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Review: The Aisles Have Eyes: How Retailers Track Your Shopping, Strip Your Privacy, and Define Your Power

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The Aisles Have Eyes: How Retailers Track Your Shopping, Strip Your Privacy, and Define Your Power by Joseph Turow
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The fact is that we're all involved the seeking information but some have much more power over information than others. Turow shows us the ways in which asymmetrical balances of information increasingly leave the average human much more vulnerable and controllable by large corporations that wheel and deal in data. Turow explores how companies increasingly have used digital technology to create a variety of methods to track, predict, and ultimately influence and control our lives and that while we don't necessarily see the impact of this--that is exactly the point. As companies increasingly follow us and compile direct and indirect data about us, our family, our friends, it makes it increasingly easy for them to make things look normal or manufacture choices feel like authentic choices. The result is that companies can leverage the vastness of…

Review: Films from the Future: The Technology and Morality of Sci-Fi Movies

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Films from the Future: The Technology and Morality of Sci-Fi Movies by Andrew Maynard
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Any science-fiction film worth its genre label is going to offer up a good depiction of the tension between humanity and technology. A tension that is mindful enough of the present time in which the film is produced that years later, it can still be meaningfully discussed in its historical context. Even if this tension is a bit of a straw-person, it's something all science-fiction storytelling tends to hinge upon. Therefore, Maynard's exploration of twelve sci-fi films that run from the established ("Jurassic Park") to the mostly unknown (The Man In The White Suit) captures and draws out so much of that tension in long-winding essays that consider the film, the film's historical context, and how the technologies and concepts at the center of the film are still being grappled with today. After an introduction where he lays both the conceptual framework of s…

This Is 41

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Estimated Reading Time: 9.5 minutes
So it's that time again.  Everyone on my birthday, I take a moment to reflect about what has happend and look forward to see what may be next.  You can check out the last few years: 383940 As usual, I start of these sessions with some basics about where I am today.
Home:  Arlington, Massachusetts Relationship status:  Married (6+ years) Cats Owned:  2 (Bear and Pumpkin) Other Pets:  1 mud turtle (MJ) Degrees earned: 5 (3 masters, 1 bachelor, 1 associate) Degree working on:  PhD in Higher Education Credits Completed Toward Dissertation: 72 out of 72. Reading since Sept 2019:   books, graphic novels, and audiobooks Work: (1) Educational Programs Manager at the Berkman Klein Center of Internet and Society at Harvard University (full time).  (2) Freelance reviewing audiobooks for Audiofile Magazine.  Teaching courses at  (3) North Shore Community College and (4) Southern New Hampshire University. Short Stories Written:  1 Social Media Consulting Gigs:  0 Weight:  …

Review: Literary Wonderlands: A Journey Through the Greatest Fictional Worlds Ever Created

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Literary Wonderlands: A Journey Through the Greatest Fictional Worlds Ever Created by Laura Miller
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Miller's book is what has become increasingly one of my favorite and most frustrating types of books: a book about other books. In this book, Miller and a host of fantastic contributors share (very) short essays on the power of worlds that are crafted fro imagination in fiction.  Starting as far back as the Epic of Gilgamesh and traveling up through the 2000s, they identify some of the richest worlds every created with an eye towards fictional worlds that have been influential, culturally rich (with mostly a Western fixture), and popular across media.  Most of their historical choices seem to have withstood the test of time but of course, the ones of the last thirty years seem a little more challenging with it being unclear just what their standard for "greatest fictional worlds" means.  They include some evident ones (Game of Thrones, The Hunger Games…

Review: Come and Take It: The Gun Printer's Guide to Thinking Free

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Come and Take It: The Gun Printer's Guide to Thinking Free by Cody Wilson
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Wilson gained fame and notoriety as one of the earliest, if not the first person to design and use a 3D printed gun. This book tells his account of how it went from idea to manifestation along with the challenges he ran into, the support (financial, intellectual, technical), and the ideologies that fueled his thinking as he moves through the process. On its face-value, the book has something to offer many folks about understanding both the legal issues and concerns around 3D printing of guns as well as 1st and 2nd Amendment rights. Even learning about how and why the 3D gun was created could be quite valuable but Wilson's prose are too often pseudo-literary flourishes attempting to show how brilliant and above the rest of humanity he is--of course, this comes to clash with his self-described crypto-anarchism (nothing says anarchist like publishing with a major publisher that is goin…

