Bus Turns

From Flowing Data, a terrific public transportation mash-up, Mapnificent, which reports estimated travel times along multiple radiating routes relative to an adjustable map marker. AATA estimates for The Ride are included in the data-set, although I assume the site would be prove more useful in complex urban zones with more routes than we have running in Washtenaw County.


Mapnificent is elegant enough that it doesn’t require much more explanation. I’m saving it as a nice example of maps concerned with time, thinking about its resemblance to river turns and big box turns (not all that far removed from the CCC word turns I showed at C&W a couple of weeks ago).

Also calls to mind a question about whether there is some sort of time-scape parallel to trap streets. Trap streets are geographic fictions embedded into proprietary maps meant to shield them from theft. If a copy of a map turned up showing the trap street, it made for easy sleuthing. What, then, is the temporal equivalent of a trap street? I suppose it could be an altered time-to-destination whose falsehood would establish duplication (e.g., Carpenter Road Meijer to AA Public Library in 8 minutes). And I’m not so inclined to think of these traps out of an interest in security (or copyright or plagiarism), but rather as a variety of imagined geography (much like the character in Mieville’s Kraken who sets out to ground-truth London’s trap streets as if they might, by the cartographer’s articulation, conjure up a potential space).

Public Displays of Attendance

For the past year or so I have taken attendance in the face-to-face classes I teach by LED-projecting a Google Docs Spreadsheet into which I enter ‘x’ for present and ‘1’ for absent. The absences tabulate (i.e., it is a spreadsheet with wizardly formulas coursing through it: equations, maths of consequence, etc.), and everybody in the room can observe this act of record-keeping. Within the class, it is public: the record of who is present and who is absent is transparently kept, obvious. It’s rather like attendance crowd-sourcing in that the crowd is the source of the record; being in the room creates the account.

When we (me+ENGL328ers) were observed a week or so ago, the question came up again: What if somebody doesn’t want the record put on display? And the only answer I know relates to the option I offer on the first day of class. You can opt out. A student must let me know their wishes, and I will keep their attendance stealthily and in a secret ledger.

Among the positives, this practice helps me learn everyone’s names by the end of the third week of classes. It also reduces the number of conversations that start “but I was present that day”–conversations that leverage a teacher’s likely forgetting and that all the more likely when record keeping is hazy or erratic. With the projection method, students know attendance is logged during the first minute of class, so they show up on time, or, when they are late, they know they must check in with me at the end of the class session to make sure I have an ‘x’ rather than a ‘1’ next to their name.

The observation I took two weeks ago was exceedingly positive, so I don’t want to make this too much of a direct response to the question that arose in its follow-up conversation. It has come up in other moments: To what extent does this practice tread on student privacy? And are absences even private, really? Anyone in the class, after all, could keep track of who is there, who isn’t, and who arrives late, provided they knew names.

I suppose it is clear by my continuation of this practice that I understand attendance to be class-public. I wouldn’t put the record on display outside of the classroom (e.g., posting it as a web site or a public Google Doc), but I find the opt-out option to be a reasonable solution and a passable justification for continuing the practice. Without sounding too much like ProfHacker, I suppose I’m blogging all of this toward the invitation for input: What am I forgetting? Overlooking? And, How do you keep everyone up on a running attendance record?