Analysis of Gardner Campbell’s “A Personal Cyberinfrastructure”

A Wordle of "A Personal Cyberinfrastructure"

Wordles are word clouds that show the word content of a piece of text. The most commonly used words in the text appear larger in the cloud. This should provide a very fast indication of what the text is about and the most important themes of the text. It’s a kind of summary.

With “A Personal Cyberinfrastructure” I feel that Gardner is throwing his students in at the deep end. Instead of giving them an online presence with stabilizers, he’s making them jump into a technically complex digital environment and giving them an ultimatum of ‘sink or swim’. This is no bad thing. It will be an education. It will be an excellent preparation for moving into a new job, where in my experience you have to immediately start going with the flow or drown quickly.

In a media savvy, technophilic world graduates need to have skills that set them ahead of their peers, so having a simple pre-made blog or template based website just doesn’t cut it. Employers will see plenty of duplicate, die cut interviewees with little to differentiate between them, so a graduate turning up with a personalised, self constructed online presence will no doubt shine out from the crowd.

A ‘personal cyberinfrastructure‘ is an investment. It requires financial input, creativity, perseverance and technical know-how to make it work. These are key employability skills which are rarely developed to any great extent during academic courses, so by insisting students carve out their own online identity Gardner is in fact giving them a springboard from which to launch their own careers.

As an educator myself, I can see great benefits in this approach, and from next semester I will be guiding my own students towards creating their own ‘personal cyberinfrastructure’. Do they need it? No! Will it be useful? Almost certainly Yes!

I think what Gardner is suggesting is that the online world is still the new frontier and ‘there’s gold in them thar hills!’. To fully exploit the goldmine one must have a better understanding of the inner workings of the Internet and the Web rather than the superficial view that at an ordinary web user has. Anyone can turn up at a place known for its gold and start panning or digging, but those with some inside knowledge or expertise will be better placed to find the best spot to stake their claim and to exploit it. Without that secret knowledge we might all end up eating our shoes…

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About colinmaxwell

Creative Industries lecturer. Photographer, designer, game developer, film maker. Scotland.
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One Response to Analysis of Gardner Campbell’s “A Personal Cyberinfrastructure”

  1. Yes! I love word clouds, for what they make visible and for the fact that there are good tools to generate them. To demonstrate tag clouds to some faculty a couple of years back, I ran some major and minor USA political party platforms – Democratic, Republican, Libertarian, Green, Constitution, Peace and Freedom – through TagCrowd and compared the results. I’ve been thinking that it would be great to somehow harvest the entire text output of DS106 and run it through a word cloud generator. Might be difficult, but the results would likely be fascinating.

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