Online learning tidbits

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These blurbs are not new. Old-school insights.

Online philosophy course

Montreal’s College de Bois-de-Boulogne put a philosophy course online, they worried that students would lose contact with each other because they were separated by cyberspace. Bernard Lachance, the university’s directeur general, found exactly the opposite.

The students organized their own face-to-face meetings, expanded on the course materials, and were more engaged with the subject than they might have been in a traditional classroom.

Really Interesting - build it and get out of the way. The really interesting stuff happens when an interactive situation is designed to handle the unexpected. Consider what happened when the designers of Meridian 59 put up their virtual 3D world, set out a few rules, and got out of the way. The end-users built an entire virtual society, complete with a monetary system, bandits who run around stealing the heads off of the avatars of poor unsuspecting newbies, and other unforeseen user-driven consequences.

From the Editor-in-Chief, Inteactive magazine, Jan 1998, Dominic Milano, page 6.

Todd Rundgren’s PatroNet, from 1997

PatroNet is like the electric company, says Rundgren. It’s a public utility, a mechanism that allows artists to concentrate on their deliverables, and to avoid getting involved in things like setting up and maintaining a customer database, BBS, chat or email. He hopes to offer the service to a variety of artists working in a variety of media, all of whom will be free to determine their own combinations of deliverables and pricing structures.

Artists will be able to survive with smaller audiences, since most of the subscription fee goes directly to the artist -- Waking Dreams takes only a small percentage.

The most popular things on the Web, at least in the world of connectivity, are subscription services that allow people to interact with other people,” observed Rundgren. For a monthly fee, subscribers can receive services such as works in progress, pay-per-view events, and pictures. A subscription lasts as long as the production process.

PatroNet Relaunch Delayed but Name Acts Joining

by Jay Kumar ni August 09, 2000

Beset by technical problems, a planned relaunch of ArtistEnt.com's PatroNet artist subscription service has been delayed indefinitely. But at least one of the artists signed to the service is undeterred by the glitches and ready to begin recording new material for subscribers.

Pat DiNizio, lead singer of the New Jersey-based power pop act the Smithereens, said he was approached earlier this year by ArtistEnt CEO Danny Goldberg about joining the network. For $40 per year DiNizio's fan subscribers get a three-song CD of new original material each month, plus tons of extras. At the end of the year, subscribers get a compilation disc of all of the year's music that is also released to retail stores.

"It's really the way to go," DiNizio said. "It's important to cut out the middleman."

Since the day it was launched in 1998 by '70s pop star Todd Rundgren, PatroNet has been dedicated to cutting out middlemen. Through the program, Rundgren charges an annual fee for downloadable songs and video, whole CDs, online chats and email access -- even drafts of his autobiography.

The expanded PatroNet will add DiNizio and avant-jazz bassist Bill Laswell; the company hopes to have 10-12 artists on board by the end of the year, with memberships priced similarly to DiNizio and Rundgren's deals. The idea is to provide artists infrastructure to do what Rundgren is doing, to make more money than through any traditional record deal [see 5.22.00 ArtistEnt.com to Launch Subscription Service June 1].

"It's a 50-50 split between myself and ArtistEnt," DiNizio said. "I've finally got a deal that's equitable." The deal is good for fans too. In addition to the new songs, DiNizio subscribers get a VHS tape of a live performance, a live disc and access to online chats.

Not just any artist would see success as part of PatroNet. Web sites like MP3.com, Riffage.com and garageband.com let unestablished acts promote themselves online; PatroNet is for already recognized artists looking to form lucrative, direct relationships with an established fan base.

But the relaunch has not gone smoothly. ArtistEnt President Stuart Shapiro wouldn't discuss in detail technical bugs such as problems downloading, installing and using a proprietary PatroNet browser.

Shapiro said Monday that the problems would be resolved in "a couple of days or a couple of weeks."

Existing PatroNet subscribers, all Rundgren devotees, say at least minor problems have always existed because Rundgren insists on creating and maintaining every technical aspect of the service itself: a web site, the proprietary "Interocitor" browser, and TR-TV, a set of interactive applications.

"If I didn't love his music so much I wouldn't have stuck with him through all this," wrote one fan. "Because whatever you do, you don't make it difficult for people to buy your product."

If the problems can be fixed, PatroNet could offer established artists a real alternative to traditional recording contracts, and offer fans of those acts better value for their dollar. After some negative major label experiences as a member of the Smithereens, DiNizio is looking forward to forming closer relationships with his core fans. He hopes to lure between 10,000 and 20,000 subscribers.

The move seems a natural one for the independently minded singer/songwriter, who is currently running for a Senate seat in New Jersey. DiNizio used the Web earlier this year to book a concert tour, performing in fans' living rooms and backyards. He played 90 shows in all.

About the author 

Mark Rauterkus

Webmaster and long-time open-source advocate. Also a swim, water polo and SKWIM coach in Pittsburgh.

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