Zeitgest View

Crossposted from TNN.
I've embedded a fascinating video on TED Talks by Jonathan Harris which covers various visualisations of aggregated data.

The section which interests me most is towards the end where he reveals a visualization called "'Universe,' which presents current events as constellations of words — a tag cloud of our collective consciousness." This is a variation on a tag cloud represented as a night sky of constellations. He has used a news scraping service to gather data and then visualises commonly emerging themes as star maps. Clicking on any part of the night sky reveals its "secrets" and it is also possible to "centre" the universe on any part of it. For example, he shows the universe of Bill Clinton in various ways.
Between this and interfaces such as Photosynth, we're starting to see interesting interactions which appear to feature 3 main elements:

  • Data scraping
  • Tag aggregation
  • Visualization mechanisms

The key is that there are massive amounts of data that can be harvested and that that data itself has user-generated metadata. To me what is exciting is that this is a way of getting at, for want of a better term, "folk" content – i.e. the kind of content which is put online by us.

Folksonomy lecture – Thomas Vander Wal

Cross-posted from TNN…
Thomas Vanderwal

Folksonomy: A look at hated word but loved resource

A lecture by Thomas Vander Wal at De Montfort University, 2-3:30PM, Sepember 18, 2007.
Folksonomy was recently voted one of the new terms most likely to make you "wince, shudder or want to bang your head on the keyboard." The inventor of the term – Thomas Vander Wal – will give a talk that will offer you a chance to make your own judgment. Thomas will present an overview of the concept in a lecture followed by a question-and-answer session.
The talk will require no specialist knowledge on behalf of the audience. If you are involved in academia, business or the creative industries and would like to understand more about this new technique then come along to find out more.
If you would like to reserve a place at this lecture please email me (Bruce Mason) at bmason01@dmu.ac.uk. There is no cost to attend and places are expected to be at a premium so reservations will be handled on a first-come basis.
Thomas Vander Wal is a popular speaker on tagging/folksonomy, social web, and web applications around well structured information. He is often recognized as the person who coined the term "folksonomy" in 2004, as well as some of his other terms: Personal InfoCloud, Local InfoCloud, Come to Me Web and digital model of attraction. Thomas is principal, and senior consultant at InfoCloud Solutions, a social web consulting firm. Thomas has been working professionally on the web since 1995 (with professional IT background beginning in 1988) and has breadth and depth across many roles and disciplines around web design, social web development & research and general web development. He is a member of the Web Standards Project Steering Committee and helped found the Information Architecture Institute and Boxes & Arrows web magazine. See his web site to find out more: http://www.vanderwal.net/index.html
The lecture is being held in conjunction with Project TNN's Folksonomy Seminar. Project TNN is hosted at De Montfort University by the Institute of Creative Technologies. The project is funded by the Arts and Humanties Research Council for 12 months until September 30th, 2007.

Streams and Babbling brooks

Interesting article about streams up on Bokardo. Joshua has noticed that the usage of the term "stream" is spreading "into web application vernacular. It is called a "lifestream", "socialstream", "friendstream", "contentstream", among others. … It has come to mean a list of the always-updated items in a system."
He continues on to give examples such as twitter, Facebook status updates and RSS feeds and muses that "it feels like we're really starting to see the emergence of a new interaction paradigm around streams."
Two things occur to me here. One thing is that the "stream" is, of itself, a communicational agent. Part of being transliterate is possibly based on the literacies of the stream and understanding how the stream fits into the communications ecology in which we are immersed.* what I mean by that is that a stream can be seen as source of communication, whether it's a person's updates or a blog's feed. Being able to manipulate these streams, both as producers of them and as consumers of them is becoming increasingly important.
The second point is, as always, to follow the metaphor. Are we seeing some more of the wild surmise here? Why a stream and not a river nor a canal nor a babbling brook? It's all well and good using the word "stream" but what will non-English speakers call it? As a metaphor, will the stream lead us astray or to the shores of bright new dawn?
Answers on a postcard, please.

