Archive for the ‘Media and News’ Category

HedgeChatter – Social Media Stock Sentiment Analysis Dashboard

Monday, November 25th, 2013

HedgeChatter – Social Media Stock Sentiment Analysis Dashboard is a site that analyzes social media chatter about stocks and then lets you see how a stock is doing. In the picture above you can see the dashboard for Apple (APPL). Rolling over it you can see what people are saying over time – what the “Social Sentiment” is for the stock. I’m assuming with an account one can keep a portfolio and perhaps get alerts when the sentiment drops.

To do this they must have some sort of text analysis running that gives them the sentiment.

Arts in 60 Seconds: Research Lectures

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013

The University of Alberta has put together a set of short (60 second) lectures by faculty on what they do. See Arts in 60 seconds and ignore my one.

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.

CIFAR: Do you have a question?

Friday, August 30th, 2013

Back in the Spring I blogged about how CIFAR was launching a new programme that might be open to humanists called, Do you have a question with the potential to change the world?. CIFAR doesn’t have much of a track record supporting arts or humanities research as their own reports note. An open call for questions would surely attract some questions that humanists would recognize. Alas, no.

Despite getting 280 Letters of Interest not one of the seven selected comes from the arts, humanities or social sciences. The closest is the Brain, Mind, and Consciousness project which is based in neuroscience and will apparently involve philosophers and ethicists. Here is the list of the seven selected for the next round:

  • Biology, Energy, and Technology
  • BrainLight: Cracking the Sensory Code
  • Brain, Mind, and Consciousness
  • Life in a Changing Ocean: New Perspectives on Marine Functions and Services
  • Making a Molecular Map of the Cell: Towards a Direct Determination of the Structure-Function Correlation of Biological Systems
  • Microbes and Humans
  • The Planetary Biodiversity Project

It is time to ask the question, Why doesn’t CIFAR support the arts and humanities? (In previous programmes they have supported the social sciences.) It is unbelievable that they did not get interesting questions from the humanities. Either no one bothered to submit an interesting question (which I happen to know is not true) or they aren’t interested in the questions we ask. Here are some of the some of the possible explanations I can think of for CIFAR’s ignorance:

  •  None of the 280 LOIs were of the quality of the seven selected.
  • The panel was composed primarily of scientists and engineers. The one humanist was Pauline Yu.
  • The type of questions they were looking for were not the sort we ask in the humanities. They were looking for questions that could be answered with a bit of money rather than the questions we deal with that may never be answered.
  • Their idea of “questions with the potential to change the world” does not include questions about government, race, democracy, culture, art, education or literature.
  • This programme wasn’t really intended as a way to bring in new areas of research as I was told when I asked about the dearth of humanities support.

I think it is time CIFAR be honest with the larger community and admit that they are focusing on support for research in Science, Technology, Engineering and Medicine with some forays into the Social Sciences. No one would blame them for focusing their support. Deep in their reports they admit that “the growth of its programs in the social sciences and humanities has not kept pace with growth in the natural sciences” (Final Report CIFAR Performance Audit and Evaluation) though I frankly don’t see any growth at all.

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

U. of Virginia Teams Up With ‘Crowdfunding’ Site

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

Mike linked me to a Chronicle Bottom Line blog story about how U. of Virginia Teams Up With ‘Crowdfunding’ Site to Finance Research. UVa is teaming up with USEED, a company that has built a “fundraising platform [that] taps the power of social networks and the voice of your students to engage alumni and win new donors…” USEED is unlike Kickstarter in that it creates a unique site for each university rather than forcing them to compete on the same site. It is closer to the FutureFunder.ca site for Carleton.

USEED is an example of a company that is experimenting with “social entrepreneurship” a gray area between for-profit and not-for-profit work. The Chronicle also has a story on the ambiguities of social entrepreurship. At times it seems like there are a lot of startups that are circling universities trying to figure out how to feed on our antiquated corpse.

CIFAR: Renewing their vision

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

Today I went to a meeting about Canadian Institute For Advanced Knowledge (CIFAR) in the hopes that they might have programs in the humanities. They do and they don’t.

One new initiative they have that is open to humanists is their global call for ideas. The call is open to anyone:

Do you have a question with the potential to change the world?

A number of their programs like Successful Societies, Social Interactions, Identity & Well-Being, and Institutions, Organizations & Growth seem to have humanists and social scientists involved, even if they aren’t issues central to the humanities.

