Category: Knowledge

Can books save us from what digital does to our brains?

Do you find yourself reading books less? Or atleast not being able to sustain the act of reading a book at length? The author of this article reasons that the hypertextual nature of our information consumption challenges readers to want to jump to “the next thing” – link, image, video. This can translate to an actual dopamine hit for the brain when new information arrives. Some tests report a drop in IQ when exposed to this multitasking process.

What’s the solution? Is there a solution?

Still, I am an optimist. Most nights last year, I got into bed with a book — paper or e — and started. Reading. Read. Ing. One word after the next. A sentence. Two sentences. Maybe three. And then … I needed just a little something else. Something to tide me over. Something to scratch that little itch at the back of my mind— just a quick look at email on my iPhone; to write, and erase, a response to a funny Tweet from William Gibson; to find, and follow, a link to a good, really good, article in the New Yorker, or, better, the New York Review of Books (which I might even read most of, if it is that good). Email again, just to be sure.

Where citations come from

xkcd comic - citogenesis

xkcd comic – citogenesis

Librarians Continue To Defend Open Access To The Web

Librarians defend open access because they understand that the application of filters can block valuable information and knowledge.

There is no place quite like a public library, where else can you access resources and information without being pressured by market forces? Where I work, people are still amazed when they drag out wallets and purses to pay for internet access and I just smile and wave them away. It’s a good moment, a warm and fuzzy if you will.

I mention this because it seems that some people take this for granted, some individuals believe that their personal beliefs trump the idea of open access:

Take the Orland Park Public Library, a community library in a suburb southwest of Chicago. Last year, self-identified conservative homeschooling mom Megan Fox launched a campaign to get the library to install filters on its computers after she claims to have seen a man looking at pornography in the library’s adult-only computer lab (the library has a separate, filtered computer lab for children). The library board voted on the issue and decided not to install filters, but to require identification for anyone logging on.

Not satisfied, Fox and her supporters continued to hound the board, often resulting in police being called to heated meetings. She filed so many FOIA requests that the library has had to dedicate two full-time employees to respond to them. She accused the library of covering up an incident of someone looking at child pornography, and she forced a re-vote on the issue by having the Public Access Bureau declare a board meeting illegal because it was held on Lincoln’s birthday.

OK. Pornography is a contentious issue, and rightly should be contained within an adult only environment. I’ve had to speak to a couple of patrons about their viewing material over the years but only in the context that the computers can be viewed by anyone walking by, not in judgement of what they, as adults, choose to view.

This author rightly asserts that whatever political or social values you hold are important but you can’t assert that a public institution has to follow that particular value. Libraries hold a special place, perhaps the last public place where information access is a right untethered to any encroaching political, social or economic obligation. If this is upheld, if this institution is kept strong then our communities will be stronger both democratically and educationally.

Source: Techdirt

CERN seeks help identifying historic images

European nuclear research centre CERN has discovered a trove of untitled images from its archive and is asking for help identifying who and what is going on in them.

Dr Sue Black, who was a key figure in the campaign to save Bletchley Park, where the German Enigma code was broken during World War Two, praised the project.

“It’s so important to archive and share our scientific history. It helps us all to understand the work that has been carried out in the past, which helps us to better understand and appreciate the research that is being carried out today – and to be able to correctly put current research into context,” she told the BBC.

Read more about the caption competition

Image: WikimediaCommons

Generation Open, wikipedia and opening up scholarly research

Wikipedia is an ideal open platform that can allow greater dissemination of scholarly research. Increasing access to this type of information across networks, and not hidden behind paywalls, will allow faster research advances through almost instantaneous access to the latest scholarly output for a greater number of researchers, scientists or policy wonks.

Placing scholarship behind paywalls and copyright restrictions has the effect of relegating new advances in human knowledge to small academic communities. We have previously joined many open access groups to demand that scholarship be not only freely accessible, but also freely reuseable. As more academics allow their work to be shared and used freely, online secondary sources like Wikipedia will play a large role in disseminating the knowledge to more people in new regions and on different devices.

Read more




3 approaches to increase the value of libraries into the future

The future of libraries is an oft discussed topic which lately has been revolving around the rise of the ebook. However David Weinberger argues that libraries can play a greater role in the future of networked information. He outlines three ways in which libraries can turn themselves “inside out” to reveal the value of what librarians can bring via a rich tradition and experience with information systems.

The best way to enable the world’s innovators to inculcate library knowledge in every niche of the ecosystem is to provide them with access to everything that libraries know (short of violating privacy rules or norms, of course). To do so, we must make it easy for developers to write applications that put library knowledge to use and easy for sites to integrate library knowledge into their own offerings.

