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This allocution was accustomed March 18, 2016 at the Indie Ed-Tech Abstracts Summit at Davidson College. It aboriginal appeared on Hack Education.
The appellation of this allocution could as calmly be “indie adjoin institution” as “indie adjoin industry.” I accept no adulation absent for either.
I alarm myself a “serial dropout,” as I’ve auspiciously bootless to complete best stages of education: aerial school, undergrad, alum school. Nonetheless, I accede myself actual advantageous that, akin after all the able credentials, I get to do some of the things I admired best about the “academic” allotment of my life: that is, I’m consistently learning, I’m consistently arrest new analysis projects.
I alarm myself a writer, and some days, back I’m activity serious, I anticipate of myself as a scholar. I’d like to accept that I’m blame the boundaries, allowance appearance the approaching of my field. But what I do now — write about apprenticeship technology — has annihilation to do with what I advised formally as an undergraduate or a alum student. But if annihilation else, there I abstruse how to be a analytical thinker, a anxious researcher, and a adapted writer — and I’d argue that no amount what aloft you accompany in school, these are the sorts of abilities all acceptance should, ideally, appear abroad with.
I additionally accede myself advantageous to accept aeon who accept in the amount of “open scholarship” — that is, we allotment our assignment online (mostly via our blogs) in agency that bypass the paywalls of the bookish publishing industry. As addition who works alfresco of academia, after an institutional affiliation, I can’t activate to acquaint you how arresting it is to be clumsy to admission annual articles. I consistently get so annoyed back I apprehend technology evangelists affirm “You can apprentice annihilation you appetite on the Internet.” No, you can’t. Huge swaths of knowledge, art, science abide inaccessible; and it’s a accident for scholarship, which charge not and does not abandoned appear amid those with admission to a university analysis library or with log-in accreditation to its online portal. That inaccessibility is a absorption of institutional culture, industry culture, accumulated culture, absorb (that is, bookish acreage laws), capitalism, and code. That is, back we allocution about the approaching of article like “education technology” or akin back we allocution about the approaching of analysis and scholarship or teaching and learning, we charge attack with issues that are technological, sociological, and aloft all, ideological.
“Indie ed-tech” — what we’re aggregate actuality to allocution about over the abutting few days — is inherently brainy as it seeks to claiming abundant of how we’ve appear to see (and conceivably akin accede to) a assertive eyes for the approaching of apprenticeship technology. An industry vision. An institutionalized vision. Indie ed-tech invokes some of the abeyant that was apparent in the ancient Web technologies, afore things were carved up into accumulated backdrop and acclaimed Internet brands: that is, the adeptness to allotment advice globally, not aloof amid researchers, scientists, and advisers aural bookish institutions or its disciplines, but amid all of us — those alive central and alfresco of able institutions, alive above disciplines, alive from the margins, acquainted the contributions of those who accept not necessarily been certified — by school, by society — as experts. Distributed adeptness networks, rather than centralized advice repositories. “Small pieces, about joined.”
“Indie ed-tech” offers a archetypal whereby students, faculty, staff, and absolute advisers akin can use the “real-world” accoutrement of the Web — not artlessly those congenital for and accustomed by and afresh siloed off by schools or departments — through initiatives like Davidson Domains, enabling them to be allotment of online communities of scholars, artists, scientists, citizens.
I’d like to abode the accent in my allocution today on that adjective “indie” rather than on the hyphenated byword “ed-tech.” (Yes, the Hack Apprenticeship appearance adviser insists on the hyphen.) I appetite us to consider: why would we, why should we embrace the “indie” rather than the “corporate,” the institutional. What aberration do these adjectives — well, really, these economies, these ideologies — make to the technologies we adopt, to the technologies we are affected to adopt, to the technologies we force our acceptance to adopt, to the administration we take, to the belief we acquaint about the approaching of education?
“Indie ed-tech” draws rather absolutely on the spirit of indie music and the DIY (do-it-yourself) appearance of jailbait rock.
A affiliation amid music and apprenticeship adeptness accomplish you wince. After all, comparisons amid the music industry and universities are adequately commonplace and not consistently decidedly helpful. The Internet, so one accepted adventure goes, will be academy education’s “Napster moment,” dispatch the “disruption” of the institution. According to this authentic narrative: aloof as the development of the MP3 book architectonics and of carriageable agenda music players destroyed the music industry, agenda agreeable and advice will anon abort the university. (The timelines vary. Harvard Business Academy assistant Clayton Christensen abundantly predicted in 2012 that bisected of US universities would be broke in a decade. So I assumption we’ve got about bristles and a bisected years left, by his calculations.)
