Archive for the ‘Internet Culture and Technology’ Category

Conference Report: Digital Infrastructure Summit 2014

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

I have just finished participating in and writing up a conference report on the Digital Infrastructure Summit 2014 in Ottawa. This summit brought some 140 people together from across Canada and across the stakeholders to discuss how to develop leading digital infrastructure in Canada. This was organized by the Digital Infrastructure Leadership Council. For this Summit the Council (working with Janet Halliwell and colleagues) developed a fabulous set of reference materials that paint a picture of the state of digital infrastructure in Canada.

You can see my longer conference report for details, but here are some of the highlights:

  • Infrastructure has been redefined, largely because of SSRHC’s leadership, as big and long data. This redefinition from infrastructure as tubes to focus on research data for new knowledge has all sorts of interesting effects. In brings libraries in, among other things.
  • Chad Gaffield (President of SSRHC) made the point that there is a paradigm shift taking place across many disciplines as we deal with the digital in research. As we create more and more research evidence in digital form it is vital that we build the infrastructure that can preserve and make useful this evidence over the long term.
  • We have a peculiarly Canadian problem that most of the stakeholders are more than willing to contribute to any coalition, but no one is jumping in to lead. Everyone is too polite. No one wants a new body, but no existing body seems to want to take the lead.
  • There is a lot of infrastructure already in place, but they are often not bundled as services that researchers understand. Much could be made of the infrastructure in place if there were a training layer and “concierge” layer that connects to researchers.

We need to talk about TED by Benjamin Bratton

Sunday, January 5th, 2014

The Guardian has reprinted the trasnscript of Benjamin Bratton’s We need to talk about TED talk that is critical of TED. He looks at each of the three terms in T.E.D. (Technology, Entertainment, Design) and here is paraphrase of some of his points:

  • TED talks conceptualize the future, but tend to oversimplify it.
  • TED wants to be about imagining the future, but it tends to promote placebo politics and technology.
  • We are told that change is accelerating, but while that may be true of technology, it isn’t true of politics and culture.
  • TED talks have too much faith in technology. Another futurism is possible.
  • Capitalism is presented as being about rocket ships and nanomedicine. It is actually about Walmart jobs, McMansions and government spying.

He ends by talking about design. He argues that it shouldn’t be about innovation, but about innoculation. Design is presented in TED as the heroic solving a puzzles that will magically fix everything. Instead he argues for design as slogging through the hard stuff – understanding the politics and cultural issues.

He ends by summarizing why he feels TED is not just a distraction, but harmful. He believes TED misdirects our attention by charming us with the entertaining simple solutions while avoiding the messy, chaotic, complex issues that can’t be solved by technology.

I sometimes wonder if Humanities Computing didn’t serve a similar purpose in the humanities. Is it a form of comic (technological) relief from the brutal truths we confront in the humanities … especially the suspicion that we make no difference when we do confront racism, sexism, surveillance, politics and technohype. Why not relax and play a bit with the other?

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 Theoreti.ca: http://perma.law.harvard.edu/0f8ojk5Phmc – 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.

CBC.ca 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