October was a sparse month for weblog updates. To the few who might be reading, I’m sorry. I’ve been putting my head down and plowing through a bunch of midterm papers, exams, and presentations. The last major one was today. In theory that would give me a week to relax, but the inevitability of looming deadlines at the end of the semester make any relaxation feel like procrastination. Pleasure just turns into anxiety.
Another arrow in the quiver against education fell today. It arrived in Information Ethics, during a discussion of affective psychological development. We were climbing the ladders of development from meeting physical needs, to power, to adult approval, peer approval, self approval, on up to self-understanding and integration. But we stumbled, every last one of us involved in education, at competition with others. How can we operate at a level of mutuality and reciprocity when the academic environment keeps forcing us to be competitive?
Fall, as a season, has been a struggle this year. Physically my allergies have gone haywire. I went into health services to consult with an allergist a few weeks ago and was turned into a temporary pincushion. The hardest part was kicking antihistamines for the five days prior to the test. The results weren’t too different from when I last was tested some 15 years ago. Still allergic to dust, most tree and grass pollens.
Like many children dinosaurs were one of my first interests in science. A recent article in Scientific American describes developments that may be turning away from asteroid collisions as the primary cause of mass extinctions in the past. It looks like the dinosaur die-off at the Cretaceous/Tertiary (K-T) boundary is still strong but other extinctions may be due to changes in ocean chemistry and gas releases.
I watched the movie [Crumb]() many years ago. I was mostly interested in the biography of the creative artist instead of Crumb’s work in particular. Crumb clearly had problems and a twisted family life that scarred him and his siblings. The link between suffering, depression, and art is long and twisted. Two books, The Wound and the Bow by Edward Wilson and Touched with Fire by Kay Redfield Jamison, are worth considering.
Thinking about the different ways we tell history to each other. A history of people. Biography, Pultarch’s Lives. A history of things. The telegraph, telephone, steam engine, computer. A history of phenomenon. History of ideas: freedom, myth. You can pick a topic and choose to tell it through one of the viewpoints. Listening In, on radio, a thing, tells the story as a phenomenon. A book like iCon about Steve Jobs, tells the story of Apple through a person.
It’s the end of another month and time to review my mind. A lot less material has been published on this site since school began at the beginning of September. My classes are finally starting to feel like a routine. I’m currently taking Information Culture, Information Ethics, Recommender Systems, and Intellectual Property. The month began with a look back at what I learned through half of my MSI program at Michigan.
A discussion in a recent class about information history and technology swirled around the common theme of technological determinism. It’s a perennial issue for anyone that deals with science and technology studies or the history of technology. On the one side are those who argue that technology drives history, on the other are those who object. A Google search reveals this definition by Daniel Chandler. The technological determinist view is a technology-led theory of social change: technology is seen as ‘the prime mover’ in history.
Jon Udell’s recent remarks on apprenticeship and barter in the new economy generated a surge in my web traffic so I want to extend some of my remarks about the reception of his idea among the audience at SI. For one thing the STIET program at Michigan, which sponsored the Thursday talk, is particularly focused on the transactions enabled by electronic technology. A major problem with barter is the lack of information connecting traders.
Everywhere I turn this semester the topic of online identity is cropping up. A couple of discussions have either touched directly or indirectly on the problem of maintaining an online identity. My classes on recommender systems, information ethics, and copyright have all mentioned or discussed the motivations and pitfalls behind online identities. Jenny Levine at the Shifted Librarian points to a recent cover story from U.S. News that dubs itself a parent’s guide to MySpace.