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The Economist

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Learning new lessons
Unattributed, The Economist, December 24, 2012

The fabrication is in the first paragraph: "top-quality teaching, stringent admissions criteria and impressive qualifications allow the world’s best universities to charge mega-fees: over $50,000." The actual product for sale at the 'elite' institutions is found later in the article: "sublime architecture, better marriage partners and a huge career boost." Mostly this coverage of MOOCs in the Economist is about spin. Why Tyler Cowan, rather than the many other professors teaching MOOCs before him? Because he's a hard-right neo-conservative economist. Why credit Knewton with the term 'flipped classroom', when we all know it originated elsewhere? Why, Knewton is a for-profit provider of personalised online education. We are supposed to focus on "economic and political pressure to improve productivity in higher education," we are supposed to believe that "real innovation comes from integrating academics talking with interactive coursework, such as automated tests, quizzes and even games," and we are to just naturally agree that "even if MOOCs can coin sound academic currency, they must also make real money."

Today: Total:1362 [Comment] [Direct Link]
Academic Publishing: Open Sesame
Unattributed, The Economist, April 13, 2012

The Economists announces support for open access publications, to the cheers of the OER community on their various mailing lists. "When research is funded by the taxpayer or by charities, the results should be available to all without charge." All I can say is, beware those who join the cause at its moment of success. Not all new bedfellows are benign. Today: Total:1030 [Comment] [Direct Link]

What's in a tweet
Unattributed, The Economist, September 30, 2011

Increasingly, it's what's happening behind the scenes that's important on the internet. The simple Twitter tweet is a case in point. The reader sees only your 140 character message. The computer program accessing the Twitter API sees a host of related data, more than enough to construct a sophisticated graph. This article from the Economist offers a compelling look at the anatomy of a tweet. Related: Facebook keeps a history of everyone who ever poked you, along with a lot of other data. See also Doug Peterson from last May. Today: Total:1678 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Spare us the e-mail yada-yada
Unattributed, The Economist, April 11, 2011

Have you ever received one of those emails with the lengthy disclaimer at the bottom - the one that says it was intended for the recipient only, that if should not read it if it was received in error, that the sender assumes no liability for the contents, etc.? Like me, you've probably just ignored as ridiculous the claims and cautions made. Just as well. "Lawyers and experts on internet policy say no court case has ever turned on the presence or absence of such an automatic e-mail footer in America, the most litigious of rich countries." What's ironic is that the most prolific senders of said waivers seem to be lawyers. "Company lawyers often insist on them because they see others using them." There should be a lesson in that. Via LifeHacker. Today: Total:950 [Comment] [Direct Link]

The disposable academic
Unattributed, The Economist, December 21, 2010

The privateers smell blood in the water and have lined up their media, such as the Economist, to make the case for privatizing the university system. This article suggests that earning a PhD is a waste of time. "In some subjects the premium for a PhD vanishes entirely. PhDs in maths and computing, social sciences and languages earn no more than those with master's degrees. The premium for a PhD is actually smaller than for a master's degree in engineering and technology, architecture and education." And, more significantly, it accuses universities of luring people into the programs merely for the supply of cheap labour. "In America the rise of PhD teachers' unions reflects the breakdown of an implicit contract between universities and PhD students: crummy pay now for a good academic job later." And it suggests that even the funders are misled. "The organisations that pay for research have realised that many PhDs find it tough to transfer their skills into the job market." Today: Total:981 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Getting Serious
Unattributed, The Economist, December 10, 2007

The Economist looks at the Facebook phenomenon. "It is a typical example of the colonisation of a new frontier," writes the author. "A few intrepid explorers stake out some new, unexplored territory. Before long the first settlers move in and start to look for ways to make a quick buck." And the Economist offers its usual advocacy of the free-market approach: "One way to deal with unwanted activity, in virtual worlds as in the real one, is to decriminalise and regulate it, rather than trying to outlaw it altogether." It's an odd advocacy, especially following a paragraph in which it is noted that "in May two players were banned from Second Life for depicting sexual activity between an adult and a child." The article is also noteworthy for having apparently copied a photo taken (and posted on Flickr) by Art Fosset. "Don't those people at The Economist understand CC BY-SA ??" he asks in an email post. Today: Total:1000 [Comment] [Direct Link]

The Economist Debate Series
Various Authors, The Economist, October 18, 2007

The Economist is hosting a debate on the subject "that the continuing introduction of new technologies and new media adds little to the quality of most education." Debators are Sir John Daniel, of the Commonwealth of Learning, and Robert Kozma of SRI International (Stanford Research Institute). Personally I think it's a case of the Economist trying to get into the game and - en passant - annointing the people it thinks should speak on such matters. Which, as usual, leaves us without anything like a progressive view on the matter. Today: Total:1063 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Mandarin 2.0
Unattributed, The Economist, June 8, 2007

