cartoon face eating cheetos.

Screen Time

Every time I hear something about limiting screen time I cannot help but think about how poorly the concept has been thought out. If we talked about “food time” instead maybe that would help us think that while time matters (eating for hours each day is probably a bad idea), how long you eat probably matters far less than what you’re eating. You have to think about both things. Funneling cheetos for 30 minutes a day is worse than eating carrots for an hour.1 Screen time isn’t a single thing. It’s an insane range of things. There’s lots of screen time that is of Twinkie quality but there are many other options. If I read a book on a device is it screen time or is that reading? If I’m coding for an hour? Editing video? Video chat with my parents? When we reduce things to this extent we end up doing things that ignore the actual problem. So the next time someone on the radio or TV talks about screen time as if it were a single thing please join me in envisioning the giant cartoon heads depicted below. 1 Funneling cheetos may not even qualify as actually eating. It’s a chemical endurance sport that will likely be featured in the next Olympic games

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Why I’m Teaching Data Viz for Sociology

I’m teaching a course for VCU’s digital sociology Master’s degree program this semester. One of the things I’ve asked the participants to do is explain why they’re taking this course. I’m hoping that will help me customize what we’re going to do in the course. Since I asked the participants to document why they were taking this course, I figured the least I could do is create a similar post explaining why I agreed to shepherd this course and why I made some of these initial choices. I’m approaching the concept of data visualization pretty broadly. The course is broken into two main components. The first portion is looking at their own portfolio and how they might think it through in terms of data visualization1 and then moving on to broader/deeper applications of data visualization (connected to their personal research). Part of the reason I want to start with the portfolio is that the data is personal and it’s easier to get a feel for how real/accurate any visualizations you make are. We’ll also be able to establish a decent foundation of web literacy, design, accessibility, etc. prior to applying them to more sophisticated visualizations. Essentially, it’s about starting out on more familiar ground before venturing out into increasing complexity. The second section will focus on figuring out a set […]

Bret Victor on the right with a black and white cartoon fish on the left. Under the fish is the statement - This is not a fish.

Data Viz and Dead Fish

3:40 – “I believe that behavior and responsiveness is the essence of the computer as an art medium and what that means is that any time we create art that doesn’t have behavior we’re not living up to the potential of the medium. It’s not native art.” 4:34 – “… what sort of art is possible when both the art and the artist are alive? When the art and the artist are responding to each other and working together to create something beautiful.” 15:00 – “So what you’re seeing here is kind of the interplay between two living and behaving beings. There’s the fish behaving through simulation. There’s me behaving through performance and there’s this wonderful kind of symbiosis with the two of us working together to put on a show. The simulation and the performance are really complementary. So when I was making that little scene with the fish there was always this back and forth between the simulation and the performance. So if there was something I wanted the fish to do but I couldn’t perform it with my hand because it was too complicated, I had to move my hand too fast, there’s too many other things going on with the scene, I take that and put it in the simulation.” 16:02 – “There’s this back and […]

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Working on Accessibility

Bean with Tools on the Ocean of Storms flickr photo by NASA on The Commons shared with no copyright restriction (Flickr Commons) We’re taking a much deeper dive into accessibility lately. It is a fruitful and good thing to do but also one of those deceptively deep topics with lots of complications. As a result I’m learning a good bit so I better write it down before it’s all forgotten. Two Handy Tools Thanks to both Matt and Jeff, I ended up using a few different tools.1 Google’s Vox Plugin helps you get a better idea what the experience was going to be like for someone with issues seeing the website. Using this will enable you to understand exactly how some of your decisions play out. I found it very handy. As a minor warning, there appears to be no way to turn it off/on short of disabling the extension. Despite that, I really think it’s a good idea to spend some time using this tool. It really helps. The other useful tool so far has been the Siteimprove Chrome extension. It’s pretty handy to see what warnings/failures are in play in each page. It’s led me to realize that there are so many problems. Bits of Useful Code One of VCU’s requirements is a text only view for the […]

strange image using headphones as eyes

Web Development Podcasts

My podcast listening ebbs and flows. I am currently in the flow state.1 Anyway, I like these three podcasts that are all web development related.2 Shop Talk Show – gets a bit deeper than I need at times but very solid SynTax with Wes Bos of Javascript30 and Scott Bolinski. I really like the Web RTC one. Tools Day – ~20 min and probably the least technical 1 That sounds weird but ebb wouldn’t make any sense. 2 I’m also listening to some strange fitness/weight lifting podcasts which make these seem mainstream.

