Monday, September 30, 2013

September CommQuote

In latest Wired Magazine (September 26, 2013) opinion piece, Forget Foreign Languages and Music. Teach Our Kids to Code, Brendan Koerner builds interesting argument for teaching computer programming in kindergartens and grade schools. 

Extensive research has shown that because young brains are so adept at picking up languages, it’s best to introduce children to foreign tongues as early as possible. This is why so many ambitious parents are now clamoring for kindergartens that offer intensive Mandarin—they want to give their kids the best possible shot at learning a key language of the Asian century.

What those parents likely don’t realize is that the same neural mechanisms that make kids sponges for Mandarin likely also make them highly receptive to computer languages. Kindergartners cannot become C++ ninjas, but they can certainly start to develop the skills that will eventually cement lifelong fluency in code. And encouraging that fluency should be a priority for American schools, because it is code, not Mandarin, that will be the true lingua franca of the future.

Perhaps you remember the turtle. In the early to mid 1980s, the Logo programming language, with its iconic turtle-shaped cursor, was the fad in American elementary schools. By using Logo’s simple commands to create intricate graphics, kids were supposed to develop mastery over the Apple IIe’s that had begun to appear in their living rooms.

But Logo seldom delivered on its lofty promise. The main problem was not the language itself but the lackluster way in which it was taught: Many instructors simply plopped students in front of computers for an hour a week and hoped for the best.

The resulting disillusionment coincided with the emergence of media that transformed school computers from exploratory tools into library aids. “CD-ROMs came out, then the World Wide Web appeared, so you didn’t need to know commands to interact with the computer,” says Yasmin Kafai, an education professor at the University of Pennsylvania. Programming vanished from elementary schools for decades, even as computer science became an ever more popular pursuit at the collegiate level. A cultural consensus seemed to spring up: Kids should be taught a nebulous set of “computer skills,” but programming—well, that was for grown-ups.

In the past five years, however, a number of groundbreaking projects have begun to prove that consensus wrong. Besides Gibson’s tic-tac-toe and graph theory lessons, there is Scalable Game Design, a curriculum developed at the University of Colorado that challenges kids to code their own versions of Frogger. At P.S. 185 in Harlem, children as young as 4 are using a language called Cherp to make robots perform household chores. And it’s happening overseas too: In Estonia an initiative called ProgeTiiger is striving to teach coding basics to all first graders.

What all these initiatives have in common is an emphasis not on memorizing how to use specific tools but on developing familiarity with the general concepts that underpin all programming—sequencing, conditionals, debugging.

...Yet teaching programming is not just about creating an army of code monkeys for Facebook and Google.Just as early bilingualism is thought to bring about cognitive benefits later in life, early exposure to coding shows signs of improving what educators call “computational thinking”—the ability to solve problems with abstract thinking. And even for students who never warm to programming, whose innate passions lead them toward English degrees rather than software engineering, understanding code still has great value.   -- Brendan I. Koerner

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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Facebook Lit Review from New Media & Society

Need help in rounding up the scholarship on Facebook?  Belgian scholars Ralf Caers, Tim De Feyter, Marijke De Couck, Talia Stough, Claudia Vigna, and Cind Du Bois team up in the latest New Media & Society with a 6 year literature review on the subjects.

Facebook: A literature review
New Media & Society vol. 15 no. 6 982-1002 

This article provides a critical review of scientific, peer reviewed, articles on Facebook between 2006 and 2012. The review shows that while there are yet numerous articles on various aspects of the social network site, there are still many gaps to be filled. Also, due to the limited scope of many articles (in sample sizes as well as in the number of countries included in the studies) and frequent changes to Facebook’s design and features, it is not only necessary to revisit many of these articles but also to integrate their research findings. The review ends with a critical discussion and directions for future research. 

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Citing Data--Current Practice, Policy, and Technology

The U.S. CODATA and the Board on Research Data and Information (BRDI) has just published a new  75-page report: Out of Cite, Out of Mind: The Current State of Practice, Policy, and Technology for the Citation of Data, appearing in the CODATA open access journal Data Science Journal. 

Explains Paul F. Uhlir, Director of BRDI, "the report discusses the current state of data citation policies and practices, its supporting infrastructure, a set of guiding principles for implementing data citation, challenges to implementation of good data citation practices, and open research questions." 

