MinneBar 2008

I spent most of Saturday hanging out at Coffman Memorial Union on the University of Minnesota campus at MinneBar 2008. I must say that the union has a pretty nice suite of conference rooms for gatherings like this. I started the morning at Social Search for the Enterprise. Rich Hoeg from Honeywell discussed a nifty use of ConnectBeam to create an internal social bookmark store that integrates directly with Google search results.

Arguments by Nostalgia

I’m broadly sympathetic to arguments questioning technology in modern society. There are a lot of questions that need to be asked about our over-reliance on technology and the effect it has on our social and cognitive development. I recently reread Shenk’s book The End of Patience for class and was struck by how much of it is just proper common sense. The list of principles at technorealism.org seem jaw-droppingly obvious to me: technologies aren’t neutral, the Internet is not utopian, government has an important role to play on the electronic frontier, etc.

Technological Determinism and the Power of CEOs

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.

Identity - it's in the air

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.

Theodore Porter on Victorian Scientists

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.

Eric Rabkin on Science Fiction and Perceptions of Nanotechnology

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.

Technology, Theory, and Education - Interpolations on a Review by Geert Lovink

Via Anne Galloway at Purse Lip Square Jaw I come across some interesting reviews of Utopian Entrepreneur, a book by Brenda Laurel. Anne points to Geert Lovink’s review in particular. It might be true that, for instance, Derrida is in need of mediation. On the other hand, why is there no self-educated working class reading Deleuze? Why has the ‘educated proletarian’ become such an unlikely, even funny figure? I know this is a weird, untimely consideration.

Retrieving Information from My Own Internet Tracks

I’ve been looking for a weblog post I read two or three months ago about the future of libraries, but so far I’ve failed to retrieve it. This kind of situation is one of the most frustrating technological problems I regularly encounter. There’s just no way to easily retrieve this information right now. I do have some programs on my Mac that help solve these problems. History Hound and browseback are two programs that keep track of pages that you display in your web browser.

Managing My Information World

One of my perennial interests is personal knowledge or information management. How do you keep track of all the stuff that comes at you? I’m an omnivore when it comes to collecting information. I’m working at improving my skills for disseminating information. So for the sake of my own future self who might want to know how I managed my information back in mid-2006 and any others who care, I offer the following list.

Coase's Penguin and Crowdsourcing

A few weeks ago there was a reading group discussion at SI about a couple of articles on Cyberwork. I wasn’t able to attend, but I did read the articles and they got me thinking about the interrelations between work, education, and the internet. I started to discuss this in my last post on the ‘just give them more education’ canard that surrounds so much discussion about outsourcing and offshoring jobs.