Netcasting In Daily Life


Netcasting in Daily Life

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Earl Jackson, Jr.


tomrip5@aol.com

Topics Covered In This Essay:

  • Web Access in Your Daily Life
  • „How do you Say ‚Nephropathy‘ in Bulgarian?“
  • Interactive Surfing
  • Making the Most of Internet Access
  • Web Interactivity
  • The Surprise Ending: Virtual Communities Are Real, Too
  • Netcasting Directory
  • Web Reviews and Notification Services
  • Conference Web Sites
  • Netcasting: Web Access in Your Daily Life

    Nothing is better proof of the value of the Internet than seemingly
    miraculous results from a search or even from a surfing session. When regular
    users of the Internet continue to see it as a game, without particular
    relevance to the „real“ world, their own unadventurous search habits may
    be partially to blame. When working with Net newcomers or ambivalent surfers,
    I pay closest attention to how they mount and conduct a search. With the
    proper imaginative fervor, you can work productive wonders (not just magic
    „tricks“), without even going Boolean. Let me give you an example, from
    „real life.“


    „How do you Say ‚Nephropathy‘ in Bulgarian?“

    One of my skeptical clients, Dr. Thomas A. Sattler, put me to the test.
    In the 1970s and 1980s he spent time in Eastern Europe, researching a kidney
    disease that occurs only in certain areas of Bulgaria, Roumania, and the
    former Yugoslavia. Dr. Sattler challenged me to find any substantial information
    about the disease at all, and if possible, updates in the field.

    I asked him to tell me something about the disease and the area where
    it occurred. While he talked, I took note of unusual words or other phrases
    that seemed to stand out. I told him I’d call him in five minutes. He laughed.

    A three-minute Bulgaria.

    Well, he was right. It wasn’t five minutes. It was three. I found seventeen
    sites with information or entire articles on the kidney disease, and the
    Bulgarian response to it from 1981 to 1985. I found four sites with current
    updates, information on German-Bulgarian cooperation, links to the International
    Association of Nephropathy containing pointers to sites hosted by specialists
    in Balkan and East European variant diseases, and one site that listed
    the names, affiliations, current research, and home addresses and phone
    numbers of twenty Bulgarian physicians with expertise in indigenous nephropathy.
    Links were provided to any Web sites those physicians hosted, as well as
    the languages used (Bulgarian,
    Russian, English, and German). Dr. Sattler
    was
    convinced
    .

    But I am a firm believer in overkill. Five minutes later, I e-mailed
    him a file. It contained the software for a Cyrillic font good for both
    Russian and Bulgarian (there are lots of Russian-only fonts), and a utility
    that would enable the Netscape browser to read Cyrillic texts. A day later
    I found a newsreader client application that loads and reads newsgroup
    postings written in Russian and Bulgarian, then saves them in the regular
    Newsgroup folder in the Netscape browser.

    A connection where it counts.


    Interactive Surfing

    Searching and surfing are very closely related, and a lot of one goes
    on in the other. The rewards of the surfing session depend on the skill
    of the navigator, just as they do in searching. But sometimes, your real
    rewards don’t come from getting to a site, but from what you do after you’ve
    gotten there. Let’s have one more story from „real life.“

    Surfing one December afternoon in 1995, I discovered Flicker
    , a web site designed and maintained by experimental filmmaker Scott Stark,
    for other experimental filmmakers and their viewers. On that site were
    episodes from Zoe Beloff’s QuickTime digital movie serial, Beyond
    . After viewing some of the episodes of the quicktime serial, I emailed
    Ms. Beloff immediately (using the e-mail address posted on her site), telling
    her how much I admired Beyond , and described what I was doing.
    This began a fascinating correspondence. But on top of that, Ms. Beloff
    was scheduled to speak at UC San Diego in February 1996, so I arranged
    to add a leg on her trip that would bring her to UC Santa Cruz, where I’m
    a faculty member, and Scott Stark arranged a screening in San Francisco.
    At UC Santa Cruz Ms. Beloff spoke to my class and gave a public screening
    of her new 16mm-film, A Trip to the Land of Knowledge. Immediately
    after the screening, my students started writing responses to the film
    and circulating them over our e-mail network (this was not an assignment,
    these students are just like this). I collated, hypertext-ed and illustrated
    these responses, and posted them on my Web site (http://letsdeviant.com/zoe.html).

    The arrangement of the Flicker site (http://www.sirius.com/~sstark/mkr/fmhome.html)
    maximizes access to new communities of filmmakers and film viewers.

    The cyberspace screening room of Zoe Beloff's Beyond:
    the first QuickTime serial on the Web (http://www.interport.net/~zoe/). 

