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XX-A Personal Cyber what…?

This should be obvious by now, but this blog is written as a reflection on this article.

Where to begin…I must say that Professor Lock Scott’s lecture about this article was incredibly useful to me, not because I didn’t read the article previously, but because it simply didn’t make that big of an impression on me when I read it originally. I don’t think it would’ve been possible for me to write a blog post of any substance either supportive of or opposed to the “personal cyberinfrastructure” concept. It wasn’t until I heard a different persons views on it that I began to understand the original article, but this is most likely due to lazy reading on my part. (And in fact, I must deeply apologize, I did read it on an iPhone)

A good starting point would probably be to say that I agree with Campbell’s ideas in principle. I also find several flaws with them. That is not to suggest that Campbell himself is not fully aware of these, obviously listing an extensive amount of potential flaws with an idea in the same article in which you are proposing it is probably not a sound practice.

Campbell’s suggestions for what students actually do with their infrastructure are incredibly vague, which I initially saw as a flaw, but now I believe to be deliberate. He is trying to spur creativity and originality by giving students not only a space in which they can be creative and original, but arming them with the knowledge to make something coherent. This is, in theory, a good idea. The most appealing thing to me about this is that it would allow expression in the digital world that was completely autonomous. For example, currently if I want to express myself on the internet, I have to go through an intermediary. If I want to write a prolonged treatise, I could use a facebook note, but WordPress is probably better. However, WordPress completely and totally defines the parameters in which I can be creative. I am limited to writing blogs and posting pictures. On Twitter I am obviously limited to short burst transmissions of 140 characters. Facebook is particularly authoritarian, offering very little deviation from their assigned templates which they alter often. One good thing about this type of internet world is that it has become quite organized and easy to understand. But I think it would be really interesting to see what could happen if, instead of being my friend on Facebook or adding me on Twitter, you could just come to my particular space on the Internet in which I expressed myself completely independent of any second-party governance.

I’ve talked in here before about how the advent of social networks has changed (and will probably continue to change) the world. But, imagine how the potential for change could increase exponentially if everyone had a personal cyberinfrastructure!

But wait…here is where we come to the first flaw. It won’t be everyone. It will only be college students.

You could say that universities are supposed to be leaders of sorts, especially in science and technology, and I agree with that to an extent. But the notion (and I’m not saying Campbell subscribes to this notion) that only college students are capable of or interested in new and interesting forms of expression is of course ridiculous. Let us not also forget the socioeconomic implications of the decision to implement personal cyberinfrastructures only in higher education. The reality is, in the two countries concerned with TUJ, not everyone is capable of going to college for a variety of reasons. But since the advent of the IT revolution (I must disagree with Campbell and say it clearly has occurred) the Internet, and the knowledge contained within, is for everyone. So in that case, why not start earlier? The percentage of people who don’t attend high school or elementary school is extremely small. Therefore implementing this idea earlier would cover a vastly wider range of people, and by consequence increase the potential for change. I personally believe that a high school junior could easily be capable of accomplishing this…in theory.

But contained within the amendment I just proposed to Campbell’s idea is the same flaw that I find in his original idea….how well will this work in real life? A fundamental fact of the IT revolution is that it has made technology tools that virtually everybody is now required to use in everyday life. Many people are also required to use cars in everyday life. But many of those people do not care one bit for the inner workings of a car, have no passion or emotional attachment to it, and use it frankly as a tool to be used and then disposed of later. For every tech-obsessed nerd out there, there are 10 people who have never de-fragged a hard drive in their life and never will, and will simply throw their computer off of a roof when it stops working for whatever reason. And these people will be far south of thrilled when they are informed that they will be required, to maintain good academic standing, to build a personal cyber-whatever. Not only will people who don’t care about technology be unhappy, but also people who feel that this activity has absolutely no bearing on their chosen field of study will also be bored or annoyed. And honestly, I believe the History and French Literature majors out there would be correct to feel this way. And there will also be a third group of people (I should point out that none of these groups are mutually exclusive) who simply take issue with the fact that they have to pay for a web server (assuming the college doesn’t pick up the cost).

