently teaches high school technology and wanted to get people's views on different languages. Which do you like more, Java, Javascript, C++, C#, Python, Ruby, Perl, or something else? How do you get people excited about programming.

I talked about how I've always told my children they were free to play any computer game that they could write. They started off with Logo and Scratch. In many ways, I think of Scratch as drag and drop logo. Of course I mentioned Scratch on Raspbery Pi.

Tom mentioned a site that is on my list to explore, Snap! Build Your Own Blocks 4.0. Essentially, it hosted scratch. I've played with this a little bit and may be recommending it to more people as a good way to get started with Scratch.

Another site that Tom mentioned as Construct 2.

Construct 2 is a powerful ground breaking HTML5 game creator designed specifically for 2D games. It allows anyone to build games — no coding required!

I started programming computers over forty years ago, and I like coding. I try to get others to like programming. I like working at the command line and writing my programs with a text editor. I'm not a big fan of integrated development environments or IDEs. At a later point in the discussion, we talked about the lack of good IDEs for HTML5, but as best as I can tell from first glance, that is exactly what Construct 2 is.

One review talked about Construct 2 nicely connecting with kongregate. I prefer to write games than to play games, but kongregate appears to be a good place for sharing games. I'll continue to keep an eye on how HTML5 and development environments for it evolve.

We talked briefly about databases. Generally, I use MySQL. Tom, or the other person in the session (I forget who it was), mentioned MariaDB. I've started reading about MariaDB and I will try to find some time to experiment with it. Some day. When I'm not as swamped with everything else in my life. As an aside, I started looking at installing MariaDB on Raspberry Pi, but I'll save that for another day.

There was also a brief discussion about Mir as a replacement for XWindows. Again, interesting to think about in terms of Raspberry Pi, but I'll save that for another day.

#pcwm Notes on Bitcoin

At PodCamp WesternMass, one of the sessions I attended was led by Joe Cascio about Bitcoin. "Bitcoin is a digital currency, a protocol, and a software…"

I've kicked around Bitcoin in the past, but never really jumped in. This time, I figured it was a good time to explore it in more detail. At least as I understand it from Joe, Bitcoins are an alternative digital currency. It is shared over an encrypted peer to peer network, and the coins are stored in a wallet, as opposed to an account somewhere.

There are pros and cons to this. If you lose your wallet, you lose whatever was in it. On the other hand, if it were an account somewhere online, and the server that had the account goes away, you'd lose your money that way. Joe talked about the Cyprus banks as an example of the second type of risk. You can store your Bitcoin wallet somewhere so that it acts more like an account if that's what you're interested in.

I installed Bitcoin on my Android phone. If anyone wants to put some money in that wallet, an address is bitcoin:1PNepVfV6wmnpUDAz3oLMQmCuJ7cP44fiQ. I also installed Bitcoin on my Mac. An address for that wallet is bitcoin:1ACM16Gntx4ekgwB2LvL3NokT2wKvaT5fB.

Joe did go into a little bit of detail about Bitcoin mining, or how new Bitcoins get added into the economy. However, that didn't have a lot of practical value, at least to me. I doubt I'll ever have the computation power to mine Bitcoins.

So, the other way of getting Bitcoins is to buy or earn them. Joe recommended a site, Coinbase. I set up an account there. They are particularly focused on buying and selling Bitcoins, particularly based on bank transfers. Joe noted that in setting things up, they can transfer and and from whatever account you've linked, so he recommends being cautious, such as linking it to a small account that you don't use for much of anything else. I set up an account there, but I haven't linked a bank account to it. So, essentially, right now it is a hosted wallet with a bitcoin address bitcoin:1MKhWL7xPiMZgLTC6zaQzC6MhPq72WK6gu

I was particularly interested in connecting bitcoins to other virtual currencies. Virwox, or Virtual World Exchange, allows you to trade between Second Life, Open Metaverse currency, and Avination, which appears to be another Second Life like virtual world. You can also deposit money from various bank accounts in different currencies.

The downside is that primary currency seems to be the Linden Dollar, and you have to pay exchange rates to get in and out of Linden dollars. So, if you want Bitcoins from US Dollars, you deposit US dollars, use them to buy Linden Dollars, and then use the Linden Dollars to buy Bitcoins; two sets of commission charges.