    To Beloff’s San Francisco screening, I brought my friend Ray Davis,
    at the time a correspondent for the online journal, Dark Carnival
    . The subsequent issue of Dark Carnival featured Ray’s elaborate, graphically
    rich essay about Beloff’s film (see Figure 14.5), linking it to her Web
    site, Stark’s site, and my students‘ responses.

    From Ray Davis's digital response to Zoe Beloff's
    work (http://www.dnai.com/~raydavis/tq/beloff.html).

    And there’s more. In the fall of 1995, Zoe Beloff was one of seven artists
    whose work formed the first international group exhibition of digital art,
    which took place in Barcelona, Spain. Before coming to Santa Cruz, Beloff
    told the other artists about the visit, and they provided copies of their
    work and permissions. Beloff gave me these copies, along with copies of
    the entire Beyond series and a copy of her new digital film work. With
    this body of material (and the connections that began with this exchange)
    I was able to establish at UCSC, „Another Scene,“ a working archive and
    study center on digital art.

    Ironic PostScript

    In the Summer of 1996, I received an e-mail message from Zoe, thanking
    me for something I didn’t really do. She had learned of an experimental
    film festival at the University of Colorado in June 1996. It was too late
    to submit her work for review, but she decided to go to the festival early,
    and ask for screening time and space anyway. She said that they did arrange
    a screening, and one of the things that helped was that, while she was
    explaining her situation to the committee, one of the members recognized
    her name and knew what her work was like because she had read about it
    in the students‘ responses on my Web site!

    The Beating-a-Deceased-Digital-Horse Moral

    Am I expecting you to believe that all the events in the above story were
    made possible by clicking on a couple of hypertexts one boring winter afternoon?
    Yep! Well, partially. It was the clicks, but it was also the willingness
    to interact with the Net, viewing the Internet not as a machine but as
    a community waiting to happen. This brings me to the other purpose of this
    essay.

     

     


    Making the Most of Internet Access

    Even the most committed technophobes, if given a half an hour with a clear
    teacher (or manual) will (to their amazement) be surfing the Internet like
    pros. It’s really astonishingly simple. But there is the other problem.
    Once you’ve learned what a URL is and how to access it, the technical facility
    of the Internet is more or less done. But preparing users to realize those
    potentials takes more than specifying the hardware and listing the URLS.
    I think these new media have a lot more to offer than solitary entertainment
    and vanity publishing. Preparing people to realize these potentials is
    what interests me most in new media education.

    The Net surfer who thinks accessing the Web is only a question of knowing
    the URLS reminds me of people who think learning a language is memorizing
    the vocabulary. As a language teacher myself, I consider a vocabulary list
    one of the most overrated tools imaginable.

    Surprised? Let me give you an example. Imagine that you were now studying
    English as a second language. You have a basic command but that’s it. And
    the instructor gives the following personal mini-narrative: „This morning
    I got up, got myself out of bed, got into the shower right away because
    it was getting light, and this was getting to be a habit. When I got downstairs
    my brother was getting ready to go out without getting any breakfast ready.
    I got fed up with this and got on my high horse and told him off, but he
    wasn’t going to take it, and told me to get going if I was going to give
    him that. So I got mad and got out of there, but just as I was getting
    to the corner the bus got away from me. Do you get it?“ How would you understand
    the varied meanings and uses of the verb „to get“-and what could you possibly
    write on the line next to „to get“ on a vocabulary sheet?

    A language is not a collection of individual words, but a whole way
    of thinking and feeling, patterns of experience, cognitive maps, personal
    and collective associations, and the nuances of daily life. While a vocabulary
    list might be necessary for rote memorization, it cannot prepare you for
    the lived richness of language as it is used in context. Similarly, an
    Internet directory that is solely a list of URLS and a summary of operating
    procedures is also a necessary and valuable reference, but such a text
    likewise cannot suggest the potential lived richness of these new communicative
    environments into which we find ourselves increasingly drawn. And a newcomer
    who understands „Net access“ solely as a question of mechanics-hardware/software
    compatibility and accurate URL lists -will not easily develop the capacity
    for creative interactions with these systems and with „others“ through
    these systems.

     

     


    Web Interactivity

    Server-Side Guidance

    As you can see, one of my main purposes in writing about the Internet and
    related technologies is to develop an understanding of the „interactivity“
    of the Internet as something more active and creative than merely clicking
    a hyperlink. But so far, my arguments have been developed almost exclusively
    from the „client“ side of the client-server interaction. I think I can
    illustrate my concerns further by giving examples from the „server“ side.
    Many educators and technicians have demonstrated their own high estimation
    of „interactivity“ in the sites they have created which encourage and cultivate
    students‘ willingness to take proactive roles in their own education.

