books on community informatics and radical mathematics teaching that I want to read


  • Researching with Communities: Grounded perspectives on engaging communities in research Edited by Andy Williamson and Ruth DeSouza
  • Networked neighbourhoods : the connected community in context / Patrick Purcell (ed.).
  • Community informatics : shaping computer-mediated social relations / edited by Leigh Keeble and Brian D.
  • Social and community informatics : humans on the Net / Gunilla Bradley.


  • Rethinking mathematics : teaching social justice by the numbers / edited by Eric Gutstein and Bob Peterson.

california communities at the margin

I think that California always has had this iconic quality of Americanness, capturing the most extreme visions of both this country’s aspirations and its challenging realities.

Collapsed structure near the Salton Sea

This weekend, Greg rented a documentary called Plagues and Pleasures on the Salton Sea about the Salton Sea, an area in California that, in the previous century, due to a strange set of ecological circumstances, saw both incredible development and growth and later, an equally magnificent collapse.  The landscape is now one of flooded and collapsed mobile homes and other structures and a small population of people, many of who moved there to escape conditions in larger California cities, or who moved to the area during the Sea’s boom and now find themselves without the economic resources to leave.

Today, I saw this video from the BBC via BoingBoing about tent cities inhabited by people who have lost their homes in the fallout of the subprime mortgage crisis.

“I feel the problem is that we’re not represented in our culture. We don’t create it and it’s not born of anything of us”

The title to this post is from a young person quoted in Susan Herrig‘s article Questioning the generational divide: Technological exoticism and adult construction of online youth identity. (In: D. Buckingham (Ed.), Youth, Identity, and Digital Media (pp. 71-94). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.) which deals with the differing perspectives of digital media from adults and youth.

I found the discussion of how youth use media pretty interesting:

Young people use new technologies for social ends that are much the same as for earlier
generations using old technologies. Young people instant message, text message, or email their friends much as my Baby Boomer generation talked on landline telephones. They abbreviate and use language creatively to signal their in-group identity, much as my friends and I wrote backwards (manipulating the affordances of the hand-written
medium) and created special writing conventions to pass notes in class. They flirt online, while we flirted on the phone or in the hallways at school. They express their daily angst in blogs, whereas my generation kept hand-written diaries. They painstakingly craft their profiles in social networking sites to win the approval of their peers, while we dressed up to be “seen” hanging out at school dances and community youth events. Moreover, “search engines [function] as a library, … product-based sites as a mall, and downloadable movies and games as a theater or video arcade.” As was also true when I was young, the ends are more interesting and important to the participants than the technological means, especially if the means have been available all one’s life.

as well as the discussion of some possible motivating factors of youth technology use:

Moreover, contrary to the stereotype that the digital generation is enamored of technology, for many youth, technology use may not be the most fun activity, but rather what is most available, a substitute for something they would rather do. In a recent survey of media use by 6-17 year olds in the U.K, a majority of teens said that they would rather go out to a movie or do something with friends than stay home and consume media, and they complained that their neighborhoods did not provide enough activities for youth. Increasingly, parents are afraid to let their children go out for fear that they will not be safe, especially in urban areas. According to new media researcher Henry Jenkins, more elaborate indoor media environments have evolved to compensate for unsafe or otherwise inhospitable outdoor environments. danah boyd, in her chapter in this volume, argues that social networking spaces such as substitute for traditional offline hangouts, whose numbers have dwindled dramatically in recent decades in the U.S.

Link to PDF of article.

Review of Nothing But The Truth by Avi

Amy and I have started an ad-hoc young adult literature book club.  The first book that we read was Nothing But the Truth by Avi.  I thought it would be cool to conclude our discussion by posting a book review to Amazon but my notebook ran out of power before we could, so here’s my thoughts now.

I didn’t read Nothing But the Truth when I was young, but upon finishing it, I remembered that my brother, an avid reader, and a particular lover of books by Avi, had really liked it when he was young.  He was especially drawn to the tragic irony of the books conclusion.  I read other reviews of the book on Amazon and was struck by how the praise or criticism of the book seemed to be broken along lines of age, with older readers liking the book, and many of the 1-star reviews coming from younger readers.  One of the principal events in the book is the conflict of Phillip, the young protagonist and his English teacher and foil, Miss Narwin, over the book Call of the Wild, which Narwin regards as a classic of literature and Phillip regards dismissively.  It’s funny to think that the same difference of perspective might happen over this book.

Reading the book as an adult, I really enjoyed it.  Though  the events in the book snowball quickly out of the control, and the documentary style of the book, as the story is told through a series of memos, journal entries, personal letters, newspaper articles, and transcriptions of conversations, seems to quicken the pace and show only certain faces of the characters, the story is not without nuance and the bluntness of some of the perspectives accurately capture the dangerously singular vision of American politics and the personal political chasms of family and age.

