Reading for 4/1/08 and Some Final Project Stuff

March 31st, 2008

I’ve got to say, by the end of the story, I wasn’t sure what to think of the Kimonians’ intent.  Which one of Bishop’s perceptions of his fate was correct? Were any of them? By the end of the reading, I was getting this sort of weird, paranoid feeling about the whole thing . . .

Can Bishop actually progress past the kindergarten level he’s at now? Can a human brain actually go that far? Or will it explode? And if he can, what’s in store for him on Kimon? What life are they planning for those who “make the grade?”

To totally switch gears, I strangely found the cabinet to be my favorite character. I wanted to trust it, but was afraid to. Which I guess is a level of personifying technology that one doesn’t ordinarily see outside of robots in films. But as we’ve read in class, computers can be friendly and personal. (Or in Google’s case, pretend to be.) I think it was the level of interaction the cabinet had with Bishop, however, that truly made it seem like a character rather than furniture or just a machine. Maybe I liked it more because it didn’t look like a person, so there was none of that pretending-to-be-something-you’re-not Uncanny Valley stuff to deal with.

Most of all, I’ve got to say that I really don’t want the blanket statements made in the story about the human race to be true. I want to think we can put information and progress before pride.

And now, to change topics entirely, my final projects on webcomics seems to be going fairly well. (Thank you to everyone who’s bookmarked their favorites on del.icio.us–I’ve been fairly successful tracking down the really early webcomics from the ’90’s, but now in ’00’s, there’s been such an explosion that it’s harder to sift through. Still, I’ve turned up some interesting stuff, I think.)  One of the problems, though, is the lack of real concrete information/writing on the form.  There’s a lot on comics in general, but I haven’t really found any good articles or anything on specifically webcomics. I’m using some of the more general info on the comic form, but I really hope I can find some on specifically webcomics or comics and new media.

Reading for 3/25/08 (We don’t need no . . .)

March 24th, 2008

Universal education through schooling is not feasible. It would be no more feasible if it were attempted by means of alternative institutions built on the style of present schools.

All right, I realize that this is in the beginning of the introduction, but it’s the statement that really stuck with me. Because if it’s not feasible, does this mean that all schools in all of history have been going about it wrong? If so, and if we’ve managed to develop rather well as a society anyway, does this mean that we’re dependent on those break-the-mold individuals to carry society forward? And I realize that this is kind of starting to delve into the irrelevant and hypothetical, but it was something I was thinking about after this pair of sentences stuck into my mind. As for the second sentence, the idea of new education modeled after old methods triggered a huge train of thought more or less powered by the fact that I’m currently re-reading Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead. (Admittedly mostly to see if I’ll hate the character of Ellsworth Toohey less this time around. Thus far, it doesn’t seem likely.) Anyway, the novel, in its discussion of architecture, talks about how a building shouldn’t have to steal/adapt from previous styles but should instead be its own thing. Is education supposed to be like that, then? In order to make the best thing ever, are we supposed to ignore every similar thing that came before? I guess that when it comes to education, we aren’t trying to build a better mousetrap but an entirely new mousetrap that has nothing to do with the less-better mousetraps that came before.

Even if they attend equal schools and begin at the same age, poor children lack most of the educational opportunities which are casually available to the middle-class child. These advantages range from conversation and books in the home to vacation travel and a different sense of oneself, and apply, for the child who enjoys them, both in and out of school.

Essentially, then, education is not only the school system, but school in combination with every other aspect of the student’s life. So it’s not just school that needs to be revamped, but all of society . . . So do we have to fix society before we fix education? And, really, when he writes of all the different systems of education in different countries–where three years is basic in Mexico, and school can depend on socioeconomic class, et cetera–it makes me wonder if there really is superior way of handling education or if the whole world is ostensibly muddling it, albeit in different ways.

In a totally unrelated note, I remembered the password to the Twitter page I started about a year ago and promptly abandoned. Maybe I’ll actually start using it again: http://twitter.com/theo_winterwood

Re: Tuesday’s Class

March 20th, 2008

Someone in class yesterday said that you can do anything in a video game, which I’m not sure I agree with. I feel that there are a lot of video games in which you can do a lot, but the sky is never really the limit. When I’m home on breaks, I’ve played my brother’s Lord of the Rings video game (I don’t know which it is—Fellowship, I think), and while I (or, rather, Gimli as controlled by me) can do a lot of really great running-jumping-climbing-fighting stuff, he cannot stop and have a snack. Or uproot the shrubberies and pull a Birnam-Wood-to-Dunsinane and disguise himself as a very short forest. Or . . . Well, you get the idea. And this has always been my main complaint with video games, that I can’t do whatever I want. But then again, if I could, would it be a game or just an alternate life? A game, as a rule, has to have rules . . . Right?

I keep thinking of the film/play Sleuth and wondering what the real definition of a game is. (I can’t really say what the film is about without giving its surprises away, but I definitely recommend it. The Laurence Olivier/Michael Caine version, not the Michael Caine/Jude Law version. It has a lot to say about games, game-playing, and the definitions of those words.) How far can you push the boundaries of a game before it’s no longer a game?

