Category Archives: ICM501

Posts relevant to the ‘ICM501 Intro to Interactive Communications’ class.

Agenda

The esteemed research team we have assembled is Pacio, Sirch & Millner. We’ll be taking a look into the world of Electronic Civil Disobedience (ECD) and the Environmental Groups use of cyberprotest tactics in an attempt to create a white sheet.

Our team is still working to nail down the meeting place and time and might opt for a virtual solution.  Our agenda and working plan is as follows:

  1.  Each team member has been tasked with coming up with a narrow and deep topic within the ECD/Environmental activism online. Our first item of business will be for us to share our individual research and topic of interest within the broader field. Our goal at this stage is to “find the loser” and narrow down our whitesheet topic, ideally by looking at all three of the ideas we bring to the table and  finding the common point between them. However, if necessary we will choose one topic point at that  time out of the three options we present.
  2. Pre-meeting we’ve been assembling tags and links on del.icio.us (as I’ve outlined in previous blog posts). These will form the basis of our ‘starting point’ in assembling the bibliography. This activity has actually been helping us to move slowly closer and closer together topic-wise as we’ve been exploring. After we narrow the topic down we will take a look through our assembled sources and begin to generate a more comprehensive list. Our strategy at that point will be to look at any relevant sources which informed our topic selection, and then use those sources’ bibliographies to generate a list of further reading on the topic, and we will continue to trace backward along those lines.
  3. Also at the meeting we will begin the process of setting out the overall plan for the shape of the paper. This will be used to generate a rough outline of how we plan to attack the topic over the course of our writing, and will be used to focus our further research into the new sources.
  4. Armed with our narrowed topic, a starting point for the bibliography, and a rough outline of the shape of the white sheet, we will then close the meeting by planning out a division of labor between the three co-authors which will include a discussion on the tools and methods of collaboration we will be using. While final decisions about the division of the project labor have yet to be made, we’re expecting to have to assign different sections of the research and different ‘draft authors’ for each of the segments of the final paper. As the name implies, we may most likely be coming up with an initial draft of our assigned segments which is then shared with the rest of the team via Google documents or Microsoft Word’s “track changes”/”compare documents”. However, this isn’t set in stone and we will be deciding on initial collaboration strategies at the close of the meeting.
  5. Once initial collaboration strategies have been determined, we will generate a timeline and expectations for “next steps”, verify that everyone understands what we’ll be doing, and then we’ll head out to do it.

It’s not all that detailed, but it does give us the right kind of structure to plan around. The hardest part about any collaborative authoring is just keeping things moving forward and not getting bogged down in overplanning or aimless wandering. It’s a law of physics and management that the energy needed to redirect objects or employees which are already in motion is much less than the energy expenditure needed to motivate them/us in the first place. It’s always easier to edit than to create.

I’m looking forward to working with this team. Willow Sirch is an accomplished author with six books already to her name. I have written two novels myself under the tutelage of Rosemary Edghill, multi-genre professional author/editor and former mentor and literary agent. Between Willow and I our writing experience and familiarity with multiple-rounds of drafts and revisions necessary to produced polished writing should work out well. Into that mix of experience we add Ryan Millner’s fresh perspective and unique creative energies, as well as a much stronger theoretical communications background due to his undergraduate studies than either Willow or myself are familiar with.

Now here’s hoping that we can find a topic that is sufficiently interesting, narrow, and deep enough without getting ourselves in trouble with the FBI because we’re actively researching topics like Cyberterrorism, Hacktivism, and Environmental activism, which deals properly more with the technological aspects and less with the ‘social justice’ aspects. It’ll be a challenging topic, but I think we’re up for the challenge with our particular skillset mix.

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More on the White Paper

Since I’ve already stressed the importance of keeping up with the Annotated Bibliography portion of things as a way to collaborate and streamline a lot of effort, here’s a way to do so while using the tools available on the internet.

Namely, del.icio.us.

If you and your group members all have del.icio.us accounts, you can create a private ‘network’ through which you can share all of the web-related white paper URLs.

Even better, del.icio.us gives you the chance to actually annotate your bookmark as you add it, depending on the method you use for adding it to your group.

Example of del.icio.us

The ‘notes’ box is perfect for… well, annotations. Which is another way of saying ‘notes’.

Workflow Addendum

So now we have a tool that we can all use, free, to gather online sources and make annotations, and keep them all stored in a very accessible way. Since we can go into del.icio.us and later decide to share certain bookmarks with our network, I’d advise setting yourselves up on del.icio.us and breaking down the process of exploratory research into surfing & tagging, later reviewing & annotating, and then finally ‘network sharing’ for comments and further review.

Managing the White Paper process: Annotated Bibliography

We’re starting to work through our small group collaborative research projects for ICM501.   The process has just begun, and for many in the class it looks like one helluva headache. Alex Halavais already warned us earlier in the course that unless we took steps to organize ourselves well with virtual project management techniques, we were in danger of drowning on this assignment.  I have to agree.

