Writing as a means of data comprehension

Something I am thinking about today.
Through-out grade school I was always taught to write notes on whatever I was reading and to rewrite any other notes as a means to comprehend the material I was studying. I think I read somewhere since that writing involves higher level cognitive processes that aid in memory (I don’t have time to find the source). Even my Mandarin teacher forced me to write ad nauseam pinyin, and later characters, on the white board as a means to remember and to help keep me warm in winter.
Up until the past five years or so most of my learning and research activities were slow – the act of writing, high-lighting, reading books, and bookmarking passages took time. Time which allowed for greater absorption of the data at hand. Generally, you had to read through allot more material to help support your arguments.
Contrast that with the methods I, and many others, use now for the light research activities I am involved in in an almost daily basis. It’s all at the meta level – delicious for reference material, textedit for in-use snip-its of text, Google docs for draft sharing and collaboration, Flickr and iView for images, weblogs and micro-blogs for sharing, Yojimbo for data stores, and Google and host of other sources for research. It’s all fast and shallow with an emphasis on cut ‘n’ paste.
In effect we’ve become curators and convenors of other peoples material. We don’t absorb, we regurgitate. We don’t take the time to allow for that transformation of data to knowledge.
What effects does this have on the ability to concentrate? When I told a doctor I was having trouble focusing he advised to read real books slowly.
I wonder if there is anyway to actually slow down the process and still use digital tools? I’m not convinced I ever truly read anything onscreen as well as in a book. It’s more scanning and collecting.
The Effects of the Shared Writing Process on Reading Comprehension of Second and Third Grade Students.
Improving Reading Comprehension Through Higher Order Thinking Skills (pdf).
An insight on designers’ sketching activities in traditional versus digital media

The Wallas Model for the Process of Creativity

Notes: Graham Wallas in his book the Art of Thought details what is one of the first models of the creative process. In his model creativity may be explained with the following 5 stages (or 4 depending on which literature you agree with):

1) preparation (preparatory work on a problem that focuses the individual’s mind on the problem and explores the problem’s dimensions),

2) incubation (where the problem is internalized into the unconscious mind and nothing appears externally to be happening),

3) intimation (the creative person gets a ‘feeling’ that a solution is on its way),

4) illumination or insight (where the creative idea bursts forth from its preconscious processing into conscious awareness); and

5) verification (where the idea is consciously verified, elaborated, and then applied).

The implied theory behind Wallas’ model — that creative thinking is a subconscious process that cannot be directed, and that creative and analytical thinking are complementary — is reflected to varying degrees in other models of creativity.

The ‘spark’ is always surrounded by heavy bouts of dry analytical work and though it seems next to impossible to convince those whose lively hood includes applying for IP, it’s all in the latter. An idea has little value unless released to the world and executed upon.

New Hsinchu Park

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The above map is an approximation of a new Hsinchu park that encompasses a series of hiking trails, look out points, large fields, and general ‘get the heck out the noisy city’ ephemera. I don’t know the exact name due to my stumbling through the characters but it’s really worth the effort if you can find it. It has the feel of a closely held secret. I’ve been going there off and on prior to it’s recent opening and it’s truly a great escape. And it’s only a short distance from our house. Amazing.
Someone deserves a big bonus this year for making this area happen.
It feels much bigger than what I drew on that map.

Why Mandarin for our children

Our efforts to enroll our daughter in local school for the September 2009 semester have largely failed. She is just past the September cut off date for admission and this rule is seemingly the one rule in Taiwan that you cannot gain some flexibility. I think the following passage, from Mandarin for BC schools, generally illustrates why we feel it’s important for her to be educated in a bilingual environment and why it should be Mandarin. It is the major reason why we stay in Taiwan.
“Mandarin is the most spoken language in the world (1 in 6 people speak it worldwide) and currently the second most prevalent language of business, after English. As the “Gateway to the Pacific” we believe that providing a Mandarin language option for our children will provide them with significant advantages, both from a global citizenship and economic perspective. Foreign countries have prepared their children for decades by teaching them English as a second language, it is our desire to also reach beyond our official second language of French and provide options.
Even educators such as Mr. Emery Dosdall, former BC deputy education minister who now heads a new provincial government office charged with improving relations between BC and Asia-Pacific countries, recently stated: “French is great…but as a language of industry, I’d certainly recommend…Mandarin. They’re going to create great opportunities for your children in the future”. He goes on to say that, “Parents who really want to give their children an edge in the global economy should be clamouring for Mandarin immersion”.
There are cognitive advantages as well: as a level III* difficulty language (it takes about four times longer to learn Mandarin than French or Spanish), Mandarin’s complexity stimulates the brain more than, and differently from, other languages, thus improving the child’s ability to learn other subjects as well, including English and mathematics.
For optimal results, starting as early as possible, ideally in Kindergarten, is the key to success in second language mastery. An early start will also ensure our children can speak without an accent.
Though there is presently a Grade 4 entrance Mandarin program at Jamieson Elementary School in Vancouver (which is the only formal bilingual program besides French in BC), starting so late means those early critical years for developing oral fluency are lost. A K/Grade 1 start would certainly enhance the acquisition and development of oral fluency in this already difficult to learn language.
*The Foreign Service Institute, a major US government language school, ranks languages according to the length of time needed for a native English speaker to achieve oral fluency in a language. For French, it is 24 weeks. For Mandarin, it is 88 weeks, or about 4 times longer. See for further details: http://www.nvtc.gov/lotw/months/november/learningExpectations.html
I’m less interested in the practical applications as I am the positive effects it has on her as a person.
Via MandarinForBCSchools.org. I’ve removed my usual blockquote quotes for readability.