Chapters include: Defining the Concepts and Characteristics of Data, Emerging Principles for Data Citation, The Existing Institutional Infrastructures for Data Citation, The Technical Infrastructure, and The Socio-Cultural Dimension. And if you're really into this topic there is a hefty bibliography to peruse.

Out of Cite... follows their first report published in 2012, For Attribution-Developing Data Attribution and Citation Practices and Standards.

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Friday, September 20, 2013

Media Industries Project

On the heels of last night's inaugural PARGC lecture, it's my pleasure to feature The Carsey-Wolf Center's Media Industries Project, which last night's speaker Michael Curtin directs at the University of California at Santa Barbara. The mission of the Project is as stated:
MIP examines the profound changes affecting media industries worldwide. In our research and programming initiatives, we foster collaboration between the industry and academy, encouraging innovative thinking and critical insights about the future prospects of modern media. Moreover, our thriving website publishes timely updates, interviews, and independent analyses of industry practices, policies, and trends. 
MIP has four strategic objectives: 
  • Foster dialog and awareness among the industry, academy, and general public
  • Generate critical resources for scholars, students, and industry professionals
  • Conduct independent research initiatives 
  • Build a global community of scholars devoted to media industries research
The Project currently has two featured initiatives, Connected Viewing, which focuses on digital distribution, cloud storage technologies, and multiple screen exhibition practices and Creative Labor which focuses on labor issues in the global film and TV industries.

There's lots on the website. Check out sections The Buzz, Things to Know and Places to Watch which highlight current issues and trends from all over the world. And Helpful Links points you to media industry data, other research centers, trade and labor organizations, media activist groups, law and policy organizations, filmmakers services organizations, and online archives. Good stuff.

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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Wired's Essential Reads and Feeds

Keeping up is beyond challenging, it's practically impossible, yet try we must. Since we have this habit now of reading blogs and tweets and articles blogs and tweets are pointing to (sometimes a rewarding activity, sometimes not so much...) we like to think we are we tuned--in our limited time and fractured attention spans--to the right stuff, posts best suited to our interests.  But we probably aren't and even if we are doing a pretty good job of exposing ourselves to the the smartest people and organizations, we could always make some tweaks to our "bullpens." To that end check out Wired Magazine's 101 Signals, their A-list of the best reporters, writers and thinkers on the internet, not just in technology but design, science, culture and business. I'm pretty sure you'll be adding a few of these to your diet. I'm thinking, in the interest of de-cluttering, for every Wired suggestion that I choose to follow I may perform a corresponding un-follow action . How's that for discipline!

You can read Wired here in the ASC Library in paper or access it from E-journals on the homepage.

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Friday, September 13, 2013

Media Industries Research--Business Press and Trade Journal Resources

The resource environment keeps improving for the study of media industries from an historical perspective. Penn's recent subscription to the  Entertainment Industry Magazine Archive, which covers core US and UK trade magazines in film, music, broadcasting and theater from the early 1900s forward, comes to mind. (See blog post from November 2012). Last year saw the addition of the Vogue Archive whose pages, because its editors always had their eye on more than fashion, have much to contribute to media industry studies.  There is also the admirable open access Media History Digital Library's Lantern database of digitized classic media periodicals in the public domain which I described here this past August.

In addition to these, I was reminded of the solid offerings of trade journals of the last few decades that we rely on Dow Jones Factiva and EBSCO's Communication and Mass Media Complete serving up to us, when I ran across this article in the current Communication, Culture & Critique by Kenton T. Wilkinson and Patrick F. Merle called The Merits and Challenges of Using Business Press and Trade Journal Reports in Academic Research on Media Industries.

This article argues that media researchers should pay closer attention to the benefits and potential pitfalls of using business press and industry trade journal reports to inform academic research. To date, the use of these secondary sources in scholarly research concerning media industries has received little interest, as demonstrated in a preliminary examination of how academic literature and research methods textbooks treat the business press and trade journal reports. The authors call for a dialogue on this significant oversight, and offer suggestions for how researchers might begin addressing it as media across the globe grow in scope and influence during the 21st century.

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