Showing posts with label Google. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Google. Show all posts

2.3.24

Redefining Literacy in the AI Era: The Shift from Linear to Fragmented Reading

In this blog post, I discuss how literacy is evolving—a concept that has fascinated humanity since the advent of long-distance communication technologies such as the telegraph and telephone. Nowadays, our interaction with information is marked by its agility and rapidity, as demonstrated by AI advancements like ChatGPT from OpenAI.

A newspaper and magazine rack
Print magazines line a newsstand at the airport.
The way we access tools online is altering how we access texts. When Google search was first developed in the late '90s, the shift was from looking up information in print media to finding information online. However, we did not know it then, but search was a static, linear form of reading, not much different from how we generally read – in clusters of words and phrases, placed one after the other. Now, computer programmers have built tools designed to make savvy deductions on matters ranging from "The Best Way to Write a Cover Letter" to "Romanticism in Britain in the late 19th century." Instead of 'finding' what we need, we are 'sourcing' it. It's incredible, really. These generative AI models, including others like Google’s Bard (now, Gemini) and Bing’s Copilot, are built on extensive datasets, which range from Shakespeare's works to modern product labels. However, the opacity surrounding these datasets raises critical questions about transparency and intellectual property.

Consider the hypothetical 'Books three' corpus, comprising 157,000 copyrighted books. The file is purportedly an illegal 'scrape' of proprietary content The use of such a comprehensive dataset in AI training could potentially revolutionize our access to literature. This aligns with my vision of immediate access to any book, a dream that once felt unattainable.

The transformation in literacy is stark when we look back historically. In the past, literature was an auditory experience, where figures like St. Ambrose and Augustine engaged with texts through oral recitation. In this iteration of reading, words were vocal, heard, and disruptive. So, when Augustine saw his teacher Ambrose reading silently one day, it was a surprise to the young priest. That Ambrose could read to himself, without whispering the words, was a revelation. Recalling my time as Brother Bede, when I was a Benedictine monk, I remember being taught that in St. Benedict's 'Rule,' he emphasized the importance of reading out loud, contrasting with our present view of reading as a solitary, silent activity. And I realized that I spend most of my time reading silently, but when I do read out loud, it is a different, qualitative experience. I can feel the difference and can imagine being like Augustine, feeling his surprise when he saw Ambrose read silently – it blew his mind. Another shift in literacy is on its way, and it is just as, or more, mind-blowing than silent reading.

Certainly, it is mandatory to mention that the Gutenberg printing press was a pivotal moment in literacy, enabling widespread distribution of books, thus changing the way information was disseminated. In 2024, the proliferation of printed and digital materials further morphs our interaction with texts like 'Don Quixote', 'Arabian Nights', and contemporary literature. When books were first made affordable to a growing middle class, the modern-day educational system also developed, and while the ability to read and write was a luxury afforded only to the upper classes, the clergy, and those at the top echelon of the governing state, they found themselves not the only folk who benefited from literacy and reading. I cannot imagine myself not being able to read. An older man in my building was asking me about the gas bill, wondering if it had risen for me. I showed him my bill, and he meekly told me, "Oh, that's okay. I believe you." He was Mandarin-speaking, and I knew he knew a little English, but when I showed him a translation explaining that the building was reinstalling some pipes, he immediately told me, "I don't read that type of Chinese." I realized that I had known him for a long time and it was true, I had never seen him read, and he never liked to receive written messages, always preferring one-on-one conversations. I had a moment of realization that he lived in a more limited world than someone who was literate, but he seemed okay, thriving really. He maintained his backyard with pear trees and figs, and in the summer, massive tomatoes grew on a vine along the back red brick of the house. And I definitely do not know how to grow a garden the way he does; it is a loving exercise and I admire it. An eighty-year-old man doing the work, and I feel this strange sense of embarrassment, like I realize I am not as educated as he is, even though I can read fairly well, and if I want to, I can also read in a couple of other languages. My entire life revolves around words and literacy. It is my bread and butter. But still, there is something about the immediacy of the oral word, the spoken, that feels legitimate to me.