I don’t believe that Campbell’s ideas were solely intended for use in the United States, but one of the best things about America in my opinion is that the prevailing philosophy is not for the powers that be to grab society and pull it up to a certain standard, but rather to create an environment where those who desire success will have every opportunity to achieve it. I think this is applicable to the idea of cyberinfrastructure. Those who want it, who realize the potential, who are motivated to try, won’t have to be forced or sought out. They will come when they hear of it.

There’s one more thing that bothers me a little about this. As I mentioned before, Gardner Campbell’s ideas of what could happen with personal cyberinfrastructure is deliberately vague. So all that we can logically surmise is that change would occur. But we don’t know, and would have no way of knowing, what type of change. And this begs the question: is change always good? I don’t actually have an answer for this, but it’s another thought that occurred to me while I was reading.

I guess I was fairly hard on Campbell the last three paragraphs, so let me re-iterate: I do think this is a good and interesting idea. As I don’t have my finger on the pulse of the education world, I have no clue if it’s even close to being implemented or if it has gained any traction. But it’s certainly worth consideration.

XIX-And On A Personal Note….

I just realized that I’m racing against time (14 minutes and counting) in order to write this blog assignment before the section deadline. But I just wanted to share a personal anecdote about the human side of the internet, and an example of how things can go horribly wrong. But of course I will have to be fast.

When I was a teenager, me and most of my friends all kept an online journal. Some of us…(okay…one of us) actually used it as a daily record of their activities, but most of us used it to whine and scream. Mine still exists actually, but I won’t post a link to it, 10 years prior is just not quite long ago enough to expose people who respect me to my unfiltered hormonal rage. These journals were the kind of stupidity that only teenagers could get away with. Namely, being civil to each other’s faces while complaining and insulting each other online. Okay, maybe I’m not being fair, it was mainly me who did all the complaining and insulting, and moreover I had no privacy controls installed on my journal whatsoever.

I started a certain summer day the same way I started all others when I was 15. I woke up at 3PM and wandered around the house in my underwear looking for something to eat. Imagine my surprise when my father smacked me on the back of the head with an envelope and then stormed off. I should mention that he was also in his underwear, but he was not interested in carrying out the final physical manifestation of the battle between boxers and tighty whities. He wanted me to read what was written in the envelope. I certainly haven’t forgotten all these years later. It bore no postage, meaning it had to have been personally delivered into our mailbox. The front of the envelope read” To the Clancy family…”. Enclosed was a brief note saying “I thought you might want to see some of the things your son Sean has been writing online.” And finally, the largest and most important part, my entire journal printed out, having already been pored over by my father.

The events of the following day were among the worst of my life. Every teenager leads a double life, the one they live at home in front of their parents and that outside. But one thing teenagers don’t face is the near total disclosure of all the details of their second life to the masters of their first, their parents. But on that day, I had to face it, and it was honestly one of the most trying days of my life.

I still don’t know who sent it. That’s probably for the best, because the urge to punch them in the face (possibly repeatedly) has not quite subsided. But I can’t say they didn’t teach me a valuable lesson. And I can’t say that I don’t think of it any time someone acts shocked and mystified about the fact that someone read what they wrote in a 100% public forum.

XVIII-Gettin’ Topical

So recently I gave my presentation for this section of the course. It was about this article, and for those unwilling to go read it, basically it’s a blog written in reaction to another blog. One guy blogged for Wired, floating ideas about the dreadful consequences of Syria having a chemcial weapons stockpile (if it fell into the wrong hands or the government decided to use it), and the above blog is a rather scathing retort, accusing the writer (and the US government) of lying, and using it as an excuse for invasion, just like Iraq. He doesn’t seem to mind completely disregarding the fact that the original author quotes two government sources talking about how invasion isn’t an option. But it’s just not en vogue these days to let trivial things like facts get in the way of a good old foaming-at-the-mouth knee-jerk reaction.