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Watch this multi-billion-dollar industry evaporate overnight

Academic journal publishers have long held a traditional gatekeeper role in the dissemination of research information, however this was an easier position to hold when those publications were paper based, and the costs inherent in the creating of these publications justified a kind of hallowed authority. The promise of networked knowledge, and the delivery medium of the Net allows a better system to disseminate research publications. Faster, cheaper and can come with instantaneous social/community feedback. There is still a stigma attached , or rather there is still a historical acceptance that print equals authenticity ad its a point that David Weinbereger hammers home in his book, Too Big to Know. He argues that the “old system” waiting for publication in those traditionally esteemed publications, that can only peer review and publish so much per year, is actually becoming a greater stumbling block to the advancement of knowledge rather than a guide. By embracing the network, and realising its benefits (faster, cheaper, instant review) knowledge can spread faster and therefore be of more benefit to everyone rather than the pursuit of scientific glorification or the pursuit of profit.

In  this article the author argues that the old system is about to be disrupted by the idea of “open publication” of research papers. They can’t even hide behind the “peer review” equals authority argument as it has been shown that there is an issue with the Reproducibility of results. The case made for the profit motive is easily sketched:

Both companies boast margins in excess of 35 percent, thanks in part to their low cost of content production. Scientists who want to publish the results of their research submit their manuscripts to these publishers’ journals (free); other scientists review those papers to assess their credibility and quality (free); and then the journals publish the papers, selling subscriptions to universities and corporations who need them (definitely not free). Journal subscriptions are an enormous cost for academic libraries. As of 2012, Harvard University was spending $3.75 million annually on journal subscriptions. Other, less-well-funded libraries spend hundreds of thousands a year, and have had to drop many subscriptions because the costs are so high — and rising.

from VentureBeat


It a captive market where scientists in order to secure funding, tenure, respectability need these publishers to legitimise their work. Work that is really for the benefit of all humanity. What could go wrong?



Educating via Minecraft

If you have kids, Mincraft and an internet connection then you might want to check out this.

Minecraft in education is growing phenomenon – and people are jumping on board to see how they can integrate Minecraft into the learning cultures of their schools.

Minecraft is a sandbox type game that allows its users to construct things in a 3d block-like environment. Gameplay breaks down into two modes: Survival, where one is dropped into a generated environment and the player must try and survive by crafting items and mining resources. Players need to find food, defeat monsters (mobs) etc. The other mode: Creative, is a God-type mode where the player can build their own environments with all the tools and resources available.

This article discusses a few projects that are using the Minecraft environment to teach kids digital literacy, communication, design, media. Including:

The Massively @ jokaydia Guild Website –  a community supported by –  provides kids and parents with games-based spaces to learn, collaborate and play! The project is designed for kids aged 4-16yrs who are interested in gaining digital media skills, exploring their creativity and developing online social skills. We are currently using the video game Minecraft to support a safe, whitelisted server and a range of activities which encourage kids to choose their own playful learning pathways and adventures.




What Could Have Entered the Public Domain on January 1, 2014?

Under the law that existed until 1978 . . . Works from 1957       

The books On the Road, Atlas Shrugged, and The Cat in the Hat, the films The Bridge on the River Kwai, Funny Face, and The Prince and the Showgirl, the play Endgame (“Fin de Partie”), and more. . .

Current US law extends copyright for 70 years after the date of the author’s death, and corporate “works-for-hire” are copyrighted for 95 years after publication. But prior to the 1976 Copyright Act (which became effective in 1978), the maximum copyright term was 56 years – an initial term of 28 years, renewable for another 28 years. Under those laws, works published in 1957 would enter the public domain on January 1, 2014, where they would be “free as the air to common use.” (Mouse over any of the links below to see gorgeous cover art from 1957.) Under current copyright law, we’ll have to wait until 2053. And no published works will enter our public domain until 2019. The laws in Canada and the EU are different – thousands of works are entering their public domains on January 1.

via LISnews and here

In Australia the basic term of copyright is +70 years beyond the death of the author.



N.Y. Public Library Plans Face-to-Face ‘Classes’ for MOOC Students

In a pilot program with Coursera, the New York Public Library plans to organize meet-ups at which people taking massive open online courses can gather and discuss the courses with help from “trained facilitators.”

The partnership is part the MOOC company’s effort to build an infrastructure for in-person learning around its free online courses. Research has suggested that MOOC students who receive offline help earn higher scores on their assessments.

Coursera is not paying the library to provide this service, says Luke Swarthout, the library’s director of adult-education services. The library plans to foot the bill for weekly discussion groups as part of its own public-service mission, he says, adding: “There’s no money exchanging hands between anybody.”

The budget for the New York City meet-ups has not been determined, but the library is starting small “to gauge interest,” Mr. Swarthout says. It plans to schedule weekly gatherings for “at least a half-dozen classes” this summer, advertising to people in New York who have already signed up for MOOCs. The facilitators will probably be local graduate students, he says, and the meet-ups will be free.

Coursera has been helping organizations establish similar “learning hubs” in a number of locations, mostly outside the United States. The company provided The Chronicle some data points suggesting that students who participate in face-to-face meet-ups at learning hubs complete its courses at significantly higher rates than do typical MOOC students, although the data have not been studied independently.


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