Our age is marked by AI-assisted and multimedia reading experiences. I just received a response today from one of my students – a short written response on the theme of curiosity as it develops in a passage from Ovid. But I had him talk about it one-on-one, and the eloquence that was in the written words was lost. And as I listened to him speak, I realized that he had indeed read the text; that was not the problem; he had not understood it. He would have to sit with Ovid a bit more. But is that something we still do? Long, sustained, silent reading, like Ambrose in his study? Even listening to audiobooks – which I actually think of as the purest way to experience literature, the way Homer would have spoken the words of the Odyssey – is popular, and maybe that is a way back to an older iteration of speaking and listening. In a recent poll conducted by the Pew Research Center, 23 percent of Americans say they haven't read a book in whole or in part in the last year. The people who are not reading, according to the data, are high school graduates without a college degree. The poll data showed that "Hispanic adults, older adults, those living in households earning less than $30,000, and those who have a high school diploma or did not graduate from high school were among the most likely to report in that survey they had never been to a public library." But of those who read, literacy is more important than ever – and how we access information is critical for how we see ourselves in the future. Are we going to continue to be a society that still attends to words in the way that a professor of antiquity will learn Latin or Greek in order to read texts written in languages no one speaks or writes in anymore? We no longer solely read a book from start to finish. We consume content in various forms: watching videos, listening to podcasts, or even immersing ourselves in a VR device that places us within a 3D rendering of a play's setting. This multi-modal approach to literacy allows for a more dynamic and interactive engagement with text, challenging the traditional linear narrative.

This revolution in literacy is reshaping educational paradigms. Teachers will navigate a landscape where students have instant access to a vast array of texts and AI tools. Lessons will no longer be confined to structured units but will evolve into expansive, interactive explorations of literature and information.

The shift to this tech-integrated literacy might lead to a disconnection from our sense of humanity, necessitating escapes to technology-free zones for mental health. Resorts in remote locations, offering a respite from digital saturation, would become essential for re-grounding our human experience.

In summary, the way we relate to language and literacy is undergoing a profound transformation. We are moving from traditional, linear reading habits to fragmented, AI-integrated, and multi-modal literacy. This shift challenges us to rethink our approach to reading and its implications for our cognitive and social development.

27.1.19

Technology in the Classroom: How to Create a Digital Editable Document with Google Docs for You and Your Students

I made this Greek Mythology resource shareable and editable!
I like to share with my students and I recently noticed that my digital file type of choice are PDFs and I most-often work with Google Docs when creating. However:

  1. PDFs are static and it is hard to edit them
  2. A Google Doc is editable; but, how can I share what I have created but still keep the integrity of my originals?
Here's what I have done (by following a simple Google hack)

16.6.11

Aesthetic Thursday: Boy in a Striped Sweater

Amedeo Modigliani, Boy in a Striped Sweater, 1918, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Visually Similar Images Generated by Google Image Search
Oil on canvas
H. 36, W. 21-1/2 inches (91.5 x 54.5 cm.)

24.4.10

Software Review: Google Squared

Learn about Google's newest search feature. It's called "Google Squared".

New Search Features from Google, Inc.
     Google has plenty of cool little features that populate its domain.
     The newest one to hit search is Google Squared.

What do you get when you combine a spreadsheet with a search engine?
    What Google has done is to combine spreadsheets with searching.
    Try it out.
    Google searches your query across the web and compiles your results into a spreadsheet replete with categories.
Snapshot of Google Squared results on bars in NOLA
    I tried to search for bars in New Orleans.
It could be helpful if you're creating a travel guide.

  1. How about Academy Awards for Best Picture?
  2. Recipes for grilled shrimp?

It does those queries pretty well.

How does Google Squared Work?
     Google extrapolates data from existing websites. For example, if I search for "Academy Award Best Picture winners" Google takes snippets from websites to create captions with visuals. The description for Best Picture winner comes by default from Wikipedia but I can alter where Google fetches results by choosing an alternative source.
     I can also add or delete fields as well. For my Best Picture square, I can add run times for each film, language, country of origin and other fields.
     Don't expect much for "future dates" or "winning lottery tickets" though.
     The search feature is cool though it's still obviously experimental. It's not so great when I need to modify data. I found it difficult to add new fields that Google had not created by default.
     But, it works well for getting started on a research project. Or for brainstorming quick ideas.
     It also works well when the search engine "understands" your query. Sometimes you create a square, say, best colleges for basketball scholarships, and you end up with a list of basketball players. Not necessarily what you're looking for.
     The great thing about Google Squared, however, is the ability to create a Square and export it as a Google Spreadsheet so you can save your work for later, tweak fields, or add data later to sophisticate your list. Once a Square has been exported, I can share my results, post to a blog, or even create a durable weblink like any other Google Document.

18.2.10

A Graphic Way to Text "Where R U?"