In Which I Talk Some More About McCloud and Offer Some Pictures

March 18th, 2008

So I typed this up after Thursday’s class in Word while my internet was down and then kind of forgot to post it when the internet came back:

A lot of what McCloud writes about is very interesting to me, because a lot of it was things that I guess I subconsciously knew about (or felt that I should), but had never really considered. I’ve read quite a few comic books over the years, so I felt while reading McCloud that I should have thought of these things before, but at the same time, I can’t imagine how I would have thought of most of that. In fact, I started going through my comic book collection in my dorm room, looking for instances of timeless space, of frames that clearly showed only an instant, of frames that showed more than one instant (where the speech comes before action, in this case), and of frame size influencing perception of time.* And here, on the last page of The Killing Joke (a Batman comic), you can say that the first eight define specific moments or periods in time, while the last suddenly becomes that timeless space, despite remaining the same size/shape/etc as the others.

And now, of course, this leads me to look at the use of art in comics and want to explore how much the story is dependent on the art. Well, clearly the visual conveys important information, but why a comic book instead of a normal book? Why is this more effective than a written description? Is it?

Suddenly, I find the word “comic” kind of funny—Er, no pun intended. Because it means “funny,” yet a good amount of what can be described as a “comic book,” well, isn’t. Then again, this is. To me, anyway. I guess I should draw the line between comic books and graphic novels, but I figure that’s been done. (As far as I’m concerned, the difference between the two is in no way dependent on subject matter, which is the thing that’s more important to me.)

But there’s a sort of rule, I think, in how much time a frame is allowed to cover. Conventionally, at least. It seems that there’s usually a line or two of dialogue or an action that immediately precedes another line of dialogue or action. The two have to come right together for it to “read correctly.” If there are about twenty minutes between the two, you might get this.** And that doesn’t make sense.

And on an ending note, I wanted to find a reason to link to this but I couldn’t. (And that’s terrible. )

*In this case, the use of long horizontal panels works in the same way as the wider panel of the pausing guy in McCloud’s example.

**I drew that. I felt I had to.

Reading for 3/11/08, et cetera

March 10th, 2008

Now that my internet seems to be working, I can post my blog:

Today’s reading once again brought in the question of education and computers. Papert argues that, essentially, with the use of computers, children will become active, rather than passive learners. Of course, they have to be the ones programming, because otherwise, teachers are just using computers as essentially another form of formulaic worksheet or exercise. (Does anyone remember “Green Globs” from high school or middle school? That was essentially a graphing equations worksheet, but with, er . . . green globs.)

My feelings toward what could be called such self-guided education are still mixed, because while I feel that the freedom of being able to develop and program and improve your own knowledge through education is very important, I also understand the difficulty that the education system has in giving children too much freedom in dealing with their own education. The system wants to make sure that kids know what they think kids should know, and therein, perhaps, lies the difficulty. (It could be argued that Papert’s propositions raise many of the same questions as the movie Accepted, albeit without Lewis Black.) How do you give kids freedom and still make sure that they learn enough and learn the right things? What’s more important, learning to be a free, independent problem-solver or learning all the Presidents of the United States? (Although, for the latter, Jonathan Coulton has written a very handy song that you can hear here that far surpasses any of the worksheets I did in school.)

I was intrigued when Papert wrote that the subjects in the LOGO computer were “embedded in a way that permits the player to learn them in a natural fashion, analogous to how a child learns to speak.” This phrase struck me because it seems to imply that more difficult subjects can be easily mastered if taught in said “natural fashion.” Does this mean that the reason so many young people (using that phrase makes me feel so old) struggle academically is simply that the subjects are taught in an unnatural fashion? Papert’s LOGO, then, seems sort of ironic, because it suggests that a computer is the more natural approach.

And now, to suddenly revert to something we read some weeks ago, I was thinking about Computer Lib/Dream Machines again. More specifically, I was thinking about the high level of hand-lettered, hand-doodled content that was integral to the work. I assume that the intention was to give it a more hand-crafted, informal, whimsical appearance, but if that’s the case, it leads to the conclusion that the analog/hand-created is more approachable and friendly than the digital/computer-created, which seems counter-productive to the basic intent.

EDIT: Erm, my blog posts all seem to be showing up on this class’s mainpage.  Which doesn’t seem right.

Some Musings on Music

March 3rd, 2008

This is sort of one of those Trying-to-Figure-Out-What-I’m-Saying-as-I-Type posts, I’m afraid . . .

I was thinking about pandora.com and other such sites, and wondering: If and when they become the norm rather than traditional radio stations, what will become of radio and music broadcasting as a medium? Will your ability to craft custom stations free of commercials and other breaks eventually lead to radio DJs becoming obsolete? If not, then what role will the play as music broadcasting moves to a more individual activity? Instead of calling in to my local classic rock station, for example, and requesting “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” by Iron Butterfly and just crossing my fingers that they’ll play it, I can find any of probably a dozen places on the internet where I can listen to it without having to wait through a commercial break or two and probably a couple Elton John songs to see if they even play it.

Okay, so they wouldn’t play “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” anyway; it’s over seventeen minutes long. But I happen to be listening to it at the moment. Maybe “Fortunate Son” by CCR would’ve been a better example. (Except if you were the Dude, you’d have all your Creedence on tape already.)

But what effect does having music and music trivia and all of the services normally available from a radio station available on the internet have on the various music broadcasting media? (Wow. That was confusing.) Will local radio stations try to become as customizable as pandora.com? Will pandora.com try to become as personable as local radio? Which is more important–the personableness of real people or the customizableness of software? (Although I’m fairly certain “customizableness” isn’t a word.)

I don’t think anyone said they were using pandora in their final project, so I’m not sure this is actually helpful, but it was something I was thinking about . . .

(Oh, and are my posts actually showing up on the class blog page for everyone? Because last I checked, the last few I made weren’t for me.)

    Dessine-moi un mouton!
    Quand on veut un mouton, c'est la preuve qu'on existe.