Stephen's Web

By Stephen Downes
July 16, 2002

Calendar Please let me take a few words to give a plug to some conferences where I'll be speaking over the next few months. In August I will be at the Distance Teaching and Learning Conference in Wisconsin (which, inexplicably, does not have online registration). Also in August, I will be taking part in a novel experiment with the people at Net*Working 2002 - I will be producing a daily conference summary called Net*Daily. Something to look forward to. And let me also mention an important preconference session I will be giving, The Learning Object Economy, at NAWeb 2002 in Fredericton, still my favorite conference of all. By Stephen Downes, Stephen's Web, July 16, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

BBC Under New Fire Over E-learning Plans This article describes another salvo in industry's efforts to forstall a British initiative in public education as a new report cites a potential 400m if the government's e-learning plans are carried to fruition. Once again, the BBC is the target of this criticism as media companies Grenada and Reed Elsevier are figured to be the biggest losers. The BBC has countered with a report authored by PricewaterhouseCoopers supporting public investment in education, arguing "Through improving the understanding of teachers, and the usability and coverage of online provision, the 'vicious' circle of low teacher acceptability, low demand, would be replaced by a 'virtuous circle' of increased acceptability and increased demand." By Richard Agnew, NetImperative, July 15, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Advertising Douglas Rushkoff does not receive nearly the credit he deserves as one of the sharpest analysts of contemporary cyber-culture. Yet he is one of my favorite commentators and I quote from his work frequently in various talks and papers. This item is an excerpt from his book "Coercion: Why We Listen to What They Say" and contains an analysis of contemporary advertising consistent with the observations of Noam Chomsky and Naomi Klein. Anyone who thinks that the science of advertising consists of nothing more than mindless repetition would do well to read this excerpt. And educators take note: we need to separate the advertisers' message - which is deeply disturbing - from their methodology - which is astonishingly effective. Understanding, for example, that advertisers prey on a person's lack of self worth gives an educator a point of attack in which to insert a counter-meme, a message of empowerment and sense of personal value. By Douglas Rushkoff, PBS.Org, July 16, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Bridging the gap between Liberty and Microsoft OLDaily readers will recall that the Liberty Alliance is an initiative started by Sun and other companies in order to establish a standard for personal identity on the net. As the title of this article suggests, it is widely perceived to be in conflict with Microsoft's Passport (and there has been some buzz in the trades about deals between Microsoft and various credit card vendors). The tenor of this article is that there is not as wide a gap as is typically perceived and that if enough people adopt the Liberty standard, Microsoft will fall into line. After all, the Liberty standard, unlike Passport, is an open standard: Microsoft could use the standard without joining the alliance. Like the author, I am of the view that what we will see will be a network of rights brokers. A user will choose one agent or another, and that agent will act as a broker for various transactions with external agencies, acting as a standards translation service where necessary. By David Berlind, ZDNet, July 16, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

In Powers of Two So you read your email and find that it is describing a new program in Medireview Studies. What is that? You wonder. Turns out it's a new word invented by Yahoo! as it very quietly alters the text of email messages sent to your Yahoo! mail account. The original word (which those of you with Yahoo! email will not be able to view) was Medieval. Ah, now it makes sense! Yahoo!'s actions, of course, raise a deep ethical issue: is it all right for a service provider to tamper with a user's mail? My answer is short and sweet: no! By Unknown, Need To Know, July 12, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright 2002 Stephen Downes