By Stephen Downes
January 30, 2004

Predictions for 2004
elearn Magazine still hasn't learned to give its articles permanent URLs, so this link will be a piece of junk in a few weeks (Earth to eLearn: get with the program). But I wanted to forward this list of predictions for the coming year, a little late, but including a snippet from me. By Lisa Neal, eLearn Magazine, January 30, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Science, Technology and Innovation for the 21st Century
A declaration from ministerial representatives from 34 nations to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) supporting "open access to and wide use of research data" and calling for a study into a principle for access to research data from public funding. The ministers also noted that "Patent regimes play an increasingly complex role in encouraging innovation, diffusing scientific and technical knowledge, and enhancing market entry and firm creation," and so "they should be subject to closer scrutiny by science, technology and innovation policy makers." By Various Authors, OECD, January 30, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

A Prescriptive Study of Early Trends in Implementing E-learning in the UK Higher Education Sector
The best parts of this paper are the beginning and the end, as the author analyses the management theories behind the implementation of e-learning at universities in Britain. Most institutions are to more or less a degree moving to what may be called 'post-Fordism', that is, a post-industrial mode of management style. And this is reflected in - and sometimes caused by - their rollout of e-learning. The bit in the middle consists of a survey of 'ten institutions'. The responders appear to be from the higher echelons, but this isn't certain. And they display a preference for decisions made at the top (so much so that the author later suggests that those without an institution wide IT adoption policy are 'lacking vision'). There's a lot more to get out of this paper; it's one of ITForum's better reads of recent months. By Nicos Souleles, ITForum, January 28, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

How Many Social Nets Are Too Many?
Several people have linked to this short article and lengthy list of more than fifty social networking services. Having finally received my invitation to Orkut, I can report that it's pretty much like the rest, though authored with Google's usual style and clarity. But it doesn't matter. Systems like Orkut and Friendster (which I have also tried) are not the future, not because (as Cory Doctorow says) "There are only so many hours in the day," but because they are incorrectly designed. If you look at the applications that have been successful online, they are almost without exception distributed - things like email, web browsers, instant messaging clients are all things you manage for yourself on your own computer. There is no centralized location, like an Orkut or a Friendster, that you go to, there is a network of interconnected applications. There is no banning - if you don't like someone, you simply don't link to them. Look at the current social software mess - what are the chances that these systems will even talk to each other? A person on Friendster can't connect with a person on Orkut, leaving us with the unenviable option of creating fifty separate accounts or going friendless. I think that a system like FOAF has a much better long term future, not as currently deployed, but once FOAF links are widely embedded in, say, RSS files. By Judith Meskill, SocialSoftware Weblog, January 28, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Rip-off 101: How The Current Practices Of The Textbook Industry Drive Up The Cost Of Collge Textbooks
Clark sent me this item documenting the rising cost of textbooks and calling fthe 'unbundling' of texts with expensive add-ons such as CD-ROMs. Some good research statistics and analsis of publishing costs and purchaser preferences. While many argue for the availability of online textbooks, as Clark comments in his email, "I wouldn't want to read LoTR, or Design of Everyday Things, online." Perhaps not yet (and certainly not while people continue to produce the unreadable PDF text), though our tolerance for reading online is increasing, especially with larger and less bright monitors. The web page linked here summarizes the report and provides access to the full PDF. By Merriah Fairchild, Calpirg Higher Education Project, January 29, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Despite Winning Higher Fees, Universities Still Can't Escape Economics
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. By Unknown, The Economist, January 29, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Theory in Chaos
I've seen a number of articles like this over the last year or so celebrating the demise of postmodernism and associated trends (in this case, Marxism in critical theory). I won't pretend to understand postmodernism (who does?) but that which is touted to be replacing it, the embracing of "the possibility of objective knowledge" and faith in "truth, unity, and progress" seems equally misguided. Not that these concepts are senseless. But they do not transcend personal perception, they do not even transcend culture. Forget Derrida if you must. But leave Nietzsche on your bookshelf. By David Kirby, Christian Science Monitor, January 27, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright 2004 Stephen Downes
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