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I’m on a blogging hiatus: my son, Conall, was born on Friday!
Just got a phone call from a friend, who was interested in my opinion piece in the Ottawa Citizen, mentioned on the radio.
Problem is, I wrote no opinion piece. Turns out, there’s a PhD student in the History Department at the University of Ottawa (just down the Canal), who shares my name, and who is the author of the piece (it’s a good article). So, just to forestall any confusion:
Last night, according to the wordpress.com stats thingy, Electric Archaeology crept over the 100,000 mark. Woo hoo!
On this auspicious occassion, I offer up the following metadata:
Top Posts (the past week)
Game Mods 19 views
Angel versus Moodle 10 views
Still Mulling Playing with History 10 views
About Shawn Graham 9 views
the first jesus, caesar iv, simon the first jesus, simon the first messiah, wordpress moodle
Most Active (the past day)
Game Mods 4 views
Agent Models 3 views
That’s a lot of output. Would I have been better off writing a book instead? I’m currently reading Jaron Lanier’s ‘You are Not a Gadget‘, and it’s causing me to rethink some of this project. Am I merely a contributor to some ‘hive mind’? Am I in danger of becoming a techno-serf, offering up the fruits of my considerable investment in education, for free?
Time to pause and reflect…
An interesting opportunity:
The DART project has advertised 3 funded PhD opportunities on their website: http://www.comp.leeds.ac.uk/dart in addition to jobs.ac.uk and FindAPhDDART is a 3 year multidisciplinary research project looking at how to improve heritage remote sensing. It will do this be increasing the understanding of the dynamic interaction between soils, vegetation and archaeological residues and how these affect detection with sensing devices. This requires understanding how the archaeology differs from, and dynamically interacts with, the localised soils and vegetation and how these differences can be detected. Data fusion techniques will be utilised to determine the factors that lead to contrast detection, the impact these factors will have on the sensor spectrum and the nature of any contrast dynamics. This knowledge will be distilled into domain ontologies which will become the core reasoning framework for decision support tools. The 3 PhD studentships offer a fantastic opportunity to work on a multi-disciplinary project combining industry and governmental organisations and researchers from archaeology, soil science, remote sensing and computer science.We would be grateful if you could pass these details over to students, colleagues or other relevant institutions and networks. A flyer is available which can be posted on your institutional noticeboard http://www.comp.leeds.ac.uk/dart/DART_Studentship_Flyer.pdf
I’m thinking about how for-profit universities conceive of their mission.
Right now, many have a walled-garden service model. They are in the business of selling education. They have ops meetings, call centers, customer service focus. This might be very good for the students, but I think it could lead to an atmosphere where the faculty are, in terms of the larger picture, very similar to the teen-age burger flippers at McDonald’s – more or less interchangable. Lose some? Hire more, retrain ‘em. Not a major concern. Not good in the long run, for either the university or academe more generally I should think.
Strictly speaking, I do not have a problem with for-profit higher education. I do however think that there are problems in how it is organized, and these problems emerge from the metaphors used to describe what for-profit education does (and any public university that starts talking about students as customers might be in the same boat). What if the metaphor used was more in line with a dating service? (don’t laugh, serious thought here
In online dating (eBay or Amazon marketplace work as metaphors too), the site brings together two kinds of people, both looking for the same thing. Typically, the men pay a fee to be on the site; women are wooed to the site by all sorts of free promos etc. No point having a dating site that does not have any available ‘others’ on it. If you made both sides pay to be on the site, your site wouldn’t work. One side has to either be paid, or otherwise receive some kind of reward for being on the site.
In which case, an online university could be in the business of bringing together students (‘men’ in the above analogy) with faculty (‘women’). If a university had that metaphor in its mind, it would be thinking, ‘what can we do to make our site – the university – an attractive place for faculty to be at?’. This would lead to better learning outcomes, in the long run…
It could also affect how students get put into classes. Typically on something like eBay or a dating site, there are reputation systems embedded in the site. You do not buy from the person with the bad rep in eBay; you do not contact the person whose profile has gotten many negative reviews. Since the university knows the grades of the students and has that evaluations and other metrics for rating faculty, it has the ability to put together faculty and students in a dynamic way. I originally thought, wouldn’t it be something to allow students to select their classes knowing the ranking of the profs; and for profs to select their classes based on the ranking of the students… but maybe not…?
