Saturday, October 31, 2009

Mediated Memories

Media scholar, José van Dijck, offers an important book on digital memory in his Mediated Memories in the Digital Age (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2007). “Mediated memories are the activities and objects we produce and appropriate by means of media technologies,” he asserts, for creating and re-creating a sense of past, present, and future of ourselves in relation to others” (p. 21). “Mediated memories are not static objects or repositories but dynamic relationships that evolve along two axes: a horizontal axis expressing relational identity and a vertical axis articulating time,” (p. 21) speculating how documentary forms or objects, such as diaries and blogs, music recordings, and photographs are in constant flux. Focusing on personal memory, van Dijck believes that “every decision to buy a book or record, or to tape a television program, situates a person in his or her contemporary culture” (p. 24). Digital changes everything, even transforming such classic documentary forms as diaries. “Keeping a diary is at once a creative and communicative act, and it also serves as a memory tool: writing the self constructs continuity between past and present while keeping an eye on the future” (p. 57). While content in diaries is always the most important aspect of the record, the look and feel of the handwritten diary has always been important as well, reminding us that “As our technologies for writing change, so do our ways of creating self-reflective records; memory, in other words, is always implicated in the act and technology of writing” (p. 63).

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Wannabe U

Gaye Tuchman, Wannabe U: Inside the Corporate University (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009).

This may be the most important assessment of the nature of the corporate university. Tuchman, a well-known sociologist, studies her own institution, the University of Connecticut, although she writes about the institution in anonymous fashion and continues to not confirm that it is UConn. She charts how we have shifted from the university as a public good in the mid-twentieth university to the university as business. Many of the criticisms are familiar – universities are training not educating; accountability, auditing, and reporting have now overwhelmed both faculty and administrators as productivity measures but measures that often do not support fundamental activities such as teaching and research; the university is not a social institution, now it is an industry; branding and marketing consume ever greater amounts of resources (time and money); credentials are the products being sold; decisions are made to get higher rankings, even if it is understood that such rankings are flawed – but Tuchman offers remarkably rich detail and research to back her criticism. This is a book already drawing both praise and criticism, the best kind – one that stimulates debate about where higher education is heading. And it comes pretty close to home. Read it and decide for yourself.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Just in time for Halloween?!?

Just in time for the Halloween season, the National Library of Medicine's History of Medicine Division has launched a reanimated website for the exhibition Frankenstein: Penetrating the Secrets of Nature. Originally launched in 1998, this was the first online exhibition produced by NLM's Exhibition Program. Today the website is alive with a new look and feel, and is certifiably 508 compliant.

Reanimated Frankenstein Exhibition:

Friday, October 23, 2009

Economics of cloud computing

As cloud computing becomes a more important paradigm for information systems, it is useful to consider not just the technical parameters but also the costs as well. This article, reporting on a Booz, Allen and Hamilton study, does just that. From the article:

The government's adoption of this new IT model warrants careful consideration of the model's broad economic implications-including the potential long-term benefits in terms of cost savings and avoidance as well as the near-term costs and other impacts of a transition from the current environment. Factors such as the number and rate of federal agencies adopting cloud computing, the length of their transitions to cloud computing, and the cloud computing deployment model (public, private, or hybrid) all will affect the total costs, potential benefits, and time required for the expected benefits to offset the investment costs.


Although cloud computing offers potentially significant savings to federal agencies by reducing their expenditures on server hardware and associated support costs, chief information officers, policymakers, and other interested parties should bear in mind a number of practical considerations:

  • It will take, on average, 18-24 months for most agencies to redirect funding to support this transition, given the budget process.
  • Some up-front investment will be required, even for agencies seeking to take advantage of public cloud options.
  • Implementations may take several years, depending on the size of the agency and the complexity of the cloud model it selects (i.e., public, private, or hybrid).
  • It could take as long as 4 years for the accumulated savings from agency investments in cloud computing to offset the initial investment costs; this timeframe could be longer if implementations are improperly planned or inefficiently executed.

Need guides for student writing problems?

Check out this post from today's Internet Scout Report:

The Writing Center at Harvard University

The Writing Center at Harvard University is perhaps the oldest formal writing center at an American university, and their complementary websitepresents a valuable trove of instructional handouts for writers young and old. On this page, visitors will find over a dozen helpful handouts with titles such as "How to Read an Assignment", "Essay Structure", "Developing aThesis", "Summary", and "Revising the Draft". Each piece is written in clear prose, and the advice offered is sound and practical. Also, visitors should note that the site also includes a link to Harvard's guide to citation and integration of sources, "Writing with Sources", and a selection of links to other related writing style guides.

>From The Scout Report, Copyright Internet Scout 1994-2009.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Harry Potter vs ... Windows 7?

This is an interesting, if irrelevant, comparison:
The old record for Amazon UK preorders was held by Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. The new record goes to Windows 7.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Concerned about e-portfolios and assessment measures?

