Information ecologies in another context

This post is a partial response to a post at the CLIR blog on information ecology and morality by Timothy Norris. In 1999 Bonnie Nardi and Vicki O’Day published the book Information Ecologies: Using Technology with Heart with the MIT press. The book summarizes some of the common metaphors used to describe technology, such as tool, text, system, and ecology. At the same time it reviews some of the major technological critiques of the twentieth century by authors such as Jacques Ellul, Langdon Winner, and Neil Postman.

Death of a Library Search Box

I’ve been thinking about how libraries can become better at serving researchers and expert users, especially through their front pages. A recent news item from the University of Tennessee library prompted me to make the connection between expert users and library home pages. The University of Tennessee library just announced the launch of their One Search box on the home page. I found this quote especially disturbing “launching a major upgrade to the Libraries’ discovery portal: the search box in the middle of library homepages will yield exponentially more results than in the past.

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.

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.

The creepiness factor goes to 11

John Brownlee started a bit of storm on March 30 when he posted a story about Girls Around Me, an app for the iPhone. The idea behind the app is relatively simple - you turn it on, it finds your current location, and then it locates all of the people (men or women) who are currently nearby. The information is taken from public Facebook profiles and Foursquare check-ins. Brownlee tells a great story about the reaction of friends to whom he showed the app; they gradually move from fascination to a tingly ickiness and finally outright worry.

Big data lectures

Summary of the big data explosion from the 2011 Strata Online conference sponsored by O’Reilly. Three interlocking changes exponential economics. The dramatic decrease in storage costs, and the increase in network connections/access points. sensor networks. The ubiquity of data collection. “Instrumented spimes” - term from Bruce Sterling for devices that are streaming information into the cloud/ether. cloud computing. Computational and data resources on demand. Success on the data stack

John Dewey and Responsible Technology

From John Dewey’s Pragmatic Technology by Larry A. Hickman “What, in Dewey’s view, constitutes responsible technology? This book is an attempt to suggest some answers to that question. By way of review and conclusion, it may be said that Dewey rejected what I have called “straight-line instrumentalism,” or the view that neutral tools are brought to bear on ends that are valued for reasons external to the situations within which those tools have been developed.

Poetry and Technology

Is Twitter or any kind of technology killing poetry? That was the argument I listened to yesterday afternoon at a local Meetup group. I shake my head, silently, every time these arguments come up because they capture something real about our crazy modern life but also leave so much behind. To me poetry is just another form of technology - a linguistic one - which we use to communicate with each other.

Parables of Global Talent

Watch this: [youtube] I found this video at Presentation Zen. It’s one of the 34,000 60-second video applications that people all over the world submitted to the Queensland Tourism Board for the “best job in the world”, working as an island caretaker on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Here’s another video, one of 50 that has been put on the short list: [youtube] After watching these videos I realized something about the paradox of talent in the contemporary world.

Nominatr: a web idea

I want a web site that combines an online poll with an open-ended survey to collect the poll possibilities. Let me unpack that with an example. Suppose four friends and I want to meet for coffee on Thursday, but we don’t know where to meet. So we ask a question: “Where should we meet on Thusday?” The poll is open for a day and during that time each person sends in the name of a place where they want to meet.