Archive for April, 2004

Computer Cat

Thursday, April 29th, 2004

Dizzy hangs out by our computer, wishing he had his own blog.

Computer Cat

posted from Andy’s mobile phone

212-NYC-TAXI

Thursday, April 29th, 2004

Interior of a taxi traveling from Laguardia airport to the United Nations, April 23.

212-NYC-TAXI

posted from Andy’s mobile phone

When Gremlins Attack

Thursday, April 29th, 2004

Yesterday I had a bit of a scare when I tried posting a photo blog entry to my site and ended up crashing the blog’s homepage. So if you came to my site yesterday, instead of seeing my blog entries you would have seen a lot of white space. I was at a complete loss as to what caused the problem: I tried rebuilding the site, reloading default templates, etc, but had no luck. No one on the Movable Type discussion forum seemed to have any suggestions either.

Finally, in an act of desperation I decided to start from scratch and create a whole new blog. It was much easier than it sounds, trust me. I simply exported all 200+ blog entries from my site into an archive, set up a basic blog using the Movable Type Web interface, then imported all of my entries into the new site. All of this is pretty much automated, so I just had to sit back and wait for it to do its thing. I then plugged in the template I’d been using for my original site – the template specifies what the layout of the page looks like – then made sure I had all my site preferences the same as before. Amazingly, the site worked like a charm — no more uncomfortable white space.

So what I expected to be a weekend of toil and grief turned out to be 20 minutes of cutting, pasting and clicking. Of course, for those of you who didn’t visit my blog yesterday, you probably can’t tell the difference — let’s just hope it stays that way…. -ac

Alamo Audio Blog

Friday, April 16th, 2004

I’ve just posted a new audio blog from the Alamo . Please have a listen when you get a chance…-ac

The Opening of Fiesta San Antonio

Friday, April 16th, 2004

As luck would have it, today is the opening of Fiesta San Antonio, a 10-day celebration of the battles for the Alamo and San Jacinto, both of which led to Texas independence from Mexico. Right now I’m standing in front of the Alamo with a crowd of around 500 people listening to a military band playing John Philip Sousa tunes. Lots of people are wearing silly hats and exchanging medals with each other. Fortunately I finished preparing my talk for later today, so for a little while I can enjoy the sunshine and watch the festivities…-ac

