PARRY encounters the DOCTOR (RFC439)

V. Cerf set up a dialogue between two of the most famous early chatbots, PARRY encounters the DOCTOR (RFC439) The DOCTOR is the therapist script for Weizenbaum’s ELIZA that is how people usually encounter of ELIZA. PARRY was developed by Kenneth Colby and acts like a paranoid schizophrenic. Putting them into dialogue therefore makes a kind of sense and the result is amusing.

It is also interesting that this is a RFC (Request For Comments), a genre normally reserved for Internet technical documents.

Lit sounds: U of A experts help rescue treasure trove of audio cultural history

A U of A professor is helping to rescue tens of thousands of lost audio and video recordings — on tape, film, vinyl or any other bygone media — across North America.

The Folio has a nice story about the SpokenWeb project that I am part of, Lit sounds: U of A experts help rescue treasure trove of audio cultural history. The article discusses the collaboration and importance of archiving to scholarship.

Jeff Pooley, “Surveillance Publishing”

Arun sent me the link to a good paper by Jeff Pooley on Surveillance Publishing in the Journal of Electronic Publishing. The article compares what Google does to rank pages based on links to citation analysis (which inspired Brin and Page). The article looks at how both web search and citation analysis have been monetized by Google and citation network services like Web of Science. Now publishing companies like Elsevier make money off tools that report and predict on publishing. We write papers with citations and publish them. Then we buy services built on our citational work and administrators buy services telling them who publishes the most and where the hot areas are. As Pooley puts it,

Siphoning taxpayer, tuition, and endowment dollars to access our own behavior is a financial and moral indignity.

The article also points out that predictive services have been around since before Google. The insurance and credit rating businesses have used surveillance for some time.

Pooley ends by talking about how these publication surveillance tools then encourage quantification of academic work and facilitate local and international prioritization. The Anglophone academy measures things and discovers itself so it can then reward itself. What gets lost is the pursuit of knowledge.

In that sense, the “decision tools” peddled by surveillance publishers are laundering machines—context-erasing abstractions of our messy academic realities.

The full abstract is here:

This essay develops the idea of surveillance publishing, with special attention to the example of Elsevier. A scholarly publisher can be defined as a surveillance publisher if it derives a substantial proportion of its revenue from prediction products, fueled by data extracted from researcher behavior. The essay begins by tracing the Google search engine’s roots in bibliometrics, alongside a history of the citation analysis company that became, in 2016, Clarivate. The essay develops the idea of surveillance publishing by engaging with the work of Shoshana Zuboff, Jathan Sadowski, Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar, and Aziz Huq. The recent history of Elsevier is traced to describe the company’s research-lifecycle data-harvesting strategy, with the aim to develop and sell prediction products to unviersity and other customers. The essay concludes by considering some of the potential costs of surveillance publishing, as other big commercial publishers increasingly enter the predictive-analytics business. It is likely, I argue, that windfall subscription-and-APC profits in Elsevier’s “legacy” publishing business have financed its decade-long acquisition binge in analytics. The products’ purpose, moreover, is to streamline the top-down assessment and evaluation practices that have taken hold in recent decades. A final concern is that scholars will internalize an analytics mindset, one already encouraged by citation counts and impact factors.

Source: Pooley | Surveillance Publishing | The Journal of Electronic Publishing

Lisa: Steve Jobs’ sabotage and Apple’s secret burial

Who remembers the Lisa? The Verge has a nice short documentary on the Lisa: Steve Jobs’ sabotage and Apple’s secret burial. The Lisa, named after Jobs’ daughter and released in 1983, was the first Apple with a graphical user interface. Alas it was too expensive (almost $10K USD at the time) and was eventually superseded by the Macintosh that came out in 1994 despite being technically superior.

The documentary is less about the Lisa than the end of the Lisa including an interview with Bob Cook who sold remaindered and used Lisa’s after they were discontinued thanks to a deal with Apple until Apple decided to bury them all in a landfill in Utah. (Which reminds me of the Atari video game cartridge burial of 1983.) The documentary is also, as every Apple story is, about Steve Jobs and his return to Apple in the late 1990s which led to its turnaround into the successful company it is now. Was it Jobs who wanted to bury the Lisa?

Signing of MOU


Yesterday I was part of a signing ceremony for a Memorandum of Agreement between Ritsumeikan University and the University of Alberta. I and the President of the University of Alberta (Bill Flanagan) signed on behalf of U of A. The MOU described our desire to build on our collaborations around Replaying Japan. We hope to build collaborations around artificial intelligence, games, learning, and digital humanities. KIAS and the AI4Society signature area have been supporting this research collaboration.

Today (March 2nd, 2023) we are having a short conference at Ritsumeikan that included a panel about our collaboration, at which I talked, and a showcase of research in game studies at Ritsumeikan.

Ken Kesey and the Rush to Deinstitutionalization

Photo of actor Jack Nicholson and director Milos Foreman on set of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.
Jack Nicholson and director Milos Foreman on set of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Whatever the literary strengths of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, the book has done much to harm both the mentally ill and their communities.

This May the Kule Institute is organizing a hybrid exhibit/symposium on the Institution of Knowledge. We are bringing together a group of artists and thinkers to raise and address questions about institutional structures and knowledge. One question that the small group I’m part of discussed this week as the question of deinstitutionalization and the view, best captured by Ken Kesey in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest that asylums as institutions were sites that did more harm than good. Stephen Eide has a nice article about this, Ken Kesey and the Rush to Deinstitutionalization (Quilette, Nov. 14, 2022).

