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I, Borg (#StarTrek #TNG Rewatch, Season 5, Episode 23) Adolescent Borg Bonds with LaForge

Rewatching ST:TNG When a landing party encounters a badly injured Borg drone, Picard is perfectly willing to let “it” die, but Crusher has other ideas. The Borg, a cyborg race that assimilates whole civilizations and builds a hive mind via cybernetic implants, are a terrifying sci-fi enemy; the music, the costumes and the iconic greeble-bedecked Borg ships pound away at our primal fears. On my first watch, I was totally…

Missouri governor vows criminal prosecution of reporter who found flaw in state website • Missouri Independent

I’m shocked… shocked that a reporter published a newsworthy story about a rookie cyber-blunder made by a powerful government agency. A reporter viewed the HTML code (a one-click process on many web browsers) and noticed that the social security numbers of school teachers and administrators were embedded in web pages served up by Missouri’s department of education. The reporter contacted the agency, and held the story until the problem was…

The sped-up culture that delivers that novel to your doorstep overnight is the same culture that deprives you of the time to read it.

This ambiguity—fiction as virtue and vice—sheds light on a larger truth about all the components of Amazon’s administration of literary life just enumerated: as state of the art as they may be, they are to some degree self-contradictory, or at least conflicted. For instance, if what fiction most essentially is for us is a volume of commodified time, one of the most notorious facts of contemporary literary life is that…

Students who grew up with search engines might change STEM education forever

The headline is oddly STEM-specific, but yes, it used to be that if you worked with computers at all, you had to understand your computer’s file directory structure, so all college instructors could expect that their STEM majors had probably learned this concept as part of their earliest computer training. But the “search” function on individual computers (and also the list of recently saved files that almost every software tool…

Hear That? It’s Your Voice Being Taken for Profit.

Why do tech companies give us these cool free digital voice assistants? (Hint: If you’re not paying for it, you’re the product being sold.) Because of recent major advances in natural language processing and machine learning, individuals will soon be able to speak conversationally not just to their phone assistant or smart speaker but to their dedicated bank assistant, kitchen equipment, restaurant menu, hotel room console, homework assignment, or car.…

Dennis G. Jerz | Associate Professor of English -- New Media Journalism, Seton Hill University | jerz.setonhill.edu Logo

In September, 2001 I was blogging about…

With a grant from UWEC, I was able to invite foundational computer game designer Scott Adams to a seminar on Storytelling in Computer Games. I used tiny analog tape recorder at the speaker’s podium, and later worked with my student Matt Hoy to post a hyperlinked transcript to go along with the audio. (This was really cutting edge stuff 20 years ago, and I’m glad the site still works. This…

Delightful interview with a former Setonian editor-in-chief who’s now doing SEO

As a student journalist, Jessie totally revamped the print publications and the website, unifying them with design elements from the Sisters of Charity (the religious order that founded our school) and rounded rectangles that echoed the interface of the iPads (which were at the time a brand new part of SHU’s student technology plan). The way she blended tradition and high-tech is a product of the flexibility of a liberal…

“Link In Bio” is a slow knife

We don’t even notice it anymore — “link in bio”. It’s a pithy phrase, usually found on Instagram, which directs an audience to be aware that a pertinent web link can be found on that user’s profile. […] For a closed system, those kinds of open connections are deeply dangerous. If anyone on Instagram can just link to any old store on the web, how can Instagram — meaning Facebook,…

Dennis G. Jerz | Associate Professor of English -- New Media Journalism, Seton Hill University | jerz.setonhill.edu Logo

In August, 2001 I was blogging about…

Broken Links and Poor Information Architecture (and of course the link to that article had broken, and the site taken over by low-value clickbait… but the Internet Archive preserved the original article) Helvetica Bold Oblique Sweeps Fontys (satire from the Onion, from an alternate timeline where typefaces get the respect they deserve) Boys and handwriting (from “equal-but-different” feminist Christina Hoff Summers) Velma from Scooby-Doo (a year or so before the…

Why your brain’s so bad at letting go of negative comments

Negative comments engage avoidance motivation. When you’re motivated to avoid something bad, then an important strategy is to be vigilant for more bad things in the environment to make sure that you’re aware of problems as soon as they happen. This may have been an adaptive strategy when there were people or animals out there trying to hunt you in some evolutionary environment. However, it’s a less effective strategy in…

He couldn’t get over his fiancee’s death. So he brought her back as an A.I. chatbot

The death of the woman he loved was too much to bear. Could a mysterious artificial intelligence website allow him to speak with her once more? […] There was nothing strange, he thought, about wanting to reconnect with the dead: People do it all the time, in prayers and in dreams. In the last year and a half, more than 600,000 people in the U.S. and Canada have died of COVID-19,…

That Class Where Stanford Profs Projected Hundreds of Zoom Students on a Video Wall

Of course, not all institutions happen to have a video wall that’s 32-feet wide and 8-feet tall. But Stanford already did, in its Wallenberg Hall. So the three professors reached out to the university’s director of classroom innovation, Bob Smith, to see what they could rig up. No matter how big your screen, Zoom can only display up to 49 people in each session. So the class was divided into…

Dennis G. Jerz | Associate Professor of English -- New Media Journalism, Seton Hill University | jerz.setonhill.edu Logo

In June, 2001 it seems I only blogged three times…

I’m not sure what else I was doing during the month of June 2001, but I only blogged three times. All three links were dead, like tears in rain. As is my habit with all items I feature in my “I was blogging about…” series, I’ve replaced the broken links with archived content from the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine. Author “used up all the hardship” from her youth in her…

The Internet Is Rotting

I do what I can. It’s disheartening how, in the past three or so years, several of my free instructional web pages that used to be high in the Google search results have been pushed out by predatory services that provide custom term papers (for a fee, of course). Users of social media are trained to use a flashy, well-designed app, but they don’t learn how to curate and maintain…

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A Successful Failure: The TI-99/4A Turns 40

My family had one of these when I was 12 or 13. The games I remember include a Pac-Man clone called “Munchman,” but I think I remember learning BASIC, blocky computer graphics, word-processing, and using a speech-synthesizer. The TI-99/4A was a great computer to learn on. I remember making a Star Trek combat simulator (based on the text-only battle games that were popular at the time), and I remember being…

1993: Curses (Aaron A. Reed’s “50 Years of Text Games”)

The latest in Aaron A. Reed’s monumental project” 50 Years of Text Games” focuses on Graham Nelson’s programming language Inform, and in particular his game “Curses.” “You have to get a coin from the temple of zeus to buy the ekmek,” explained one responder. “To do that you need to use the rod of luck. To use the rod of luck you have to change the nature of the universe.”…

Dennis G. Jerz | Associate Professor of English -- New Media Journalism, Seton Hill University | jerz.setonhill.edu Logo

In May, 2001 I was blogging about lanuguage, design and Cliffs Notes

In May 2001, I was blogging about Business and the English language (a humorous rant against business jargon) — Clint Witchalls, Spectator Some features you may need on your computer (like “Extend Deadline” and “Read Bosses’ Minds” The Creator of Cliffs Notes has Died (though I know you won’t read his whole obituary) “Telling the Truth about Damned Lies and Statistics“ The Gist Generation –Jeff Barbian Bad Design Can Be…

‘Belonging Is Stronger Than Facts’: The Age of Misinformation

As much as we like to think of ourselves as rational beings who put truth-seeking above all else, we are social animals wired for survival. In times of perceived conflict or social change, we seek security in groups. And that makes us eager to consume information, true or not, that lets us see the world as a conflict putting our righteous ingroup against a nefarious outgroup. […] Framing everything as…