IS2K7: Connecting UNIVERSITY to Basic Education

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Random thoughts:

My son is asking for an iPod.  He will be 8 years old tomorrow and we will get him one.  One side of me is cringing thinking that this is wildly extravagant and that I am spoiling my child.  The progressive side of me is thinking that I am using technology to give my child control over his own well being.

This started because he is a insomniac and music helps him sleep.  First he had a radio which was difficult for him to control at such a young age. (This started around age 4) This progressed to a cheapo MP3 player which he quickly mastered but didn’t have enough space to fulfill his needs.  The iPod (which I am not so naive to understand that this is partially about materialism and having cool devices)  gives him complete control over what he feels like he needs to start his sleep cycle.  This ranges from guided meditation to his favorite songs. 

I mention this because these are solutions that I would have not necessarily predicted on my own.  The foundation was the radio, but the true solution ends with something that revealed itself through my sons own voice.

This is important on a small scale.  What is important on a large scale are solutions like the OLPC project where you dump thousands of machines (tools that have generativity) upon minds that have previously not had these types of tools.  These children did not have a voice for themselves, now they have an avenue to spread their voices thoughts and needs all over the world.  Because of the nature of OLPC it will start locally and then spread through the mesh networks, then nationally, then globally.

Is it important to predict what the voice of the children will be and what needs will it express or is it enough to say that the expression of this voice is inherently good? 

One opinion expressed currently is that some children in some communities even here in the US don’t have these tools yet. 

I have always been addicted to introducing chaos into complex set systems, so my views on the matter are no surprise.  It has never occurred to me that the outcomes could be negative, and I have yet to actually hear what these predicted negative outcomes really are.

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IS2k7

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Blogging from IS2K7 this morning.  John Palfrey is currently speaking.

I am going to try and post this blog entries as quickly as possible so some of this may be a little raw.

I declare myself a digital native.  At 33 there may be some argument here.  I technically wasn’t born into digital technology, so some argument can be made for me being a digital immigrant.  I remember my first digital device was a Texas Instruments “Lil’ Professor” calculator.  It has games, red LED display, and most importantly it did calculations.  It was also looked at with disdain by my early elementary school teachers, a product of evil that was to be shunned because it was a cheat, and wasn’t real learning.  Later on in High School calculators were required for certain courses.  A complete reversal of the my original experience and a very interesting development.

My first computer was at 11, my first online experience was at 12 at 300 baud, but it was mind blowing.  I felt tortured in school and finished textbooks ahead of the class because the class was running too slowly.  The computer brought me beyond the textbook and allowed me access to essentially any resource I wanted, from learning a language to computer development to making gunpowder. 

This is important to me because I consider the public education available to as a failure for the most part with some small shining exceptions.  Without the wonderful gift of a computer and access to networks I would not have the job I do today and certainly not have the views I do now.

A computer (which is a rare gift that I realize a lot of people do not have) helped lift me out of poverty (by US standards) and by proxy my children have access to this new life which access to these tools and networks have wrought.

If UNIVERSITY takes this role and opens up this access, frees information, and is not concerned about maintaining a false class structure in the world then what will happen?  I am very eager to listen to this conference and possibly catch a glimpse of the future, and what it may mean to millions of individuals who started out just like me.

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Panel Discussions

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On Saturday I sat through two minor discussions at Anime Boston,  Cosplay Psychology and J Fashion.  Unfortunately both were rather ill prepared, but J Fashion was about a billion times better thanks to the interactions from the hosts.

I want to state beforehand that my expectations for these two panels/workshops were probably too high, and at least for the Psychology one I expected a strong academic discussion on the topic.

Cosplay Psychology started started a bit late.  I noticed a well dressed cosplayer pacing around the entrance to the room with a boombox on his back, he was playing a sappy song that I didn’t recognize.  I assume it was anime related, but the lyrics were in English.  As cosplayers go, he was pretty well put together.  I could feel a vibe of separation coming from him, he wasn’t in line, he wasn’t talking to anyone, just pacing. 

We eventually filed into the room and our blue haired pacing friend was sitting by himself where the panel should be. I was surprised he was going to lead the discussion, but looking back at his behavior it started to make sense. We waited a bit for the panelists to arrive, but no such luck.  It was just Mr. Pacing.

I looked into his eyes as he was trying to be nonchalant slouching at the table in front.  I knew we were in serious trouble, I got a distinct smarmy aura emanating off of his white suit.

Now to give a talk on cosplay psychology one of the prerequisites should be that you do some research before you speak.  It was clear that he had very little academic credentials other than taking some psychology classes and being a cosplayer, but that doesn’t really matter to me.  What did matter was that he projected an attitude of being smarter than everyone in the room, covered it with some shallow “everyone is beautiful” hippy philosophy and generally made stuff up off the cuff when he didn’t know the answer to the questions which was about 75% of the time.  There were several people in the room who did appear to have the academic credentials, were more humble and knowledgeable about the subject and were infinitely more interesting to listen to.  I had to leave the room eventually otherwise there would have been trouble.