There are a number of aspects to the issue. The first thing to note is that the deinstitutionalization of people with serious mental health issues didn’t work as imagined. It was not the freeing of an oppressed constituency back to the community where the new drugs could help them integrate and get on with their lives. There wasn’t really a community that wanted them other than the street and many ended up in the very institutions asylums were meant to replace – prisons. Stephen Eide’s book Homelessness in America traces the effects of deinstitutionalization, changes in vagrancy laws, and the “cleaning” up of slums on homelessness leading to the problem as we see it today.

But what about the idea of deinstitutionalization? Important to this idea would be Foucault, changes in psychiatry and how the discipline conceives of the role of medicine (and its institutions), and changes in public policy and what jurisdictions try to do with institutions.

One aspect of the issues that we forget if we think of institutions as bureaucracy is the built presence of institutions. From Jefferson’s design of the campus of the University of Virginia to Olmstead’s asylum landscapes, architects have shaped our imagination and the literal structures of certain types of institutions. This raises the question of what new types of institutions might be in being designed?

Unitron Mac 512: A Contraband Mac 512K from Brazil

From a paper on postcolonial computing I learned about the Unitron Mac 512: A Contraband Mac 512K from Brazil. For a while Brazil didn’t allow the importation of computers (so as to kickstart their own computer industry.) Unitron decided to reverse engineer the Mac 512K, but Apple put pressure on Brazil and the project was closed down. At least 500 machines were built and I guess some are still in circulation.

The article is Philip, K., et al. (2010). “Postcolonial Computing: A Tactical Survey.” Science Technology Human Values. 37(1).

Though Apple had no intellectual property protection for the Macintosh in Brazil, the American corporation was able to pressure government and other economic actors within Brazil to reframe Unitron’s activities, once seen as nationalist and anti-colonial, as immoral piracy.

Giant, free index to world’s research papers released online

Catalogue of billions of phrases from 107 million papers could ease computerized searching of the literature.

From Ian I learned about a Giant, free index to world’s research papers released online. The General Index, as it is called, makes ngrams of up to 5 words available with pointers to relevant journal articles.

The massive index is available from the Internet Archive here. Here is how it is described.

Public Resource, a registered nonprofit organization based in California, has created a General Index to scientific journals. The General Index consists of a listing of n-grams, from unigrams to five-grams, extracted from 107 million journal articles.

The General Index is non-consumptive, in that the underlying articles are not released, and it is transformative in that the release consists of the extraction of facts that are derived from that underlying corpus. The General Index is available for free download with no restrictions on use. This is an initial release, and the hope is to improve the quality of text extraction, broaden the scope of the underlying corpus, provide more sophisticated metrics associated with terms, and other enhancements.

Access to the full corpus of scholarly journals is an essential facility to the practice of science in our modern world. The General Index is an invaluable utility for researchers who wish to search for articles about plants, chemicals, genes, proteins, materials, geographical locations, and other entities of interest. The General Index allows scholars and students all over the world to perform specialized and customized searches within the scope of their disciplines and research over the full corpus.

Access to knowledge is a human right and the increase and diffusion of knowledge depends on our ability to stand on the shoulders of giants. We applaud the release of the General Index and look forward to the progress of this worthy endeavor.

There must be some neat uses of this. I wonder if someone like Google might make a diachronic viewer similar to their Google Books Ngram Viewer available?

John Roach, Pioneer of the Personal Computer, Is Dead at 83 – The New York Times

He helped make the home computer ubiquitous by introducing the fully assembled Tandy TRS-80, which was so novel at the time that it became a museum piece.

The New York Times reports that John Roach, Pioneer of the Personal Computer, Is Dead at 83Roach was the executive who introduced the Tandy TRS-80 in the 1970s, one of the first fully assembled microcomputers. I didn’t realize how dominant the TRS-80 was in the late 1970s. At one point it held 40% of the market. We usually hear about Apple and IBM, but not about the TRS (Tandy Radio Schack).

They later released a laptop or tablet computer that I lusted after, the TRS80 Model 100. This was a keyboard and a small LCD screen and enough software to type notes or edit text. There was also a modem to send your writing somewhere. I still think this form factor makes sense. You can’t really type on an iPad (unless you get a keyboard for it) and you don’t really need lots of screen for typing notes.

The Lost Digital Poems (and Erotica) of William H. Dickey

In 1987, William H. Dickey, a San Francisco poet who had won the prestigious Yale Younger Poets Award to launch his career and published nearly a dozen well-received books and chapbooks since, was …

Matthew Kirschenbaum has written a great essay on recovering early digital poetry, The Lost Digital Poems (and Erotica) of William H. Dickey ‹ Literary HubDickey wrote some HyperPoems on HyperCard and so now they are hard to access. Kirschenbaum rescued them and worked with people to add them to the Internet Archive that has a HyperCard emulator. Here is what Kirschenbaum says,

Dickey’s HyperPoems are artifacts of another time—made new and fresh again with current technology. Anyone with a web browser can read and explore them in their original format with no special software or setup. (They are organized into Volume 1 and Volume 2 at the Internet Archive, in keeping with their original organizational scheme; Volume 2 contains the erotica—NSFW!) But they are also a reminder that writers have treasures tucked away in digital shoeboxes and drawers. Floppy disks, or for that matter USB sticks and Google Docs, now keep the secrets of the creative process.

This essay comes from his work for his new book Bistreams which documents this and other recovery projects. I’ve just ordered a copy.