Archive for the ‘Internet Culture and Technology’ Category

Supporting Digital Scholarship

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013

The Tri-Council Agencies (Research councils of Canada) and selected other institutions (going under the rubric TC3+) have released an important Consultation Document titled Capitalizing on Big Data: Toward a Policy Framework for Advancing Digital Scholarship in Canada. You can see a summary blog entry from the CommerceLab, How big data is reshaping the future of digital scholarship in Canada. The document suggest that we have many of the components of a “well-functioning digital infrastructure ecosystem for research and innovation”, but that these are not coordinated and Canada is not keeping up. They propose three initiatives:

  • Establishing a Culture of Stewardship
  • Coordination of Stakeholder Engagement
  • Developing Capacity and Future Funding Parameters

The first initiative is about research data management and something we have been working on the digital humanities for some time. It is great to see a call from our funding agencies.

Pentametron: With algorithms subtle and discrete

Monday, October 7th, 2013

Scott send me a link to the Pentametron: With algorithms subtle and discrete / I seek iambic writings to retweet. This site creates iambic pentameter poems from tweets by looking at the rythm of words. It then tries to find ryhming last words to create a AABB rhyming scheme. You can see an article about it on Gawker titled, Weird Internets: The Amazing Found-on-Twitter Sonnets of Pentametron.

Perma, and Figshare

Saturday, August 24th, 2013

Thanks to Twitter I’ve come across a number of new online tools of use to academics:

Perma comes from Harvard Law and allows you to create a permanent archive of something you are linking to. You go to the site, enter a URL that you want archived and it gives you a new URL for the Perma version which lets you see what the page looks like now and what it looked like when archived. This allows us to quote web pages that may either disappear or be changed. Here is the link to the archived version of – this is a version before this blog entry.

Figshare is a cloud based archive for academic data. You upload data and then provide metadata for the dataset. People can comment on it, download the data and so on. It seems to do in a fairly clean fashion what university repositories do. I’m not sure of their business model. I uploaded Wendell Piez’s electronic edition of Frankenstein to try it out.


TIN 2013 Conference

Saturday, August 17th, 2013

This weekend I’m at the Tomorrow’s Ideas Now 2013 Conference. This is the third international undergraduate research conference that the Kule Institute for Advanced Studies has organized. I’ll tweeting using the #TIN2013 hashtag.

Why the spammers are winning

Sunday, August 11th, 2013

The Guardian has a good article on spam,Why the spammers are winning that is based largely on a new book Spam: A Shadow History of the Internet by Finn Brunton. The article tells about what may be the first modern spam message which was distributed on a Sunday evening of 1864 by a telegraph company. The urgent message was from a dentists company advertising their hours.

What is interesting is that spam filtering and spam filter bypassing agents are text technologies that are getting more and more sophisticated. As filters got better spam is no longer a matter for amateurs. Spam is also changing – there are more an more inventive ways to get you to read junk ads. For that matter at the end of Guardian articles there has been a collection of links to articles in the Guardian and elsewhere that feels a lot like clickbait. The links are paid for and provided by Outbrain. They tend to be ad cloaked as stories.

NSA slides explain the PRISM data-collection program

Wednesday, July 17th, 2013

The Washington Post has been publishing  NSA slides that explain the PRISM data-collection program. These slides not only explain aspects of PRISM, but also allow us to see how the rhetoric of text analysis unfolds. How do people present PRISM to others? Note the “You Should Use Both” – the imperative in the voice. alberta@noon Monday June 10, 2013

Monday, June 17th, 2013

Last week I was interviewed by Judy Aldous on the CBC programme alberta@noon Monday June 10, 2013. We took calls about social media. I was intrigued by the range of reactions from “I don’t need anything other than messaging” to “I use it all the time for my company.” One point I was trying to make is that we all have to now manage our social media presence. There are too many venues to be present in all of them and, as my colleague Julie Rak points out, we are now all celebrities in the sense that we have to worry about how we appear in media. That means we need to educate ourselves to some degree and experiment with developing a voice.

Around the World Symposium on Digital Culture

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

Tomorrow we are organizing an Around the World Symposium on Digital Culture. This symposium brings together scholars from different countries talking about digital culture for about 17-20 hours as it goes from place to place streaming their talks and discussions. The Symposium is being organized by the Kule Institute for Advanced Study here at the University of Alberta. Visit the site to see the speakers and to tune in.

Please join in using the Twitter hashtag #UofAworld

The MOOC Moment and the End of Reform – The New Inquiry

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

Sam sent me a great and careful article about MOOCs,The MOOC Moment and the End of Reform. The article is a longer version of a paper given by Aaron Bady at UC Irvine as part of a panel on MOOCs and For Profit Universities. In his longer paper Bady makes a number of points:

  • We need to look closely at the rhetoric that is spinning this a “moment” of something new. Bady questions the sense of time and timing to the hype. What is really new? Why is this the moment?
  • There isn’t much new to MOOCs except that prestige universities are finally trying online education (which others have been trying since the 1980s) and branding their projects. MOOCs represent Harvard trying to catch up with the University of Phoenix by pretending they have leapfrogged decades of innovation.
  • The term MOOC was coined by in the context of an online course at the U of Manitoba. See the Wikipedia article on MOOCs. The Manitoba experiment, however was quite different. “[T]he goal of these original MOOCs was to foster an educational process that was something totally different: it would be as exploratory and creative as its participants chose to make it, it was about building a sense of community investment in a particular project, a fundamentally socially-driven enterprise, and its outcomes were to be fluid and open-ended.”
  • MOOCs are speculative bubble that will burst. The question is what will things look like when it does?
  • MOOCs are not necessarily open as many are being put on by for-profit companies. Perhaps they could be called MOCks.
  • The economics of MOOCs need to be watched. They look a lot like other dot com businesses.
  • MOOCs are the end of the change that happens when learning is in dialogue not the beginning of change. MOOCs could freeze innovation as they take so many resources to develop by so few.

Here is a  quote:

If I have one overarching takeaway point in this talk, it’s this: there’s almost nothing new about the kind of online education that the word MOOC now describes. It’s been given a great deal of hype and publicity, but that aura of “innovation” poorly describes a technology—or set of technological practices, to be more precise—that is not that distinct from the longer story of online education, and which is designed to reinforce and re-establish the status quo, to make tenable a structure that is falling apart.


Larissa MacFarquhar: The Tragedy of Aaron Swartz

Sunday, April 14th, 2013

The New Yorker last month had a great story by Larissa MacFarquhar on The Tragedy of Aaron Swartz. The net is full of opinions and outrage about the Swartz affair, MacFarquhar gives us a human dimension and a complex web of quotes from others. Another New Yorker story by Tim Wu, Fixing the Worst Law in Technology explains the law that prosecutors used against Swartz,

The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act is the most outrageous criminal law you’ve never heard of. It bans “unauthorized access” of computers, but no one really knows what those words mean.

I must admit, my first thought on reading about this case, was that I would love to have all of JSTOR, though I’m not sure what I would do with it. I think there is a closet collector in every academic who wants a copy of everything they might need to consult late at night.