Monday, December 9, 2013

One more extra credit opportunity

When this class began I mentioned to you all that even though it was titled "the information society," I was going to refuse to give you an easy definition of that term, since the whole point of the class was to consider all the diverse and sometimes contradictory aspects of technology, knowledge, and social life that might fit into that concept.  Well, anyway, here we are at the end of the semester and I wonder if you have any better idea of what "the information society" is all about than when you started.  

It would be easy for me to ask you to write a 250-word blog post arguing for one particular definition of "the information society" for 0.5 points of extra credit.  But in this class we don't take the easy way out.  No, we push ourselves to imagine and communicate in new ways.  So here's your extra credit challenge:

(1) Draw a picture that encapsulates your view of "the information society."  Be creative.  Maybe use some color?  "Picture" means anything visual; diagrams or graphs or comics are all OK.  Labels and arrows and stick people are fine.  So what if you aren't an artist?  You don't have to be Lynda Barry to do this.  But I do want it to be hand-drawn.

(2) Digitize that picture (scan, photograph, hand-trace using a digitizing stylus, whatever) and upload it in a post to your discussion section weblog.

(3) In that same post, write a 250-word explanation or justification of your picture (you didn't think I'd let you get away with not writing, did you?).

This is worth 0.5 points of extra credit if you get it done by the end of this week, or Friday December 13 at 5pm central time.  

This week in LIS 201 (week 15)

Week 15: Student presentations


  • Each TA will submit one student presentation for screening before the whole course. You may bring snacks if you like.
  • Last fifteen minutes: Fill out overall course evaluation (professor leaves room).


  • Work on your multimedia book review and bring your questions to section.
  • If problems with your slide show were discovered when screened by your TA, fix them and repost.  You must have a working slide show to receive credit for the assignment.


  • First five minutes: Make-up quiz! (Only if you missed one of the regularly-scheduled quizzes with an excused absence.)
  • Workshop for the final analytic, multimedia book review.
  • Last ten minutes: Fill out discussion section evaluations (TA leaves room).

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

This week in LIS 201 (week 14)



  • Same format as last exam.


  • None.  (Not yet, anyway.)


  • Begin work on your multimedia book review.


  • Continue to screen the remainder of the slideshow presentations and discuss them.
  • Discuss strategies for multimedia book review project.
  • Graded paper #2 handed back to students.
  • Graded exam #2 handed back to students.


For your last online activity, you will reflect on your own online experience in this course.
  • The "hybrid" or "blended" course approach of LIS 201 — combining in-person lecture, in-person discussion section, and online activity and writing — is an increasingly popular mode of educational delivery in higher education. Do a web search and see if you can find a few other examples of hybrid/blended courses, either at UW-Madison or at other universities. How do these examples differ from our approach in LIS 201?
  • Think about your own experience with this course. For example: Did the online portions connect with the in-person portions? Did you feel that you were a more effective student in the physical world or the virtual world? Were you able to learn more about your fellow students from online or offline (face-to-face) interactions? Do you feel more comfortable now with online resources like blogs and wikis than you did before taking this course? Should UW instructors increase their use of online components in courses, or should we proceed with greater caution?
  • Finally, think about the substantive material from the lectures and readings on the information society that you've worked with all semester long. Did the course lectures and readings bring a better perspective to your own online experiences, both in this course and in your personal life? Or another way of thinking about it — would online course components work differently in a course that wasn't all about the online world of information?
  • Write up your findings and your reactions on your discussion section weblog. Be honest, it's OK.
  • Comment on at least one other student's posting.
  • You must finish this online activity before next week's lecture.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Proud of your Ignite presentation? Submit it to the Digital Salon!

