Jed Cohen

An Archive

Archive for May, 2009

Springtime!

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Switched over to a brighter header in honor of the beautiful springtime weather.  Although I really should just take the plunge and buy some hosting somewhere to set up a full WordPress installation.

Anywho…….

Written by Jed

May 31st, 2009 at 2:43 pm

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The Role of Propaganda in Modern Democracy (aka My Colloquium)

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So school’s out; I’ve graduated.  Yipee.  This has naturally led me to think about quite a few things and to reflect upon some of my experiences at NYU.  I’ve written before on the wide range of classes I’ve taken and some of the opportunities afforded to me by my academic program at the Gallatin School of Individualized Study.  One of the few degree requirements (and as such one of the few guaranteed shared experiences among the students) is the colloquium.  The colloquium is Gallatin’s senior capstone, a two hour discussion on a topic of the students choice with three faculty members.  It is something that students look upon with a bit of dread, and it is a bit daunting – it is rare for a student’s academic career to hinge on a single event like the colloquium (not that many people fail, but it is still stressful).

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Written by Jed

May 30th, 2009 at 11:20 am

140 Characters Conference Update

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Don’t think I posted this here, but courtesy of Jeff Pulver’s scholarship program, I’ll be attending the 140 Characters Conference next month (you can read my application here).  So excited!  It’s going to be great to meet some of the people who I follow on Twitter and learn and talk about the uses of Twitter across different fields.  I can’t wait!

EDIT: The badge no longer works due to changes at the 140conf website.  Sorry folks.

Written by Jed

May 23rd, 2009 at 11:47 am

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The Harvard Comma

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In the spring semester of my junior year, I took a class called Communication and Public Relations in the Department of Media, Culture and Communication at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development.  In case you didn’t click on any of the links above, here’s the course description:

Public relations means different things to different people but it has one undeniable element: communication. This course is concerned with arranging, handling, and evaluating public relations programs. Students work with actual case histories and deal with contemporary topics such as the use of the computer in public relations.

So what does this mean?  Basically it was a course that taught you how to write a press release.  Now for those of you who haven’t written one before, the press release is unlike other forms of written material.  It’s written in AP style, which is also used by journalists; the logic being that reporters won’t have to rewrite your release for their publication.  It’s a bit tricky to learn, and I’m not sure I could just jump back into writing press releases – in case you haven’t noticed, I’m a fan of using semicolons and multi-part sentences, and press releases require short, clear writing.  But I’d probably be able to muddle through if I had to, I suppose.

Anyway, I do remember two things that my professor (who shall remain nameless) insisted upon.  The first was the fact that there is no such thing as the “first annual” event.  You have the first event and the second annual, but she continually reminded us that there is no such thing as the first annual.  Now the web seems to be on the fence, but I’m kind of okay with this.  But what she stressed even more was the frequent usage of the so called “Harvard comma.”  The Harvard comma, also known as the serial comma, is the comma used before the “or” or “and” in a series.  Example:

The dog, the cat, and the bird

I’m someone who was taught to use the serial comma in grade school, so this aggravated me a little bit.  It took a while for me to get used to not using it when I was writing press releases, but eventually I got the hang of it.  But in the year or so since this class ended, I’ve found myself jumping back and forth – sometimes using it, sometimes not.  It gets kind of frustrating when I’m writing a paper (or a blog post) and in the span of a couple of paragraphs my hands type this supposedly superfluous comma just before the conjunction in a series to not including it at all.  Which isn’t really a big deal I suppose, but it’s just something I happen to notice.  So which one do you use?

Written by Jed

May 21st, 2009 at 1:08 pm

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Why I’d like to attend #140conf

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So Jeff Pulver is putting together a conference called #140conf in celebration of all things Twitter.  As a recent college grad (try today, actually), I’m not exactly able to sign up and just go.  But Jeff has generosity decided to run a program giving scholarships to 30 people who wouldn’t otherwise be able to attend.  The entry process?  Write a 140 word e-mail on why I want to attend.

So here it is:

Hello Jeff-
 
I’d like to attend #140conf because I think that one day Twitter is going to revolutionize the way that companies interact with their customers (if it hasn’t already), and as a recent college graduate – commencement was yesterday in fact – I think that what I could learn at #140conf will be invaluable in my career.  I’m also extremely interested in the political applications of Twitter; it seems like every week I find some new way that a government across the world is using Twitter to open itself to its constituents.  I’d really appreciate having the opportunity to attend #140conf in order to explore this (and more).
 
Also, to be perfectly honest, the idea of spending two whole days talking about Twitter kind of appeals to my inner geek.
 
Thank you,
Jed Cohen

For kicks, I decided to write a Twitter version that’s 140 characters long:

Jeff-
Because I graduated from college today and think that one day Twitter is going to revolutionize the way I’ll work.
Thanks,
Jed Cohen

And finally, my tweet linking to this post (for bonus points apparently).

Written by Jed

May 13th, 2009 at 11:35 am

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My Problem with the Telephone

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I feel incredibly awkward when I talk on the phone sometimes.  I kind of wish I knew why; I suppose that it’s a function of two things.  The first is that I primarily use digital communications when I’m interacting with people I don’t see on a regular basis – I’m more comfortable using e-mail, Facebook, or Twitter, so I tend to communicate that way.  But when I have to actually talk to someone, I’m not used to interacting with them in that manner.  The second is the standard communication theory concept that intermediated forms of communication lack the feedback that in person communication does – I don’t have body language to rely on, so its more difficult to gage what the other person means.  But this should make my digital interactions more difficult, right?  After all, the digital realm has even less feedback than the telephone.  Perhaps the difference lies in the fact that I’m able to edit my words, to consider every possible interpretation and make sure that what I’ve written reflects my intent.

Maybe this means I should pick up video chatting and then get everyone else to do the same.  Or not.

Written by Jed

May 7th, 2009 at 12:12 pm

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The New Yorker Summit

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I went to The New Yorker Summit today.  It was pretty great.  The Summit began with a keynote by Malcolm Gladwell, and then featured panels focused around three areas – “The Economy and Financial Markets”; “Priorities: Health, Education, Energy, and the Environment”; and “Foreign Policy: Defense and Diplomacy.”  Gladwell started the day discussing the problem with experts – how experts in a given field (he used the financial markets) are much more likely to both be miscalibrated when it comes to their own skills and knowledge and suffer from the illusion that they control random events.  This did set the tone a bit for the rest of the day (which I suppose is what a good keynote should do), but the conversations ranged across many topics.  My favorites included Nassim Taleb and Robert Shiller’s panel on the economic crisis; Geoffrey Canada’s talk on how to create scalable, lasting educational programs for disadvantaged children; and Seymour Hersch’s conversation with David Remnick on foreign policy and some of the scary things he knows.  But don’t just take it from me – why don’t you read The New Yorker’s coverage of………itself.  How very meta.

Anyway, maybe more later after it all sinks in and I have a chance to review my notes?

Written by Jed

May 5th, 2009 at 11:33 pm

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