Pass the Nugget!

Knowledge is power and so it tends to be
hoarded. Experts in any field rarely want
people to understand what they do, and
generally enjoy putting people down.
Thus if we say that the use of computers
is dominated by a priesthood, people who
spatter you with unintelligible answers and
seem unwilling to give you straight ones, it
is not that they are different in this respect
from any other profession.
For those of you who have come to know me, my project, and what I am advocating with it, it should come as no surprise to you that this paragraph stood out to me.  As a knowledge-seeker and supporter of fellow knowledge-seekers, I want to believe that this statement is false. Or at least no longer valid in the fourty-something years since it’s been written. And I think I can support that it is an outdated idea, although the author does make some good points.  I do believe that right now anyone motivated enough can find the knowledge they seek with the help of computers.  However, as the author is quick to point out, this knowledge can be encoded in a secret language known only to the experts. In fact, the author states that his main motivation is to create a meaningful and not entirely boring piece of work for the sake of the laymen who can not break this code.  That is something I appreciate.  Let’s tie this back into me and my project (not because I am terribly self absorbed, but because I am fulfilling project requirements!)  I think this so strongly relates back to what inspires me about Wikipedia, linksurfing, and the pursuit of knowledge.  This priesthood that the author speaks of has disbanded and their power has gone to the atheists! Knowledge seekers can now get a crash-course in virtually any topic they could imagine, and some they can’t just by surfing the web.  Experts (and admittedly plenty of NOT experts) share their knowledge with the world just for the sake of educating.  This is such an exciting fact when you stop to think about it and I hope people take proper advantage of the opportunity.
It’s interesting how different two nuggets can be that come from the same original source, and how these different nuggets can lead to such different thoughts and topics of conversation.  This difference became very apparent after reading Helena’s blog post which discusses the humanity or lack thereof in robots.  This line of inquiry started from the exact same place mine did, but because our research topics are so different we were both drawn to different portions of the reading.

This totally doesn’t relate to me or my nugget, but I am amused by this all the same.  Contrary to my previous paragraph about how interesting I found it to diverge from one source, the next two blogs I read were basically the exact same posts! So I can now make the exact opposite post!  Jeremy Watts and JawadBlog chose the exact same nugget, discussed it in similar terms, but have fairly dissimilar research topics.  One is looking into technology and human consciousness, and the other about how social media has affected music, yet they both brought up similar points about the nugget in connection to their own topics.  Does anyone else find this interesting? Because I find this fascinating.

Panning for Nuggets

My first nugget comes from an online book, which prohibits me from interacting with it too much physically. (cutting/pasting, highlighting)  I was very struck by one of the introductory paragraphs about a class started at the University of Tulsa made to encourage the students to ask “Why” and “who cares?” when examining research.  Sound familiar? It should! That’s exactly what this class is trying to do! Or at least, what I am trying to take away from this class. The Tulsa class is even called “Inquiry of Communication”, so clearly VCU is hopping on a popular train here.  This book claims that “those questions are critically important to research, not merely because they should drive scholars to justify their work or simply because they might give us insight into the motivation(s) of scholarship, but rather, they engage the scholar and reader in a conversation about values.”

I think this sentence stuck out more to me so far than any other throughout this class. This perfectly describes both what this course is trying to teach us, as well as what I am researching and advocating — finding personal interest in value in the research of others. Because if we can’t care, why should anyone else? Why bother? The pursuit of knowledge should be invigorating and intrinsic in nature. Unfortunately it so rarely is.  I bet I could interview everyone in this class about being forced in the past to research topics they couldn’t give two … piles of feces … about. Everyone knows that feeling and it is the most soul crushing and uninspiring one there is.  We need to bring back positive associations with research and allow students to include their field of genuine interest in whatever mandatory project they are completing.  I am very excited to have found this nugget because it gives me hope about finding more published works along the same lines.

Speaking of which…Nugget #2!


My second nugget consists of the three results found from a study on how modern students conduct research.

  1. A majority of students began their research by consulting course readings or the library’s Web site for online access to scholarly journals. To a lesser extent, students used Yahoo!, Google, and Wikipedia as first steps.

  2. Most students consulted aggregated research resources — many of which had been identified for their scholarly quality by professors, librarians, or library databases.

  3. Many students were challenged by research tasks, especially selecting and evaluating information and figuring out professors’ expectations for quality research.

These results are followed by a pie chart displaying that 40% of students started their research with the specified course reading, followed by 23% using their school’s internet library.  Only about 3% of students claimed that Wikipedia was their first step in research, which I actually found surprisingly low.  However the sample size was small so that may have something to do with it.  Or maybe I need to give students the benefit of the doubt and maybe they actually jump straight into the deep end.   I also found it interesting that the results specified how many students needed to be referred to aggregate resources by their professors or other institutional help.  Does this mean students are not taught at a young enough age how to conduct scholarly research? Do middle school students need some course equivalent to “Inquiry of Communication”? (see nugget above).  Maybe if we encourage students to get interested in research at a younger age they would have an easier time getting started in higher education classes. 


