CTCVista Project Fall/Winter 2006 Digest

November 21, 2006

Over at the CTC Vista Project Digest Colleen Kelly from Project: Think Different writes about P:TD’s new Media Watch Team in her article titled, “Media Literacy on the Streets (of Boston)

“Our objective through the Media Action Series is to create a culture in which young people believe in their power to create change in the media and beyond, and to provide youth the education and access to resources to become well informed, socially responsible, and participatory citizens of society.”

The fall edition includes:

  • One Alumna’s Advice for CTC VISTAs, by (former CTC VISTA) Molly Szymanski – “Working on a project that requires knowledge of local resources can be difficult especially if you haven’t been in the city long enough to be familiar with community networks.”
  • Rethinking “Internet for Everyone” & Social Networking, by (current VISTA) Brittney Fosbrook – “Why would case managers use this technology tool, they questioned, if they could barely navigate the internet? It is true, many of the people in the office have not been provided with the intensive technology training that I have taken for granted.”
  • Community Networking Hits Media Mainstream (Almost)!, by Frank Odasz – “Perhaps future programs will focus on the lessons learned from thousands of community technology centers and community networks struggling to educate citizens, generate local content, and provide fiber and wireless broadband access.”

Learn more about the CTC Vista Project here.

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Harvard Law School Course Opens Access to Education Using New Web Tools

August 24, 2006

Watch the course tralier

An exciting new educational opportunity, “CyberOne: Law in the Court of Public Opinion” is hoping to advance open access to education using new web media tools.

The course is being taught at Harvard Law School and at Harvard Extension School through Second Life. Class videos will be made available through Cambridge Community Television and on the web for the public “at large”.

As a Staff Assistant the Berkman Center, I’ve been fortunate to be able to follow the development of this course being led by Havard Law School Professor Charles Nesson and his daughter Rebeccca Nesson. I will be supporting the course, by helping to make the content available as audio podcasts for AudioBerkman, as well as sharing the course videos on the soon to be launched VideoBerkman, on blip.tv.

From the course blog:

“Throughout the course we will be studying many different media technologies to understand how their inherent characteristics and modes of distribution affect the arguments that are made using them. Students will be immersed in this study through project-based assignments in which they will be using these technologies to make their own arguments.”

The “Course Development Wiki” can be found here.

Understandingly, many educators and educational institutions have been reluctant to open such access to course content on the web because of intellectual property and other legal concerns. However, my personal hope is that the course may help to calm concerns and provide yet another example of the exciting potential that open access can provide to students, educators, educational institutions, and the public through education for those with access to new technologies on the web.

Colin Rhinesmith,
President, ACMEBoston


“Human Hybrids: Creating a Global Identity”

June 26, 2006

Watch the video

This video is the introduction to a panel, titled "Human Hybrids: Creating a Global Identity", that took place during the ID Mashup Conference at Harvard Law School on June 20, 2006. The video features co-founder and CEO of ASAFO Media LLC Derrick Ashong, Slam Poet Iyeoka Ivie Okoawo, Jair of Imaginy Community Network, and Jamaican Educator Marvin Hall, Halls of Learning.

Panel description from the conference website:

"In a world where people are increasingly able to connect across cultural and geographic boundaries, what is the future of human identity? Has technology equalized the transmission of culture, or amplified the voices of some to the increased exclusion of others? In the formation of a global identity, what will be the criteria that define “who we are” and who we hear?"

Time: 6 min. 59 sec.

Please note: This movie file is 30mb and may take some time to load.

This is video that I shot using my little handheld video camera. The full length audio podcast from this panel will be available later this week for download at AudioBerkman.

Colin Rhinesmith
President, ACMEBoston

This video was originally shared on blip.tv by acmeboston with a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.


MGP2006 This Week

June 25, 2006

(crosspost from my blog)

I'm working on my presentation today for the MGP2006 conference this week at UMass Amherst. I will be speaking on a panel on Friday with Bentley College Profs. Elizabeth Ledoux and Mark Frydenberg, titled "Morphing from Music: iPods Enter the Classroom".

I built out the wiki page for the panel yesterday. We're hoping that folks will contribute to the wiki during the panel by adding their notes, ideas, questions, suggestions, etc.

My contribution to the discussion will be to talk briefly how the Berkman Center at Harvard Law School (where I work) has embraced podcasting as a tool for education both inside and outside the classroom. I am only planning to speak for 5 minutes, in order to leave plenty of time for discussion.