Review: Aphro-ism: Essays on Pop Culture, Feminism, and Black Veganism from Two Sisters

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Aphro-ism: Essays on Pop Culture, Feminism, and Black Veganism from Two Sisters by Aph Ko
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Pulling together posts they have published over the years on Black Vegans Rock, Sisters, Aph and Syl Ko offer up a compelling argument for veganism people of color and other marginalized groups. The crux of their argument is that the willingness for humans to arbitrarily decide who gets human treatment and who gets animal treatment (who is a free being and who is an enslave mass for labor, slaughter, and consumption) means that marginalized groups will always be vulnerable to being "dehumanized" and thus subjected to inhumane treatment. Until people reconsider their relationship with all animals, humans will continue to leave the door open to doing horrific harm to one another. What's powerful about their argument is that they do not just put this in simple terms of veganism--rather they deeply ground their argument in the theoretical and conceptual discourse a…

Recent Letter to the Editor

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Estimated Reading Time: minutes
Recently, I had another Letter to the Editor published.  It was largely a rebuttal to this letter that upon reading, I felt compelled to respond to.  Here's the start and the rest you can read on the Salem News website:
"Why is the “flat earth” and Columbus still something believed by people like Beatrice Heinze (”Don’t shun Columbus,” Aug. 3)? People knew the world was round; it was a question of the size and scale of the ocean between Europe and China. Research, not fealty to myths, shows Washington Irving told the “flat earth” story in his 1828 biography of Columbus shortly after the country’s 50th anniversary."
Read the rest of the letter to the editor.
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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.…

Review: The Lady from the Black Lagoon: Hollywood Monsters and the Lost Legacy of Milicent Patrick

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The Lady from the Black Lagoon: Hollywood Monsters and the Lost Legacy of Milicent Patrick by Mallory O'Meara
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Discovering the history and background of Milicent Patrick, the only woman designer behind one of the classic Universal Studios classic monsters (Creature from the Black Lagoon) has all the elements of an intriguing history that both sheds light on the hyper-sexism of Hollywood and reveals a curious and fascinating portrait of Patrick; though one that readers will still feel distanced from. O'Meara shows the lengths to which she will go to find research on Patrick but in doing so, the book diverts attention from Patrick onto O'Meara, robbing the spotlight to which O'Meara is trying to argue that she deserves. It attempts to be too much: a narrative of O'Meara's quest, Patrick's life, and an argument about the inherent and eternal sexism of the film industry. Those three things can go together but it often feels like there wasn&…

Hybrid Flexible Learning in the Age of COVID-19

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Estimated Reading Time: 3.5 minutes

Recently, I had the opportunity to deliver a 3-session workshop on designing and teaching hybrid-flexible courses.  Hybrid-flexible course design has become immensely popular in the last few months as much of higher education is scrambling to come up with a plan for navigating fast changes in uncertain times.  
There are various definitions and other valuable voices on the topic but by and large, for me, I've always defined hybrid flexible learning as:  "A learning experience designed to empower students to determine where and how they learn best. Hybrid means mixing face to face (F2F) with online learning. Flexible means students choose their conditions (online vs. F2F) which may impact which learning materials, activities, and assessments they may end up using or engaging."
The idea came to me while I was teaching a once-a-week course--one of the worse structures for learning where convenience outranks what we know about learning.  That…

Co-Writing an Article & Yay! It's Published!

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Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes

Two years ago, I participated in a program called ID2ID. It was a program that started at Penn State University and eventually became a collaboration between PSU and Educause.  It's a fun program that I hope they will continue to do (it looks like it is on hiatus this year and I would imagine that has much to do with COVID-19 and the significant demand on instructional designers everywhere).  
The purpose of the program was to create more connections among instructional designers like myself.  You could sign up to find a new colleague to do a project with or to be mentor/be mentored by someone.  I had the great fortune to be paired with Alex Rockey, a fellow doctoral student (although she is now Dr. Rockey!).  We had some great initial conversations learning about one another and circling in on a project we could work on together.  We both had strong interests in constructivism as part of the learning experience and a deep appreciation for community…