Information Communication and Society

Our journal, Information Communication and Society (iCS), has had a step-jump in its readership and role in the field over the last several years. The editor, Brian Loader, and I were recalling our first meeting in the late 1990s, when Brian first proposed the journal. We are in the midst of the 16th volume with subscriptions continuing to rise, particularly online, indexed in 18 abstracting and indexing services, including the Social Science Citation Index, up to 10 issues per year, but with a healthy backlog, and with an increasing number of articles winning prizes and other forms of recognition.

The two most outstanding aspects of the journal to me, as one of the editors, are first, its international – global – reach. We have contributors and readers worldwide. For example, we received submissions of articles from authors in 38 countries from 2010-12. This was always an aim of the journal, but it has become a clear reality.

Secondly, the title remains broad and contemporary – it is not being overtaken by the pace of technical change and is as relevant today as when it was first proposed. I sometimes worry about the potential fragmentation of my field of Internet Studies, given the number of increasingly specialized journals, but iCS remains broad enough to encompass all aspects of my field and more, providing one mechanism for integrating work across a wider field of research.

iCS was Brian Loader’s idea, so let me thank him, but also my associate Barry Wellman, our Editorial Board, and many contributors and readers, as well as Routledge Taylor & Francis for helping us realize Brian’s vision. It is great to see this journal develop.

iCS
iCS

 

 

 

See: http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/rics20/current

 

 

 

Ada Lovelace Conference: A Call for Papers

While I have no involvement in this conference, I want to help draw attention to this CALL FOR PAPERS:
Celebrating the Achievements and Legacies of Ada Lovelace
18 October 2013
Stevens Institute of Technology, College of Arts and Letters

An interdisciplinary conference celebrating the achievements and legacies of the poet Lord Byron’s only known legitimate child, Ada Byron King, Countess of Lovelace (1815-1852), will take place at Stevens Institute of Technology (Hoboken, New Jersey) on 18 October 2013.  This conference will coincide with the week celebrating Ada Lovelace Day, a global event for women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM).  All aspects of the achievements and legacies of Ada Lovelace will be considered, including but not limited to:
-Lovelace as Translator and/or Collaborator
-Technology in the Long Nineteenth Century
-Women in Computing: Past/Present/Future
-Women in STEM
-Ada Lovelace and her Circle

-Please submit proposals or abstracts of 250-500 words by 14 May 2013 to: Robin Hammerman (rhammerm@stevens.edu).
-Visit the conference website: http://www.stevens.edu/calconference

Ada Lovelace

Ted Nelson’s Bucket Course: ‘Cinema of the Mind’

Posted with the permission of Ted Nelson, who wrote:

Theodor Holm Nelson will be teaching a possibly final, or ‘bucket’, course on all his computer work and ideas.  The title is “CINEMA OF THE MIND: Philosophy and Art of Designing Interaction” (Computer Science 194, U.C. Santa Cruz, winter quarter 2013).  ☛ Further course details will be found at the end of this note.

The Ted Nelson at the OII
The Ted Nelson at the OII

Dr. Nelson is an independent designer and thinker who for fifty years– since before others imagined personal computing or screen-to-screen publishing– has had deep designs for a computer world very different from that we now face.  While Microsoft, Apple and the Web veered backward, imitating the past and paper, Nelson always designed for the screens-only world we are at last approaching.

Nelson’s Xanadu document designs, well known if not well understood, are generally recognized as precursors to the World Wide Web.  His broader alternative software designs, and their radical theoretical underpinnings, are not well known.  This course boosts their survival and the chance some may eventually prevail.

While other software depicts time as conventional clocks and calendars, Nelson shows it as a spiral that can be tightened to nanoseconds or opened to the lifetime of the universe, wherein you can reconcile people’s schedules for next week or annotate historical theories. While others’ bookkeeping systems show only money, Nelson’s applies to all exchanges– money, Christmas cards, favors, grudges. Instead of today’s isolating “apps” and social cattle pens, he plans a sharable, unifying world of interactive diagrams that zoom to all work and reading, with everything annotatable.

His radical infrastructure includes automatically-coupling data structures, an operating system without hierarchy, and connection-lines between the contents of windows.  These lead to a completely different computer world, and– he fervently hopes– a different human life around them.

All of this is viewed through Nelson’s Schematic Philosophy, offering new terminology and diagrammatics for analyzing complex subjects.

=== COURSE DETAILS

The class is scheduled for Wednesday afternoons from 4 to 7:30, Engineering 2, room 399.  A typical class will consist of a discussion session, a tough lecture, a break, an easy lecture, and another discussion session.

There will be two midterm examinations and a final.  Projects for extra credit (leading to a possible A+) must be negotiated in the first three weeks.

The course is open not just to UCSC undergraduate and graduate students, but to outsiders as well, via a process known as “Concurrent Enrollment.”  Outsider tuition cost appears to be $1355 ($100 application fee for Concurrent Enrollment, plus $1255 tuition).  Two
forms are required: “Concurrent Enrollment Application” to join the university loosely, at http://www.ucsc-extension.edu/sites/default/files/imce/public/pdf/CEAp.pdf  (to be mailed or faxed to the University with the $100– or $65 if
before 14 December) and a form to be signed by the instructor and sent in with tuition payment, at http://www.ucsc-extension.edu/sites/default/files/imce/public/pdf/CEInstrAp.pdf  (final deadline appears to be in mid-January).
More details (not necessarily all consistent) are at: http://www.ucsc-extension.edu/open-campus/enroll

Theodor Holm Nelson PhD
Designer-Generalist, The Internet Archive
Visiting Professor, University of Southampton

My recent books, POSSIPLEX and ‘Geeks Bearing Gifts’, are available from Lulu.com and Amazon.