2.11.09

Software Review: Google Voice

Google has entered the telecommunications realm with its introduction of Google Voice, a service created by Google's addition last year of Grand Central, a nifty feature that transcribes voicemail messages and cloaks all your phones and telecommunication devices under the umbrella of one number: a Google number. 
     In effect, you can give out one number to all your buddies, colleagues, friends or whoever and all your phones can be connected seamlessly. Also, you can send free SMS and have voicemails transcribed for you (also, available by other services, such as Callwave).
     I had read about the service at least a year ago when Google first acquired Grand Central but was only giving the service to customers by invitation only. Alas, I was not one of the chosen few. Ugh.
    So, I was happy to discover one day, a message in my Gmail inbox that Google Voice was now available for me to sign-up.
    I would love to use the full functionality of Google Voice but, because of a move by Apple to pull the plug on Google Voice on the iPhone, I can only use the service through my computer. I am a loyal Apple fan, but here, Apple has sold itself to AT&T. Google had created a Google Voice app for the iPhone, but Apple deleted it from the Apple store.
    Personally, I think Apple's move was a bit draconian. It would be like if Microsoft did not allow you to download Firefox onto your computer and forced you to use Internet Explorer.
    But don't worry, in a recent blog post, David Pogue assures us that Google will eventually develop a web app to counteract Apple's icks-nay of its newest FREE gadget. Now, you can only use Google Voice on its android phone or on a blackberry, on your home computer, or on a web app compatible device. But the web app does not work yet on the iPhone. Just a matter of time.
    But, why is Google Voice so cool?
    Well, it is like having CallWave, Skype and Gmail all rolled up into one. I hate listening to voicemails and would just rather read them. Also, I am an addict when it comes to new digital features. Also, I am a proponent for Open Source. Apple should not decide how I access information and what platform I use to do so.
    In the meantime, you can call me through your computer until I get Google Voice, fully.*

*This functionality has been disabled.


