Jon Udell the lead analyst at InfoWorld came to Michigan today to share some of his ideas about online learning and exchange in the new economy. Jon runs a consistently worthwhile weblog at Infoworld that combines a number of my interests: using the web for mashing technology together (Library Lookup may be one of the first examples of a mashup before the term got common), groupware or social software, and online identity.
Another extracurricular presentation, this time on Victorian scientists and institutions. The speaker was Theodore Porter from UCLA. He was part of the Science and Technology Studies colloquium here at Michigan. If there is any field of history that I gravitate toward it is science and technology studies. The connection to information science is sometimes tenuous but the philosophical questions about the weight of individuals and institutions are prominent. Porter basically summarized some of his recent work on Karl Pearson and the scientific institutions in Britain during the 19th century.
One of the enduring joys of attending a large research university or living in close proximity to one is the chance to attend public lectures and presentations by faculty or experts on topics that pique your interest but don’t necessarily fall inside your chosen specialty. The Michigan Nanotechnology Institute for Medicine and Biological Sciences hosted an inaugural symposium yesterday and today. I skipped yesterday’s event but decided to get out of bed early today to see Eric Rabkin talk about science fiction, science, and perceptions of technology.
A list of some philosophically motivated questions about information. Information ethics. A lot could be covered in this area. Is there a right to privacy for personal information? Why would such rights exist or not? See David Brin and Transparent Society or not. Creativity and information. Is information a form of property? Why should it be protected by law? Who gets the benefit of information? Emergent behavior and self-organization. Is there any use to asking about the existence of truth in a system of independent agents acting on different types of information?
Well the fall semester is officially underway. I had my first class session today with Paul Resnick on recommender systems. The class is a short one, only half the semester or seven weeks. I look forward to it. More classes to come tomorrow and next week. Over the weekend I was less than enthused by the start of classes. Once the actual event occurs and I get back in the rhythm of things I’m sure my outlook will improve.
Some notes on what I’ve learned over the past year at SI. Inspired by Andrea and Brian. More about a smattering of web technologies: PHP, XML, CSS. Interviews for research and system evaluation. Bits about the history and theory of infrastructure. Suggestive of hidden realities which is always nice to think about. Or perhaps just seeing things that were too obvious to notice before. Reiterations of basic economics, psychology, cognitive science.
The summer is at an end. It’s time to roll out the Keats and reflect back on the last month. This was a slower month at chez Todd than intended. As I wrote a few days ago allergies returned with a vengeance and slowed down my toils. The month began warm and sultry but is ending up rather cool. I doubt this summer has broken any records for heat in Southeast Michigan, but what do I know, I’ve only been here a year.
Things have been quiet here at EcEc for the last few days. Preparations for the upcoming semester are gearing up. Ragweed pollen is high, my eyes are itchy and swollen, and I haven’t been reading much online or elsewhere. Instead I’ve been watching movies and television episodes on DVD. I watched Heat again because I was curious to see if it was as annoying as I remembered. I enjoyed Miami Vice when it came out earlier this summer, and liked Collateral on DVD.
Two recent examples of Wikipedia confusion regarding people that I’ve read raise questions about whether Wikipedia is just reproducing the same hierarchic structure that we find everywhere else. Wikipedia has questioned the notability of Stephen Downes and engaged in a long argument over the correct capitalization of danah boyd’s name I can’t fully put my finger on why the media-centric thing bugs me, but it does. The media has decided that i’m an expert because of my knowledge in a specific domain; Wikipedia has decided that i’m notable because i’m on TV.
Last weekend I was in need of some silly summer movie fun. Coincidentally, I was thinking about academia and the institutions of higher education. On a lark I went to see Accepted. I read the plot synopsis - rejected high school student creates his own ‘fake’ college to convince his parents that he is really going to amount to something - and thought it’d be a mild summer diversion. To my surprise it was a revolutionary reaction to current academia.