OurChatSpace OR What Mastodon could do for #HigherEd


What mastodon, and its probable #OurChatSpace spinoffs, could do for #highered

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Our disclaimer runs thusly – even if mastodon is not long for this world, something with similar affordances will/should play into #NGDLE. As a GNU variant, we hope that more platforms and DIY solutions emerge. Our optics are around building competencies for users in environments that (hopefully) add value to people looking to engage and build meaning with others. These pursuits are wrought with challenges, but we need to try and we need to find ways to keep the hate out. So here’s to hoping that there are some venues to rock out to in #highered. We have thrown out the #OurChatSpace idea to create dialogue.

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With the recent release of the code and guts (see what we did there Thanksgivingers?) of Mastodon into the open, we could be looking at a shift in some communication ecosystems in highered. As policy makers across the globe (*waves to #codesign16*) try to decipher what a NGDLE could look like, this is a timely release of what could shape out to be a robust communication and collaboration tool. Of the main elements that have and will make up a learning environment, Mastodon (or variant builds thereof) seems well suited for handling cross-community collaboration.

But before we get ahead of ourselves, what exactly is Mastodon and why might it have such a huge effect?  Well, Mastodon “is a free, open-source social network server. A decentralized alternative to commercial platforms…mastodon.social is an instance of mastodon.” [https://mastodon.social/about] The Terms on the Mastodon site are from 2013 and speak to making users aware of how their data is being used. Looking at the open source code on Github, looks like it is an “alternative implementation of the GNU social project.” [https://gnu.io/social/about/] The man behind it is Eugen @Gargron from Germany (using this handle on Github, Twitter, and, Mastodon). A humble 691 followers on Twitter, his tweets do speak for themselves [https://twitter.com/Gargron]. It seems that a lot of the new action on Mastodon was sparked by this article http://www.dailydot.com/debug/mastodon-open-source-social-media/?tw=dd. And all of this is owed to that mythical oddball/free-thinker/open-advocate Richard Stallman.

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With our backgrounds as Instructional Designers/Technologists/Project Managers, we look at the following uses as potentially tremendously fruitful. These uses are based on the precepts that we can/will pull LDAP data from our college system. Pulling from this data daily (or several times daily), would help with consistency and integrity of the system. Assuming we can do this, the following uses are speculative, but very alluring if we can execute them in a manner similar to Tweetdeck to Hootsuite. Effectively what we are looking at is how to use columns in their most awesome ways. This would be an example of “low input, high impact” principle.

In course/cohort

Every current class a student is enrolled in would have its own column. Students would have the fully customizable/personalizable space to choose which columns are visible and their order. Replacing the discussion forums in a class, students would be able to engage with anyone in their courses, specific assignments by profs could use hashtags as filters. A potential great piece from this would be that past class rosters would be accessible. It would be “easy” to reach back to past classes and ask questions or share something influenced by previous ideas.

“Campus” notes

Every campus we’ve been on has newsletters of different types. In Mastodon you could use 500 characters (with links?) to share what’s happening that day or to promote events. If there’s a time sensitive event you could use this column.

School group/organization/hashtag spaces

This could be personalized and customizable. All of the groups and organizations you belonged to could be in one space. Or they could be separated with hashtags. Instead of managing dozens of emails from different spaces, they could be aggregated here. Depending on the power of your server, this could be very robust spaces.

Private/Public spaces

Institution wide one could be opted in to be able to privately direct message others. There should also be a way to bring public voices into the campus space. If you have an invited speaker, create a space for them to take questions both privately and publicly as well.

These are our initial thoughts. Please share yours in the comments or use #OurChatSpace :)

Hugs to you all!

(this piece was co-written with the lovely @sundilu)

music musings and another #ideavomit

Music is all of the things.


It is the soundtrack and vessel of our other senses tying together moments that we cannot describe without referencing the sounds of our time(s). Sensory memory is so tightly tied to sound that we (or I at least) often recall so many things based on the sounds of our environments. When you make music on any scale – playing around campfires, dining room tables, in bars or bedrooms, through cafes, and/or in recording studios – you become very sensitive to how and where music is processed. Who is listening and how it can be taken into or out of context becomes a habitual part of your life. Again, no matter how much/little you play music it becomes a signal and symbol of who you are and what you believe.