But I think with those two bits of information, you could meet student (and faculty) needs much better. Especially in private for-profit schools – maybe a class with low rankings is offered with higher $ to attract faculty to teach it; knowing that the class is going to be more work, the faculty is better prepared when they ‘walk in through the door’. A dynamic pay scale. You let faculty know that there are x number of students who want to take HIS101 next term; it becomes a kind of auction. Let faculty have ‘tokens’ – this is my first choice, this is my second choice, this is my third choice course for the session. Then match up accordingly….
I appreciate that this is all a bit nebulous. I do think that there’s something to learn from online market places & auctions for making better matches of faculty to students, which presumably would lead to better retention (‘hey presto!’ he said, waving his magic wand in the air).
(it turns out what I’m talking about is known in the literature as a ‘two sided market’. Here’s a link to how to get the most value out of such things – http://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/5595.html
…and then I find that Wharton college has an application for sale that does all of these things:
“Using market principles, Wharton’s web-based Course Auction application enables students to bid on, and even resell, places in elective courses through a 10-round sealed-bid auction. In elective courses where the demand exceeds the supply, the auction is designed allocate the seats efficiently and equitably. The auction gives students control over what would otherwise be a random process by giving them the ability to determine the distribution of resources based on their allocation of auction points.”)
I just realized. I’ve been intermittently blogging now for three years, as of this December past. In that time, I think I’ve remained more or less true to the ‘mission’ of Electric Archaeology – to try out new techs, recount experiments, disseminate my research, in new media for archaeology and history. There have been times when I could post thoughtful, in-depth pieces; and times when I’ve merely passed on the interesting things that have turned up in my inbox. As of this morning according to WordPress, Electric Archaeology has had over 85,000 views, spread across 394 posts. There have been 329 comments made. I have 62 categories – clearly I need some rationalization there.
I sometimes toy with the idea of moving Electric Archaeology to my own space, so I can put some better analytics on it, but for whatever reason, that just doesn’t happen…
The all time most viewed posts on Electric Archaeology (the most recent posts of course are at the bottom, having had less chance to be viewed):
see “Affordable 3D printer: archaeological uses?” for thoughts on this
I’ve always quite enjoyed the work of Terry Pratchett. This Christmas, I was given a copy of his work, with Jacqueline Simpson, about the folklore which Pratchett happily transmogrifies from Earth to the Discworld. It’s quite an interesting book, and as I read the section on the witches of Lancre, it sparked some thoughts.
In Lancre, as on Earth, witches sometimes ‘borrow‘ and or transform themselves into animals. A common story has a hunter shooting a hare or bird, which manages to escape; the next day the local witch will be seen limping or otherwise affected. I never appreciated how widespread that story (and its variants) is (according to Folklore)… and then remembered that we have a variant of our own in this neck of the woods.
In 2007 I was hired to catalogue the intangible heritage of Gatineau Park. One story that I came across (recorded in Up the Gatineau! the journal of the Gatineau Valley Historical Society) was about the witches of Brown’s Lake. Apparently, in the early 20th century, there were two branches of the Brown family, and they were a-feuding. The matriarchs of both branches were acknowledged witches. One day, the one Mrs. Brown was assaulted by a poltergeist in her own house. She eventually was able to find the source of the poltergeist, emanating from under the upstairs bed. She had her son shoot his rifle under the bed, and the paranormal activity ceased. At the exact moment that the rifle went off, the other Mrs. Brown was walking down the road to Wakefield village – and she dropped down dead on the spot.
So now I’m wondering… how widespread is this (dare I use the word) meme? If we mapped it, what patterns would we discover? A story so widespread must mean something? I’ve set up a Google map, with this first information point on it; anyone may edit it. Over time, perhaps something interesting will emerge…
I’ve been a Member of the Institute For Archaeologist (ne Institute of Field Archaeologists) since 2004. This year, I’ve let my membership expire.
Two reasons, really. One, my academic life has been taking me further and further away from what the IFA is about (though I will continue to cheer it from the sidelines); I’m not working in consulting archaeology in the UK, so it seems time to let it go. Two, money is always tight, frankly. Membership dues in pounds sterling paid in C$ can buy other needful things.
I’ve planned a longer meditation on professional bodies, archaeology, Canada, UK, and North America, but I think I’ll let it marinate a bit longer.
‘Bristol Light Cider’ 5.5% al/vol – a product of the Pontiac, Quebec!
It took 20 months, but our family cider mill finally received permission from the provincial government to make, and sell our hard cider! It’s entirely possible to get permission to make cider, but not to sell it… I love officialdom.
When you live in your head as much as the typical academic does, there’s something enormously satisfying in making something with your hands *and* your head.
We haven’t made the official announcement yet, but I was quite excited, hence this post