Monthly Archives: September 2005

Congress Abandons WikiConstitution | The Onion – America’s Finest News Source

(Spoof)Open Constitution
Interesting concept…

Technorati tags: , ,


Sur la bonne voix?

Skype se tourne vers les services vocaux. Peut-être l’avénement de cette intégration technologique autour de la voix? La voix, comme interface, a son importance. Mais elle nécessite certains traitements (reco, TTS…). Reste à voir ce qui va se passer dans le domaine.
N’empêche, l’influence Skype, qui est désormais un grand nom, saurait se faire sentir.


(Spoof) Unwarranted “High Fives”

Seventy-Two Percent Of High Fives Unwarranted | The Onion – America’s Finest News Source
Even the alternatives are often considered unwarranted. Been criticized for over-using the thumbs-up myself. Although hissed “yessss,” with or without associated fist-pulling, still carries enough weight in specific situations.

Could be linked to other changes in non-verbal communication.


Trends in Currency Exchange Rates

FXGraph – Graphical display of currency rates
Been having fun looking at trends between the Canadian Dollar (CAD), the Swiss Franc (CHF), the Euro (EUR), and the US Dollar (USD). There really are some clear patterns and it’d be illuminating to see those charts labelled with major events.


(Spoof)Petrotheism 9/14/05

An animation, by Mark Fiore.


Guardian Unlimited Politics | Comment | Christopher Davis: The frontier continent

Guardian Unlimited Politics | Comment | Christopher Davis: The frontier continent

To regard religion in Africa in these terms is to put their religion where our politics should be. Our error begins with the place in our imaginations that we force Africa to occupy. We are subject to ‘African exceptionalism’: a sense that Africa is so different, so impossible to organise, that any undertaking is practically pointless.

Strong words…


World’s Newest Strongest Beer

German brews world's strongest beer – Food Inc. – MSNBC.com

Schneider expects the holders of the world's strongest beer, the Boston Beer Company, to put up a fight.'I'm pretty sure the Americans have something up their sleeve.'

This is getting interesting. American and German attitudes toward beer.


(Spoof)Evolution Week on the Daily Show

First Show: History of Evolution
Quite anthropological, as it turns out…


Journalism and Span

Listened to a podcast version of a radio show with New York Times correspondent John Burns.

Though he has won the Pulitzer prize twice, he still has interesting things to say… Still displayed a few journalistic ticks, but fairly interesting.

And the New York Times attracts some attention. Of course, there’s been a number of major events surrounding the New York Times in the last few years. Some see the New York Times in a separate class, either a “good” newspaper or as the “straw man” what’s wrong with journalism. No matter which view is taken, journalism as a whole is changing.

Been maybe a bit harsh on journalists but it’s more a matter of problems inherent to journalism rather than a problem with journalists themselves. On the Daily Show recently, host Jon Stewart compared journalists to eight year-old children playing soccer without knowing about positions. They all scramble for the ball and will follow it around. Maybe journalism as a game is played with those rules: go for the ball, no matter what. A fair deal has been said about the short attention span of “The Media” or “The People” (especially US citizens). Reliance on “news” («actualité») pretty much implies such a short attention span. Of course, historians work on the past and there’s no way to know the future so people should focus on the present. Fair enough. But it makes for little analysis. What counts as “in-depth coverage” in journalism rarely includes any real analysis beyond conclusions taken out of context from actual analysis. The very format of a journalistic medium makes it difficult for any long-term reflection.

There’s an interesting relationship between academics and journalists. As “experts,” academics may be interviewed by journalists. As messengers, journalists may be a source for academics. But the division of labor is fairly strict and might become stricter in some respects. In both cases, there might be a cult of personality (imagine Steven Pinker with Larry King…). There’s certainly a notion of prestige associated with authority.

The ‘Net takes part in important changes in journalism. As a whole. Not just blogging and podcasting or the fact that newspapers and news shows have web pages. The whole Digital Revolution. For one thing, be it in instant messages, chatrooms, emails, or blogs, Internet users are writing a lot. Some might complain that it implies sloppier style on the part of most people. There will always be old curmudgeons. But, clearly, people are active at written communication. Not to be too McLuhanian here but it’s a fundamental difference between communication methods. Those communication processes make people active participants as opposed to passive recipients.

Some apply the concept of a generation gap to any vision of change and will say that younger people have no attention span. A number of them assign video games as either a symbol or even a cause for shorter attention spans. Thing is, those who are really involved in video games can display much longer attention span by playing for several hours straight than those who accuse them of short attention spans, who mostly remain empassive/em for long hours of time. Ah, well…

Then, because there’s a lot of obviously inaccurate information online, a lot of people are able to «faire la part des choses» in adopting a critical stance toward the information they receive. What’s powerful is that some people apply the same critical eye to “The Media,” including prestigious newspapers like the New York Times. Going back to trust and truth, people will trust themselves and trust some of the information they receive instead of simply trusting a source.

