Posts Tagged ‘Interactivity’

Dancing on Clouds – A Letter to LarryandSergey

February 27, 2010 2 comments

Dear LarryandSergey,

On March 9, 1967, 6 years before either of you were born, Joni Mitchell composed the song Both Sides Now. We have been inspired ever since by her metaphor of clouds and how it helps us see that there “are a lot of sides to everything.” She sings:

I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down, and still somehow
It’s cloud illusions I recall
I really don’t know clouds at all
© 1969; Siquomb Publishing Company

Joni had just finished reading Saul Bellow‘s book Henderson the Rain King, and told an interviewer that:

“…there’s a line in it that I especially got hung up on that was about when he was flying to Africa and searching for something, he said that in an age when people could look up and down at clouds, they shouldn’t be afraid to die.”

LarryandSergey, you’ve inspired us too, you’ve learned how to look up and down at clouds of data. After looking at both sides I’ve decided my digital life is really better now that I can Google. My searches are rewarding and fast; I am empowered. I click, therefore I am. I can find and share videos and links and laughter. And, if anyone googles: paul r wagner, you get me! Yep, that’s me at the top of the list!

I know that my many divergent paths are your affordances. But, I am learning as much as you. I pay you in clicks and links and stops and starts and I am rewarded, too. My online journeys become part of your daily algorithm. I don’t really mind at all. I know that if I do this and if the next click happens to find a new discovery then that leads me down another path. So, like you, I can also look at things from both sides now. That’s my algorithm.  I Google, therefore I am.

All 500 million of us thank you everyday because we all have an innate need to constantly be searching for something. With some of us it’s desperation, with many of us its exultation. In turn, we don’t mind being the wisdom of clouds for you. We click. We get results. We go on. Like you, we’re dancing on clouds of information. Our lives are better.

I know that some of us are skeptical about Google’s ‘don’t be evil’ mantra. I’ve heard both sides. I’m going with what your Marissa Mayer revealed:

“We have several key factors that we look at to really understand what we call user happiness.”

Why is it hard for me to detect any element of ‘evil’ in that goal? I compliment you on your Walt Disney-Henry Ford allegiance to my user happiness, to such singleness of purpose that you keep demonstrating over and over? You are technicians with taste and you’re leveraging what you’ve learned about us. That’s not called communism or the evil empire, that’s called competitive advantage. Shall we call a cobbler evil if his mantra is “if the shoe fits, you’ll want to wear it”?

Let’s talk about the big banks that actually had our money in their hands and, in effect, irreverently lost that money this past year. In fact, they lost so much of our money (they still can’t explain where it went) that we had to bail them out! That algorithm doesn’t compute and so I think we could start talking about evil in the banks, don’t you? Maybe you can teach them about the wisdom of clouds and user happiness, ok?

So, again, thanks. You’re the best. I think I’ll just keep clicking for free, getting faster and more targeted results and let you figure out how to pay for all of this free stuff you keep giving me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to be evil by leaving you with the bill, it’s just that, well, you’ve offered.

O, and before I close this letter. I forgive you for going ahead and digitizing millions of books and then asking for permission afterward. Heck, I do that all the time. If you don’t go ahead and get started on a good idea it will never happen.

Can you imagine if your idea instead was “Let’s form a national committee of smart people to figure out how and if we should digitize 20 million books.” What a brilliantly bad idea that would have been, eh? Sounds like something that might have come from that poster child of inefficiency, the book publishing industry.

Speaking of the value in forgotten books…I googled and very quickly (thanks) found the Google-digitized version of the book, Beautiful thoughts about happiness (1911) . As you guys know, it had been languishing in the library of the University of California which I’ll probably never get a chance to visit in my lifetime. Of course, thanks to you, now it’s really easy to quickly search keywords throughout this book. I searched for “clouds”. Here’s what I found. Maybe this can inspire you to keep up the good work on my user happiness?

Be still, sad heart! and cease repining;
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining.
-Henry W. Longfellow


Your pal, Paul


Split Screen Website-Interesting Idea!

November 5, 2009 1 comment


Website with Nice Split Screen Effect

Cadbury’s is currently running their One For You, One For Me charity contest in Canada that features a website divided into two sides, where everything visitors interact with on one side affects the other side as well.

Every week 15-20 new prizes are up for grabs, each paired to a charitable contribution on the other side of the screen that Cadbury will match monetarily. Entering the contest with UPC codes from Cadbury products, users select from a variety of prize/charity contributions. For instance, you could win a bookstore gift certificate on the left side of the screen for yourself and if you win donations are made to a Literacy foundation on the right.

This is not only one of those ‘feel good’ contests that helps charities but also it’s done in a clever, interactive way.

It’s also interesting to consider what other applications this split screen concept might have in the world of website development. Check it out.

Categories: COM530 Tags: ,

Interactivity Unplugged

October 22, 2009 2 comments

Whoa! Can you believe the news lately about all the new tech-NO-tools that are going to make our lives so much more INTER-Active. New tickle me Mice, new touch-me screens, it’s all so rad and plugged in and viral and tactile. Oh my! Pass me that hand sanitizer, will ya?

Talk about electricity, I interviewed an Elon University professor today as part of my research on using all this electronic interactive media in the classroom. Of course, I’m becoming kind of a know-it-all on this topic so I figured going into this chat that I’d probably have to enlighten professor Gary Palin on exactly what I’ve been focused on. You see, he hasn’t been drinking the same Kool-Aid®, so he couldn’t possibly know, right?