The J Fasion panel was distinctly lighter in tone.  The speakers also were not prepared and were slightly insecure, but tolerating them was easier due to their humility and absolute adoration of the subject matter.  They were willing to learn from people in the audience when a sub genre was introduced that they didn’t have knowledge of and were more likable in almost every way.

There are lots of individuals doing fine work in fan culture in the Cambridge area and in Massachusetts, I would like to get some of these people in touch with each other.  The Anime Boston experience is fantastic overall and these small problems can be overcome quickly and easily with little effort. 

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Vendor Room

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The vendor room was spectacular.  I avoided buying something, but thats probably a good thing.  If I start down the road of toy collection and model building again it will totally ruin my liquid income. 

One of the things that really surprises me is the prevalence of what I assume is bootlegged media.  Most of the titles that are subject to this description would not be available in the US anyway or in different versions, but it still surprises me that it is tolerated.

I am not easily fooled by bootleg DVDs but they got me last year.  I would have had to look at the package with a loupe to be able to determine that it was a fake.  These guys are getting good, and media creation technology is quickly catching up with what is commercially produced.

The fact here is that there is stuff available that is even difficult to get on the internet.  There is a market for this media the authors of the media are not fulfilling.  So where does the public turn to consume it?  Right now the only answer appears to be conventions like this.

2nd Day Observations

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The crowds are denser today and the level of sophistication and numbers of cosplayers is definitely raised from yesterday.  There is also a greater amount of buzz around each event. 

The lobby and opening to the Hynes was filled with large groups of cosplayers organized by theme and by friendship.  The security staff is in control and patient but looks VERY confused.  Cameras were flashing everywhere. 

The crowd is certainly young.  Mostly late teens and twenties by casual observation. Everyone is smiling and running, there is a freedom that is coming with this event.  I am not sure exactly what it is, but it is contagious and I share some of it. 

It looks like it is going to be an eventful day.

IRON Cosplay!

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Sitting in the Iron Cosplay session.  Teams are given a random ingredient to dress up as an anime character in 15 minutes. They are given a bunch of costuming elements.  (I’m too far away but I think they are actually like fabric remnants and such.)

Up in front there appears to be a man dressed as one of the Sailor Moon characters and a Full Metal Alchemist character. 

A wave just started in the front row and fan related music is playing while people are milling about watching the contestants.

My spouse has been on camera duty and has been taking pictures of the cosplayers and is running around the room trying to capture the action. 

The panelists are introducing themselves and the Sailor guy just ran around the room trying to get the one allowed “outside” prop from the audience. 

The dancing in the rows has begun.  World beware.

Intense panelist discussion on Japanese interpretations of Norwegian vampires of dubious morality.

WINNER!  Team B representing a Ghost in the Shell character wins it on inventive uses of plastic Easter eggs.

Post Lunch Observations

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So far it’s been an interesting day of giant swords, bewildered passersby and watching people get glomped.  I guess I am too old for glomping.

My small family unit attended a talk on plushy creation and walked away with a couple of our own chibi figures for the kids.  We are mainly walking around taking pics for Flickr (I will post after the con) and finding kid appropriate things to do. 

The dealer room is fascinating and overwhelming.  Everything that I cherished in my youth action figures, models, anime that I loved is displayed for consumption for those that have the cash.  We made a couple of quick purchases but tomorrow the spousal unit and I will scour the room in more detail since we will be less kids which means we can spend more than 60 seconds at a booth without having a bored child.

There is a large mix of fans of the casual stuff (Narutu, Dragonball Z) some of the fun and mainstream (Evangelion) and tons of the more obscure.  Goth and Loli abound as well.  Something about the comfortability of these spaces makes the normally shy and reserved gregarious, and I love it.

Anime Boston Coverage ON!

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Whew….arrived a little bit ago at the convention center.  It took a while to get the kids together and get the registration settled.  Things are busy but calm.  Cosplayers seem to be more abundant this year, with a higher quality of and variety of costumes. 

I am feeling a little bit behind since I haven’t watched a ton of anime this year and it seems I am a bit lacking in identifying some of the new characters that are bopping about.

Every chance I get to sit I will try and do some blogging about what is going on and some of the cultural impact that these types of conventions are having.  I do believe that fan conventions show a preview of what happens in mainstream pop culture.  I will expand that statement at a later date.

Enjoy folks, talk to you again soon.

 

The Rise and Fall of MySpace

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One again, MySpace is having serious issues this morning. Several accounts (including mine) at least have the appearance of being deleted. If they continue to have these types of problems, there may be a mass exodus to other social networking services like Cyworld. (See my page at http://us.cyworld.com/jcallina)

For Cyworld, the timing is good, they just launched their public beta yesterday, and despite some minor hiccups, things are looking really, really tight.

As you may have noticed…

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If you are reading this blog via the main web page, you will see that there is a picture of a GIGANTIC coffee cup at the top.

At first, I was horrified, but I have since come to terms with the enormous header. I have decided to leave it. I think it may be some sort of pretentious attempt on my part to comment on the current state of web design.

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