Andy Carvin's Waste of Bandwidth

July 19, 2006

City Voices, City Visions: This is Their World

Filed under: Edtech — Andy Carvin @ 4:27 pm

Right now I’m at the ThinkBright Summer Digital Institute at WNED Television in Buffalo, NY, where I gave a keynote this morning about the role of Web 2.0 in education. (I’ll upload a podcast and powerpoint of it later.) One of the highlights of the day was learning about an uber-cool project here in Buffalo called City Voices, City Visions (CVCV). The program teaches secondary school educators how to integrate video production into the curriculum. So far, dozens of educators have received training, and their students are producing videos on a wide range of subjects, from social studies to poetry. They’ve put together a video FAQ about the project, addressing questions that educators often have about the initiative. There are also several dozen student videos online at the CVCV website.
My favorite, video, by far, was a project called In Our World Today. The five-minute video is a montage of images from around the world, with minimalist shots of students staring into the camera. It was produced by the students of Joel Malley, a high school English teacher at Buffalo’s P.S. 305 Mckinley Vocational High School. The students offer a homeric list of the world’s ills, from animal cruelty to mesothelioma to human rights abuses, and address the fact that these problems are everyone’s problems – problems that must be solved together. It’s a shattering, unflinching look at social injustice. When talking about girls who practice self-mutilation, you see the scars. When talking about animal cruelty, you see the dead baby seals. It’s an ugly portrait of our world today, yet equally bold in its portrayal of students acknowledging that they are the ones who will have to work together to pick up the pieces and build a better future. No, it’s not always easy to watch, and the production values could be improved, but that doesn’t take away from its power. The main hall at the conference was stunned into silence from watching it. You could hear a few people sniffling and wiping away tears. I’ve never seen educators react that way to a student media project. -andy

In Our World Today

Watch the video

July 15, 2006

The Mideast vs. the Northeast

Filed under: Media & Politics — Andy Carvin @ 9:50 pm

Watch the video
Watching all the coverage of the fighting in Lebanon this week, i was curious to know exactly the scale of the distances involved between northern Israel and Beirut. I’d been to the region before but not where the fighting was going on. So I decided to take a screenshot of the war zone from Google Maps and overlay it with a map of part of the northeast US, using the same scale for both images. The result is this short video. Once you’ve downloaded the video, slide the scrubber back and forth so you can see the two maps overlap each other. For Americans who are used to countries being thousands of miles wide, it’s quite astonishing to realize what a compact area of land is affected by the fighting. For example, the distance between Haifa and Beirut isn’t much difference than the distance between Providence, Rhode Island and Lowell, Massachusetts. -andy

Web 2.0 Reading in the Sky

Filed under: Uncategorized — Andy Carvin @ 12:25 pm

While I’m not usually a fan of American Airlines, I’ve got to hand it to them that their July 1 issue was surprisingly Web 2.0 friendly. First there was the in-depth interview with Wikipedia founder Jimbo Wales. Then, I stumbled upon a nice piece about the history of machinima, which unfortunately isn’t online. If only more airline magazines had articles like this more often, I wouldn’t have to spend all my time on board working on Powerpoints or reading fiction. :-) – andy

July 13, 2006

A Slice of Second Life

Filed under: Cool Tools — Andy Carvin @ 3:36 pm
Abdi Kembla

My Second Life avatar, Abdi Kembla.

The latest issue of the Boston Phoenix has one of the best articles I’ve ever read about Second Life. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, Second Life is an immersive, multiuser virtual environment where the entire world is created by the participants. More than 200,000 people have created virtual characters, or avatars, which they use to construct their own islands. What’s on these islands? Everything you can imagine – surf shops, casinos, libraries, drive-in movie theatres, even refugee camps. If you’ve never tried it, Second Life is an extraordinary experience.
As it turns out, I was interviewed for the article, because my SL avatar, Abdi Kembla, is African. Most SL avatars tend to look like idealized versions of the people who created them, or bizarre fantasy characters straight out of the Mos Eisley cantina in Star Wars. So I decided to try something different and create an avatar modeled on a former child soldier from Somalia.
Here’s my small contribution to the article:

