I’m Sorry Facebook, I Just Don’t Love You Anymore…

In an article previewing the changes Facebook recently made public, Mashable’s Ben Parr indicated that Facebook was making the changes because it wanted to rekindle an emotional connection with users.

After years of dating, the magic between Facebook and its users has dissipated. It’s a natural evolution in any relationship, but now there is another suitor vying for Facebook’s users. And a lot of people think this suitor is easy on the eyes.
That’s why Facebook launched three recent changes: revamped Friend Lists, a real-time news ticker, and the subscribe button… But these changes are just the beginning. The changes Facebook will roll out on Thursday are designed to enhance the emotional connection its users have to each other through Facebook.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but this strategy isn’t working for me! My relationship with Facebook has never gotten old because like an insecure lover, it’s never stopped demanding my attention, to the point of provoking annoyance. I’ve given it a lot of attention, integrating it into my professional and personal lives, but it’s proven unpredictable, unsure of the terms under which it wants to participate. It’s time to cool things off. Since Facebook has so few concerns about private affairs going public, how would you like to read my Dear John Letter to Facebook?
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Egypt Decides! Let’s Stand Back for a While

Saturday, 12 February 2011, Day 1 Freedom - Victory Tahrir Square, Photo by Darla Hueske, Creative Commons license, Some rights reserved

These are exciting times! The citizens revolution in Tunisia started a tidal wave of pro-democracy protests across the Arab world, and the resignation of Hosni Mubarak form the Presidency in Egypt proves there is no stopping it.

Fortunately, this wave has not caused the death and destruction tidal waves usually do, because it is the people themselves who are the wave, and it is the elite who are being swept away, not in a bloody coup, but through real people power. Final costs have yet to be assessed. People were jailed and others killed, but violence and destruction to property have been minimal. The police were brutal and ruthless and far too many were killed, but protests continued and the police disappeared quickly. After that, the one significant effort of Mubarak loyalist to crack heads, backfired terribly.

Most Americans are excited by this wave of democracy and have an innate tendency to support it. Others got very nervous when the wave hit Egypt. What happens if the Muslim brotherhood takes over? There are even voices who get far to much airplay in the media and too much ink in the press who say that people in the region are incapable of self governance and need strong arm leadership. The most looney voice has to be Glenn Beck who fears Mubarak’s fall will open the door to a Islamist Caliphate that will spread until it meets and joins forces with a Chinese-led “red” wave on a quest for world domination.
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Music in the Clouds

Source: My Grafitis in Tehran (http://my.opera.com/nbt4u/blog/)

There was an interesting piece in PC World yesterday about an iPhone app called Cloud Music that allows you to store your music in Google Docs and stream it through your iPhone. Google Docs now allows users to store files of all types, so this app takes advantage of that fact. I’ve yet to play with it, but its an interesting response to the restrictions the Digital Rights Management puts on our music. Since users can share things in Google Docs, presumably they can also share the music in their digital collection, provided it is not protected by DRM measures they are not able to break.

A day before that the American Public Radio program Marketplace had an interesting segment on cloud computing and streaming music, but from a totally different angle. This time it is not the users that uploads and access their own files, but rather rather the users subscribe to a huge digital library of music and stream what they want. Most of these services also offer the opportunity for downloads for users who want to be able to take their music offline. The best known examples of this are Rhapsody.com and Lala.com, recently purchased and shut down by Apple. For a monthly fee you can listen to whatever you wan in the order you want. In essence it is a vast online digital library.

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Higher Education, Collaboration, and Education for the 21st Century


In a few days I am off to Morocco for a seminar at TALIM on higher education and employment in Morocco. But the job market in the United States is also very challenging of college graduates right now, and American educators may well be asking themselves if higher education in this country is adequately preparing students to enter the work force of the global era.

We still function in terms of national economies, but those economies are increasingly connected so that a crisis in one affects many others.  We also live in a world in which graduating students in America compete for employment, directly or indirectly, with their peers in Mexico, Morocco, India and Taiwan. And the whole lot of them are also competing with graduating students in Pakistan, Costa Rica, Tunisia, Israel and Poland. Continue reading

Journalism and Online Discourse

However, while blogs have created hundreds of prominent new voices in the national media, social networking sites like twitter have only reinforced the position of people and institutions who were already prominent in other media.  Not a single person has risen to become a prominent national media figure just through their tweeting.  However, popular TV shows, musicians, and politicians have gained two million followers or more through the medium.