In recognition of the absence of humanities programs they started a Humanities Initiative in 2009. Alas, it hasn’t yet developed any programs we could participate in. Here is some history:

In their 2009-2010 Annual Performance Report they state:

CIFAR organized a discussion with senior humanities researchers drawn from institutions across North America in May 2009 about the role CIFAR could play in supporting advanced research in the humanities. The meeting participants recommended the creation of an ad hoc Steering Committee that would undertake the process of identifying in detail how CIFAR should approach and support advanced humanities research. This Steering Committee met in December 2009, and following a telephone conference in April 2010 recommended that the Institute proceed with several pilot projects in the next year. Work on refining these projects and identifying task force members was underway by June 2010.

In a 2010, Final Report CIFAR Performance Audit and Evaluation, the evaluators note:

CIFAR’s Strategic Plan notes that the growth of its programs in the social sciences and humanities has not kept pace with growth in the natural sciences. CIFAR is, consequently, examining how its research model might be adapted to research in these disciplines with a specific focus in this five-year period on the humanities.

It is now 2013 and it seems the steering group recommended two pilot projects, neither of which seem to have done more than meet.

Pekka Sinervo, who presented here, suggested that it is hard to find examples of sustained conversations around a single question in the humanities of the sort that CIFAR supports. He challenged me to find examples they could use as models. Perhaps there isn’t a tradition of think tanks in the humanities? Perhaps senior humanists, of the sort CIFAR has recruited, are more solitary scholars who just can’t get excited about getting together to talk about ideas? Perhaps the humanities has lapsed into Cartesian solipsism – we think, we are, but alone.

I personally think CIFAR should restart and rethink their Humanities Initiative. If they are finding it hard to get humanists engaged in the ways other fields are, then try something different. I would encourage them to look at some examples from the digital humanities that have demonstrated the capacity to initiate and sustain conversations in innovative ways:

  • The Humanities and Technology Camp (THATCamp) is an extremely successful example of an open and inclusive form of conversation. Mellon supports this initiative that supports inexpensive “unconferences” around the world.
  • Networked Infrastructure for Nineteenth-century Electronic Scholarship Online (NINES) is a reinvented scholarly association that was formed to support old and new media research. This is not an elite exclusive community, but a reimagined association that is capable of recognizing enquiry through digital scholarship.
  • The Day of Digital Humanities is a sustained look at the question, “Just what do digital humanists really do?” Started at U of Alberta in 2009, the latest version was run by Michigan State University’s MATRIX: The Center for Digital Humanities & Social Sciences. Other organizations have used this “Day of …” paradigm to get discussion going around issues like digital archaeology.
  • 4Humanities is a loose group that looks at how to advocate for the humanities in the face of funding challenges. With minimal funding we support local chapters, international correspondents, and various activities.

In short, there are lots of examples of sustained conversations, especially if you don’t limit yourself to a particular model. Dialogue has been central to the humanities since Plato’s Academy; perhaps the humanities should be asked by CIFAR to imagine new forms of dialogue. Could CIFAR make a virtue of the problem they face around humanities conversations?

Can you start a dialogue with the potential to change the world?

The Never-Before-Told Story of the World’s First Computer Art

Saturday, January 26th, 2013

The Atlantic has a story about The Never-Before-Told Story of the World’s First Computer Art (It’s a Sexy Dame). The image (see above) was apparently created by an IBM programmer for the SAGE system and was used as a diagnostic.

According to Tipton, the program that displayed the pin-up image was a diagnostic that tested data flow between the two SAGE computers on site (referred to as the A and B computers). At the end of every shift, as one computer was about to go offline and switch over to the other, the active machine would begin transferring flight and intercept data to the standby machine so there could be a seamless switch over.

Two switching consoles on site were used to handle this process. After running the diagnostic, Tipton describes, if the pin-up displayed correctly on the screen, then data was being transferred between the A and B computers correctly. If the image displayed improperly, then the technicians immediately knew there was a problem.

This reminds me of the story of Lena and the use of her image. Why were so many early images drawn from porn? Does this say something about the male culture of computing in those years that it was cool/acceptable to use pin up pictures when you needed a graphic image?

Thanks to @manovich for this.

Big Buzz about Big Data: Does it really have to be analyzed.

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

The Guardian has a story by John Burn-Murdoch on how Study: less than 1% of the world’s data is analysed, over 80% is unprotected.

