A BBC report notes comments to the Scots Parliament, concerning the blogosphere as boon to pedophiles. One observer was up to date on social software:
Dr O'Connell said that the emergence of moblogs - mobile weblogs - allowed even faster transfer of pictures to the internet using mobile telephones with cameras... She said: "This is just a paedophile's dream because you have children uploading pictures, giving out details of their everyday life because it's an online journal."
The psychologist, whose research and work with police and other agencies has included posing as a child on internet newsgroups, said predatory adults could use an RSS feeder program - a syndication tool - to be instantly e-mailed any picture when it was added to a blogging site.
The cultural construction of cyberspace as terrible place continues.
Denham and I have been talking about metaphors for collaborative software, especially blogs and wikis. He suggested an urban analogy, which struck me as productive, so I'll develop it a bit here, with his blessing.
Caveat: this is a first pass at the topic, and doesn't get into urban studies or metaphor theory.
We're used to thinking of collaborative tools as shared spaces, and sometimes signal this with metaphors drawing on human spatial constructions: shared rooms, classrooms, kitchens, virtual houses, virtual chautauquas, and the like. Such metaphors are rhetorically focused on a single construction in some isolation, even when embedded in the Web.
In this vein a wiki or discussion forum is like a houses or public building, a convivial zone for social presence, rapid conversation, and an accumulation of information. They can point outwards, using the shared space as a harvesting area, a stockpile, or a library. These can be guarded spaces, "safe as houses", where the exclusion from a larger urba, exurban, or suburban space means refuge or privacy. When users are transitory, moving into and out of the surrounding buildings, the wiki or forum is place to return to, to store materials, accumulate discussion, archive knowledge over time.
Blogs stand in some contrast to wikis and fora in the urban metaphorical scheme. Considered formally (strictly as rapid web publication of contents in reverse chronological order) or in restricted isolation (as a sole-author, few-readers LiveJournal) blogs resemble the one house model, like a wiki or discussion forum. But blogs are urban creatures, when we view them formally in terms of their habit of extensive hyperlinking, or the popular comments feature. The urban metaphor also holds when we consider blogs socially, in the light of larger readerships, ranging from larger pools of LiveJournal buddies to the entire world of Web users. That sense of embeddedness within a metropolis increases when we add the growing tool set of blog connectors, usually thought of as part of social software: trackback, RSS, dynamic indexing, RSS search and blogsearch, and the suite of Technoratiservices. These tools are urban navigation tools which connect single-occupancy houses, like street maps, railway guides, tourist information centers, predictable street naming and location address numbering schemes, or phone booths. This combination of social software connection strategies help us find our way from house to house, pointing us to that one bar with the conversation we like, or the club, theater, shop we prefer.
The Dodgeball service weds this metaphor to this practice perfectly.
The story is well-known, and I won't summarize it here. But it contains some of the offhand gems with which Borges freights his works, like so:
Some limited and waning memory of Herbert Ashe, an engineer of the southern railways, persists in the hotel at Adrogue, amongst the effusive honeysuckles and in the illusory depths of the mirrors. In his lifetime, he suffered from unreality, as do so many Englishmen; once dead, he is not even the ghost he was then...
Last week I made three trips in the American northeast, all via United Airlines. United fouled up each trip, which is an impressive average.
Trip 2: a four hour delay, from Allentown to Providence. That set me down at the airport around 2 am, about 6 hours prior to that day's seminar.
Trip 3: a mere two hour delay, sans explanation.
Trip 1 was the corker. First, flying from Burlington to Allentown, we connected at Dulles. We were assured a quick trip from gate to gate. But the shuttle was mysteriously late, so late that the boarding area overflowed with confused travelers (and three remarkably silent, unresponsive staffers). The slow machine eventually arrived and deposited us, after apparently getting lost, at the barn of terminal G. Whereupon gate clerk informed me, 12 minute before my flight was to leave, that "your plane is gone."
(Which leads me to a linguistic tic I despise, the way airlines blame travelers for their errors: "you missed your connection." The quick response is "no, you blew my connection, now make up for it")
So I was stashed in a DC airport for the night.
Second error, the promised "early morning flight" was delayed in multiple increments until nearly 1:30 in the afternoon. Had I know they were simply going to miss the entire morning, I'd have run to a bus, train, or rental car. But no, I got to enjoy the G-barn for another half day.
The best thing about this, as every traveler knows, is that United clearly doesn't give a damn. We could be drifting off into polar darkness on a disintegrating ice floe, for all they care. The staff are chilly, or silent, or actively hostile. No explanation comes from any source in the hierarchy. Feedback is clearly not desire. How long before airlines with a human face, like Southwest or JetBlue, take over the entire market?
Bonus points: I wonder if anyone from United checks the blogosphere for feedback? I know my detailed email was met with thunderous silence.
Documentary films are facing two problems under an increasingly active copyright regime The first has been identified by others, and is that difficulties in winning (and affording) permissions are mounting.
The second is more subtle, and involves the passage of time. Documentary creators who won limited (as opposed to perpetual) duration for materials are having a hard time getting continued rights. As film stock deteriorates, access declines.
There's a study on this, which I'll try to read on the plane (if United ever gets one going).
A New Yorker article last week about emergent elearning practices describes the development of an emergent, bottom-up, Web-based, user-driven, and extremely flexible practices. Short version: junior officers built Web sites to quickly obtain information about the rapidly-shifting battle, but also to garner feedback. The projects sound like an elearning, .mil version of OhMyNews!
But notice this quiet, telling detail. The US Army had already built a learning center, yet soldiers increasingly bypassed it in their need for speedy information and feedback:
Officer after officer told me that they use CALL when they have the leisure, but it’s Companycommand or Platoonleader they check regularly and find most useful...
I'm reminded of history from half a century ago, where American scientists bypassed public teacher resistance to new pedagogical methods. I'll resist the easy jokes about outflanking, and suggest two observations. First, this is the sort of dynamic slippage that presentations of educational structures usually ignore. Second, the rise of Companycommand and its ilk, and the incursion of teaching films in the 1950s, offer some comparative frameworks for considering other computer-mediated teaching and learning projects.
"The People Who Owned the Bible" is a good, brisk satire of intellectual property's cultural dark side. The focus isn't religion, but the implications of owning popular pieces of cultural history.
Which reminds me: any suggestions for copyright literature, perhaps as a subset of the literature of information? I've been assembling some titles, but it's a pretty small field so far. Richard Stallman wrote "The Right to Read". Spider Robinson offers "Melancholy Elephants". K.W. Jeter's Noir contains an, ah, strong defense of IP. Charles Finlay's "Factwhore Proposition" includes copywright within its exploration of the future of librarians in a search world.
A post on Urth suggested considering Gene Wolfe's The Doctor of Death Island (1978) for copyright reasons, but I haven't had a chance to dig up my copy to check.