by Stephen Downes
January 7, 2008
Gouge Out Your Eyes with a Rusty Synecdoche
One of the things that has troubled me about the 'network' way of thinking of things is its obvious coupling with what has come to be known as the 'free market' economy. Such as, say, the predictions markets discussed in this Cognitive Edge post. Not because I am against free markets, so much, but because free markets are demonstratively ineffective at certain points - such as emergencies, infrastructure development, and conditions of scarcity - and because the free market system as it exists today is terribly imbalanced, the wealth of the few being based on the oppression of the many. This article looks at some of those conditions.
Where many people go with this is in the direction suggested by Beth Kanter's post. Social networks, she writes, incorporate a "ladder of engagement", and these different levels of engagement change the nature of the contacts between members of the network, and hence, the nature of the network itself. And you see this sort of effect not only in Facebook causes, but also in the evangelism for new network technologies, such as Second Life and Twitter. Because these communities offer more than mere transaction, the value of the network to its members is increased - and so is their emotional attachment, which also feeds back into this same cycle.
Why is this important? Well, the free market is, in essence, a network of transactions. By setting up the network as nothing more than an exchange of goods for currency, no emotional attachment is created (except for those who develop a perverse love of money, like Conrad Black). Dave Pollard has been struggling to explain this recently, trying to embody a philosophy of love into community transactions. But this, I fear, takes us into an environment where all our transactions are group transactions, which carries its own risks.
Published concurrently with all this is a discussion from the useful weblog, Architectures of Control in Design, which looks at (as Scott Wilson summarizes) "the complex interplay of agents, systems and power structures." Wilson writes, "the discourse of control in education is very simplistic with a response of 'control = BAD'" such that "the common approach is one of either (a) denial, or (b) rejection, rather than (c) an effective intentional design." But this is simply to confuse intervention with control. When we look at the article, as it displays the many ways bench designers try to control the use of the bench - doing everything from shortening the bench to installing armrests to tilting the surface to discourage transients.
Only a couple of the benches depicted demonstrate any intention of helping, rather than controlling, transients. This bench opens to provide a place to store public food supplies for transients, bedding, and other survival gear. It's like the world depicted in Bruce Sterling's Holy Fire: a world in which free ford, health care and housing are distributed to everybody, regardless of need or circumstance. This is a network that is about something more than just transaction - a network based, not merely on getting, but also on giving. It creates a different sort of network, because giving is a more personal, more emotional, and more human transaction. Dave Snowden, Cognitive Edge January 7, 2008 [Link] [Tags: Second Life, Books, Networks, Web Logs] [Comment]
As the headline says, Wikia Search alpha launched January 7. It wasn't working at all when I checked it, and according to the website, generates poor results when it is is running. That ti works art all I think is a significant accomplishment. According to Wikia's "Four Organizing Principles (TCQP)" the future of internet search should be based on transparency, community, quality and privacy. See also Bryan Alexander. Various Authors, Website January 7, 2008 [Link] [Tags: Privacy Issues, Quality] [Comment]
Open Portable Social Network
Not always as clear as it could be, and some sections 'to be determined', but this slide show outlining the essentials of the Open Portable Social Network outlines what may become the facebook of the future. Robert Mao, Google Docs January 7, 2008 [Link] [Tags: Books] [Comment]
Institutional Repositories, Tout de Suite
This article is mostly a series of questions about institutional repositories and links pointing to online resources that contain the responses. The links are good, but there's a lot of reading there. Charles W. Bailey, Jr., Digital Scholarship January 7, 2008 [Link] [Tags: Learning Object Repositories] [Comment]
Open Sourcing the Museum
This is an interesting project, using Second Life to allow people to collaboratively design museum exhibit prototypes. "It separates exhibit design from exhibit construction. By introducing Second Life as a rapid prototyping tool for exhibit design, this experiment makes it possible for individuals from around the world to collaborate on the same exhibit project. Using The Tech Museum in Second Life to showcase these exhibits designs makes it easy for museums to pick and choose what they will build in real life for their visitors. It opens the exhibit creation process up to the world at large." Here is more information and here is the Second Life SLURL. Robert S. Stephenson, The Tech Virtual January 7, 2008 [Link] [Tags: Second Life, Project Based Learning] [Comment]
Hashtags are a way of tagging things when you have only 143 characters to work with. In a nutshell, placing a hash mark '#' before a string hashtags it. Use the pklus sign '+' for spaces. The resulting 'hashtag' points to the hashtag website, which in turn has a link for each hashtag, where recent tweets posted to Twitter using that hashtag are listed. Here's the hashtag for #Jeff+Jarvis, here's the #Stephen+Downes (which will be a server error until somebody actually tags me; how's that for an inelegant depreciation?). It's a neat idea; I wish there were some way to work with this that wasn't site-specific. Via Amy Gahran. Various Authors, Website January 7, 2008 [Link] [Tags: none] [Comment]
Massive New Investment Required for Internet to Maintain Today's Performace
As I sit here today and grumble about how long it takes fr PDFs of reports to download over a web connection that should be lightning-quick, I am brought to mind of the concerns outlined in this post. Increasing demand means that "it will take as much as $137 billion in global infrastructure investment in the next three to five years to prevent significant service declines, including $42 billion to $45 billion in North America alone." Who will undertake such an investment? More. Bill St. Arnaud, Weblog January 7, 2008 [Link] [Tags: none] [Comment]
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