This Guardian article reports on a Digital Universe Study that reports that the “global data supply reached 2.8 zettabytes (ZB) in 2012″ and that “just 0.5% of this is used for analysis”. The industry study emphasizes that the promise of “Big Data” is in its analysis,

First, while the portion of the digital universe holding potential analytic value is growing, only a tiny fraction of territory has been explored. IDC estimates that by 2020, as much as 33% of the digital universe will contain information that might be valuable if analyzed, compared with 25% today. This untapped value could be found in patterns in social media usage, correlations in scientific data from discrete studies, medical information intersected with sociological data, faces in security footage, and so on. However, even with a generous estimate, the amount of information in the digital universe that is “tagged” accounts for only about 3% of the digital universe in 2012, and that which is analyzed is half a percent of the digital universe. Herein is the promise of “Big Data” technology — the extraction of value from the large untapped pools of data in the digital universe. (p. 3)

I can’t help wondering if industry studies aren’t trying to stampede us to thinking that there is lots of money to be made in analytics. These studies often seem to come from the entities that benefit from investment into analytics. What if the value of Big Data turns out to be in getting people to buy into analytical tools and services (or be left behind.) Has there been any critical analysis (as opposed to anecdotal evidence) of whether analytics really do warrant the effort? A good article I came across on the need for analytical criticism is Trevor Butterworth’s Goodbye Anecdotes! The Age of Big Data Demands Real Criticsm. He starts with,

Every day, we produce 2.5 exabytes of information, the analysis of which will, supposedly, make us healthier, wiser, and above all, wealthier—although it’s all a bit fuzzy as to what, exactly, we’re supposed to do with 2.5 exabytes of data—or how we’re supposed to do whatever it is that we’re supposed to do with it, given that Big Data requires a lot more than a shiny MacBook Pro to run any kind of analysis.

Of course the Digital Universe Study is not only about the opportunities for analytics. It also points out:

  • That data security is going to become more and more of a problem
  • That more and more data is coming from emerging markets
  • That we could get a lot more useful analysis done if there was more metadata (tagging), especially at the source. They are calling for more intelligence in the gathering devices – the surveillance cameras, for example. They could add metadata at the point of capture like time, place, and then stuff like whether there are faces.
  • That the promising types of data that could generate value start with surveillance and medical data.

Reading about Big Data I also begin to wonder what it is. Fortunately IDC (who are behind the Digital Universe Study have a definition,

Last year, Big Data became a big topic across nearly every area of IT. IDC defines Big Data technologies as a new generation of technologies and architectures, designed to economically extract value from very large volumes of a wide variety of data by enabling high-velocity capture, discovery, and/or analysis. There are three main characteristics of Big Data: the data itself, the analytics of the data, and the presentation of the results of the analytics. Then there are the products and services that can be wrapped around one or all of these Big Data elements. (p. 9)

Big Data is not really about data at all. It is about technologies and services. It is about the opportunity that comes with “a big topic across nearly every area of IT.” Big Data is more like Big Buzz. Now we know what follows Web 2.0 (and it was never going to be Web 3.0.)

For a more academic and interesting perspective on Big Data I recommend (following Butterworth) Martin Hilbert’s “How much information is there in the ‘information society’?” (Significance, 9:4, 8-12, 2012.) One of the more interesting points he makes is the growing importance of text,

Despite the general percep- tion that the digital age is synonymous with the proliferation of media-rich audio and videos, we find that text and still images cap- ture a larger share of the world’s technological memories than they did before4. In the early 1990s, video represented more than 80% of the world’s information stock (mainly stored in analogue VHS cassettes) and audio almost 15% (on audio cassettes and vinyl records). By 2007, the share of video in the world’s storage devices had decreased to 60% and the share of audio to merely 5%, while text increased from less than 1% to a staggering 20% (boosted by the vast amounts of alphanumerical content on internet servers, hard disks and databases.) The multimedia age actually turns out to be an alphanumeric text age, which is good news if you want to make life easy for search engines. (p. 9)

One of the points that Hilbert makes that would support the importance of analytics is that our capacity to store data is catching up with the amount of data broadcast and communicated. In other words we are getting closer to being able to be able store most of what is broadcast and communicated. Even more dramatic is the growth in computation. In short available computation is growing faster than storage and storage faster than transmission. With excess comes experimentation and with excess computation and storage, why not experiment with what is communicated. We are, after all, all humanists who are interested primarily ourselves. The opportunity to study ourselves in real time is too tempting to give up. There may be little commercial value in the Big Reflection, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t the Big Temptation. The Delphic oracle told us to Know Thyself and now we can in a new new way. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that the value in Big Data is in our narcissism. The services that will do well are those that feed our Big Desire to know more and more (recently) ourselves both individually and collectively. Privacy will be trumped by the desire for analytic celebrity where you become you own spectacle.

This could be good news for the humanities. I’m tempted to announce that this will be the century of the BIG BIG HUMAN. With Big Reflection we will turn on ourselves and consume more and more about ourselves. The humanities could claim that we are the disciplines that reflect on the human and analytics are just another practice for doing so, but to do so we might have to look at what is written in us or start writing in DNA.

In 2007, the DNA in the 60 trillion cells of one single human body would have stored more information than all of our technological devices together. (Hilbert, p. 11)