Scouting the moon

The Scout Report always turns up some interesting sites. This week’s collection includes Black Quotidian, “a digital project designed to highlight everyday moments and lives in African-American history.” I like the idea behind it:

While this allowed me to find and analyze over ten thousand newspaper articles on school desegregation, I missed the experience of working with microfilm reels and stumbling across interesting stories I had not been searching for. I appreciate that digitization makes it possible to search millions of articles with high levels of precision, but with Black Quotidian I hope to reintroduce the feelings of randomness and surprise that I associate with my first encounters with black newspapers.

although I wonder if that randomness really comes through in a curated collection. Still, it’s an awesome project. Friday’s entry showed several reactions to the moon landing in 1969. One part that caught my attention was this paragraph from the Los Angeles Sentinel:


because it addresses the same thing as the opening line of Gil Scott-Heron’s poem, Whitey on the Moon.

A rat done bit my sister Nell
With Whitey on the moon
Her face and arms began to swell
And Whitey’s on the moon

The site is built on Scalar, one of the many web tools I need to look into and experiment with. Maybe someday I’ll find the time.

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Do the Funky Narmer

Some images are just asking to be GIFfed. Tom Woodward’s bionicteaching tumblr sometimes reblogs images from the Internet Archive Book Images’ Photostream, an awesome resource. When I saw this image this morning, I couldn’t resist:

The image is a detail from the Narmer Palette. I’m not sure what it’s all about, but if you follow the links you can get back to the source. The ten figures are similar yet different enough for stop-motion animation. So I piled them all on top of each other, trying to keep the decapitated heads more or less in the same position, and came up with this:


I also set it to music, just for the heck f it.

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My old school look

Yesterday I had the opportunity to speak at the PA Forward Information Literacy Summit. I talked about Open Education and Information Literacy, my pet topic, using Open Educational Resources and the ACRL Framework as hooks. My main point is that open practices exercise and develop information literacy skills, so we can use interest in OER as a way to integrate IL development into courses. Along the way, I talked about open education and its historical context, to get people to see OER as more than just free textbooks. I tried to highlight the historical aspect with my visual motif – the yellowed paper background and the images from the Internet Archive’s Flickr stream. (Friendly warning: If you look up “open” in the Archive’s photostream, you will see a lot of images of an anatomical nature.)

The session moderator introduced me with an introduction that I had written, in which I qualify my international speaking experience with “meaning he went to Canada once.” While the audience got a good laugh out of it, the moderator was mortified, and emphasized that those were my words, not hers. I wonder if that’s something I should be more sensitive about.

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Timely connections

The race that controls the past, controls the living present
And therefore, the future

Who controls our memory machines will control our future. (They always have.)


I’m working on a few projects at the moment. One is a weeding project in the reference section of my library. This is challenging. What I normally do when weeding is look at circulation statistics. Items that haven’t been used in a long time are candidates for withdrawal. I consider other factors as well, such as the current curriculum and the availability of the item through other libraries. We don’t track the use of reference books though, so I have no data for my normal starting point. Some information is obviously outdated, like directories from the 80s, and some is available online, like many of our encyclopedias. Those decisions are easy; others and more difficult.

Another project, more personal interest than work-related, is looking into the history of open education. The meaning of the term has shifted a bit over the years in some respects, but the influence of Dewey and progressive education seems to be there throughout the years. I’m really just beginning my exploration, so my thoughts have yet to solidify. This project has me using things that could be candidates for weeding, like the book I just picked up, which hadn’t been touched in 22 years.

On one hand, you never know when something might be useful. On the other, our space is finite and most of our courses of study privilege recent scholarship. Simple economics means older information disappears.

I thought of this as I read Jim’s post about the Return of the Living Dead in Second Life. A video of a presentation he took part in, not even a decade old, had disappeared from the Internet, due to simple economic decisions. It was only saved because Alan kept a backup. How much information, how much art, disappears because someone, or some organization, fails to recognize the value of it? How rampant a problem is this going to be in the digital age? I believe that was a question that came up in the Decentralized Web Summit last month.

Audrey Watters talked about this at Digital Pedagogy Lab PEI – how information disappears, how memory, even when augmented by the digital realm, is fragile. Recorded memory isn’t just fragile, it’s manipulable. I remember reading about an art forgery scandal years ago, where the forging of the paintings wasn’t nearly as good as the forging of the provenance. In some ways, technology makes manipulation easier, but it also offers some protections. So we could have a memory hole as well as a Wayback Machine. We could leave it to others to make decisions about what gets deleted and what gets preserved. Or we could do it ourselves. Wikity seems to move in that direction, by forking pages rather than linking to them (something else to go on the long list of things I need to look into). It’s a way of taking control of information, memory and the past. Audrey’s closing line immediately brought up a memory of the Public Enemy cut from a quarter-century ago, linked at the top of this post.

