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Sometimes I Wish That It Would Rain Here

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

merry christmas, from the IRB

just came across this doing some catch-up reading. wonderful for anyone who's ever needed to get IRB approval.

Santa meets the IRB

a teaser...

You propose to "know when they are sleeping and know when they are awake". How will this be done? Will children undergo video monitoring in their beds? Will they have sleep EEGs? You list 100 elves as research assistants. Are any of them a sleep physiologist?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

issues, anyone?

I was just listening to a report on NPR about surveys of people likely to vote in the California primaries. for republicans, the number one issue was illegal immigration. for democrats, the top issues were health care, the war in iraq, and jobs and the economy. OK, sure, none of that is particularly surprising.

what is surprising, and even I think galling, is that the environment doesn't seem to be a big issue for anyone. what's going on here? despite increased awareness in the news, popular media (e.g. Inconvenient Truth or 11th Hour), and public opinion, the candidates in the primaries don't seem to be talking about it very much. why not? I think there's a lot of environment good will out there, and candidates could do well to capitalize on it. if a person could show how s/he could help the economy, decrease the national debt, provide health care, and do it all in an environmentally conscious and sustainable way, virtually nothing could stand against that kind of platform. so why not do it?

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Saturday, January 19, 2008

friday shuffle (belated)

done using Banshee's random

Mother Superior - Coheed and Cambria - Good Apollo, I'm Burning Star IV, Volume Two: No World for Tomorrow
Debate Exposes Doubt - Death Cab for Cutie - The Photo Album
Million Miles Away - The Offspring
Are We There Yet - The Ataris - Anywhere But Here
Green Greens, from Kirby - New Japan Philharmonic - Smash Bros DX Concert Official
Hope - Apocalyptica - Cult
Baby's Got Sauce - G. Love and Special Sauce - G. Love and Special Sauce
241 - Reel Big Fish - Turn the Radio Off
Halo - Soil - 18
Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds - The Beatles - Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

not only does Coheed and Cambria have long, rather involved album titles, but they absolutely rock.


Thursday, January 10, 2008

who am I?

I'm at a talk at HICSS being given by Martin Wattenberg. he gave a pretty cool talk about the social uses of many eyes. Tom Erickson just suggested that part of the motivation for the use of SNS is so that people can see their social network, that they draw a sense of power from seeing a visual representation of their friends. Tom then drew an analogy, saying that your social network diagram is sort of your "21st century coat of arms," which I thought was incredibly interesting and provocative. Tom seems to have a knack for saying such things.

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Wednesday, January 02, 2008


I recently came across a quote from Ursula Franklin (via Kevin from Question Technology) about a donation of computers for an educational institution. to her colleague who had just negotiated the donation, she asks, "Think about the analogy between your computer gift and the gift of free Bibles" (the link above has a more extended quote). bibles were once used to teach people to read, but obviously more was learned than just how to read. Franklin calls for greater, more reflective awareness of, and explicit dealing with, "the social assumptions that are embedded in every design." Kevin connects this to the $100 laptop project, and an important connection it is. I however, am left thinking of other connections.

Ong's Orality and Literacy examines the cognitive, social, and cultural impacts of the technology of writing. oral cultures have certain aspects to their communication: anything that needs to be remembered must be said in a memorable way, otherwise it will be forgotten due to the ephemeral nature of speech; speech is heard and sometimes felt, internalizing it, while written words are seen, making them external and objective; speech requires narratives to be of a very formulaic character, so as to be memorable by the bard and comprehensible by the audience, while writing allows for more complex narrative structure because the reader can refer to what was said in the last paragraph. these are just a few of the interesting implications of the adoption of the technology of writing. Ong goes on to discuss the "second orality," communication media that resemble speech but also have characteristics of writing. while he had in mind media like TV and radio, much of what he said applies to email, IM, txt, etc. what unintended results will come from use of digital media?

I'm also reading Weber's Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, so I can't help but make a connection there, as well. Weber's thesis is that the protestant ethic (a moral calling to hard labor, the accumulation of wealth for its own sake, that an individual "exists for the sake of his business, instead of the reverse") results largely from the doctrines of several protestant sects, particularly Calvinism. I'm only part way through, so I can't yet sum up his whole argument, but this is another interesting example of unintended outcomes. Weber goes so far as to say that the worldly spirit of capitalism is in some cases in opposition to the beliefs of those from whose teachings that spirit derives.

in these cases, it's possible to conjecture about potential consequences and implicit values, but one cannot always make entirely accurate predictions or account for every possibility. I don't think this means that we should throw up our hands and abandon hope of responsible use of technology. however, it does leave me somewhat unsatisfied. must we just be reflective about the values we are incorporating into our designs? while awareness about factors such as gender bias are certainly important, I doubt that introspection is not enough. can we be explicit about the values in our designs? I'm not sure that explication will help, either. how does one say to the average consumer something like "this device incorporates the semiotic notion that a sign can stand in for the thing being signified" without having their eyes glaze over?

what's a socially conscious (technology) designer to do? I suspect that part of the answer is certainly a raised awareness on the part of designers. however, I think an important, but often overlooked, factor is raising awareness on the part of the consumer/user/prosumer(/wrangler ::shudder::). I would love to see technology that not only causes the user to consider the values explicitly or implicitly incorporated into the device, but furthermore causes that same user to consider the technology itself, to question it, to ask, what does this technology do? what does this technology do to me? how do I use the technology? how am I intended to use the technology? how do I actually use the technology? what does this tell me about the designer? what does this tell me about the marketing/manufacturing of this technology? what does this tell me about me? obviously, in order to make such technology requires socially responsible designers. however, technology has far more capacity for impact in the hands of socially aware, critically reflective users of the technology. the very use of a technology should cause the user to question her or his use of that technology. I want to see technology like that. I want to make technology like that.

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