Forever at the Victoria & Albert Museum

Forever at the Victoria & Albert Museum from Universal Everything on Vimeo.
I wish I could see this. Universal Everything has installed a piece in the John Madejski Garden at the Victoria & Albert Museum. It’s entitled ‘Forever’ and consists of a large video wall displaying endless animations responding to an ever changing soundtrack.

Forever is an art project formed from generative music and generative visuals and is a commission for the museum’s new digital programme,” explains Schmidt. “Simon Pyke has composed the music and sound – he’s created hundreds of different soundscapes, drums, all in the same key so that anything can be mixed together. It will evolve over the two months it’s on, so you’ll never hear, or see, the same thing twice. It’s based on the same kinds of micro-patterns as Mozart’s generative minuets, but on a more detailed level. When the sound is intense it will trigger pulses on the visual side and visual elements will also feed back into the music.

Via CR.

That 3C store on Kuang Fu Rd.

I actually had a good customer experience in Hsinchu yesterday. It’s such a rare event that I had to write about it.

I have been buying most of my 3C hardware lately at a large shop on Kuang Fu Rd. near all the other 3C shops. It’s just down from the roast duck place and the sex toys store on the corner. I’ve never had any luck with the normal tenets of customer service when shopping for computer gear here and I usually buy with the realisation but it looks like that pattern has been broken. About 1 month ago I purchased a Belkin power bar from this ‘3C store on Kuang Fu Rd.’ and the switch didn’t work properly. So I brought it back and they actually replaced it, apologised, and were friendly. Astonishing. Unfortunately I don’t know the name of the place as I couldn’t read their shop sign but if you are shopping in the area, it’s the only store that stocks Eizo monitors (and follow the directions above).

The Successful Adoption of Web-Based Collaborative Software

I’m currently reading The Successful Adoption of Web-Based Collaborative Software from the journal e-Transit: Electronic Business Strategies for Public Transportation (Vol.7). It’s not entirely current as it was published in 2005 but it’s a useful case study for those wishing to convince larger organizations to adopt web based or ‘web 2.0’ tools for project management and collaboration. Thus far, experience has shown me that user adoption of tools such as these tends to be far behind the curve set by smaller studios and companies.
The focus of the study is on the adoption of web based collaborative tools by the Chicago Transit Authority, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and Raytheon.
In short, here are the conclusions set by the study:

  • Enhanced productivity. In Chicago, on the Douglas Blue Line Construction project, CTA senior technical personnel were able to process 260% as many RFIs per business day per person with the implementation of web-based collaborative software. At the PANYNJ, project managers were able to audit the expenses on their projects in a much more thorough and consistent way. At Raytheon, employees can work on a project 24/7 as it travels around the globe.
  • More accurate information to decision makers. All three organizations reported that although decisions may be made by the same people in the hierarchy as before, the web-based tools created an opportunity for more people to see the information and to give input about it to decision makers. We can assume this leads to higherquality decisions and fewer unpleasant surprises. • Enhanced speed for information exchange. The CTA has been able to quantify that its RFIs are processed 20% faster with the web-based collaborative software. At the PANYNJ, RFIs have been processed 18% faster. These gains in speed translate to reduced delays in construction, which, in turn, translate into cost savings.
  • Role enhancement for project managers. In Chicago, people appreciated the opportunity to have input into many new decisions. At the PANYNJ, easier access to cost information has begun to turn project managers into able financial managers.
  • Enhanced accountability throughout the system. In a web-based system, everything is time and date stamped, and the whole system is transparent. Anyone looking in can see the status of an RFI or change order request and can see where the delays are. Initially, this transparency is what people are afraid of, but once the system is operating, they come around to appreciate the heightened accountability. This accountability is equally shared across workers, managers, and outside contractors.

You can read the entire journal here.

Lillian Schwartz – Pixillation (1970)

“With computer-produced images and Moog-synthesized sound Pixillation is in a sense an introduction to the electronics lab. But its forms are always handsome, its colors bright and appealing, its rhythms complex and inventive.” – Roger Greenspun, N. Y. Times. Golden Eagle-Cine 1971. Moog sound by Gershon Kingsley; Version III: pulls the viewer into a primal experience. Awards:Red Ribbon Award for Special Effects from The National Academy of Television, Arts & Sciences; The Smithsonian Institution and The United States Department of Commerce, Travel Services for Man & His World at the Montreal Expo, ’71; collection The Museum of Modern Art. Commissioned by AT&T. (4 min.)

A universe

A video by 27 yr old Russian video artist Stas Aki. Well done. I like the sound and though I know it’s meant to be funny, a more non-materialistic universe might have been more meaningful (I have no sense of humour).

New start

I often complain about the rapid swings in weather here but when I see images like the one above of a street corner in my hometown I feel somewhat fortunate. Starting the new year after a quasi-holiday here in Taiwan is hard enough, but I can’t imagine enjoying waking up early to shovel a car out of that mess.