Fall deadline: Friday, December 11, 2013.
Submission form:
The UW-Madison Libraries and DesignLab will host the fifth annual Digital Salon, a one-week exhibition of digital media projects by UW undergraduate and graduate students from Sunday, April 6 through Saturday, April 12, 2014.  This exhibition of new media projects showcases artistic and research-based projects that take digital form or rely heavily on information technology in the production process. Work might include podcasts, experimental videos, animations, graphic essays, websites, blogs, multimedia installations, posters, etc.  
  • Digital Salon projects will be curated by a committee of UW-Madison faculty and staff 
  • Projects will be exhibited in College Library's Open Book Café and online
  • The Curation Committee will recognize best projects in several categories. 
Work from previous exhibitions can be visited online:
This year, there will be two rounds of submissions, one in the Fall and another in the Spring.  The Fall deadline is Wednesday, December 11, 2013 and students will be contacted around January 21, 2014 to let them know whether their project has been selected for inclusion in the Digital Salon exhibition.  The Spring deadline of March 12, 2014 is intended to increase participation from students in spring courses.  Both Fall and Spring submissions will be included in the April 6-12, 2014 exhibition. 
For more information visit the Digital Salon website at or contact

Looking for a Spring 2014 course?

Here is a suggestion for students now registering for Spring 2014 courses.
LIS 351: Introduction to Digital Information
TuTh 8:50AM - 9:40AM plus computer lab
Professor Eschenfelder

Description: A three credit service learning course developed for Digital Studies certificate students and non-computing majors where students will learn to create websites and understand how they work across computers, phones and other digital devices, understand and build databases, learn how search engines work behind the scenes, and work with a real client to learn project management and build communication skills.

Who should take this course?
    People interested in learning about information technologies to solve problems and help people.  (No prior technological expertise required!)
    People who are interested in solving information overload and information access problems.
    Digital Studies Certificate students looking to fulfill their "Digital Information Structures (I) or "Digital Media Practice  (P) requirement for the Digital Studies certificate.
Priority registration for Digital Studies certificate students
Learn more at

Tuesday, November 19, 2013


LIS 201 students: 

You've been working hard all semester and I appreciate it.  Today after lecture your wise TAs convinced me that a small reward might be in order.  So ...



Of course, now you have to study for the exam over the Thanksgiving holiday, though!

P.S. As a small concession, I will NOT be releasing the exam terms this Friday, but will release them next Tuesday at the latest.  

Have a safe and happy holiday next week,

This week in LIS 201 (week 12)

Week 12: Sustainable information infrastructure


  • We'll consider the global environmental impact of the information society.



  • Post your five-minute slideshow presentation to your personal wiki page. This must be a working presentation; in other words, once your TA downloads it and clicks on it, it should open up and play with both images and narration.


  • You will begin to screen the slideshow presentations and talk about them.
  • Your TA will save some time at the end of class to discuss the upcoming second midterm.


This week you will review and revise your previous blog postings to think about the online "voice" that you have developed over the course of this semester, and how that differs from the voice you construct for yourself through written and print materials.
  • Go back through your discussion section blog and copy out every single entry you have posted for these weekly online assignments all semester long, pasting them all into a single word processing document, one by one, with the title and date indicated for each entry.  (You don't have to include the comments you left on other students' blog posts -- just your own main blog posts.) 
  • Then go through and proofread this big compendium of blog posts.  Check all of your spelling and grammar.  Make sure you have written in complete sentences all the way through.  Add paragraph breaks if appropriate.  And make sure you have correctly spelled/identified any authors' names you have reference. Your goal is ZERO MISTAKES.
  • Format this blog post compendium document as a regular writing assignment -- with 12-point Times or Times Roman font, one-inch margins, and double spacing -- and print it out so you can hand it in to your TA at the next discussion section.  You will want to read over it one more time in printed form, because you will probably catch some last-minute typos if you do. 
  • Finally, write a NEW blog post back on your discussion section blog discussing how you have presented yourself through your online writing in the class so far, and whether that is the same way that you present yourself in other aspects of your scholarly career in LIS 201 (eg. in person in discussion section, through your formal written assignments, and/or through your work on exams).  Which of your self-presentations is the most "true" or the most effective?  Which showcases your talents the best? 


Friday, November 15, 2013

Audio Issues?

For the Ignite presentation, I was not able to get my audio to play once I uploaded my presentation to the Wiki.  I don't know if anyone else had this issue as well, but if you did…

I found that if you
1) save the slide show as a movie
2) import this movie into iMovie

...then you can add songs from iTunes and record the narration on top of the powerpoint video using iMovie.  (This should also work with Windows Movie Maker.)  

