Crowds, Sums, Emergence

One of my major goals for the next few years is to work on a philosophical explanation or justification for the success wisdom of crowds. The basic argument of the wisdom of crowds is that a group of people can sometimes be more accurate than a single individual. The claims about increased accuracy are supported by empirical examples such as the ones used by James Surowecki in his book ‘The Wisdom of Crowds’.

Gone to Edmonton

This space has been vacant for a long time. The past 4 years have been a wonderful and challenging experience in order to finish my PhD in Communication and Information from the University of Tennessee. I defended my dissertation on April 21 and turned in the final revisions a month later on May 22. The last semester was a whirlwind of data gathering, analysis, and writing. Coming up on three months later I’m beginning to feel a bit more comfortable with the outcome.

Why is Popper so popular?

There is a disconnect between the philosophy of science as it is practiced by philosophers and the philosophy of science as it is interpreted by scientists. I think this difference is the main reason why the paradigm battles between quantitative and qualitative or positivist and interpretivist are still being fought so hard today. I’m wondering how much of this difference can be attributed to the popularity of two philosophers from the middle of the twentieth century: Kuhn and Popper.

Facebook and Me and You and Society and Value

I’m conflicted about Facebook. I would have been an eager supporter of a social network like Facebook ten years ago. I dreamed of a computer program that would show you everyone’s interests, what books they liked to read, the television they enjoyed. Knowledge management was all the rage in business journals and management magazines. KM gurus talked about interest browsers and knowledge networks, being able to immediately find out all the people who were interested in X within organization Y.

Tracking the popularity of the sciences

I was thinking recently about the popularity of various sciences. Off the top of my head I believed that the social sciences were usually less popular than the natural/hard sciences. I also guessed that sociology or anthropology would be less popular than psychology, among the social sciences. The natural sciences get a lot of publicity from television programs such as Nova or Nature. I don’t believe there is very much coverage of the social sciences at all on television.

Information, Professions, and Technology

One of the research projects I began last spring is starting to show some initial results. I wanted to study the reception of some key technologies by information science professionals over the past 40 years. I was interested to see if there were any differences in professional attitudes toward different technologies. I decided on two cases to look at in depth: first was the development of OPACs, online public access catalogs, during the 1970s and 1980s; second was the World Wide Web, during the 1990s.

Citizen Science, Libraries, and Public Access

I’ve been brainstorming some concerns about libraries and citizen science for a current writing project. On the face of it citizen science and libraries seem to be made for each other. Libraries want to provide access to as many patrons as possible, citizen scientists have research questions that may need the help of skilled information professionals. Perfection, right. But there are some flies in the ointment, as there always are. Reginald Smith wrote a blog post about the enclosure of libraries in August 2011.

A history of computer viruses

A recent post by Douglas Rushkoff on government built computer viruses used in cyberwarfare makes me wonder if there have been any really great histories written about computer viruses. Even a really good history of hacker/cracker culture could be interesting, something on the more ethnographic side. A quick scan of Amazon turned up Digital Contagions by Jussi Parikka.

Social Conformity and Privacy

This list of 10 reasons why people conform to social pressure prompted me to dig into the drafts and publish my last post “Another Privacy Experiment.” A cursory search at Google Scholar shows a lot of material to wade through about the interaction between social conformity and privacy.

Another Privacy Experiment, with Money

An old idea (2008) from the drafts folder that I’m posting now. A related post back in 2008. Two people are interviewed by a single person. During the interview the interviewer tells the subject a private piece of information about a third person, called X. Three conditions: shares information without comment, tells subject not to share information, pays subject small amount ($10-$20) to not share information. Then the subject is interviewed by another person, perhaps at a later date.