By Stephen Downes
September 29, 2003

Emaki Productions
Jeremy sent me this, found, he says, with a nice collection of other visual language references on Peter Merholz's site, a fascinating website by Neil Cohn on the subject of visual language. The idea behind this theory is that images in a sequence embody a grammar similar in form to Chomsky's syntactic structures. There is some great work here, and it's worth the time reading not only the web pages but also the two research articles. Cohn argues for what I have suggested in the past: not only do images constitute a grammar, the resulting grammar is more complex than its linguistic analogue. Cohn focuses on the transformations happening in sequences of graphical images - sequences of events, for example - but I would suggest that this is only one dimension to a wide array of representational possibilities. By Neil Cohn, September, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

A Stroll Through Patent History
"Developing countries like India, which is scheduled to come into full compliance with an international patent treaty in 2005, may be better off without strong patent laws." Many people have been saying this for a while, but this author has come up with some proof. Instead of looking at patent libraries, the locus of most such reserach, Petra Moser used exhibition catalogues from the 19th century to get a less sanitized view of invention. She observes, "Many of the best innovators in what was the high technology of the day came from some of the smallest countries in Europe, and these nations did not have patent laws... Exhibition data are particularly useful for studying the effects of patent laws on innovation because they measure economically useful innovation in a way that is independent of changes in patent laws. Countries without patent laws were really doing quite well." By Teresa Riordan, New York Times, September 29, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Another E-learning Mantra in The Making
Interesting reaction to my posting last week of Belinda Davis Lazarus's measuring online teaching time. Martin Terre Blanche comments, "It only takes between 3 and 7 hours per week for classes of 25 (i.e. up to 17 minutes of instructor time per student) if one is into the kind of teaching where conventional online discussion groups are central to how learning happens and the instructor feels compelled to play a conventional busy-body instructor role - facilitating, goading, grading the learners into submission." Fair enough. But then he continues, "OLDaily is at the centre of a very large network of online learners... that's still only 2.4 seconds of instructor time per learner per day. OLDaily is e-learning on steroids..." 2.4 seconds per learner is close (it's actually even less than that), which does indeed raise some interesting issues. So let's grapple with the main one: is OLDaily, as I claim, really online learning? Comment by clicking [Reflect]. By Martin Terre Blanche, Collaborative Learning, September 28, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Social Impact Games
Marc Prensky writes, "I have published a "catalog" (i.e. a database) of "Social Impact Games" (i.e. "Entertaining Games with a Non-Entertainment Goal"). I hope this site, which I will try to keep as up-to-date as possible, will be a useful enhancement to the community and collective efforts of those interested in games for purposes other than pure entertainment. By Marc Prensky, September 29, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

The Copyright Cage
"We are in the midst of a cultural war over copyright, in which the salvos show the complete disconnect between the colliding copyright regimes of statute and practicality, law and life." This overview article surveys a wide range of issues and contains numerous examples of the misapplication of copyright law. It recommends a reconsideration of the law, noting that "we do ourselves a fundamental disservice by fixating on current income structures and not thinking about future possibilities premised on amazing technological advances." Quite right. By Jonathan Zittrain, Darwin Magazine, September, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Managing Intellectual Property in a Global Environment
The author describes the start-up and initial experiences of the Australian content marketplace, AEShareNet. The author's point of view is clear: "The United States of America in particular, has taken a strong lead through the establishment of an organisation to help educate the community and society about copyright practice. It was discovered that there was a woeful, even willful ignorance about basic copyright issues which gave rise to the NINCH Town Meetings." The latter part of the article is devoted to listing some of the issues encountered by AEShareNet, but there isn't a lot of discussion, nor is there much in the way of commentary on AEShareNet's current performance. PDF format. By Carol Fripp, Global-Ed, September 26, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

World+Dog Fight Over World Summit of The Information Society
Things are not developing according toscript for the World Summit on the Information Society. This article takes a balanced look at a number of the issues: the question of access, the question of freedom of speech, the question of management of the internet, and the question of inclusion of non-government organizations. As Beatriz Busaniche, of the University of Buenos Aires centre for ”tele-work” and ”tele-training”, warned writes, "If governments continue to exclude our principles, we will not lend legitimacy to the final official WSIS documents," a sentiment underscored in a strongly worded press released issued Friday. By Monika Ermert, The Register, September 27, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Understanding the Economic Burden of Scholarly Publishing
I always worry when authors take a lot of time arguing that "move beyond hand-wringing and finger-pointing" because it means that, at a certain level, the author does not want to look at the cause of the issue. And what we get - at least to my perspective - is a prescription that amounts to a bunch of tinkering with the existing system, rather than something that addresses the underlying causes. The author, for example, uggests that the crisis in publishing could be addressed by paying mandatory dues to academic associations, offering book subsidies to junior academics, replacing royalties with rax write-offs and battling competing with commercial publishers. But why, I ask, would we not simply abandon book publishing altogether and enbrace a system of self-archiving? The author writes, "electronic publishing isn't easy, and it isn't cheap." Well, that depends on what you're trying to do. My entire corpus of written material has been provided online for less than the cost of a couple of nights out. But I'm not trying to get my stuff peer-reviewed, and I'm not trying to implement e-commerce or access control. There is much more discussion on this issue, including comments at The Invisible Adjunct, Chun, and more. By Cathy N. Davidson, Chronicle of Higher Education, October 3, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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