Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Social Networking Technologies

I've been developing a few lists of on-line tools for Informational Politics researchers and the Digital Humanities from various listservs that I'm on. Here are some recommendations for people to check out:

Oxford Internet Institute / Berkman Center Tools List:

1) Tools listed at the Oxford Internet Institute (July 2007): http://toujoursdeja.blogspot.com/2007/08/tools-for-humanities-researchers.html

Social Networking and Tracking Tools:

1) Infoscape Lab’s list of research centers and tools (including the Webivore): http://www.infoscapelab.ca/node/311
2) Pajek: http://iv.slis.indiana.edu/lm/lm-pajek.html
3) Builtwith.com: Identifies what codes are used in creating a website.
4) Trackmenot: http://mrl.nyu.edu/~dhowe/trackmenot
5) TechPresident.com: offers some interesting visualizations.
6) Dapper: http://www.dapper.net/
7) Many Eyes: http://services.alphaworks.ibm.com/manyeyes/
8) Dopplr: http://www.dopplr.com/main/login
9) Tubemogul: http://www.tubemogul.com/
10) Issuecrawler: http://www.govcom.org/Issuecrawler_instructions.htm and their tool section --http://tools.issuecrawler.net/beta/
11) Presidential Watch: http://presidentialwatch08.com/index.php/map/
12) Web Scraping Tool: http://www.merchantos.com/makebeta/php/scraping-links-with-php/
13) Gregarius (Blog tracker): http://gregarius.net/

Digital Humanities

1) Textual Analysis Portal (TAPoR) of Tools: http://tapor.humanities.mcmaster.ca/
2) NORA: http://noraproject.org/
3) Mandala: http://mandala.humviz.org/

Concept Mapping Software: From the ComPrac Listserv

1) John D. Smith’s del.icio.us list: http://del.icio.us/smithjd/mindmap
2) Cmap: http://cmap.ihmc.us/
3) Explore Brain: www.thebrain.com
4) MindJet MindManager (compatibility with the MS office products):
5) Mindmeister: http://www.mindmeister.com/maps/show/1171895
6) PersonalBrain
7) Freemind

The Real News

Also, if you haven’t heard about this new media initiative check it out. They’re hoping to launch before the next Presidential election.


Monday, 17 September 2007

POL507: Power and Change in Technological Society

Please feel free to respond to your weekly tutorial questions at this site. Simply select the hyperlink for the "Comments" option at the end of this entry to post your response. Follow the instructions there, and you will receive a confirmation that your comment has been sent to the administrator (me, in other words).

If the answer is correct and well written, I will gladly post it for full marks. Remember to use APA or MLA style, and support your answer with statements from the original text where possible. Also, remember to bring a print copy to use in the tutorial seminar each week.

Saturday, 8 September 2007

POG330 - Section One - Tutorial Seminar Questions

Please feel free to respond to your weekly tutorial questions at this site. Simply select the hyperlink for the "Comments" option at the end of this entry to post your response. Follow the instructions there, and you will receive a confirmation that your comment has been sent to the administrator (me, in other words).

If the answer is correct and well written, I will gladly post it for full marks. Remember to use APA or MLA style, and support your answer with statements from the original text where possible. Also, remember to bring a print copy to use in the tutorial seminar each week.

Saturday, 25 August 2007

Congress of the Humanities 2007: CCA Conference

I recently attended the CCA Conference 2007 in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan as a part of the Congress of the Humanities. The conference definitely demonstrated the vibrant nature of Communication scholarship in Canada. The field is alive and well. Most panels had an average of 15 – 20 people at each, despite having concurrent panels, and that was also with the competing nice weather during the latter half of the conference. A strong contingent from the York/Ryerson Joint Programme in Communication and Culture was also evident, which demonstrates the quality of research coming from our Programme. I jotted down some notes here on some highlights from some of the sessions I attended:

International Communication and Development: Beyond Mimicry?
Session 1: Communication : entre l’international et le local / Communication : Between the Global and the Local

Chair / Président(e) : Christian Agbobli

> David Harmes, Joint Graduate Program in Communication & Culture, Ryerson & York Universities
International Broadcasting and Political Development in Afghanistan: A Case for Diasporic Nationalism

David Harmes gave a great summary of Canadian efforts in Afghanistan to build radio communities. His firsthand experience on the ground there always offers an interesting and critical view into the Canadian militaries efforts there. He noted the efforts to help democratize the media there, and have voices from the local community use the airwaves to improve their lives, while very much under the threat of openly sharing who they are on the air.

> Gordon Gow, University of Alberta
Hi-Tech Dreams, Local Tech Realities: Achieving Socially Sustainable Tsunami Warning in Sri Lanka

Gordon Gow’s research was a highlight of the conference for me. His work is very practical and explained some of the main issues in building sustainable communication systems to support a Tsunami warning network in Sri Lanka. The project he was working on used a variety of international Internet, cell phone messaging services, and satellite services. Some of the issues the project faced included the fact that there was a limited budget and that many agrarian societies do not feel the need to maintain technology. The diffusion or monetization of the technology was not a priority for many of the communities.

He offered the example that many communities stopped using their communication devices after the batteries died, and they did not have money to buy new ones or did not know how to replace the old ones. One method that definitely helped people to protect themselves was through shared narratives of how to deal with a Tsunami (in other words, good old fashion word of mouth). On one island a narrative had been passed down through the generations that if the waves in the ocean started to pull back from the shore, then you should run for cover. Nearly everyone survived the Tsunami on that island, except for a mentally challenged hippopotamus. Meanwhile an island only a few miles away had a high death rate, and did not possess this shared narrative.

