Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Web 2.0 and Tech "Elites"

This post titled "The noise in Web 2.0 is mainly a Tech Elite's problem" in Alexander van Elsas’s blog on "new media & technologies and their effect on social behavior" discusses how blogging, twittering, facebook-ing, are mainly a tech-savvy person's activities and not something that a normal human being would indulge in on a regular basis. I somehow tend to agree :-)

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Teaching via Film

Here is the beginning of an interesting article in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

Sometimes Edward J. Berger leaves class with the nagging feeling that some of his engineering students at the University of Virginia just aren't getting it. Maybe the concept he was trying to get across was too abstract. So he heads back to his office, films himself working through an actual problem, and posts the video to the course blog.

Most of the students tune in, even though watching is optional and the cinematic style is not the kind of thing that fills seats at the multiplex.

Mr. Berger, an associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, has been experimenting with several new Web technologies as part of a project called HigherEd 2.0, which is supported by a $500,000 grant from the National Science Foundation. He uses a blog, he has tried wikis (communal programs that let students edit one another's work), and he records his lectures and offers the recordings online for review. But he says the most effective aspect of the experimental teaching project so far has been his "video solutions."

Instead of a talking head, these videos show a talking pen. In most of them, Mr. Berger writes out the answers to problems on the screen of his tablet PC, while screen-capture software records the action. As he writes, he narrates his thought process, and a microphone attached to his computer picks it up to provide the video's soundtrack.

JEFFREY R. YOUNG, "Film School: To Spice Up Course Work, Professors Make Their Own Videos," Volume 54, Issue 34, Page A13, available at

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Libraries Unleashed

The Guardian, in the U.K., has published a special supplement, “Libraries Unleashed,” available online at
Wendy Wallace, in “Information Alert,” reports on the work of Dr Ian Rowlands and his colleagues at the Centre for Information Behavior and the Evaluation of Research (Ciber), indicating that “schools are failing to equip students for independent online study. Academics and librarians are debating nationally and internationally whether students should be taught information literacy as a separate, accredited, skill - as occurs in some American institutions. Or whether it would be better to teach them to navigate virtual libraries within their main subject based studies - an approach favored by many information specialists.” There are a number of other essays including Simon Midgley in “Quiet Revolution,” looking at the influence of Web 2.0 technologies, Martin Whitaker considering how research is being made available for free online, and various other explorations of digitization projects, digital preservation, and how the work of librarians is changing.

Internet and American Business

I strongly recommend William Aspray and Paul E. Ceruzzi, eds., The Internet and American Business (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2008). This is a “historical study of the effect of the Internet . . . on traditional business practices in the United States,” beginning in 1992 “when the U.S. Congress first permitted the Internet to be used by people besides academic, government, or military users.” There is a wide array of contributions (and contributors) on the history of the Internet, search engines and portals, software development, commercial uses of the Internet, the transformation of certain industries, the emergence of new industrial and commercial forms, and social, regulatory, and community issues.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

5 IT Skills Almost No One Needs Any More

You might find this article interesting:

Just in time for graduation, InfoWorld outlines five skills that just don’t cut it in today’s IT industry:

Evidently AJAX and XML are putting the traditional mark-up language in the back seat. Besides that, who doesn’t know at least a little HTML?

“Legacy” programming languages
As Wired Campus reported last week, old mainframe programming skills—think COBOL and FORTRAN—don’t command the prestige, or the salary, that they used to.

Does anyone remember this? Some business are still using this Novell-produced networking software, which had its heyday in the 90s, but Linux and Windows Server now rule the roost.

Non-IP Networking
There was a time when networks were set up on mainframes using IBM’s SNA protocol. It has since fallen out of fashion, replaced by server-based networks.

PC Tech Support
A survey from the Computer Technology Industry Association says that employers aren’t hiring as many hardware tinkerers as before—and that salaries are declining for those who do get hired.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Mapping the Internet's "black holes"

I found this article really interesting. It looks at the Internet reachability problem, and produces maps like this one. As you can see, some of these reachability problems are quite profound. What does this say about moving resources to the Internet?

Death by blogging ...

Posted for Ellen:

For all you bloggers out there, from MedGadget this week:

"Your humble and tireless editors at Medgadget may be getting more stressed out from this job than from their evening hours in the ER. The New York Times somehow manages to devote their time crying over the psychological pressures of bloggers, while completely disregarding to put the issue into perspective in comparison to other professions.

From the NYT:

Two weeks ago in North Lauderdale, Fla., funeral services were held for Russell Shaw, a prolific blogger on technology subjects who died at 60 of a heart attack. In December, another tech blogger, Marc Orchant, died at 50 of a massive coronary. A third, Om Malik, 41, survived a heart attack in December.

Other bloggers complain of weight loss or gain, sleep disorders, exhaustion and other maladies born of the nonstop strain of producing for a news and information cycle that is as always-on as the Internet.

To be sure, there is no official diagnosis of death by blogging, and the premature demise of two people obviously does not qualify as an epidemic. There is also no certainty that the stress of the work contributed to their deaths. But friends and family of the deceased, and fellow information workers, say those deaths have them thinking about the dangers of their work style.

Perhaps more comfortable pajamas for the workplace may help."

See the New York Times article here:

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Photo essay on laying undersea cable

You might find this item over at CNET interesting. It is a photo essay on how undersea cables are laid.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Cell Phones & Society

Rich Ling's new book, New Tech, New Ties: How Mobile Communication is Reshaping Social Cohesion (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2008) will be of interest to some SIS faculty. Ling, a Senior researcher at the Norwegian telecommunications company Telenor and Adjunct Research Scientists at the University of Michigan, attempts to provide a balanced of the positive and negative implications of the mobile communications technologies. From my vantage the book is more useful in considering various theories about communications -- such as social capital, individualization, ritual, totems, ritual interaction chains, and so forth -- than it is in providing any in-depth analysis of the social impact of the technologies. It is worth a quick reading.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Academics and Wikipedia

There is an interesting essay by Mark Wilson, a geology professor, at Inside Higher Education, April 1, 2008, at
Here’s a couple of excerpts:

“It is time for the academic world to recognize Wikipedia for what it has become: a global library open to anyone with an Internet connection and a pressing curiosity. The vision of its founders, Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger, has become reality, and the librarians were right: the world has not been the same since. If the Web is the greatest information delivery device ever, and Wikipedia is the largest coherent store of information and ideas, then we as teachers and scholars should have been on this train years ago for the benefit of our students, our professions, and that mystical pool of human knowledge.”

“I propose that all academics with research specialties, no matter how arcane (and nothing is too obscure for Wikipedia), enroll as identifiable editors of Wikipedia. We then watch over a few wikipages of our choosing, adding to them when appropriate, stepping in to resolve disputes when we know something useful. We can add new articles on topics which should be covered, and argue that others should be removed or combined. This is not to displace anonymous editors, many of whom possess vast amounts of valuable information and innovative ideas, but to add our authority and hard-won knowledge to this growing universal library.”
I assume this is not an April Fool’s joke.