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What is Rampages? Part Two

Image from page 776 of “The Ladies’ home journal” (1889) flickr photo by Internet Archive Book Images shared with no copyright restriction (Flickr Commons) Continuing on from Part One . . . I have way too many examples. If you read this blog often, you’ve probably seen most of these being born1 but this is my first attempt at organizing and a more cohesive structure around key categories/processes and all in one place. This isn’t my normal pattern as I’m more of a folksonomic structure guy rather than taxonomic. What this has done is remind me of just how much work has been done in a relatively short time. I’ve only been here three years. Rampages is roughly three years old but wasn’t publicized initially and then had some rough growing pains. The last year or so I’ve been trying to convince people my department still exists . . . and still people find ways to do tons of amazing work. I’m not even including the stuff we do outside of WordPress. I’m only scratching the surface but this post keeps getting longer and longer. I threw a bunch of the links here. Some will be duplicates but there’s plenty of additional sites as well. Courses Rampages supports faculty teaching the full continuum of courses at VCU- from augmenting traditional […]

What is Rampages.us? Part One

I’m going to be attempting to explain what rampages.us is to a group on Tuesday. I’ve been struggling with a more digestible version of this for some time. While true, saying “Whatever you want it to be,” isn’t what people want to hear. Giving people something more concrete to think through what the site can do makes sense. These categories, however blurry and overlapping, provide some entries to additional thoughts and will likely help me organize my brain around this a bit better. Outside eyes are helpful so if you see stuff I’m missing or explaining poorly please throw me a comment here or on Twitter. While some of the details are specific to our version, I think the general arguments might be of use to others. If you end up doing that (or have already done it), throw me a link as I’d love to see how other people do this. Technically Speaking Rampages.us is a large WordPress multisite installation started roughly three years ago. Our community currently has over 24,000 sites and 22,000 members. WordPress is an open source platform which runs a huge portion (~30%) of today’s Internet and is the most popular CMS in the world. That matters for a variety of reasons. WordPress is free. This dramatically lowers barriers to access for our students while […]

iPad Robot Redemption

I freely admit to having mocked iPad robots on more than one occasion. My experience with them has largely been awkward encounters at conferences where they felt more like curiosities1 than anything with real purpose or impact.2 But . . . we recently ended up in a scenario where a student in Molly’s Artfulness class was going to be unable to attend class for a lengthy period of time. She was considering dropping the class. The next class was a dance-focused class run by Jill Ware where movement and being in the space was particularly important. All this came out in an informal conversation with Molly. As a semi-joke, I said now was the time to use the iPad robot . . . and not only did we do it but it ended up working really well. You can see some of the interactions playing out below. I think it was a fundamentally different experience than merely watching. In this particular scenario I think that the iPad robot really made a remarkable difference in terms of interaction on the part of the student driving and the students interacting with the robot/student.3 It also looks like a fundamentally different experience for both the driver of the iPad robot and the students in the class. It’d be a fun thing on which […]

Historical Will Annotation Continued: A WP API Experiment

The Judah Will Project (now with new URL!) has continued to grow as Ryan has been putting in serious work on the research and writing side of things. I have no choice but to step up my game and it’s been an interesting learning experience as it’s the first time I’ve tried anything sophisticated with WP providing the writing/data side of things while presenting that information somewhere else entirely. Headless? So here’s a recap of changes since the last update. More Obvious I talked to Jim about the project a few days ago. It became clear to me that it wasn’t obvious that the names in the will transcription were clickable prior to actually clicking on one. I fixed that with a simple dashed underline. This was one of those times where I was trying to keep the visual elements minimal but ended up going too far. I also threw in a modal popup for initial directions to make things more obvious. I just used this simple modal jquery plugin. It immediately drove me crazy by popping up all the time. So I looked around and found a solution to set cookies which I’d never done before. I also used a modal for the ever-growing family tree. When you have 12 kids in a generation, things get pretty wide. Permanent […]

No Easy Anythings – OER at VCU

Emanuel Shinwell, 1918 flickr photo by LSE Library shared with no copyright restriction (Flickr Commons) Someone sent me the following comment from Professor Golumbia (a professor here at VCU). He’s got me blocked on Twitter for some reason or I’d loop him in directly. I’m taking that as a message not to communicate directly but since this comment was public and I’m quoted in the article, I figured I could at least respond. Maybe it’ll moderate the level of perceived evil intent. cool, my employer is now paying its employees to screw themselves & other laborers out of significant future wages https://t.co/rf1zmelscS — David Golumbia (@dgolumbia) February 7, 2017 I don’t feel like it’s quite as binary as it’s being portrayed but that portrayal may be a result of Twitter’s limits.1 It’s also easy to see an institution as purely evil. It’s usually harder to do that with individuals. It’s also a rough time to care about education, students, faculty, academia as an institution, nature, freedom, humanity, etc. etc. All that to say, I understand an aggressive response to just about anything right now. With that, I’ll give you my two cents on why I opted to engage with VCU OER work. In the OER conversation, the easy victory is to focus on monetary savings for students. It’s a far […]