Monthly Archives: December 2012

spring eternal

All GIFs are from the film Baraka

All GIFs are from the film Baraka

My post on permanence reminded me of this story I read back ages ago from Owning Your Own Shadow by Robert Johnson.
All gifs are from the film, Baraka.

Once upon a time, many moons ago in the middle of a tiny village there was a natural spring that flowed with the most magical water. The water brought health, healing and eternal youth.

For many years the villagers shared the spring for the more it was shared, the more it flowed and its effects were even more magical.

Magical waters brought health.

When word spread of the spring across the lands and overseas, many foreigners made great pilgrimages to visit the village just to take a sip of this wondrous spring.It was such a great journey for some that they would carry containers to capture and bring back the spring water with their friends and family from home who were too weak to make such a great journey.

When some of the villagers saw this, they became concerned and decided that they should limit how much of the spring water foreigners could take away. Some decided they would stand guard around the spring all day. They created tickets and made everyone stand in line to visit the spring. Some people, not wanting to wait in line would sneak in at night and take the spring water when the security was not present.

Eventually, the villagers noticed the footprints of these nocturnal trespassers and decided the best solution would be to create a fence. Over time the fence became a wall. Any villagers who disagreed with the walls were outcasted, pushed out of the village; their land was sold and huge buildings were built to accommodate the paying visitors.

birds around the towers

The wall grew into a towers

As the wall grew in height and width it changed into a series of towers and this not only blocked any view of the spring but in some places it obscured the sun altogether.

In the dark shadows around the tower, makeshift markets popped up selling trinkets and other useless memorabilia that made a mockery of the spring.

What none of these people noticed was that the spring lost all its magic. It no longer had any special characteristics. It became plain water, which if you even tasted it wasn’t even safe to wash with it, let along to drink and quite possibly instead of giving your eternal life it would make you ill.

Down the path, far away from this madness, where the villagers who had been exiled and ridiculed continued to share and be open, a tiny little spring of water popped up. And it was magical.

It was magical

It was magical

Every time greed grew and people tried to control access to the spring, it lost its magic and the spring would pop up in new place.

Where you least expect it

Where you least expect it

Never Gonna GIF You UP

Never gonna let you down…

In a series of events that can only be described as a Rick Roll gone horribly wrong, my 13 year old is obsessed with Rick Astley. Which must be some kind of ultimate Rick Roll, I’m sure.

For Christmas, she has requested an animated GIF of Rick and seeing as it’s GIFest, how could I not oblige?

Here you go my darling, your very own original Rick Astley GIF:

4 animated GIFs of Rick Astley singing Never Gonna Give you up

Never Gonna GIF You Up

Permanence Lost

Reading Chris Lott’s poetic comment about loss in response to Jim’s assertion that Nothing is Lost

…there’s not only nothing wrong with writing one’s poem and sending it down the river on fire, it might be a significantly better way to transcend the technical issues and consider what it means to *be*

the idea struck me so much, I decided to do this very thing in a literal sense.

We wrote.

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by giulia.forsythe

Set alight.

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by giulia.forsythe

And sent the burning boats afloat.

animated gif of borges boat

*Borges Boat

It was quite a lovely little experience in impermanence, shifting the metaphor into a literal act.

As the boat burned and floated, I  ruminated on the analogy, wondering if this is what it is like to release the essence of my creative contributions into the web, into the unknown, allowing it to be freed, destroyed, reshaped or potentially disappear.

I decided that with both the boat and my online presence, it’s not the permanence of the act that is powerful but the agency. Of course, nothing ever stays the same. Everything is shifting and changing. I accept this fully. It’s the agency of the act that I have a difficult time relinquishing.

I made the boat with my paper. It was my decision to burn the boat. Even if natural disaster had caused my boat to capsize and sink, it was my choice to let it float away. The agency of loss is my own.

Parts of me are fragmented in ways that I’ll never know about. @DrGarcia likens this to a social media horcrux, where portions of your soul are splintered across multiple objects (or in this case, websites).

We can still maintain stoicism about impermanence. Disappearing online artifacts can stand tribute to this. But this is happening less and less. It’s not the disappearing that is the problem but the fragmenting. When my artifacts get locked up and these pieces of my soul get shifted behind walls, I am robbed of my agency.

It is the loss of agency that is worthy of concern.

And more importantly, this is the loss of agency that we can actively prevent by keeping our spaces and helping others set up their own spaces. This is a role I see as ever more important for librarians and educators in higher education.

To dramatically mix my metaphors, I’ll pull in D’Arcy’s thoughts. We may be the funky downtown losing business to the giant box stores. I’m okay with that. I like to think every time I blog, release a picture into the creative commons, pingback, comment on my friends’ blogs, help others create open spaces I consider that my contribution to the Funky Downtown Economic Development Office.