Check out this opinion piece from today's Inside Higher Ed:

The Limitations of Portfolios [October 16, 2009]
By Richard J. Shavelson , Stephen Klein and Roger Benjamin

"Colleges have come to realize the need to assess and improve student learning and to report their efforts to students, faculty, administrators, and the public; including policy makers and prospective students and their parents. The question is how to accomplish this. The roar of yesterday’s Spellings Commission and its vision of accountability is background noise to today’s cacophony of calls for more transparency and campus-based, authentic assessment of student learning. Some of the advocates for more authentic measures, such as Carol Schneider, president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, have suggested using electronic portfolios -- collections of a student’s work products, such as term papers, research papers or descriptions, and the student’s written thoughts (“reflections”) about these work products and curricular experiences that are bundled together on an electronic platform. The presumed merits of portfolios, such as their supposed ability to drill down into the local curriculum, have been extolled elsewhere. Portfolios are simply not up to the task of providing the necessary data for making a sound assessment of student learning. They do not and cannot yield the trustworthy information that is needed for this purpose. However, there are approaches that can provide some of the information that is required..."

[Click on the link for the rest of the story: ]

DIY book scanner

If you're a tinkerer, you might want to build one of these for yourself. What you do with the scanned pages is another matter ...

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Does the brain like e-books?

Does the brain like e-books? New York Times, October 14, 2009.

Many of us are struggling to anticipate reading behavior in the digital age. This is one of the central problems investigated in a course I teach called, "Technology in the Lives of Children".

This article from the New York Times considers the effect of online reading on the "reading brain".

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Content centric networking

At the Future Internet summit, Van Jacobsen suggested that the Internet was designed to connect devices to each other (which made sense at the time). An alternative paradigm is to imagine if the internet was about networking information objects. I subsequently learned that he has a project underway that addresses this approach, called Content-Centric Networking (CCNx). The ideas are very interesting; apparently an initial prototype is operating at PARC, though much work remains to be done. This seems to be an idea that should gain traction at iSchools like ours.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Future of the Book

The current issue of the Wilson Quarterly features three essays concerning the future of the book. Christine Rosen, “In the Beginning was the Word,” Wilson Quarterly 33 (Autumn 2009): 48-53 thinks the printed book has life in it yet and worries that the manner in which we now interact with the written word is not to learn from others but rather to share our opinions. Tyler Cowen, “Three Tweets for the Web,” pp. 54-58 reflects on the nature of our use of the Web, placing it in the longer view of how we normally react to new technologies and is optimistic about the new digital texts. Alex Wright, “The Battle of the Books,” pp. 59-64 gives us a history lesson about the book and sees new and more useful forms of it growing from the Web and other digital delivery systems.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Mobile as the new mass medium?

I posted this item over at my blog; I thought that this idea would have broader interest at SIS. Mass media also has implications for information policy and many aspects of user interaction with information that we tend to be interested in at SIS.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

GIS app in da Burgh?

sent to me by a friend (a SIS grad!) in Seattle:
"In conjunction with YinzCam from CMU, an iPhone app has been released that allows folks to take pics of potholes, send them to the city's 311 complaint line and it even geo-tags the image so the city can find the exact location of the pothole. What a great idea! Can also be used to report grafitti, missing street signs and dilapidated houses."

Lewis Carroll's photographs of children

Carroll, Lewis. (2009). Lewis Carroll: Introduction by Colin Ford. (Photofile). Thames & Hudson Ltd: London.

While Lewis Carroll is best known for his masterpieces in children’s literature, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, he had other creative talents. His work with photography was pioneering and helped to set the standard for portraiture with the camera. This book contains fifty-nine full-page reproductions of his portraits, most of which are of children, along with a critical introduction and a bibliography. Through the lens of Carroll’s camera are reflected images of children that are “haunting, unforgettable – and, to modern eyes, controversial – images that record the beauty, grace and innocence of Victorian childhood”. Several of the photographs are of Carroll’s muse, Alice Liddell, the child who inspired him to write Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Bell Labs alums win Nobel Prize for physics for fiber optics research

The Nobel committee recognized the work of two scientists that were key parts of the communications revolution that we are living today. Both performed their work at the now-dismembered Bell Labs. Many leaders in the communications industry are "Bell Labs alums" ...

Future Internet architectures

This paper by Prof. Raj Jain of WU (St. Louis) surveys approaches that have been proposed for the next generation Internet architecture. I have just scanned it for now and plan on reading it in detail in the coming days in preparation for the NSF FIND workshop next week. I think this will be important reading for those interested in the future information architectures.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Data archiving, scientific integrity and public policy

I found this item extremely interesting and of great relevance to many of us at SIS (a shorter version of the issue is here). One of the key sources of evidence used by the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) was data from tree rings. This article describes an author who was interested in looking at the original data set. The problems he encountered included data integrity, lack of metadata, incomplete archiving and more. According to the researcher, a re-analysis of the data comes to different conclusions, which has enormous implications for public policy. So who said the work we do is obscure and unimportant?