I am asking some of the following questions, in advance (which I've also added to the wiki):

  • How are new media tools like podcasting changing our understanding of what a classroom is?
  • How can more teachers, students, and educational institutions be encouraged to use and embrace podcasting as a tool through which more access to ideas, skills, and knowledge can be shared and built upon?
  • How can a local classroom use podcasting and blogs to create global classrooms and online coversations with those who enjoy access to these resources?
  • How can students and educators use podcasting to help bring more people online to bridge both the local and global digital divides?

I hope to also get a recording of the panel (either audio or video, or both) that I will make available here, following the discussion.

Colin Rhinesmith
President, ACMEBoston


Videoblogging Workshops with Boston Neighborhood Producers

June 19, 2006

Over the past month, I have been working with members of the Boston Neighborhood Producer's Group to learn more about videoblogging. We've been discussing ways that BNPG members can post their videos–that they've made for Public Access Television, also–to their blog. This has been a great education for myself as well and a lot of fun. Also, a great way to raise awareness about the importance of public access television (while we still have it).

I first met with BNPG members Ada and Hiram about a month ago at the Boston Public Library. At our first workshop, we set up a Blogger account (in three easy steps!) for their organization and added a post to their blog. We also included links to their website and other community organizations websites in Boston.

During our workshop, we also talked about Creative Commons. We discussed the concept behind CC and how it allows more people to access more of the work that BNPG members produce. This not only gives their organization more visibility on the web, but their participation in this process helps to contribute to a more creative culture, one that fosters openness and accessibility. Learn more about Creative Commons.

Hiram Scott, President of BNPG, and I next met to set up a blip.tv account for BNPG. This will allow other BNPG members to easily upload their digital video to the web. Another great advantage of having a blip.tv account for their organization is that it allows members to easily cross-post their videos to their BNPG blog. Here's an example of a short video with Ada about Public Access Television that we cross-posted from blip.tv:

Watch the video

At our third workshop, Hiram and I did some troubleshooting to figure out which video formats (and types of video compression) will allow access members, and those visiting their blog, to watch the videos. Including, making sure that their videos play in different web browsers on both Mac and Windows platforms. This has been the most important part of our work so far and something we're still working on. If people have suggestions we can use about accessible video formats, please leave your comments below. Thanks!

Most people with computers do not have the latest, greatest, fastest computers with the most up to date software installed. This has been a challenge, but we're making a lot of progress.

We discovered that some of the export features in both iMovie and Cleaner allow people with older computers to access video using older versions of both Quicktime and Windows Media Player applications. Particularly, if they use Firefox on either Mac or Windows platforms.

Next, we set up a FeedBurner account for the BNPG blog. Using the RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feed from their Blogger blog, FeedBurner uses this feed to provide some great options for syndication and tracking. The BNPG FeedBurner feed will also help bring more people on the web to BNPG's work, through the use of tagging and other types of searchable metadata.

We've started our videoblogging workshops with just a few of us. But next we're planning on meeting with a larger group of BNPG members. We hope these access producers will then share their knowledge with other access producers who would like to learn . . . and on and on.

Through this volunteer process of sharing skills, tools, and knowledge using new media technologies we hope to empower public access producers and other residents in Boston who have often been, and continue to be, marginalized by the mainstream media.

It's been a lot of fun working with the Boston Neighborhood Producer's Group. I look forward to our ongoing workshops in the future. And make sure to watch for more videos from BNPG at their new videoblog.

Colin Rhinesmith
President, ACMEBoston


Analysis of NYTimes Digital Divide Article

April 14, 2006

(From Nolan)

"Comments of Nolan Bowie regarding New York Times article,
'Digital Divide Closing as Blacks Turn to Internet,' by Michele Marriott, 31 March 06

"My overall impression in a nutshell: Wishful thinking, at best, but a misreading of the facts in order to come to the conclusion that the so-called digital divide has closed and, therefore, is history.

The article itself provides data and other information that can be read as showing that the digital divide is persistent among certain groups, including African Americans, and that it will likely continue among these groups unless government, at all levels, take affirmative initiatives to ensure true universal access to Internet connectivity and services. This is especially true in the area of the digital divide of recent vintage—access to high-speed (10-100MBPS and above) and ultra-speed broadband (1GBPS) that can accommodate instant information on demand including full-motion video, interactive distance learning, remote medical diagnosis, and the full-range of e-government and emergency services.

