Tag Archives: physical world

Power Ball Ads: Hope Vs. Reality?

snapshot taken on a downtown Q train on 3/27/12

If you watch TV (online or otherwise), or ride the subway in New York, you’ve likely seen the recent Power Ball ads like this one, that implies if you win, you’ll have enough funds to do anything, anytime, anywhere.

I should first say that my relationship to the Lotto is not a familiar one — it’s one of those things that my grandmother participated in once a week for at least the latter part of her adult life, but I never really understood (because she never won). And looking at ads like this, or the Power Ball commercial where a woman reclines on a couch in her spacious living room and uses a remote to control what a live Cindy Lauper plays, makes a person wonder.

So why post about this on a blog that focuses on education and technology? At a time when tension in the country is only mounting around the economy (among other things), it’s not hard to explain to students at any instructional level that there are few circumstances that would ever allow for one car to travel, alone, through one of the busiest arteries in New York City while traffic builds up in the other tunnel — or, that hiring an ultra-famous band for personal use in one’s apartment is highly unlikely under most circumstances, but such logic goes agains the grain of images like these. I’ve obviously not researched this from an empirical standpoint, but as a New Yorker for more than 10 years, I can attest to being delayed on the subway, in traffic, or on foot, by closed streets for a variety of important-people-related reasons, but very few people actually have the funds to stop traffic as suggested by this ad — fewer, even, than the 1%.

So I guess that’s what is most significant to me about this image — that it harnesses, in some clever-yet-completely-false manner, the rhetoric of the Occupy movement (i.e., the 99% vs. the 1%). I’m sure it’s not the first time an ad for the Lotto has lied, but it’s the first time one has made me pause and wonder about how it’s playing off the current, public narrative around money (and by extension, class). Indeed, the very idea of ads is to sell, but where do we draw the line on hope vs. reality in a city where there are schools that don’t have the materials they need for basic instruction?


Why meta? I am currently blogging about talking about blogging.

I was in Montreal for a few days and had the opportunity to speak in my colleague’s Qualitative Methods and Educational Psychology class at McGill University. I presented something similar to what I shared at the CUNY IT Conference this past fall, but I really tried to connect my thoughts on why I’ve developed this blog to my research via my methodology. The class has been discussing various qualitative research methods, such as photo voice and ethnography, and one of the readings they did for class focused on blogs as both a field for and method of data collection.

It’s so exciting to see more and more researchers take on the genre, and I was grateful to have the opportunity to chat with students in Montreal doing important research around education, counseling, health and sports psychology, medicine, etc.–some with big questions about digital data collection. Their feedback was insightful and thought-provoking, and I’m already thinking about how to further address some of what came up for discussion:

  • What about access to blogging? This question keeps coming up as I talk to people about my research, and understandably so. What am I saying (and not) by giving weight to what’s written in blogs, despite the fact that not everyone has regular access to the internet?
  • How do I negotiate being a part of the community I am researching? Where does autoethnography begin and end? Can you be too me-search-y?
  • How do I plan to code my data (both logistically [i.e., in hard-copy or digital] and methodologically)?

Here is a slightly edited version of the slides I used for my presentation. Some of it’s unclear without context, but:

Where Physical Ends and Digital Begins

How often do you still download a document, or go to the site of a periodical you used to get in the mail every week, and approach it as a concrete piece of the physical world?  How has the switch from print to digital affected how you engage with what you’re reading/learning?

I grew up convinced I’d been born in the wrong decade.  I always thought I should have come of age in the 60s, been a part of a set of movements that were fought by and for everyday people, had the chance to witness “real” change happening.  And it only recently dawned on me that the span of my lifetime, and that of my peers, is mind-boggling in a totally different but also unique way.  Although the technology revolution is of a different nature than that of the antiwar and civil rights variety, it is also the mark of an amazingly wild and exciting time to be alive.

I often come back to this fact: I typed my college applications on a typewriter.  Sometimes I spend whole days coming back to this idea, wondering if there has in fact ever been a time in history in which so much change has happened so rapidly.  I also wonder how historians will recount this period in time: are we only at the beginning of what is to come? When/how did this wave of change really start? What social, economic, and political forces impacted the rate and speed of digital growth?  How do schools factor into all of this?

But I digress.  Really what inspired this post was downloading my first book on iBooks. I’m a recent iPhone convert, and while a big part of why I’ve avoided getting one is related to my klutz factor, a big part of me has resisted the functionality of apps like iBooks that aim to marry the physical and digital.  If you’ve ever been to my apartment, you’ve probably noticed my monstrous bookshelf.  Even though it holds my most precious possessions, I have a love-hate relationship with the shelf itself.  I kind of can’t stand it anymore — it’s been through seven apartments with me over the last decade — and the more information I take in digitally every day, the more I want to purge my life of physical things (like my books — I can’t even believe I’m saying that out loud!!) for if I keep them, the growing intake of digital information will at some point surely seem redundant.

I can’t see myself getting rid of the well-worn tomes that my favorite high school English teacher assigned senior year, the stacks of heavily annotated political economy and education policy literature, my collections of Chris Van Allsberg books and Jacqueline Susann novels, the beautiful knitwear and fiber art books my grandmother gave me from the 70s, or the touchstone texts that guided me through the first years of teaching reading and writing in an elementary school.  But then I try to imagine what my iBooks library will look like a year from now — surely there will be more than just one volume sitting on my virtual shelves. So what happens to my actual books?  Will I end up purchasing them digitally, too?  Will my book collection become a retro conversation piece in twenty years?  Will my urge to purge anything in the physical world that I maintain a digital copy of grow? And related to my work: how can public elementary schools possibly keep up?

I went to a presentation at the American Educational Research Association annual meeting this year in New Orleans about the national education technology plan.  It was a fascinating symposium that went through a brief history of how the internet has affected students and learning throughout the U.S., and spent a lot of time explaining the plan for the near future.  All sorts of innovative ideas were shared about the impact technology is having (and could potentially have) on education, and the capabilities teachers have at their fingertips.  The catch is: only if there’s funding.  And at this point, the federal education technology plan puts the pressure on the states to back the plan with dollars to make it happen.  Of course we all know what’s happening with state budgets: they’re being slashed, and things like education are taking a huge hit.

So in my eyes, we’re at a real crossroads.  It’s not a clear-cut crossroads or even a fork in the road exactly — while I’m framing my thoughts here in the context of two distinct bodies (physical and digital), I see them as necessarily tangled.  I think a period of time will continue for a while in which most of us will kind of fumble now and then when we try to use an app that replicates something we’re already knowledgeable of tangibly (i.e., a book), but that eventually, the digital world will no longer seem to replicate (or try to imitate) the physical in the same ways.

I have so much more to say about this, but it’s the first week of the semester and I’m completely spent.  More tomorrow.