Archive | November, 2011

Personal Learning Plan

22 Nov

In my deliverables for my Personal Learning Plan, I promised “One blog to rule them all. (Or at least one that summarizes my findings, any potential interviews, etc.).” Here is me holding true to that promise. (For any who need a refresher on what my plan was, here is my blog explaining what I’m doing and why I’m doing it.)

The primary portion of this report will be sort of a case study (or at least personal reflections) on The Civil Wars, with some miscellaneous findings afterward. Onto that… Continue reading


I’m Not a Prophet Nor a Prophet’s Son…

15 Nov

For this last blog, we were asked, “What is the Next Big Thing [in Social Media]? What will Connect Us Next?” I think to answer the questions, there might have to be two different answers.

To answer what the next big thing is: I don’t know. I don’t think anyone predicted that a website with walls on which you can write, people you can poke, and things you can “like” would be a huge success until it actually happened (even though “likes” are a more recent development on Facebook). I’m not sure the sound of limiting oneself to 140 characters in things called “tweets” would strike people’s fancy, but somehow it has. Predicting specifically the next big thing is impossible. It is not a science. In many ways, if a social media site gets big, it’s because it gets lucky.

What I do feel will be the next big thing is something that is increasingly more comprehensive and invasive than what we already use. Erik Kessels recently did an art exhibit to illustrate how “we’re exposed to an overload of images nowadays” by printing off all the pictures uploaded to Flickr in a 24-hour time period. You can see the result to the right. It seems less like connected-ness and more like drowning.

We’re increasingly living our lives on and through social media sites, and we’re addicted to it. While we use them as an escape (from reality), we’re actually making them harder to escape. To be blunt, we are narcissistic and fickle, and because we rarely limit ourselves, social media is often used to feed these vices.

So, now that I’ve painted a sufficiently bleak picture and possibly offended some people, onto question two: what will connect us? The same thing that’s always connected us: actual, real-life community. I’m not a Luddite who thinks that social media is antithetical to this, but often times it is not used as it should be used: to aid community.

With this as the goal, boundaries will naturally occur. One’s goal should not be a frenzy to connect to as many people on social media as possible. Sure, it’s fine to be friends with someone on Facebook. But when you use Facebook as the primary source for learning about the person, you’ve missed the point. When you go on vacation or to a concert and spend your whole time taking pictures to share on Facebook and Twitter, you’re not being there.

I’ll play myself out with this Jeff Tweedy video. I shared this video in a tweet last week and a blog comment two weeks before that, but it’s worth sharing more properly here. He reacts specifically to people talking at concerts, but I think there are principles that can be applied more broadly. “I want us all to be here together.”

This App Store Life

8 Nov

Describing “This American Life” always sounds lame. “Oh, well, it’s like, a weekly talk show. They choose a subject every week and then tell stories about it, or report on it. And it’s on NPR.” Chances are if people like NPR, they’re already aware of the show; and if they don’t like NPR, a talk show on the station is unlikely to excite them. If you’re in the camp that doesn’t know what it is, let me challenge you not to fall into that second category just yet—or at least humor me for the duration of this blog.

The This American Life app is one of my most-used apps. For a one-time cost of $2.99, you can have the whole world of This American Life at your fingertips. Easily stream any episode from the show’s entire history, dating back to 1995, with ease. (It even incorporates the free weekly podcast right into it!) Sure, you can technically do that from their website, but I know that listening to something on my phone is a lot easier than streaming from a website on my computer.

I find myself listening to the program a lot more consistently with the app because, unlike the podcast, the app provides you with info about the episode—a summary of it and the option to view all the different acts as well as noted contributors. You can also skip to a certain act if you want. There’s even an option to favorite any episode and view all your favorites in a list.

Maybe you’d only like to hear episodes that include certain contributors. Expert analyst John Hodgman? Master of snark David Sedaris? Maybe you’ve been waiting for the moment for all your life to hear an episode featuring Phil Collins? This app has it covered. Search by contributor—so simple!

If you care to share a certain episode with friends, fret not. As with many apps, this includes options to email an episode, post an episode to Facebook, or tweet an episode. Social media, am I right?

A fun little bonus that I’ve also enjoyed about the app is the “Extras” menu. These include some very early, pre-TAL sound bytes: early Ira Glass stories, Ira interviewing Terry Gross and vice versa, and my favorite, early stories from David Sedaris (the Santaland story, which was broadcast when David was so unknown that his last name was mispronounced, is particularly hilarious).

For those who are curious or on the fence about this subject, let me recommend the first episode I heard of the program, via Dr. Gregory A. Thornbury, which is also a great introduction to the program: Music Lessons. Get cultured, y’all.

Here are some more screenshots I made for you!

This Too Shall Pass

1 Nov

Chances are if you spend much time on the Internet at all, you saw OK Go’s video for “This Too Shall Pass.” Er, there were actually about four different videos for the song, each decidedly different. But I’m talking about the Rube Goldberg Machine version—the one with 31M+ views. This one. (If you don’t want to click on it now, the video is at the end of the TED Talk embedded at the end of the blog.)

Oh, did I say TED Talk? Yes, TED Talk. I watched one of them for this blog. The talk was by Adam Sadowsky. You might not know him from Adam (get it? Ha!), but he’s the guy who oversaw the engineering in this intricate and elaborate music video. He explains what the experience was like.

This isn’t the band’s first viral video. They made the one with the treadmill dancing, too. So they’re not clueless on the matter. Thus, they gave Adam a list of Ten Commandments:

  1. No “magic”
  2. Band integration
  3. Machine action should follow song
  4. Make use of the space
  5. “MESSY!”
  6. Machine starts the music
  7. Synched to rhythm & hit specific beats
  8. End precisely on time
  9. Machine should PLAY part of the song
  10. All in one shot

A daunting task, yes? After 85 run-throughs (with only three that successfully made it to the end), they got it to their liking. And needless to say, it was a hit.

I’ve discussed with friends that OK Go are better at making videos than music. But today, that’s almost what’s necessary for a band to get a following. As I mentioned in my previous blog, these days an artist almost has to be a promoter first to interest people, then an artist second. I’m not sure about the attendance of OK Go concerts, but I do know that they’re great at marketing themselves. And sometimes that’s what it takes.

Here’s the TED Talk, which was enjoyable, informative, and brief: