Thursday, April 29, 2010

Dealing With "Digital Distractions" in the Classroom

Apparently, an increasing number of colleges and professors are banning laptops in their classrooms, citing poor grades and general distraction. These are definitely issues worth consideration, but the article raises a good point counterpoint:
For years, educators have been clamoring to put technology in the hands of young students through partnerships with big tech companies, best symbolized by the One Laptop Per Child initiative. But by the time those kids grow up, they might well find university authorities waging a war on laptops in the classroom.
Is a blanket ban on laptops really a realistic means of dealing with perceived digital distractions in the classroom—or does it it actually create a deficit in terms of learning?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Doormen—Keepers of More Than Just the Door?

Doormen have long been associated with swanky addresses in New York City, so it's not surprising that news of a strike last week opened the door (no pun intended—okay, maybe just a small one) for ridicule of doorman-affiliated lifestyles. The New York Times asked:
Who will safeguard my apartment as I sleep? Greet my children when they come home from school? Accept deliveries? Clean the hallways? Sort the mail? Operate the elevator? And who, for goodness sake, will let the cleaning lady in?
The Times went further to create instructions for residents on how to open doors for themselves, drawing criticism and defensive remarks from doorman and non-doorman building residents alike. Fortunately, the strike was averted, and residents escaped having to assume the responsibilities of doormanship themselves. But if you aren't from New York City or another doorman friendly city, you may be wondering what the fuss is about: Why are they so integral to life in New York City? [Right: A doorman at his post on Wall Street.]

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Friday, April 23, 2010

Is Your Facebook Profile Ready to Delete You? Lessons from South Park

South Park's "You Have 0 Friends" episode drives home the ways the social media giant Facebook has slowly but surely taken over our lives. Originally aired on April 8th, Comedy Central ran it again last night, and a second viewing revealed additional insights into the ways our lives have changed as a result of digital and social media—and was a hilarious good time at that. So, what would you do if you had no Facebook friends? Is your Facebook profile larger than life? [Stan in the digital world. © South Park.]

The Five Points Then and Now: Ghosts of Tenements Past [FP4]

 For such a small area, the Five Points really has a great deal of history connected to it. Walking through present day Chinatown, I was really struck by how various elements of the Five Points have persisted through time, and have managed to impart some of the old character into the neighborhood. The streets bustle with throngs of Asian residents, reminiscent of the earlier immigrant settlers who called the Five Points home. The streets themselves, crowded with buildings, narrow and winding, hearken back to a time when you might have gone out of your way to avoid Mulberry Bend, Mosco, or Pell Streets for fear of harassment, robbery, or worse. Many of the buildings that line these streets are tenements that date back 100 years or more, and are still very much in use by immigrants seeking affordable housing, as is the case with the building at 65 Mott Street. Residents of these buildings often shared commodes and other facilities—and while some of these buildings may have been updated, the structure and layout remain. So has life really changed in the former Sixth Ward? Let's take a look at living conditions in the Five Points through the ages and find out.

[Above: 65 Mott Street, the first building in New York City constructed specifically for tenement purposes. April 2010.]

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Five Points and the Collect Pond: Ripples Through Time [FP3]

The story of the Collect Pond is integral to the story of the Five Points itself, and it is a prime example of the how the relationship we have with our landscapes can impact our social order.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Five Points Then and Now: Landmarks [FP2]

The landmarks of the Five Points were not artistic and architectural triumphs, but rather tenements, prisons, and churches. Using maps found here, I plotted the locations of sites that loomed largest in the history of the Five Points. Stick close—the streets are dark and possibly a little dangerous.

[Above: Map showing points of interest.]

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Return to the Five Points [FP1]

Recent mob outbreaks in Times Square have people concerned about rising levels of violence in the city. For some it evokes the city's reputation from the 1970s. But New York City has always held a bit of a reputation:
In small clusters, the world began coming to North America via this island nestled in its inviting harbor. And while the West India Company had a firm Calvinist stamp to it, which it tried to impress on its colony, the makeup of the settlement—itself a result of the mix of peoples welcomed to its parent city of Amsterdam—helped to ensure a raggedness, a social looseness ... Days got livelier; with nightfall, the soft slap of waves along the shore was drowned out by drinking songs and angry curses (Shorto 2005: 61).
My suspicion is that the concerns about New York City today echo sentiments about New York City in the 1970s, which echo the sentiments expressed about New York City in the 1830s—when New York City was home to one of the most notorious slums in the world, the Five Points.