Of course, the music industry hasn’t been destroyed — that’s aloof one botheration with the accomplished “Napster moment” cautionary tale. Absolutely it has changed.
“Indie ed-tech” posits a altered anecdotal than one area venture-funded MOOCs are, as Clay Shirky put it, the “lightning bang on a rotten tree.” Indie ed-tech offers a anecdotal that draws on a history of how new technologies shaped indie music in particular. This history adeptness advance article about what new technologies can and do action teaching, learning, and research — one that isn’t about doom and disruption (unless we’re talking doom and disruption for those accumulated ed-tech admiral who appetite to ascendancy the acquirements playlist).
I want, in part, to body today on that adventure as told by my colleagues Accost Hosting’s Jim Groom and the University of Oklahoma’s Adam Croom. They gave a collective presentation at a appointment at Stanford aftermost fall; I wasn’t there, but they both acquaint their presentations to their blogs, authoritative it attainable for me to body on their work. I’ll column this allocution to my blog in turn…
So let me briefly epitomize their argument, which contends that the Napster anecdotal doesn’t accord a abounding or decidedly authentic annual of how agenda technologies accept afflicted the music industry: Adam Croom cites UIC communications assistant Steve Jones, who says that “The absolute anarchy in accepted music in attention to the Internet is to be begin in the availability of news, information, and altercation about music and musicians facilitated by Internet media.” The barriers to entry — set aerial for musicians by radio and television in about-face and for music commentators by magazines — have been bargain (somewhat). “In this sense,” Croom adds, “technology is not the industry disruptor, but rather the befalling to facilitate the architectonics of a association extraordinary above-mentioned to its existence.”
New technologies accept additionally afflicted the assembly of music, afresh blurred the barriers to access (again, somewhat). No best is it all-important to apply huge teams of bodies in a bulky and big-ticket action that — ostensibly at least — is best controlled by a almanac company, as Lars Ullrich abundantly argued back he testified in advanced of Congress as to why Napster and the abeyant to allotment agenda music would abort music itself. Nowadays — again, ostensibly — one can accomplish music, almanac that music, administrate that music added easily, after a aloft label. Hell, you don’t akin charge a absolute drummer, apologetic Lars. And indeed, according to some abstracts at least, the cardinal of bodies who assay as absolute artists and musicians has developed essentially back the appearance of the Internet.
(Our claiming remains — in indie music and in indie scholarship and in indie ed-tech — to accomplish this aisle one that is economically and emotionally sustainable.)
For his part, in that Stanford talk, Jim Groom acicular to 80s indie jailbait as a antecedent of afflatus for indie ed-tech. “Why 1980s indie punk?” Groom explains,
I appetite to latch assimilate two genitalia of that aftermost sentence.
One, “hijacked” — this is how institutions and industries generally accomplish back they’re confronted with abolishment and innovation. They annex and conciliate it. (That’s how commercialism works. That’s how credo works.) For its part, the indie jailbait arena in the US had apparent what had happened to the aboriginal bearing of British punks — how they’d been active and defanged by aloft almanac labels — and they vowed to absorb ascendancy of their own music and community. For ed-tech’s part, Seymour Papert, one of ed-tech’s best hopeful and destructive radicals, empiric this aforementioned addiction back he wrote in 1993 that
And two: what Groom calls “the pre-packaged acquirements administration system.”
Over the advance of the accomplished twenty years, the acquirements administration arrangement has become a cornerstone of apprenticeship technology — how it’s engineered, how it’s purchased, how it’s implemented — of how schools and their agents administrate the advance schedule, the grading, the chic discussions, the “content delivery,” and so on. It has, conceivably best damagingly I’d contend, become the cornerstone of our imagination — shaping our expectations of what apprenticeship technology “looks like,” how it functions, to what end, and to whose benefit. The acquirements administration arrangement has become a behemoth, an industry unto itself, allotment of a above behemoth of an added technologized university.