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The Wild Surmise: nature and cyberspace

Most people know me from cyberspace and assume that I live there. I do spend many hours a day online, but what they don't know is that my body is sitting outside, with my bare feet in contact with the earth. I don't know that I could live in any other way.Howard Rheingold
I've been working with computers and in cyberspace ever since I bought my first machine, an Amstrad 6128, in 1987. Right from the start I was struck by what felt like very intuitive connections between computers and what we think of as the natural world, but unravelling those synergies has been a slow two-decade process of gradual revelations and occasional surprises. Over the years I've written two books directly exploring them – first, a novel, Correspondence (1992) and then twelve years later a memoir / travelogue Hello World: travels in virtuality (2004). Now I'm writing a third – The Wild Surmise – and it will be heavily influenced by our discussions here about transliteracy.
I've drafted five simple questions about nature and cyberspace and invite PART readers to answer them here. Thanks.
x-posted at WDL

Emerge(ing) Transliteracy

How the web saves me work.
This week I went to an event organised by Emerge where I have the enjoyable role of Steering Group member. Emerge is the support project for the UK Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) Users and Innovation Programme. Find out more here.
It was quite exhilerating to meet around 80 UK educators all looking for ways to use new technologies for collaboration and innovation. Furthermore, the nosy anthropologist in me could watch networking happening live and in the raw!
I did participate in a small way, at the Unconference organised by Brian Kelly and Graham Atwell, but just as I sat down this morning to write this post about our conversation on transliteracy, Google Alerts popped into my inbox to let me know that Brian had beaten me to it. So, thanks for saving me the work Brian (and Google) ! Here's Brian's post….

Alan Liu Refiguring University English

After a myriad of welcomes to the Refiguring University English conference hosted by the English Subject Centre, Alan Liu presented his vision of "Knowledge 2.0: The University and Web 2.0."

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Alan Liu on Transliteracies and Reading English

xposted from my blog.

I was very lucky to be able to hear Professor Alan Liu share his thoughts with us. Interestingly, his thinking seemed to pick up (broadly) on what we were saying
at the Reading Revolution seminar with regards to critical literacy.
Alan notes that we need some kind of framework that can be used to judge the
accuracy of a web site (etc…); a tool for students.

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…in a grain of sand

Interesting article on BBC Tech Lab by Charles Stross who "posits a future in which all human experience is record on devices the size of a grain of sand." The story behind the headline is actually an interesting discussion of the relative cheapness of data storage. Stross predicts that we're approaching a time when it will be technically feasible to store all the digital information that we as a species generate.
Naturally this could lead into yet another dystopian fantasy of information surveillance but what I find interesting are his comments about "recorded history". What we refer to now as "recorded history" is fragmentary compared to the recorded history our descendants may have of us. He writes "in the long term, almost all human experiences will be recorded. And in the very long term, they'll be a gold mine for historians." Most pertinently, he reckons that as a culture we're used to forgetting yet we're living on the verge of a time when, potentially, nothing can be forgotten and we really haven't stopped to think about what this means.
I suspect that the interest in transliteracy is caused in part by exposure to webservices such as gmail that refer to never needing to delete an email again. We're getting used to having other things remembered for us (how many phone numbers do you have memorized?) with the obvious implication that forgetting is becoming an active act. Transliteracy, we argue, is a new way of looking at an old activity. Although transliteracy does not require digital technology, digital technology is creating new relationships with the fundamentals of talking, remembering and forgetting and transliteracy can, perhaps, inform what might be a rather ya-boo debate about information freedom and privacy; about memory and forgetting.
I remember conversations in the pub in the past when the phrase "I think I read it in a book" was not uncommon. As we move into total storage and ubiquitous net access, transliteracy may help us understand how that phrase may relate to "just googling it" and "a friend of a friend told me that".