In other words, the time of present memory is almost always the most dire circumstance. I invite you to journey back in time with me to walk the streets of the Five Points, and draw your own conclusions about the intersection of the city's past and present. But before you secure your valuables and venture into the alleys and tenements of the area, let's look a bit at the history.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Digital Authenticity—Does Anyone Care?

Mark Schaefer, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, reposted a blog entry asking, "Can you outsource authenticity?" He writes:
To be successful on the social web, you need meaningful content … and LOTS of it! Some debate whether you need quality or quantity, but fact is, you need both. Five excellent blog posts in a month is better than one excellent blog post … and 10 is even better than five! And every company and non-profit is jumping on board. So where is all this quality content going to come from? [Emphasis mine.]
In other words, as long as the source is accurate, does it matter who produces it?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Updated Info on the East River Waterfront Project

In February I posted news that the East River waterfront would be changed as they city developed the space. Work in ongoing, and a fair amount of progress has been made.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Future of Thought

I had the immense pleasure of hearing Sherry Turkle speak on a panel concerning the emergence of a digital class and what it means for our social order. One of the questions raised during the discussion concerned the future of thought: As we become immersed in virtual worlds and digital media, what will happen to the structure of thought?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Extra! Extra! (Some) Print Media Is Not Dead!

There is a newsstand that I walk past every morning that seems to have every newspaper in the world—okay, maybe I'm exaggerating, but the myriad languages prominently displayed definitely earns a second glance from me. The majority of papers seem to be in Spanish, but I'm sure I've seen Russian, French, and possibly Polish. Strangely, the Asian languages are absent. While I often see folks picking up the trademark pink Financial Times (which seems to be a natural choice given that we are in the Financial District), I often wonder who purchases the other papers. The news that the international editions contains are definitely not current in the sense of our own daily newspapers. Often they are weekly digests, so the events they cover are at least a week old. Surely, it might be simpler to get this information online—which is where most folks seem to get their news anyway, much to the growing dismay of print news outlets. So who buys these papers? And why read them? [Right: A newsstand sells international papers.]

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Outsourcing Organs: Organ Dealing and Transplant Tourism

According to a survey by Donate Life America, 43% of people are undecided, reluctant or do not wish to have their organs and tissue donated after their deaths. As a result of the shortage of organs, a black market has grown and thrived—particularly in impoverished corners of the world.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Online Interactions and Your Life Offline

Science Daily reported on a new study appearing in American Behavioral Scientist this April that suggests that online interactions have a positive effect in real life in that they serve in part to reaffirm connections to local communities. Authors Caroline Haythornthwaite and Lori Kendall, professors in the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at Illinois, indicate that the extensive reach of online technologies utilized for communicating and networking, creating and distributing content, and for storing, sharing, and retrieving files are creating ties that bind for offline communities:
"Research on who people communicate with online [technologies] shows a lot of local activity," Haythornthwaite said. "So online communication always reinforces local relationships and local identities that build networks of interacting individuals who are mutually aware of each other. Together, this demonstrates a continuous change in how we maintain local community, while also emphasizing the importance and significance of our attachments to local places and spaces."
Are we defining community too narrowly?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Commuter, Restored

I'll let this photo speak for itself.

[Above: My commuting buddy reclaims his space. See stories below for more information.]

For more on this story, see Becoming a Creature of Habit and Commuter, Interrupted.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Death 2.0: Digital Mourning

ResearchBlogging.orgAs today is Good Friday, perhaps it's a good time to talk about death in the digital world. While millions of Catholics engage in rituals of remembering today, I'd like to talk about how Web 2.0 technologies are changing the experience of death for those charged with remembering.