This is what is so disconcerting right now. There is no victory song. Few musicians have stepped out in support of what has been voted into the White House. In fact, many have jumped out to prevent his ascension, complaing that their music is being used without permission. For those whom have voiced their support, they are mostly CORPORATE DERIVATIVE S**T. Yes s**t. They sing in cliches and gender-normativity. Most of their work reinforces patriarchal power and whiteness. What could/should it mean when the artists of our age protest and shy away from our next leader?

If we look at all great art, it is usually a response to great conflict and strife. Despite our (I will align myself begrudgingly with artists for the moment) naval gazing efforts, our work is informed {often primarily and wonderfully} by politics. Or the after affects of political decisions. Or, many other times, reflections of past political events. Or, in the even way MORE AWESOME WAYS, we invoke political change with our songs.

What is entirely sad and challenging throughout this entire campaign has been the lack of arts and humanities in the political narrative. How often were creatives, musicians, and/or artists used when invoking what the world needs now? My current work is trawling talks to find plugs for these types throughout the campaign, and I am mostly coming up empty. And that is horrid.

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Definitely the most thoughtful and effective piece on what has happened comes from A Tribe Called Quest. Their latest “We Got It frrom Here…Thank You 4 Your Service” touches on direct political commentary and critique while also being playful in broad cultural strokes. As a MAWG (Middle Aged White Guy), it is a joy to engage with the ideas on the album and is insightful in many ways. Many of the conversations I lurk on are drivers here and patriarchal power must end. Right?

And to continue my #ideavomit – 3 chords and the truth right? For me, I didn’t really get political music until the first time I heard Fight the Power. As a failing teenager several times in high school, Public Enemy shattered/enlivened my soul. Truro Nova Scotia, where I was living at the time, was/is very white and depressing. One wants to escape and engage a different world. Looking back, my desire to travel/study/live/work in other places started around the same time as when I first heard that song.

But lets step back. To where music is all the things. For those of you who know me, you know I’ve lived all over this planet for extended periods. From the distance over the past 20-ish years, each campaign has had a certain musical feel. If we look at the prez-elect-travesty (PET), we hear nothing. Fair enough, he’s a 70 year old privileged white male so what do you expect? His rhetoric is horrifying in this regard however – have you heard him even mention the arts or music or literature? What percentage of that is of his discourse? Aside, of course, from his recent twitter rant on Hamilton (see below), which is problematic and puzzling.

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There will be no surprises here. If you want to participate in our actions, we need to openly engage and share. Challenges will surmount, but we will create people! We will create sounds that our next leader will be inspired by! Looking back, we will have curated for the next generation(s) pieces that we see as important to further open democracy.

If we are moving into the range of fake news, can we also move into the realm of fake music? Manufactured boy/girl bands? Bon Jovi esque derivative cliches? Hair rock bands with their cliched otherness? Country music with its tropes of god/truck/girl/dog structures? Pop music with its happiness/depression disguised as glee? We need to try harder. We need to make music that uses back against societal repressive norms. We’ve had enough love songs about boy meets girl. We must write songs about boy and girl and all others fight the obvious oppression that comes with Tweets like these:



If we can supposedly “regulate” news media, why do we not do the same with music? Sure self expression is important, but should we not be more choosey about what music/sentiments emerge at different points? How/why do we filter content in interviews with people, but not in songs? And, oh sure, I get how tricky/s**tty this can be, but we need some type of tool(s) don’t we? Most top 40 music continues to perpetuate gender/racial/cultural/relationship stereotypes and this sucks. If we are to try and understand the complexities of our world, we need to recognize the complexities of our many selves. Lets follow more examples like 69 Love Songs and make things that provide optics from as many perspectives as possible. Lets write stories that address the challenges we face as global communities. In short, FFS – LETS DO BETTER!

