Thursday, December 31, 2009

No Right to Remain Silent

Lucinda Roy, No Right to Remain Silent: The Tragedy at Virginia Tech (New York: Harmony Books, 2009) is a disturbing window into the April 16, 2007 shootings at this university by the former chair of the English department who sought to provide aid to the student who carried out the rampage. Roy presents a university bureaucracy unable to cope with the aftermath, the failure of counseling services, the strange efforts to preserve the killer’s privacy, mismanagement of documents and other evidence related to the tragedy, and other revelations about the massacre. Roy does not spend a great deal of time trying to assess whether the culture at Virginia Tech is unique or common in higher education. However, my sense is that Roy’s analysis fits, unfortunately, comfortably within critiques of the modern corporate university. One minor example suggests this. Roy places the problem with teaching assessment as one of the factors of the school’s inability to deal with troubled students. She provides an interesting assessment of teaching evaluations, asserting that the student evaluations of teaching have evolved from something intended to assist faculty to a means to judge faculty, creating a process causing teachers to be “less adventurous” and “making some teachers think twice before they offend or provoke a student, and making professors and instructors less willing to report troubled students, especially if the teacher knows he or she could receive a blistering evaluation from the student in response” (p. 188). Among other things, this is the byproduct of a university seeking to establish itself as a top research university, hampered by a weak financial base: “With the pressure to generate income more pronounced than it has ever been it is unlikely that teaching will retain the level of recognition it deserves any time soon” (p. 178). I am sure there will be considerable debate about this book (even she assumes that she will have leave Virginia Tech after two decades of being on its faculty), but it is a volume every faculty member ought to read in order to reflect on the effectiveness of approaches to dealing with students with various behavioral, psychological, and other issues.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Case for Books

Robert Darnton, The Case for Books: Past, Present, and Future (New York: Public Affairs, 2009) brings together a decade of Darnton's musings about books, the history of books as a field, bibliography, digitization and e-books, and the Google book deal. Highly recommended, even if Darnton, an eminent historian, does tend to ignore writings from within librarianship, LIS, and archives relevant to his topics.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

IT Conversations podcasts of broader interest

I have been listening to these podcasts over the past days. Here are a couple that I thought were interesting to the SIS community:

Study of FLICKR tags, personal archiving and more

Maps in four dimensions

HTTP Watch for Internet Explorer

Economics of mobility

I think some of these might be fodder for research collaboration and discussion at SIS!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Free e-book "The Fourth Paradigm"

Some of you might be interested in "The Fourth Paradigm", which you can either download for free or purchase (the free version is here). From the Foreword:

This book is about a new, fourth paradigm for science based on data intensive computing. In such scientific research, we are at a stage of development that is analogous to when the printing press was invented. Printing took a thousand years to develop and evolve into the many forms it takes today. Using computers to gain understanding from data created and stored in our electronic data stores will likely take decades—or less. The contributing authors in this volume have done an extraordinary job of helping to refine an understanding of this new paradigm from a variety of disciplinary perspectives.

In many instances, science is lagging behind the commercial world in the ability to infer meaning from data and take action based on that meaning. However, commerce is comparatively simple: things that can be described by a few numbers or a name are manufactured and then bought and sold. Scientific disciplines cannot easily be encapsulated in a few understandable numbers and names, and most scientific data does not have a high enough economic value to fuel more rapid development of scientific discovery.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Declining numbers of High School students are taking Computer Science

This item in the Washington Post reports that fewer high school students nationally are enrolled in computer science.  This does not portend well for domestic enrollments in future for technology oriented information technology programs.  Some quotes from the article:

 Nationally, the portion of schools that offer an introductory computer science course has dropped from 78 percent in 2005 to 65 percent this year, and the corresponding decline in AP courses went from 40 to 27 percent, according to a survey by the Computer Science Teachers Association.

In the spring, the College Board, citing declining enrollment, canceled its AP computer science AB class, the more rigorous of its two courses in the subject.

The result of sporadic or skimpy computer science training is that a generation of teenagers great at using computers will be unlikely to play a role in the way computer technology shapes lives in the future, said Chris Stephenson, executive director of the New York-based Computer Science Teachers Association.

Friday, December 18, 2009

100 Things Your Kids May Never Know About...

Hmmm? Apparently, "some of the technology we grew up with will not be passed down the line to the next generation of geeks. That is, of course, unless we tell them all about the good old days of modems and typewriters, slide rules and encyclopedias …"

Go here to find out the "100 Things Your Kids May Never Know About...":

Kinda reminds me of the Museum of Antique Information Technology that lives in my SIS office!

Monday, December 07, 2009

Fascinating privacy ecosphere graphics

Produced by the FTC, this figure illustrates the personal data ecosphere in general and this one provides more specifics for instances such as medical data, retailer loyalty cards, social networking, etc..  I find them worth staring at, even if they are only partially true (which, by the way, I am not asserting).

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

December 1st is World AIDS Day

December 1, 2009, has been designated World AIDS Day, in order to bring attention to the increasing prevalence of HIV and AIDS. Organizations around the world will be joining together today to promote awareness and education of HIV/AIDS through a variety of events.

Visit the UCLA AIDS Poster collection (a digital library)