I’ve been seeing a lot of energy online about bringing the old web back, or bringing the humanity back to the web, or just trying to make some art, dammit. So, here’s my part. This blog is my corner of the World Wide Web. Of the non-corporate, non-monetized, non-advertised, non-user-tracked, human-scale online experience. I haven’t been blogging, partially because I’ve been holding back due to Not Having Anything Profound to Share™. But that’s not how the blogosphere works, so I’m going to make an effort to post more. Maybe I’ll start up the weekly recaps or something, too. Who knows? I have been pretty good about the daily photos thing though…
I spent the last several years pouring all of my thinking and writing and effort into finishing a dissertation. Now that that’s in the bag, I feel as though I’m slowly starting to come back to myself, to recover a bit of myself, and to slowly stretch and blink and start to think about what comes next (I have no idea, and have no plans other than to continue working with the best team I’ve ever worked with.
What do I see, now that I’m seeing things again?
I’m intentionally avoiding writing about the elephant in the room, Putin’s illegal war, genocide, ecocide, whatever-history-will-call-it. Slava Ukraini, and for christ’s sake can we stop with the trickle-feeding of support and just give Ukraine what they need in order to protect themselves rather than slowly adding things months after they would have made a difference?
Anyway, on to the trivial things back home.
Mastodon feels like it’s maturing a bit - it’s calming down from the rush, post-Elon. And Elon is doubling down on doing everything he can to kill Twitter. Which begs the question of what his end-game is. Which is another reason I will always remain wary of corporate platforms - even if they seem cool when you sign up, things can and do change unilaterally.
Speaking of which. Reddit - a silo, sure, but an “open” one that became the closest thing I’ve seen to a true commons of communities on the internet - is in the process of self-immolation in service of its impending IPO. I’ve deleted my 11-year-old Reddit account with something like 23K karma (on the internet, the points are made up). I may create another one if the company turns back from enshittification. I’m not holding my breath.
Apple finally announced their goggle-thing. “Spatial Computing” looks really compelling, and the hardware is top-notch, I’m sure. It looks like what this stuff has been trying to be for years, but never quite clicked. Turns out, when you can throw 12 cameras and 2 custom chips and 2 4K displays into a pair of ski goggles and paste another display on the outside, some interesting things become possible. It’s insanely expensive for now (Vision Pro is the Pro model, probably 4x what the Air model will be, a couple of years from now) - but I know of many research labs who have spent orders of magnitude more than that on gear that is laughably clumsy and obsolete in comparison. I used the Pixel VR thing back in 2017, and boy howdy did it suck.
I do wonder how this new model of spatial computing will integrate inclusivity from the beginning - a visually spatial computing environment seems like it might be problematic for people with visual challenges. The web is a visual medium, but screenreaders work well. How would accessibility be handled in VR/AR/Spatial? I’m currently reading Hendren’s What Can a Body Do? and it talks about meeting a group of blind students at Gallaudet University, and how blind students use sound in a spatial way - how will spatial computing adapt for something like that?
I missed the whole Reclaim Open conference recently - even though it was a hybrid event (at UMW in Freddie, and online in Discord), I just didn’t have it in me at the time to be wrapping up work before taking a week off. I’m sorry. I’m just so profoundly exhausted that I couldn’t add it on top of the rest of it all. I wish I’d have had the forethought/time/budget to have made the trip to UMW for the conference, though. It sounds like it was exactly the kind of soul-nourishing event I’m craving now. A Northern Voice, reborn (although, even NV enshittified itself, which is why I stopped going to that back in the day…)
So. What now? For the short term, I’ve been putzing around with my blog/website, making it work the way I want it to. It’s a place where I can build things - even if it’s just tweaking things - without having to worry about Change Windows or Change Management Processes or Test vs. Production or or or. I love how flexible Hugo is, and I also love - following a theme that came out of Reclaim Open (from what I hear, Tom Woodward’s “Your website is a slow, bloated, carbon-belching monstrosity” session was awesome) - that it’s a low-energy and long-term hosting kind of thing. It uses next to nothing to host this website, depends on almost no server infrastructure, and the whole thing is published from my laptop in seconds and then uploaded to my Reclaim Hosting server (Gyrus!) as static files. Static files FTW!
Panning out a bit, I’ll be focussing even more on learning spaces. On the design, implementation, support, evaluation, and lifecycle of physical, digital, and online learning spaces. This will be a core focus of my work for the next few years, and I’m hoping to be able to use my dissertation research to help guide that work. I also want to plan some research projects for our work in the TI and across UCalgary.
To support that, I’ll be travelling to Cleveland in early August for the SCUP 2023 annual conference1. And am looking forward to meeting up with Bryan Alexander there! I was at the 2022 conference, and it really helped to connect my work to that of planners and architects across North America.
I’m also going to be working to find ways to help shift my institution toward more of a flexible, ecosystem-based model and away from rigid monoliths. I think there is a huge appetite for that shift, but it will be a long process. One that, I hope, will be worth it because it will generate a much richer teaching and learning experience for our community.
And, maybe most importantly, I’m going to try to be kinder to myself. I think I’m pretty kind and understanding with the people I live and work with, but I have a horrible pattern of not extending the same kindness and understanding to myself. I’ve gone through an incredibly taxing period over the last few years - extreme highs and lows on a number of fronts - and I need to be mindful of that in my approach to work and life in general2.
Anyway. There endeth the post.
I will be making a stronger stance against travelling to states that have legislation that is hostile to women - I neglected to pay attention to that before committing to go to this year’s conference. I won’t be going next year, unless it’s in a place that is safe for all participants. Ohio’s 6-week abortion ban is currently blocked because of ongoing litigation, but that could resolve at any time. Conferences should not select host cities where participants will be at risk. ↩︎
even this post is kind of a whistling-past kind of thing, distracting myself from some potentially-not-awesome health news by writing a blog post instead of, say, doing yoga or meditating or going for a walk or or or… ↩︎