I enjoyed reading (April)

program.reading.outside

Sudden site shutdowns and the perils of living our lives online (John Paul Titlow): When Google decided to shut down Reader and made the announcement a few weeks ago, this really made me think carefully about what I do online, and where I decide to do it. Obviously there’s incredible convenience in having someone else host all your stuff, whether it’s on Facebook, Google+ or any other service. They have beautiful user interfaces (sometimes), great sharing features and they are responsible for maintaining the site. But when they decide to close up shop, for whatever reason, there goes all your data. The more I think about it, the more I want to move my online profiles into my own online space.
Guns want to be free: what happens when 3D printing and crypto-anarchy collide? (Joshua Kopstein):

I approve of any development that makes it more difficult for governments and criminals to monopolise the use of force.

I’m not sure yet if this is a good thing or a bad thing. However, right now, it is a thing that we need to think about. The idea of printing weapons is definitely something that needs discussion, but we should also remember that we’ll be able to print other things too, like furniture, utensils, spare parts for devices, etc. The creative force that this will unleash is going to change society, especially when this technology is widely available. One day, 3D printers will be built into your home and will just be a normal part of your consumer experience (see Neil Stephenson’s The Diamond Age).

 

The Mendeley – Elsevier frenzy: I’m not going to summarise the discussion, just wanted to point out a few posts I found thought-provoking. It is interesting to note that a few weeks after the initial announcement, everything died down and the internet has moved on. I wonder how many of those indignant academics actually deleted their accounts? The links below are the posts that I thought were more considered and less irrational and emotional.

 

Network-enabled research (Cameron Neylon):

Suddenly there is the possibility of coordination, of distribution of tasks that was simply not possible before. The internet simply does this better than any other network we have ever had. It is better for a range of reasons but they key ones are: its immense scale – connecting more people, and now machines than any previous network; its connectivity – the internet is incredibly densely connected, essentially enabling any computer to speak to any other computer globally; its lack of friction – transfer of information is very low cost, essentially zero compared to previous technologies, and is very very easy.

 

Teaching as a subversive activity (Rick Snell): This is not a link to the book itself but a summary of the main concepts. I’ve been wanting to read Teaching as a subversive activity for ages, but still haven’t gotten around to it.

…once you have learned how to ask questions – relevant and appropriate and substantial questions – you have leaned how to learn and no one can keep you from learning whatever you want or need to know.

I enjoyed reading (March)

screen-free-ideas-for-kids4

The web as a universal standard (Tony Bates): It wasn’t so much the content of this post that triggered my thinking, but the title. I’ve been wondering for a while what a “future-proof” knowledge management database would look like. While I think the most powerful ones will be semantic (e.g. like the KDE desktop integrated with the semantic web), there will also be a place for standardised, text-based media like HTML.

 

The half-life of facts (Maria Popova):

Facts are how we organize and interpret our surroundings. No one learns something new and then holds it entirely independent of what they already know. We incorporate it into the little edifice of personal knowledge that we have been creating in our minds our entire lives. In fact, we even have a phrase for the state of affairs that occurs when we fail to do this: cognitive dissonance.

 

How parents normalised password sharing (danah boyd):

When teens share their passwords with friends or significant others, they regularly employ the language of trust, as Richtel noted in his story. Teens are drawing on experiences they’ve had in the home and shifting them into their peer groups in order to understand how their relationships make sense in a broader context. This shouldn’t be surprising to anyone because this is all-too-common for teen practices. Household norms shape peer norms.

 

Academic research published as a graphic novel (Gareth Morris): Over the past few months I’ve been thinking about different ways for me to share the results of my PhD (other than the papers and conference presentations that were part of the process). I love the idea of using stories to share ideas, but had never thought about presenting research in the form of a graphic novel.

product_thumbnail

 

Getting rich off of schoolchildren (David Sirota):

You know how it goes: The pervasive media mythology tells us that the fight over the schoolhouse is supposedly a battle between greedy self-interested teachers who don’t care about children and benevolent billionaire “reformers” whose political activism is solely focused on the welfare of kids. Epitomizing the media narrative, the Wall Street Journal casts the latter in sanitized terms, reimagining the billionaires as philanthropic altruists “pushing for big changes they say will improve public schools.”

The first reason to scoff at this mythology should be obvious: It simply strains credulity to insist that pedagogues who get paid middling wages but nonetheless devote their lives to educating kids care less about those kids than do the Wall Street hedge funders and billionaire CEOs who finance the so-called reform movement. Indeed, to state that pervasive assumption out loud is to reveal how utterly idiotic it really is, and yet it is baked into almost all of today’s coverage of education politics.