*Again another opportunity just #ds106 #GIFest it up.

Open as in “for business”

Featured Image “open for business” cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by @cogdog

Whether you are outraged,  amused, or overwhelmed with ennui by the flurry of Instagram ToS sentiments, I agree with Gina Tripani:

I saw a few of these appear in my instagram feed:

Dear Users:
You are not our customers, you are the cattle we drive to market and auction off to the highest bidder. Enjoy your feed and keep producing the milk!

I thought it would be better to see a bit of e-motion with all those words; in honour of #GIFest, here is what I think Angry ToS panda would post to instagram:

screenshot of instgram with animated gif cows

Cows nodding, “Isn’t this great? We get all the food we want! For FREE!”

Okay, I know the metaphor is getting over used and there are already many analyses at what Instagram’s terms of service really means, from I’m Not The Product, But I Play One On The Internet to Instagram isn’t a Public Utility.

Already, the outrage has prompted Instagram to pipe their new ToS through a newspeak social media filter so it is basically the same but doesn’t sound so gross. Just like Facebook’s, of course.

Truth be told, I really just wanted to make a cool animated #GIFest based on this hilarious video @cogdog shared.


I contemplated using it to deride MOOCs, as is (apparently) my #DS106radio duty. Alas, I had originally started a post in response to the supreme abject harbinger’s inquiry: “why does anyone use instagram?”

So, why do I use Instagram? Initially, the short answer (for me) is that the app was fast and easy to use. There are elements of community that were unexpected and pleasant, but mostly it was the fastest way to go from seeing a cool thing, to getting a shot, cropping and posting to multiple locations.

The main decision boiled down to whether I wanted any kind of reuse (for myself or anyone else). If yes, I post to Flickr. If I don’t care then I use instagram. Usually, if starting in instagram, I would post to both. I would never, ever post my DSLR pics to instagram because if I have to go to all that trouble, I sure as hell am going to putting my photos somewhere useful, like Flickr.

On a rare occasion, I’ve wanted to use someone else’s instagram photo in a blog post. Even if they wanted to give me permission, sharing and reusing is  really difficult. It may even be ToS violating, though IANAL so I’m not sure. When in doubt, I do what I think I should be able to do.

Using the app “share” button, it only links to a page, not the image itself. Using the web interface, right clicks on the image are disabled. There are workarounds. What you have to do, from your instagram profile page, is find the individual picture page, then Inspect Element (chrome), find the crazy url that ends with .jpg.

screenshot of View Source on instagram web page
How to embed a picture from Instagram


Compare that to how simple it is to just use Alan Levine‘s simply awesome cc attribution helper

Screenshot of Chrome  cc attribution extension by Alan Levine

How to embed an image from Flickr

I already used Flickr’s old mobile app every day before they updated it so I’m not going to go on about how killer  the new one is, except to say, it’s efficient and does what I want.

If you need more thoughtful analyses, I suggest you read Ma’ayan Plaut’s rationale for quitting instagram from yesterday and now today, why she stands by her decision.  Now if you’re really feeling riled up,  go sign the petition to make the Flickr API a National Historic Landmark.

Sharing Teaching Materials Online

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by giulia.forsythe

Centre for Pedagogical Innovation hosted a discussion session on Friday December 7. Faculty shared things they tried new, what they hoped would happen and what did happen.

Major themes had to do with attendance, engagement and note-taking.

Some interesting innovative strategies seem to be working.

For example one very large class has tried something new this year by giving students a Manual. This manual includes all the PowerPoint slides but with very specific blank spaces to prompt when students should pay close attention and take notes.

A variety of recording, in both audio and video are going on in many classes. Some are screen recording uploaded to the LMS and others are simply using an iPhone to capture audio, making recording available upon request.

Whenever slides are made fully available, as recordings or even PDF, faculty are noticing dramatic drops in attendance, and those who are attending are taking less notes.

Some pointed out that students need to do something with the information to make meaning. Strategies like think, pair, share / small group / frequent low stakes quizzes or assignments (1% weekly) have helped.

In some of these cases attendance dropped when participation and discussion have been incorporated into the class, as if to imply the students are not pleased about being forced to interact with each other and the content, preferring to be passive in class. Many are using class as a time to catch up on Facebook, surf the web and tempt faculty to ban laptops altogether.

Accessibility concerns were raised about banning laptops as many students have legitimate requirement and only allowing students with special dispensation to use the laptops would “out” the special needs students.

We discussed creating a class code of conduct and how every single student has a right to learning in a distraction free environment and tying this to the overall code of conduct. Perhaps having students police themselves instead of making the faculty member the enforcer all the time.