The next miracle (v11.1): Owen Youngman

Knight Professor of Digital Media Strategy, Medill / Northwestern

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Opening a Chicago time capsule

Chicago Magazine, July 1987

A window to the Chicago of 1987

Examining time capsules long has fascinated the people who find them. In January of this year, for example, there was quite a foofaraw in Boston over the second opening of a capsule that was placed in the Massachusetts State House dome by Samuel Adams and Paul Revere in 1795. Earlier this week, the CBS Television Networks launched a new channel, Decades, that Robert Feder’s headline called “a daily time capsule,” built around a cultural retrospective hosted by Bill Kurtis.

Today, I really get it — because this week my wife and I found one buried in our own home. It’s the July, 1987, issue of Chicago magazine, and it too mentions Bill Kurtis.

You see it above. We had placed it on a closet shelf shortly after moving to the suburbs from Chicago, and it came to light when the shelf came loose this week and I needed to remount and brace it.

The issue takes a reader back to a long-departed world. Continue reading

Still massive, but not so mysterious

We’ll have more MOOC veterans this time around (data updated 5/25/14; percentages rounded).

It stands to reason that, as time goes on and the number of people who have taken massively open online courses through Coursera has increased to more than 7 million, the composition and goals of the student body for any individual course would evolve. I’m certainly seeing that as I review data from my optional pre-course surveys in advance of launching Session 2 of “Understanding Media by Understanding Google” on May 26. For example, the chart above shows that the students this time will have more experience with MOOCs. The number of enrolled students who never before have taken a MOOC has dropped from about half to about a third, and a handful of respondents reported having taken more than 50 (I lumped everyone at or above 10 into a single group). It obviously follows that curiosity about the concept is shrinking in importance, but the table that follows shows some other interesting changes too. These numbers are those who said a given factor was “very” or “quite” important in their decision to enroll, the top two boxes out of 5 possible answers:

Relative importance, Session 1 vs. Session 2

How important was the following factor when you chose to enroll?Session 2: n=1,770 Session 1: n= 3,000
I'm curious about online courses24.3%40.4%
The subject is relevant to my academic field
33.2%35.2%
I want to earn a credential for my CV / résumé29.9%43.5%
It's offered by a prestigious university33.0%42.0%
The class teaches ideas that will help my job / career62.0%69.6%
I want a different perspective on a subject I'm interested in69.4%75.1%
Continue reading

Totally Wired

The 20th anniversary issue of Wired magazine hit my mailbox recently (and props to them for waiting until volume 21 to publish it, rather than announcing a completed milestone upon reaching the 20th year of publication). Sure enough, plenty of good reading, organized around the people and ideas that have mattered during those decades.

Unknown“There are a lot of magazines about technology,”  Louis Rossetto is quoted as having written in the first issue in his first editor’s letter, entitled “Why Wired?” – a title I can tell you because the magazine is sitting on my shelf. More on that shortly. “Wired is not one of them. Wired is about . . . the Digital Generation.” So it can be argued that this 20th anniversary issue is not about technology, either, although it includes articles about Angry Birds and Bill Gates, Silicon Valley and Alan Turing, HTTP and IPOs.

And in this particular issue that is not about technology, there are more than a fair number of brilliant, memorable stories presented in memorable, idiosyncratic fashion upon the printed page. And oh, the color palette. In the anniversary issue’s recounting of the launch of issue 01.01, the following little drama plays out in the pressroom:

“The first sheet comes out. The guy rips it off the caddy, puts it on this big table at the press control panel with the lights that are tuned to get true color. John [Plunkett, the creative director] looks at the sheet and says, ‘I want more ink.’ The guy says, ‘It’s perfect.’ John says, ‘I want more ink.’ The guy looks at him like he’s got two heads. He does the same thing all over again. John says, ‘More ink.’ They do this two or three more times. John says, ‘Turn the ink up until it smears. Then dial it back until it doesn’t. That’s what I want.’ The guy is disgusted. Out comes a sheet and it looks like Wired.”

At any rate, the arrival of this issue gave me renewed inspiration to finish one of my occasional projects: filling in the holes in my almost-complete collection of the U.S. edition of these iconic magazines. Continue reading

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