Given this, it is a legitimate worry that the decline of blogging, and the rise of social networking, will mean that the media status quo that was once threatened by the Internet will now be reinforced by it.  Rather than new media functioning as a democratizing force, it  could become yet another tool of the status quo.  Maybe once in a while it will be used by street demonstrators against a totalitarian regime, as it was in Iran, but most of the time it will just make the already famous and the already dominant even more so.

–via “Social networking sites reinforce the status quo

Those are the conclusions that Chris Bowers  draws from a report by the Pew Internet Centers on Social Media and Young Adults that finds that blogging is on the decline among teenage users of the Internet. Teens are also commenting less on blogs. Use among older Americans, on the other hand, remains the same.

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Academic Freedom Media Review, February 12-19

Compiled by Scholars at Risk

Alabama Shooting Puts Spotlight on Tenure Process
The Associated Press, The New York Times, 2/18

Publish and be dumped?
Laurie Taylor, The Times Higher Education, 2/18

Is Heckling a Right?
Scott Jaschik, Inside Higher Ed, 2/17

Education is the key for the future of Belarus
Bertel Haarder, Cristina Husmark Pehrsson, Rigmor Aasrud, Jan Vapaavuori, Katrin Jakobsdottir and Halldor Asgrimsson, EuObserver, 2/17

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My Career in International Education, v 4.0

Globes in Chicago, by John LeGear

In 2005 the Association of American Colleges and Universities launched the “Shared Futures: Global Learning and Social Responsibility” initiative. The mission statement for that initiative describes what should be one of the most important principles guiding higher education today. Shared Futures

is based upon the assumption that we live in an interdependent but unequal world and that higher education can help prepare students not only to thrive in such a world, but to remedy its inequities.

Higher education not only can prepare students to do those things, but it must, for their benefit, for the good of our nation, and because remedying inequalities is the right thing to do. Hence, as the statement continues, the academy

has a vital role of expanding knowledge about the world’s peoples and problems and developing individuals who will advance equity and justice both at home and abroad.

These are fine and noble ideals, but they are also solidly rooted in reality. The United States finds itself involved in two wars at the moment, and neither is with a neighbor or even a nation in this hemisphere. The largest share of our foreign debt is owned by China. America is a nation addicted to television, yet only Zenith makes television sets in the US, maintaining one factory so that it is able to claim it is an American producer. Problems like global warming can only be tackled on an international scale, and when the mortgage crisis hit the banks in the United States, many of the world’s banks also felt the impact. The engine of globalization is, of course, technology, which makes it almost as easy to conduct business between Boston and Hong Kong (8,000 miles) as it is between Boston and Cambridge (next to one another).
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Resources for Teaching about the Earthquake in Haiti

Here are a few teaching resources that may be useful for faculty and staff when teaching about the earthquake in Haiti.  It’s just a few things I happen to have come across, so feel free to suggest others.

This page from IRIS (Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology) contains a number of resources for helping students understand what happened geologically.  There are downloadable PowerPoint presentations, videos and animations such as this one explaining why the quake didn’t produce a tsunami.

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My Most Popular Tweets of the Last Seven Days

Here are my top 10 Tweets of the last seven days that contain links shortened using ow.ly.

  1. RT @florencedesruol English was the first #OpenSource language. http://ow.ly/XmZO Intriguing article on both English & concept of OpenSource
  2. Nation’s Largest Labor Union Group Creates Online Degree Programs http://ow.ly/XYE5
  3. Watching Young at Heart on PBS. So funny! And inspiring. http://ow.ly/Xi2n
  4. Academic Tattoos-Scholars with tattoos relating to their academic research http://ow.ly/XYZ2
  5. Offensive on so many levels. Pat Robinson says quake in Haiti result of deal with the devil. http://ow.ly/WgJa
  6. Check out the Crazy Heart trailer and The Weary Kind theme song. http://ow.ly/Xx0d
  7. Democrats’ Senate supermajority may be at its end after Massachusetts’ special election, polls show http://ow.ly/Y2wb If Brown wins,…
  8. Call for Sessions: Technologies & Pedagogies for Teaching Language, Cultures, and International Relations http://ow.ly/VR3D
  9. California Law Encourages Digital Textbooks by 2020 http://ow.ly/XYGL
  10. Higher Ed Faculties Are Liberal Because Conservatives Don’t Seek Academic Careers, Study Finds http://ow.ly/XYOY