29 January 02004

Notes and resources on digital cinema

Here are some extended notes and links on digital cinema (aka D-cinema, aka E-cinema). I'm not an expert in this field, but I dip into it occasionally, and what follows is principally an exercise for my own benefit in collecting my notes and thoughts — if anyone else finds this of interest, so much the better. Such commentary as there is is not deeply considered: just my usual prejudices.

Firstly, should it be D-cinema or E-cinema? I quote from this authoritative Canadian source on the subject: "E-cinema or electronic cinema is both a generic term incorporating both D-cinema or digital cinema and E-cinema when it is specifically used to describe a less expensive form of digital cinema with lower levels of illumination and definition." In the latter context, E-cinema is about half the resolution of D-cinema (measured in thousands of lines), and less than half the price. D-cinema is claimed to have the same quality as 35mm film projection, as currently used in most cinemas.

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28 January 02004

Brains, culture, then what?

I'm interested in long-term thinking, seriously long term (see this posting and this one). So one passage in Stephen Oppenheimer's October 2003 article in Prospect captured my attention and triggered a further question.

Oppenheimer suggests that cultural evolution has outstripped genetic evolution for last 300,000 years. Our species develops by accumulating and transmitting knowledge down the generations rather than growing bigger brains. Brain growth stopped 300,000 years ago, and went into minor decline. Oppenheimer makes a speculative analogy with the growth in car engines: beyond a certain point the economics of further engine growth meant that costs outweighed benefits; and perhaps it was the same with brain growth?

My question is: what happens when the costs of further knowledge accumulation outweigh the benefits? Where do we look for the next form of evolution?

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22 January 02004

Classifications for tutor support in e-learning

The different pieces of work I've done on supporting learners in e-learning over the last year have required different classifications of the tasks and activities involved. Partly the differences are down to the context of learning, and partly they're down to the purpose of the classification.

I'm not aware of much research that analyses tutors' work supporting e-learners from a management point of view. There's one research paper called Teaching Courses Online: How much time does it take?, which was published in the Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks last September. The author, Belinda Davis Lazarus, identifies three main components of the tutor's time:

  • Email — including tutor-initiated messages, learner initiated messages, and exchanges with technicians;
  • Discussions — the courses in Lazarus's study involved online discussions lasting 7-10 days, which the tutor had to monitor, participate in and assess;
  • Assignments — grading assignments submitted by the learners online.

This study and the classification that comes from it are clearly rooted in a particular model of e-learning that puts discussions and tutor interactions at the heart of the learning process. It's questionable how well they would generalise to other settings, particularly since Lazarus's data are based on only one tutor's experience and measurements, and that tutor was her.

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18 January 02004

Intermission for genre compliance

This is a 'blog' site, right? At least, it runs on software designed to support blogs. And that brings with it certain 'genre' expectations. Like: you're supposed to provide links to off-the-wall sites that you're friends haven't found yet, and make comments on them that walk a thin line between ephemera and profundity.

Unfortunately this doesn't really play to my, err, strengths, or, by and large, my interests. But Dick Moore has been kind enough to use the suggest a link feature to recommend the nobodyhere.com site. I add my comments to Dick's: "No doubt you have seen this" (I hadn't) "it won an award on the weebies last year" (the what?) "I loved it" (I trust Dick's taste) "but is it art ;-)" (I am feeling less secure about my own).

As dessert, let me also throw in the Read My Lips link, with a special recommendation for the Bush/Blair love duet. No doubt you already know this, but Lawrence Lessig uses this clip to illustrate his case for encouraging the 'remix culture' — by avoiding excessive protection from re-purposing of cultural material. Normal service will now resume.

16 January 02004

Are long periods of copyright ownership ever justified?

I'm just back from the RSA's Music and Technology conference. I found the arguments for shortening, or at least halting the lengthening, of periods of copyright ownership quite persuasive. When it was invented copyright, apparently, lasted for 14 years before lapsing or being renewed. Now it lasts, willy nilly, until 70 years after the originator's death in Europe and America. When Lawrence Lessig suggested that few businesses depend on planned revenue streams more than 14 years in the future, that sounded right, and I was on his side for a bunch of reasons.

