Thursday, September 2, 2010

The start to Introduction to Computer Science

Today we had 4 hours of Introduction to Computer Science. The lecture consisted of 3 parts: a part about networks, a part about in which ways the internet can be used and a part about the basics of the internet.

In the first part we have learned that networks, however different they may be from each other, always consist out of 2 things: nodes, which receive the product that is sent over the network, and the thing that is sent over the network. The nodes might be machines, companies or people, and the thing that is sent over the network might be information, goods or money.

In the second part it became apparent that the internet can be used in various ways, but most applications require a model with a server/database and a viewer. Web 2.0 added user interaction to this model, so the user is not only a passive viewer but actively contributes to the website he or she is viewing. Furthermore, we have seen more intuitive / more creative uses of the internet, such as the Internet Furby, a Furby doll which can be controlled via the internet.

Lastly we got a basic explanation about how the internet actually works. This was later demonstrated by a video from a German TV programme.

I found it intriguing and exciting to see how the internet can be used in a more user-centric and intuitive way and think we are now only scratching the surface of how internet can be used in a way that really feels natural.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

You can all go after you have created your wiki page...

Today the only course was Introduction to Computer Science. The lesson was more of an introduction to the course than the start of the actual course itself, though. We were first told what to expect of the course. The course aims to get students familiar with how a computer works. It starts at computer networks and goes gradually to gate level. This overview of computers is provided to give us a framework for when we start programming later on this year.

Our assignment for today was to create a wikipage with some information about yourself. Since this isn't a very hard task, I expected to get some more information about the course or the first lesson of the course after we had finished the assignment. Instead, the teacher told us that when you had finished your wikipage, you could leave. Some students weren't all that happy that they had come to the university just to create a wikipage, because some students haven't found a room yet and have to travel quite a while to get to the university.

Tomorrow we have 4 hours of Introduction to Computer Science, so I expect the actual course to start then.


A post about a tuesday posted on a wednesday? Yes I should have posted this yesterday but I hadn't really decided what I would post on this blog: only things regarding the course "We Create Identity" or all Creative Technology related matter. I have now decided to do the latter, and because of that I still have to write a post about yesterday.

Tuesday started with the course "We Create Identity" but the teacher wasn't present. He kind of told us so on monday but it wasn't exactly clear whether we had to be at the university or not so I decided to go anyway. About half of the group was in the classroom, waiting to see if someone would show up to give us an assignment. When it turned out that this was not the case, most of us left to do something else. Others decided to play videogames or watch movies together. I decided that I wanted to use the time to prepare our course of the afternoon, Graphic Design. There was a PDF file on the Blackboard page of the Graphic Design course about, amongst other things, the development of our alphabet. I found this to be very interesting, also because I already knew some of it from the Greek and Latin courses in secondary school.

In the afternoon we had the Graphic Design course itself. It started with an introduction to the course as well as to the Creative Technology programme in general by the teacher. After that we had to look at photographs from each other. The person presenting the photograph would not tell anything about it. Instead, everyone in the audience was encouraged to say what association he or she had with the photograph. This resulted in the following observation: some photographs have a very clear focus. They tell the story of only one object. With these kinds of photographs, most people will agree on what it is about. Other photographs lack this clear focus, and as a result, everybody has a different association with this picture, because there is a lot of visual data available in the picture. Lastly, photographs can also be associated with something that is not actually visible on the photograph itself. For example, somebody showed a picture of her sister and herself sitting in the desert, wearing a sweater. For some people this picture represented loneliness, because no sign of human life can be seen anywhere around the two people on the photograph. For others this picture represented a contradiction: wearing clothing suited for a cold environment (a sweater) in a very warm environment (the desert). But to the girl who presented the photograph it brought back the memories of a happy holiday with her sister.

This was the photograph I had intended to present to the class, but unfortunately there was not enough time to show all photographs. It is a photograph of my parental house in Driebergen, near Utrecht. In retrospect I think this photograph isn't very well suited for the exercise, because there are not a lot of different associations people can have with it. When you have a photograph that everyone has another way of looking at, you can discuss why each person has this association, and that is where things get interesting. Another flaw with the photograph is that I have associations with it that no-one else can have, because the memories I associate the picture with are not represented in the picture itself. If I had to choose a photograph for the assignment now, I would choose a photo that I like because of the atmosphere it has, a photo I like because of its aesthetics, rather than a photograph of an object I have fond memories of, because somebody who doesn't know what that object means to you will never have these memories attached to the photograph.

The next part of the lesson consisted of a presentation about various typefaces, and how they came into existence. It helped us to be aware of the aesthetic side of letters instead of just looking at their meaning. It was really refreshing to look at letters in a completely different way. I also liked the fact that the teacher himself was very enthusiastic about the subject.

Our assignment for the next time is to pick a font which you like. You have to find a problem with this font and present the fixed version to the class.

Monday, August 30, 2010

First post, first day of CreaTe

Today was the first day of the Creative Technology programme. We started with the course "We Create Identity", which is divided into a lecture class and a collaborative / interactive class.

In the morning we had the lecture part. As the teacher of the course himself admitted later on, the course is pretty vague. He showed us some videos on an experiment from the New York Times in which people have to "disconnect" themselves for a few days: they have to take a break from using social media / technology, such as Facebook, Twitter, cell phones and email. He didn't tell us what we had to do with the information we gained from watching these videos, but I think the message is that it is sometimes necessary to take a step back and look at what the influences of these new technologies are. While there are no doubt a lot of advantages to using all these new forms of communication, there are also some disadvantages. One problem with constantly having to stay connected to the digital world is that it takes up a lot of time and distracts us from the things we are working on (e.g. our jobs). Moreover, because most digital "connected" devices have clocks, a constant air of urgency is created. So by not using these devices for a while the subjects got calmer and more aware of the real world around them. One of the subjects even described not bringing a phone along for two days as "a little adventurous and spontaneous". While this might seem to be a bit of an exaggeration, it illustrates the grip social media have on our lives.

The afternoon was spend in the Smart XP lab, in which the teacher elaborated a little on his presentation in the morning, after which it was time for us to come to the front and tell each other about our dreams in 20 seconds. Although 20 second may seem like a very short period of time, most people including myself were struggling to fill the time. The problem for me was that it is very difficult to just stand up and talk about your dreams when you don't have a strictly defined idea of what they are exactly and what is relevant to the audience. I think this exercise helps getting you comfortable with presenting your ideas and coming up with them on the spot.

At the end of the day it wasn't exactly clear what lessons we had to learn from all this but I think the main goal of today was to give everyone some food for thought and to set a creative mood.

Up tomorrow: Graphic design, for which you have to bring a photograph that means a lot to you.