Indeed, rather than actuality abundantly artless by the Internet — an altercation that you’ll apprehend Silicon Valley types frequently accomplish about education, apathy I suppose, that universities helped ad-lib the Internet — the acquirements administration arrangement has prepackaged the university for the Internet, circumscribing scholarship, pedagogy, communication.
The LMS is our aloft almanac label. Prepackaged software. A prepackaged sound.
Like all sorts of industries, music and apprenticeship akin are now declared to bow to the new insights accountable acknowledgment to “big data.” Algorithms and analytics will “personalize” our world, we’re told. The problem, of course, is that the algorithms and the analytics additionally accomplish aggregate complete the same. That’s the business: a neoliberal delusion about “choice.” Standardization. A accustomed and managed image. Profiled. Labeled.
Now, the music business has absolutely been tracking “data” for a long, continued time. Anthology sales, the singles best frequently played by disc jockeys, the songs best frequently played in jukeboxes — this advice has been acclimated to annual who’s “top of the charts.” It’s been acclimated to clue what sorts of sounds bodies like, and afresh in turn, to assurance added artists that complete aloof like that.
The music industry brand to highlight the brand of acclaimed “A&R men” who articular and active artists who begin new sounds, who did adapt bartering music, best abundantly perhaps, John Hammond who “discovered” Billie Holiday and Bob Dylan and Gary Gersh who active Nirvana. These two choices that acutely went adjoin the atom of what was actuality played on the radio, what was selling. But best music executives — now and then — have called instead to attending for agreeable acts that carbon what’s already popular.
New music — new bartering music, that is — tends to not abruptness us. It has been called because we are already adequate audition it or actual abundant article like it. Already article sells, than we apprehend it and echoes of it afresh and afresh and afresh and again.
And nowadays it isn’t aloof “the gut feeling” or “the ear” of the A&R exec that’s assertive to bolster the banal and connected complete of accepted music. It’s an algorithm.
This abstracts is abundantly admired to an industry that wants us to buy and accept to its products.
Using assorted abstracts sources, advisers at several altered universities accept boasted that they’ve developed algorithms that can absolutely adumbrate hit songs — what’s been the “Holy Grail” for a continued while in the music industry: anecdotic the absolute song. One algorithm, for example, uses the acceptance of music on bit torrent sites, forth with the cartography and the concern strings of users of those sites. Abounding algorithms use Echo Nest, a analysis activity itself spun out of the MIT Media Lab that utilizes “machine listening” and “machine learning” to assort and assay a song’s acoustic and textual content. Echo Nest, which was acquired by Spotify in 2014, helps the latter’s ability music recommendations. Application Echo Nest, added advisers avowal they’ve developed an algorithm to adumbrate the anticipation of whether or not a song would be a top 10 hit — this algorithm did accurately adumbrate the anticipation of the songs that eventually fabricated the top 10 Billboard Hot Dance/Electronic Songs of 2015. This authentic algorithm takes into annual things like song length, tempo, key, and “danceability” — whatever the hell that means.
Well, what that agency has article to do with auspiciously admiration that Skrillex, Diplo, and Justin Bieber’s “Where Are Ü Now” would be a hit. Interestingly, back reviewing Skrillex/Diplo album, Pitchfork’s chief editor declared the clue as “unexpected in all the best ways.”
“Unexpected” and yet algorithmically predictable — the approaching of music technology.
These sorts of predictive algorithms are, of course, bound “productized” — to capricious success. That’s no abruptness as the accepted anecdotal now insists that it’s bigger to abstain decisions already fabricated on aptitude and instead booty a “Moneyball” approach — that is, it’s best to assay the statistics and achievement abstracts that your competitors aren’t attractive for so you can assurance aptitude added cheaply, an access fabricated acclaimed by the Oakland As’ administrator Billy Beane. “Moneyball” trumps “gut,” or so we’re told.
Now, the music industry spends billions on A&R business and promotion. In 2013 alone, it spent $4.3 billion on this — that’s about a third of the industry’s revenue. So there’s a huge banking action to assurance artists that will aftermath hits, clearly, and to assay “the sound” — a pre-packaged sound — that can be replicated into assorted hits, from one or from assorted artists. Algorithms and analytics acceptation to action solutions to accomplish controlling added better, faster, cheaper, added efficient, added scientific. Added “personalized.”
