Monday, February 27, 2012

Howard Rheingold's five new media literacies provide model for 21st education system.

In his talk with child prodigy Adora Svitak, famed new media scholar Howard Rheingold discusses five fundamental literacies related to digital technology: attention, participation, credibility, collaboration and network awareness. This is a significant shift from the popular 20th century literacies of reading, writing and arithmetic. As a teacher, I recognize that this shift to a new set of literacies (and I would add search and filter as a literacy to the list) requires us to rethink the curriculum for students in the education system. Svitak provides a compelling picture of the types of students that we need to develop.

Recently Alberta Education recognized the need to transform the education system for the 21st century and embarked on a process of envisioning to develop the school system needed for a child born in 2010.

New Media Advertising?

Facial Recognition Billboard Only Lets Women See The Full Ad


By Yi Chen on February 21, 2012

A new kind of outdoor advertisement is being trialled on Oxford Street in London’s West End. The interactive advertisement uses a high-definition camera to scan pedestrians and identify their gender before showing a specific ad. The built-in system has a 90 per cent accuracy rate in analyzing a person’s facial features and determining if they’re a male or female.
The £30,000 display is set up by Plan UK, a not-for-profit organization that helps children in third-world countries. Female passersby will be shown the full 40-second video of its ‘Because I’m a Girl’ campaign that promotes sponsoring a girl to receive proper education in a developing country. Males won’t be able to see the full ad and will be directed to Plan UK’s website instead. The purpose of this was to show men “a glimpse of what it’s like to have basic choices taken away.”
The ad campaign will run for a two-week period and hopes to raise quarter of a million pounds in donations over the next four months.
Image credits Plan UK

via PSFK:

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Amazon pulls 5,000 ebooks from Kindle store

After failing to reach an agreement with the Independent Publishers Group, Amazon pulls 5,000 ebooks from its online store. Here's an article from Time magazine's business section that explains how the ebook market is in flux and everyone involved is jockeying for position. Here's the link, but I've pulled out the text and put it below:

"In a move that signifies Amazon’s determination to tighten its reign over the high stakes e-book market, the retailer removed a staggering 5,000 titles from its Kindle store because a Chicago distributor would not agree to new terms.

Independent Publishers Group claims the new electronic book agreement was too friendly to Amazon. The second largest distributor of independent books rejected the contract after the one in place came up for renewal. The proposed terms “increasingly reduce already narrow margins,” wrote IPG’s president Mark Suchomel in a book industry newsletter. He did not elaborate. Suchomel told the Chicago Tribune that Amazon accounts for only 5 percent of IPG’s business, which represents 500 indie presses and distributes titles such as “Boardwalk Empire.”

Beyond the headlines, IPG’s dispute with Amazon is a minor skirmish in a much larger battle over the future of digital publishing. The industry is still a fluid, competitive field, despite lagging sales and increased competition from gaming and other media. As a result, long-time participants in the notoriously fickle book business are jockeying to position themselves lest they risk losing even greater market share. IPG, the second largest distributor of independent books, is just one of many stakeholders that is not so quietly eyeballing Amazon’s dominance. Apple, Barnes & Noble, independent distributors like IPG and traditional publishers are part of the brigade.
Early on, Amazon’s playbook was fairly simple. Its standard $9.99 e-book offering cornered the market early with the creation of the first e-book reader. The Kindle Store now offers more than one million titles. To put this in perspective, Amazon has a stock of about 2 million print titles. But Amazon was a relative newcomer to publishing. Veteran publishers and distributors recoiled over a business model that lowered the price of books and minimized their gains.
Traditionally, publishers set guidelines for prices in a macabre dance that is fairly arbitrary. Ideally, they are designed to reflect what the market can bear. But once bookstores purchase books from wholesalers, sellers can set prices at will. When Amazon appeared and priced e-books so low, the industry’s lead publishers didn’t take kindly to the skimmed profits. And once the iPad was released in 2010, they switched to the so-called agency model that allowed them solely to determine prices. For each sale, Amazon and Apple would get a cut.

The upheaval in the e-book arena only continues. Barnes & Noble announced earlier this month that it is refusing to sell books published by Amazon because of its efforts to sign exclusive deals. In December, the Justice Department revealed that it is investigating whether e-booksellers engaged in unfair, anti-competitive practices. Regulators at the European Commission’s antitrust division also are investigating the e-book pricing system of Apple, Harper Collins, Simon & Schuster and other mainstream publishers. Meanwhile, a class action suit also filed against Apple and five publishers alleges a “price-fixing conspiracy” to thwart Amazon’s competitive threat, according to the plaintiff’s lead counsel.

Despite Amazon’s strong-arm tactics, it’s hard to fault the retailer for leveraging an opportunity in an industry ripe for disruption. Amazon has been an innovator in a field that has dinosaur leanings. Its genius has been its cheap, varied and seemingly limitless offerings from the likes of Random House to the solo book purveyor nestled in the midlands of England. And it pioneered new concepts in publishing, such as “Author Stores” and an imprint that will work directly with authors."

