Posts Tagged ‘ blog ’

Robots Frozen in the Snow

I realize I haven’t been posting as frequently as I should.  The reasons for this are less about my having nothing to post and more a complete lack of time to do so.  The Asimov Robot Stories research continues, though I’ve lost a bit of the momentum I’d gained last term thanks to impending deadlines.  I will be presenting my paper Meditating on the Robot (see below) at HuCon at the end of the month.

Among other things, my time is being dominated by a project with the University of Alberta Press’s forthcoming publication, Weeds of North America.  As part of a project management course, I’m offering my services (for free) to help develop a database system that could be used for future editions of the field guide.  It would essentially be an updatable and comprehensive catalogue of weeds.  Completion of the project, of course, is contingent on my learning how to build a database (or, if the deadline starts looming, finding someone who can).

There’s a few other things I’ve been working on, but nothing concrete enough for me to post here.  I’m currently workshopping my research proposal about using social media in organizations for mission statement dissemination, particularly in terms of methodology.  If the project looks feasible and I’m feeling good about it, I’m looking at submitting an application for ethics review this summer, and starting interviews in the Fall/Winter terms.

I’ve also been mulling over how I could approach future research with XML/Mandala browser; the Robot Stories paper got me thinking about how XML can be used as a new form of close reading that allows users to compile and compare notes in a visual, intuitive medium (i.e. rich prospect browser, like Mandala).  Recently it struck me that it would be relatively easy to conduct a user study with a variety of undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty in the English dept as subjects to test this.  I could consider the results in terms of reader response theory, or simply present them as informing new methods in scholarship.  Questions/Issues: how would I compare XML-close-reading with traditional close reading?  Is it even possible?  How would I go about writing a program that would allow users to encode texts without actually having to learn XML?  Something that could output the XML that could then be viewed in Mandala.


PDF – Meditating on the Robot


Why Jason Hates Cory Doctorow

Here’s an amusing (mostly accurate) article by an old message board acquaintance of mine, about why Cory Doctorow is a “fucking dick”.  Not that I’m endorsing his point of view– I don’t mind Cory Doctorow, and I happen to think geek chic is cool (does that make me one of the festering unreal people?)– but his description of the Bono issue is, all in all, pretty fair.

Also enjoyed the depiction of Doctorow as a poor man’s Neal Stephenson.

Welcome to 2010, people!

A change in format

In order to keep up with my program assignments, I’ll be posting daily on the blog.  This is mainly so that I don’t forget assignments and to better track the different projects I am/will be working on, as well as just to keep a running record I can consult for future research.

This morning was the second week of HUCO 500, introducing “Humanities Computing”.  I had completely forgotten about the weekly assignment to submit a pair of questions about the reading at the beginning of each class.  Fortunately, I had several questions and notes I’d scribbled in the margins of the texts that I could transcribe.

Hockey, Susan. “History of Humanities Computing.” A Companion to Digital Humanities, ed. Susan Schreibman, Ray Siemens, John Unsworth. Oxford: Blackwell, 2004. | source

Orlandi, Tito. “Is Humanities Computing a Discipline?” ADHO, 2002. | source


1. Why is it important/necessary to define “Humanities Computing” as a discipline?  Does it have to be established as such to make it a worthwhile pursuit?

2. Is it better for the field of Humanities Computing to be inclusive or exclusive?  Is it desirable to include research communities strictly located in other disciplines doing digital humanities work?  How do we catalog the research that is happening in and around the field?

The Cyberlit Blog…In Exile

(Let’s all thank Wil Wheaton for providing us a model to emulate when faced with the cruel shifting tides of Fortune’s intertubes.)

This blog used to be on my own domain at, but hey! we’re in a recession, and really the $12 a month I was paying Yahoo! for hosting and for the domain was frankly back-breaking.  These are lean times!  $12 in this economy could buy me 6 boxes of Kraft Dinner, or 3 Big Macs!  It’s really all about keeping a lid on that bigger picture.

Since WordPress offers free blogs and as I had a few entries from the old wordpress blog I wanted to keep, I felt this was the better alternative.  (The other alternative would have been tossing my PC off the balcony, tearing the ethernet cable out of the wall, and donning my tinfoil hat so that I’ll get the signal from the mothership when the invasion begins.)  Over the next few days you’ll notice back-dated entries appearing…  Don’t worry, these are just the exiles.

As you may recall (or not, if this is your first visit), This blog originated as a resource for my English Honours Tutorial in Fall 2006, when I was researching cyberliterature as a development in artistic forms of expression at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada. It continues on as my personal blog, spanning the range of my interests. I enjoy the usual things– reading all kinds of books, writing bad science-fiction, fluffy kitties, samurai movies, walks on the beach (yes, I am a walking, talking, geeky cliché). I am, without reservation, a nerd, a fact probably best evidenced by this very blog as well as the misguided notion that maintaining a blog somehow makes me at least a little ‘hip’. I have active interests in internet culture and the evolving role of technology in daily practice, and generally speaking, the blog tends to be a catalogue of artifacts that represent both of these.

The Internet: Fundamentally transforming our brains

((As an aside, watching the Oscars and Wall-E just won best animated feature.))

The Guardian | The digital revolution risks changing the way we think

Jackie Ashley

…is the new way of social interaction actually changing the brains, and indeed the minds of a generation, and if so, what might that mean?

… We know from neuroscience that the brain constantly changes, physically, depending on what it perceives and how the body acts. So Greenfield suggests that the world of Facebook is changing millions of people, most of them young.

