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Sep 02, 2003

OpenCourseWare Open for Business

MIT OpenCourseWare
a free, open, publication of MIT Course Materials.


This month the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) officially launches its Web-based electronic publishing initiative, MIT OpenCourseWare. MIT OCW is "a free, open, publication of MIT Course Materials" offered to the internet public. The materials include course syllabuses and assignments as well as access to videos of lectures. Last September the piolt version eased itself into public awareness with a limited number of courses, and this year offers several hundred more. The program has roadmapped a plan to get virtually all courses on the Web by 2007.

MIT OCW is free, as in beer. It is available to anyone with internet access. If you don't have an internet account there's always the local public library or internet cafe. September's issue of Wired features an article about how a young man in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam is using MIT OCW to take a course in software engineering for $600 (USD), while a "classmate" in Nashville, Tennessee uses it to supplement what he started learning in community college a year ago before he dropped out.

One thing the student does not get is an accredited degree. This is not Distance Learning and MIT is quick to point that out (see question #6):

MIT OCW is not a distance-learning initiative. Distance learning involves the active exchange of information between faculty and students, with the goal of obtaining some form of a credential. Increasingly, distance learning is also limited to those willing and able to pay for materials or course delivery. MIT OCW is not meant to replace degree-granting higher education or for-credit courses. Rather, the goal is to provide the content that supports an education.

There has been a lot of debate over what may be problematic with online education, and the players involved continue to examine closely any potential drawbacks. I'm not an educator so I cannot argue from that perspective, but some concerns I've heard about include the idea of promoting "camera star" professors (via the need to video conference lectures) over "camera shy" professors, and how this might alienate otherwise legitimate agendas. Also the idea that the online experience is not a true surrogate of the campus life experience. There are others issues, like copyright laws and the intellectual rights of teachers and professors. And then there is always the issue in education about who (what culture) propagates what information, and why.

In October of 2001, First Monday published an article by Kei Ishii that addresses some of these issues. It also makes a case for a more intelligent grasp at power:

Soft power is best explained by Joseph Nye and William Owens: "[Soft power] is the ability to achieve desired outcomes in international affairs through attraction rather than coercion. It works by convincing others to follow, or getting them to agree to, norms and institutions that produce the desired behavior" (Nye and Owens, 1996). One of the results for nation-states is that they "may not need to expend as many of its costly traditional or military resources". Thus, soft power also is about the attraction of U.S. democracy and free markets. Again, OpenCourseWare and Open Source provide the field for the participants to use the soft power, to create the norms and institutions necessary to learn, create, invent, innovate and last not least succeed economically.

For the most part the Academe has recognized the decentralized nature of the internet and how this may serve for a more equitable dissemination of education. MIT is not the only school looking into this, and the MIT OCW program isn't the first attempt of its kind. While it may not be the most comprehensive learning system yet, it is the most evolved program to date. It is a start. Looking ahead, the successes and failures of this program will serve as model to the future of Education.

09:11 PM in When the Web Works | Permalink | Comments (16) | TrackBack

Sep 04, 2003

5 Works of Art for a Desert Island

I found a post on Waste Blog that references a game from Terry Teachout's blog About Last Night (part of the ArtsJournal site). The game is called In The Bag:

First, a quick review of the rules for those of you just joining us. "In the Bag" is my private variation of the old desert-island game. In this version, the emphasis is on immediate and arbitrary preference. You can stuff five works of art into your bag before departing for that good old desert island, but you have to decide right this second. No dithering—the secret police are banging on the front door. No posturing—you have to say the first five things that pop into your head, no matter how dumb they may sound. What do you put in the bag?
So here was my list:
  • The Vietnam War Memorial
  • Picasso's Guernica
  • Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
  • Natty Dread by Bob Marley
  • Searching for Bobby Fischer (movie)

Per the instructions I rushed making the list, and then realized the first 2 items would never fit in a bag. Plus a lot of people would probably miss those 2. The last choice is basically because I wanted to include a movie to bring to the desert island that I'm assuming would have electricity, a tv and a DVD player. Scrambling, I tried to think of a movie that I always stop and watch on tv no matter what point the movie is at. Its one of my favorites, but maybe not my all-time favorite. Anyway, that's the game.