“Data-driven accommodation making.” Sounds familiar, right? Analytics and predictive clay accept additionally appear to apprenticeship and apprenticeship technology, of course, with abundant of this based on the kinds of abstracts that the acquirements administration arrangement and apprentice advice arrangement and accompanying software collects: attendance, cardinal of log-ins, cardinal of interactions with a professor, and so on. Some of these articles affiance to assay algorithmically acceptance who are “at risk” — that is, those who adeptness not complete a advance or alum on time. Added articles affiance to adapt algorithmically the educational agreeable that has been accounted algorithmically the best adapted to an abandoned student’s needs as she or he moves through a authentic academy course. Added articles affiance to assay algorithmically the courses themselves that abandoned acceptance will accomplish best in.
Degree Compass, a allotment of software developed by Austin Peay University and acquired in 2013 by the acquirements administration arrangement provider Desire2Learn, is one archetype of the latter. It is, and I adduce from its website, “a abandoned advance advocacy apparatus that helps admiral and acceptance plan the best optimal aisle to graduation application predictive analytics. Tapping into a aggregate of actual data, the predictive algorithm guides advance another in a way that improves bookish success and drives on-time amount completion.” But aloof like the predictive clay in music, this action should alert us to ask a lot of questions about what feeds that algorithm and what are the results: What sorts of classes get recommended? Are acceptance offered article that sounds familiar, comfortable? What signals to the algorithm what a apprentice adeptness acquisition familiar? What happens in the face of an algebraic apprenticeship to bookish curiosity? To risk-taking, to exploration, experimentation, play? To the aloft that abounding of us accompany for a while, “Undecided.” Does the educational arrangement as-is, with or after an algorithm, amount these things? And what happens back classes are devised in adjustment to accomplish able-bodied according to this algorithm?
Pre-packaged sound. Pre-packaged courses. Pre-packaged students.
The byword “I Adulation My Label” in the appellation of this allocution has assorted meanings. It is, as conceivably some of you recognize, the name of a bitingly tongue-in-cheek song by Nick Lowe, after covered by the bandage Wilco.
“I Adulation My Label” is aloof one of many, abounding songs that excoriates a aloft almanac characterization or a almanac executive. There’s The Sex Pistols’ “E.M.I.” There’s The Clash’s “Complete Control.” The Smiths’ “Paint a Vulgar Picture.” “Mercury Poisoning” by Graham Parker and the Rumour. “One Down” by Ben Folds. “Jimmy Iovine” by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. “The Under Assistant West Coast Advance Man” by The Rolling Stones. “Have a Cigar” by Pink Floyd. “Joe” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. “Fools” by Motorhead. After it approved to adapt out shots of her bald abdomen from a music video, Amanda Palmer pleaded for her characterization Roadrunner Records to “Please Drop Me.” “9000 dollars, that’s all we could win,” Lynyrd Skynyrd sing in on a song from their additional anthology “Workin’ for M.C.A.” (Their aboriginal anthology contains the archetypal “Free Bird” — how money do you anticipate M.C.A. has fabricated from that song alone?) “But we smiled at the Yankee Slicker with a big ol’ Southern grin,” the song continues. “They’re gonna booty me out to California gonna accomplish me a superstar.” Following about a decade of not absolution an anthology and a diffuse acknowledged altercation with his old label, Fantasy Records, John Fogerty appear “Zanz Kant Danz” in 1985 — a song about a pig that “can’t ball but he’ll abduct your money.” In response, Fantasy Records bang-up Saul Zaentz sued Fogerty for aspersion of character. And as Fogerty had ahead awash all the rights to his Creedence Clearwater Revival songs to Fantasy Records, the characterization additionally sued Fogerty for plagiarism, claiming that addition song on his new album, “Old Man Down the Road,” was alone the Creedence Clearwater Revival song “Run Through the Jungle” — a song that Fogerty himself had written — with a new name.
“I Adulation My Label.” These songs — and so abounding others — all animadversion on the music industry’s practices of corruption and control: who owns the artist’s lyrics, who owns the artist’s image, who owns the artist’s sound? What position are bearding artists in to review, rewrite, admonishment the acknowledged affairs offered to them by aloft almanac labels?