    For example, one of the centerpieces the education offered by Rensselaer
    Polytechnical Institute (http://www.rpi.edu)
    is the Undergraduate Research Program, in which students get valuable hands-on
    experience by assisting one or more faculty members with an extended research
    project. The URP online site ( http://www.asms.rpi.edu/urp)
    is divided into three sections: a guide, a database of faculty and research
    interests, and a classified jobs listing. There the student can search
    for openings according to academic departments, and then, within those
    departments, she or he can continue to search, either according to the
    names of individual faculty members, or faculty research interests. Once
    the research area, focused interests, and faculty members‘ names have been
    pinned down, the student can navigate to profiles of the faculty members,
    which include the syllabi and other materials from courses taught, educational
    background, and recent publications, as well as ways of contacting the
    instructor. Program guidelines and applications are also provided online.
    While this site is intended for students already enrolled at Rensselaer,
    it is very helpful to potential students shopping for the right college.

    Internet interactivity also encourages peer solidarity among students.
    One of the best examples I’ve found of this so far, is the Web site for
    the Hunter College branch of the PostBac PreMed Association (PBPMA). This
    incredibly complex site is maintained chiefly by Hunter College students
    and alumni, as well as other members of related organizations of pre-med
    and medical students. The site is an information and resource clearing
    house, which includes information on upcoming events concerning both U.S.
    and international medical schools, and links to academic symposium Web
    pages, as well as information which emerged from past events. Besides this,
    the site includes Nancy Sween’s IMSL-Interactive Med Student Lounge – premed
    coaching sessions and admissions recommendations (http://premed.edu/masteringmedicine.html),
    AMCAS medical school application processing software, and much more.

    The Web site of the PostBac PreMed Association at
    Hunter College ( http://premed.edu/) is
    a hallmark of creative and socially responsible use of Internet technology
    within a specific student population.

    Client-side Initiative Not all online sites are as imaginative or as deliberate
    in their guidance of the client-user. And for this reason, I return again
    to the need for the user to develop her or his own forms of „interactivity“
    with the Web. And this need is something relevant to both the student user
    (or prospective student user) as well as the college instructor or professional
    academic (or any other kind of professional). The illustration below, therefore,
    is relevant to more than the constituency it features.

    The ability to interact creatively with the Internet requires an understanding
    of the differences in the various elements of the Net, and how those features
    offer different kinds of interactivity.

    Postings on the World Wide Web, for example, differ in a very profound
    way from other venues, such as newsgroups or mailing lists, but to date
    I haven’t seen any discussion of this difference online or in print. I
    think it’s worth noticing and considering.

    Members of newsgroups and mailing lists frequently get announcements
    of upcoming conferences whose topics would be relevant to the group.

    Imagine this scenario: Newsgroup W posts an announcement of an upcoming
    conference, which includes a call for papers, the deadline for submitting
    proposals, and the date and location of the conference itself. Some members
    of this group check their messages more frequently than others, with differing
    consequences:

      Member A reads the announcement in time to submit a proposal, it is
      accepted and Member A will attend.

      Member B reads the announcement after the submission deadline has passed,
      but decides to attend the conference.

      Member C reads the announcement a couple weeks after the conference
      was held.

    The announcement had maximal potential usefulness only to A; to B it held
    partial usefulness; to C it was entirely useless. But once both A and B
    had the information the announcement contained, the announcement itself
    was no longer useful. If this announcement had been posted on the Web,
    however, it could have been useful to Member C too, and its usefulness
    to A and B could have continued (and in fact, developed) from the time
    they read the announcement originally, through the time of the conference,
    and long after.

    Conferences are often announced on the Web, and such announcements frequently
    serve as multipurpose sites. When first launched, a WWW conference site
    has the same principle functions as a regular announcement. But even here,
    there are advantages peculiar to the Web. For one thing, the graphics a
    Web site can include (color, animation, even 3-d) would be unimaginable
    in a mailing. And thanks to hypertext, links to external sites allow the
    conference planners to send out an extremely rich document that could never
    be compiled, much less printed and mailed, within any conceivable budget.

    But the site is also flexible. It can give potential participants and
    attendees a great deal of information, but it is also possible to change
    or add information to the original announcement. And information is not
    limited to the mechanics of travel and lodgings, but texts, demonstrations,
    and transcripts of discussions can be included that set the stage and prepare
    the conferees and provide a joint context before the conference even begins.

    During the conference, the Web site might „host“ interactive workshop
    experiments. Or there might be „on-site“ updates, or even „live“ netcasts
    from the conference through the Web to those interested but were not attending.

    After the conference is over, the site might be maintained and regularly
    updated. Participant’s abstracts or even the full texts of their presentations
    can be archived here, as well as discussions, workshops, plenary sessions,
    and so on.