Kathleen Hall Jamieson: Civic Education, Hero Rhetoric and Political Campaigns

Thursday, April 15th, 2004

Kathleen Hall Jamieson of the Annenberg Public Policy Center spoke this afternoon about the need for better civic education during presidential campaigns. She began by noting how Democrat operatives have often said that President Bush has lost the most jobs since the days of Herbert Hoover. Jamieson conducted a survey asking Americans who Herbert Hoover was – most thought he was a former FBI director or inventor of the vacuum – some even said “a famous cross dresser” – but not a US president. Similarly, Republicans have called John Kerry a “Jane Fonda liberal.” When surveyed, most people knew Fonda for her exercise workout videos or for her ex-husband Ted Turner, and didn’t understand the political reference. Jamieson said we need to create a “common repertoire of political knowledge” in order to have intelligent civic discourse. Otherwise the average constituent will be unable to participate thoughtfully in the political process.
Jamieson said that voters make broad assumptions about political parties – who is pro-choice, who favors the death penalty, etc. This makes it harder for independent-minded candidates to get their positions known.
Jamieson showed the famous clip of Edmund Muskie in the snow criticizing the political attacks on his wife. Previous to this occasion, the press had privately sensed he had a temper but never published this concern publicly. But the clip gave the press a chance to question his emotional stability, even though the clip only hinted that this was actually an issue. This made it appear that the press were having a Muskie feeding frenzy. Jamieson said the same happened to Gore regarding his apparent “habit” to distort the truth. The press went after him following the first debate with Bush, based on his smug performance, making it appear they were biased against him, but in reality, they had been quietly questioning his habit of exaggeration for weeks. The public therefore saw the press go after him without proper context or background.
The same could be said for Howard Dean’s famous scream. He was the assumed nominee, but loses in Iowa, then tries to rev up his supporters. The media treated his performance at that rally as a meltdown. Jamieson then asked all of us in the audience to yell and scream as if we were at a political rally – with all the noise, she had to yell back to connect with us and be heard. But if this very scene had been shown on tv, she would have come across as angry or even crazy.
We often view politicians as if we knew them one on one like a doctor or babysitter, she said. But tv distorts our perception: Dr Dean wouldn’t seem so crazy if we had actually been there.
Jamieson then played clips of John Kerry talking solemnly about his military background, followed by an advertisement filmed by Henry Fonda dramatically retelling JFK’s WWII experience. Kennedy trumped Nixon by playing the hero, she said, neutralizing the Republican’s presumed strength in military affairs. Kerry is now trying to do the same, she said. But Jamieson worries that such rhetoric makes it difficult for serious issues to rise to the top of political discourse. Emotional, historic narratives can thus trump the facts, making it harder for non-hero candidates to have a fair chance. Dukakis looked foolish in a tank because he had no military background – surveys at the time suggested he looked like Rocky the Squirrel. If you lack a heroic narrative, you’re seen as not being credible on military affairs, even if you actually happen to be thoughtful on the issue.
Jamieson feels we are about to replay the ‘88 campaign, wasting discourse on hero rhetoric rather than hold a larger debate on serious issues like each candidate’s detailed views on foreign policy or homeland security. Will Bush’s “mission accomplished” moment on that aircraft carrier be his Dukakis moment? Kerry already has gone after him on this account: “I know something about aircraft carriers,” he said rather mockingly in a video clip shown by Jamieson. It’s using soundbites and the rhetoric of heroism to gain votes through emotion, not through persuasiveness or a candidate’s specific policy positions.
The last time we had a presidential election in the midst of wartime was 1968, prior to the invention of soundbite politics. Today we’re unable to devote the time necessary to debate the issues intelligently. Jamieson says we need the media to devote more time to lengthy debate, and the public needs better civic education to ask probing questions of the candidates.
Jamieson also noted the impact of media ownership on campaigns. In communities with a locally owned newspaper, she said, the press is more forceful about calling candidates to task on their positions and records. Newspapers owned by media conglomerates aren’t as successful at this, often because their editors are out of state and really don’t know local politics or politicians, so they don’t hold them as accountable.
By over-emphasizing emotional rhetoric, like debating which candidate has a more heroic biography, we take time away from serious political discourse. Campaigns must try to build on society’s collective political knowledge rather than exploiting political emotions. Only lifelong civic education can make a difference in how the public relates to candidates, she concluded.
During the Q&A session, I asked Jamieson about the impact of talk radio and blogs on political discourse, particularly on audiences that use the media only to hear views they support. “I love talk radio… I love Rush Limbaugh,” she said, noting how extraordinarily difficult it is to attract a loyal audience who will listen to political discussion for three hours at a stretch. The lack of political diversity in talk radio is unfortunate, she said, but conservatives should not be faulted for being so successful at it. She hoped Democrats and Greens would get better at it sooner rather than later.
Jamieson is particularly excited about political blogs, since blogs empower anyone with Internet access to express their views and generate debate. While there can be problems regarding the rapid spread of rumors and lies online, they can usually be refuted, so “the more political discussion, the better.” She also seemed to get a kick out of the fact that I was blogging her response. -ac

Audio Blog from San Antonio

Thursday, April 15th, 2004

I’ve just posted an audio blog summarizing the Richard Florida keynote this morning. It’s just an experiment, so please let me know what you think…-ac

