Beki Grinter

Archive for the ‘DRAFT’ Category

10 Reasons People Fail to get a Ph.D.

In DRAFT on January 18, 2012 at 11:36 am

list of reasons people fail to get a Ph.D., I can think of others but those are largely circumstances beyond an individual’s control. This list focuses on things you can control, but require discipline to do so.


C21U Launch

In DRAFT on September 27, 2011 at 8:37 pm

Today I attended the C21U launch event. C21U is Richard DeMillo’s new center, focused on the future of the University. The launch event was keynoted by Jonathan Cole (former Provost at Columbia an author of the Great American University).

After his keynote and some remarks by Rich about the center, there was a panel on the future of higher education with Jonathan Cole, Stephen Cross (Executive Vice President for Research, GT), Devin Fidler (Institute for the Future), Alan Kay (President, Viewpoints Research Institute), Roger Schank (Executive Director and Founder of Engines for Education Inc, and Chairman and CEO of Socratic Arts, Inc) and Lynne Weisenbach (Vice Chancellor, Educator Preparation, University System of Georgia). The panel was moderated by Jeffrey Selingo (Editor of the Chronicle of Higher Education).

As I said, the focus was on the future of Higher Education, a future that I’m particularly vested in. I think Jonathan Cole got at the heart of a paradox, which is that for all the successes of American Universities, they have never been the subject of as much discussion about their future, and whether it’s in peril or not as now. What’s the role of technology? What’s the role of a University? What is education? Whom do we serve and why? Are the expectations of our multiple constituencies aligned, and if not where not? These were all questions I heard today. I was glad to be there. When the materials are available online (above) its worth a watch. There will be disagreements, but as one of the panelists put it, if the extreme things aren’t said how can they be thought about in discourse.

A Teaching Philosophy

In DRAFT on September 22, 2011 at 1:33 pm

From the Chronicle of Higher Education, a piece on teaching philosophy.

I resonate very strongly with the idea that teaching is a performance and the more you put in, the more the students and instructor get out of it. I think that my viewing it as a performance is why I get so nervous right before the first class. Who are the audience? Will they respond? They’re a new to me. The source of my anxieties.

And I find myself agreeing with the last part too. At the end of the semester I don’t like to say goodbye (although I am usually pretty exhausted with the semester) but the routine encounters are hard to let go of. They’ve become part of my weekly patterns. I’ve learned what to expect of them. I know who will laugh if I make joke, and who won’t. Who’ll stay behind to talk to me, and likely what they will talk about. Through their assignments and projects I get glimpses into their interests and passions, and less often insight into domains of non-passion.

I’m glad someone’s written this. Good teaching obviously begins with mastery of the material, but it doesn’t end there. It ends with a whole set of human-centered concerns, the ones that give the richness of face to face teaching its values, once those nerves abate.

Slow Science

In DRAFT on August 4, 2011 at 11:01 am

I’ve just found out about the Slow Science movement. Their argument, which is fairly thin on the ground at this point (perhaps they are taking time to think about it), is that Science has been sped up too much and actually needs to precede more slowly. There are critiques from Scientific American and the Atlantic which I thought were more thoughtful, because they go into more detail about what might be both good and problematic about the slow science movement’s stance.

I found reading these to be a good pause and think moment and an opportunity to reflect once again not just on what we do, but how we do it, the circumstances in which it is done (the resources, the institutions) all of which influence the outcomes. If I have a critique of the slow science movement is that the critiques of it do a better job of surfacing the context in which science occurs than the Slow Science movement. And also that without that contextualization, the Slow Science movement seems to suggest some independence from those contexts.

A Call for Immigration Reform:

In DRAFT on July 29, 2011 at 1:22 pm

Whoever posts Barack Obama’s Facebook statuses posted this today:

Quote of the day: “Immigrants today have great ideas that can change the world. The question is whether they will develop them in the United States or somewhere else. Our immigration system should be designed to encourage talented people to study in the United States and start companies here.”—Austan Goolsbee, Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, on the need for comprehensive immigration reform

Sounds great. But every action that Washington takes (and those they fail to take) around the debt ceiling convinces me that this Congress in particular can’t tackle anything as substantive as immigration reform because to do that they’d would have to be willing to negotiate, listen and compromise. I fear that immigration reform discourse devolve into the same old tropes regardless of whether they are the actual problems. As a fairly new American this realization disappoints me more than anything else.

When not to Design

In DRAFT on July 28, 2011 at 9:28 am

I just finished reading (finally) Baumer and Silberman’s CHI 2011 note “When the Implication is not to Design (Technology).” I should say from the outset that I thought their treatment of Susan’s research was very thoughtful and thought-provoking, as well as kind. But I liked the paper even without that extra plus. I’ve been wondering for a while what the boundaries of HCI research might be. Where should we stop? That’s the question I see them taking up. I liked their questions to ask to think through the question of whether a novel technology is useful.