I'm not sure if there is an easier way to get the audio to work when it is downloaded from the Wiki, but I just thought I would share!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

This week in LIS 201 (week 11)

Week 11: Games, simulations, and avatars


  • Video games



  • If it's your turn to write a 500-word article critique, you must post this to your section blog before your section meets.
  • If it's your week to give a speech, prepare and practice!  Otherwise, prepare for a possible extemporaneous speech response.
  • Upload a working "skeleton file" of your slideshow presentation to your discussion section wiki, and make a link to your personal wiki page. This should be a PowerPoint file that has all the timings correct for the Ignite presentation, with 15-second auto-advance of the slides.


  • First five minutes: Pop quiz? Maybe!
  • Two student presentations (# 17 and #18) on the readings (and two student extemporaneous responses).  These should be the last article speeches of the semester.
  • Discuss this week's lecture and required readings.
  • Discuss your book slideshow project.


This weekend you'll explore the phenomenon of creating online characters representing human identity through textual or graphical means, called "avatars."

  • Read this short selection from Neal Stephenson's early-1990s book Snow Crash in which the main character, Hiro Protagonist (get it?) visits an online world called the "Metaverse."
  • Now visit the Second Life web site and download the necessary software to create an avatar of your own. Or if you're a member of another online community or online game (like "World of Warcraft") you may use an avatar from that system. (Or you may want to simply create a rather cartoonish avatar like the ones available on the Nintendo Wii system, which you can do here.)
  • Read through this photoessay on people and their cyberspace avatars from the New York Times and think about the different ways that people choose to represent themselves online.
  • Post a screen capture image of your Second Life, WoW, Wii, or other avatar to your discussion section blog, and write a bit about the process of creating this avatar. Did you try to represent yourself, or split from your real life persona? Was it easy to create an avatar, or did you feel limited by the range of options? How are race and gender and ethnicity and other markers of "difference" present or not present in your avatar?
  • Take a look at the other avatars your fellow students have posted, and comment on at least one of them. 
  • You must finish this online activity before next week's lecture.


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Military Gamification

Leaving lecture on Tuesday, we were left to think about the video shown at the end of class that depicted a "gamified" military. I (and I'm sure many of you) was left with many thoughts and opinions about this video and its message, which we unfortunately did not have time to discuss.

One particularly striking image was the action figure that resembled one of the soldiers. My first reaction was that this was trivializing our military—turning it into something young children can play ‘pretend’ at in their living rooms. However, upon further thought, it struck me that maybe it’s better to have our society’s children playing with figures that represent real American heroes—rather than the fictional super ones they play with now.

While these action figures represent ‘play’, the video game created by the US Army (called "American Army") better reflects the virtual gamification we talked about in class. Again, I was struck by how this seems to trivialize the actions of our military—as if anyone can just pick up a controller and be just as skilled as a trained soldier. However, I began to think how this game might compare to other “military” games that are not actually sponsored by the military (COD, Arma III, etc.) If the military is in effect ALREADY being turned into a game, maybe it’s best for the actual Army to get into this market (though they sell the games for free) and provide a more accurate depiction.

I’m curious how others of you responded to this video. What is the proper balance that allows the average American to be informed about the workings of the Military, without trivializing it, and how does technology fit into this balance?  

In case you're interested, here is the link to the official website of the video game:

Monday, November 11, 2013

Thoughts about Foxcunn Suicides

In the lecture this week, professor Downey talked about the controversy of one of Apple’s biggest suppliers Foxconn. He also mentioned the Foxconn suicides occurred 3 years ago when several employees jumped off the dorms. I happened to follow the news in 2010, and by reviewing the tragedy now, I find it still worth of studying under the topic of information society.

Who is responsible for these people?
Apple’s Perspective:
Although Apple has its Supplier Responsibility clearly stated “Ending excessive work hours”, it seems that overworking is quite common in Apple’s suppliers’ factories. Although as a profitable company, Apple could claim it is the supplier's fault, but as said in class, it is possible for Apple to enforce its protocol. However, who wants to cut off the profit?!