Anyway, the Internet has been pointed at by many as a major driving force behind the Arab Spring, so out of curiosity I decided to figure out how it had figured into the Syrian situation thus far. I found an article written about a year ago which claimed that the Syrian government was inundating twitter with (obviously) pro-regime #Syria posts in order to silence and insult the opposition. I was wondering if this was still going on, but a quick serch for that hashtag reveals naught but bulletins from news services and pro-revolution messages. Admittedly, two of them were in Arabic so I don’t know what they said.

However, according to Wikipedia, as of 2011 only 19.8% of Syrians had internet access, and of those, only 0.2% used Broadband internet. Therefore I think it’s important that the role of the internet and social networking in these events isn’t overestimated by techno-optimists desirous to see their pet technologies change the world, similarly to how we the Western media musn’t paint a picture of a country where every common Syrian person lives under the heel of a brutal dictator they would rather see gone, when this isn’t the case as Bashar al-Assad still enjoys popular support (particularly in Damascus, the capital). Ultimately, change in Syria will probably come from the barrel of a gun, or hopefully, engaging with actual humans at street level. This writer remains skeptical of how Twitter could have any more than a minor impact on the process.

XVII-What They Think….

Link to original assignment.

For this ds106 assignment, I was asked to try my hand at the recently popular “What ____ thinks I do” meme. Because I’m an egomaniac, I decided to do one about myself.

THE PROCESS

I originally set out to make it using MS Paint, because I had found nothing but pain and frustration awaiting me using other programs. Much to my dismay that was the same thing awaiting me in MS Paint. A closer examination of the original assignment revealed there was a link to a site where you could generate these type of images (which may in fact indicate that it has jumped the shark as a meme).

Using this, I set out to find the appropriate pictures of myself and captions to make an effective image. This process was actually more difficult than it sounds, even though it consisted entirely of previously existing material (except for the final picture). It took me over an hour to do. It’s true that I used an online generator to make it, and didn’t make it from scratch, but complaining about that is like yelling at a student for printing his research paper out of a printer rather than handing in a medieval illuminated manuscript. At least that’s what I think.

THE STORY

 

Here’s a link to the picture I made.

 

So basically the narrative here is about my new life in Japan (except for the first picture, which is a joke about how throughout my life a lot of people have just assumed I was a psychotic serial killer. I guess I have that look. I’m not sure I mind so much because it may have kept annoying people from talking to me at some point). My parents have often complained to me that in every new picture I post I’m drinknig or drunk, which is a consequence of the fact that in the circles I socialize in, those are the only times anyone wants to take pictures. Most of my friends who I left behind in the Navy probably think that I’m just over here chillin’ (or “skatin” as they would say) and there is probably a lovely lady out of shot straddling me (not neccessarily in mid-coitus…get your minds out of the gutter). The third picture speaks to some of the weird ideas I’ve heard put forth about the military by people who were never in it (hint: we took that picture as a joke. It is not the equivalent of a senior picture taken for the Navy). If I wanted to be more controversial I could have taken a picture of me throwing babies off of a cliff in Afghanistan but I specifically told the guys who were with me not to take pictures while I was doing that.

The second to last picture, which is being used (without authorization) as we speak for a TUJ Rugby club poster, represents my newfound love of being a rugby weekend warrior, which has really saved me from being a lazy-ass drunkard this semester. Of course, when I’m not playing rugby, I pretty much am a lazy-ass drunkard the rest of the time.And finally there’s a picture of me actually DOING this assignment…never let it be said that I’m not clever.

XVI-Great Scott, Sean made something!

Image

In this ds106 assignment, “Stick Figures in Sticky Situations”, we were asked to draw a picture of a stick figure in an unusual situation. This was significant for me, because 1. I actually had to draw something, 2. I did it while I may in fact be dying of tuberculosis.

THE PROCESS

I thought it would be a good idea to catch a suspicious-looking stick figure trying to sneak out of my room. I don’t let anyone in my room cause I’m sensitive about it’s messiness (particularly after the pathogenic haze that I’ve been in for the last few days). So I took a picture with my room door cracked open, and I used pixlr to draw the little fella.

