Wearable Computing


I just came across a chapter on Wearable Computing by Steve Mann (pictured above) from the Interaction Design Foundation. The chapter is part of a larger open Encyclopedia of Human-Computer Interaction. You can read it online for free or become a member of the organization and get a PDF or buy it.

Steve Mann is the researcher who has been working on wearable and bearable computing for decades. He has developed systems that I am told are better than Google Glass.

Japanese Game Culture Blogs

This term I’m teaching a course on Understanding Japanese Game Culture and I’ve just discovered (again) that my students know more than me. This is a graduate version of the seminar I taught this summer at Ritsumeikan University for University of Alberta undergraduates. For the graduate version I asked students to keep a blog with responses to the readings and as I checked their blogs this week I realized how interesting their interventions are. Many of their entries expand on issues from the readings in ways that remind me (once more) how much more learning takes place in a seminar where everyone contributes than in a instructor-driven course. Here are the links to their blogs. Enjoy:

Happy Ada Lovelace Day! A Collection of Essays on Gender and Tech From Your Friends at The Atlantic – Rebecca J. Rosen – The Atlantic

The Atlantic has a great collection of essays on gender and technology gathered in one place, Happy Ada Lovelace Day! A Collection of Essays on Gender and Tech From Your Friends at The Atlantic. The page of stories includes a scan of the 1951 internal memo that allowed IBM female employees to get married (that you see above.) It also includes a story about Etsy’s prioritizing diversity in hiring which led to a significant improvement in the ratio of female to male engineers.

All of this in honour of Ada Lovelace Day!

Getting Hacked

For those wondering why I haven’t been blogging and why Theoreti.ca seems to be unavailable, the answer is that the blog has been hacked and I’m trying to solve the problem. My ISP rightly freezes things when the blog seems to send spam. Sorry about all this!

Google Starts Grant Program for Studies of Its Digitized Books – Technology – The Chronicle of Higher Education

The Chronicle of Higher Education has a story about a Google Grant Program for Studies of Its Digitized Books. Many of us have been encouraging Google to open Google Books to research projects, including crowdsourcing projects that could improve the content. Google should be congratulated on creating this program and actually providing support for experiments.

Understandably some worry about humanists becoming dependent on Google Books – the worry is that we will “lock-in” our new research practices to one data-set, that of Google. I doubt this is really going to be a problem. It is still early in the development of new analytical practices to see lock-in. Further, the quality of the Google texts is poor (the price of doing it on a large scale was that there was no correction and no markup), that there is room for other data-sets from commercial ones to open projects.

Tagging Full Text Searchable Articles: An Overview of Social Tagging Activity in Historic Australian Newspapers August 2008 – August 2009

D-Lib has an article by Rose Holley of the Australian Newspapers Digitisation Program (ANDP), on Tagging Full Text Searchable Articles: An Overview of Social Tagging Activity in Historic Australian Newspapers August 2008 – August 2009 (January/February 2010, Volume 16, Number 1/2.)

The Australian Newspapers project is a leader in crowdsourcing. They encourage users correct the full text of articles and tag them. This D-Lib article focuses on the tagging and mentions other projects that have researched the effectiveness (and found it wanting compared to professional subject tagging.) The conclusion endorses user tagging,

The observations show that there were both similarities and differences in tagging activity and behaviours across a full text collection as compared to the research done on tagging in image collections. Similarities included that registered users tag more than anonymous users, that distinct tags form 21-37% of the tag pool, that 40% or more of the tag pool is created by ‘super-taggers’ (top 10 tag creators), that abuse of tags occurs rarely if at all, and that spelling mistakes occur fairly frequently if spell-check or other mechanisms are not implemented at the tag creation point. Notable differences were the higher percentage of distinct tags used only once (74% at NLA) and the predominant use of personal names in these tags. This is perhaps related to the type of resource (historic newspaper) rather than its format (full-text). It is likely that this difference may be duplicated if tagging were enabled across archive and manuscript collections. There was an expectation from users that since this was a library service offering tagging, there would be some ‘strict library rules’ for creating tags, and users were surprised there were none. The users quickly developed their own unwritten guidelines. Clay Shirky suggests “Tagging gets better with scale” and libraries have lots of scale – both in content and users. We shouldn’t get too hung up on guidelines and quality. I agree with Shirky that “If there is no shelf, then even imagining that there is one right way to organise things is an error”.

The experience of the National Library of Australia shows that tagging is a good thing, users want it, and it adds more information to data. It costs little to nothing and is relatively easy to implement; therefore, more libraries and archives should just implement it across their entire collections. This is what the National Library of Australia will have done by the end of 2009.

Research in Support of Digital Libraries at Xerox PARC Part II: Technology

I came across an interesting article in D-Lib that summarizes some of the work at Xerox PARC, Research in Support of Digital Libraries at Xerox PARC Part II: Technology. This is, as the title suggests, is the second part of an extended survey. The article covers some projects on subjects like “visualization of large text collections, summarization, and automatic detection of thematic structure.” There are some interesting examples of citation browsing tools like the Butterfly Citation Browser here.

Another humanities computing centre is dissolved

On Humanist there was an announcement that John Dawson, the Manager of the Literary and Linguistic Computing Centre of Cambridge (LLCC), was retiring and they were having a 45th year celebration conference and retirement party. What the announcement doesn’t say is that with the retirement of Dawson the Cambridge Computing Service is decommissioning the LLCC. I found this on a Computing Service page dedicated to the LLCC:

John Dawson, Manager of the centre will be retiring in October 2009. The LLCC will then cease to exist as a distinct unit, but Rosemary Rodd, current Deputy Manager, will continue to provide support for Humanities computing as a member of the Computing Service’s Technical User Services. She will be based on the New Museums Site.

It seems symptomatic of some shift.

BBC links to other news sites: Moreover Technology

The BBC News has an interesting feature where their stories link to other stories on the same subject from other news sources. See for example the story on, Chavez backer held over TV attack – on the right there are links to stories on the same subject from other news venues like the Philadelphia Inquirer. They even explain why the BBC links to other news sites.

How does it work?

The Newstracker system uses web search technology to identify content from other news websites that relates to a particular BBC story. A news aggregator like Google News or Yahoo News uses this type of technique to compare the text of stories and group similar ones together.

BBC News gets a constantly updating feed of stories from around 4000 different news websites. The feed is provided to us by Moreover Technologies. The company provides a similar service for other clients.

Our system takes the stories and compares their text with the text of our own stories. Where it finds a match, we can provide a link directly from our story to the story on the external site.

Because we do this comparison very regularly, our stories contain links to the most relevant and latest articles appearing on other sites.

Sounds like an interesting use of “real time” text analysis and an alternative to Google News. Could we implement something like that for blogs? The company that provides them with this is Moreover Technologies.