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Monday, November 25, 2002

The eyes of a child. "Something animated and vital looks out from our childrens eyes. Whatever it is, we recognize it and know it is precious. Yet except in rare cases today, that spirit is broken early and irreparably. The light goes out all too soon. We know, because at some inarticulate and dimly conscious level, we are those children. We feel the wind of spirit move us at odd moments, but put it down to nostalgia or temporary possession by some impractical flight of fancy. We shake it off and get back to work. Robbed of a voice to speak of these things, something animated and vital looks out from our own eyes, but only in rare, unguarded moments -- and even then, wary, circumspect, suspicious. We let no one see what we fear no one will understand." --Chris Locke more > [Ming's Meta Mechanics]

What do you think? []  links to this post    10:55:09 PM  
Thou Shalt Play

Play, the eleventh commandment?. Found this article on the Pendle Hill (Quaker Study Center) site. Here's a taste:Despite our country's Puritan work ethic and culture (and that of early Friends, I might add), I'm certain that God did not create us to work—or at least not just to a dreary, dull kind of work existence. [DeepFUN Weblog]

What do you think? []  links to this post    10:43:26 PM  

DistributedMetadata. Instead of having a centrally defined set of metadata, distributed metadata tries to let everyone organise the world as they see fit. The challenge is: how to tie these different ways of organising the world together again?  [IAwiki]

Not much else over there yet, but the question is a fundamental one. An important problem is how to make people want to tie these ways together. For this I think we have to tap into people's innate propensity for sociality and curiosity towards new people with a common interest. The idea is to consider categories as rallying points. See ridiculously easy group-forming and BlogChannels for loosely joining webloggers. And if you're a diehard, join the fun at our group-forming community. (Will I ever stop those shameless plugs?)

What do you think? []  links to this post    10:40:45 PM  
Freedom to Tinker

The Making of a Policy Gadfly. Provocative article about a Princeton University computer scientist, Edward W. Felten, who became a policy gadfly when he realized that proposed copyright legislation in the United States would make most of his research illegal. And I like the way Felten reframes the DMCa debate: "It's critical in the high-tech world that people be able to talk about this stuff, study it, take it apart, adapt it to their use," says Mr. Felten. "Even if you're not a technologist, it's important that you be able either to get tools that can do this, or you can participate in the debate in the same way that you can participate in the debate about a political issue that has complicated facts behind it." By Andrea L. Foster, Chronicle of Higher Education, November 29, 2002 [OLDaily]

Felten reflects on the usefulness of blogging for a scholar.

Scholars and Their Blogs

But he and other researchers who are challenging government efforts to regulate technology are expressing themselves more broadly through blogs, as Web logs are known. Besides Mr. Felten's there are also Zimran Ahmed's , Maximillian Dornseif's dysLEXia, and Frank R. Field's FurdLog, to name a few.

Mr. Felten says Freedom to Tinker allows him to refine his thinking about technology and law without going through the traditional academic-publishing process. "I get a surprising number of really good, thoughtful comments from people I've never heard of," he says. "I've access to these ideas ... which I never would have had otherwise."

What do you think? []  links to this post    10:17:32 PM  
Shuffling teens...

High school students break down some social barriers. 'Mix it up' day challenges high schoolers to break out of their cliques. [Christian Science Monitor | Learning]

This is a stroke of genius. High school is a perfect time to get exposed to diversity. Few people ever take the opportunity, so a little push can help. If everyone is doing it on a given day, it becomes much easier to do.

Students say race or ethnicity aren't the only boundaries separating students. At Judge Memorial Catholic High School in Salt Lake City, senior Cassie Morton says age is the main barrier. So students sat at tables on Thursday according to their month of birth.

What do you think? []  links to this post    10:14:08 PM  
Self-organization, defined

Self-Organization. A nice introduction to self-organization by a physicist, Cosma Rohilla Shalizi.

"Something is self-organizing if, left to itself, it tends to become more organized. This is an unusual, indeed quite counter-intuitive property: we expect that, left to themselves, things get messy, and that when we encounter a very high degree of order, or an increase in order, something, someone, or at least some peculiar thing, is responsible. .. But we now know of many instances where this expectation is simply wrong, of things which can start in a highly random state and, without being shaped from the outside, become more and more organized. Thus self-organization, which I find to be one of the most interesting concepts in modern science --- if also one of the most nebulous, because the ideas of organization, pattern, order and so forth are, as used normally, quite vague."
His Ph.D. thesis was about quantifying self-organization. The complexity of a process can apparently be meansured by how much information is needed to predict its future behavior. So, a process is self-organizing if its complexity is found to increase, while the input is either constant or random. He also gives some history of the concept of self-organization:
"The idea that the dynamics of a system can tend, of themselves, to make it more orderly, is very old. The first statement of it (naturally, a clear and distinct one) that I can find is by Descartes, in the fifth part of his Discourse on Method, where he presents it hypothetically, as something God could have arranged to have happen, if He hadn't wanted to create everything Himself. Descartes elaborated on the idea at great length in a book called Le Monde, which he never published during his life, for obvious reasons."

more > [Ming's Meta Mechanics]

Lots of good links and book references in there.

Related theoretical topics: biological order; complexity theory; complexity measures; computational mechanics; cybernetics; non-linear dynamics; statistical mechanics

Probably connected somehow: adaptation [But self-organization does not imply any kind of adaptation]; design principles (cf. Christopher Alexander, Herbert Simon); the Russell-Whitehead notion of ``structure''; simulation and modelling

 Cosma will definitely make it to my sidebar.

What do you think? []  links to this post    9:30:53 PM  
Academia and the Web

Academics on the Web: finding each other/ourselves is a very interesting vision statement by Jill Arnold & Hugh Miller (which I found thanks to Gilles). I found myself pretty much in agreement with everything in there.

There has been a recurring problem in academia concerning how people find each other rather than just the officially published work and how people find themselves or position themselves as part of a wider /global community. The Web and Internet technologies now provide opportunities to create presence 'out-there' of self and work but collectively we could also try to find ways to critically re-evaluate our work and debate and question the moral basis for what we find ourselves doing. [...]

There are many professional and academic disciplines that could/ would use cyberspace to try to establish a more open and accessible academy and enable inter-disciplinary discovery and people to have a presence irrespective of real life status or limited resources. [...]

A cultural shift towards improving the acceptability and status of Web based publishing would break some of the difficulties with finding acceptance of publishing inter-disciplinary, interstitial work.

Jill and Arnold also maintain a site called Cyberpsych which centers around their work on identity and webpages.

What do you think? []  links to this post    10:13:48 AM  

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