Whether by design or by coincidence, however, Professor Halavais also gave us the keys to efficient collaborative research management in our formal assignment itself. Remember, our white sheet project will require the following benchmarks from us in our progress:

  1. Proposal
  2. Annotated bibliography
  3. Outline
  4. White sheet paper
  5. Presentation of our white sheets (video’d and shared via web)

The key to effective coordinated research in small teams is right there in #2… the annotated bibliography.

What’s an annotated bibliography?

Simply put, the annotated bibliography is a collection of source data (the bibliography), coupled with a brief set of comments or notes (the annotation part). For a more complete description including samples, check out this page about annotated bibliographies from Cornell.

The way that the annotated bibliography is going to save our skins in class, however, is pretty simple. Since we need to produce an annotated bibliography anyway, that lets us know right off of the bat that every source file we read should immediately be rendered into annotated form.

That means, basically, that whenever you read something that pertains to your project, or whenever you investigate something that looks like it might pertain to your project, you copy down the bibliographic reference information (author, date, publication, page number, etc.) and then you come up with a paragraph describing what the key points of the arguments are. You can also write a note to your teammates describing what the author has to say on your topic, whether you agree with it, or whether you think it’s going to be of much use in the project at all.   This becomes the annotated bibliography reference.

Creating a Research Strategy

At this point, you can see that the initial phase of research (googling, technorati surfing, searching journals and libraries, etc.) will quickly generate a substantial body of leads. If you annotate as you go through, you can share your annotated references with the team. This is especially useful at the first stage of the project, where we all “kind of” know what we’d like to do and aren’t sure exactly how to turn it into a viable research proposal. Begin by surfing and skimming, doing the “searches” online and in the library (Remember to ask your reference librarian for research help! They may know of better sources than you’re even aware exist.)

As you skim and search, keep the annotation process going strong.  Your emails can contain the biblographical references of everything you’ve looked at, followed by your short paragraph of describing what they said and why they might be important/what specific problems they point to within the greater subject area.

As you find interesting subtopics that might be worth narrowing in on for the final project, you can go back to those initial “finds” of yours to begin to broaden and narrow the research path. You do this by finding the authors who are already talking about the problems that interest you, and then following their bibliographies backwards to read the sources that those authors pulled from.

Coming up with the Proposal

By working in this manner – searching, annotating, sharing, and then searching deeper (re-searching) – you will quickly begin to find out who the ‘experts’ are, and you’ll also see which topics they’ve been focusing on. Remember that your white sheet will not be created in a vacuum, so it is perfectly acceptable to cover something that someone is already talking about… just be sure you don’t reinvent the wheel. Duplicating someone else’s ideas isn’t really acceptable, but looking at their source data and suggesting an alternative solution is academically sound.  Or else looking at their solutions and source data and building even deeper along the issue than they did is another great way to go.

Once you’ve got your exploratory research out of the way, don’t throw out those annotations! You won’t use everything in your annotated bibliography, but you will use some of those sources.  Once your proposal is done, you then need to go back through and see which of your researched sources contain the relevant and pertinent information. At that time, you can use the preliminary annotations alongside your ‘formal’ proposal, and go back to revisit those sources and revise your annotations to address the issue you proposed more directly or appropriately.

Outline and Beyond
Once you have a properly-framed topic (your Proposal) and you’ve assembled your Annotations, it’s not that long of a step to get to the Outline.  At this stage, you should be able to state your topic of inquiry and structure your angle of attack. The Outline is the way to organize not just how the paper is going to come out at the end, but also it’s a way to organize which of your annotated sources are going to be used to address each point. However you choose to map it out, the Outline will give you a chance to see which sources you are relying on heavily, and it gives you a chance to do some final research to try and fill in areas where the documentary evidence is relatively weak.

Once you get to the actual process of writing, that’s when the real work is going to begin. I’m personally wondering how in hell the writing will go, but I’m guessing that it’s going to require several revisions and a developed editorial process.

But that’s all for the future. For right now, I seriously recommend beginning all research right off of the bat, exploratory or otherwise, by generating annotated bibliographic materials. Starting from that convention can save you a hell of a lot of time in the later steps.

Just a suggestion. Hope that helps.

Verifying your WordPress site with Google

There’s a good post on how to work around the ‘verify’ conundrum that happens with Google’s Webmaster Tools and the lack of control over uploading html or modifying meta tags.  Check it out.

http://jalaj.net/2007/05/21/get-your-wordpresscom-blog-google-verified/ 

This is what was mentioned in last night’s 501 class for ‘listing your site’ with Google to increase buzz.

Mashups

Placeholder for my post. I’m still trying to get the time to spend exploring the web to find some Mashups that are particular to my interests. I’ve got some ideas, but there just hasn’t been time to “surf” for me. I’ll tackle it tomorrow on my day off.