Still, many online phenomena reveal even more myopia than most standard journalism. People jump on the newest trend and forget all about it within days. Oh, sure, the ‘Net archives a lot of the instantaneous exchanges that are happening. But the Digital Revolution is more about “Living in the Now” than about developing long-term understanding of slow social processes. A funny exercise is to look at online discussions from 1993–1994. They sound old and quaint. But we’re talking about less than a generation. Are we changing faster than our predecessors? We certainly perceive change differently.


Deep Change in the Media? (Truth and Trust, Information, Knowledge)

Open Source> Blog Archive> Craigslist and Nola.com: Information as News
[Disclaimer: I personally think credentials and authority hinder any quest for knowledge.]

A podcast of a radio show about the aftermath of Katrina giving a jolt to deep changes in journalism and the media.
Journalism might be changing but Christopher Lydon still says, perhaps jokingly, that those who read the New York Times "are the best informed people of the whole bloody universe"…
Some major points were made during the discussion which tags on previous discussions (and associated buzzwords) of "hyperlocal" and "citizen" journalism.
Was mostly interested in comments about trust. From an academic point of view, information cannot be trusted, no matter the source. One always needs to maintain a critical perspective on information. Even a source known to be the most "trustworthy" (say, a world famous leading expert on a specific issue) will make mistakes. Academics also define data as different from fact.
In this radio show and on multiple other occasions, a very populist notion of truth and trust emerges. Information comes from the people and people are in charge of checking information. This notion is very powerful in challenging journalistic notions. It also puts information in a sociological frame. Both Marxian and American.
Comments during this specific show alluded more to a journalistic version of Linus' Law: "Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow." This "law" does relate to peer review and might even represent a stronger form of peer review in which peers are judged for results and not necessarily based on their credentials.
In both cases, the more sociological dimension and the review by peers, the notion of truth and trust coming out of groups of people may curb the cult of personality evidenced by other attitudes towards truth and trust. There might even be a struggle between the personality-based attitude toward authority ("it must be true because so-and-so said it") and the value of "distributed computing" of information and knowledge. ("Distributed" was used in that sense during the radio show and implies decentralization.)
Those very same issues on trust and truth are debated in comparing Wikipedia to Encyclopedia Britannica.

Yes, really, Information Wants To Be Free (as in Speech).


Learning New Words: Monopsony (Apple v. Recording Industry)

Nivi : Steve Jobs to Studios: I Got the Power!
Ok, I admit, I didn’t know that word.


Replacement for Nicotine?

Wired News: Smoke Breaks Boost Memory
As is often the case, a rather inappropriate title for a fairly interesting article. Research on the functions of nicotinic receptors in the brain and alternatives to nicotine which activate those receptors.


(Spoof) Google Purge

Google Announces Plan To Destroy All Information It Can’t Index | The Onion – America’s Finest News Source
Even The Onion is going at it. Google’s reputation has certainly been changing recently.


Presentation on Blogging

BlogPresentation1
and
BlogPresentation2
These are the Wiki pages from the presentation at IUSB which started me on this whole blogging thing. Had wanted to blog for a while but was afraid it’d take too much time.
Some parts of these Wiki pages are specific to IUSB and/or to Expression Engine, but the overall presentation could be useful to other would-be bloggers.

Ken Smith is known at IUSB for his blogging activities. He integrates those with academic and community activities.


Neat and Geeky

Using Wikipedia and the Yahoo API to give structure to flat lists
Kind of proof-of-concept-ish, but neat nonetheless.


Sorry to Cut You Off

In my family, conversations often include overlapping interventions by different speakers. One person will start a sentence before somebody else has finished their sentence. This is a well-known phenomenon in different speech communities and studies in both ethnography of communication and conversation analysis have a lot to say about this. Oftentimes, this strategy is perceived, by those who use it, as active engagement in the discussion and/or as a way to “get the ball rolling” by bringing the interlocutor’s point forward in different directions. To those whose communicative rules discourage overlap, however, this conversational style may sound rude as a way for one person to cut off somebody else. In fact, some people sound so eager to preempt the cycle of turn-taking that it might sound almost aggressive.
In reverse, those of us who enjoy overlapping conversations may feel non-overlapping sequential turn-taking as “stiff” and overly formal, not to mention boring and unchallenging.
Again, all of this is well-known textbook case. Some speech communities in the US are well-known for this. I’m not exactly sure my family is representative of Quebecker attitudes toward communication in this respect as the most extreme examples I’ve been involved often took a style more representative of European French-speakers than Quebecker but most comments I’ve heard about this have come from non-Quebecker and I get the impression overlapping conversations are at least tolerated by most Quebecker.