Foxcunn’s Perspective:
As a major manufacturer for Apple and other digital device companies, there is little doubt that Foxcunn also aims at profit. Placing its major factories in developing countries like China, it gains the freedom of overwork its employees without being confronted by the labor union. The flexibility of Foxcunn is what makes it truly valuable to Apple, and what makes it a “labor camp”.

Employees’ Perspective:
Many people who work at Foxcunn are from the rural area, who may not have the chance to go to college and receive higher education. The working condition in Foxcunn may not be the best, but it does offer them opportunities to stay in big cities. What makes them desperate is possibly not the living condition, but the monotonous way of working (which requires the employees to do the same kind of simple task for hours everyday), the lack of social connection (since they spend over 10 hours a day at the assembly line) as well as the disillusion of city dream (in which everything should be glamorous and surreal).

Customers’ Perspective:
To be realistic, as an Apple customer myself, I don’t think I ever thought about the labor process behind the digital devices when I got them. However, it is not an excuse to overlook the problem and hold blind trust in technology and its innocence. In the information and network society, technology greatly improves communication between people, but the improvement is not coming without a price. I think that while enjoying the convenience brought by high-tech revolution today, it is crucial to hold back sometimes and ponder over what might go wrong.


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Women and the Workplace

After reading this week’s article “Foot in the Door, Mouse in Hand: Low Income Women, Short Term Job Training Programs and IT Careers,” I got to thinking, what is the current status of women in the workplace? Outside of just the IT industry, are women increasingly permeating job boundaries to once highly guarded sectors? The newly popular yet controversial book Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg explores why women have failed to achieve a majority of C-level leadership positions in top corporations. Sandberg provides perspective on building an accomplished career while balancing a fulfilling personal life. Sandberg reasons that women subconsciously feel the need to “lean out” and question their ability to perform in the boardroom as an equal to their male colleagues. However, through personal stories and data, she provides an inspiring call to action for women universally to take back control and become leaders. She encourages readers to ask themselves, “How can I do better? What am I doing that I don’t know? What am I not doing that I don’t see? Done is better than perfect” (NY Times). One prominent critique of the book is that Sandberg is coming from a highly privileged and successful background. She is currently the chief operating officer of Facebook with previous jobs at Google and the U.S. Treasury. Not to mention she’s married to David Goldberg, CEO of Survey Monkey. As Sheryl Sandberg has initiated a completely new discourse regarding women in the workplace and truly having it all, you have to wonder, how realistic is this? How far do women across America and the world have to lean in to achieve this reality? How far would you lean in?

Check out this video of Sheryl Sandberg’s own talk on the book here…

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

This week in LIS 201 (week 10)

Week 10: Information labor and digital divides


  • AppleFoxconn, and controversy over different meanings of work and the varying conditions for different information workers across the globe. 



  • If it's your turn to write a 500-word article critique, you must post this to your section blog before your section meets.
  • If it's your week to give a speech, prepare and practice!  Otherwise, prepare for a possible extemporaneous speech response.
  • Finish your final draft of paper #2!


  • First five minutes: Pop quiz? Maybe!
  • Two student presentations (#15 and #16) on the readings (and two student extemporaneous responses).
  • Discuss this week's lecture and required readings.
  • Turn in printed final version of paper #2.
  • Discuss your final multimedia project ("skeleton" file for Ignite presentation due on wiki next week)


This weekend you will explore the presence of casualized labor on the Interent -- and in real communities.

  • Manpower Inc. is the world's largest temporary employment firm: "Manpower's worldwide network of 4,500 offices in 80 countries and territories enables the company to meet the needs of its 400,000 clients per year, including small and medium size enterprises in all industry sectors, as well as the world's largest multinational corporations." Explore their web site a bit to get a sense of what this firm does. (They even have a branch on Second Life ...)
  • Now go to the US site for Manpower and do a job search in three different areas: (1) Madison, WI; (2) your hometown (or the city closest to your hometown); (2) a town or city you might like to someday live in.
  • (Hint: Leave the "Keyword(s)" field on the search page empty, but choose a specific state from the drop-down menu, click on a specific town in the "locations" list, and then click the ">" button to move that town into the search box. Finally, click "Search.")
  • What kind of technology skills do these jobs demand? How many temporary vs. permanent jobs are listed? Do these look like good jobs to you?
  • Write up a report of your findings, comparing the three places you investigated, for your discussion section blog.
  • Comment on at least one other student's posting.
  • You must finish this online activity before next week's lecture.