“Ted Nelson is an idealistic troublemaker who coined the word ‘hypertext’ in the sixties, and continues to fight for a completely different computer world.”

What Can You Say Online?

The Economist recently addressed the chilling effect that libel law is likely to have on Twitter, arguing that: ‘Now it [Twitter] seems to fall under the law’s shadow to a greater extent than similar speech does on the offline world’ (November 24, 2012: 37). But it is not simply libel law that could undermine freedom of expression online, it is also criminal laws addressing speech in largely pre-Internet aware days.

Taken together, Internet users – three-quarters of the British public – must be wondering what they can say online. For those in doubt in the aftermath of some actions taken against Twitter users and other online netizens, you may find a recent blog by Roger Darlington to be a helpful place to start in thinking seriously about this question.

Roger Darlington, a former member of the Consumer Panel at Ofcom, has posted a blog, entitled ‘What can’t you say on the Internet?’. He lays on the various viewpoints on this question, as well as UK legislation of relevance. You can read his blog at http://www.rogerdarlington.me.uk/commswatch/?p=4647 Take a look at Section 127 of the Communications Act of 2003, along with Section 1 of the Malicious Communications Act 1988.

I hope you read this for yourself, but Roger argues that a strict interpretation of UK law could underpin ‘a staggering amount of content to be prosecuted under the criminal law.’ This leads him to conclude that it is time to modernize law and regulation. From his perspective, which I share, there is a need to protect speech online such that people are not subject to inappropriate or disproportionate punishments for such things as tweeting a bad joke or expressing a viewpoint that might be viewed as malicious or indecent.

Consider Roger’s viewpoint and let me know if you have a constructive view on this topic. Roger believes there should be more consistency across media, while I believe that the different communication infrastructures are different in ways that require unique regulatory frameworks. It may be that striving for consistency has led to this disproportionate coverage of online expression. In any case, I agree that this issue will only grow in importance as more communication shifts to the Internet. Consumers need to know what they can and cannot say or this uncertainty alone could have a chilling effect on speech.

There will be an increasing array of issues driven by the convergence of media and the Internet. Content regulation is certainly one key example of such an issue. Over decades, standards of expression on television have become relatively well understood, even if they are sometimes breached and the subject of complaints. But the Internet is not television and is not and – it seems to me – cannot be regulated like television. As but one example, 72 hours of video are posted on YouTube every minute, and this is only one of many video sites on the Internet.

I hope you find Roger’s blog helpful – eye opening – in framing this issue for consumers and netizens. It also provides a nice example of law not keeping up with technological change, and becoming an unintended but unanticipated constraint on technological change. If I have this wrong, let me know.

Digital Scholarship: Three Decades in Internet Time by Christine Borgman

Oliver Smithies Lecture MT 2012

Professor Christine Borgman

Oliver Smithies Lecture, Michaelmus Term 2012

Wednesday 28 November at 5pm in Lecture Room XXIII, Balliol College

Digital Scholarship: Three Decades in Internet Time

by Christine Borgman

Abstract

“In a few short decades, the practices of scholarship have been transformed by the use of digital resources, tools, and services. Some shifts are obvious, such as seeking, reading, and publishing research online, often to the exclusion of print. Other shifts are subtle, such as data being viewed as research products to be disseminated. Research objects are more atomized, yet aggregated in new ways. Digital technologies offer opportunities to innovate in scholarly practice, collaboration, and communication – from the sciences, social sciences, humanities, and arts to technology and medicine. Externalities such as Internet economics and research policy pose constraints on scholarly work. Underlying these opportunities and constraints are four trends in scholarly communication, information technology, policy: (1) the transition from a closed scholarly world to the open Internet, (2) the evolution from static to dynamic forms of information, (3) changes in the roles of scholars as readers and as authors, and (4) the growing value of data as new forms of publication. These four trends are explored, leading to a discussion of the challenges facing 21st century scholars.”

The Tipping Point for Online Universities?

While I’ve been studying the Internet, it has somehow ‘passed a tipping point’ for online learning! At least that is the claim of a number of really ambitious projects in e-learning, including EdX at Harvard-MIT and Coursera at Stanford-Pennsylvania. There is a very clearly argued and supportive piece on the promise of these initiatives on BBC News Online by Sean Coughlan, where I am about the only skeptic. See: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-18191589

Well, have I been scarred by my experience in trying to teach an online course over several years, or by the earlier push for online education around the time of the dotcom crash? Has access to the Internet and the availability of online materials really reached a tipping point when the early visions can be realized?

I am not a luddite in this area, having focused on this promise for some time, such as with a book with Brian Loader.* However, I fear that some enthusiasts today are not focusing on the ability of EdX for example to raise 60M in grants and other support to provide a ‘free’ service. Others will not be able to use this business model. That said, I am delighted to see new developments in this area, and hope they succeed.

*Dutton, W. H. and Loader, B. D. (2002) (eds.), Digital Academe: New Media and Institutions in Higher Education and Learning, London: Taylor & Francis/Routledge.

 

Cities and the Internet: New Perspectives

I’ve certainly been involved in research on the role of new information and communication technologies in shaping local and urban communities, such as with my work on Wired Cities from the late-1970s, when interactive cable communication was expected to support local and interactive communication in ways that would support community. Later I was involved with research on Santa Monica, California’s first electronic city hall, the Public Electronic Network (PEN), and I’ve followed work on information technology and communities since. However, in current discussions of future cities and superfast broadband and cities, I don’t have a clear sense of the dominant perspectives on the societal implications of new technologies. Are they similar to before, but with new technologies, or is there a different perspective on the role of new technology in communities?

I’d welcome tips on where to look, recent work, etc.