Well, was I in for a big surprise! I barely got the word ‘interactive’ out on the table and don’t you know this gentlemen launches into a litany of stories. These are all very interactive teaching techniques that are not textbook-driven and that involve no chalk & talk lectures.

This guy’s on fire. He’s got a million deals cookin’ regarding how to engage students into great, interactive learning experiences. But, there was something missing. I held back on that as I didn’t want to interrupt his flow of really good stuff. I held back my hard question for him until later.

Here’s an example of one of his class projects in Entrepreneurship:

“I have two classes, one with seniors who are ready to complete the program and another with first year students. One day, for the young novices, I bring in children’s construction paper, glue and scissors and break the class into groups. Using only these materials, each group is to design and build a prototype men’s wallet that must also have a new innovative feature. Then they have to pitch the wallet to the ‘buyers.’ Of course, the ‘buyers’ are the seniors.”

All the students interact and learn by teaching themselves! Very nice. Very clever. But, I’m still thinking about that missing element. Remember, I’m the INTERACTIVE expert here.

Well, I thanked Professor Palin for his time and especially his great, interactive teaching examples. I did not mention that thing that was bothering me.

You see, he was all about engaging folks by turning over choice and control to them. He was asking them to synthesize in a non-linear, conceptual and empathic manner. All his materials were open source.

He was applying all the Kool-Aid, acid test, tagging and track back rules we are learning in our plugged in world of website and blog and wiki development but there was a difference. He hadn’t used one electronic device at all. Not one. Just some paper and scissors and glue which is kindergarten stuff.

He caused constructive, emotional and conceptual learning at the college level without any electricity!

Any questions, class?

Interactive Noise – Yes? It’s off the wall!

October 4, 2009 Leave a comment
Could we see a different room please?

Could we see a different room please?

Wow! Isn’t this new media technology just great? These giant, multi-color neon light balls fall down from the ceiling and bounce off the headboard. All of them reacting to the movements in the room. Just what you need after that long day, on your feet, at the convention smiling to everyone coming to your company’s booth. Wha?

It took 20 centuries for modern man to reach this achievement…interactive hotel walls..awesome! We move and the neon light balls react. Are they waiting to move when I’m sleeping?

This is a lot better than those boring old [interactive] cave drawings. Pre-historic man didn’t have a clue. Who needs sheep? We can finally get a good nights sleep.

O, ladies and gentlemen with your new tech toys, please help me. I think this installation might make a great wall in a nightclub. Could we have some empathy for the audience. Do all of us want to interact with all of the world all of the time?

Here’s the great test for social media addicts. When you sign off of twitter or facebook, do you feel relieved from the quiet or anxious about what you might be missing? Are we forgetting what silence can mean to our sanity?

Quiet please. Bach’s Sheep May Safely Graze just came on. Nighty Night.

It’s all about Me…don’t you know?

September 24, 2009 Leave a comment

Today, let’s talk about those guys who build complex diagrams to explain things. (They seem to always be guys, don’t they?)

You know what I mean. They’re well-intentioned and usually have arrows and boxes and somebody has spent a long time on them and really, really thought about them. But, it seems the more they think about them and tweak them and get them all ready to show they’re way too complicated to communicate the message on their own.

By the time these guys are done with their model-diagram, they need to write an operating manual to navigate the thing. It kind of makes you wonder what the point was in making the model to begin with? Why don’t they just write a research paper and be done with it?

For example, there’s the famous food pyramid. Well, it used to be famous. But now they aren’t satisfied with it so we have all these new pyramids being drawn up. It’s kind of a food fight.

If you google ‘food pyramid’, look out, you’re going to see a whole smorgasbord of models trying to explain what we should eat. I was just getting to understand the old one and now they’re off changing it again. I guess the old one didn’t account for tacos or smoothies. Smoothies are real popular now, you know.

Today we were assigned the project of coming up with a new model for interactive communication. You see, kind of like smoothies that weren’t even invented until recently, these days the communications business is all a twitter about interactivity.

In other words, we want you to answer your e-mails.

Go ahead, interact a little bit. The Internet makes it virtually free.

Anyway, our class broke up into teams and our team decided that we don’t like diagrams that are models of the communication process. To be kind and because of all the work those fellows put into them, let’s just say we don’t understand those diagrams. More to the point, we couldn’t find ourselves in any of those models. At least when you look at the old food pyramid, they had pictures of food like bananas that you could recognize.

Oh sure, these communication models had “sender” and “receiver” and so forth but we didn’t like being put in a box that was on one side of the diagram and then imagining that you had to jump out of that box into another one. (We assumed that’s what you have to do as there was no operating manual with the diagram provided to us.)

So, we decided to devise a diagram that wasn’t a box. Our diagram didn’t have anything to do with other people out there trying to jump from “sender” boxes into “receiver” boxes. We drew a circle and called it the “me” model of communication.

In other words, let’s just worry about “me” and how “I” interact with the world. Then, anyone can act like they are a “me” and they are welcome to use our model. Our professor kind of liked the “me” model because I think it was easy for her to imagine herself in our circle going out answering e-mails, listening, chatting, responding and so forth. Well, that was swell. We could see right away that our model was easy to use.

Right at the end of class though, kind of to challenge us, our professor said, “wait a minute, this model only accounts for people. There’s other kinds of communicators.” But, our group was fast on our feet and defended the “me” model pronto by responding, “if a chair squeaks it’s communicating something, right? Well, a chair is allowed to be a ‘me’, also!” Silence. Confirmation. Approval.

Someday, we’ll make a real colorful and professional looking ‘me’ model and post it. Trust ‘me’.

Categories: COM540 Tags: ,