Monday, November 4, 2013

Global Digital Outlaws

Here's a talk by a visiting faculty member that LIS 201 students might find interesting!

Professor Carolyn Nordstrom of Notre Dame will be giving a University Lecture this week, Thursday, November 7 at 4 p.m. in 5208 Social Science.  

Author of the widely read Global Outlaws, she will be drawing in her UW lecture on her new book in progress, Global Digital Outlaws: 
"Vast "cyber-scapes" of digital activities are taking place globally that appear to be largely invisible to general populaces. Cyberwars, sophisticated transnational criminal enterprises, new forms of economic dominion and crisis, billion dollar businesses in behavioral-pattern theft and "stealing reality": all are actively redefining value, power, threat, and self/identity in emergent, post-geographical - and, if "stealing reality" is left unchecked - post-self/identity ways."

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Facebook losing teens

A recent survey indicated that over the past year the percent of teenagers saying that Facebook was the most important social networking sites to them dropped from 42% in 2012 to only 23% this year, according to a survey by Piper Jaffray, an investment bank and asset managing firm. See the chart here. One of the reasons for the decline in the popularity of Facebook among teens, according to a Pew Research Center publication, is that it has become a social burden. Twitter currently reigns supreme as 26% of teens consider it their most important social network. Some good news for Facebook is that Instagram, one of the companies Facebook owns, is gaining among teens and is tied with Facebook at 23% in the survey. Today, after a long period of denying and discounting these trends Chief Financial Officer of Facebook, David Ebersman admitted that Facebook was seeing a decrease in daily users among younger teens. David Ebersman was also quick to note that "We remain close to fully penetrated among teens in the U.S." Yes, that is a direct quote. I'd venture to say that weird phrasing like that isn't helping Facebook's case either. Jokes aside, an astounding 94% of teens still have Facebook profiles despite the decrease in teens considering it their most important social network. It seems that Facebook is not going anywhere anytime soon, but the trends among teens are going to become a big problem for Facebook if they hope to continue their dominance of social networking in the future.

Today, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius testified in front of the House Energy and Commerce committee about the Affordable Care Act - more commonly known as "Obamacare" to much of the public - and the failures of the website. During the testimony, Sebelius, a Democrat, had a testy conversation with Rep. Gregg Harper, a Republican from Mississippi. Harper and Sebelius were discussing who was ultimately responsible for the failures of, with Sebelius repeatedly taking blame for the failures of the website throughout the Congressional hearing. Harper repeatedly asked Sebelius whether President Obama was ultimately responsible, to which Sebelius eventually responded, “You clearly, uh, whatever.” Blame has been shifted between different people and factions of the government, and calls have come from a variety of Republicans - both Congressional and non-Congressional - for Sebelius to resign. President Obama has also said that he is upset about the failures of in its initial rollout. My question to the class is, who do you ultimately believe is responsible for the problems with Is it President Obama, Secretary Sebelius, The White House, the Department of Health and Human Services as a whole, or another person or organization?

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

This week in LIS 201 (week 9)

Week 9: Social networking and online immersion




  • If it's your turn to write a 500-word article critique, you must post this to your section blog before your section meets.
  • If it's your week to give a speech, prepare and practice!  Otherwise, prepare for a possible extemporaneous speech response.
  • Complete your peer reviews of your fellow students' paper #2 drafts on their pages of the discussion section wiki.


  • First five minutes: Pop quiz? Maybe!
  • Two student presentations (#13 and #14)on the readings (and two student extemporaneous responses).
  • Discuss this week's lecture and required readings.
  • Discuss paper #2 revision strategies.


This week's challenge will be especially difficult. Get ready.