Another real-world person experimenting with an entirely different SL persona is Boston-based blogger Andy Carvin. Last fall he joined SL as Andy Chowderhead, but he got “bored with it” and decided to create Abdi Kembla, an African refugee he modeled after photos he found online of former Somalian child soldiers.
“Previously, when I used my old Andy Chowderhead avatar, I found people were more likely to come over, say hello, and start a conversation. But with Abdi, people tended to just act as if I just weren’t even there,” says Carvin, who estimates that he spent between 20 and 30 hours in February and March exploring as Abdi. “The more I traveled through SL, the more I realized I seemed to be the only African-looking character around anywhere.” He adds, “I encountered gnomes, floating beams of light, characters that were shaped like boxes, elves, everything you can imagine — but no African-looking characters.”
“I think Second Life will be like the Web eventually,” says Aimee Weber. “Almost everything cool will need to have a 3-d presence online.”
In general, you can lump Second Life avatars into two categories: hot or fantastic. Women are mostly busty, hourglass-figured, and sexy. Men tend to be buff and handsome. “More often than not, people have a picture in their head of what they look like at their best: very few people want to have their avatar look like they just woke up, haven’t shaved, [have] bad breath, and gained a few pounds after the wedding,” theorizes Andy Carvin. Otherwise, avatars tend to be surreal — think Snoopy, dragons, and “furries.”

Anyway, it’s a very well-done, well-researched article, so please check it out. -andy

July 11, 2006

Thoughts and Prayers for the People of Mumbai

Filed under: Podcasts — Andy Carvin @ 4:25 pm

It’s been a terrifying day for the people of Mumbai (formerly Bombay), with a series of bombs ripping through more than half a dozen suburban train stations, killing well over 100 people. I’ve had a hard time getting much of anything done today, absorbed by the CNN coverage, emailing Indian friends and colleagues, trying to make sense of the situation. Peter Griffen, Dina Mehta and other friends from the Tsunamihelp blog have been working hard to assist people through the MumbaiHelp blog, while Wikipedian’s have been doing yeoman’s work updating the Wikipedia entry about the attacks.
Last year, I blogged about riding the Western line into Mumbai with blogger Rohit Gupta. We jumped onto an express train at Andheri Station and headed into Mumbai for coffee with Dina Mehta, playing with the iTalk recorder on my iPod, never giving a thought to our safety. I even recorded a demo with my iPod on the train, which I’ve never posted publicly. Here’s a copy of it.
Looking back on that afternoon, I now realize that the train I rode that day passed through four of the seven stations bombed today. It could have just as easily been that day or any other day; it’s the sheer randomness of terror that makes it so horrifying.
My thoughts and prayers go out to the people of Mumbai tonight. -andy

RIP Syd Barrett: Shine On, You Crazy Diamond

Filed under: Media & Politics — Andy Carvin @ 3:20 pm

Public domain photo of Syd Barrett, taken in 2002.

This morning I heard the sad news that former Pink Floyd singer and guitarist Syd Barrett had passed away at age 60. Many people who were familiar only with Pink Floyd’s hits from the 1970s never got around to listening to their earliest work, when Syd was the group’s frontman. A brilliant, eccentric songwriter, he set Pink Floyd on the course from obscure English acid rock band to one of the greatest music groups of all time.
Unfortunately, Syd himself did not get the chance to experience the band’s later commercial success. Tormented by the effects of mental illness and drug abuse, Syd had his will to perform sucked out of him just as the band was heading towards greatness. Pink Floyd associate Joe Boyd recounted the summer of 1967, when everything seemed to fall apart for Syd:

He was very lifeless. He’d always been very witty, kind of twinkly, very appealing to girls – a dark-eyed, handsome sort of guy…. By that summer, he would very often spend time on stage with the Floyd, standing with his arms at his side, not playing, not singing. Eventually Dave Gilmour was brought in to provide support for those times when Syd didn’t feel like playing, and in the end he took over and replaced Syd, and Syd left the group.

But the stage had been set. Without Syd Barrett, Pink Floyd would have never gone on to create such classics as Dark Side of the Moon, The Wall and Wish You Were Here. (And we probably would have never had Robyn Hitchcock either, but that’s another story.) I still look back fondly to seeing Pink Floyd live in high school, playing their epic song, “Shine On You Crazy Diamond,” which was a tribute to Syd. Later in college, I remember the countless evenings where several of us would open the doors to our dorm rooms to perform the song. One of us would slowly turn up the volume and begin playing a recording of it. At the proper moment, I would come in on my guitar, playing the song note-for-note, while a little while later my neighbor Mike Bultman would jump in doing his part with his saxophone. And all the while, Syd lived as a recluse in Cambridge, residing with his mother, refusing interview requests, coming outside only to buy painting supplies and work on his modest garden.
Shine on, you crazy diamond. -andy

Taking Questions at PBS Parents

Filed under: Edtech — Andy Carvin @ 2:45 pm

I’ve just been invited to answer questions at PBS Parents. The site is soliciting questions for me about the Web, blogging, online social networks and kids, among other related topics. Feel free to ask a question if you’d like. -andy

Hao Wu Released!