06:50 PM in a brown paper bag | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Sep 05, 2003

Grassroots: The Freewriting Experiment

The passage below is from a freewriting session. I'm posting this without having read it yet.

Topic: Grassroots
Timeframe: 10 minutes


grassroots. the blades of grass that are anchored to the roots that are anchored to the soil. the siol beneath the yard. that makes up the earth wehre the earthworms swim. swim in the dirt and create tunnels and chambers that areate the ground. the ground that is being covered by the grass. it becomes the yard. a sea of green blades rolling into the distance. many blades of grass tied to the roots. grassroots campaigns of people in numbers like a sea of green grass. banding together to form a lawn, a yard, a sea of heads. a yard of voices. writing and tapping and pounding away at keys to make themselves heard. across the yard. far across the lawn. the sea of voices like blades of grass.

typepad backend technology written in Pearl. like the roots that the soil grabs. like the roots that the soul grabs and attaches itself to the dirt below. a sea of words like blades of grass. noodles of grass blades swaying in voice. yelling and screaming and crying out across the yard. where our toes grab on to the blades of grass and pull at the roots. each one passing by. steping and running. lying on my back looking up at the sky. I can feel the grass. and bugs in the grass. jumping up on my self. tickeling my self as i lie on the yard. the templates and stylesheets like roots for our grass.

and people that gathers. cows that eat grass. grassroot campaigns that start to make numbers. with heads of people. their mouths all have voices. the leader they are looking for to lead their grassroots. at a close view is like a jungle of green bladed jungle. where the roots meet the earth and connect to the grass. that connects to the sky with the people in the middle. at night and at day. for children today and later today we will run on the lawn and yell at the sky. to whoever hears us yell on the grass. the bugs and the poeple and cows that eat grass.


The guidelines of freewriting are to choose a topic and a timeframe, and then write about that topic for the given amount of time without stopping. I'm inviting people to respond to the passage above with a passage of your own, and then TrackBack to this post. I'm curious to see what happens.

09:52 PM in Experimental Writing | Permalink | Comments (13) | TrackBack

Sep 07, 2003

How Long Will America Be Occupying Iraq?

Now would be a good time to re-read James Fallows' "The Fifty-first State?". Written almost a year ago, Fallows goes into detail about the accountability America would have to a post-war Iraq. The November 2002 article, and the magazine The Atlantic that published it, was awarded top prize in Public Interest by the National Magazine Awards.

Going to war with Iraq would mean shouldering all the responsibilities of an occupying power the moment victory was achieved. These would include running the economy, keeping domestic peace, and protecting Iraq's borders—and doing it all for years, or perhaps decades. Are we ready for this long-term relationship?

08:10 PM in Current Affairs, Questions | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Sep 08, 2003

17. Rulers

The best rulers are scarcely known by their subjects;
The next best are loved and praised;
The next are feared;
The next despised:
They have no faith in their people,
And their people become unfaithful to them.

When the best rulers achieve their purpose
Their subjects claim the achievement as their own.

08:55 AM in a brown paper bag | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Columbia Journalism Review on Blogging

In addition to sporting a brand new look, this month's Columbia Journalism Review features an article by Matt Welch on the current relationship between weblogs and the Media. In it Welch states that the rise in popularity of blogging could help revitalize the industry of Journalism.

From The New Amateur Journalists Weigh In:

...Blogging technology has, for the first time in history, given the average Jane the ability to write, edit, design, and publish her own editorial product — to be read and responded to by millions of people, potentially — for around $0 to $200 a year. It has begun to deliver on some of the wild promises about the Internet that were heard in the 1990s. Never before have so many passionate outsiders — hundreds of thousands, at minimum — stormed the ramparts of professional journalism.

