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  • «This partial bibliography provides some examples of research «at SoL» or «through SoL» (defined in the following six categories).»
  • «Facing a crisis situation is every CEO’s nightmare — particularly at a time when so many institutions and situations are wobbling. But few plot out the potential scenarios that can trip them up.»
  • «[A] loose but growing collection of thinkers, activists, academics, and social entrepreneurs who are searching for the “unthinkable”—the new ways that we can’t see because of our old ways of looking. These thinkers and advocates have not formed any formal association or movement (the very looseness of their association is seen as a virtue, in fact), but they all firmly believe that the good old world we’ve come to know and love is coming apart at the seams. Systems of all kinds are breaking down and will continue to do so. In response, they champion ways of seeing and acting that acknowledge that the world is a chaotic, deeply interdependent place, a place that won’t yield to attempts to overpower it. We must come to understand, they argue, the nature of complexity, chaos, and interconnectedness—and to train ourselves in ways of acting that embrace this unmistakable reality.»
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The End of Cyberspace

The New York Talk Exchange is a really interesting exhibit now running at MOMA.

New York Talk Exchange illustrates the global exchange of information in real time by visualizing volumes of long distance telephone and IP (Internet Protocol) data flowing between New York and cities around the world.

In an information age, telecommunications such as the Internet and the telephone bind people across space by eviscerating the constraints of distance. To reveal the relationships that New Yorkers have with the rest of the world, New York Talk Exchange asks: How does the city of New York connect to other cities? With which cities does New York have the strongest ties and how do these relationships shift with time? How does the rest of the world reach into the neighborhoods of New York?

Naturally, there are some really cool visuals, and some terrific animations.

Technorati Tags: art, cities, end of cyberspace, internet, museum, visualization

Thanks to Heather for pointing out this E. B. White quote from… a long time ago.

I live in a strictly rural community, and people here speak of “The Radio” in the large sense, with an over-meaning. When they say “The Radio” they don’t mean a cabinet, an electrical phenomenon, or a man in a studio, they refer to a pervading and somewhat godlike presence which has come into their lives and homes (E. B. White, quoted in Tom Lewis, » ‘A Godlike Presence: The Impact of Radio on the 1920s and 1930s,» OAH Magazine of History, 1992)

Technorati Tags: end of cyberspace, place/space, radio

Cyrus Farivar pointed me to this piece from Harper’s Magazine, an annotation of a blueprint for a Google server farm on the banks of the Columbia River in Oregon. It’s interesting as a reminder of the materiality of «the cloud,» that apparently amorphous and evanescent computational resource that exists… somewhere… but who care where.

Google and its rivals are raising server farms to tap into some of the cheapest electricity in North America. The blueprints depicting Google’s data center at The Dalles, Oregon, are proof that the Web is no ethereal store of ideas, shimmering over our heads like the aurora borealis. It is a new heavy industry, an energy glutton that is only growing hungrier…. [T]he Dalles plant can be expected to demand about 103 megawatts of electricity— enough to power 82,000 homes, or a city the size of Tacoma, Washington….

In 2006 American data centers consumed more power than American televisions. Google… and its rivals now head abroad for cheaper, often dirtier power. Microsoft has announced plans for a data center in Siberia, AT&T has built two in Shanghai, and Dublin has attracted Google and Microsoft…. As the functions long performed by personal computers come to be executed at these far-flung data centers, the technology industry has rapturously rebranded the Internet as «the cloud.» The metaphor is apt, both for our foggy notions of a green Web and for the storm that awaits a culture that squanders its resources.

Some time ago, Richard Grusin pointed out that claims by hypertext theorists that electronic writing was «immaterial, ephemeral, [and] evanescent» were problematic because «these ephemeral electromagnetic traces are dependent on extremely material hardware, software, communications networks, institutional and corporate structure, support personnel, and so on.» Or, as he put it elsewhere, «Claims for the agency of electronic technologies marginalize the materiality of these technologies.»* Clearly assumptions about immateriality and evanescence haven’t gone away.