Richard Florida: Fostering Creative Communities

Thursday, April 15th, 2004

Creativity expert Richard Florida opened the UCEA conference with a speech about the role of creative communities.The information economy is not organized around big industry anymore, but around communities with a critical mass of creativity, he explained.
“My father worked for the same company in Pittsburgh from age 11 to age 65,” Florida said. “Today the average worker changes jobs every three years – and if you’re 30 or younger, you change jobs after less than one year.” Because of this constant career churn, people want to be where there is economic opportunity built around innovation and skills – creative communities. Today’s information economy workers want to move to a place with “a thick labor force” – a place with energy and creative vibrancy.
Much of what he said reminded me of a speech I gave at NYU in 2000, in which I described the virtuous cycle of skilled communities. Towns that possess a critical mass of skilled, entrepreneurial people will help build new businesses and attract others from elsewhere. This, in turn, attracts more skilled workers, creating more economic opportunity. Unfortunately, the opposite was true as well – communities experiencing “brain drain” will find knowledge-economy businesses move elsewhere, leading to even fewer skilled local workers.
Florida recounted speaking at the National Governors Association. He said his presentation was made easier because it was preceded by a keynote from HP CEO Carly Fiorina. In essence, she told them, “Forget your tax breaks and other incentives to get the IT industry moving to your state;: we want to move into communities with a highly skilled, creative workforce, end of story.”
A truly creative community embraces tolerance and diversity with the same vigor as it embraces innovation – a situation which explains why communities that have welcomed the gay community have also built strong cultural centers and economic innovation.
Silicon Valley, he said in his closing, is a direct result of San Francisco’s creative openness. The PC was invented by “guys who looked like Jerry Garcia.”
Creativity is a universal resource, “from the street musician to the capuccino drinking yuppy.” Universities, he said, can help harness this creativeness, as well as encourage tolerance and openness, to help build the creative communities of tomorrow.

Off to the UCEA Conference

Wednesday, April 14th, 2004

I’m sitting at Logan airport in Boston getting ready to fly to San Antonio for the university continuing education association conference. It should be an interesting event – Kathleen Hall Jamison of Penn’s Annenberg school is giving a keynote tomorrow, and she’s always a reliably fascinating speaker. I’m presenting Friday afternoon, and I’ll give an overview of the digital divide in the US.
San Antonio is a great town, and it’ll be nice getting away from Boston’s incessant drizzle. Plus, the trip will give me a chance to try out mobile blogging from the field, so to speak, so let’s hope I’m able to get a strong signal on my cell phone during my stay…. ac

MobilePhlog: My Harmonic Convergence of Mobile Phone Photo Blogging and RSS Feeds

Saturday, April 3rd, 2004

It was only a matter of time — okay, about 24 hours since I first got the idea — but I’ve figured out a way to post photos from my camera phone in near-real time onto this blog.
About an hour ago I discovered a great free resource called Phlog.net. This website allows anyone to set up an account for hosting their own photo blog. Once you’ve got your account set up, you then email a photo to your own private email box at phlog.net. The site then processes your email, posting it on your photo blog page (here’s my page), using the email title as the title of the phlog entry, the email body as the description, and the photo attachment as the photo being displayed.
As I began to play with the site I thought to myself, now if this site only had an RSS feed. Then lo and behold, I saw a little tidbit from phlog.net’s designer saying that anyone who’s use the site to host their photo blog could simply put /rss.xml at the end of their webpage and find an RSS feed for it. For example, my page is located at http://www.phlog.net/user/acarvin, so the RSS feed can be found at http://www.phlog.net/user/acarvin/rss.xml. Once I knew this, I was able to go to Feedroll.com and create a script for displaying my RSS feed here on this blog.
So, if you take a look at the left column of this blog’s homepage, you’ll now see a new entry called MobilePhlog, with a list of photo titles below it. These are the pictures I’ve taken with my Treo smartphone and emailed to phlog.net. In other words, every time I take a picture with my camera phone, I can get it posted to the blog in a matter of minutes. It’s not as integrated into the text of the blog as I would like, but it’s a really cool start if you ask me. So, stay tuned for more photos from my mobile phone to appear here on my blog. Whether or not they’ll be worth looking at remains to be seen, but it’s still a pretty cool little experiment if you ask me…. -ac