But I’ve also been working on another project, an Omeka site for the Timely Times. This is a collection of hand-drawn newspapers my father made back in 1939-1941. Somehow they managed to get saved all those years. Somehow I can’t image they’ll last anywhere near that long online, or in their current digital format for that matter. But as long as they mean something to a few people (my brothers and I), they’ll stick around. At least I can control that much of the past.

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Same as it ever was

I always liked Magritte. It was nice to see him acknowledged in today’s Daily Create. The point of The Treachery of Images, as I understand it, is that a picture of a thing, like a pipe, is not the thing itself. So it looks like a pipe, but you can’t easily smoke with it.

The other day I came across Kermit the Frog doing his cover version of the Talking Heads’ “Once in a Lifetime,” which has the line, “This is not my beautiful house.” I thought of that in conjunction with today’s TDC, so I went to Google Street View to find a picture of the house where I used to live, which I’ve been renting out since I moved to the hills of Pennsylvania a few years ago. It’s not my house because I don’t live there, but it is because I own it. Whether or not it is beautiful is a matter of opinion – I liked it better when I was on the scene to take care of it. And of course it’s not the house, it’s a picture. I used Google Translate for the French text, and I used @cogdog’s template, with some minor defacing, to make the image. Anyway, here’s Kermit:

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“It beats pickin’ cotton”

Today’s Daily Create was to print out a Youtube video:

The first thing I thought of was what was perhaps the pinnacle of music video artistry, the video for The Replacements’ Bastards of Young

I was surprised to find that there was more going on the the video than I remembered. The output has a nice pattern to it, a kind of a gradation. I found that the bookmarklet doesn’t create one image, but rather a series of 5×5 screenshots stacked on top of each other. I saved the first, last and three in between, and put them together in Photoshop. I added a yellowish gradient to it to go with the gradation in the collage. I liked the sorta sepia effect. It reminds me of something old, and also of sunshine.


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Frame within the frame

The A.V. Club has been doing A History of Violence in cinema, where they look at “the most important action movie of every year” from 1968 on. They’ve got Dolemite on the list, and while I’m not sure I’d call it an action movie, the mere fact that they brought it up makes them OK in my book.

What really interests me in the series are the also-rans, which include some that I haven’t seen. Through looking into these, I somehow came across Targets, an early Peter Bogdanovich film from 1968. From a modern perspective, it doesn’t qualify as an action film, nor if it particularly violent, nor is it very good. But there were some interesting things about it.


Boris Karloff in The Criminal Code as seen in Targets

In the movie, aging horror film star Boris Karloff plays an aging horror film star, and writer/director Bodganovich plays a young writer/director, creating a weird film within a film situation, which is mirrored on screen as the two watch The Criminal Code, Karloff’s 1931 film, on TV, and again at the climax where The Terror, a Karloff/Corman collaboration from 1963 plays onscreen at a drive-in.

Boris Karloff in The Terror as seen in Targets

Boris Karloff in The Terror as seen in Targets

There’s a second storyline throughout the movie, of a clean-cut all-American boy who for no particular reason goes on a shooting spree. Boris slaps some sense into him at the drive-in. The point is that Karloff’s brand of horror pales before the real-world monsters.

bj hunnicuttOne thing I like about old movies is that you sometimes catch a glimpse of actors before they got famous. Close observers of Targets may notice Mike Farrell, AKA Capt. BJ Hunicutt of MASH fame, as the man in the phone booth. I suppose sharing the cross-hairs with Boris Karloff isn’t the wosrt way to start a career.

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After Effects roulette

I’ve been playing with Adobe After Effects lately. I had a kinetic typography idea that I never finished, so I started looking into animation tools. But then I got sidetracked with the idea of making something sort of 3D out of a 2D image. I was thinking of a different kind of take on the animated comic book cover assignment. What you can do is separate parts of an image into layers, then arrange those layers in space, and then move a virtual camera over the image. Moving the camera alters the perspective on the different layers, giving it a pseudo-dimensionality.

Aelayerviewsmall5531This is a bit time-consuming. As with the animated comic book covers, you have to fill in the background behind the layers, which can be a challenge. If we consider this image, the background behind Batman is mostly a shadow, so it’s tedious but not complicated to fill it in – you can use the clone stamp tool, or copy and paste parts of the visible shadow area. There’s also a content-aware fill function that sometimes works. All of this work is done in Photoshop, before going into After Effects. Where it gets to be a challenge is the area behind the note. Most of it is tabletop, which is easy, but part of it is Batman’s forearm, which might be easy for an artist, but it’s hard for the rest of us. Fortunately it doesn’t have to be perfect, because only part of it will be visible, and only for a short while, depending on how we move the camera around.