When you set it up for Bitcoins, it also becomes a hosted wallet. My Virwox hosted wallet has this address, bitcoin:13wtvg7P97voZTcjFn8sKs62E5P3NhZQKQ. They charge a transaction fee of .01BTC to transfer bitcoins out of Virwox to other accounts. My sense is that they are probably good if you are making money in Second Life and want to transfer it to Bitcoins, but even with that, their transaction fees seem a bit much.

Currently, 1 Bitcoin is worth about $92. However, you can do things at small fractions of a Bitcoin. Often transactions are in milliBitcoins or microBitcoins. A milliBitcoin is currently worth about nine cents, and a microBitcoin is currently worth nine thousandths of a cent.

With this microcurrency aspects there are lots of other things that can be done. People are offering milli or microBitcoins for people to visit sites online, and perhaps take some action on the site. skude.se is a site that links to other sites where people can earn small amounts of Bitcoins this way.

For example, there is an affiliate site that if people click on, I'll get a microBitcoin for each link, up to 100 per day. That works out to unto nine tenths of a cent a day. Probably not enough to bother with, but, every little bit can help.

I'm kicking around other ideas that I hope to do with Bitcoins, but right now, I'm waiting for my wallets to synchronize so I can start experimenting moving cash around.

Podcamp WesternMass

Podcamp WesternMass is tomorrow and I've been following some of the discussions about ideas for different sessions. There has been a bit of talk about '101' sessions, introductions to various aspects of social media. I always worry about these sort of sessions, where there is an information based power imbalance; the person leading the session having lots of information, and many of the other participants mostly having questions. I know these sessions are important, but I prefer dialogues between equals, so I haven't stepped up to facilitate a session like this. If I did, I'd probably want to talk about broad based strategy issues. What is your goal or mission? What is your message? What is your audience? Perhaps a little bit of a discussion about metrics and all of it leading back to the ideas of intent and impact.

Intent and Impact are issues that I'm particularly focused on these days. What is your intent when you follow someone on social media? When you retweet them? When you post something of your own? What is your intent when you post or share a political comment or a cute picture? How does this fit into group dynamics and parallel processes between groups? How does it relate to Zeitgeist? I wonder how much other people are thinking about this or are interested in talking about this?

I'm also especially interested in some of the more geeky discussions. My good friend Joe Cascio is going to be talking about Bitcoin. I hope this will be a lively discussion, perhaps tying in other issues like alternative non-dollar based currencies, micropayments, point systems and other rewards, etc. I wonder if anyone else there is playing with Raspberry Pi. I could talk a little bit about that, but it probably wouldn't be a great discussion unless a few other geeky people gathered and we shared ideas and brainstormed about what could be done with Raspberry Pi.

Staying on the geeky thread, I'm interested in augmented reality. I was accepted into ProjectGlass, which means I may be getting a pair of Google Glasses soon. What will I be able to do with these? What else is out there for augmented reality? What else is out there for immersive glasses?

One of the things people talk a lot about with Google Glass is taking pictures and videos. We've seen Instagram take off. What else is happening or coming in digital photography and videography? Anyone playing with Vine? What about creating your own Instagram like filters with Photoshop or Gimp? Are their other video tools people should be looking at?

Here, I'm especially interested in mobile, and I wonder what else is coming in Mobile. What are some cool things people are doing with mobile that I'm missing? Are there tools to encourage creativity? Audio, pictures, video production and editing tools? HDR? Panoramas? 3D photography? New ways of looking at creativity? Anyone playing with SuperColider on Android? (I haven't had a lot of luck with it yet). How about Creatorverse? Ingress?

This gets me to what I think was the most valuable session for me from Podcamp last year. I think it was supposed to be about Evernote. I like Evernote. I'm kicking around Google Keep. I've used Onenote in the past, and I'm wondering if there are things that I can be doing with Onenote at work. I've also been interested in mobile audio note taking. "Note to self" spoken into the cellphone to launch an app that does speech to text note taking. Maybe there will be some discussion about these apps at Podcamp WesternMass.

However, only a couple people showed up at the Evernote session, so we sat around sharing ideas. I learned a lot about Evernote that day, and especially ideas about using IFTTT with Evernote. If you haven't checked out "If This Then That" ifttt.com and your a serious social media person, then you're really missing something.

I guess that gets to what I like best about Podcamps, going to sessions where you discover something unexpected, maybe even as the session goes off topic, and everyone gets engaged in the discussion. Because after all, engagement is a key goal in social media and it should be in Podcamp as well.

So, are you interested in any of these topics? Are there other topics your interested in? Let's build the discussion and momentum going into Podcamp WesternMass.

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