THE STORY

You could say this guy represents the vile sickness that has plagued me since last Friday. You could even say it’s the same guy who’s beckoning me to return to bed right….now….

XV-Terror and Vitriol On The Internet

Friends, I blog to you today about grave matters. As you can see by the title of this post, I have decided that the moniker “Fear and Loathing on the Internet” is just not quite strong enough for the subject I am about to broach. It is more base and inhuman than the most sinister war crime, more dark and terrifying than the deepest nightmare, more violent and senseless than an Aztec human sacrifice. What I want to blog about today is romantic relationships between humans. In the context of the Internet, of course.

You see, the Internet has changed them forever, and I firmly believe it’s for the worse, not the better. Looking back on my life, I’m rather ashamed to say that upon reflection, a lot of the big, dramatic, and frankly bad romantic moments didn’t take place through tearful broken voices shouting at each other in a storm that was the very metaphor for our chaotic relationship, but rather across cables or wires or whatever manner of dark voodoo science that makes the Internet work. I have never moaned goodbye to my eternal love while we floated on a piece of driftwood in the North Atlantic, only to let them plunge to their icy death. Instead I…….um….turned on Caps Lock and….hit the keys harder than…usual?

On top of that, the dawn of the NWO of social networks has given me powers that I absolutely should not have. I’m not Spider Man. I have no wise old men to counsel me to exercise great responsibility, only old Japanese men who stare at me angrily on the train for no reason(I don’t know why, we both seem to enjoy lemon chu-his). I’m not capable of handling the power of having access to every minutiae of my romantic interests’ existence. And I don’t mean that in the sense that I “use this power for evil” that would at least be cool. Instead I use it like a moron, getting caught up in day-to-day events instead of viewing things in the proper context.

The people of my parents’ generation didn’t have this problem. They would either be fortunate enough to be in a situation where they were with their person of interest all the time, or they saw them very infrequently. In the second case, they viewed things in the proper context, they watched people gradually change over time, which is a far more accurate reflection of reality.

It’s far too late in the game to change anything about it, I think, but maybe I’m just an idiot and everybody else handles this problem adroitly. But based on the amount of breakups I see over Facebook, I think not.

XIV-Gateways to Geekery

Link to original assignment.

For my first ds106 assignment of the section, I’ll be writing a blog post modeled after one of the The Onion’s “Gateways to Geekery” articles, the purpose of which is to give you an in-depth introduction to someone else’s geeky obsession as if you might actually want to undertake it on your own. I had never read one of them before, but surprisingly, the first one I looked at as a model detailed the author’s obsession with NWOBHM (the New Wave of British Heavy Metal), and I had planned to use a metal band from the 80s (though not a British one). I chose to do this assignment because firstly, everyone likes to talk about their geeky passions, and secondly, I love to watch hipsters die inside when I explain my fiery, passionate, competely irony-devoid love of metal. Since I’m not sure what a hipster is actually, I tend to define it as anyone I don’t like. Anyway, on to the assignment.

THE PROCESS

I’m going to….write. Starting now!

GATEWAYS TO GEEKERY

Geek obsession: King Diamond.

Who is King Diamond? Well, he’s a 56-year old Danish man who now lives in Dallas, TX and just had bypass surgery. He looks like this:

So yeah. I guess I should mention that he’s the singer, main songwriter, and namesake of my all-time favorite band. This may seem strange for a lot of reasons. One, their (you would think I would should say “his”, but I’ll explain that later) seminal and best album came out in the year of my birth. Two, I will never impress a chick by telling her that I’m a King Diamond fan, unless she lives in a house that smells like incense with cats who are the living embodiments of ancient Egyptian gods. Actually I don’t ramble on about the geekier parts of me to girls I’ve just met, a skill that a lot of guys could stand to learn. But I am rambling on to you, so I guess I should just hit you with some fucking music:

Welcome Home

A Mansion in Darkness

Sleepless Nights

Since nobody probably listened to all that, I guess I should just provide a description of their music. The problem with that is that seeing descriptions of music in the written form makes me want to vomit. For example, if I was a dumbass music journalist, I could write something like this(imagine this being said in the dumbest voice possible):

 “King’s piercing vocals fly forth from the swirling malestrom provided by the adept guitarwork of LaRocque and Denner, while Mikkey Dee’s skillful skin-pounding provides a backing to the glorious cacophony that is almost reminiscent of Neil Peart. One can’t forgot Timi Hansen, expertly plucking the 4-string beast to lay down the thunder that metal fans love.”