 

The case for user agent extremism (Anil Dash): Anil’s post has some close parallels with this speech by Eben Moglen, that I linked to last month. The idea that, as technology becomes increasingly integrated into our lives, the more control we are losing. We all need to become invested in wresting control of our digital lives and identities back from corporations, although how exactly to do that is a difficult problem.

The idea captured in the phrase “user agent” is a powerful one, that this software we run on our computers or our phones acts with agency on behalf of us as users, doing our bidding and following our wishes. But as the web evolves, we’re in fundamental tension with that history and legacy, because the powerful companies that today exert overwhelming control over the web are going to try to make web browsers less an agent of users and more a user-driven agent of those corporations.

 

Singularities and nightmares (David Brin):

Options for a coming singularity include self-destruction of civilization, a positive singularity, a negative singularity (machines take over), and retreat into tradition. Our urgent goal: find (and avoid) failure modes, using anticipation (thought experiments) and resiliency — establishing robust systems that can deal with almost any problem as it arises.

 

Is AI near a takeoff point? (J. Storrs Hall):

Computers built by nanofactories may be millions of times more powerful than anything we have today, capable of creating world-changing AI in the coming decades. But to avoid a dystopia, the nature (and particularly intelligence) of government (a giant computer program — with guns) will have to change.

 

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2012-03-26

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-03-15

Powered by Twitter Tools

Can established research methodologies cope with social media?

Yesterday I was talking to my supervisor about how I’m having difficulty designing a protocol for my systematic review.  The guidelines I’m looking at are very good for designing a structured process for searching through the literature, but they’re not very good at helping me to define a search that includes social media.  The JBI Manual doesn’t mention Twitter or Facebook at all, and Cochrane is equally useless to me in this regard.

As if in response to that conversation, I had the following experience earlier today.  I got an email from Twitter informing me that I had a new follower.  I clicked the link and was taken to the profile of someone interested in similar things to me.  I followed him, went through a few of his tweets and ended up following a few of his followers.  One of those followers had tweeted about a page on danah boyd‘s site that was a collection of Research on Twitter and Microblogging.  I found 18 useful papers on that page that I probably would never have found if I’d had to stick to a review protocol that was designed to search commonly recognised sources (e.g. PubMed, CINAHL, library databases, etc).

How can I define the process that I went through today in generic terms (because the same thing can happen when I’m going through news feeds, Delicious, Slideshare, etc.) when it’s so serendipitous?  There doesn’t seem to be an easy way to describe that process in terms that my Dean of Research would understand (I’m uncertain, but I suspect that he’s not on Twitter).

There are other issues.  For example, I can use the blog of an expert in the field to extract an opinion about an intervention, which is great (let’s exclude the problem of defining an expert).  So I can make a list of the blogs of all the experts that I’ll consult, which will never be even close to comprehensive anyway.  How do I then get around the problem of the blog that I add tomorrow, which I might find because of a Google Group that I subscribe to?  Or the “non-expert” blogger I come across who links to a recently published report that I must include?  How about using Mendeley as an article database?  Will my examiners accept it as an appropriate source of literature?  And I can’t even imagine the chaos that’s going to erupt when Wave really gets going in education.

It seems that I can define my protocol loosely, which means that no-one else will be able to reproduce the study and will therefore negate the whole point of a systematic review.  Or, I can define my protocol strictly and potentially miss a hundred important articles, which will make my review equally poor.  Do we need to re-evaluate established research methodologies to take into account the disruptive nature of social media, or am I missing something?

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2009-08-03

  • RT @cshirky: NY Daily News on hospital cover-ups of medical errors: http://bit.ly/KTdHV. Scary… #
  • First Look: Firefox 3.7’s New Design http://bit.ly/mrDKD #
  • Posterous – Do we really need another blogging platform? Maybe… http://bit.ly/Fwdag #
  • First impressions of Google Wave | Enterprise Web 2.0 | ZDNet.com http://bit.ly/33j4d0 #
  • Does anyone know anything about Silentale? It looks interesting, although I’m not sure if it’s worth keeping an eye on http://bit.ly/15HacT #
  • Would the real social network please stand up? Post by danah boyd on different types of social networks http://bit.ly/Uib9c #
  • Elsevier Journal Scandal Provokes Significant Librarian Response – 5/14/2009 – Library Journal http://bit.ly/4CCIL #
  • Course by Peter Tittenberger on Open Educational Resources http://bit.ly/PVgVi #
  • YouTube – A Fair(y) Use Tale http://bit.ly/13I5v3 #
  • Article of the Future prototypes – Information World Review…interesting take on publication…bit like a wiki http://bit.ly/m2O8A #
  • Project “Article of the future”, very exciting for authors, needs a mind shift though, will change academic publication http://bit.ly/oNKtm #

Powered by Twitter Tools.