Filed under: Human Rights,Media & Politics — Andy Carvin @ 10:40 am

Hao WuWonderful news coming out of China today. The family of blogger Hao Wu reports that he has been released by the authorities after several months of detention. The entry is written in Chinese, but here’s a rough translation:

Just received a phone call from home. Hao is released from detention. Thanks for everybody’s concerns but Hao wants to be alone and calm down for a while. Anything new about this matter would be updated on this blog.

This news is a huge relief to his family, friends and all the bloggers around the world who rallied in support of him, particularly his colleagues at Global Voices. He was originally detained in February after shooting documentary footage of a secret Christian group in China, and was held until today. More information is available on the Free Hao Wu blog set up by Ethan Zuckerman. -andy

July 10, 2006

Podcast: Angus King on the Maine Laptop Program

Filed under: Digital Divide,Edtech,Podcasts — Andy Carvin @ 6:30 pm

Last month while I was attending the AALF conference here in Boston I mentioned I’d recorded a podcast of Angus King, former governor of Maine, talking about the state’s groundbreaking laptop initiative. I didn’t want to post it without getting his permission, and earlier today I received an email from him giving me the thumbs up. So here’s the podcast. It’s about 50 minutes long and around 43 megabytes. As always, sorry about the audio quality but it gets a little crackly when I compress it. For those of you who would prefer a text version, here are my notes from his speech. -andy

July 6, 2006

The Rocketboom Saga Overtakes the Blogosphere

Filed under: Blogging — Andy Carvin @ 6:23 pm

It’s been a surreal 36 hours since Amanda went public with her departure from Rocketboom. The entire blogosphere seems to be totally absorbed by the saga; as of this afternoon, it was the #1 blogging topic according to both BlogPulse and Technorati. Even mainstream media is following the tit-for-tat exchanges between Amanda and Andrew, from BusinessWeek to the Washington Post.
They say any publicity is good publicity; frankly, we’ll just have to see about that. Amanda, clearly, is going to have a very soft landing, with public offers from Jason Calcanis and others for sweet deals that would land her in LA, just where she wants to be. Meanwhile, there’s a lot of speculation that this spells the end of Rocketboom, but I wouldn’t sell Andrew short. He’s working like a maniac to line up an interim host. I just saw the resume and photos of one of the leading candidates. For those people who watch Rocketboom just to see a pretty face, she’d fit the bill, but the big challenge will be to find some who was as witty and entertaining as Amanda. Frankly, I’m worried there’s some public pressure to turn this into a quest for the “hottest” replacement. But the key thing will be to find someone who’s funny as hell and has a distinct personality that can keep people coming back for more. I’d hate to see an Amanda doppleganger. Heck, I’d almost rather preview the candidates by listening to a podcast of their reel rather than seeing them.
Meanwhile, I’ve been fascinated by the goings-on over at Wikipedia, where people have been editing the entries for Amanda and Rocketboom. For a while there was an attempt by some Wikipedians to merge the two entries together, but that’s pretty much a moot point now. What’s most interesting to me is watching the Wikipedians try to figure out just what to post on the entries about the break-up. Given Wikipedia’s strong desire to convey a neutral point of view and cite primary sources, it’s hard for them to glean the “truth” out of the various public statements made by both Amanda and Andrew. Lots of other websites have struggled with this as well. When it comes down to it, unless someone decides to post the long stream of stressed out, ugly emails that flew around the Rocketboom correspondents list over the last couple weeks, it’ll be hard to do that. If that did happen, even if it came directly from Amanda or Andrew, what you’d end up with are two very distinct opinions of what actually happened. This already seems to be happening; Amanda’s last blog post was a copy of an email she sent to the correspondents list, in response to a previous message sent to everyone from Andrew. This could turn into an email arms race, with Andrew and Amanda publishing the several dozen emails that went back and forth over the last two weeks. Boy, I hope not.
Which one of their stories is more accurate? You might as well split the difference, since it seems there’s truth and sincerity behind each of their perspectives. Even having followed the back-and-forth emails, I feel I’ll never really know exactly what happened, because each of them believes very strongly that their explanation is the true explanation. Neither of them are lying as a face-saving public stratagem. It’s just what each of them truly believes what happened. But it boils down to high pressure, limited resources, creative differences and personality differences. Like Chuck Olsen wrote on his blog yesterday, “Lack of money certainly doesn’t help most relationships.”
As I’ve said already, I’m really sad it came down to this. Watching the fight take place semi-privately was ackward and painful, not unlike a kid watching his parents self-destruct along the downward slope of their marriage. I’d hoped it wouldn’t have spilled out so publicly, for both of their sakes. But that’s what’s happening, and the blogosphere seems riveted, in a rubbernecking-a-car-accident kinda way.
Eventually, all of this will blow over. Amanda’s left coast career will skyrocket, and Andrew will continue to be the pioneering entrepreneur he is. Until then, the soap opera continues…. -andy

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