Tomorrow morning, before the Sun comes up, I will be getting ready to leave for a visit to Taiwan for the 2007 International Conference on OpenCourseWare and e-Learning. It's a bit late for me to use this site, which assists in the teaching of Mandarin. But I like the idea. "'Tens of millions' of people in 110 countries now download the free ChinesePod podcasts, Praxis's flagship service, says Mr Carroll. About 250,000 listen regularly and 'several thousand' pay for the premium services, which include individual Skype chats with teachers." Today: Total:1273 [Comment] [Direct Link]

The Brains Business
Adrian Wooldridge, The Economist, September 15, 2005

"A more market-oriented system of higher education can do much better than the state-dominated model." This is the central message being advanced in this series of articles, and the Economist is not above routine rhetorical sleight of hand to make the point (consider, for example, the false dichotomy drawn between "techno-utopians" and "cultural conservatives." Or ponder the omission of Canadian statistics in the comparisons between the U.S. system and purportedly "state-dominated" models). That said, and with the requisite grain of salt added, this series (click 'Next Article' at the bottom of the page) is required reading if you value the university system, because it outlines in detail the plan for destroying it, and with it, the idea and intent of a public education. Via elearnspace. Today: Total:662 [Comment] [Direct Link]

How and Why Smart Companies are Harnessing the Creativity of Their Customers
Unattributed, The Economist, March 11, 2005

Interesting article about the way companies solicit and use ideas generated by their customers. Take note of the last paragraph: "One really exciting thing about user-led innovation is that customers seem willing to donate their creativity freely, says Mr Von Hippel. This may be because it is their only practical option: patents are costly to get and often provide only weak protection." On the other hand, protection for the same companies is very easy to get and those same consumers are easy targets for lawsuits. The law is supposed to provide balance. It is not doing that. Today: Total:388 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Ever Higher Society, Ever Harder to Ascend
Unattributed, The Economist, January 4, 2005

While the bulk of this article discusses inequality and social mobility in general, some comments are reserved for higher education specifically. "America's engines of upward mobility are no longer working as effectively as they once were. The most obvious example lies in the education system... The education system is increasingly stratified by social class, and poor children have a double disadvantage. They attend schools with fewer resources than those of their richer contemporaries..." This problem is not restricted to the United States; as public support for education erodes across the western democracies, social inequalities become entrenched, and society stagnates. Today: Total:776 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Language Barriers
Unattributed, The Economist, August 25, 2004

Corrected link from last week (readers ended up looking at Wikipedia on George Lakoff instead - sorry about that). Today: Total:498 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Access All Areas
Unknown, The Economist, August 10, 2004

Summary report on the push toward open access publishing with an emphasis on Europe. An interesting statistic to note: 41% of scientific papers originate in Europe, compared with 31% in America (not sure whether that latter figure includes Canada). The focus of the article is on governments' increasing - and quite reasonable - displeasure about paying skyrocketing fees to access materials they paid to produce in the first place. Today: Total:396 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Despite Winning Higher Fees, Universities Still Can't Escape Economics
Unknown, The Economist, January 30, 2004

Britain has joined the worldwide trend toward higher tuition fees as Tony Blair prevailed in a close vote that more than doubled the maximums universities may charge. Academic leaders are cheering, but they shouldn't be. Though they may have found short term salvation, every pound of fee increases pushed forward the day when the public will turn elsewhere for an education. More. Today: Total:428 [Comment] [Direct Link]

What's it worth?
Unknown, The Economist, January 21, 2004

Definition is everything, and the proof is this example of a story that gets everything right but that misses the main point. What's right is the observation: employers are less frequently valuing a formal education, looking instead to an employee's demonstrated skills and attitude. Fair enough. But the article says that social mobility does not depend on education. That's just wrong: a person with a basic education, but no more, may get a job, but will not advance in their career or their life because they do not have the depth. The story, you see, defines "social mobility" as "getting a job". But of course, there is much more to social mobility. So there you have it: good data, bad definition, dumb conclusion. Today: Total:418 [Comment] [Direct Link]

The Next big Thing?
Unknown, The Economist, January 19, 2004

Worthy of note is the list of terms used to describe the emerging technology, a list, notes the author, consisting of more hype than description. Well, sure. Ubiquitous computing is not here yet and it will be a long time before the computer fades into the background. For someone like myself, who remembers when there were no computers anywhere except in university labs, the computer will never really be invisible. Today: Total:392 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Babel's Children
Unknown, The Economist, January 12, 2004

