I’m all in favour of attempts like that of the World Wide Web Foundation to make in their words “multi-dimensional measures of the Web’s growth, utility and impact on people and nations” but to call it the “first” such attempt would seem to be overlooking the strikingly similar ITU “Measuring the Information Society” programme or The World Economic Forum’s “Network Readiness Index” (there are and have been probably others too). There’s plenty of room for all though and each group of scholars has something to contribute (indeed the Web Index draws from ITU figures among others). If you are interested in the digital divide, check them all out!
Archive for the 'About the Internet' Category | back to home
Of course it has a role for easy, quick communication of relatively unimportant information but I fear that its very availability and ease means that like some kind of online kudzu it is expanding and driving out longer-form online discourse – particularly blogs. This is particularly problematic for academics like myself. It used to be that I would string together 500 words and more about an academic subject or something in the news and post it on my academic blog (okay, I admit I was a grad student with a bit more time on my hands) but now I tend to just tweet or Facebook post about it because the blog form implicitly demands more engagement than I feel I can give. It seems to me that possibly for similar reasons gradually nearly all of the blogs I used to read by fellow academics giving me their insights into trends and papers have died away*, replaced by tweets simply directing me to relevant web addresses.
Don’t get me wrong–I love to read and pass on the kinds of references to papers and to newspaper articles I get–see my twitter feed– but by the time a tweeter tells you who sent them a web address, very briefly summarizes why you might want to click and perhaps provides a hash tag to indicate its subject all that remains to be said is that said document or image is “enjoyable”, “provocative”, scary etc. A blog posting by contrast does not have to be that much longer but allows the writer to provide at least a little more context for the resource that they are talking about or indeed to provide a small but nonetheless useful addition to scholarly knowledge without all the psychic and administrative burden of turning out an academic paper.
Moreover, I have recently realised thanks to the news about Datasift providing companies with access to archives of tweets back to 2010 that although Twitter has kept everything, if I as a user ever did want to find an insightful tweet from even a week ago unless I had favourited it or I had been using third-party programs to archive a particular user or hashtag I would be out of luck. I always supposed that the limitations of search in tools like TweetDeck or Twitter.com itself were just a coding problem not reflective of an underlying technical problem.
* Mind you, this rant which I have been saving for a while now was inspired in part by the excellence of a Nathan Jurgenson blog post which reminded me that academic blog excellence is not yet dead.
The cartoon below (sorry have lost the original source) presents a number of other good reasons I dislike Twitter…
This artwork/prank/pr stunt is fascinating. We take the fantastically complex technology involved in webcam chat for granted, but connect two points by fibre optic cable (I’m assuming that’s how this works!) and then let people look down the “telectroscope” using the naked eye and suddenly the experience becomes magical again…
Update: I just found that CNN has de-mystified the device – it’s actually a ‘conventional’ pair of very high definition webcams.
I just added a “post about global broadband penetration”:http://groupblog.workasone.net/index.php?p=20 and a few days ago I posted about research on “hit counts as a predictor of the number of citations”:http://groupblog.workasone.net/index.php?p=14 for academic articles published online. There have also been some recent postings by other blog members on “literature reviews”:http://groupblog.workasone.net/index.php?p=13 and the “use of the Internet for politics in the UK”:http://groupblog.workasone.net/index.php?p=18. I have some postings yet to come there about search engines (you should look there for any future information on search engines – especially as one of my colleagues there is studying them for her PhD)…
P.S. If you want an easy-to-remember address for the site (which does not yet have its own ‘proper’ domain) you can get to it by typing “http://get.to/lseblog”:http://get.to/lseblog.
I always assumed that the large amount of news I receive about battles with the US Congress about various communications policy issues (copyright, privacy, digital divide issues) was simply due to my own interest in these subjects influencing my choice of online media sources. But it seems according to a report by Syracuse University’s “Convergence Center”:http://www.digital-convergence.org/,
During the late 1990s and early 2000s, communications and information policy (CIP) replaced the environment as the policy domain of greatest congressional activity, as measured by number of hearings. From 1997 to 2001, the annual number of congressional hearings devoted to CIP surged to approximately 100 per year.
Search Engine Watch publishes a good roundup of the latest coverage of flaws and bias in the way Google News’s automated news gathering works in practice. They link to a New Scientist article revealing “Google China has suppressed links to ‘forbidden’ news”:http://www.newscientist.com/news/news.jsp?id=ns99996426 on the grounds that:
“In order to create the best possible news search experience for our users, we sometimes decide not to include some sites, for a variety of reasons. These sources were not included because their sites are inaccessible.”
. It’s an explanation but not really a justification…
The first day of the “AoIR conference”:http://www.aoir.org/2004/ didn’t start until the afternoon but already I’ve met several stimulating people and am really looking forward to the next few days. It’s so nice to be surrounded by smart people who care about the social implications of the Internet and think in academic terms. The LSE has a fair number of these as well of course but it’s nice to meet new faces to bounce new ideas off of and to meet face to face the people whose work I have admired.
Today’s keynote speaker was “Ted Nelson”:http://xanadu.com.au/ted/, who certainly dreams big dreams (but maybe tries to dream too many at once)! I had hoped to give you a picture of him in full flow but discovered that my camera’s batteries are flat. Maybe tomorrow…
I’m off tomorrow to Internet Research 5.0: Ubiquity? the “Association of Internet Researchers”:http://www.aoir.org/’ 5th annual conference – my first major academic conference, in fact. I won’t be delivering a paper there, alas, but I look forward to meeting many of my fellow Internet-studing academics over the next four days.
I may even take some pictures, but don’t expect instant blogging as there is no wireless access.
P.S. A reminder – please if you read this and are British and have a home page or weblog go “take my survey”:http://blog.org/archives/cat_best_of_blogorg.html#001250!
If you are based in the UK and have a personal home page (this includes weblogs and journals), please visit this home page creation survey and fill it in – it should only take you ten minutes.
If you are an academic I would also be interested to know what you think of it as a survey and how I might improve it (bearing in mind it is only a very rough pilot at the moment!), and if you have a weblog or home pages (anywhere but particularly one that might be seen by Brits) please publicise this survey on your site. The survey will only be up for a month (or less, if I get enough respondents before then).
I don’t expect to publish anything from it as the sample size will be too small and it is very open-ended at the moment so I can get some idea of the kinds of answers people give, but if anything interesting comes out you will hear about it here.
P.S. I am using “QuestionPro”:http://www.questionpro.com/ to do this survey, which from what I have found appears to be one of the best options around for serious surveys (I did some earlier “investigation of survey software options”:http://blog.org/archives/001183.html). If you want to try it out too, please “contact me”:http://davidbrake.org/contact.htm so I can invite you (I would get $10 if you end up using it).