The article shows that:

In a Pew national survey of people 18 or older, some 39 percent of African Americans do not go online or use the Internet; that 20 percent of English-speaking Hispanic Americans do not use the Internet. It does not provide, however, the number of non-English-speaking Hispanic Americans who do not use the Internet. This missing figure is important since the great bulk of Internet content is available only in the English language as text or prose. This fact raises the question of the literacy requirement to use the Internet—essentially a text-based technology. National literacy surveys reported just last fall show that nearly 47 percent of U.S. adults have great difficulty reading and comprehending what they read. Tests show that that nearly half of the adult U.S. population reads only at the two lowest levels of literacy proficiency, Level 1 and Level 2. This recent report is a follow-up of a national adult literacy study conducted by the U.S. Department of Education done in 1992. There was virtually no improvement in adult literacy in the United States during the 13 periods between the reports. Other national literacy proficiency studies concerning fourth-grade children show that some 63 percent of black fourth-graders and some 58 percent of Hispanic fourth-graders are reading below the proficiency level expected of children in the fourth-grade. So much for 'leaving no child behind.' Too often, they needlessly become illiterate and/or semi-literate adults. If anyone is looking for the origins of any digital divides concerning Internet access, then look no further that the divide between one’s ability to comprehend the arrangement of movable digits of type on the printed page.

Almost 10 percent of the 21 million Americans ages 12-17 (or 2,100,000 teenagers) so not use the Internet. Of this number, 13 percent of white teenagers do not use the Internet; 11 percent of Hispanic teenagers do not use the Internet; and, 23 percent of black teenagers do not use the Internet. One might wonder why so many black teenagers do not use the Internet, assuming that adequate numbers of public PCs and Internet connectivity are available in public schools and public libraries (saying nothing about the availability of skilled personnel to help teach and hand-hold novices through the wonders of cyberspace.)

The article acknowledges continuing divides based on age. A statement reads, “The gap in access among young Americans is less pronounced than among their parents’ generation…Age continues to be a strong predictor for Internet use.” But nowhere is there provided any numbers that would actually measure the distance of this age-divide.

The article recognizes that overall Internet use among blacks still significantly trails among whites—but fails to mention that even whites significantly trails in overall Internet use if compared to Asian American/Pacific Islanders—the demographic grouping that leads all other groups in PC/Internet access and use. This is especially true regarding Chinese Americans, who not only have far greater rates of Internet use and access to other information technologies, but also happen to be among the nations, best readers. Asian Americans ought to be included in any study or reporting about any digital divide or literacy proficiency test results in order to set the accurate standards and, moreover, to discuss the reasons for their performances, including cultural and historical reasons that usually do not get a proper discussion in digital divide debates and analysis.

It should be pointed out that while most (but not all) libraries and schools in the U.S. have public Internet access—it is very limited access and often-time supervised access since the limited supply of PCs or Internet appliances must be shared by many who wish to use them for a variety of purposes. Public access PCs and Internet connectivity are no substitute for owning a home PC with high-speed access. Only home use provides the ample opportunity needed to explore, experiment and play with the technology and its content necessary to develop the comfort-level and skill-base to make the Internet a viable information and communication tool.

The article mentions that education levels remain a major indicator of who is among the 137 million Americans using the Internet and who is not. But since black and brown Americans are generally among the lowest achievement groups in our schools (due to a lot of factors, including poverty, living in high-crime communities, coming from a single parent family, etc.), they make up a disproportionate number of those with less than a high school diploma versus whites and Asian Americans. So the digital divide, cannot e looked at as merely a divide between those who have access to PCs and Internet connectivity and those who do not. It is really a part of a much larger divide—an opportunity divide, a power divide, an education divide, a knowledge divide, a wealth divide, and, a racism divide.

In the case of wealth, why is it surprising that households with an annual income of more than $70,000 have greater access to PCs and the Internet than those households with incomes of less than $35,000 per year?