But then David Vaver inadvertently got my goat by referring mockingly to the case of Mike Batt compensating the estate of John Cage for infringing the copyright of his 'silent piece' 4'33". I am grateful for being angered because this made me review my conclusions again. The example of John Cage makes one of the best cases for extended copyright ownership. Here's why.

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15 January 02004

Web resources for Theo Angelopoulos films

Still from Angelopoulos's film Ulysses' Gaze, copyrighted materialI've added some more web links to the he Showroom Cinema's web links directory. The BFI tour of Theo Angelopoulos films hits the Showroom with six films at the end of this month and during February. Here are the new links, and here are some more sublime images.

14 January 02004

Music industry not in crisis?

Courtesy of 6 music news comes the news that "Album sales in the UK reached a record high in 2003, fuelled by falling CD prices" and, even more encouragingly, "2003 was also a record year for live music, with more money spent on gigs than at any time since records began in 1914."

Admittedly the drop in CD prices meant there was no increase in profits on their sales, but, hey, not much evidence (yet) to support those pundits who have suggested "the concept of the album is going to disappear" as I reported earlier.

(My own contribution supported only one of the trends: my CD purchases fell from an average of over 150 p.a. in 2001/2 to 68 in 2003, but I more than made up for this in hearing vastly more live music since I moved to London.)

12 January 02004

Workshops on e-learning accreditation scheme

As part of the accreditation scheme project mentioned previously, David Kay and I are running a couple of workshops to consult private sector e-learning employers on the features they'd like to see in the scheme we devise.

The workshops will be held on two of the following dates, according to availability of participants: 19 January am (London), 20 January pm (Sheffield), 29th January am (London or Sheffield), 2nd February am (Sheffield), 5th February am or pm (London or Sheffield), 6th February am (Sheffield). Please contact me as soon as you can if you'd like to attend, including which dates you are available.

11 January 02004

Robert Fripp on ethical and creative businesses

In his diary entry for New Year's Eve, Robert Fripp muses on ethical business practice. In this case he goes on to reflect on what he sees as the unethical behaviour of his previous record company (EG).

I'm sure RF has a rationale for not making the full archive of his diaries available (the above link will no doubt rot in a few weeks' time, I'm afraid), for I think that his diary reflections, in April 2002, about the ethics and performance of the company he formed in response to his dispute with EG — Discipline Global Mobile (DGM) — contain many lessons relevant to running an artist-focused business.

Happily I saved that entry; though, respecting RF's copyright, I should not reproduce lengthy portions. So the rest of this posting is based on my reading of the important bits.

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9 January 02004

Learning Activity Management Systems

Responding to my posting on the E-learning market, James Dalziel from Macquarie University's E-learning Centre of Excellence has contacted me to let me know of two resources related to Learning Activity Management Systems.

There's a four page article by James and a Powerpoint screenshot walkthrough.

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3 January 02004

Gloria Grahame's Eyebrows

Lucy and I went to see A Woman's Secret yesterday, which was better for its sharply scripted dialogue than its plot.

I've always liked Gloria Grahame in the past (especially in In a Lonely Place, The Big Heat and Human Desire), but I've never seen her use her eyebrows quite so egregiously as she does in her main singing scene in this film. Titters spread round the cinema as she out-did Roger Moore and that bloke who plays Bones in Star Trek. Here's a short profile of the actress that covers her stormy presence on screen and off, and makes reference to those remarkable brows.

Managing tutor support for e-learning

Prompted in part by the discussions of supporting learners at the Future of UK E-learning Market event, and partly by some work that Seb Schmoller and I have recently completed for an e-learning provider, here are some boiled-down recommendations for managing e-learning tutors.

The term 'tutor support' covers a range of practices. In a lot of Higher Education e-learning settings, the learning experience is very much tutor-guided: the online materials replace rote lectures and note-taking, leaving teaching staff to concentrate on the online version of what would normally be called a 'tutorial.' In other contexts, tutors are there to support learners only when the automated learning path breaks down or learners somehow get stuck.

These six recommendations apply to differing degrees, depending on the context.

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