Navigating through that web site, I discovered that the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering website (which I built) was archived a few months earlier. I also rediscovered that I had published a potted history of the Electronic and Electrical Engineering web site on this blog.
In the spirit of celebrating my own 35-year career in teaching, I looked back at my own first attempt at e-learning. And here is my web site for EE208: Control Systems, circa May 1997.
The course notes were created using LaTex2HTML, but unfortunately, the images and the mathematics, which was presented using images, have rotted in the archive. Today I use Markdown for my lecture notes, and MathJax for math generation, but the technology that delivers my content to students still web-based.
So for me, like most ed-tech folks, the key technology in my teaching career has been the World Wide Web. The difference now, for most of us, is that we don’t need to know that!
The highlights for me were the session on formative feedback by Monika Seisenberger and Teaching Award winner Liam O’Brien from Computer Science; the Coffee Lounge where I met up with folks for the first time since March; the talk on aligning our Canvas tools to the future of assessment with Instructure’s Jonathan Perry (beamed live from Britains most boring town and Birthplace of Margaret Thatcher Grantham, Lincs.) ; and the panel on the values and assumptions of assessment and feedback chaired by Swansea University’s Dean of Assessment Jo Berry.
My unordered notes, thoughts and links shared by the participants are recorded in my Journal.
I’m a bit envious of the Covid-19 journals of my friends and colleagues Chrissi Nerantzi and Sheila MacNeill so today I thought I’d try an experiment and post my Crispy Journal entry for 28th April 2020 here in my blog. There was a bit of formatting to do to convert TiddlyWiki markup to WordPress blocks which would go away if I used MarkDown in both places. I think it might be better going forward to just link to the Journal page and post some highlights and a reflection. But, hey, what is a Covid-19 lockdown if it isn’t a chance to experiment.
Some Extenuating Circumstance reviews
Some Alternative Assessment Moderation and Sign Off
Zoom office hours for EG-247
Zoom consultancy for EGLM03 – some tricky problems which led to a break through at around 11:00 pm:
On Monday I attended the launch and first public lecture of the Swansea University’s centenary celebration Swansea 2020 and the launch of the Centenary Essays site.
At the lecture, Sam Blaxland, the historian appointed by the University to write the history of the University’s first 100 years, gave us an excellent overview of the highlights of that centenary and how he went about writing the book which will be released in June.
On Wednesday, in the lead up to the LTHChat (wakelet), my Twitter colleague Simon Rae asked me how I thought the original academics who welcomed the first 80 odd students to enrol in 1920 might have viewed Twitter:
To which I replied:
This led to this interesting conversation between Simon and Sam (tweeting as @Swansea2020) which I include in full:
Oral History and Podcasting
Sam’s approach to writing his history included the use of oral history and he has interviewed hundreds of people over the three-year project. He has adapted these skills further by hosting the University’s Exploring Global Problems Podcast an excellent series that is worth a listen!
I am old enough to remember the Sun newspaper’s 1992 splash “If Kinnock wins today will the last person to leave Britain please turn out the lights” published on polling day for the 1992 General election. They repeated the same trick, and the same headline, with Ed Milliband in 2015.
On Friday 13th 2019, having been shocked at yesterday’s exit poll predicting the largest Conservative party majority since 1983, and being dismayed on waking this morning find out that it was true, I think that I will soon be leaving Britain and turning out the lights.
Since June 2016, Britain’s have sleep-walked towards the disaster that is Brexit. Resistance has been futile. We have been assimilated. But, I have an exit plan. I am married to a German. A European citizen who has lived in Wales for 34 years, paid her taxes, contributed to the local economy, been a good citizen. Who has been made, like many EU citizens settled here, to feel unwelcome and has had no say any of this! She’s been aching to go home for three years. In the meantime, I’ve been hanging on and hoping that the nightmare would end, that sense would prevail, that the nation would realize that revoking article 50 was actually the only sensible way out of the mess we’d got ourselves into!
Instead, Britain has voted for Boris Johnson. The joke candidate. The guy who hides in a fridge to avoid an unscripted interview. It’s Boris’s face that should have been on that light bulb. And now it is.
I am lucky. I can migrate to Germany and be welcomed as mywife’s partner. Five years from now I can be a German citizen, and an EU citizen again.
I will enjoy my retirement. Chewing the fat at an ex-pat Stammtisch in my local pub in, in Berlin, that city that used to be physically divided by a wall. I’ll be able to watch as Britain’s inevitable decline is described by bemused eyebrow-raised moderators on Tagesschau. As Scotland becomes independent; as Ireland reunites; and as Wales goes down the toilet, a forgotten, neglected, vassal state of a nationalist, nasty England.
I thought my retirement and emigration was a few years away yet. Today, it looks like it’s only a matter of weeks.
Humanity has been contemptuously used by vast digital empires. Thus it is now necessary to replace these empires with decentralized networks of independent individuals, as in the first decades of the Internet. As our participation has been voluntary, no one doubts our right to take this step. But if we are to persuade as many people as possible to join together and make reformed networks possible, we should declare our reasons for wanting to replace the old.
We declare that we have unalienable digital rights, rights that define how information that we individually own may or may not be treated by others, and that among these rights are free speech, privacy, and security. Since the proprietary, centralized architecture of the Internet at present has induced most of us to abandon these rights, however reluctantly or cynically, we ought to demand a new system that respects them properly. The difficulty and divisiveness of wholesale reform means that this task is not to be undertaken lightly. For years we have approved of and even celebrated enterprise as it has profited from our communication and labour without compensation to us. But it has become abundantly clear more recently that a callous, secretive, controlling, and exploitative animus guides the centralized networks of the Internet and the corporations behind them.
