Quote from Edward Snowden's Permanent Record

There is something both strange and familiar about Permanent Record, Edward Snowden’s autobiography. The book traces Snowden’s story to now. Whether it is being mesmerised by his father’s Commodore 64, pulling apart a Nintendo as a six year old, growing up online, hacking his education by acing tests, but refusing to submit homework, automating work wherever possible or teaching others about the web, each act recounted is seemingly fated to produce the same extricable outcome – Snowden’s revelations NSA’s surveillance of the world and his life since.

Although raised in a world away from my own, there was something relate-able about growing up during the same time. Whether it be my own hand-me-down Apple IIe and then a Nintendo, I too was lucky enough to grow up with and alongside technology. However, I have never quite taken this fascination to the point where I truly appreciate the ghosts in the machine as Snowden has. Although venturing on the web at school and tinkered with my own computer, my family did not get the internet til late and I did not really grow-up in message boards. There seems to be something privileged about those who were on the early web. This maybe what helped created the close sense of community. (Listen to Howard Rheingold’s interview on the Modern Learners Podcast for an example.)

Although Permanent Record talks a lot about technology, it is far from just another technological book. Even with the discussions about privacy, content and metadata, this is not so much about ‘how to’, but rather a why. For me, the book is first and fore-mostly about humans, society and democracy. Therefore, I think it is best considered as a meditation on the world we want today and tomorrow.


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flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC ) license

I remember when, while still studying at university, I attended my first educational conference. It was the History Teachers Association National Conference. Being new, I had no idea how to choose what sessions to attend. That is how I ended up in a session reviewing the recent changes to the senior syllabus. To add to matters, I walked in late and the session had already started. There were comments being thrown around left, right and centre. On one hand I felt lost and out of place, but on the other hand it demonstrated to me what was required, both in regards to appreciation of the complexity of the curriculum, as well as the work I still needed to do in order to get my head around the topic. I had a similar feeling reading Cory Doctorow’s book Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free – Laws for the Internet Age.

Author, blogger and activitst, Doctorow provides a vision of now. Along with critics such as Quinn Norton and Audrey Watters, he captures a dystopian side of technology too often overlooked in the mainstream media. Although there are those such as Sherry Turkle who highlight the negative impacts of technology, Doctorow focuses on the choices that are so often dictated onto society by governments and large corporations.

Influenced by Arthur C. Clarke, Doctorow frames this discussion around three ‘laws’:

  1. Any time someone puts a lock on something that belongs to you and wont give you the keys that lock isnt there for your benefit.
  2. Fame won’t make you rich, but you can’t get paid without it.
  3. Information doesn’t want to be free, people do.

Through his investigations he touches on how coding works, including ways it can be broken, and why the use of digital locks, hidden code and DRM is a problem, not a solution. He talks about how with access to the biggest audience machine ever a little bit of fame can go a long way. However, this can also lead us into the trap of handing over rights to our work in the name of popularity and promotion. Doctorow also addresses the place of copyright in a digital age, exploring aspects, such as censorship, remixes, national firewalls and the spread of ideas.

Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free: Laws for the Internet Age does not make the claim, like some, that ‘Google’ is making us dumb, rather that corporations are creating a world that restricts our freedoms and limits our privacy. The concern is not the strangers online supposedly waiting for prey to stalk upon, but 1’s and 0’s mined unbeknownst to us by online companies. Although there is a lot of fear associated with all of this, it does not have to be that way and Doctorow is keen to point out that there is still hope. The question though is what tomorrow are we willing to fight for? This is an important read not only to appreciate the world that we are in, but to build an awareness of the impact of the choices made either by us or for us each and every day.

Here is a collection of quotes for a different perspective on the book:


While for those interested in Doctorow’s ideas, I recommend the following videos:



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flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

It is coming up to a year now since I made the move from Blogger to WordPress via Reclaim Hosting. I have been asked by many about why I changed, what was involved and what my experiences have been. I thought that now would be as good a time as ever to take stock and reflect on my experience so far.


I came upon Reclaim Hosting via the generous sharing as a part of Connected Courses.

Although I received some warnings in regards to the risks involved in setting up my own space:

 

Thankfully, I am still hear and blogging away. The question though that I keep getting asked is what have been my experiences.

Here then is a list of my thoughts and reflections:

CHANGING SPACES

The first concern that I often get asked is transferring content from one space to another. The reality is it took about five minutes. The only issue I had was with tags and categories. However, tags can be selectively converted to categories using the tag to category converter.

MORE THAN MONEY

There is really no comparison in regards to cost between paying for something like wordpress.com and Reclaim. To be honest, if you were choosing the cheaper option, you would probably go with Reclaim. Not only is it affordable, but also includes free domain registration. One thing I had to consider is that the space is limited (2gb). However, this is the same with most spaces. The answer is to learn to store content elsewhere – such as Amazon, Scribd, Youtube and Flickr – and embedding it.

CHOOSING A THEME

One of the complaints that I have heard people complain about is the lack of flexibility or the requirement to pay for something that you are not even sure about. I have found that there are so many more options out there when running WordPress.org, most of which are unavailable within wordpress.com. The hardest thing is then finding the right one. Inspired by a post from Alan Levine, I went with Moesia for Readwriterespond, while in a site a created DigiCon15 I used Asteria Lite.

IMPROVING MY WORKFLOW

It is really interesting working with both Edublogs at school and my own installation of WordPress here. Although in many respects they are both the same, I have been forced to rethink many of the solutions that I have developed for my own blog. Some of the plugins that I have come to depend upon within wordpress.org include:

  • Creative Commons Configurator: This allows you to set the Creative Commons license for each of your posts.
  • Automatic Post Thumbnail: One of the catches with many themes is that they depend on a featured image. Using Flickr and Alan Levine’s Attribution Helper for my images, the plugin makes the first image used ‘featured’.
  • Jetpack: This provides a means of measuring statistics and connecting with the wider WordPress family. I must admit, I have stopped measuring the statistics , but still find it useful when connecting. Plus, Alan Levine shared that removing Jetpack wrecked his theme, so warned against it.
  • WordPress Backup to Dropbox: I must admit, I could do a better job at backing up, so a plugin that does it for me is priceless.

WORLD CLASS SUPPORT

The thing that I will say has been the best to moving to Reclaim is the amount of support. Whether it be touching base to check how I was settling or promptly responding to questions, I am always astounded at how quickly I get responses. Jim Groom recently reflected on the level that they set. What I love the most is the feeling that no question is too small and that, as Jim Groom explains, it all comes back to helping others make sense of the web.

LEAD LEARNER

All the talk at the moment seems to be about computational thinking. For some this is just another word for coding, but to me it is about developing an awareness about how things work. Not just knowing that the internet is built with code, but what this actually means. I find the best way to develop awareness is through the act of tinkering and creation. Whether it is exploring Known or exploring the limits of the platform, owning your own space is a great learning experience, what Jim Groom describes as a return of teaching and learning to the scale of the individual.

HURDLES REMOVED

Although other spaces can be easy to create, using templates and so forth, they soon become complex though when trying to co-claim that content. Not only does the team at Reclaim support you with whatever content you are bringing across, but they are just as supportive in regards to taking it out again.

SUB-DOMAINS

One of the other benefits I have found to owning my own domain is the opportunity to create sub-domains. This can include creating different sites or redirects. Alice Keeler provides a great explanation of this.


I am sure that there are things that I have missed, but this is at least a start. What about you? Have you made the move to own your own space on the web? What have been your challenges? Experience? Benefits? As always, comments welcome.

For more on Reclaim, I recommend checking out Tim Owens introduction.


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