It also occurs to me that the metaphor of «the cloud,» in contrast to cyberspace, is decidedly non-spatial: the could isn’t a place, it’s the absence of physicality.

*The Grusin quote is from, «What is an Electronic Author?» Configurations 3 (1994), 469-483, quotes on 476, 471.

Technorati Tags: end of cyberspace, internet, materiality

The warning sign? The Onion, as always:

Senate Meets At Coffee Shop To Brainstorm Legislation Citing a need to finally reach consensus on the country’s most pressing political matters and a desire to foster a healthy, open environment for drafting new legislation, the U.S. senate held its first-ever brainstorming session Tuesday at Café Karma, a funky little coffee shop near the Capitol Building. «We were all very pleased with the results of this historic meeting,» said Sen. Joseph Biden (D-DE)…. «It was a great opportunity for us to really get the juices flowing and start thinking outside the legislative box. It’s amazing how many great new resolutions you can come up with if you’re just willing to let your creative inhibitions go and really listen to other people’s ideas.»

Biden added, «In this space, no idea, no matter how polarizing or ideologically unconscionable, is a bad idea.»

Technorati Tags: cafe, collaboration, humor

Marlene Manoff, «The Materiality of Digital Collections: Theoretical and Historical Perspectives,» portal: Libraries and the Academy 6:3 (2006), 311–325. [available via Muse]

Digital and textual objects are coming under a new kind of scrutiny as scholars are becoming more interested in physical artifacts and their relation to their social and cultural environment. This study of material culture suggests a need to explore the nature of digital materiality, as well as the broader historical context in which electronic objects and collections are created. The following essay analyzes the implications of this work and related research into the ways in which knowledge is shaped by the technologies used to produce and distribute it. Understanding the materiality of digital and textual objects will be crucial for charting the future of libraries….

Early theorists of the electronic environment made much of the ostensible immateriality of digital objects. More recently critics have acknowledged that electronic objects are as dependent upon material instantiation as printed books. We access electronic texts and data with machines made of metal, plastic, and polymers. Networks composed of fiber optic cables, wires, switches, routers, and hubs enable us to acquire and make available our electronic collections. Why does this matter to libraries? As we preside over the explosive growth of digital content, we cannot simply ignore what these material changes mean for our users or ignore what the long term impact will be on the scholarly community. Our evolving collection practices promote new ways of conducting research and limit or constrain others. We must try to understand the implications of our decisions as we allocate our resources and decide what to acquire. If the role of academic and research libraries is to support and facilitate teaching and research, we must understand the nature of the objects we provide to support those activities.

Technorati Tags: digital-physical, end of cyberspace, library, materiality

A little while ago, Kevin Kelly suggested that the habit of sitting at desks might be «a short-term anomaly» that we would abandon in the future. This got me thinking: what is the ergonomic history of writing and thinking? Five hundred years ago, what kinds of spaces did philosophers or essayists construct for themselves; how were they furnished; and how did they work in them? There are lots of pictures of scholars or saints at work— Saint Jerome in his study and all that— but how idealized are those? How well do they reflect what scholars actually did?

I asked Anthony Grafton what had been written on the subject, and he suggested, among other works, Gadi Algazi’s 2003 article, «Scholars in Households: Refiguring the Learned Habitus, 1480–1550.» It’s a really excellent piece of work, and it’ll resonate with anyone who ever writes within sight of children’s toys, or revises articles on nap drives. (Perhaps it’s no coincidence that Algazi’s Web page mentions that he has three children!) Here’s the abstract:

Until the fifteenth century, celibacy was the rule among Christian scholars of northwestern Europe. Celibacy was a major element of the codified cultural representation of the scholar and his specific way of life, sustained by peculiar institutional arrangements and daily routines. Founding family households implied therefore a major reorganization of the scholar’s way of life. Broadly speaking, this involved refashioning the scholarly habitus (understood as a system of durable and transposable social dispositions), redefining social relations, and developing the necessary material infrastructure. The paper focuses on three aspects of this process during a period characterized by uncertainty and experimentation. It discusses the structure of scholars’ families, arguing that at least until the middle of the sixteenth century, received models still persisted, while new viable models for articulating family reproduction with the transmission of scholarly dispositions had not yet crystallized. It then turns to the reorganization of domestic space, focusing on the different uses of the study to manage social distance and regulate domestic relations. Finally, among the different manifestations of the scholarly habitus, it argues that the emotional detachment of learned men was itself a learned habit. The well-documented discussion of competing options for organizing scholars’ family households and cultivating an acquired nature in academic settings provides an exceptional occasion to examine the way a group habitus is reshaped and to explore the cultural work involved in this process.

Of course, there’s Dora Thornton’s The Scholar in His Study: Ownership and Experience in Renaissance Italy, which I’ve encountered a couple times, but never looked at with this particular subject in mind.

There’s also some work on commercial and mercantile calculation and writing. I think Alfred Crosby talks some about this in one of his books, and of course there’s JoAnne Yates’ Control Through Communication, which is full of interesting detail on 19th-century business information practices.

Technorati Tags: history, history of science, workspaces, writing

One thing I’ve been very interested in is the survival of academic libraries in the 1990s and 2000s, and the ways they’ve changed in the last decade. If you read academic library journals from a decade ago, you’d see a lot of pessimism: people were worried that libraries were going to disappear completely, as more publications went online. Of course, that hasn’t happened: instead, many libraries have reconfigured themselves, devoting more space to group study, to campus academic functions, or to collaborative work.

If you think about it another way, libraries have followed the same path that the Web has: from thinking of themselves as places that are mainly about information storage, retrieval, and communication, to places that support groups, creative work, and (a particularly intellectual form of) social networking.

in other words, libraries that are self-described «information commons» are not unlike social software. They’re libraries 2.0.

But if I’m not mistaken, librarians started talking about information commons around 2001— well before Friendster, LinkedIn, and all the rest of Web 2.0 happened. I wonder what librarians are talking about these days?

Technorati Tags: library, social software, Web 2.0

A great special report in the Guardian on writer’s room.

The relationships between space, contemplation, and writing are so well-established it’s hard to imagine them ever being detached.

Though I find that while I need space for books and stuff, a lot of my best writing is done in the absence of all that stuff— at cafe tables, on planes, and the like.

[via Heather]

Technorati Tags: place/space, work, writing

I’m listening to a demo by a company called Vello. It’s a phone conferencing service, but doesn’t require dial-in numbers or passwords. If the organizer of your conference call has your coordinates (Entourage importing, yadda yadda), you can just dial in from your mobile phone, and it can automatically «drop you into the room where your conference is happening.»

So we talk about virtual «rooms» where you talk to people. Since meetings happen in real space, it makes sense to use the term.

Technorati Tags: conference, end of cyberspace, Mobile Mash-Up 2007, mobility

My colleague Anthony Townsend recently gave a talk in Newcastle about mobility and presence:

[W]hat I want to talk about is not the future of mobility but rather, the future of presence. By “presence” what I mean, is that if movement or travel is a means — then presence is the end. And so I want to broaden the discussion of mobility to include technologies and practices of telecommunication — ways of being «present» at remote locations….

I keep looking at the map of my social network on Dopplr, a site that lets people share trips, and realizing that young people are defining their very identity through mobility, and network-enhanced and augmented mobility. We need to appreciate just how deeply embedded this high degree of personal mobility has become in our lives, and plan for lots of it rather than pretending we can socially engineer ourselves to stop. This is not just my group here of globe-trotting hipsters, its also the millions of Britons who’ll holiday in Spain and Greece this year.

Technorati Tags: mobility, place/space, travel

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From the first post in Ophelia Chong’s new blog, 404 City:

In real life, a 404 is a common occurrence in Los Angeles. You drive to a store, only to find it closed and a Starbucks in its place. My answer would be to flip open my cellphone and Google for the closest alternative, while my car idles at the curb with the air conditioning blasting my hair back like I had my own personal tornado. Angelenos are accustomed to an ever changing landscape; we are so blasé that when new area codes are added we just blink once and roll through another stop sign. We blithely move through do-overs, makeovers, rehabs, and, even when the ground beneath us moves, we take it all in stride and look for the next new thing. With each metamorphosis we are assured that the only sign of permanence in Los Angeles is Angelyne’s age.

This could be also said about the journey I have traveled in my adopted city of Los Angeles. I am a transplant from the north, by way of China through my parents. I came here to start a new life, with a blank slate and stare. In the years I’ve been here, my life has changed many times over, and none of it can be revisited because the emotional, personal and physical landscape has changed. Most of my life is a code 404.

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The Oxford conference talk version of my «paper spaces» project is now viewable on ZuiPrezi, the presentation system I’ve been playing with and really like.

I’ve got extensive blog posts about the trip and conference on my personal blog.

conference, paper spaces, Oxford University

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How hard would it me to create a locative lost and found service— like something that would associate a digital note about a lost object with a geocode, so that when you were in a place where someone had lost something, you’d see a note about it on your mobile device.

Why other kinds of notes could be improved by geolocating them? Craigslist missed connections come to mind, especially if a service could match them up with information about you and your whereabouts. So if you’d been in the corner Peets on Friday night, you’d see a missed connection tagged to that place and date. Whether you’d talked to the person behind you about Fellini’s late version or not, only you would know.

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From the New York Times, John Markoff on the changing geography of the Internet:

Internet Traffic Begins to Bypass the U.S.

The era of the American Internet is ending.

Invented by American computer scientists during the 1970s, the Internet has been embraced around the globe. During the network’s first three decades, most Internet traffic flowed through the United States. In many cases, data sent between two locations within a given country also passed through the United States.

Engineers who help run the Internet said that it would have been impossible for the United States to maintain its hegemony over the long run because of the very nature of the Internet; it has no central point of control.

And now, the balance of power is shifting. Data is increasingly flowing around the United States, which may have intelligence — and conceivably military — consequences.

endofcyberspace, globalization, internet

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« May 2009 | Main | July 2009 »

9 posts from June 2009

  • «The uncertainty of a software development effort estimate can be indicated through a prediction interval (PI), i.e., the estimated minimum and maximum effort corresponding to a specific confidence level. For example, a project manager may be “90% confident” or believe that is it “very likely” that the effort required to complete a project will be between 8000 and 12,000 work-hours. This paper describes results from four studies (Studies A–D) on human judgement (expert) based PIs of software development effort. Study A examines the accuracy of the PIs in real software projects. The results suggest that the PIs were generally much too narrow to reflect the chosen level of confidence, i.e., that there was a strong over-confidence.»
  • Bibliography of Roger Buehler.
  • Planning, personality, and prediction
  • «The present studies examined cognitive processes underlying the tendency to underestimate project completion times. Two experiments tested the hypothesis that people generate overly optimistic predictions, in part, because they focus narrowly on their future plans for the target task and thus neglect other useful sources of information. Consistent with the hypothesis, instructing participants to adopt a »future focus»-in which they generated concrete, specific plans for the task at hand-led them to make more optimistic predictions about when they would complete their intended Christmas shopping (Study 1) and major school assignments (Study 2). The future focus manipulation did not have a corresponding effect on actual completion times, and thus increased the degree of optimistic bias in prediction. The studies also demonstrated that the optimistic prediction bias generalized across different task domains, relevant individual differences… and other contextual variations.»

Paul Miller has an interesting piece in The Independent on government and cyberspace:

The relationship between government and the internet has always been tense. “Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of flesh and steel”, typed John Perry Barlow in 1996, “your legal concepts of property, expression, identity, movement, and context do not apply to us. They are all based on matter and there is no matter here.”

His Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace spread quickly among the libertarian digerati of the time. For those who craved a space over which governments could have no influence, it was an appealing idea. They also believed that the internet age would herald an era when decentralised technology could do away with the need for government at all.

John Perry Barlow and his friends, of course, were wrong. The internet hasn’t swept away government, neither has the internet completely escaped government intervention… But we’re still just at the beginning of understanding the relationship between government and the ways that the internet can help deliver public goods – sometimes through government itself and sometimes through new lightweight public service start-ups. As we attempt to understand what might be possible, we need to replace Barlow’s black or white ‘cyberspace versus government’ with a new understanding of the way that online tools could help us to live the lives we want to lead….

What Meetup and the hundreds of other online businesses that facilitate real world activity show is that the real power of the net in the future won’t be about information or content – although that’s what we use it for mainly these days – its real power is organisation away from the computer itself. The most successful services will be those with a ‘Why Don’t You’ ethic, which encourages us away from the screen and to be active participants in the world outside….

There was a time when digital technologies were about a new space, detached from the physical. The digerati took William Gibson’s word ‘cyberspace’ and made it their own. This was a place where the pioneers would be safe from governments or corporations or anybody impinging upon their freedom. It didn’t quite turn out like that. Actually, there’s no such thing as cyberspace. Cyberspace is dead. But I don’t think we should mourn it because what we should be working on is much more exciting. What we’ve realised is that the power of the internet is in changing the real world.

Those last three sentences summarize about half of my book.

  • «Progress, whether scientific, economic, or social, is driven by innovation – which serves to produce a diversity of ideas – and imitation through a social network – which serves to diffuse these ideas. In this paper, we construct an agent-based computational model of this process, in which the agents in the population are heterogeneous in their abilities to innovate and imitate. The model incorporates the three primary forces: the discovery of new ideas by those with superior abilities to innovate, the observation and adoption of the ideas of others by those with superior abilities to communicate and imitate, and the endogenous development of social networks among heterogeneous agents. The objective is to explore the evolving architecture of social networks and the critical roles that the innovators and imitators play in the process.»
  • «In the coming years communication chips will routinely be embedded in a great number and variety of everyday objects. Also, ever more segments in the world surrounding us become tagged with digital information. In what ways, from the point of view of the social sciences and philosophy, will the pattern of life change when ubiquitous communication extends to our inanimate environment when information exchange, and the coordination of activities, involves not only person-to-person connections, but also person-to-object, object-to-person, and indeed object-to-object ones? It is to be expected that philosophical notions like tool, agent, and even consciousness, will undergo radical changes.»
  • «Do you ever get sick of your phone ringing? What about Facebook fatigue? Does Twitter sometimes give you stress headaches, making you occasionally wish you could just yank the plug on your online life?

    «Well, you’re not alone, according to a recent report from the Pew Internet and American Life Project, a nonprofit research group in Washington.

    «The report, written by John Horrigan, the project’s associate director of research, says 7 percent of Americans use the Internet as their primary means of social communication and also feel conflicted about that fact. These online social network users, which Horrigan calls «ambivalent networkers,» are so connected they feel like they can’t quit.»

  • «Among older people who went online last year, the number visiting social networks grew almost twice as fast as the overall rate of Internet use among that group, according to the media measurement company comScore. But now researchers who focus on aging are studying the phenomenon to see whether the networks can provide some of the benefits of a group of friends, while being much easier to assemble and maintain.»
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From this Sunday’s New York Times, a good piece by Clive Thompson on microblogging, ambient awareness, and what it means.

Ben Haley, a 39-year-old documentation specialist for a software firm who lives in Seattle, told me that when he first heard about Twitter last year from an early-adopter friend who used it, his first reaction was that it seemed silly. But a few of his friends decided to give it a try, and they urged him to sign up, too.

Each day, Haley logged on to his account, and his friends’ updates would appear as a long page of one- or two-line notes. He would check and recheck the account several times a day, or even several times an hour. The updates were indeed pretty banal. One friend would post about starting to feel sick; one posted random thoughts like “I really hate it when people clip their nails on the bus»; another Twittered whenever she made a sandwich — and she made a sandwich every day. Each so-called tweet was so brief as to be virtually meaningless.

But as the days went by, something changed. Haley discovered that he was beginning to sense the rhythms of his friends’ lives in a way he never had before. When one friend got sick with a virulent fever, he could tell by her Twitter updates when she was getting worse and the instant she finally turned the corner. He could see when friends were heading into hellish days at work or when they’d scored a big success. Even the daily catalog of sandwiches became oddly mesmerizing, a sort of metronomic click that he grew accustomed to seeing pop up in the middle of each day.

This is the paradox of ambient awareness. Each little update — each individual bit of social information — is insignificant on its own, even supremely mundane. But taken together, over time, the little snippets coalesce into a surprisingly sophisticated portrait of your friends’ and family members’ lives, like thousands of dots making a pointillist painting. This was never before possible, because in the real world, no friend would bother to call you up and detail the sandwiches she was eating. The ambient information becomes like “a type of E.S.P.,” as Haley described it to me, an invisible dimension floating over everyday life….

Social scientists have a name for this sort of incessant online contact. They call it “ambient awareness.” It is, they say, very much like being physically near someone and picking up on his mood through the little things he does — body language, sighs, stray comments — out of the corner of your eye.

Also the obligatory quotes from Mimi Ito, Marc Davis, mention of Dunbar numbers, collective intelligence, etc., etc.. All good. communication, social software, Web 2.0

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  • «We know that physical conditioning, weapons training and fighting skill prepare soldiers for the rigors of combat, but a recent study by cognitive neuroscientist Amishi Jha shows that meditation practice gives them «mental armor» to better withstand the trauma of war.»
  • [Subscribers only.] «Reflecting on emerging technologies, life-log projects, and artistic critiques of sousveillance, we explore the potential social, political, and ethical implications of machines that never forget. We suggest, given that life-logs have the potential to convert exterior generated oligopticons to an interior panopticon, that an ethics of forgetting needs to be developed and built into the development of life-logging technologies. Rather than seeing forgetting as a weakness or a fallibility, we argue that it is an emancipatory process that will free pervasive computing from burdensome and pernicious disciplinary effects.»
  • CSCW 2004 was an engaging experience along numerous dimensions. In addition to an interesting collection of papers, panels and keynotes presented in the frontchannel(s), we had WiFi coverage and designated IRC channels throughout all the sessions. In one session, we projected the IRC window onto the main presentation screen, moving the backchannel toward the frontchannel, creating what might be described as a sidechannel that everyone could see.
  • «[The predictable pathways of information are changing: the physical world itself is becoming a type of information system. In what’s called the Internet of Things, sensors and actuators embedded in physical objects—from roadways to pacemakers—are linked through wired and wireless networks, often using the same Internet Protocol (IP) that connects the Internet. These networks churn out huge volumes of data that flow to computers for analysis. When objects can both sense the environment and communicate, they become tools for understanding complexity and responding to it swiftly. What’s revolutionary in all this is that these physical information systems are now beginning to be deployed, and some of them even work largely without human intervention.» Well, yes.
  • Links to articles, book chapters, etc.
  • «The past twenty years have seen a building boom for downtown public libraries. From Brooklyn to Seattle, architects, civic leaders, and citizens in major U.S. cities have worked to reassert the relevance of the central library. While the libraries’ primary functions—as public spaces where information is gathered, organized, preserved, and made available for use—have not changed over the years, the processes by which they accomplish these goals have. These new processes, and the public debates surrounding them, have radically influenced the utility and design of new library buildings.»
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  • This is very stimulating. «We are facing a pandemic of ‘designed stuff’ and we have reached a contamination point, a crisis for Design. Why are we not more pertubed and disturbed, why are we so tolerant? Should we not be calling for a guerrilla war against ‘designerism’ or do we need a revolution to cut the ties with the heroes of 20th Century Design?»