forever cohen

Leonard bids farewell. I have heard/read a lot of his work and am happy he left us with a great final record “You Want it Darker”.
For those of you who know me, he was a HUGE influence on my world view. My work. My soul.
For me he was equal parts insightful, comical, abstract, personal, sensual, political, spiritual, and really just wonderful. And dark as all get up.
His work has influenced many people I’ve met on different levels. For me, who really started to “understand” poetry because of him – well what do you say about that? But he pushed my mind/self into places that challenged and blew me up. So much so that I have continually loved re-engaging with his new/old work frequently.
Such a soul.
I remember reading his poems in so many different people’s houses throughout my academic career.
I forget where I read this very recently but it was something like: “At 35 Cohen sounded like an old wise soul, now he sounds eternal”. Indeed. As a favour to yourself, go find all of his poems and songs and interviews and all the things he has left us. He was such a great artist. And a kind soul.
So here is my clickbait my friends – my “favourite” five Cohen things and you WON’T BELIEVE NUMBER FIVE! But seriously, I’m leaving out dozens of great things. I could just take pics of all the pages of his books I have on my shelves here, but go find them yo! And I am leaving out so many things (THE FUTURE – SO RELEVANT RIGHT NOW RIGHT?)
1. As the Mist Leaves No Scar – this is where it started for me. If you ever bump into me, I can/will recite this piece because its where my admiration of poetry began. In my 4th year of grade 10. (That’s another story):
3. So Long Marianne live (when he was 80!):
4. Pixies cover I Can’t Forget – for those of you who know me you can guess how messed up I was when the 2 musical/poetical worlds collided:
5. Dear Heather because this guy went so far with experimenting with how beautifully complex our world can be. His approach to things could not be predicted. This is all of the cultural complexities and oddness one might expect from someone who floated in/out/through/with/without/because of/in relation to/exploring what structures of words and sounds could be. Oh. And he did this when he was 70 so if you think experimentation ever ends, Leonard has a solid for you right here:
Farewell Leonard and thank you so much for all you gave.
What were your memories of Leonard Cohen?

An #opened16 #IdeaVomit

img_4175Gardner Campbell’s opening keynote was preceded with a short film he’d made. Divergent and clashing visuals and sounds meant to frame a complex/chaotic story of how @gardnercampbell struggles with his own sense making. Or at least that’s what I thought it was. Amongst the clashes was A LOT of Bob Dylan. Many clips from “No Direction Home” with the highlight (for me at least) when Dylan is asked in a pressing by a photographer to suck his glasses. An awkward moment ensues where Dylan refuses and responds “No, do you want to suck my glasses?” It was right there for me. Our iconic image of Dylan is with those sunglasses, those lenses. How we frame things. Performative natures in our work. How outside forces try to “reframe” our work for us – we push back against their control. We push back. So many of us here and our transformative experiences. Why we do what we do. What stories we want/need to share. Gardner delivered such a riveting talk that the only question from the audience was someone who repeated “would you suck your glasses?” to which he responded, “will you suck my glasses?” It was like a meme in the flesh.

Gardner’s story set a tone for the conference that echoed throughout. People are here because they want to share their stories and learn about other’s stories. Most of the stories I’ve seen are about care and love in the time of great change.

My favourite analogy or metaphor comes from @amcollier’s talk. Presenting on critical instructional design, she referenced the Pont des Arts in Paris where people worldwide share a visible source of their love. They put a padlock on the fence on the bridge to symbolize their love. Its a beautiful mix of different colours and shapes of locks. Its a wonderful way to share with the world. And the weight of the locks is slowly destroying the bridge. What a great image of the way our work can lead to unknown ends.

On the last day of the conference Sara Goldrick-Rab! If you missed, I’ll leave you with Dave Kernohan’s notes from her talk. It was amazing and terrifying at the same time. Stories of a few students and their harrowing journey in/through/out-of higher ed.

Also, I went to a panel where student projects were shared and the focus was on agency. Each of the students shared unique stories of projects they’ve worked on. My main take away was from Erika Bullock? – how do you make someone care? We can do whatever we want to help shape your digital identity, but if you don’t have an audience or a final space for your projects what do you do? How do you share your story? She shared my favourite slide of #opened16 as well :)

To sum up, in a scattered way: I am having all the feels! Those of you’ve I’ve shared time with – thank you so much. Those I haven’t – lets hang on teh twitterz or some such :) Although this is my first Open Education conference, I feel like I’ve been here for years. Virtually I have been here a few times and I have met many of you in this crowd. Its been wonderful and frustrating at the same time meeting so many people. Hearing your stories, sharing some of mine, and even rocking out a couple of songs with strangers in front of a wonderful crowd. I will definitely be back and look forward to more of your stories.

Thanks for all teh awesomez peepz!

What are your stories from #opened16? Add a comment or shout on teh twitterz to @daniellynds with the hashtagz!