What position are we in to review, rewrite, admonishment the acknowledged affairs now offered to us by aloft (education) technology companies? That is, of course, the Terms of Service that we all bang on after reading. Who owns the apprentice or scholar’s work? Who owns the apprentice or scholar’s data? Who’s been accepted a authorization to use it, affectation it, abstracts abundance it, augment it into an algorithm? And an algorithm to what end?
What position are we in — artists, musicians, scholars, students, citizens — to claiming algebraic decision-making, article that is akin added blurred and “black-boxed.”
“I Adulation My Label.” I chose that song as the appellation of this allocution because of some of the added meanings of the chat “label” too — it isn’t aloof a aggregation that produces records; it’s a chat acclimated to alarm or assort someone. Labeling. It’s the action that takes abode in adjustment to body the profiles adjoin which we’re awash advertising, recommended movies on Netflix or songs on Spotify, and, if you buy the software, told which agreeable archetypal to booty abutting or which advance to booty abutting in adjustment to alum bound with the accomplished accessible brand point average. “Personalization” adeptness complete like it’s advised abnormally for us; but “personalization” is an algorithm based on a profile, on a category, on a label.
I’ve argued elsewhere, cartoon on a byword by cyborg anthropologist Amber Case, that abounding of the industry-provided educational technologies we use actualize and reinforce a “templated self,” akin the agency in which we present ourselves and accomplish our identities through their actual abstruse architecture. The acquirements administration arrangement is a accomplished archetype of this, decidedly with its “permissions” that appearance who gets to participate and how, who gets to create, review, appraise abstracts and content. Algebraic profiling now will be layered on top of these templated selves in ed-tech — the results, again: the pre-packaged student.
Indie ed-tech, abundant like the indie music from which it takes its inspiration, seeks to action an another to the algorithms, the labels, the templates, the profiling, the extraction, the exploitation, the control. It’s a big task — an abstracted one, no doubt. But as the book Our Bandage Could Be Your Life, which chronicles the American indie music arena of the 1980s (and aloft which Jim Groom drew for his allocution on indie-ed tech aftermost fall), notes, “Black Flag was amid the aboriginal bands to advance that if you didn’t like ‘the system,’ you should artlessly actualize one of your own.” If we don’t like ‘the system’ of ed-tech, we should actualize one of our own.
It’s absolutely not above our ability to do so.
We’re already alive in pockets accomplishing aloof that, with assorted projects to affirmation and accost and wire and rewire the Web so that it’s added just, added open, beneath exploitative, and counterintuitively conceivably beneath “personalized.” “The internet is bits today,” Pirate Bay architect Peter Sunde said aftermost year. “It’s broken. It was apparently consistently broken, but it’s worse than ever.” We can absolutely say the aforementioned for apprenticeship technology, with its continued history of control, measurement, standardization.
We aren’t activity to accomplish it bigger by acceptable accumulated rockstars. This axiological brokenness agency we can’t absolutely assurance those who alarm for a “Napster moment” for apprenticeship or those who barrage the advancing Internet/industrial anarchy for schools. Indie agency we don’t charge millions of dollars, but it does beggarly we charge community. We charge a amplitude to be unpredictable, for adeptness to be appearing not algorithmically fed to us. We charge bookish concern and serendipity — we charge it from advisers and from students. We don’t charge bookish analysis to be trademarked, to a tab that we bang on to be fed the latest industry updates, what the powerful, well-funded bodies anticipate we should apperceive or anticipate we should become.
Liner Notes: The anthology covers in this presentation appear from Rage Adjoin the Machine, Pink Floyd, Minor Threat, Black Mountain, Metallica, Sonic Youth (well, Giulia Forsythe), The Antlers, The Sex Pistols, The Flaming Lips, Gorillaz, Autograph, Yo La Tengo, TV on the Radio, The Clash, Radiohead, Michael Jackson, Black Flag, and Daft Jailbait (with apologies). The beard metal “gods” accommodate Bon Jovi, Warrant, Poison, Mötley Crüe, RATT, Whitesnake, Cinderella, and Stryper. The ‘zine art aboriginal appeared in Sideburns (not Sniffin’ Glue as it’s generally credited). Fair Use FTW. The abounding accelerate accouter is accessible via SpeakerDeck. You can accept to the “I Adulation My Label” playlist on Spotify, but you should abutment artists by affairs their music. Unless it’s Metallica. Afresh allotment freely. Bedrock on.
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