Technically “late” for the homework assignment, I hesitate to say that I’m really not motivated much by grades. But this ‘learning’ stuff is fun enough to make me do my homework even when my schedule hasn’t given me the time to do it properly.

At least I got my reaction paper done, though.

RSS aggregator

Another assignment this week was to select an RSS aggregator and add four blogs to it. I added the whole class (at least, everyone linked to the page on introinteractive’s facebook entry) so I could peruse what my worthy classmates were doing without having to flip through different web pages or keep referring to a central list of bookmarks (much as I like del.icio.us, I’d rather just read something gmail-esque and manage my subscriptions that way.

I haven’t poked around too much more, although I did add the required four blogs. Please rest assured I’ll be delving into this wonderful tool much more when I get a new computer (soon!) and restore home internet access. Yes, I’m running around back and forth from friends’ houses and the school campus just to do my reading homework. It’s getting old.

However, I did add a Xinet User’s Group run by my former supervisor. For those who don’t know about Xinet, I’ll be happy to evangelize for you in person, but it’s a web technology solution which has been around for a while now and making life wonderful for those companies who’ve decided to install it. Data Asset Management is just the tip of the iceberg. Just check out their site.

The user’s group is a subscription-service blog meant to allow different xinet users to keep in touch and stay on top of the latest tips and tricks for the technology. Also to foster a community, because there’s some pretty amazing stuff you can do with Xinet. If you’re interested, you have to work through a reseller, so I’d recommend contacting Kenny Kirsch as part of NAPC. Tell him I sent you.

I also added a couple of other blogs. One about Flex development for Adobe’s new development tools for applications, (if I’m recalling correctly… I chose this one to get back up to speed on Adobe’s latest and greatest, especially now that I’m learning how to code ActionScript.) Another for a friend of mine, Anthurian.com (although he’s been ‘under new development’ for a while, when he gets back up and writing I want to be alerted to it).

There was one more about different examples of online short films using Flash, coldhardflash.com. And of course, Zeus Labs as well. Just starting to stretch the RSS wings, trust me. Just waiting for some time to indulge my curiosity. If anything is going to enable us to ‘go beyond the minimum’ in Alex’s ICM501 class, Google Reader and the RSS aggregator (combined with the Technorati blog search engine) will be it.

Reading done

I finished the assigned reading tonight and I was about to start on the reaction paper, but I want to take a bit longer to let everything sink in before I do the formal assignment. Since this is my research blog, I’m going to babble at will. I’ll come up with some categories to make the “official” stuff for classes and the “polished” and “organized” posts easier to locate, but for now I’m more concerned with just generating some content and seeing how the patterns of posts turns out.

Initial reaction to the readings was something along the lines of “Damn, that’s a lot of reading to get done by Tuesday.” I took Alex’s warnings to heart when he said that we would have to learn how to adjust our reading habits to get the most out of our assigned readings for grad school.

Strategies for Understanding

I’ve been that guy who just kind of coasts and never does the work. Well, I used to be that guy: thirteen years in the corporate world cures you of that tendency very quickly in my experience. $20K for grad school also tends to make you sit up and pay attention more, too.  So I figured out that off the bat I need to set up some decent study habits. After taking a gander at the Engelbart report, I’m glad I did.

Generally I just read along and took some notes, trying to find ways to sum up the major points and diagram out the major arguments. Along the way I found myself jotting down some noteworthy direct quotes for possible use later in class or in papers. I started skimming more and reading less, keeping an eye out for anywhere that I lost the thread of the argument so I would stop and back up then and pay more attention until I could skim again. It kind of worked. Going to have to refine the practice a bit, but it worked well enough.

I also found that about halfway through reading Engelbart (I read Bush first and Linklider last), my brain started to come up with some interesting trains of thought and reactions to the reading. I guess that’s what Alex wants us to get to. But it was more on the cognitive theory portions in Engelbart. I used my reading notes to jot down the trains of thought and inspiration too, only I blocked them off with a bracket and indented them for easier finding as I skim later.

I never used to have to take notes. Not on reading. I just read it and retained it, but this is a bit of a stretch. Especially Engelbart. If you’re in the ICM501 class and haven’t started the reading assignments yet, watch out for Engelbart. It’s the most conceptually complex and structurally confusing of the three articles so far. But also for me, one of the more inspiring ones because it provides a framework for considering and discussion of the other ideas.

This isn’t the official reaction. I want time to sleep on it and review my reading notes before I write that stuff. I’ve got some neat ideas and I have some direct experiences too, which tie in nicely with the readings to illustrate some points.

Developing an ICM Wiki

I’m also vaguely considering that in order for this blog to work well, I think it’s going to need a wiki attached. Time to look into free wiki-esque sites like Wet Paint. Anyone else from the ICM501 class that wants to jump in and make a collective wiki, let me know. I’ll be doing it anyway for my own notes, but I think that we could maybe create an ICM501-specific wiki that could help us all collect our knowedge and insights.

Any takers, let me know! (Also let me know if this particular wheel has already been invented yet or not.)