Monthly Archives: May 2005

Here’s one to think about for implications

Read quickly, this one may seem irrelevant to the serious business of Information Wrangling… but just under the surface is something pretty remarkable: A rocket launcher of our own describes (a) capture of a data stream, (b) import into CAD/CAM software, and (c) export to a milling machine or 3D printer…
Science fiction, you say… but listen to Bruce Sterling and Alex Steffen (summary here, and audio). Fabjects and object processing are the stuff of Wired and MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms at the moment, but don’t say I didn’t warn me…

Husband on Weinberger

This comment on Weinberger’s dictum that ‘The cure to information overload is more information’ seems pretty right-on:

It’s (the flow) not gonna stop, and the traditional ways information and knowledge have been classified, ordered, made accessible, distributed and stored have had major change visit, as you have pointed out many times. We now need to become, and feel, adept art skimming, dot-connecting, pattern recognition, and deciding well and wisely when to delve more deeply and in more concentrated ways into issue X or issue Y.

Continuous Computing

Gardner Campbell points me to another very eloquent summary of what’s going on, from Wade Roush’s 10,000 Brainiacs: Let’s Write a Social Computing Story, Socially!, soon to be a Technology Review article. Try this bit on for size:

Walk around any college campus or visit any café with a Wi-Fi hotspot, and you’ll see that these new tools are already changing not only the way we interact, but the way we think, learn, and relate to our physical environments. And this change is accelerating. In fact, it’s spreading through world cultures so fast–and upsetting traditional notions of communication so radically–that even the last half-century of revolutionary technological change is beginning to seem calm by comparison.

Readers using Firefox see interlarded comments by mousing over hyperlinks, and are invited to contribute others for inclusion. Something happening here, Mr. Jones…

…need for a new term to describe the current moment in information technology. Continuous computing doesn’t simply mean computing continuously: few people, in fact, want or need to be jacked into the network at every moment of the day. Rather, it also connotes computing that’s continuous with our lives as humans, in all their messy, biological, biographical, social richness. Computers and software don’t have to disappear behind the scenes in order to blend more naturally into our existence. All they have to do is respect our real human needs—prime among them, the need to communicate.

St. Jon Udell

What marvelous clarity:

On your blog, you can document your public agenda better than anyone else can. If you’ve ever been interviewed by a newspaper reporter, you know the drill. An hour of careful explanation may be reduced to a quote that makes you cringe. What hasn’t occurred to most people yet is that you can publish that careful explanation yourself. Or that, when you do, the web’s aggregation engines will surface your words in appropriate contexts, and will help people measure their impact.
…. In a knowledge-based economy, narrating your work becomes part of everyone’s job. That narration produces artifacts we call blogs. They’ll transform Big Media, but only because they’ll transform society.

The whole post is eminently worth reading, and mostly on the subject of the transformation of journalisms. What it says to me is that all that log-file making and process-collecting that I’ve been doing in the last decade really does amount to something: it’s a record –a narration– of where I’ve been and what I’ve thought about, imperfectly connected though it surely is. I wish I’d been better able to convey this to my students…
(found via Gardner Campbell’s posting just this morning…)

Language Polluters

Sez Marc at O’Reilly Radar:

It’s definitely true that “RSS” is not a helpful term to describe feeds to the world at large. Yet another acronym, spewed into the environment by the worst language polluters on the planet, the tech industry. But you know what? It’s already too late. Just like ‘http://’, RSS icons are a usability disaster that will be around for the long haul. The tools will have to route around the damage.
(Atom has a Branding Problem)

Following H5N1

My friend Ron Nigh and I have been exchanging bits of news about H5N1 for the last 18 months, starting from the monitoring of press coverage that I began in January 2004, and following the discovery of the issue by people better equipped than ourselves (Effect Measure, Pathogen Alert, The Coming Influenza Pandemic?, Henry Niman’s Recombinomics, and Connotea’s AvianFlu tag…) . Yesterday I forwarded to him a couple of links to stories about death of migratory birds in China, who seem to have come from India… Ron responded:

This is such a fascinating subject for anthropology and I will be forever
grateful to you for pointing me to it way back when. It has so many
dimensions, from the genetic, species diversity issues ,biomedical
issues to the social and political… All that is lacking is some GIS! Do you know if anyone is mapping bird
flu? It would be great to take this as a case for my anthro students in 2006. By
then it may well be a big story or may have faded away like SARS. Anyway it
would be fun to come up with some mapping and statistical exercises to do
with the students on the Internet, etc. An idle dream, I suppose.

I replied with some comments on the prospects for mapping:

Consider the myriad problems of mapping, which simply make the whole
thing even MORE ideal as a multidimensional whatever for anthropology:
there are so many actors (individual and corporate) whose Interest is in
NOT allowing Information about H5N1 to be public, and/or in distorting
the “facts”, that the inbound data stream for maps is completely
compromised –we can’t even know how bad (or good…) the data are. Sort
of like mapping gypsies. And that’s a good metaphor for the whole
problem of Data and Objectivity, innit? What we’d like is some proxies,
ideally overlapping proxies, for the data we’d really like but can’t
A lot of the stories I read via those blogs say pretty much the same
thing: the world of officialdom is bumbling and slow to get it, and
basically interested in not being caught in Type II Error (having cried
Wolf with public monies, when there was no lupine personage…), so the
testing that MUST be done to provide the data we need isn’t being done,
or is being suppressed, or in any case isn’t being fed into the channels
where troublemakers like Niman can get their mitts on and
misrepresent… etc etc.

Ron sez:

I don’t think anyone has said it quite as clearly as you. At least put your
thoughts on oook…

…so here they are.

I’m afraid Dave is right…

Dave Winer’s post this morning, ruminating on the ecological niche(s) of podcasting (It worked!) includes a characterization of Public Radio that is, I fear, pretty much right on:

Thinking more about it I realized that the role of an owner of a public radio station is twofold. You listen and you pay. Occasionally, if you don’t mind waiting and getting totally nervous, you can call in and ask a question of an expert — someone who is probably just saying politically correct bullshit, but you never get to speak, what you think isn’t important, your job is to pay, and if you like, listen, while they lull you to sleep with their relaxing talk that’s only intelligent when compared to the other crap that’s on the radio.

Alan Levine epitomises

A Real Technologist

This weekend my wife and I are taking care of a friend’s 10 year old daughter, and in just 24 hours it has been a mind opening opportunity to see how she uses/absorbs technology among other things- to a 10 year old, it seems like everything is fascinating and worth exploring (where do we lose that feeling?)…
(describes use of digital camera)
…It’s obvious she is running on intuition, guesswork, exploration, curiosity, desire to learn, not fixed recipe formulated, instructional designed steps marked with precise outomes objectives and goal statements.
This is the world higher education is not even ready for, not even remotely. A tectonic shift is on its way ready to learn by exploration and what are we ready to offer? Click-and-read hypertext inside closed, stilted learning management systems.

On fiction

Not a subject I think about very often, and the rest of the article is about writers I don’t want to read, but the lead paragraph certainly brought me up short:

Good fiction has never been about moral instruction; it would be much easier to write if it were. Its more imposing task is to do justice to the inexhaustible complexity of human motivation. Because our motives are often hidden from us, because the canvas of even our own experience can be too much for our eye to take in, we look to writers to help make comprehensible the reasons why people act the way they act, why they transgress, why they fail to transgress. In this respect the fictional outlaw has at least as much to teach us as the upright citizen—a principle older than Céline or Shakespeare or Milton, perhaps as old as storytelling itself.

from Harper’s Magazine: Ready-Made Rebellion