15.7.07

Google Maps and the Christ Haunted Way to Jackson, Mississippi

Read about a backroads car trip from New Orleans, Louisiana to Jackson, Mississippi.
Figure 1: The route I took on a recent backroads car trip from New Orleans to Jackson
    Obsession with the world’s best search engine and an itch to travel led me to plan a trip for myself earlier this summer with Google Maps.  With Google’s clever map service I can actually get satellite imagery of my own backyard, sans the barking dog, by typing in an address and presto -- after a couple of seconds, an overhead satellite image appears on the screen. Like electrons swirling in a vacuum, maps are possibilities, discovery.  Looking from above like a god over a cosmic machine, I can see the earth’s surface, tops of houses, beaches along rivers, even the shadows cast by buildings. The ripples of water over a lake. Matchbox cars parked on the sides of the streets. If you peer closely, even mailboxes. The odd thing is, I noticed, after playing around for an hour or two -- the streets are empty, hardly a person in sight, which causes me to believe that the planet is vacant.  Where are the people? Inside, hooked up to high-speed internet? Well, why not? It is delicious information accessible to the layman. It feels intrusive, yet enticingly fun; almost too powerful for the ordinary person. Without even being there, without the aid of an airplane, from a chair, I can pan over a river that follows a paved two-lane road. When I click on the Hybrid button it indicates in startling yellow that this is Highway 17 (See figure 1). Wow.  Well. That’s awesome. I check out my friend Tony’s apartment.
   I can’t peer into his window with Google, but it’s pretty darn close. There are limitations to this voyeuristic peeping tom engine. Limitations. Restraint. I am restricted to the US and a little bit of Canada and Mexico and an outline of the rest of the world. As of this printing, you can’t get a bird’s eye view of the Louvre or the Great Wall. And, even in the ole US of A, you can’t see everything crystal clear. There are coordinates that Google won’t allow you to see. Either the satellites didn’t take pictures of these regions or Google technicians haven’t gotten to it. Or maybe Uncle Sam wrote them a letter, saying -- whoah now, you can’t be showing the tops of those oil refineries or those top secret coordinates. When I scroll over those areas with my mouse, it’s all a gray ambiguity but I can outline the details of every housetop in the French Quarter in New Orleans and survey the breach in the levee caused by Katrina along the industrial canal. I enjoyed the aesthetic of taking note of the design of the roofs, a strange patchwork of L’s and Z’s built on a solid uniformed grid. Strange.
    It is interesting what Google purveys to the common user and what it shuts out; maybe it’s arbitrary. Some of the satellite images are discolored and difficult to zoom into, but urban areas are crisp and easily zoomable. I can get a great shot of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Lower Manhattan. I can even zoom over the roof of my own house. While I’m in it! It becomes a tad solipsistic: here I am with a laptop computer outside a coffee shop wirelessly tapping into the world wide web, looking from above, exactly where I stand. As I get a bird’s eye view of where I stand here, I stand before me, looking straight out into the parking lot. I look up into the sky to catch a glimpse of the satellite that took my picture. All I see is blue sky, clouds on the edge of the horizon. No sight of the all-seeing eye. I found out later Google Maps is not a real-time camera. The images are created by still Landsat satellite images.
    And most practically, I was able to map out a trip to Jackson, Mississippi without using interstates.
    I wanted a Christ-haunted trip through the old south. The back lanes of rural Mississippi. I wanted to see the white starched steeples of every church even before I drove by. So I packed some notebooks, a pencil, my Power Book G4, a flashlight, trail mix, a few books and a bathing suit in case I wanted to swim in the Bogue Chitto River or the Pearl and I set off in mom’s car. I was on a mission to find the South I had read about, her regal lords and ladies, whitewashed churches, myths and images of Eudora Welty, Beth Henley, Lewis Nordan, Walker Percy. Even O’Connor (not born in Mississippi, but I am sure that her characters populate its hamlets).
    And in reality, there they were. I saw ‘em. On Sunday I was there. And saw. Looked. Wrote. Every town I drove through was like a queer recursive. In Tylertown. Georgetown. Monticello. Florence. Pearl. Lexie.
    I started out on Highway 437. It’s called Lee Road by the locals because supposedly General Lee marched down it with his troops. I stopped at the corner store to fill the gas tank. As is usual with corner stores, there is a dumpy matron positioned behind a counter who serves you without a smile, suspiciously eyeing any stranger who walks in; I wasn’t a regular so I didn’t get a cordial “hello,” just a stare. I was in and out of there but I did notice on the way out the cover of the Times-Picayune: Local Gas Stations Fudge Tax Rates. Through no fault of their own, it seemed, local corner gas stations were overcharging tax on goods without realizing it. 
    From seven in the morning until three in the afternoon everyone was in church. Every time I drove by it was a different stage of worship: the gathering at the steps; the Sunday waltz inside the main doors, the big-bosomed belles pulling themselves out of their cars in time for service. By half-past one I was still seeing the same scene, becoming a little afraid that I would be caught inside this never-ending reel of praise and worship. On Sunday along Highway 27, the only “hopping” places are the churches. If you aren’t in church you’re reminded of Jesus on every corner. Jesus saves. Jesus the Lord of All. Have you read your bible today? Jesus over Tunica. Get right with Jesus. It is a constant reminder inscribed on every inscribable pulp, branch, and tree. Names of the churches stick in my mind: Abundant Life Church. Starlight Church. New Life. Living Word. King Solomon’s Church (White and small with a big propane tank out front with a graveyard on the side). Cornerstone Church. New Bethel. Saint Paul the Apostle (that was the one Catholic church I spotted). Some churches were plain white clapboard edifices while others were veritable theaters, replete with jeweled studded bas-reliefs on the sides which at night lit up in neon like the downtown cineplex. All the Baptist churches had similar architecture. Reddish brown buildings with a simple white steeple. The differing characteristics were the size and the extent of the stained glass windows. In one town, the largest Baptist church I saw, boasted tall windows detailing the life of Jesus in stained glass. Graven images, I thought. But no. These windows are didactic, not worshipful.
    Also status. The name of the pastor printed in large letters on the front. People ask, “Which church do you got to?” At the Catholic church, the priest processes out with a handful of children at his side, the electric organ bubbling away orthodox tunes while boys sitting next to me snicker and yawn. At Greater Starlight Church there is a menagerie of color and light, the pastor not processing out but skipping, jumping. Not chaotic. It is very organized. As if everyone knows their role. The older folk get into it much more, while some of the younger people fold their arms. In one church there is a coffee shop just outside the sanctuary so you can get your joe on the way out, just before picking up the kids at Children’s church. Clever. One church proclaims: Make your family apart of our family. Doughnuts and jam available in the parish hall after Mass. Signup sheets for vacation bible school.
    I swear I was waiting to see Manly Pointer come out of church with his hard top bible and shitty grin, gin underneath the flaps of his books. But I didn’t seem him. Nor Hulga. Everything looked clean and decent. But I didn’t check the contents of folks’ bibles. The dilapidated Hard Times junkyard was certainly O’Connoresque. As well as the propinquity of the bars to the churches. The downtowns were unchanged; old store fronts. Some closed up with boards while others still open for business. 
    Walking the streets of Jackson on a Sunday afternoon confirmed my suspicion the South is still alive. A car stopped at an intersection I wanted to cross. The window rolled down. A beefy African American woman eyed me down. “Wanna come to my place?”
    “Ummm. No. Have a good day,” I said.
    I walked around her car. And walked through the park. I realized the city was mostly dead. Everything was closed on a Sunday. But the park was full of people. And the few cars circulating traffic were ladies looking for a quick fix. I was not really in the mood to pay out cash for a quickie, especially with a beefy lady. And none of the blokes in the park looked that attractive. So, I found my mom’s car and fled Jackson and headed for the burbs. Ate Chinese food. Found the interstate and avoided the Christ Haunted route.