Also, if you haven't read Tom Coates' recent article on blogging yet, here it is.

09:20 AM in When the Web Works | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Sep 09, 2003

Just A Minute

[Link found via Malin samlar]

Along the lines of the Freewriting Experiment, one word gives you 60 seconds to write about a given word. The results are archived and can be viewed when you're done writing.

10:00 AM in Experimental Writing | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

An Interview with Douglas Coupland

[Link found via CUP OF CHICHA]

The following is an excerpt from an interview with Douglas Coupland. He is referencing the crime scene of the Columbine shootings after a number of students were found slain in the cafeteria:

RB: You designed the icon that is on the cover of Hey Nostradamus! And on your website you have that photograph from the Columbine cafeteria that you entitle ‘Tropical Birds’ after the ATF agent’s observation about all the cell phones ringing. Why haven’t you put more visual elements into your books?

DC: What I am doing now is – I used to do a lot of non-fiction and short fiction and now it’s just long-form fiction, novels, and a lot of visual work. And it’s a conscious decision. The ‘Tropical Birds,’ that happened, I was in Harbor Front (I can’t wait to get to the telephone and find out what the hell is going on there) 400, 500 people and someone’s phone went off in the middle. And it just brought to mind that exact paragraph from the Rocky Mountain News…

RB: Where the ATF agent says the phones were going off and it sounded like tropical birds?

DC: Yeah. So without telling anyone in the audience why, I said ‘Okay, who’s got a phone’ and called them up. ‘Now go to your neighbor and find out their number and phone them and they’ll phone you back or whatever. House, could you dim down the lights?’ Everybody thought it was ‘hee hee, really funny.’ Or whatever, David Byrne-postmodern. And then it went on for a minute and it had its own texture. And then the lights came up and the phones turned off and I told them what I was basing this on. And there was this reaction like everyone had been kicked in the gut. Then in Paris, at the Parisian Literary Festival, I did the same thing except I told people in advance why I am doing it and they did it and then the lights came up and everybody was in tears. There was this gasp of astonishment. Like how often do you hear the singing voice of the human soul?

09:40 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Sep 10, 2003

Recording Histroy: The Freewriting Experiment

The passage below is from a freewriting session. I'm posting this without having read it yet.

Topic: Recording History
Timeframe: 10 minutes


this is a recording. a recording of history. when i started this weblog I didn't know why i was doing it. I just wanted to becasue I like reading other people's weblogs. I knew something was going on but wasn't sure what. for a while and maybe even still I don't know what my weblog is about. but today when I woke up I started thinkng about history and how every recording no matter how mundane is a document that will exist in history for other people to see later. even if later is 5 minutes from now.

tomorrow is the second anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. it is recent history. news and media and tv have covered it since it happened. people will most likely write all over their blogs tomorrow about what they were doing when it happened. at least that's what i'm expecting. hoping for to read other's accounts of what ever they thought. that's what I'm planning to do. my part of history. otherwise the future will only know what has been recorded by professionals.

i'm a pretend professional. i'm not even a writer per say but i write. people write about knitting a lot and i've been wondering about that. and kids and bikes and hockey and war and jesus and god and atheist that don't believe in god. muslims and christians and 10 commandments and Kobe. I never liked kobe bryant. he's an imposter to the throne. since i live in chicago and the rights belong to the bulls. they're lucky mj quit.

and history will repeat itself or that's what the saying is. french histroy, world history, american history, spelling errors and spelling bees. and b 2 bombers at war making history. his story and her story. all the stories combined. backspacing over lives already made fammous by fifteen minutes of fame a day. andy warhol was right but got the time increment wrong. and mapplethorpe was gay and dressed in black in new hamsphire where we saw the exhibit. raining with funions on the way back


The guidelines of freewriting are to choose a topic and a timeframe, and then write about that topic for the given amount of time without stopping. I'm inviting people to respond to the passage above with a passage of your own, and then TrackBack to this post, or just leave it in the 'comments' of this post.