In summary, I think both of these nuggets, in different ways, support my claim that students need to be taught how to follow their passion in an academic environment.  Through proper research training and broad prompts students will move from Wikipedia linksurfing to in depth database searching, all in the pursuit of knowledge rather than in the pursuit of an A.

Connecting the Dots

It appears to me that a lot of people are taking the same approach to this this assignment — pick one of your favorite well known websites — and asking similar questions regarding this website — Why do people like it? Are we getting addicted? Is it making us stupider/sadder?

I find this terribly interesting because it seems like people almost want to sabotage their relationship with said favorite website.  Is this Neo breaking out of his cocoon and seeing the Matrix for what it really is? I am very curious to know what inspired all of these questions, and even more curious to find out if the answers will alter their use in the researcher’s lives.

For instance, in Blues Cruise   the author questions the reason behind Facebook’s popularity, as well as its ongoing presence in our lives. I will be interested to see the research on this as well as what the author concludes.  As for how this relates to my project, I suppose I am more focused on the opening portion of the post about the barking cats.  Well not those cats in particular, but the benefit of internet distractions.

I am really intrigued by Imelda Jurasova’s   entire blog and way of interacting with the nuggets.  Imelda is able to link back research from Diigo to last week’s nugget in a small but insightful way, and is able to connect this research even further by describing it like a mosaic.  While our research topics are quite different I enjoy the methodical layout and clear direction in which it is going.

Author of the blog Elisey   views Diigo as a sort of road map to research and compares this adventure to a hike in Belle Isle.  As a huge fan of exploration and Belle Isle, I appreciate this analogy if only because it warms me to the idea of the research.  I will try and use Diigo more as the author suggests, by following trails made by other people and not just trying to hack my own.

In general, it seems that other people are finding much more use in camaraderie in Diigo than I have so far and I am determined to change this for myself.  I would like to be able to, for lack of a better term, piggy back off of other research and see in what directions other people are heading. If only for the sake of my curiosity, since my whole project is inspired by curiosity.  Unfortunately unfiltered curiosity and academic pursuits don’t seem to have as much presence together on the web as I would have thought.  In order to better apply my own research to others I am going to explore the tags other students are using and try to be more consistent with them so we can more easily share.

to tie this back into my nugget, I am focusing on the idea that we are all born with a set of tools to deal with the world. We are all born with an innate curiosity that can manifest in many ways.  Although the world around us changes and feels unpredictable we are able to adapt and make those changes beneficial to us because of this strong mix of curiosity and…maybe selfishness? Or just self preservation or satisfaction? We just want to better our lives and will work to do that, which is why technology is constantly being improved.





Obligatory Title

Okay, guys, work with me here.   I am on what is hopefully the tail end of a 72 hour headache, got off of work an hour and a half ago, and have been since working on my Diigo project.  Basically what I am trying to say is that I soooooo do not have it in me to complete the Panning for Nuggets assignment today. Lucky for me, it’s not due today! Unfortunately for me, I am going to hate myself later for not doing it yet.  Anyways, this is my obligatory blog post for the day since Dr. Coats says a daily post is expected.  In order to make this kosher in regards to the class, I am going to recap the directions I feel my project could take post-Diigo exploration.

Original/still favorite concept:  Wikipedia and other parts of the internet encourage research and the pursuit of knowledge for the sake of knowledge.   Articles that back this up? Not many.  Most articles I see just bash technology for rotting people’s brains.  However I would like to tie this in to the Existentialist Google article, or perhaps link to a few of Jamie’s articles about the Deep Web


Other topics I could probably more easily but less enthusiastically pursue:  activism through Wikipedia (I’ve seen a lot of articles on activism through social media)
Switch to anonymity on the web and incorporate Wikipedia’s anonymous editing. 
I could toy with a few more ideas but I am really set on encouraging knowledge. There just doesn’t seem to be a lot of resources supporting this concept of mine.  If anyone has any suggestions I am super eager to hear them!

Anyways, Mariah out.  I need a nap. Or some advil.  Or to be knocked out for the next 3 weeks until this headache thing rides over.

Diigo Dynamics

Depending on the route I take with my topic, some of these sources may be more useful than others. I’m finding more articles that support the “students & internet education” topic more than the “Wikipedia = expansion of knowledge” topic, which is to be expected.  However, the former topic is much less interesting so I will try to stay away from it.  But for the purpose of this specific assignment I may have to learn towards it.

Source 1: Student Motivation and Engagement in Online Courses

I would consider tags such as “student engagement” and “online education” for this post and the topic that would come from it.