Of course, and as they also point out, it might be worth building that system anyway, but not for usefulness perse, but for a demonstration and proof of a different technical concept/approach/technique. Even though I am far more involved in empirical HCI, I think usefulness is sometimes harmful. (Hmm… useful considered harmful…). There are other outcomes for HCI. Learning in any form about the human-technology experience and what it takes to create, sustain, evolve, etc…

Finally it reminded me about failures. I’ve been reading up in the area of ICTD. A number of scholars have called for more studies of failure. This paper makes the same claim for HCI. I agree. If we are really interested in the human experience of technology then understanding how we, and others, continue to create poor examples, despite what we have learned, seems interesting to me. Indeed, I wonder whether we can ever really eradicate failures, or whether we can only come to predict them with more accuracy and timeliness.

HCIC: Domains of Influence?

In DRAFT on July 7, 2011 at 4:35 am

I recently attended the Human Computer Interaction Consortium (HCIC) meeting at Asilomar, California. The last two years have been devoted to discussing the many different “ways of knowing” within HCI. I interpreted that, hopefully correctly, as understanding the methodological diversity that comprises HCI.

During the workshop I learnt about the importance of disciplinary location. It matters to people that HCI exist within a broader discipline, and that can be Computer Science, Information, and likely others. It’s taken me a while to process this, but it now strikes me that perhaps HCIC should consider a ways of knowing workshop that is about how disciplinary location shapes problem formulation and solution.

I offer myself as a modest example. When I was an HCI researcher in Software Engineering, I was very influenced by the domain of Software Engineering in problem formulation. Reflecting on this and the problems I have worked on, I would say that I have been more influenced by my disciplinary location and who was nearby than methods. Indeed, the methods I have used to solve problems has probably changed less.

I am now in a School of Interactive Computing, and in a College of Computing. That continues to influence what interests me, where I see opportunities. I wonder what it would be to have people come talk about their inspirations based on their disciplinary location.

Good Beer and Strange Plumbing

In DRAFT on June 30, 2011 at 3:32 pm

I’m packing in preparation for travel to England tomorrow. Clearly the beer is obvious. It requires no explanation to defend the virtues of a real pint.But strange plumbing might.It’s my experience that every single shower in the United Kindgom has a unique mode of operation. Quite frequently this involves enough knobs and dials that one is unclear whether one is attempting to shower or actually participating in the next launch of some rocket. My least favourite of all the settings is the one that the nanny state has provided to tell you how hot it’s going to be… although sometimes after 15-20 minutes of fiddling around with it, you can sometimes get it hotter. And this is important because that is the route to getting a hot shower. The nanny state prefers tepid. I just don’t want the Government in my shower (does that make me a libertarian?).

Which is not a problem in my parent’s “guest shower” which maybe the pinnacle of eccentricity. The “guest shower” is approximately 1 square foot. You think I joke, but it is quite hard to move your arms in such a way that you can rub in shampoo. Another “feature” of this shower is that the hot water appears to be hooked up to a boiler in Eaton (the next village on from Cringleford). You turn the shower on, and then wait, and wait, and wait. I know a thousand environmentalists are weeping as they read this. Fortunately it is the guest shower so it’s not used too often, and my parents are trying to redeem themselves by disconnecting their exterior gutters from the drains and diverting all the water that comes in into a large barrel (thank you local brewery). So if you wondered, no we’re not brewing at my house, we’re just watering the lawn.

So after some time you get hot water (their defence for this is that life is slower in Norfolk and good things are worth waiting for). And it is hot. So you attempt to mix the controls to bring in some cold water. They were set very approximately and apparently like to move around during the course of the shower. So after waiting it is an incentive to get done in less than 2 minutes in which you will have experienced hot, cold, and everything else in between.

I think this shower may win an award for its eccentricity. But despite that, I’m so excited to go, looking forward to seeing them, sampling life in Norfolk which is a bootiful county… I guess I am a Norfolk lass.

WEIRD People: Why American Undergraduates are not the World

In DRAFT on September 1, 2010 at 11:18 am

I’ve been catching up on some of my backlog of reading (I think I have a perpetual backlog of reading, but now that I’ve just finished Gilly Leshed and Phoebe Senger’s CHI 2011 paper on the culture of busyness, I am more aware of how that is part of my identity).

Today I want to talk about being WEIRD. WEIRD stands for Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich and Democratic populations. And the reason I want to discuss it is that being weird was the subject of a fairly recent publication and associated opinion/news pieces. Three psychologists from the University of British Columbia in Canada argue that while much research on human behaviour and psychology has assumed that the characteristics of WEIRD that assumption is problematic.

Citing a 2008 survey they argue that in top psychology journals 96% of all subjects in trials were WEIRD. And further, that the results claimed as a result rarely considered the limits of generalizability from this population. They go on to argue that like anthropologists have long known, that psychologists need to spend more time on experimentation outside of the classic WEIRD populations, and especially American undergraduates. They also recommend that funding agencies take culturally different experiments more seriously in their funding proposals and recommendations.

I’m excited by this recommendation and I think what HCI which draws on psychology, anthropology and other disciplines in its empirical approaches, is well positioned to be a part of the post-WEIRD research world. Whether it be studying ICTs in the Global South or cultural coordination among collaborative workgroups, I think we’re already paying attention to what the scope of the WEIRD is. It’s just good to hear calls from Psychology that we should attend to the WEIRD and think in global different terms. I also like the idea of studying non-WEIRD populations and calling the population that is normally underspecified, WEIRD.