It’s a bag of GOLD!

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I don’t generally like long presentations. Unless the speaker is Douglas Crockford or someone with a British accent, I’ll listen to the first 6-10 minutes and then skip around a bit and eventually get bored and move on. But I listened to all of Gardener Campbell’s presentation, and not just because I was supposed to for class. I actually really liked what he had to say and I agree with his assessment of the problem and most of his solutions. I don’t want to spend this post just typing up what he already said and adding, “I agree,” to the end. So, instead I’m going to rant about some parts that bugged me a little bit or reminded me of other cool things. I hope they aren’t too nitpicky or tangential.

It seems like the overarching idea that Gardener is trying to drive home is that the educational community should be utilizing new technologies as a completely new medium, rather merely using them to give old mediums a “digital facelift.” I agree with this wholeheartedly, but I also think it will be a struggle. Already in this class I’ve heard, “Oh, I’m terrible with computers,” too many times. They aren’t bad at computers; I think they are just intimidated by the newness of it. The landscape of our technology changes so quickly that people feel like they can’t keep up. Even though they are being offered gold, I think that it will take a good amount of convincing to convince them that this crazy gold stuff is going to make them wealthy. But I also believe that we will take to it better than our teacher’s. We have the advantage of growing up with these user-generated content based web applications and not seeing everything through a lens of how things used to be done. I think that the teachers may kick and scream and bite (metaphorically of course) about blogging all the time, but the students will only whine a little until they get used to it.

 

When he started talking about games that allow for user generated levels it got me thinking about Steve Yegge’s infamous Google+ rant. I read it a while ago, but from what I remember he was frustrated that Google had seemingly failed to notice that what made things like Facebook great and successful was that they made their product into a platform. The awesome thing about platforms is that anyone who cares to learn how to use the API can develop for and add to the product. I like the idea of students being able to improve on a common platform and add to what it can do and what it can offer.

 

Gardener speaks about all these amazing advances in technology that allow for the next level of cyber-infrastructure, he seems blown away. What’s more, it feels like he expects everyone hearing it to be blown away too. But it didn’t really blow me away. When he talked about being able to have web servers in pocket devices that wont burn your leg, was I impressed with the idea? Yes. But it didn’t blow me away. That seems like the kind of thing that you could expect to see eventually as long as Moore’s law holds (Although it wont hold forever).

 

The description of cyber-infrastructure given in the video/article didn’t really sit well with me.

Cyberinfrastructure is something more specific than the network itself, but it is something more general than a tool or a resource developed for a particular project, a range of projects, or, even more broadly, for a particular discipline.

— American Council of Learned Societies,
Our Cultural Commonwealth, 2006

While true, I feel like it didn’t help me understand what cyber-infrastructure was any better then before I had read it. Gardener said that this was the “sweet spot,” but I’m not really sure I agree. As I understand it now, the most crucial part of cyber-infrastructure is your interaction with it. I think the term cyber-infrastructure itself can lead to the type of confusion I had when I first heard it. When I think of infrastructure I tend to think more about tools and roads and things that allow you to do more, not about the actual things that can be done.

 

Whew, okay. Enough ranting for now. Hopefully I’ve elucidated my thoughts adequately. Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments.

 

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