Fans of Star Trek are familiar with the Tamarians, a species that speaks entirely in metaphor (for more, see the The Darmok Dictionary). We use metaphor in English, but the bulk of our communication is of the noun-verb construction. This, too, is the form of metadata languages such as RDF. But some languages, such as Riau Indonesian, do not distinguish between noun and verb. The question raised in this article is whether our forms of linguistic contruction inform how we think. Or does how we think determine how we form languages? To me, this question is interesting because I postulate that multi-media is a post-grammatical language. If such a language in fact is possible, then if the first theory is correct, then it should change how those fluent in multimedia think. But if the latter thesis is correct, then it is much less likely that a multimedia language could exist at all. Today: Total:498 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Tipping Hollywood The Black Spot
Unknown, The Economist, August 31, 2003

Discussion from the Economist around the movie industry's failure to plan effectively for the inevitable sharing of movies, television programs and other video content. Holloywood's sole saving grave so far has been the size of movie files, which makes them impractical to share. But as bandwidth and computer power increase, the fate of the music industry (which has seen sales decline 25 percent) looms closer and closer. Hollywood's response, what the article calls "an Orwellian project to 're-educate' the young", will not convince anyone. "The campaign is unlikely to have much effect, industry-watchers say, as everyone knows how many millions the latest blockbuster grossed and how much the star got." The article has it right: lower prices, better distribution, and a little honesty. Probably too much to expect, though. Today: Total:538 [Comment] [Direct Link]

A Radical Rethink
Reuters, The economist, January 27, 2003

Ignoring the revisionist use of the word "radical," the proposal offered by the Economist to restrict copyright protection to 14 years might nonetheless be the only thing that saves copyright at all. because if copyright legislation is widely ffelt to be ridiculous and draconian by the general public (and the music industry's experience sugegest it is), then maintaining the status quo will result in the end of any protection for content, online or otherwise. This is something producers may want to think about as they grab for perpertual ownership. Today: Total:428 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Patently Problematic
Unknown, The Economist, September 17, 2002

The Economist's take on the U.K. Commission on Intellectual Property Rights report. Rather than simply summarize the report, as ZD Net does (see below), the Economist feels it must place the discussion in a context - a context which makes it appear as though developing nations would actually oppose the report's conclusions (the fact that all the evidence says otherwise is apparently of no concern to the author). Presenting such a biased overview - up to and including the use of loaded phrases to descibe the recommendations (such as the suggestion that nations "sneak round technical barriers") - really ought to be beneath the Economist. Today: Total:408 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Teaching the World a Lesson
Unknown, The Economist, June 19, 2002

Interesting article sketching the background and ideas of John Sperling, the architect behind the University of Phoenix. The theme of the story is that Sperling's socialist roots and ideals spawned a capitalist triumph, a theme which to me suggests that the author doesn't really understand socialism. Yes, the University of Phoenix is a private enterprise, but the idea behind it - an affordable education for the masses - has its roots in left wing theory. Sure, Sperling is now rich. But that does not refute socialism, it merely refutes a long held myth about socialism.

CRLFOn an unrelated note, this article is located on the DEOS mailing archive. The Economist requires that readers pay a subscription fee in order to access it, making it unavailable except through this copy. Now before you cry copyright fowl, I should point out that the article was sent to the list by the Economist's own email service. That's why you see the relentless subscription ads at the bottom. Interesting tactic. Today: Total:464 [Comment] [Direct Link]

The Education Shibboleth
Unknown, The Economist, June 19, 2002

This review of Allison Wolf's book, "Does Education Matter?" takes to task the idea that education for all stimulates economic growth. The thesis advanced in the book is that the push for an open and egalitarian educational system drains resources from the elite universities. But it is graduates the elite universities that work on the forefront of new science and technology, producing the innovations required for economic growth. In response, as John Sener comments on DEOS, we could point out that "Simple math tells us that one can provide the same level of education for an elite, add a "lesser" level of education for the masses, and thus provide education for more at a 'reduced average quality' while still maintaining the high level of elite education." Today: Total:566 [Comment] [Direct Link]

A Way to Turn Telephone Numbers into Web Addresses is Proving ControversialCRLF
Unknown, The Economist, April 16, 2002

It seems like such a good idea: create an internet domain that would allow telephone numbers to be converted into domain names. But the allocation of telephone numbers is highly regulated, and with good reason. But the allocation of domain names is, well, chaotic. And what should the suffic be? .arpa? .int? (My own modest proposal is .downes) But more to the point, how do we prevent the deluge of internet traffic from coming into our phone? Telephone solicitation is already a significant problem (signififcant enough that my own number has been unlisted for many years). Do we need to add spam to that? Today: Total:458 [Comment] [Direct Link]

The Next Society
Peter Drucker, The Economist, November 7, 2001

Throwaway article by Peter Drucker outlining in broad strokes the nature of the new knowledge economy and its implications for various sectors in society. Drucker predicts - and I agree, with caveats - the advent of universal and easily accessible post secondary education. There's more on this topic under the menu headed 'In this Survey' on the right hand side of the page - it's easy to miss but worth a skim. Today: Total:422 [Comment] [Direct Link]

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