Once we have the Photoshop work done, we can import the image into After Effects. After Effects, I’ve found, has a lot of different tools, each with a lot of different settings and variables. This makes following any of the tutorials difficult, because they all assume quite a bit a prior knowledge on the part of the viewer. Like how I mentioned clone stamp and content-aware above, without saying how to find or use the tools and functions. I looked a a bunch of them, and found them all pretty annoying, but picked up clues along the way. There was one on Lynda which helped a bit: Motion Control 3D: Bringing Your Photos to Life in Three Dimensions with After Effects and Photoshop CS6. I also did a lot of trial and error, which I’m still working on. Basically, you import the Photoshop file into After Effects as a composition, move the layers to the stage area, make the layers 3D with that little cube icon, space the layers out (you have to resize them to compensate for perspective), then create a camera (Layer-New-Camera) and move it around on the timeline. Each of those steps was a learning experience for me, and I still don’t know what I’m doing. I managed to make something out if it though.

Detective Comics #426 cover by Michael Kaluta, via Diversions of the Groovy Kind.

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Open Education over the years

I’ve been fascinated by early articles on open education ever since Resnick’s 1972 article on open ed and technology came to my attention. The other day I looked at one of Barth’s articles, so today I thought I’d try to get an overview of what’s out there, a history of literature on open ed. I looked through ERIC to see what had been written over the years. The earliest articles I found were from 1970, so I took year by year counts from 1970 to 2016. At first I search “open education” as a phrase, but since that has the potential to inflate the count, I also looked it up as a subject heading. I did this using my library’s EBSCO interface, then did it again with I did this because I noticed on my initial look that EBSCO had fewer results. Apparently indexes articles more quickly, since the discrepancy is almost entirely in the past four years. What we see is a large bubble of activity in the 70s, and a smaller one in the current decade.

ERIC articles

There is some difference between what was meant by open education in the 70s and what we talk about today. Back then, from my reading of Barth, it was more of a label for various practices and characteristics of progressive education in British elementary schools, and now it refers more to accessibility in higher education. We might get a better sense of what was being discussed if we look at the other subject descriptors applied to the literature. Fortunately, ERIC makes this relatively easy. I collected the top five co-descriptors for each year, along with counts of how many documents had each descriptor. I put all this data in a spreadsheet, which I have uploaded to Google Drive if anyone is interested.

I haven’t thought of a good way to visualize the co-descriptors over time, but this would be a way of getting a sense of the change in the conversation over the years. We could look at the counts pretty easily though.
codescriptorsThis shows how many times a term has made the top five co-descriptor list since 1970. It does not take into consideration the number of documents that had each descriptor. Foreign Countries made the list in 36 of the years, Distance Education in 27 and Higher Education in 24. This might suggest that it’s something that happens outside of the US, enabled by technology in higher education, but that seems like a leap in logic. While Barth indicated that open ed was an elementary ed thing in the 60s and 70s, Higher Education also shows up on the list in the 70s, so perhaps there was more to it. The data might bear deeper analysis.

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In my library, we’ve been using the CRAAP test (PDF) when we cover evaluating information sources. Like anything else, it has its pros and cons – I like the simplicity of it, and that it’s memorable, but in reality it’s not that simple, and I worry that people take it as a checklist in place of real critique. A challenge we’ve had is that we never have time for anything more than a quick overview of it, so I went looking for a way to shift it outside of class time.

I made a Google presentation based on work done by the Rentschler Library at Miami University Hamilton (PPT), making it into a self-paced click through with some simple assessment and feedback. This is something that could be embedded in a LibGuide or other web document, like this one.

I had used Google forms to collect data in the past, and one faculty member suggested that I look into using Qualtrics. I had seen a tutorial built with Qualtrics before, so I thought I might try to do something similar with the CRAAP test. A Google form could accomplish the same thing, but Qualtrics has more reporting options.

Untitled-1This is just a simple thing that students could work through as homework before class. It would introduce them to the test and the concepts, and give them the opportunity to put the concepts into practice. There are example sites for currency, relevance, authority, accuracy and purpose, and the survey asks if each one passes the test. Students can respond yes, no, or not sure, and get immediate feedback.

Since the form collects data, we will be able to see if there is confusion on any of the five points. Class time could be spent on discussion based on the data, rather than overview or demonstration. I hope to be able to test this out with a class or two over the summer and see how it goes.

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