    And I’m not just making this up. The living history of the World Wide
    Web, for example, is being made and chronicled in the sites designed for
    each Annual International WWW Conference, beginning with its first, held
    in 1994 for CERN, the Swiss laboratory where the WWW was first conceived.

    Or consider the Web Site for the Florida State University AECT Conference
    on Distance Learning. The site continues to announce the conference and
    provide all the details as if it had not yet taken place (June 20-23, 1996).
    But, although the dates and instructions for submissions are now, practically
    speaking, beside the point, the descriptions of the conference, the breakdown
    of the various groups, the program, etc. are useful as a record of the
    history of the organization and the state of the field. And the conference
    program, calls for participation, and list of invited speakers, organize
    hyperlinks to information and contacts and other sources that remain active
    and relevant.

    The "Interactive" page of the FSU Conference (http://ist.coe.fsu.edu/aect/dlconference.html)
    announces an interactive feature and is itself interactive.

    And the connections aren’t restricted to conferences or academics, even
    when „research“ is one of the goals of a site. In 1995, when Dr. Russ George
    began researching a deadly kidney disease was soon frustrated at the small
    number of cases available for study at any one time. His medical school
    had only thirty patients, and another institution across the country had
    about 100. He decided, therefore, to post an offer on the Internet. Dr.
    George asked for participation from parties all over the world who were
    suffering from the disease. Nine months after posting this request, the
    study had over 100 participants over the Net, and will become the largest
    study of its kind within two years. This also attracted the attention of
    researchers around the world, who contribute over the Internet latest findings
    and treatments. Now
    this
    site
    , which had been essentially a „want ad“ for members of a target
    group, has become a major electronic forum for the exchange of information
    and treatment among heath care professionals AND „patients.“ Dr. George’s
    mission statement from the site says it best:

    „Our mission is to provide vital information on the diagnosis and
    treatment of IgAN disease to IgAN affected individuals, their caretakers,
    and their healthcare and service providers; to advocate for enlightened
    regulatory, research, and funding policies affecting the development and
    delivery of effective treatments and to fund innovative research opportunities;
    to inspire people to make informed choices amid uncertainty and to choose
    hope over despair.“

    http://www.hooked.net/users/rgeorge/iga.html



    The Surprise Ending: Virtual Communities Are Real,
    Too

    In my examples above I hope I’ve shown ways in which the Internet is not
    merely a quick reference tool, or a video game, but an ensemble of communication
    systems that enable us to create new modes of communication and new kinds
    of communities. Whenever I engage in an online „live chat,“ the paradox
    always amuses me: I’m having a real conversation in an imaginary room.
    But remember that it’s nevertheless real and the person in question is,
    too. And in my examples above, it should be clear that things happen in
    the „real world“ because of actions taken online. Each of the stories involves
    new types of communities, too-the Flicker site creates new modes
    of relations among filmmakers and between filmmakers and filmgoers; the
    Distance Learning Conference site between educators and students; the Kidney
    research site between doctors and patients.

    Because what I’ve been describing here is not simply „data“ that can
    be memorized and executed, it may seem less practical than, for example,
    the information in Chapter Two. But it is very practical. I am pointing
    out an awareness that you can develop, and a sensitivity to online interactions,
    surfing, and searches you will conduct as you proceed toward „internautdom.“
    In the next chapter, I will discuss using the Net to make decisions about
    college. Those of you who will be doing this might want to put into practice
    some of the things I’ve discussed here as you start your search. When you’re
    following the links across the sites you’ve selected, try to search on
    at least two levels:

    • sources of information you need
    • opportunities for contact and connection

     

    These two areas will frequently coincide, but if you search with only
    the acquisition of „knowledge“ in mind, the other aspects of life in cyberspace
    may elude you. I think the story about my contact with Zoe Beloff and the
    work of premed students at Hunter College provide reasonable arguments
    for the importance of connections-in college as well as after, around and
    through college – because the world doesn’t stop at the campus gates, and
    learning doesn’t end with graduation either. Any life worthy of the name
    is an immensely rich continuing education. And the Internet is a new medium
    that can help you realize this.

    The Internet doesn’t have to result in a nation of individuals alone
    with their computers. E-mail, WWW, IRCs, etc., are called „media“ because
    they mediate-knowledge, information, and so on. among many participants.
    The real value and significance of life online aren’t fulfilled in isolation
    but in the exchange. And the computer’s interface shouldn’t serve primarily
    as a screen, guarding the private space of the lone user, but as a window,
    opening up dynamic spaces of interactive communication.

    Click HERE for a descriptive list of suggested
    On Journals.

    Click HERE for Basic Internet Terms

    Click HERE for Integrating the Internet
    and the Classroom

    Click HERE for a lesson in Cyberpedagogy