My colleague a the Kennedy School of Government, Pippa Norris, notes that members of minorities use the Internet to search for jobs and to connect to a wide variety of education opportunities. This is true. But this opportunity is only available to those ‘minorities’ who already have access to the Internet. For those who don’t, such otherwise vital access is a missing opportunity. Increasingly, certain websites, such as Craig’s List and e-Bay become important means of obtaining useful information that gives strategic advantages to those who have access to them. These two websites, for example, have become the essential means to obtain current classified advertising for the purchase of new homes or apartment rentals, or used automobiles or practically anything else that people want to sell or buy cheaply. Google has become a household word as it has become the primary means of initially searching for any and everything ever written and catalogued. Being without these kinds of information services is to be disadvantaged in the 21st century. The same will be true when most cities, states and the federal government fully embrace e-Government for all. Or will it be just for some. E-Government for some, I would remind you, does not produce e-democracy, economic justice, fairness or justice. It will only result in another form of privilege—benefiting the few while all taxpayers underwrite its deployment and costs of operation.

Professor Norris also sees progress on the horizon due to the declining cost of laptop and other computers, as well as efforts like those in Philadelphia to provide low-cost wireless Internet access, which she says are likely to increase online access for groups that have been slow to connect. I agree, but these efforts do not go far enough and they are hit and miss approaches to what is really needed as a national priority.

There is great hope that that the Nicroponte-led group at MIT will soon develop and market a wind-up notebook computer costing no more than $100. Also, cell phones are becoming increasingly more technologically advanced that they are not just used for voice communications but are actually Internet appliances, MP3 players, digital cameras, and game machines. And the price will always be on the decline as even newer, better, cheaper technology take their places, creating even more newer types of digital divides. What the City of Philadelphia is attempting to do by providing a low-cost wireless network throughout the city is a noble experiment, but it is not enough. What is needed is a viable national broadband policy coupled with a national education, public health and education policy. The real reason for any telecommunications network and communications system is to transfer and transmit content, data, information, content, intelligence from one place to another efficiently in order to empower individuals, communities, firms, states and nations. So, lets start with a big vision for the 21st century.

We currently have a national policy on education called, Leave No Child Behind. But what about adults? Many got left behind a long time ago. Shouldn’t we also include them in our vision of inclusiveness? After all, the Communications Act of 1934, as amended, already calls for a nationwide and worldwide affordable communications network and service 'for all the people of the United States.' Thus, the vision is already some 72 years old. It just needs to be readjusted and focused on our nation’s needs for the current century, where we find ourselves in a global knowledge-based economy. If our labor force is to be competitive, creative, and productive and our schools relevant and effective and our citizens healthy and engaged in the democratic process—then we need national public policies that enable and empower the people, including a state-of-the-art information infrastructure that is ubiquitous and universally available to all as public goods, public utilities, public commons. Today, the United States is the only highly industrial country that lacks a national broadband policy. During the past several years, we’ve gone from being number one in broadband deployment to becoming number 16. However, it is now possible to make all of the United States a single Internet hot-zone, using a combination and variety of technologies that are interconnected, interoperable and interactive. Wireless technologies such as WiFi, WiMax, direct satellite, microwave, spread spectrum, cognitive radio, and reuse of over-the-air broadcast spectrum for unlicensed broadband, and, wire-based technologies including coaxial cable, optical fiber, and DSL, together can be used creatively to provide national, ubiquitous, universal access to high-speed and ultra-speed broad Internet connectivity.

The problem with implementation of such a policy is not lack of technology, nor lack of money, but instead, lack of sufficient vision and political leadership. During the 1930s, Congress passed legislation that required the telephone company (then there was only one—AT&T) to provide affordable telephone line service to all who wanted such ‘essential’ service. The policy was called the 'Universal Service Obligation.' And by the late 1970s, telephone penetration in the United States reached approximately 93 percent of all households. African Americans and poor people generally were disproportionately represented among the 7 percent households without telephone service then, even with lifeline and other subsidized services mandated by government. It now appears that these same groups, blacks, people of color, and poor people will again be among the unconnected in the emerging Information Society—if we leave the issues of ubiquitous access and universal service to the market alone."


Andy Carvin’s Podcast: Open Content vs. Closed Doors (Or Closed Minds?)

February 22, 2006

Andy Carvin of The Digital Divide Network has a podcast available on his blog of his "keynote speech at the University of Missouri Scholarly Communications Conference". He also has a powerpoint presentation of his speech you can download to follow along with at home.

Andy notes in his talk that there is a direct correlation between income and education and who is and who is not online. He also remarks that content needs to be both locally and culturally relevant, as well as available multilingually, for people with different literacy levels, and accessible to people with disabilities.

His talk is an important reminder, as we use these online spaces, about how long we still have to go as a nation and a world towards bridging not only the digital, but the educational, economic, political, and other increasingly growing social divides between the "haves and have nots".