The long train of abuses we have suffered makes it our right, even our duty, to replace the old networks. To show what train of abuses we have suffered at the hands of these giant corporations, let these facts be submitted to a candid world.
They have practised in-house moderation in keeping with their executives’ notions of what will maximize profit, rather than allowing moderation to be performed more democratically and by random members of the community.
They have banned, shadow-banned, throttled, and demonetized both users and content based on political considerations, exercising their enormous corporate power to influence elections globally.
They have adopted algorithms for user feeds that highlight the most controversial content, making civic discussion more emotional and irrational and making it possible for foreign powers to exercise an unmerited influence on elections globally.
They have required agreement to terms of service that are impossible for ordinary users to understand, and which are objectionably vague in ways that permit them to legally defend their exploitative practices.
They have marketed private data to advertisers in ways that no one would specifically assent to.
They have failed to provide clear ways to opt out of such marketing schemes.
They have subjected users to such terms and surveillance even when users pay them for products and services.
They have data-mined user content and behaviour in sophisticated and disturbing ways, learning sometimes more about their users than their users know about themselves; they have profited from this hidden but personal information.
They have avoided using strong, end-to-end encryption when users have a right to expect total privacy, in order to retain access to user data.
They have amassed stunning quantities of user data while failing to follow sound information security practices, such as encryption; they have inadvertently or deliberately opened that data to both illegal attacks and government surveillance.
They have unfairly blocked accounts, posts, and means of funding on political or religious grounds, preferring the loyalty of some users over others.
They have sometimes been too ready to cooperate with despotic governments that both control information and surveil their people.
They have failed to provide adequate and desirable options that users may use to guide their own experience of their services, preferring to manipulate users for profit.
They have failed to provide users adequate tools for searching their own content, forcing users rather to employ interfaces insultingly inadequate for the purpose.
They have exploited users and volunteers who freely contribute data to their sites, by making such data available to others only via paid application program interfaces and privacy-violating terms of service, failing to make such freely-contributed data free and open source, and disallowing users to anonymize their data and opt out easily.
They have failed to provide adequate tools, and sometimes any tools, to export user data in a common data standard.
They have created artificial silos for their own profit; they have failed to provide means to incorporate similar content, served from elsewhere, as part of their interface, forcing users to stay within their networks and cutting them off from family, friends, and associates who use other networks.
They have profited from the content and activity of users, often without sharing any of these profits with the users.
They have treated users arrogantly as a fungible resource to be exploited and controlled rather than being treated respectfully, as free, independent, and diverse partners.
We have begged and pleaded, complained, and resorted to the law. The executives of the corporations must be familiar with these common complaints, but they acknowledge them publicly only rarely and grudgingly. The ill-treatment continues, showing that most of such executives are not fit stewards of the public trust.
The most reliable guarantee of our privacy, security, and free speech is not in the form of any enterprise, organization, or government, but instead in the free agreement among free individuals to use common standards and protocols. The vast power wielded by social networks of the early 21st century, putting our digital rights in serious jeopardy, demonstrates that we must engineer new—but old-fashioned—decentralized networks that make such clearly dangerous concentrations of power impossible.
Therefore, we declare our support for the following principles.
Principles of Decentralized Social Networks
We free individuals should be able to publish our data freely, without having to answer to any corporation.
We declare that we legally own our own data; we possess both legal and moral rights to control our own data.
Posts that appear on social networks should be able to be served, like email and blogs, from many independent services that we individually control, rather than from databases that corporations exclusively control or from any central repository.
Just as no one has the right to eavesdrop on private conversations in homes without extraordinarily good reasons, so also the privacy rights of users must be preserved against criminal, corporate, and governmental monitoring; therefore, for private content, the protocols must support strong, end-to-end encryption and other good privacy practices.
As is the case with the Internet domain name system, lists of available user feeds should be restricted by technical standards and protocols only, never according to user identity or content.
Social media applications should make available data input by the user, at the user’s sole discretion, to be distributed by all other publishers according to common, global standards and protocols, just as are email and blogs, with no publisher being privileged by the network above another. Applications with idiosyncratic standards violate their users’ digital rights.
Accordingly, social media applications should aggregate posts from multiple, independent data sources as determined by the user, and in an order determined by the user’s preferences.
No corporation, or small group of corporations, should control the standards and protocols of decentralized networks, nor should there be a single brand, owner, proprietary software, or Internet location associated with them, as that would constitute centralization.
Users should expect to be able to participate in the new networks and to enjoy the rights above enumerated, without special technical skills. They should have very easy-to-use control over privacy, both fine- and coarse-grained, with the most private messages encrypted automatically, and using tools for controlling feeds and search results that are easy for non-technical people to use.
We hold that to embrace these principles is to return to the sounder and better practices of the earlier Internet and which were, after all, the foundation for the brilliant rise of the Internet. Anyone who opposes these principles opposes the Internet itself. Thus we pledge to code, design, and participate in newer and better networks that follow these principles, and to eschew the older, controlling, and soon to be outmoded networks.
We, therefore, the undersigned people of the Internet, do solemnly publish and declare that we will do all we can to create decentralized social networks; that as many of us as possible should distribute, discuss, and sign their names to this document; that we endorse the preceding statement of principles of decentralization; that we will judge social media companies by these principles; that we will demonstrate our solidarity to the cause by abandoning abusive networks if necessary; and that we, both users and developers, will advance the cause of a more decentralized Internet.