Thomas Flight on Blade Runner 2049 Side-by-Side the Original

Blade Runner 2049 is my favorite film of last year. It's aged well, and for lovers of the original, it's practically a love story. This post from Thomas Flight is a celebration of the motifs Villeneuve and Roger Deakins applied to bring us a new story that feels so deeply rooted in the universe of Blade Runner

We did a breakdown on the film when it opened on The Next Reel Film Board last year.

The true value of student debt to the US Economy? Canceling it.

Terrific summary from Brian Alexander on this study from a Bard College research team:

What would happen if the United States decided to cancel all student debt?

A Bard College economics research team (Scott Fullwiler, Stephanie Kelton, Catherine Ruetschlin, and Marshall Steinbaum) decided to explore what such a bold near-term future could look like in “The  Macroeconomic Effects of Student Debt Cancellation” (pdf).  

The tl;dr result?  It’s a good idea for the country, for debtholders and non- alike.  “Student debt cancellation results in positive macroeconomic feedback effects as average households’ net worth and disposable income increase, driving new consumption and investment spending.”  They find other, noneconomic benefits as well.

Apple's Lineup

We often talk about Apple as a company that does things a little differently when it comes to marketing. You know, that whole "reality distortion field" gets hauled out from time to time to talk about how Apple hooligans fall for the company's emotional industrial complex as they line up to buy their 7th consecutive iPhone. 

By comparison, Apple has a contrarian approach to the market. They sell primarily on function, secondarily on features. They focus messaging strictly on brand lift rather than that which lifts the sector. They limit their line width and depth to those products that offer core functionality, and let the economy spring up around those products supporting fringe needs. That's why we don't see a waterproof iPhone, for example, and see a robust market for accessories that fill the waterproof need. 

While that's clear if you've been watching Apple for a while, it became so much more clear yesterday, at the company's iPad Air 2/Retinal iMac announcement. 

Apple's 2015 Lineup — Keynote Presentation, Thursday, October 16, 2014

Apple's 2015 Lineup — Keynote Presentation, Thursday, October 16, 2014

I find this image fascinating, not for what it presents, but for what it omits. This image made the presentation twice, reinforcing Apple's core product line. But, what? 

From right to left, we have the iMac, presumably the retina model, the engine in Apple's consumer desktop line. Then comes the MacBook Pro Retina, the flagship of the company's laptop line. Then the iPad and iPhone, measuring sales in the multi-hundreds of millions of units around the world, and propelling the company to riches since the iPhone launch in 2007. 

Then we have oddities. The Apple Watch sits at the end of the line, a product largely shrouded in mystery, unreleased in a wearables market that can only graciously be described as confused based on current competition in the space. We have no reliable data on how this product is going to perform, and it targets segments that range from teens on the low end to the top 1% on the high, a segment spread wider than just about any other in Apple's catalog. 

Still, unreleased. 

And whither the Mac Pro? The trashcan rocket ship positioned at the highest of the high end power hogs — the editors and engineers looking to eek out every last cycle — is no where to be found on this lineup of Apple's usual suspects.

This image is important because it represents in clearly what is important to Apple. It's an example of the kind of focus long legendary at the company, the practice of saying 1,000 no's to every yes. Even better, it represents the a pure example of marketing actively developing on a global scale. Focus on the products that leverage the internal strengths of the organization in development of them. Differentiate to satisfy the needs of the majority of potential users in a segment. Demonstrate those products satisfying those needs effectively and clearly across channels. 

Apple's communications success is less the result of some sort of magical hypnosis than it is the application of clear, pure, and unadulterated marketing skill embedded across the company. It's often taught, though rarely applied. And that, as it happens, makes all the difference.

Connected Courses drives context and collaboration

One of the core tenets of my courses at Marylhurst University is context. When we work to define context for our study, we provide a framework for broader understanding of the world around us. We’re then able to see how we impact culture, and how culture thereby impacts us in return. 

I love this stuff. I’m sure most of my students hate me by the time we’re through with our time together. No, it’s not a new thing, but it’s my thing, and I’m sticking to it. 

That’s why I’m so excited to be participating in ConnectedCourses this month with talented educators and thinkers. The premise: 

Connected Courses is a collaborative community of faculty in higher education developing networked, open courses that embody the principles of connected learning and the values of the open web.

In short, we’re studying together the promise of federated learning, learning that counts on educators and learners building their own platforms and connecting them together using open web technologies. These instructors have been building courses calling on students to publish their own blogs, learning in public, syndicating the results of their studies in a way that leverages collaboration in a new, exciting — and terrifying — fashion. 

I’ve been teaching using a closed platform by comparison, Moodle. Moodle is a wonderful open source tool, but the implementation of it at my institution is closed, a space in which students are able to connect with one another — the 15 or so students in their own cohort — but isolated from the braintrust outside the university’s walled garden. 

As a result, students lose control of their work when finished with each course. But what about their opportunity — their obligation — to contribute to the body of knowledge? What about their ability to control the work they’ve done, to share it beyond the confines of the course? These things pain me each time I cross a brilliant insight from my students, and it’s becoming more and more clear to me that part of my role as an instructor goes beyond lectures, probes, and assessments. It’s about teaching students to contribute more fully as a member of our society. 

Even as my own institution’s technology defaults to closed, I’m heartened by two things. First, I have been consistently supported in my own meager experiments to push the classroom experience with new tools and experience with media. Second, our own Dr. Nathan Phillips, director of our Center for Learning and Technology, invited me to join this course. That speaks volumes toward the institutional awareness of change and the promise of greater, broader connections to come.