This past weekend I had the opportunity to join educators from around the world to talk about the future of teaching and learning. As part of my work with Michigan State University’s Center for Applied Inclusive Teaching and Learning in Arts and Humanities (where I am a graduate assistant specializing in media and technology), I flew to New York City to attend MobilityShifts: An International Future of Learning Summit, the 2011 presentation of The New School’s biennial Politics of Digital Culture conference series. While I wasn’t able to attend the entire week of sessions, I did get a lot of enrichment out of my limited time at MobilityShifts. In this post, I thought I would summarize some of the most interesting sessions I attended and offer links to the most usable tools I saw in action.


On my first morning, I saw presentations by Mike Wesch and Lev Manovich. Manovich, a professor of visual arts at University of California – San Diego and a pioneer in the field of software studies, introduced the audience to the ImagePlot software, a tool for exploring patterns in large collections of visual data. Taking its cue from data visualization methods in the hard sciences, ImagePlot can be used to visualize collections of images as timelines, scatter plots, etc. in order to asses patterns of change. In his presentation, Manovich used ImagePlot to create visualizations of image data as diverse as collections of paintings by Mondrian and Rothko to pages of Japanese manga to President Obama’s weekly video addresses. Manovich and his colleagues hope that ImagePlot becomes a  useful tool to inspire students and researchers in non-quantitative fields such as art history, film and media studies, and literary studies to start playing with masses of data available to them. ImagePlot is available as a free download from the Software Studies Initiative.


Friday afternoon, I attended a session on digital publishing models that featured speaker Amanda Hickman of DocumentCloud. DocumentCloud, developed primarily for journalists but usable by anyone, is a repository of primary source documents and a tool for document-based investigative reporting. DocumentCloud differs from a search engine in that it has information about the relationships between documents, such as what locations, people, and organizations they have in common.  While it’s still new, this tool has played an important role in key reporting from Mother Jones, the Los Angeles Times, the Boston Globe, and the Washington Post. DocumentCloud is currently in beta but is free to use.


On Saturday, I attended the “Hacking the Classroom” workshop that included speakers Virginia Kuhn, Matthew Kim, bonnie lenore kyburz, Elisa Kriesinger, and Joyce Walker. We were all encouraged to hack gender stereotypes by using the Gendered Advertising Remixer. This browser-based tool allows a composer to mix video and audio of gendered toy advertisements. The results are funny, smart, and wonderfully provocative, and easy to use in a range of educational contexts, from composition classrooms to sociology seminars.


As a rhetoric and composition graduate student, I’m most often found at conferences that are specific to my field and which are sponsored by familiar professional organizations. MobilityShifts was just slightly out of that comfort zone, and I benefitted greatly from it. I would encourage anyone to do the same.

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