Blog Post


A few things come to mind when I think back to my final Duke visit and admissions tour before making my decision to matriculate only 17 months ago. I remember the sweltering heat and its uncomfortable accompaniment, the sweat; I remember the fraternity chanting in deep voices on the main quad; and I remember passing a basketball player and thinking that he was a legend in the making. However, one of the most striking things about the tour was a fleeting reference that the "Admissions Ambassador" made to iPods in the classroom. While my high school may have been technologically inclined, iPods were banned during school hours and if one was seen it would be confiscated. Yet, here at Duke, there were iPods used in classrooms...for class?!

Many of you know the story and know how Duke's iPod project has been quietly slipping away; frankly, it was around before my time, and you probably are more familiar with it than I am. However, what you may not know is about Duke's newest next-gen Apple project: DukeMobile.

Created as a free app for the iPhone, DukeMobile is one of Duke's newest ways to use students' favorite gadgets as an interface for information. While it isn't used for classes, DukeMobile brings campus maps, course catalogs, University news, athletic schedules and rosters, student group calendars, and so much more to my fingertips in an instant. Interestingly enough, you don't even need to be a Duke student to use it; embarassingly enough, my mom uses it to ask me about basketball games and to suggest that I attend certain events. My mom--always looking out for me.

While the original app was designed and produced by Duke staff working with technology consulting groups in March of this year, the second version (which was launched only a week ago) includes new apps that were designed by students. Michael Ansel, a junior, is a friend and former classmate of mine--he also was privileged enough to get into Cathy Davidson's "Your Brain on the Internet"--is now also known as the cretor of "Places" in DukeMobile. "Places," a new feature which was designed by Michael himself, integrates dining hours, GPS coordinates, and the time of day into a program that will tell me where the nearest food can be found. While Terribly Clever Design and Duke's Office of Information Technology supported Michael in this venture, it is fascinating to see how he was able to further his own education in Electrical/Computer Engineering while adding to campus life.

Many of my friends at other schools complain about being forced to learn new technologies and new systems that their school chooses to emphasize; I applaud Duke (and the students like Michael) for continuing to try to adapt all facets of campus life to the gizmos that many of us already carry in our pockets. And from a personal, slightly pitiable experience, it is a relief to know that when hunger strikes me somewhere between East and West Campus at around 2:34 in the morning, there's an app for that.


1 comment

Welcome, Matt!  We have a fantastic group of HASTAC Scholars, including a healthy Duke contingent.  Maybe we should think what a HASTAC Scholars App would look like . . .. the nearest place you could go for a quicky bite of interdisciplinary intellectual exchange (who-hoo!).   Can't wait to download iDuke to my Touch.  


(p.s.   You've probably seen that the upcoming version of "This Is Your Brain on the Internet" is going to have a new, experimental combination grading system--points + alternating peer responsibility for evaluation + professorial evaluation.   I have no idea if it will work but it will be fascinating to try . . . I might have you in as a guest speaker to talk about what it was like in the "good ol days" when your brain on the Internet was graded in the conventional way.   I've been pilloried all over the Internet, as if I'm trying to get out of work.  And so have the students, as if any student would be foolish enough to take a course on cognition and digitality using an experimental grading system in order to get out of work.  The folks writing those comments haven't been students in a long, long time.  In any case, I plan to have the first assignment in the course be reading my original blogs and then all the responses all over the place.  I can't think of a better way to set our topic of online responsibility, participation, critique, feedback, civitas (!), and evaluation.  Say hi to Mike when you see him and congratulate him for me on making the dream he talked to us about in ISIS 120 into a reality.   Have you seen the Ocarina for the iPhone by Duke alum Ge Wang?  He was one of our student advisors when we created ISIS way back when, even before the Great Duke iPhone experiment.   We have a Duke tradition brewing here.)