Holiday Letters = Progressive Trends + Gender Parity and Power?

Holiday Letters = Progressive Trends + Gender Parity and Power?

As a socio-technology fan, I am intrigued by the morphing of holiday cards and letters with new technologies.  This, of course, has been changing for quite a few years.  Desktoppublishing has brought us pictures of our

lives within cards and letters for a while now.  They almost are like the old portrait paintings, where you were pictured with your favorite objects that described to the future who you were by the things you liked.  Here, we have pictures with kids and musical instruments, families on trips, and all the trappings of “who we are” in evidenced pictures.

Holiday greetings of the past

Holiday greetings of the past

This year, I began to get holiday digital cards around Hanukkah from my Jewish friends, which became the harbinger of the full holiday season to come.  I got a lovely anime self-portrait by one of the daughters of one of my long-time friends, superimposed on their home.   Charming and original – and very current tech.
Then came the deluge of emailed jpgs to my business email from a swath of companies that I’ve never done business with, reminding me that they are thoughtful and cool this time of year. Who are these companies?  What did they think I would do in getting their email?  “Boy, I really did need that mailing list service — I should give them a call?”
Now, as we get closer to Christmas, Iam getting all of the digitized photo cards.  In the recent past, creative- and technology-focused friends have created marvelous montages and nearly homemade lovelies that were a mash up of design and digital photography.  This year, other friends seem to have found companies to do this for them.  LOVELY choices, but an intriguing mix of the holiday card and letter, with professional services mixed in.
Here’s my headscratcher of the season: two nag holiday letters.  Two female holiday letter-writers (who shall remain nameless) took the opportunity of their holiday letter to gripe at their husbands through the text.
  • Is this a strange reflection of the gender bias in the role of holiday card creator?  In my family and in many of the families I know, the wife in a duo is socially expected to create the card, update the list, add the handwritten notes, and get the darned things mailed out.  She, in essence, becomes the family narrator.  Here, two lovely ladies have taken that narration to a deeper level, providing (not flattering) holiday context to the letter.Power grab?  Acting out?  Attempting to add humor?  All three?  🙂
  • I had thought it to be a Facebook status warping of a non-Facebook medium, but then realized that neither of the women are active Facebook users.However, has Facebook and all of this constant update dialog changed the nature of the holiday letter?  For many people, I know a lot of this information about them already from their posts and photos uploaded.

#CUE10 #2: Challenging assumptions between creative works and technology

What assumptions do we make in how we can create by the rules of our technologies?

At the end of March, I begin to teach my Digital Content, Commerce, and Culture course at UCLA Anderson.  This year, I’m morphing it into an examination from a media business perspective of the interplay between assumptions of creativity and technology.  I have a marvelous group of speakers planned and am fairly excited about it.  I’m also working on doctoral research in this arena, so the fibers of my interests are connecting well here.

Many things sparked that interest at CUE 2010 this week.  I am including below some of the links that were shared by intriguing speakers as well as off-site from cohorts and friends.  Most of the elements below tinker with the assumptions that we make between creativity and technology:

  • Assumptions of how we interact with online video:  I was introduced to this by Roger Wagner, the creator behind HyperStudio.  He showed this to me as an example of where we may be going in terms of interactivity.  Play with this by moving your cursor.  See what assumptions it challenges about (a) a screen-shaped rectangular image and (b) what we can do as users and how to plan for alternate interaction.
#CUE10 #1: Changing gear-driven assumptions on Creativity and Learning

#CUE10 #1: Changing gear-driven assumptions on Creativity and Learning

I spent Thursday through Saturday at Computer-Using Educators (CUE) out in the desert here in California and met a wonderful group of thoughtful and somewhat rebellious teachers.  Many had to take their own days off to come and paid their own ways.  Each was working in their own path to make the education better for the students in their classes.  Most were pursuing project-based learning (PBL), using social constructivist activities to ferment and expand the learning experience.

The dialog had thankfully moved beyond getting Interactive Whiteboards in the classroom (where many sit unused) and instead how to get the students to be the ones doing the discovery and inquiry.

More in IWBs and that transition….
Vistors wouldn’t have known that from the show floor, where IWB’s were abundant…but so were alternatives to attach them to rolling carts (Royal iRover) to share as well as Epson coming out with a $1,800 IWB projector (BrightLink 450Wi) that didn’t need a specific anything on the wall.  I got to play with the Hitachi StarBoard interactive wireless tablet ($400-ish) and saw lots of excitement around the InterwriteMobi, and other devices that let the interactivity come out to the student in the room instead of the “sage on the stage,” or the teacher being the dominant thinker at the front of the room.  Halleluiah!

And more on saving $$$$ and changing assumptions….
I found two treats that made me smile.  Both are created and distributed directly by small companies:

The first (which I bought and brought home) was the HoverCam. For less than $200, you have a combination document camera and scanner.  It is lightweight and rather elegant — and miles below the pricing of the distribution-driven cameras.  I’ll be testing this and will share more as my tinkering continues.

The other was a software product called GradeCam, which rocked.  You can create input forms for quizzes on the fly, have the students fill them out, then throw them in front of a document cam for instant grading, feedback, and even graphics of results.  Very cool and both save money and time versus the traditional options.  You can get a single-user software for less than $400, or you can get it for your whole school at a very small amount per child per year.  They are getting ready to launch a SaaS (online web) model in the near future.  This alternative might be a good mix or substitute with the clicker-driven systems, and feeds directly into most gradebook programs, saving lots of time for teachers and giving direct feedback to the students immediately without a lot of preparation programming questions into a computer interface.