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The Clumsiest Way to Exercise Imagination

or, Garry Winogrand was wrong

Some time ago, I posted this fantastic quote about the difference between photography and other kinds of creativity, by the famous street photographer Garry Winogrand: Still photography is the clumsiest way to exercise imagination, to illustrate literary ideas. Anybody with a pencil beats you. Period. To take a simple illustration of the point: if you wanted a melted watch, how… read more

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You Are Mountain

A strange video game from the Her animator bests Spike Jonze's film at depicting what a relationship with an alien really would be like.

Near the start of his relationship with a computer operating system in Spike Jonze’s Academy Award-winning film Her, Samantha the OS (Scarlett Johansson) helps Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) play a videogame. Called “Alien Child” by the filmmakers, the game seems familiar enough to be plausible to viewers, yet foreign enough to induce estrangement. The same could be said of the film’s high-waisted… read more

What Is ‘Evil’ to Google?

Speculations on the company's contribution to moral philosophy

Last week, another distasteful use of your personal information by Google came to light: The company plans to attach your name and likeness to advertisements delivered across its products without your permission. As happens every time the search giant does something unseemly, Google's plan to turn its users into unwitting endorsers has inspired a new round of jabs at Google's… read more

The Condensed Classroom

"Flipped" classrooms don't invert traditional learning so much as abstract it

Some promote MOOCS as the future of lower-cost higher eduction, while others lament them a solutionist privatization of educational practice. Despite the polarization, both MOOCs and flipped classrooms enjoyed positive mentions last week from President Obama, who announced a White House plan to make college more affordable: A rising tide of innovation has the potential to shake up the higher… read more

Open, New, Experimental, Aspirational

The rhetoric of "The Bill of Rights and Principles for Learning in the Digital Age"

The Bill of Rights and Principles for Learning in the Digital Age is a new document authored and signed by twelve scholars, technologists, and entrepreneurs including Duke professor and author Cathy Davidson, organizational technologist John Seely Brown, and Udacity CEO Sebastian Thrun. It’s been making the rounds among those of us interested in such topics, also receiving coverage at The… read more

The Microethics of Informal University-Corporate Partnerships

What are universities giving away when we host hackathons, game jams, and the like?

Everyone knows that creativity and productivity are increasingly given away for free these days, particularly when it comes to technology products and services. For example: we contribute to the business of companies like Google and Facebook by giving them our data to resell, and we contribute to the business of companies like Apple by providing speculative, often free apps to… read more

How the Video-Game Industry Already Lost Out in the Gun-Control Debate

Firearms, not entertainment, lead to mass shootings, and yet gamers have irrevocably become implicated in the conversation over violence in America.

This week, Vice President Biden’s announced the establishment of a task force on gun violence. Invitations for input were sent to the NRA, of course, but also major gun retailers like Walmart and representatives from the video game industry. In response, Kris Graft, the editor-in-chief of video game trade publication Gamasutra, penned an editorial criticizing the games industry for allowing… read more

Educational Hucksterism

Or, MOOCs are not an Educational Technology

My colleague Mark Guzdial argues that MOOCs are a fundamental misperception of how learning works. In the post, Mark argues that MOOCs misconstrue educational practice, mistaking lectures and rote-exercises for the central activities of classes in higher education. Reading Mark’s post I found myself reflecting on a seemingly unrelated article I read yesterday, Peer-to-Peer Hucksterism: An Open Letter to Tim… read more

The McDonald’s of Higher Ed

Nigel Thrift wrote a somewhat mind-bending article in the Chronicle of Higher Ed about the Cheesecake Factorization of higher education. You should read the whole thing, but here’s a choice excerpt: What I think we will see is this same chain model gradually taking over higher education. There will still be craft models of delivery—just as there are high-end restaurants—but… read more

In Defense of Competition

On sport, games, success, and failure

On her blog, my Georgia Tech colleague Amy Bruckman writes about her dissatisfaction with this year’s Olympics. While she loved the games as a kid, Bruckman wonders if her new feelings of disappointment arise from watching them as an educator rather than as a little girl: “I look at young people and want to see positive outcomes for all our… read more