Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Technology and Accessibility

A while back, I wrote about the social media advantages of Iphone/Smartphone games like “Words With Friends,” which allows users to play a Scrabble-like game with both friends and stranges, and provides a chat-like environment for interaction.
I wrote about the advantages of such a platform to bring together like-minded people of a particular ability level – sort of a unique social networking opportunity.

Well, I was called on it by a friend who brought up a critical question. These chat-like environments are by nature limitied in their opportunities for interaction to those who have specific skills and abilities. They leave out entirely a huge range of individuals, including those with dyslexia and similar challenges, like my friend. Online interaction, for all of its attraction and opportunity, can be exclusionary. Brilliant, talented indivudals may be entirely “out of the loop” in this Brave New World. It’s worth considering that we can’t look entirely at the online environment as the be-all and end-all for cultural, business or even retail interaction. The world is a lot bigger than the online world – even now.

I also believe that some of these concerns will be addressed as technology continues to develop. For instance, I’ve been astounded by the accuracy of my Dragon Dictation – and Iphone speech to text program that works surprisingly well. If you have an Iphone. The connected world in which we live offers so many exciting opportunities – but threatens an elitist information class – if we’re not careful, attentive, appreciative and proactive to create accessible technology.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Thoughts on the Apple Ipad

I like the Ipad. I admit it. I haven’t held one yet, and I’ll probably hold out for one with a webcam, but it’s a damn sexy product that I’d like to have in my hands. The size and screen resolution – and color display – of the Ipad offer a platform for reading that I think can, in many instances, provide an alternative to traditional media (i.e. books, magazines and newspapers). I know that that’s heresy to some, but I feel it could be a useful alternative. The idea that I can go anywhere with the Ipad – lay back on my sofa, read in bed, or in any number of casual situations – is precisely what people have been waiting for, “IMHO.”

I do have concerns. If I accept digital-only editions of daily newspapers – am I out of luck if my Ipad goes down? I suppose I could then use my laptop or desktop computer to access the publication – but I’d forgo the convenience the convenience of the Ipad. That’s an issue that print media would never encounter, of course.

Still, I like the idea. I would give up paper delivery for an electronic edition once I have an Ipad. I know many people bemoan the death of newspapers as we know them – but I really don’t think that print editions will dominate “newspaper” distribution in the future. The writing is really on the wall. I don’t think paper editions will disappear entirely – but most of us who wish to stay informed will do so electronically. And we’ll save a few million trees, too.

Friday, March 26, 2010

"Bollywood Steps" Update

Bollywood Steps,” my hour-long documentary about the relationship between a Bollywood choreographer and American-born Indian boys in Southern California- has been completed. I’m now working on the next stage in the process – getting the film out into the real world. That mean getting the film to potential distributors, entering numerous film festivals to develop recognition for the program (and attract distributors) – and using the film to generate other documentary opportunities.

In the USA, a land of immigrants, I believe the film offers a story of interest to anyone seeking to understand the meaning of diversity in our country. The film explores the efforts of Indian parents to preserve their heritage in their American-born (and very American) kids – that’s a challenge that many cultures face in America – and approach in many different ways. The parents I interviewed in this film emphasized that they didn’t want their children to be isolated from either culture- but they did want them to be aware of their cultural and moral traditions. I’m hoping to hear generate some interesting discussions through screenings and reviews over the coming year.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


There’s a great deal of anxiety and debate about America’s competitiveness in the world. Concerns extend from the quality of education to loss of industrial capacity – on the face of it, evidence would seem to suggest that we’re falling behind in so many areas.

While many of these concerns may be valid, we are still the leader in one critical area – opportunity. I’ve spoken with quite a number of expriates from a number of countries around the world. The United States may be imperfect in many ways, but people still come here for something that can’t find anywhere else: the chance set the path for their own future – to achive what they want to achieve, to have the opportunity to attempt to be entrepreneurs. Not everyone will achieve their dreams – we’re all imperfect human beings, after all – but we still offer unrivaled opportunity.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Great Vlogging Experiment

I recently took on the challenge of vlogging and blogging the International Family Film Festival. I’ve been experimenting with Vlogging of late, and I’m eager to explore it in all sort of variations. Within a few weeks of beginning my vlogging channel on YouTube ( to rich – please subscribe!), I bought a little camera called a Flip Ultra HD – a pretty nifty little point-and-shoot video camera that will make it possible to freely vlog wherever and however I want (as opposed to pulling out my professional equipment)

Armed with the cam, a monopod (tripod with one leg) to allow for steadier shots, a Twitter account for the film festival, and voice-to-text software on my Iphone to allow for easy blog updating, I ventured forth to the IFFF to social network it to the extreme.

Or so I thought!

First, my Flip died on the second day of the festival. I’m not sure why – buttons other than the basic power stopped responding – so I was forced to pull out my DV cam to continue documenting the experience. Pulling out that camera, I found, triggered by documentary instincts, so I really ended up recording the experience, rather than vlogging it as a personal experience. (incidentally, both Flip and Amazon came through for me once I had a chance to call customer service, and a replacement cam was in the mail even before I’d sent the other camera back).

Second, I realize now that social networking to this extent can be intense – particularly since I had intended on crossing over several platforms – there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to attend to the festival, vlog, blog and sleep!

On the positive side, the limited vlogging I did do proved to be useful – it provided recognition for me at the festival that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. Since I began vlogging a little over a month ago, I have found that it’s developed personal relationships with colleagues – people I really haven’t had a chance to work or socialize with are getting to know me on a personal level. I’m fascinated with the prospect of exploring the possibilities of this new tool in my arsenal…..

Friday, March 12, 2010


After my last entry considering the value of random “fan pages” on Facebook, I realized that I have quite an interesting time using another form of “random” social networking. I often play a game called “Words With Friends,” a Scrabble-like game played across the cell phone network on the Iphone and other similar smartphones. Games can be played with particular individuals, or with random individuals, and extend over days, depending upon each player’s availability.

The game includes a chat function to allow for direct communication beyond simply playing the same. For months, I’ve been playing a succession of games with a rapper in Texas – we’ve exchanged websites – who knows, maybe we’ll work together someday! I’ve played other random games with many others, most recently discussing weather with a snowbound player somewhere in Pittburgh.

In the case of this game, perhaps the nature of “Words With Friends” community infers a more educated set of players – a more compatible community.

I continue to wonder: are we becoming a community-addicted culture?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


It’s interesting how many Facebook users feel compelled to join “fan pages” for the most mundane aspects of their lives, from the food they eat, to any number of household products, moods, myths and random opinions. I have to wonder, however, the real value of joining a community of others who share your interest in a brand of potato chips. I would imagine the conversations in that virtual room would be somewhat limited!

Monday, March 08, 2010


During the upcoming International Family Film Festival, which was founded by the same team that created Freshi Films, I’ll be vlogging and blogging the entire experience. It’s really somewhat of a laboratory for me, as I’m beginning to use the social networking tools at my disposal.

As I research and apply these tools, I’m coming to the conclusion that “social networking” is radically different from person to person, depending upon individual needs and talents. It’s more a question of understanding the tools and developing a strategy, as opposed to searching for “how-to” guidelines. Even my plans for the festival are evolving before it’s even begun, as I contemplate how each of the tools I’m using – vlogging, blogging, Twitter, and Flickr – work together to create an overall experience. I look forward to the journey.