  • Attempt to survive without using any personal digital social networking tools for the whole weekend, Friday 5pm to Sunday 5pm. Do not consult or post to Facebook or MySpace or Google+. Do not Tweet. Do not text. Do not instant-message. Do not Skype. Do not iChat. Do not answer personal emails (or even read them, if you can avoid it). And, yes, do not use your cell phone at all (although you may use a land-line phone or a pay phone). The only thing you are allowed to do is the minimum necessary online participation for other classes you are taking.
  • Once the weekend is over (or once you've thrown in the towel if you don't make it to Sunday at 5pm), write about the experience on your discussion section blog. How do you end up communicating with people? How do you coordinate meetings with your friends? How do you survive without taking a Quiz On Your Favorite Star Wars Mini-Figure every hour?
  • Comment on at least one other student's write-up.
  • Be thankful you weren't a college student before the early 1990s, like I was, when THERE WAS NO WORLD WIDE WEB! (Gasp!)
  • You must finish this online activity before next week's lecture.


Thursday, October 24, 2013

Edward Snowden traitor or hero?

Yesterday, the United States received a message of disapproval and distrust from the German people as it was revealed that at one point, the United States was monitoring the current German Chancellor Angela Merkel's phone.  This information would not have been known if the exiled Edward Snowden hadn't released thousands of documents relating to the NSA and its hidden surveillance tactics.  The United States looked forward to Merkel as a new ally with similar interests when she had been elected, but this new amount of information severed a bond of trust that the US  government once had with the German gov. They reluctantly had to admit the espionage they committed because all the cards were forcibly placed on the table.  One man caused tension (that was perhaps unneeded) between two of the richest, most powerful countries in the world.  One that may affect our relationship with Germany for years to come.  However, that man did also give us the transparency of the powers and dangers of the internet.  He gave us the knowledge of the rapid decrease (maybe even the disappearance) of the concept of "privacy."  I guess that my question for the class after this new information that may potentially lead to increased international tensions, do you regard Edward Snowden as a hero or a traitor or something in between? 

Google Drop Down "Speaks" for Women Everywhere

UN Women, an arm of the United Nations focused on global women's issues, recently released a powerful ad campaign that uses, of all things, real-life Google Drop Down results.  Yet another interesting look at how technology is shaping society's conversations today.

Thanks to student Jenny Knackert for bringing this to our attention in discussion yesterday!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

This week in LIS 201 (week 8)

Week 8: Big data and social surveillance




  • If it's your turn to write a 500-word article critique, you must post this to your section blog before your section meets.
  • If it's your week to give a speech, prepare and practice!  Otherwise, prepare for a possible extemporaneous speech response.
  • Post your rough draft of paper #2 to your personal wiki pages (you will want to create a separate page so that your peer reviewers can just "comment" at the bottom).


  • First five minutes: Pop quiz? Maybe!
  • Two student presentations (#11 and #12) on the readings (and two student extemporaneous responses).
  • Discuss this week's lecture and required readings.


This week we'll explore a famous article by scientist, engineer, and wartime government administrator Vannevar Bush on hyperlinked media that many cite as an inspiration for today's World Wide Web.

  • Read Bush's 1945 article entitled "As we may think," where he describes his vision of an information infrastructure he called the "Memex."
  • Twenty years later, in 1967, Bush wrote a follow up article, "Memex revisited," which recast his ideas in light of the early computer revolution. Read this revised version and think about the differences from the 1945 version.
  • Do a Google search on "Memex" and explore a tiny fraction of the millions of hits that appear. (You don't have to explore all of them.) Be creative; for example, are there blog posts on Memex? News articles? YouTube videos? Anything posted in the last month?
  • About thirty years after this, in 1995, a symposium was held at MIT to consider Bush's Memex ideas fifty years after their original publication. (Remember, this was only a few years after the World Wide Web had appeared on the media stage.) Many of the attendees were well-known pioneers in the area of hypertext research, like Douglas Englebart (inventor of the computer mouse), Ted Nelson (author of the 1970s counterculture computer manifesto "Computer Lib!") and Tim Berners-Lee (creator of the protocols that underlie the World Wide Web itself). Read this description of their reactions to the original Vannevar Bush article.
  • Finally, go to your discussion section blog and write a new post on what you've found and what you think of the Memex idea today.
  • Reply to at least one other student's blog posting.
  • You must finish this online activity before next week's lecture.



Please note that the Friday of the ninth week of classes is generally the last date a student may drop a course.