28/6/2005

Google Earth: ridiculously cool!

Filed under: — Bravus @ 1:50 pm

So, Google has released that zoomable world map with satellite photos that we’ve all been waiting for since we read Neal Stephenson’s ‘Snow Crash‘. You’ll need a fast computer and broadband (sorry Lorne!) to make it worthwhile, and it’s not yet available for Mac, but man, it’s cool!

26/6/2005

Assuming the best

Filed under: — Bravus @ 5:00 pm

I’ve always liked the quote, ascribed to Napoleon (among other people), “Never ascribe to malice what is adequately explained by incompetence”. I’d like to add a variation: “Never ascribe to malice what is adequately explained by a different perspective or world view”. I find that, much too often (particularly on the web), people who disagree about something ascribe malicious motives and sneaky, underhanded or dishonest methods to their opponents when all that’s really going on is a different way of looking at the situation. The ethic of always assuming that others are honest and sincere – even if, from your perspective, they’re plain wrong – until they prove to be otherwise just makes human relationships work more smoothly. Don’t get me wrong, there are generally malicious people in the world – the ones who fly planes into buildings among them. But far more people than we might assume are just honest, thoughtful people trying to get along in the world as best they can…

24/6/2005

Education for whom?

Filed under: — Bravus @ 6:58 am

Lee Shulman, an educator I’ve respected for a long time, and the President of the Carnegie Foundation, presented a talk on methods in educational research to us yesterday morning (including a very cool metaphor involving a pool table!), but the piece that really got my attention was something like this (I noted it down from memory, so it’s a paraphrase rather than verbatim):

I often say this to my students:

We live in a world that is not just
You have the privilege of getting an education
Your education does not belong only to you
You have the responsibility to use it for others
And to work for social justice

Parenting Rocks

Filed under: — Bravus @ 6:55 am

Suzie and I have started a new blog with our musings on marriage, family and parenting. Nothing too complicated or theoretical, just simple, practical ideas that work: Parenting Rocks.

23/6/2005

Open and Closed Work 2

Filed under: — Bravus @ 5:25 am

Another example was a presentation I saw at a conference recently. They were illustrating the use of a case study of a student teacher and his cooperating teacher discussing how the student’s practice teaching was going.

First they illustrated it as a little piece of writing, just on one page – not much description, just a bit of dialogue. Next they did a multimedia presentation with sound and a PowerPoint presentation. Finally, they presented the case as a piece of video.

It was absolutely striking to notice how much more ‘open’ the written version was, and how more and more information offered less and less scope for interpretation, and imposed more and more limitations. The video was an almost completely ‘closed’ work, which limited the potential usefulness of the case for discussing issues in education.

It might be hard to imagine, so let me give a couple of simple examples. One was that, in the written case, the race of neither participant was mentioned, while in the video both participants were white. That means it’s not as simple for a Japanese-Canadian student, for example, to use his imagination to put himself into the role of the student teacher. The point is not about inclusion, diversity or political correctness: a video with a Japanese teacher has the exact same problem. The point is, the text is just more open and therefore more easy for a wide variety of people to identify with.

Similarly, in the video the supervising teacher gets up during the conversation and goes to top up her coffee. It’s not important, just part of making the video more realistic in some way, but the temptation is, because that information is there, to try to make some meaning of it, to try to understand what it means about their relationship and the conversation.

It was a nice reminder that more information (using more media) is not always better…

22/6/2005

Open and Closed Work

Filed under: — Bravus @ 7:02 am

Try an experiment with me: check out the photos at http://www.parkeharrison.com/main.html (click on ‘Gallery’ at the bottom of the screen) but try really hard not to read the titles of each photo. Try to go through the whole 20 or so photos, just reacting to the photo (spend some time really getting into each) but without reading the captions.

Once you’ve done that, go back and look at each photo in the context of its title. What’s your experience? What’s the difference? You experience may vary, but I found the photos much more prosaic, much less interesting, intriguing, rich and allusive, once their meanings had been corralled by the titles.

Umberto Eco has talked about ‘the open work’ – the ways in which any work of art is open to interpretation or closed to it. I believe that, as a general thing, titles tend to close artworks down, to narrow their possible range of meanings. What do you think?

(more on this tomorrow)

21/6/2005

Dang

Filed under: — Bravus @ 8:57 am

Still waiting for a response from my hosting service, but it looks like those posts – almost a hundred between March and now – might be lost for good. I need a better backup product for Word Press… Oh well, c’est la vie…

The Triple Bottom Line

Filed under: — Bravus @ 6:39 am

This may be an old concept for some of you, but it was new to me and struck me as insightful. The idea is that to make a genuine assessment of pretty much anything, we need to consider the ‘triple bottom line’: what are the costs and benefits from this activity in terms of financial, social and environmental capital?

For too long we’ve looked only at the financial, at the cost of society and the environment – and, of course, the irony is that that is going to come back and bite us, and it’ll effect us in financial terms anyway.

The Russian Revolution could be considered as a bankruptcy of social capital, and environmental disasters as bankruptcy in environmental capital. The example shown in ‘The Day After Tomorrow’ is the most extreme case – but what will be the financial costs of the known consequences of climate change?

20/6/2005

The Bush Admnistration’s War on Science

Filed under: — Bravus @ 9:03 am

Don’t like the science? Just change it!

(it’s a Salon link, so you’ll have to view an ad to read it if you’re not a subscriber)

Workin’

Filed under: — Bravus @ 8:12 am

Lorne wrote: “Great pics!! But I thought this was a “working” trip”.

Hey, we’re working – just in very salubrious surroundings! Here’s proof:

workin

19/6/2005

Palo Alto

Filed under: — Bravus @ 5:06 pm

So, still working at the Carnegie Foundation. Rented a mountain bike today, so that should make me a little more mobile – after walking here from the hotel then back again yesterday I was starting to get blisters, so I skipped the serious hike to the top of the hill this afternoon.

Here are a few quick views of what I’m seeing:

koi
The koi pond in the courtyard from the balcony of my hotel room

baylong
The view from the window of my office (well, cube) at the Foundation

bay
A closer view of San Francisco Bay from the window

There are always lotsa squirrels running around, and as an Aussie they’re quite exotic to me, but I refrained from posting a photo of them since for most people they’re probably part of the wallpaper…

Hmmm

Filed under: — Bravus @ 11:00 am

So, either the server is misconfigured and showing posts from the wrong date, or someone has deleted almost 100 posts, taking me back to March… I really hope it’s the former and will fix itself…