How is the ‘web’ going to change education?

I think it’s pretty plainly clear to many that big changes are well underway in how people create, consume and consider media – but every once in a while it’s great to have a physical reinforcement of the changes afoot.

Take a look at the following video:

If I were to tell you this was the latest studio released video from Modest Mouse would you even question it?

The background (from Wooster Collective):

Myself and a couple have friends have entered the above into the Modest Mouse video competition. Using green screen footage provided by the band we cut a simple music video. We then degraded the images and printed out each frame sequentially. (all 4133 of them) We then nailed each “shot” of 50-100 posters to various structures and posts. Then using a digital SLR camera with a long exposure we frame by frame shot each poster. Oh, and theres a little video projection (again, frame by frame on the SLR) just to mix it up. There is no compositing, no shortcuts, just lots of blood, sweat and tears, and a huge Kinkos bill!

Awesome.

I remember a little over 10+ years ago sitting down in front of a non-linear editing system for the first time (A Media100, followed shortly by time with Avid & Quantel systems). At that time they were systems that ran in the tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars, well out of reach of the average consumer – and now pretty much every machine comes out of the box with much more horsepower and many of the features that those systems had, for free.

I’m amazed almost every day now by the talent and creativity I encounter online but it also creates an interesting question for me:

How is the post secondary education system going to adapt?

Tools and information are practically free these days – the notion of sharing your ideas & discoveries with as many as possible is quickly becoming the norm. In 1995 I went to school to get access to equipment that was beyond my means, access to the knowledge I needed, and hopefully connections into the industry.

Now, for the cost of a year’s tuition I can hook myself up with a decent computer a still camera and a video camera, the tools. The net contains countless tutorials, essays and examples where I can learn the fundamentals, the information. And, well, connections have never been easier to make through sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and people’s blogs. So what’s left?

Has post secondary education simply become a reflex rather than a necessity? Are people applying because “that’s what you do”? Certainly there are some disciplines where equipment is still largely inaccessible to the masses (Sciences/Medial) but realistically, how long until we see the first “co-working” labs emerge? Community funded telescopes?

Will (have?) post secondary institutions simply degrade into certification bodies? Somewhere you go once you feel you’ve amassed enough knowledge and experience that you can demonstrate competence?

Help Google Improve their Translations

I’ve seen a few posts in the past few days about Google opening up the ability for just about anyone to suggest improvements to their translations. As the dust settles it’s become clear that this seems to be limited to the languages they’ve classified as “BETA” (Chinese, Arabic etc.).

Interestingly enough they seem to be trying to break the content down into Segments the same way a Translation Memory etc. would.


You can see “Suggest a Better Translation” in the bottom left corner of the text bubble that pops up. As you mouse-over content on the page the pop-up will dynamically change to reflect the content you’re over. Translating our site into Chinese seemed to create “neater” segments than translating AlJazeera into English but that could just be a function of using English as a source language.

Will it work?
It’s an interesting tactic but I do wonder how effective it’ll ultimately end up being. I would think that if someone knew a language well enough to recognize that the translation isn’t good then they likely wouldn’t have needed to run it through the Translation engine in the first place. Are they going to get enough people to this feature where they’ll ever see a noticeable usage of it?

Another concern would obviously be the quality of the ‘improvements’ – is Google going to have someone go over each of the recommendations before allowing them into the mix?

I would assume (hope?) that they at least run the suggestion against the existing translation to see if they’re even remotely close to each other (to avoid straight-out vandalism) – but what about people who are more subtle. How hard would it be for a person or people to go through and taint the output for a given site? It’s not uncommon for machine translation to reverse the meaning of a sentence, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone deliberately tried to tweak a translation to distort it’s true meaning – look at all the issues Wikipedia continues to run up against around distortion of entries.

Liability?
From a liability point of view you also have to wonder – A quick dig on the Google Language Tools shows no signs of any disclaimer or warning that the translations may be incorrect etc. – what happens when someone incorrectly ‘corrects’ a description of medical symptoms or something or similar gravity?

Even with just translation provided ‘as-is’ there is huge opportunity for incorrect information to be passed along, I’m amazed Google’s legal department hasn’t plugged that hole with every T&C & disclaimer available.