One reason I’ve been thinking about this is that I’m often self-conscious in conversations with non-Quebeckers about not “holding the floor” for too long and about making sure other people have a chance to speak up. Usually, it works, but it can be hard and I feel relieved when I talk with people who share this conversation style so Ican just “be myself” and ride on the tail of someone else’s intervention knowing that other people will do the same, without any need to apologize. As my wife comes from a community in which overlapping interventions are less favoured than in my family, these occasions don’t present themselves too often.

Another reason I’ve been thinking about this is podcasting. Yes, podcasting has been on my mind lately. In this particular case, it’s the difference between “real” podcasts and podcast versions of radio broadcast in terms of time constraints. And although I don’t really like to do it, I’ll enter rant mode for a little bit. Feel free to react if you read this. 😉
One podcast to which I’ve been paying attention is taken from a live broadcast of an “international” (though US-centric and even very regional) public radio program. Roles are set in advance: professional host, prestigious guests, friendly callers, and precious listeners. As is typical of many production of the so-called “mainstream media” (yes, institutionalised public radio fits as a mainstream medium, at least in production mode), the host is positioned as not only the focal point of the conversation and the representative of the audience but as a kind of omnipotent expert on subjects mentioned on the show. In other words, the host should be (and often is) able to respond to every single intervention made on the show. An authoritative tone helps as do some quotes from classics which listeners are expected to know.
Listeners are put in a position of comfort. They can correspond with the show’s team through different means, including calling the show’s line, at which point they gain a new status. From “anonymous generic listeners out there” (allegedly anywhere the network’s affiliate may broadcast), they become someone, with a first name and a location (city and state). The host will often engage in a very brief small-talk session with a caller, as if to increase familiarity (already implied in the use of the caller’s first name, rarely reciprocated by the use of the host’s first name). Then, the caller is graciously allowed one intervention, expected to be a short comment or question. As can be expected, several callers try to squeeze in this intervention more than a simple comment or question and may even have no specific question or comment for the host and guests. If the intervention does conclude with a comment, the host will graciously thank the caller, reiterate the show’s phone number and go to another call. If the caller asks a specific question, the host then relays that question in streamlined form to one or more of the guests. Once the guests have spoken, the host may, on occasion, ask the caller if the responses were satisfactory. In the negative, the host may say that the issue is very interesting and should be raised later in the show. Standard practice.
Standard practice is also the fact that callers are very rigidly timed out to make way not only for the guests’ interventions but for those “breaks” around which the show seems to be based. A recent example had the host apologize for cutting off the caller at the exact time the caller was mentioning an important issue for that specific show. It was so important, in fact, that the host reused the issue later in the show, trying to get different guests to address it (nobody did). The caller was now just a name and had allegedly hung up. The host, though open to the caller’s intervention, had prevented the interaction to go further.
Obviously, the host is not responsible for the time constraints of broadcast radio. At most, the show is in charge of apologizing for the time constraints. “I’m really sorry to cut you off like that but we need to go to the break. Thanks a lot for calling!” In a context in which overlaps are discouraged, the host bears the burden of the show’s embedded rudeness. Given the importance of politeness in the US, the pressure of appearing rude must make hosting a radio show “tough work.”
Also, callers are the only ones to be cut off. Esteemed guests, frequently praised by the host (who then serves a much different role), are only allowed to make interventions which will fit in the show’s rigid structure. All par for the course? Oh, probably. But “it doesn’t need to be that way.”

A major advantage of podcasts is to be relatively unrestricted in terms of time limits. In this respect, they often resemble open-ended interviews typical of ethnographic research. The “host” of a podcast may get “guests” to talk as much or as little as they want. Granted, radio interview formats are ingrained enough in some people’s habits that it might be difficult to move away from the rigid time-constrained format into the scary unregulated world of open conversations.


Canada’s Angloest Cities/Villes les plus anglophones du Canada

M’amusais avec ce tableau de StatCan, à trier par différentes colonnes. C’est assez notoires que les villes les plus exclusivement anglophones du Canada soient à Terre-Neuve-Labrador et en Nouvelle-Écosse. Pour les villes les plus exclusivement francophones, elles sont au Québec, comme on aurait pu le deviner.
C’est ça, des statistiques arbitraires.

Was shuffling this table around and noticed that the most exclusively English-speaking cities of Canada are in Newfoundland-Labrador and in Nova Scotia. Unsurprisingly, the most exclusively French-speaking cities are in Quebec.
Yup. Your random stat factoid for the day.