September 30, 2007
The Blogging Community
There was a great article in the New York Times today called "All-Stars of the Clever Riposte." It discusses the blogging habits of indivuals who do not have their own blogs. They simply comment on other people's blogs. Apparently, they achieve a sort of celebrity status by posting their comments. I wonder if this is just as effective as having your own forum. Do "blog-commenters" and "blog-creators" receive similar amounts of attention for their opinions and ideas?
The article also touches on the so-called "separate lives" these bloggers are living. And yet, some bloggers end up meeting each other in person. This raises some interesting questions: How separate are we from our "internet-selves"? Is it up to us how much our identities blend? Are two identities better than one? Just some thoughts...But really, read the article. You'll enjoy it and maybe even laugh a little. Here's the link:
September 26, 2007
The Material World
Last night, our class gathered around a book entitled "Material World." It depicted portraits of families residing in various countries. We seemed to agree that the photographs portrayed each family in a very stereotypical manner (i.e. the Texan family praying, the Mexican man lying on the couch, the Haitians struggle for survival, etc.) These stereotyped depictions got me thinking; how much do we really know about each other? I mean, do we know what life is really like for others around the world?
These questions led me to consider the era in which we live. We must remember that "Material World" was published in 1993. Granted, that was not very long ago, however the online world has grown considerably since the early 1990's. How much of an impact has this new technology had on getting to know each other? Are we better informed about the average Haitian, Chinese, British, etc...person's life today than we were in 1993? Or is the internet so unavailable in certain areas of the world (like Ethiopia) that it has not made much of a difference?
I believe that the internet has had some impact, but it has the potential to do even more. If more people around the world had access to the web, we could educate ourselves about each other and perhaps abolish some of the steadfast stereotypes we see portrayed in publications like "Material World."
September 24, 2007
Last Tuesday, our class discussed some of the costs and benefits of increasing medical technology. We spent a fair amount of time debating the issue of cloning and reproductive technology. Would it be beneficial to separate two male X and Y chromosomes and fuse them with another male's chromosomes allowing homosexual couples to reproduce? On the one hand, homosexual couples could have children of their own. However, could such technology initially lead to genetic disorders? And if so, is it ethical to test such technology on unborn humans who can not give consent? I have been struggling with these questions, and I was curious to see what the medical community considers to be ethical in regard to research involving human subjects. Here is a link to the current Human Research Ethics Codes and Standards for those who are curious: http://bioethics.od.nih.gov/IRB.html
Of course the above situation is only hypothetical. We do not yet possess the technology to perform such medical feats. But we are making progress in that direction. Individuals are created in petri dishes, sometimes without the egg and sperm "owners" ever actually meeting. Such is the case with donors and buyers of the Genius Sperm Banks. One website, http://www.scientistdonor.com , offers the biographical information and photographs of a so-called "high-achieving" donor. Apparently, women interested in this man's sperm assume that his high-achievement is largely the result of his genetic makeup. Therefore, they assume that this donor's sons will also be high-achievers. But what percentage of our characteristics is genetic and how much relies on our environment? How much control do humans have regarding the type of person technology can create?
Despite what might appear to be setbacks regarding medical technology, there are certainly some benefits. A prime example is a new development in cancer screening. The Ars Tecnica website published an article on September 18th, called "Distributed computing tackles dengue, hepatitis." Here's a link: http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20070918-distributed-computing-tackles-dengue-hepatitis.html. The article says that IBM has a project called the World Community Grid, which can now search for molecules that block the reproduction of flaviviruses which cause a variety of diseases such as dengue fever, yellow fever, hepatitis C, and West Nile disease. Such information sharing technology could greatly help combat these illnesses. This is just one of many great examples of how new medical technology can help save lives.
Feel free to comment on how you feel about medical techonology. Its impact, limitations, costs, benefits, etc.
September 20, 2007
I came across an interesting article in the New York Times today that relates to my recent blog about making information available for free. It appears that NBC has decided to make some of its shows available for free download (another company catching up with technology!) Here is a link to the full article. Let me know what you think.
September 19, 2007
New York Times Decision
This morning, I received an e-mail from the New York Times regarding a decision they made about a program called "TimesSelect." TimesSelect was an internet-based subscription to the New York Times that became available in September 2005. It cost $7.95 per month or $49.95 per year. However, the Times had difficulty with limiting access to TimesSelect, due to bloggers reposting the material.
Hence, today I received the following e-mail:
Dear Home Delivery Subscriber,
We are ending TimesSelect, effective today. This will not affect any services you are already receiving as a home delivery customer.
The Times's Op-Ed and news columns are now available to everyone free of charge, along with Times File and News Tracker. In addition, The New York Times online Archive is now free back to 1987 for all of our readers.