 Why did I do that. Why did I purposely write something that would make me want to cry? In order to get a good grade. What have I become?

 Anyway, as I said before, King Diamond (real name Kim Petersen) was born in Denmark in the 50s. He actually started his music career as a guitarist in the 70s, but ended up being a vocalist in a Danish prog rock band called Black Rose. That’s when he started to experiment with his shock-rock style , wearing makeup and exploding bombs onstage. After he left Black Rose, he played guitar again in a punk band called Brats. In the late 70s, him and two two other guys from Brats formed a heavy metal band called Mercyful Fate. This is actually another one of my all-time favorite bands, and they are hugely important in the early development of underground metal. But like a lot of great bands from that era, there was only a short moment of brilliance (two albums’ worth) before things fell apart. The band broke up because lead guitarist Hank Shermann wanted to start playing funk music. Here’s some Mercyful Fate songs for the hell of it:

Doomed by the Living Dead

Into the Coven

A Dangerous Meeting

King didn’t want to do that, so he embarked on a solo project. Now, Mercyful Fate’s music, even though they sang about deflowering nuns and Satan dominating the Earth, was very heavily influenced by 70s rock (you could almost describe them as an evil Thin Lizzy). But by the time the band broke up, it was the mid-80s, the heyday of metal. So King’s solo project went decidedly in that direction. 

Where to start: Abigail, 1987

Abigail was the 2nd full-length King Diamond album, and the first one that was a full concept album. King had this idea of telling a horror story through a concept album. This was a Pink Floyd’s The Wall-style concept album, in the sense that it told a linear story about a couple moving into a mansion that was possessed by demons. It’s universally considered the band’s best album. But even though King Diamond seems like a complete solo act, it’s really not, because guitarist Andy LaRocque writes about 30% of the music. I would actually say he writes the best songs, especially on the more recent albums. You can pretty much find the whole album on YouTube these days.

Them, 1988

Conspiracy, 1989

These albums are sequels telling the story of a….well another house that is possessed by demons, I’m sorry to say. Honestly, I wouldn’t focus too much on the stories (though they do provide a good and creepy backdrop for the music) but rather on the songs themselves.  This was pretty much the golden age of King Diamond. In 1990 they released an album called “The Eye”, which I love, but I think you should probably already be a hardcore fan when you listen to it. It’s just not quite as magical as these three, and it sounds a little bit rushed even though it has moments of brilliance. Also, brilliant drummer Mikkey Dee left after 1989, and was replaced by Snowy Shaw, who was also excellent, but for whatever reason they decided he should play an electronic drum kit(???). It sounds like a drum machine and really takes away from the music I think.  After The Eye, Mercyful Fate got back together, so King Diamond was on hold until 1995…

Where not to start:

Unlike a lot of old metal bands, some of the albums King Diamond released in the 90s and 2000s are actually pretty good. Some are not. The good ones are: Voodoo(1998), Abigail II: The Revenge (2002) and The Puppet Master(2003). However…pretty much all the other stuff is just…not that good. The Graveyard and House of God have good moments, but ultimately fall flat. The Spider’s Lullabye is just weird and not very good (King even admits this). Gimme Your Soul…Please has a really dumb title, and really isn’t my cup of tea despite the fact that it actually won a Grammy for “Best Metal Performance”, but how relevant are the Grammys anyway?

Well, it took me all afternoon to write this for some reason, so, I hope it gets read. It feels good to get the geekery off your chest every once in a while.