Tag Archives: CCT

Back to School

Courtesy of Avoire

Courtesy of Avoire

Across the globe, the New Year is celebrated at different times of year. My own preference is to begin the New Year in September–the date used in the Gregorian, Eastern Orthodox calender; for this is the time when, everywhere, students and teachers alike, are returning back to school. To be sure, on January 1st, I never fail to make New Year resolutions, some of which I actually keep. But in September, I feel differently. Instead of focusing on self-improvement, my expectations run high when the new school year begins. Satiated with all the diverse, lackadaisical, and serendipitous happenings of Summer, I am right up there–at the gate–ready to take off. Enthused and excited, I think: A new year, a new beginning!

I attribute some of these positive aspirations to nostalgia, and my early summers spent at Lake Hawthorne. In mid-August, not long after the brown-eyed susans blossomed, the huckleberries ripened, and the katydids arrived, we would begin to plan for school. It was a memorable event. My mother would drive my sister and I in our old, maroon-colored Dodge to the nearest large town, about forty five minutes away. Wandering along the streets inhabited by white, Victorian buildings, their paint often peeling down the sides, we would shop to buy new outfits for the first day of school. The selection in this rural town was limited to say the least, but we always found something–typically a red/blue plaid dress with a white collar and ruffled sleeves. No matter, it was never the actual style of the dress that was important: Rather, it was its newness, an important symbol that conjured up for me the idea of a a fresh start and a propitious beginning. To accompany the dress, we bought very sensible shoes, the ugly, brown, lace-up type. Then, we would stop by the five-and-ten cent store–now an artifact of antiquity, to be sure–where we would very carefully finger through and select from among the wide array of three-ringed notebooks, paper, and pens. I hesitated, convinced that my choice of which items to buy would determine my academic success. Best of all, before driving home, we would visit the local luncheonette, where we sat at the counter, and slowly savored an ice cream soda. Back at the lake, I imagined myself on the first day of school, dressed in my new outfit, and armed with my ‘lucky’, hand-selected writing implements. A renewed sense of confidence came over me. I knew that I would not be shy on that first day. No, I would be thrilled to see my old friends; glad to make new ones; and–in those brown shoes–start off on the right foot with my new teacher.

More than fifty summers later, it is that time again. Time to get ready for a new academic year. Already I have noticed recent graduates stopping by the office to catch up and say their final goodbyes; new students visiting in search of housing and perhaps to reassure themselves that their investments in the CCT Program will payoff; faculty straying back from out of town with tales of their summer exploits, and, of course, the book store nagging faculty to turn in their book orders. Refreshed and stimulated by my month-long vacation, I am eager to start. However, just as I did as a youth, I follow some rituals. First, I prime my pump, putting all my recent reading materials on the floor, and slowly savoring each. Each book has become a part of me, a new window through which I can look at the world. But, my attachment to all these books constitutes a major problem for me as well: how will I ever decide what books I should assign, and which I should leave out? Without a doubt, I will include The Stag Hunt, and for sure, Epstein’s introductory chapter in Generative Social Science.. Likewise, in my discussions on networks and emergence, I will use Paul Pierson’s Politics in Time and Beinhocker’s wonderful book, The Creation of Wealth. As part of this sorting process, I fiddle, and faddle, and fiddle some more, changing the reading assignments, the sequence of classes, and even the style of the font. Having become a convert to blogging, I also integrate an on-line component into my courses. Eventually, I am satisfied–I think I have it right.

Then, before going home, I check out Howard Rheingold’s blog, and look at his syllabi posted there. In one, he includes a short film clip, produced by Michael Wesch and his students at the University of Kansas. Entitled A Vision of Students Today, the film takes me aback. It all too compellingly coveys how our traditional teaching styles are less and less relevant in today’s digital environment. I stop. I pause. Tomorrow, I determine, I will revisit my syllabus, taking this film into account. In the meantime, and just to be on the safe side, I will stop at the store on my way home, and buy a new outfit to wear on the first day of school.

Congratulations, Dr. Rheingold

An Image from Howard Rheingold's presentation as VP at De Montfort University, UKI was happy to read on his Smart Mobs weblog that tomorrow, Wednesday, July 15th, my friend Howard Rheingold will be awarded an honorary Doctorate of Technology by De Montfort University in Leicester, UK. De Montfort is fast becoming an important site of hybrid thinking about technology: Prof. Rheingold, D.Tech., is currently a visiting professor of at the Institute for Creative Technologies there; and the University has apparently just contributed 1 million pounds, as part of a novel partnership, to the innovative Digital Media Centre in Leicester.

Less than a year ago, Howard was gracious enough to come to our Program at Georgetown to speak to our students at length about some of his passions. They loved him.

Our online journal, gnovis, sat down with Howard after lunch to talk about new media technologies and democracy.

Congratulations, Howard.

Blogging Lake Hawthorne

It might be somewhat unusual to start a blog on vacation in the highlands of northern New Jersey, but I thought that this was a good time to read the stack of books I have been collecting, and to try to tie them together in anticipation of teaching my courses Networking, Technology, and Society and Networks and International Development in the Communications Culture and Technology Program this fall. It so happened that, once we became ensconced in our chairs on the front veranda, my husband stared at the pile of books I brought and asked somewhat skeptically: “Do all the theories is those books really tell you anything about every day life?” That statement became my inspiration. My plan now is to reflect upon and characterize my surroundings here at Lake Hawthorne through the lenses of the theories presented in my books. The question I ask myself is: What do I see that would have been invisible to me if I had not used theory to focus my attention?

First, let me say a little about Lake Hawthorne. It is located in the mountains, literally at the top of New Jersey. My great-grandfather, H. P. Dillistin, belonged to a hiking club in Paterson, NJ, and he and his friends would explore the area. One day, when he found out that he could buy the property (540 acres) for $540 dollars, he didn’t hesitate. The land was purchased and then parceled out to independent families with the number being limited to 30. This limit remain in place today.

Who knows, if behind the next turn in the road, you might find a coyote, fox, or bear. Sometimes they come visiting.

The house we live in, at the south side of the lake, was built in 1908 by my grandfather, Franklin Crosse. Except for indoor plumbing, the installation of a refrigerator to replace an “ice box,” and the electricity, the house is pretty much the way it was when my grandfather built it. Imagine the screened-in veranda facing the lake, and the creaking sound of the front porch door. The house is ten feet from the lake, so the view is both spectacular and serene. Around us is a second growth forest, which is home to a large variety of birds, including an occasional herring or bald eagle. Who knows, if behind the next turn in the road, you might find a coyote, fox, or bear. Sometimes they come visiting. The motto of Sparta, New Jersey, the township in which we are located, is very apropos: “People living with their environment.”

It has been my good fortune to have spend most of my childhood summers here, as did my son Steve and daughter-in-law Haley, who are now rearing our grandson Ben and granddaughter Sophie (five and seven), in accordance with the same kinds of traditions and activities. The common meaning of our experiences is re-enacted each year, generation after generation, so that everyone has come to take it for granted. No matter what our age, we all feel the same excitement, and know what’s in store for us, when we say: “We are going to ‘The Lake.'”

This description suffices as background materials for the coming discussion linking theory and everyday life, which I will begin to pursue next time. In particular, I will look at “the Lake” as a commons, and discuss it in terms of Brian Skyrms‘ book, The Stag Hunt (2003).