Source 2: Are We Losing Our Ability to Think Critically?

I actually liked this question a lot, even though it sort of goes against my own topic, so I saved it to my own Diigo using the tags “criticalthinking” and “technologyineducation”

The Tastiest of the Nuggets

The individual does not use this information and this processing to grapple directly with the sort of complex situation in which we seek to give him help. He uses his innate capabilities in a rather more indirect fashion, since the situation is generally too complex to yield directly to his motor actions, and always too complex to yield comprehensions and solutions from direct sensory inspection and use of basic cognitive capabilities. For instance, an aborigine who possesses all of our basic sensory-mental-motor capabilities, but does not possess our background of indirect knowledge and procedure, cannot organize the proper direct actions necessary to drive a car through traffic, request a book from the library, call a committee meeting to discuss a tentative plan, call someone on the telephone, or compose a letter on the typewriter.” –Douglas C. Engelbart

So my first thought when reading this was the question “is man born into technology?”, which I quickly googled, expecting nothing.  What’d I get? Nearly nothing.  But I did find this quote which I will post before deciding if it is pertinent.

No man is born into the world whose work is not born with him. There is always work, and tools to work with, for those who will, and blessed are the horny hands of toil. The busy world shoves angrily aside the man who stands with arms akimbo until occasion tells him what to do; and he who waits to have his task marked out shall die and leave his errand unfulfilled.

— James Russell Lowell

I read the quote for a third time and I finally like it.  What I take from it is that man is given the tools he needs, he just needs to figure out how and when to use them, because no one is going to come along and show him.  I think this can fit back into the grand scheme of technology, and even back into the first Nugget I chose of Bush’s that spoke of the Egyptians.  Let’s speak broadly (and forgive my choice of random numbers, my mental timeline is not so good.) Let’s go back about 400 years. That’s around Jamestown times, right? Back then did they have the abilities to create a modern sort of technology? Let’s say a car.  Yes and no.  They had all the basic materials, right? Discovery of the wheel, metal work, etc.  But the human brain hadn’t learned how to utilize the materials in a way that could achieve this.  They still hadn’t learned to harness the powers of electricity or create a motor, but they COULD have if someone had thought to do it.  My point is, if I haven’t made it clear, that there is a difference between worldly ability and human ability.  Man had not caught up to that point of innovation, and until the need for it arose, man wouldn’t have a need to try to create it.   Going back to the original nugget, an aborigine with no experience of this technology would of course have no idea what to do with it.  His life never required it so his people never created it.  He has the ability to learn it because he was born with these tools, but they are not put into action.
I was very impressed with Maryam’s analysis of her chosen nugget, not just because of where her interest and research led her, but also because she so well integrated her own analysis with modern sources, examples, and images.  Her mixed media post really demonstrates the modern technology she speaks about.
In Wuddy’s post, The Domino Effect, Wuddy discusses Englebart’s brick-pencil example and how different technologies seem to have a lifespan.  Although he did not use these words, what I took from this post is that technology, similarly to humans, is subject to “survival of the fittest”. If a new invention does not significantly impress or improve it will die out and be replaced by a more useful tool. I had never thought about this before, but after reading this post I find the idea absolutely true and very intriguing.
Braxtondn was an interesting blog to read because we used virtually the same text in our nuggets, so I was able to do a closer analysis of opinions.  Braxton began by discussing cause and effect and how decisions can influence an outcome, so immediately our thought process diverges, which is completely fascinating that people can have such different and valid thoughts on a text.  Braxton then continues that thought to technology and how computers become a sort of research-assistant to those doing the research by fixing and suggesting searches.   I’m not sure the two thoughts discussed quite link in my head in the same way as the author, but I like both thoughts individually, as they expanded the way I think about the topics.

Questing My Dream

Alright, let’s attempt this “friends forever” thing.  BFFs, anyone?

Jamie’s topic really intrigues me.  Maybe it’s because I’ve always been a curious and morbid student of forensics, maybe it’s because I’m biased towards Jamie and think the sun shines out of her bum. (I know this is for a class but I’ve got to have fun with this, right?)

I’m not sure if our topics would have trouble joining forces; I think I would have to explore her topic a bit on my own first.  But it sounds like we are both interested in the general topic of a sort of alternative search engine that takes us to the bottom of the deep dark internet.  That could be fun.

I think it’s a bit of a stretch, but perhaps Mirna and I could find some common ground.  She is studying social media’s role in social and political movements, which is a very intriguing topic.  While Wikipedia isn’t a social media, it is a platform for this sort of information that is created by the same public that may be on these sites.

It looks like some people still need to get their posts up so I will come back later, hopefully with more possible cohorts.  Otherwise, it looks like everyone’s topics are either too broad or way too specific to easily squeeze mine in with their topic.  Ah well.