Week 7: Participatory Literacies

Week 7: Participatory Literacies
As Howard Rheingold notes, “a participatory culture in which most of the population see themselves as creators as well as consumers of culture is far more likely to generate freedom and wealth for more people than one in which a small portion of the population produces culture that the majority passively consume.”
Some key ideas for this week:
  • according to recent studies by the Pew Center on the Internet and American Life, more than half of American teens online have produced media content and about a third have circulated media that they have produced beyond their immediate friends and family. 
  • growing importance of participatory culture in the everyday lives of young people. Work across a range of disciplines suggest that these emerging forms of participatory culture are important sites for informal learning and may be the crucible out of which new conceptions of civic engagement are emerging. 
  • the next techno-cultural shift according to Rheingold
  • collective intelligence

Sunday, February 19, 2012


Give our recent discussion with Andy Campbell of Dreaming Methods, I thought this article from The Guardian Book Blog would be of interest:

Are books and the internet about to merge?
The difference between ebooks and the internet is minimal, and we should be glad the two are growing closer and closer
Book and internet
Book and internet: can you see the join? Illustration:
Damien Walter, Wed 15 Feb 2012 16.00 GMT
It's easy to forget that the world wide web as we know it today evolved from an early attempt to put books on the internet. When Tim Berners-Lee envisaged what would become the world wide web, it was with the idea of making academic papers and other documents widely available. To this end he devised a simple way of laying out text and images on a page, inventing what we now call Hypertext Markup Language or HTML.
Early HTML could define pages and paragraphs, bold and italicise text, embed images and lay out tables. A little more than 20 years later, HTML 5 includes media playback and animation, and the web has now become so ubiquitous that for most users it is indistinguishable from the underlying framework of the internet itself, but at its core the technology of the web remains little changed. Every web page, however sophisticated it may seem, is basically a digital book that we read on our computer through our web browser.
So when Hugh McGuire, founder of PressBooks and LibriVox, stated today that the book and the internet will merge, he was in one sense simply reiterating what is already the case. But from the perspective of people without the technical knowledge to see how closely entwined the book and the internet already are, it has the whiff of yet another doom-monger proclaiming the death of the book as we know it.
McGuire's argument hinges on the recent emergence of ebooks as a serious contender to the print book as the dominant artefact of the publishing industry, with some suggesting that ebooks will make up 50% of the book market by 2015 thanks to the Kindle, iPad and smartphones. Ebooks are deliberately packaged and marketed to appear as much like traditional print books as possible, so many readers will be surprised to discover that ebooks are built around much the same HTML structure that powers the web. Every ebook, no matter how much like a print book it may seem, is a web page that we read on the simplified browser embedded in our e-reader of choice.
The distinction between the ebook/webpage, webpage/ebook is not a material one. In technological terms they are exactly the same thing. But when McGuire first mooted his argument on Twitter in April last year my response likely mirrors the response of many book readers, "Books are researched, written, edited, published, marketed … and hence paid for. The internet is ego noise, hence free." The distinction many of us draw between a book and a webpage is one of quality and hence of value. The real question raised by McGuire's argument is whether we continue to value ebooks as books, or as webpages. Books are something we pay for. Webpages are things we read for free. Which model will win out?
Unless you are one of the very small number of people whose fortunes rest upon the outdated business model of publishing, you should hope that the latter wins. Because this is about a much bigger issue than how writers and editors get paid for the valuable work they do. For hundreds of years we've been slowly expanding the reach of human knowledge, both in terms of what we know and how many of us know it. Today we take a resource like Wikipedia for granted – but compare it with the situation of only a few decades ago, when the majority of the population had lacked easy access to such knowledge. The benefits of expanding access to knowledge, both social and economic, are incalculable.
Now we stand at the threshold of possibly the most revolutionary advances in human history. The combined technologies of the internet – HTML webpages, ebooks, search technology, social media and many more – are very close to making all human knowledge accessible to all people for free. Even the short-term consequences of this advance are hard to envisage, and in the long term it has the potential to improve our future as much as the invention of the printing press improved our past and present.
Every time society advances, it faces challenges from those people economically and emotionally invested in the past. Undoubtedly stone age flint knappers were less than happy about bronze-age technology disturbing their business model. The medieval church was none too pleased about printing technology breaking their hegemony over knowledge, but we'd never have had the Enlightenment without it. Today the media-conglomerates, governments and educational institutions that profit from gatekeeping knowledge of all kinds are pushing the Stop Online Piracy Act, and even more draconian legislation to try and hold back the flood of free knowledge that threatens their power. Unless we want to stay in the knowledge equivalent of the stone age, and miss the next enlightenment the knowledge revolution promises to bring with it, we should all redouble our efforts to make sure they lose.
For centuries the book has been the highest symbol of knowledge. The object that has enshrined and preserved knowledge through history. The book is so inextricably linked with our concept of knowledge that for many people it is hard to separate one from the other. But for human knowledge to reach its full potential, we may have to let go of the book-as-object first, or open our thinking to a radically different definition of what a book is.