Screencasts

Wikipedia and Heavy Metal

Watching John Udell's excellent screencast on Wikipedia's Heavy metal umlaut entry, I had one eye on the value of screencasting generally (see previous entry) and on what I was learning about Wikipedia. Ignoring the data and its accuracy/inaccuracy, for a while it took me back to days spent observing the early stages of growth in bacteria colonies — the parallel is superficial in lots of ways, but as words multiplied and covered blank space the 'hypnotic' (Udell's word) effect cast its spell and I almost felt I was watching something organic at work.

It is a fine demonstration of collaborative editing in action. The old questions remain, however: John Udell himself comments on that part of the entry that runs, 'This is a construction only found in the Jacaltec language of Guatemala' — 'and that fact, if it is a fact' …

Or, another example, the appearance and removal of references to heavy metal's sometime "interest" in Hitler and Nazi Germany. Udell remarks he wasn't surprised to see that go, but it left me wondering about the way the darker side of some bands and music gets treated. Even the plainer statement that 'The Nazi/Hitler theme is glorified by some heavy metal groups' was edited out — 'too strong', in Udell's commentary. Yet, from the Rolling Stones' darkest days, or Bowie's infamous Nazi salute, to heavy metal — here, surely, is something unglamorous and offensive that needs to be looked at critically and in detail. As it is, we're currently left with the thought that röckdöts are designed simply to give a 'tough Germanic feel' — no explanation as to why things Germanic should be considered 'tough'.


Screencasting

John Udell writes:

… the possibilities of the screencast medium continue to fascinate me. Movies communicate so much more than the obligatory static screenshots you typically find on product websites. I've mostly done long-form screencasts so far. But today's exercise makes me realize that the short film -- which highlights one specific thing and takes no time at all to produce -- is a useful form as well.

This from his post, Linky in action — about his 90 second introduction to Linky, the very useful Firefox extension which 'opens a set of links found on a web page into a corresponding set of browser tabs'.

Screencasting looks interesting. Scott Rosenberg writes that John Udell 'has been pioneering what he calls "screencasting," an unusual sort of online journalism that involves taking over your browser screen with screengrabs and animations while he narrates via the audio track'. I write about Udell's screencast on Wikipedia above (next post). John Udell's guidelines for screencasting (intended to guide those about to work with him on some screencasts) go under these headings: show, don't tell; make it real; keep it interactive. 'I'm still making this up as I go along, but from my perspective these are the key guidelines.'

More screencasts from John Udell promised this year. I would like to explore their use in teaching.