Many other reviews that I read seemed to see the book as offering a very moral conclusion, warning of the destructive consequences of untruthfullness, but I found the story to instead complicate the idea of truth.  Truth is a relative concept and one that is heavily wrought by individual’s challenges and investments.  I found the inability of the characters to transcend these things to be tragic and sadly real.  Most poignent was the relationship between Narwin and Phillip, where neither acted out of particular malice, but both were absolutely unable to understand each other’s perspectives or interpret the signals that each so desperately put forth.  This was such a strange perspective, and I think it was one I was never exposed to as a youth.  I think I always saw adults as allies or adversaries but never as complex people who were both deeply comitted, empassioned, and concerned but also ultimately impotent.  Also sad was the communication between Phillip’s parents and between them and Phillip and the portrayal of parental concern and its interception by adult anxieties and responsibilities.  Finally, I found the depiction of school district politics and conservative talk radio very, very real and the imagery that the words evoked was of neighborly chats on the streets of my hometown, my mother’s frustrated stories of her navigation of school administrators, and the rantings of local shock jocks.

I want to think that this a very good book for youth to read, that the criticism of media, and, more importantly, the complication of how we perceive the words and actions of others, would be transformative.  Still, in thinking about this book, I begin to realize how much my finding of these things in this book comes from the experience and vision that has seperated me from the age of the book’s young protagonist.  Finding the truth about yourself, let alone in the world, is a constant and daunting task.  I hope that education can help equip young people to see the truth in their investments, beliefs, and ultimate actions, for their own well-being; to see others as both good and flawed, as that is so essential to an empathetic humanity; and to distill some more fundamental truth from the ever-volitile flow of “truths” in media and poltics.  Still, as this book argues, it is the challenge of educators to perform such alchemy in a venue so loaded by these forces.  Perhaps this book can be a device towards such ends.

Domain-Driven Design

Thomas said this book is paradigm shifting.

What little I know about Domain-Driven design makes me think about using Domain-Driven Design to teach computer science+social justice in the same way that the Algebra Project is trying to develop a math curriculum based on real-world stories that include social justice themes.

Link to info on the book.
Link to entry on google books.

gaming reviews vs. criticism

I’m not a gamer, but I found this article, linked to from BoingBoing relevent not just to gaming but other types of media:

Similarly, there would be no point today in writing a review of Ultima IV, since it is long out of print. A useful work of criticism, however, is entirely conceivable: discussing, perhaps, its role as one of the first games to consider the moral implications of a player’s acts, and to use tactical combat as a minigame within the context of a larger, more strategic title. Such an article, well-written, ideally with an understanding of the influence of tabletop roleplaying on the development of the early western CRPG, and of the place of this title in the overall shape of Richard Garriot’s ouevre would be of interest to readers today, even if they’d be hard put to find a way to buy the damn game. And it might find a place in anthologies and studies of the 20th century origins of the popular medium of the game, going forward into the indefinite future.

The truth is that, for the most part, we don’t have anything like game criticism, and we need it — to inform gamers, to hold developers to task, and to inform our broader cultural understanding of games and their importance and impact.
Read more at Pro Gamer Review.

I swear I’m going to stop writing about meta-discussions of punk subculture, but this makes me ask the question – does punk’s (and other musical subcultures for that matter) reliance on the review as a source of dialog about media objects narrow the vision for its social relevence and fail to push media producers to make music with a consciousness of its place in history and the current social context?  Also, what is the impact, with the rise of web content and media review (I heard a piece about on Morning Edition this morning) coupled with the rise of consumption and review of technological commodities, on punk (and musical subculture in general)?  Clearly, a generation of young people, deeply invested in this review culture intersects the listenership of subcultural music.

I single out punk just because if you look at any of the popular punk fanzines (MRR, Razorcake, etc.) an incredible amount of the content is dedicated to the reviewing of zines and records.  I guess this is true of music media in general, but I am, of course, most familiar with punk, and I want to challenge the idea that punk is somehow ahead of the curve when it comes to cultural behavior.  Looking at mainstream media, I find it even easier to criticize the review because they are increasingly blippy, often dedicating less than a paragraph to a discussion of the content.

Link to essay
Link to bb post

notes on The Macho Paradox


When men were targeted for prevention efforts, in educational or community settings, they were often sseen as potential perpetrators. The message to them: you need to recognize the triggers for your own bad behaviors so you can interrupt the process before you have the urge to strike your girlfriend/wife. Or, you need to develop better interpersonal communication skills, like good listening, so you do not force yourself on women sexually. Or, if you occasionally or regularly drink alcohol and then behave in a manner you cannot defend when sober, you need to get immediate help with your drinking problem.