10:15 PM in Experimental Writing | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Sep 11, 2003

September 11

Late. Again. You jerk out of bed. Fast. There's no way you'll make it to work on time. Again. Shocked. You're in the shower brushing your teeth. Call a cab? You're hand is on the phone, you're putting on pants. "Hello, I need a cab right away please." You're running. Late. The cab never came. You're on the train, your unpressed shirt is sticking to your sweaty back. You're standing still on the fast moving train.

You have a presentation. You have 3 minutes. You're 15 minutes away. People are gathering in the conference room. You need to be vested. Your father is retiring this year, you want to send them on a trip. You need the bonus. Your nephew is turning 1 this year, you want to set up a trust fund. People are having coffee. You're 10 minutes away. Standing still on a moving train. People are making pre-meeting small talk.

You're at your desk. The meeting is 15 minutes old. Fast. You're grabbing your presentation, you're sweating. You woke up late. You wake up late the next day. You wake up late everyday. You stay up late, reading about HTML, XHTML, DHTML, XML. Creativity is not guaranteed everytime. They think it should be. They tell the you it is. You work to build business. You work to make money. You need to be vested. You make other people money. You need the bonus. You move. You move near work so you can walk to work. And not be late. You need this job. You don't wan't this job, but its the right thing to do.

9.11.2001 The arlarm is set. It is set to 8:20 am. You live in Chicago. Chicago is one hour behind New York. At 8:16 am you jerk out of bed. You beat the alarm today. Something seems wrong though. That's never happened before.

You're half a sleep, you wait for the coffee. The woman on the morning news show seems upset. Like she just got some really bad news about her family, but has to do her job anyway.

The World Trade Center towers are on fire.
But its not true, its a mistake.
Its not a mistake, it is true.
2 jets just crashed.

You stumble to work.
The buildings in New York fall.

The water supply is locked down.
Downtown Chicago is shut down.

Everyone leaves.
Everyone is confused.

Its such a beautiful day,
the sky is so empty and so full of blue.

People are standing around very calm.
No one is talking. Just looking at each other,
and the sky.

You sit at home all alone on the couch and cry. The tv is on and I sob every hour until I'm so tired.

I'm not patriotic. I don't believe in God. Later that week, people downtown gather at noon and sing "God Bless America" and you cry.

All day and all night I watch the news. You wonder what it means. You ask yourself question after question.

How will people react now? How will this be rebuilt? What about the familys? Did our government know? Who did this? What about all those people? What about the people that jumped? What about the people on the planes? What about the people who rushed to work today? Is everyone going to be more critical now? Will we all want to seek vengence now? What if we get the answers wrong?

I rarely cry, I cried all day. Since then you cry a lot now.

1998, 3 years earlier I was having lunch with some people at work. Another job, not the one I'm talking about before. For some reason we were discussing war.

"The next World War is going to happen after another country attacks America's financial districts," I said. "Probably not in our lifetime, but some day another country is going to want to take the power away from America. A lot of other countries hate America.

If you look at old maps of Europe, different countries have held power at different times in history. The boderlines change. At one time the Roman Empire owned everything, and then France. America won't always be the world power."

There was a guy at work that always had to prove he was right. No matter what people said he always had to disagree. He scoffed at me to impress a girl he liked.

I hate that guy.

I continued, "The traditional tactic of war is to take out the enemy's water, hospitals, roads and communication. America is too decentralized of a country, no enemy could accomplish that. The one thing that is centralized are the financial districts. If the stock markets go down the country is screwed," I said. "They should put some kind of anti-missile-radar thing on the World Trade towers, and on the Sears tower. You know what's up there now? Tv antennas. Commercial tv is more important than National Security."

One of the younger co-workers said, "Well the financial districts and the Pentagon. The Pentagon would be a prime target for missiles too."

"That would never happen though," I said. "You have to think the Government has that fortified."


07:42 AM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack