Monday, January 28, 2008

"The Big Switch"

I just finished reading Nicholas Carr's new book "The Big Switch". I think that this book is worth reading for anyone who is interested where IT is going in organizations. Carr did a nice job building the case for "utility computing" or "cloud computing" by way of analogy with the development of the electric utility. The second half of the book becomes Orwellian in nature ... for me, it is hard to go there because there is an upside to what some of these technologies can offer as well.

This might be a worthwhile reading assignment for introductory courses in LIS, IS and Telecom.

Technology in Schools

Some of you might find this report, which is generally focussed on K-12 education, interesting and informative.

This publication is intended to provide the reader insights into emergent research findings on the effect of technology on learning. Although it is not comprehensive, it provides general trends in use and effect for a range of current technologies used in schools across the globe to help educators invest wisely in educational technology.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Tension Between Professional Schools & the Liberal Arts

I thought this was interesting --

Andy Guess, “Professionalizing Liberal Arts, and Vice Versa,” Inside Higher Education, January 25, 2008,
Tension, fear, turf wars: The most conflict-laden adjectives of any academic career were invoked on Thursday to a packed room of provosts, deans and other administrators.

At a session of the annual meeting of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, several department chairs and program directors spoke about their experiences with a particularly fraught minefield of potential grief: when the liberal arts meet professional education on campuses. At first glance, neither educational approach has compatible goals or teaching methods; those in one tend to look down on the other. But what if they’re forced to play together — even to play nice?

It was a question pondered by many in the audience and dealt with first-hand by the presenters, such as Maria Stalzer Wyant Cuzzo, director of the University of Wisconsin-Superior’s Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning and an assistant professor of legal studies. When UW-Superior joined COPLAC — the Council on Public Liberal Arts Colleges — Cuzzo said the campus soon split among the disciplines as professional faculty worried whether their programs would be shortchanged.
“The campus very quickly became quite divided and fear-driven, and these were some of the questions that were being posed,” she said, citing concerns such as: Would professional programs be driven out? Would they receive cuts in funding or resources because their missions didn’t align with the liberal arts tradition? Would professional programs lose respect and status on campus?

While the discussions “were not easy, they were not pleasant,” Cuzzo recalled, they led to a new mutual understanding in light of the university’s official mission. The deliberations ultimately led to a more “competency based” approach to liberal arts, she said, rather than a “discipline-based” one. As a result, the teaching of a slightly “professionalized” liberal arts would lead to a greater focus on specific skills.

Such unions don’t have to be imposed. Stephen F. West, a distinguished professor of mathematics at the State University of New York at Geneseo, described his institution’s math teacher certification program as a necessary intersection of liberal arts education and professional training. Since those pursuing certification from the state are required to earn a liberal arts degree in the first place, he said, “well, that requires discussion between liberal arts programs and certification programs.”

“It became a turf issue to a certain extent, and that’s still a tense issue,” West said. “Turf” could mean the allocation of specific teaching tasks to different departments, or the simple allocation of resources — all bound to create conflict.
Cuzzo opened the floor to the audience and asked how many had experienced similar tension on their campuses. Many hands immediately went into the air. Some of their responses:

• One complained that some professors believe that “only those in liberal arts are capable of thinking, and we are just preparing people with skills.”
• Another audience member pointed out that professional programs can use the demands of accreditating agencies to make an argument for more resources, which could further antagonize strapped liberal arts departments.
• Others wondered about the implications of cooperating outside accepted academic boundaries. For example, would liberal arts faculty bristle at being viewed as useful only in the service of other, more “professional,” pursuits? And who isn’t “professional” in academe, anyway?

In struggling to overcome some of the obstacles to harmonious (or at least non-acrimonious) relations between the liberal arts and professional programs, participants offered suggestions ranging from housing faculty from multiple disciplines in the same building — as opposed to sequestering them in dedicated facilities — and working through necessarily painstaking discussions.
Sometimes, they admitted, such discussions only happen when they are forced by external pressure. One audience member suggested that getting the two parties to work together was a little like “trying to put a comforter in a suitcase": at each sign of progress, another problem pops out. The disputes can be especially frustrating when the professional side is more eager to integrate the liberal arts into its curriculum than the other way around.

Cuzzo suggested several lessons to be learned from the process at her institution and others, such as recognizing the different expectations and motivations of each constituency.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Professional Schools in the University: Lessons Learned

A good analysis of professional schools is Rakesh Khurana, From Higher Aims to Hired Hands: The Social Transformation of American Business Schools and the Unfulfilled Promise of Management as a Profession (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007). This may be the best and most detailed analysis of any professional school, tracking the nature of the business school from the late nineteenth century to the present. Khurana, who is on the faculty of the Harvard Business School, chronicles how these schools have been critical to giving legitimacy to management as an occupation and then a profession with a distinct body of knowledge, a sense of expertise, professional autonomy, and an ethos of service (all concepts rooted in the Progressive era of a century ago giving birth to many other disciplines such as library science). Khurana reveals how the past century has witnessed business schools struggling with their identity and mission, buffeted by changes in society, business, and the role and influence of the federal government and major foundations such as the Carnegie and Ford. The author is particularly concerned with the demise of the professionalism model with an emphasis on knowledge generation, codes of conduct, and the ideals of service to a focus on wealth accumulation, competition among the schools for rankings, shifts by the schools to stressing their social capital value (how going to a particular school better positions an individual for career advancement and other success) rather than any notion of a public good, and, ultimately, the loss of a “historical metanarrative of management as a profession” (p. 368). This is a compelling, if long, story about the role of professional schools in society and universities, with lots to offer as comparison to the transition from library schools to library and information science schools, to I-Schools.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The CQ Researcher on STEM education

Education in STEM is a key issue for SIS, especially for IS and Tele. Thus, you might find

this article from CQ Researcher interesting.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Google's data processing

This item over at TechCrunch contained the table below. Google's data processing requirements (and capabilities) are truly impressive!

OECD study on household use of broadband

Much of our attention has been on studies by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, which are quite interesting. Those of us who are interested in similar questions on an international scale might find this report from the OECD interesting. While it is by no means comprehensive, it does paint a picture of the role and use of broadband in the industrialized economies. Happy reading!

America's Most Wired Cities -

You might enjoy this article in Forbes. While any such ranking is somewhat suspect, the PR value is unmistakable. Atlanta finished in first place ... Here are some details:

Some obvious choices finished high on the list. Techie Seattle, home to Microsoft (nasdaq: MSFT - news - people ), came in second, one notch above last year. San Francisco, the closest major city to Silicon Valley, was fourth for the second time. Though rich in hot spots, both lagged behind other cities in broadband adoption. (It works the other way, as well: Boston ranks second in broadband but poorer showings in the other categories dragged it down to 13th overall.) Two other major metropolises, Chicago and New York, improved their standings from 17th to 8th and 12th to 9th, respectively, to make the top 10, driven by more widespread adoption of high-speed Internet.

Other top-10 finishers were more surprising, such as third-place Raleigh, N.C. Raleigh Chief Information Officer Gail M. Roper attributes the city's strong showing to its thriving entrepreneurial culture, technology initiatives, major universities and fast-growing, highly-educated population. As CIO of Kansas City (No. 22) from 1996 to 2006, Roper focused on digital-divide issues, working to improve youth and student access to the Internet. In Raleigh, she is considering building a citywide wi-fi network to expedite public services, cut telecom costs and deliver tourism information.


Measuring a city's "wired-ness" is an imperfect science. New York's less-wired outer boroughs weigh down its overall ranking. Some new initiatives aren't yet reflected in the data we used. Several lower-ranked cities, like Philadelphia (No. 26), are building wireless networks that provide wi-fi to downtown areas. In New York, CBS is constructing hot spots in midtown Manhattan.


To compile our list, we began with top markets in broadband adoption as determined by Internet market research firm Nielsen Online. Utilizing Nielsen market data eliminated some large, tech-savvy cities, such as San Jose, Calif. (Nielsen aggregates San Jose data with the San Francisco market area, and so San Jose's broadband can't be accessed separately.) We also dropped cities that didn't make the U.S. Census Bureau's top 100 list, including Salt Lake City and Hartford, Conn. We then calculated the number of service providers per city using statistics from the FCC and wi-fi hot spots per capita via public hot spot directory JiWire.

The rankings are here ... Pittsburgh ranked 23, ahead of Philadephia (26).

NOTE: Forbes doesn't do permalinks, so, unfortanately, the links will be dead one day.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

"Free for All" -- tales from the front lines of the public library

You might enjoy reading this article ...

Drunks in tutus, drugs in bathrooms and chick fights in parking lots don't sound like the stuff of a librarian's memoir, but Don Borchert's book has them all.

In his recently published "Free for All: Oddballs, Geeks, and Gangstas in the Public Library," Borchert culls the strangest stories from his 13 years as an assistant in a small Torrance branch library. With wry humor, he offers an insider's look at how a would-be sanctuary has become, as his title suggests, a catch-all gathering place where devoted readers are joined by Internet-savvy latchkey kids, semi-homeless misfits and everybody in between. The result has librarians talking -- some not so nicely -- about changes in their image and their place of work.

Spatial cognition: who are the worst drivers?

At the risk of igniting a war ... you might find this article interesting, given that spatial information systems/information processing is a significant research area in the school.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Long Live Closed-Source Software

This article over at Discover is interesting and goes against conventional thinking:

But back to that dingy bachelor pad near MIT. When Richard [Stallman] told me his plan, I was intrigued but sad ... If politically correct code was going to amount to endless replays of dull stuff like Unix instead of bold projects like the LISP Machine, what was the point? Would mere humans have enough energy to carry both kinds of idealism?

Twenty-five years later, that concern seems to have been justified. Open wisdom-of-crowds software movements have become influential, but they haven’t promoted the kind of radical creativity I love most in computer science. If anything, they’ve been hindrances. Some of the youngest, brightest minds have been trapped in a 1970s intellectual framework because they are hypnotized into accepting old software designs as if they were facts of nature. Linux is a superbly polished copy of an antique, shinier than the original, perhaps, but still defined by it.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Is Bangalore no longer a cost-saving location?

This article is interesting, suggesting that Bangalore's cost differential is no longer that attractive:

Munjal Shah, the CEO of Riya points out in his blog that for some programmers, the salary rapidly rose to 55% of US salaries. He writes: “Bangalore wages have just been growing like crazy. To give you an example, there is an employee of ours who took the first 5 years of his career to get from 1% to 10% of his equivalent US counterpart. He then jumped from 10% to 20% of his US counterpart in the next 1 year. During his time with us (less than 2 years) he jumped to 55% of the US wage.

In the next few months we would have had to move him to 75% just to ‘keep him at market.’” Once the salary rises to 75% of US salaries, the overhead cost differences between India and the US would overwhelm the financial viability.