AnthroTech Meetup: Education & Technology

On Thursday, January 10th OLC covered the AnthroTech Meetup: Education and Technology, held at NYU's Kimball Hall and packed with a predominantly academic crowd.

A meetup that starts off with your choice of wine? Not bad to feel slightly inebriated on a hybrid topic that purports to infuse some anthropology in technology. How’s this for the sleight of hand—Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice anthropomorphized?! It was heady stuff that certainly needed some practical tech person as foil or counterbalance to the two main speakers:

Austen came in the form of hyper-articulate Ken Perlin, Director of NYU's Games for Learning Institute, an NYU Professor of Computer Science, and the winner of a Technical Achievement Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences for his work on procedural texture.  

He demo’ed a system that allows multiple developers to collaborate on programming in Google Docs, discussing implications for creating better eBooks. His presentation looked mightily impressive as he captured Austen’s 19th-century’s staple characters as mannered as ever even as stick animated figures skulking on- screen.

Storytelling in animation? Paraphrasing Perlin, he said there will come a time when kids will be amazed to learn why we read print when by their time, everything may be online.

Next to the Powerpoint floor was Ricki Goldman, an NYU Professor of Educational Communication & Technology, a digital ethnographer and a leading theorist on learning and media. She discussed "Gen-E," or "Generation Ethnographers" -- the emerging generation of people who use social media to document their world.  She also showed some digital video analysis tools designed for use in ethnographies in school settings.

People complained that they didn’t see the event streamed live as promised, but for those who were at NYU, comments streamed about how the speakers gave “thought experiments that are cool within some academy paper-writing circle, but don’t address the wider relevance to the public.” Ouch! 

A call for less academic jargon in the next meetup was raised. Justin Petrillo, one of the attendees, has this to say: “It’s a great idea to integrate programming with understanding of stories and actually creating narratives. But, for an entrepreneur, these ideas must be taken a step further.”

He asks, “What is the culture of how students understand programming?”  There may come a time when everyone will need to know how to code—and perhaps therein lies the answer.