The first problem with this approach is that it treats gender violenec as an individual issue that is caused by man’s personality flaws. It presumes that gender violence is a type of dysfunctional behavior that can be cured with therapy or punished by jail time, rather than a specific manifestation of a deeply rooted system of male dominance. As we have seen, people constantly misrepresent gender violence as the behavior of a few bad apples.

p. 118

Men of color are more likely than white men to be held accountable for their crimes, especially if their victims are whire. For example, in the early decades of the twentieth century, thousands of African American men were lynched by vigilante mobs of white men, predominantly in the South, based on trumped up charges that they had raped white women. This racist legacy cannot be overlooked or wished away. But the solution to this disparity is not to ease the pressure on perpetrators; it is to seek fair treatment in the application of justice. If fewer men who assault women got away with it-including wealthy white men-the anticipation of negative consequences would reinforce the need to prevent it from happening in the first place.

p. 121:

Journalist Nathan McCall explains in his essay collection What’s Going On that he and some of his African American male cohorts in the 1960s and 1970s learned a lot about “manhood” from watching gangster films which featured ruthless Italian men who regularly assaulted each other and treated women as little more than property.  Gangsta rap in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century borrowed a lot from these cinematic portrayals.  Ironically, many young suburban white men today are powerfully influenced by black urban gangsta rappers, who in turn learned about how “real men” are supposed to act from white actors in movies that were written and directed by white men.

Aprite un po’ quegli occhi

Chiara took Florence and Oona to the opera last night and I went along.  We saw The Marriage of Figaro, a comedy with the score by Mozart and the libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte.  It was first preformed in 1786 and it’s sad that media representations of gender have changed very little since then.  From a scene in the last act of the opera where Figaro suspects his new wife of meeting another man for an illicit nightime rendevous:

Just open your eyes,
You rash and foolish men,
And look at these women;
See them as they are,
These goddesses, so called
By the intoxicated senses,
To whom feeble reason
Offers tribute.
They are witches who cast spells
For our torment,
Sirens who sing
For our confusion,
Night owls who fascinate
To pluck us,
Comets who dazzle
To deprive us of light.
They are thorned roses,
Alluring vixens,
Smiling she-bears,
Malign doves,
Masters of deceit,
Friends of distress
Who cheat and lie,
Who feel no love
And have no pity.
The rest I need not say,
For eveyone knows it already.

You can also listen to an mp3 of the aria.

24/7 DIY Media Conference @ The Internet.

I also saw this on Boing Boing.  A DIY Video Conference put on by USC:

24/7: A DIY Video Summit will bring together the many communities that have evolved around do-it-yourself (DIY) video:
artists, audiences, technology providers, academics, policy makers and industry executives. The aim is to discover common ground, and to chart the path to a future in which grassroots and mainstream, amateur and professional, artist and audience can all benefit as the medium continues to evolve.

It looks like they will be streaming some of Friday’s academic content on the web.

Link to conference website.
Link to live video stream of panel discussions.
Link to info about forums, IRC channels, and other ways of communicating amongs conference participants

push: Psychogeography

I heard an interview with the author on Living on Earth on NPR and it sounded interesting, and linking reading the Power of Maps and other things I’ve been thinking about when traveling.

From the interview:

GELLERMAN: It’s interesting on airplanes now, on the backs of the seat in front of you, you can see, you know, a map and you see yourself traveling virtually over this place. But, for all intents and purposes, you’re just in this hermetically sealed airplane.

SELF: Yes, and I think it’s a virtuality. I mean, everything about modern flight, which I’ve expatiated on elsewhere in that book, is in fact designed to make the experience boring and dull, it’s designed to virtualize it within a corporate environment. You know, there’s no reason why they couldn’t put much bigger windows in planes. There’s no reason why the stewards and stewardesses shouldn’t wear, you know Ride of the Valkyrie helmets and the captain shouldn’t shout over the P.A., ‘wheee!’ as you take off. You know, they don’t want you to be excited. They don’t want you to know where you are. And in a sense, nobody really wants to know where you are or wants you to know where you are. You know, people who travel for business especially, may go to many different cities in a year, and apart from a tiny little grid of streets around their hotel, they’ll have no real sense of orientation.

GELLERMAN: This line jumped at me, actually. I was surprised to read it. You write that ‘the place chooses you. It’s not so much that you choose a place.’

SELF: I’m not sure whether I mean that literally. But what I think I do mean is that – again, we live in a culture where place is sold to you. We’re kind of accessorized by place. People say ‘oh, I went to x,’ or ‘I went to y,’ or ‘the beaches are fabulous at z,’ or ‘they’ve got fantastic ethnic jewelry in p,’ and ‘why don’t you go to m?’ You know, they’re products. Places are products and travel magazines and travel journalism is by and large a catalog of these products that’s sold to us. And people acquire place as they might acquire any other object in that way, you know, their memory, their digital cameras, you know, they’re loaded up with these vignettes of place just as any collector might show you their Sevre pottery or their beer labels or whatever it is they collect. And I think that, you know, in order to have a profound relationship with place, again coming back to this idea of kind of knowing where you are, you have to look for those places that choose you in that way and say, ‘you know, you’re not going to be here for a day or so or a couple of days, you’re going to have an evolving, perhaps a lifetime relationship with me. I’m a place that you want to know about.’ And I think, you know, for all of us who, who think about, about the world, and who think about our place in it, that that’s true. That has a resonance. And when I look back over my own life, I mean – you know, a couple of the places that I’ve come to think of as kind of ‘my places’ over the years, I didn’t even like them when I went there. It wasn’t about liking. It wasn’t necessarily about having a good time. There was something more profound going on there.

Link to LOE interview.