Why the change?
Since we launched TimesSelect, the Web has evolved into an increasingly open environment. Readers find more news in a greater number of places and interact with it in more meaningful ways. This decision enhances the free flow of New York Times reporting and analysis around the world. It will enable everyone, everywhere to read our news and opinion - as well as to share it, link to it and comment on it.
All other benefits of home delivery remain the same. You will continue to have complimentary access (100 articles every month) to the complete online Archive back to 1851. For additional benefits, including our All Access suite of digital products, click here: http://www.nytimes.com/allaccess.
We thank you for your support of TimesSelect, and hope you continue to enjoy The New York Times in all its electronic and print forms.
For more information, including answers to frequently asked questions, click here:
Senior Vice President & General Manager
This decision brings up some interesting questions about internet access and what should be available for free on the Web. Though I believe it is important for current information to be as widely available as possible, how are newspapers, like the NY Times, supposed to profit if all news is available for free online and the actual, physical paper becomes obsolete? How should we balance information and profit?
September 18, 2007
Deep Blue and Controlled Access
I recently explored the Deep Blue website. Its motto, "Your work: cited more, safe forever. Deep Blue makes it simple," says a lot about the strengths and limits of this network.
On the one hand, anyone with access to the Deep Blue website can easily self-publish his or her work. The author's work can then, presumably, be preserved forever on the net.
However, if one delves further into the concept of Deep Blue, certain questions arise. For instance, should anyone be able to display his or her opinions online, given that some reader/viewers might consider these opinions as proven facts? Who determines the line between opinion and fact? Who regulates what is allowed to stay on Deep Blue?
Another interesting option of Deep Blue is that it "allows you [the author] to limit who can see various aspects of your work." I wonder when this type of selective censorship might be necessary. Furthermore, if it is deemed "necessary," is it ethical to hide information from certain individuals?
For more information on Deep Blue, visit the website listed below.
September 16, 2007
Code 2.0 and Intellectual Property
In Chapter 10, Lessig discusses intellectual property rights in relation to cyberspace. He notes two options for protection in cyberspace: "public law" and "private fences." After discussing current copyright laws (or lack thereof) as they apply to the internet, Lessig states that a "private fence" type of property protection would be best for cyberspace.
By "private fence," Lessig means that the property owner should protect his or her own work through code. The owner also has the responsibity to make his or her property avaiable to others ("copy-duty). Lessig proposes having special software to regulate the internet and prevent unwanted "stealing" of information.
But unlike material property, "Things are different with intellectual property. If you "take" my idea, I still have it" (196). Due to this difference, I believe that if Code restrictions are put in place to protect intellectual property, someome should regulate how much information can be concealed. Of course authors and musicians should have a right to regulate who sees/hears their work, and charge if others want to view their property. However, cetain information should be made widely availabe to the general public. For example, say research is done on a widely used medication, and it turns out that the medication is harmful. Should the scientist/author of the research paper have the right to conceal his or her findings? I think not.
Please let me know your thoughts and ideas regarding Lessig's proposals.
September 14, 2007
English 280 Blogs
Enlish 280 YouTube Channels
September 11, 2007
Social Isolation and the Internet
In class tonight, the topic of social isolation and the internet was discussed. I mentioned that I had read an article on this subject, however it is not available on the internet. Upon doing some research, I found several other studies that linked social isolation and depression to internet use and increasing technological advances in our society. Here are a few links to explore for those who are interested.
I found the second article (Weiser) particularly interesting in that it distinguishes between the effects of different types of internet use. In Weiser's study, it was found that people primarily use the internet for two reasons. The first was termed Socio-Affective Regulation (SAR), or social use of the internet. The second function of the internet was called Goods-and-Information Acquisition (GIA), which is fairly self explanatory. Weiser's conclusion was that SAR internet use leads to unfavorable psychological consequences and social isolation, whereas GIA has a positive effect on psychological well-being. I believe that this is an interesting take on the manners in which the internet is used and how it can be both a beneficial and potentially harmful technological tool.
September 05, 2007
Creative Commons and Plagiarism
Last night, we discussed the notion of creative commons, a.k.a. "the spirit of exchange." A topic that immediately came to my mind was plagiarism. Like most during the first week of class, I have had teachers lecture extensively on this topic. An interesting dilemma always presents itself when considering plagiarism: who actually had the idea first? I understand that in "the spirit of exchange" we are to give credit to our sources. However, how are we to know that our source's ideas are original? Afterall, given thousands of years of philosophical thought and human ideas, couldn't someone else have already come up with the idea before the source? Also, we learn by passing along information. How are we to distinguish our own original ideas from something we heard in passing? I am interested to hear what others have to say on this topic.