Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Value of Heroes

My nephew Steven was visiting us recently and we were watching some TV. The subject turned to heroes and whether there was something happening in TV, Film, and Comics. And, in an unrelated but perhaps synchronistic event, I exchanged some email with Jason Ohler on the value of storytelling in learning. That set me to thinking about whether something MIGHT be happening.

Storytelling when I was a young adult was fairly simple stuff. The stories were, of course, in books, movies, and TV. That has not much changed. But, the depth and structure of those stories from the 1940's, -50's, and -60's, when you go back and look at it critically, were very shallow Despite some amazing work which pushed literature forward, even when I go back and look at some of the most important stories of those times, I find a simplicity of structure, a lack of depth, and even a naivete that went unnoticed and uncommented upon during that time.

TV and movies were in their infancy then and it is perhaps to be expected that their storytelling skills were not as evolved. Oh, I know, Citizen Kane is STILL considered the best movie ever made, but for heaven's sake, it was Welles ... what can you do? Heterosis had to occur in somebody...we were just lucky enough for it to be Orson.

But the run of the mill film, even those we consider classics now, are, under the electron microscope of 21st century expectations, rather anemic story and structure wise.

Fast forward to the nineties and some very interesting thngs are happening. first, WE WON! Those of us who fought teachers, parents, grandparents, scout masters, teacher, nun, and every other "authority figure" of the 50's and 60's who told us those horrible comic books would rot our brains and seduce the innocent. We won and the graphic novel has emerged as a legitimate literary form.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

create your own slideshow

Found Picturetrail recently and it's great. It let's you build small display widgets with your own photos then embed them onto your own websites...very cool.

Other technology that's begining to shw up includes Microsoft's Surface, a computing table that is almost a one for one match to some of the ideas I wrote about here a couple years ago. It's good to see some of these things finally appearing but I still think the actual usage model is developing.

Microsoft wants to make $5k-$10k tables a standard sort of approach. Not a bad idea, but the price is too high. I think smaller form factors, simpler implementations and lower costs will be important to making surface computing more ubiquitous.

I've been asked to provide a keynote this week to a learning technolgy conference and I think this technology of touch and feel and manipulation is one of the key ones emerging right now. But it's not just a matter of lookig at your photos, or moving things around on a table with your fingers. it is about being able to manipulate a world that exists around you. it's about computing splashed on the walls.

For learning, this means access to information, knowledge, training, expertise, advice, and ideas all the time, spashed onthe walls and tables, on the surfaces that surround you.

I think that is the promise of so called surface computing (look back at my old entry on a new theory of surfaces), not these simple photo sharing apps we see in the MS Surface marketing vids.

But the technology is coming along nicely. Microsoft's is intriguing, but Apple's may be better. And we are experimenting with our own here at DERI.