Greenfield argues that a shorter attention span, a disregard for consequences in a virtual everything-is-reversible world ((I bet sirdavid wishes it really was an everything-is-reversible world… sadly, not always the case)), and most importantly, a lack of empathy may be among the negative changes. She quotes a teacher who told her of a change in the ability of her pupils to understand others. She points out that irony, metaphor and sympathy can all be lost in cyberspace. ((I would disagree with this point; while maybe some of the nuances of the verbal medium are lost, everything that can be communicated textually can be communicated in cyberspace. So are we saying that metaphor and irony are harder to express in text? Oh, well sure, naturally that makes sense. What?))

There is also the question of identity. An intern working for Greenfield told her: “In a world where private thoughts and feelings are posted on the internet for all to see, it’s hard to see where ourselves finish and the outside world begins.” Where is the long-term narrative in a life reduced to a never-ending stream of bite-sized thoughts ((each roughly 140 characters in length))? Even clever writers end up “twittering” a burble of banalities.

… Digital culture has brought us a wider conversational democracy (good), which suffers from short attention span and is too self-referential (less good). There is no answer to this. The new world is here to stay. It is part of who we are becoming and how our minds are adapting. If you opt out of it, you cut yourself off…

On the broader points (the fact that digital communication is transforming the way we think, that the culture of the internet– in the main– promotes a shorter attention span and a penchant for self-reference) I agree with Ashley. The article is rather circular, though, presenting the argument that the most effective communication is physical and face-to-face, talking about how with the current events taking place globally we need more honest “IRL” debate, without coming right out and saying the Internet is seriously compromising the chance of this (I leave to you whether that’s actually the case or not– I don’t think so). While Ashley compliments Susan Greenfield for raising the long-term effects of digital social media, she never really gives those long-term effects any real consideration; seriously, what will happen in a world that can only communicate in 140-character blurbs when we need to solve such important problems as global warming, national security, and energy use?

But then, I’m not totally convinced that the digital revolution has the downside Ashley and Greenfield are suggesting. Short attention span, sure, but what about the thousands of bloggers out there that daily share their opinions– often carefully thought-out and meticulous– in cyberspace? What about video-bloggers on youtube, and podcasters on iTunes? …I think the big issue at stake, the most important part of us that is affected by the use of social media, is the one of identity. It’s too early to tell, I think, whether we’re looking at something greatly beneficial or mostly detrimental, but it’s important to recognize (and I think Ashley agrees with this) that whatever the changes are, we are changing the way we think by using this technology.

Anyway. To end as I began:

‘New York’ Talks Twitter

Biz Stone and Evan WilliamsThis article in New York Magazine is worth a read, whether you’re a Twitter devotee, or a microblogging cynic (as a former member of the latter and a current member of the former, I can say it presents a pretty balanced picture of what Twitter is all about.) Thanks to mastermaq for tweeting it.

New York | How Tweet It Is

… From Twitter’s initial public debut as the best way to find the parties at South by Southwest in 2007, we’ve gone from hackers taking over Barack Obama’s and Britney Spears’s feeds to Republican operatives spending their post-election-malaise retreat bragging about who had more followers, to the Mumbai attacks, when users trapped in the Oberoi Hotel were transmitting messages that chronicled the ongoing madness. Twitter executives are proud of the Mumbai aftermath; Forbes called it “Twitter’s moment,” and Stone’s face lights up when it’s mentioned. “Twitter is not about the triumph of technology,” Stone says. “It’s about the triumph of the human spirit.”

I posted about Twitterers taking advantage of Twitter to communicate during the T.O. blackout a couple weeks ago. It’s a minor example compared to Mumbai, or the most recent unrest in Gaza (which has also developed a vast community of Twitterers). But for something less than two years old, and such a basic premise as fostering a culture of sharing in bite-sized bits that fit in a single text message, it’s surprising the kind of impact it has had so far, and continues to have. There’s a lot of people who study these forms of social media that look at Twitter and see something that should have been obvious– to the point of being mundane– revealed to be the next big evolution in how to interpret and disseminate information.

The reporter, Will Leitch, goes on to talk about how a Twitterer named Krums was the first to witness the crash of US Airways Fligh 1549 as it happened, and how Twitter became ground-zero for that particularly news item even as the New York Times and other news agencies scrambled to cover the story. Krums got a shot of the plane crash and his first thought was to share it on Twitter. And interestingly enough, as Leitch later discovers, Twitter didn’t even notice a spike in traffic.

“That’s only for huge shared experiences, like the inauguration, or Mumbai.” Twitter had unleashed something … and its executives were completely unaware, as its system worked on its own, without them.

‘White Spaces’ – Shining hope for the future of the internet

Google Public Policy Blog | Introducing the White Spaces Database Group

As the Commission made clear in its ruling, a working white spaces database must be deployed in order for consumer devices to be available in the market. Before sending or receiving data, devices will be required to access this database to determine available channels in the vicinity. Combined with spectrum sensing technologies, use of a geo-location database will offer complete protection to licensed signals from harmful interference.

With this mandate in mind, this morning we joined Comsearch, Dell, HP, Microsoft, Motorola, and Neustar to launch the White Spaces Database Group.

The first steps have been taken to transform the soon-to-be defunct analog TV spectrum into a massive wireless broadband network.

For more info, here’s Google co-founder Larry Page and FCC chairman Kevin Martin at the Wireless Communications Association International Conference last November, talking about “white spaces” and the profound impact it will have on internet users throughout the United States:

I think there’s something poetic about taking the abandoned analog tv spectrum and turning it into an open wireless network, which will– one can hope– be free for all in exactly the same way analog tv signals were.