Needless to say, sometimes technologies are not the solutions required, and in communities of low technological uptake, they have been using stories to educate the people on how to prepare against potential Tsunamis and other natural disasters.

> Jeremy Shtern, PhD, Département de communication, Université de Montréal
Communication for Development as Subject for Global Public Policy, as Site of International Institutional Reform: The First Internet Governance Forum (IGF)

Jeremy Shtern’s insights into the slow paced world of WSIS’s offspring the IGF were informative and helpful for understanding how the United States is still waffling on how to democratize the Internet internationally.

Political Economy of Communication, Cultural Industries and Public Policies
Économie politique de la communication, industries culturelles et politiques publiques

Chair / Président(e) : Abu Bhuiyan

> Jeremy Morris, PhD Student, Communications Studies, McGill University
MySpace.com: Political Economy and Social Network Sites

Jeremy continues to do some interesting stuff studying MySpace and other music sharing websites. I wish he’d do some more political economic studies of these sites, but he knows that. :-)

> Abu Bhuiyan, PhD Candidate, School of Communication, Simon Fraser University
Internet: A Global Public Good or an Enabler of Digital Divides?

He raised some pertinent questions about the Internet, but he tended to played fast and loose in diagnosing the digital divide by arguing that net neutrality issues could be solved by creating public transmission lines. Most people argued with him that public transmission lines had been lost a longtime ago to the service providers.

> Jaleen Grove, Independent Scholar, Ryerson University
The Impact of Illustrators’ Online Communities on Recent Visual Communication

This panel had a bit of everything: music, the Internet, and a return to static images. Jaleen’s work offered a great summary of illustration history, which many in the room may not have been familiar with, but were definitely educated about after they left.

Status of knowledge / Statut du savoir

Chair / Président(e) : Darin Barney

> Darin Barney, Professor, McGill University
You Asked for It, You Got It: The Politicization of Science and Technology in Canada

Barney's work was on the four main ways Science is under attack by the Conservatives in Canada. It is a part of a larger work that he is currently developing, and he looked at recent changes with NSERC and SSHRC among other things. Always an engaging speaker, and I definitely will have to track to the copy of this work afterward.

> Meera Nair, Doctoral Candidate, School of Communication, Simon Fraser University
Fair Dealing: Resisting Monopolies of Knowledge

Nair offered a well-researched review of Fair Dealing laws in Canada. I wish she focused on newer versions of these laws, especially in terms of digital issues, like Bill C-60, but of course time limited the talk.

> Paul Tiessen, Professor, English and Film Studies, Wilfrid Laurier University
Extending McLuhan: Sheila Watson and Media Theory in Canada, 1957 – 87

Tiessan’s work described the theme of amputation in Sheila Watson’s work, and provided a little known (by me) contrast to McLuhan’s work on the amplification of the human senses through technology.

Beyond those sessions, I attended my own, of course, which was another mixed bag that ended with my discussion of the developing "Narrative Network" theory, and the use of the spectrum to think through analytic problems. This paper is the developing methods section of my dissertation, and I think it was probably too abstract for the time of day that I presenting -- after lunch when everyone has the blood rush to their bellies:

Mouvements sociaux, médias, TIC et résistance / Social movements, media, ICTs and resistance

Chair / Président(e) : Dale Bradley

> Marian van der Zon, Instructor, Media Studies, Malaspina University College
Beyond Bridging: Community Creation through Micro-Radio

van der Zon's talking highlighted the activist nature of Micro-Radio, and offered a very practical how-to guide into this world.

> Dale Bradley, Professor, Communications, Popular Culture, and Film, Brock University
Hacking Craft: Design, Labour, and Resistance in the Open Source Software Movement and Morris’ Arts and Crafts Movement.

Bradley created a very laid back atmosphere for this panel, and his research on the Open Source Software movement provided some historical grounding for this panel. His looking back definitely complemented van der Zon's practical research and my leap into the theoretical stratosphere.

> Peter Malachy Ryan, PhD Candidate, Communication and Culture, York/Ryerson Universities
Network Aesthetics: Evaluating the Rhetoric of Distributed Structures

I usually feel that when I’m talking about theory that I’m far too abstract, and I have to cover too much information to properly engage with complex debates, so in this talk I came prepared with some diagrams and summaries. I had presented an earlier version of this paper in Ottawa at the Future of Communication Studies Conference, and I received some great feedback there. John Durham Peters argued at that time that he didn't see the power of narrative as being able to re-situate politics in the current digital age, calling that attitude "provincial". He saw Communication Studies becoming more rooted in the technological, with network-centric power continuing to take centre stage, and he looked to Germany for some of the more interesting research that is currently being done. In my research I am critical of Kittler's work, because I think the network can only take us so far. If people do care about the messages that are circulating on the network, there can be no consensual power. As such, I try to move away from Kittler's discourse networks to narrative networks, which focus on the subject and agency, without forgetting the materialities of the network.

Sunday, 19 August 2007

Back On-line...

Well, I’m back from two months of intensive work and travel. I started in Saskatoon for the Congress of the Humanities, then off to Edmonton for the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (STLHE) Conference, then to Victoria for the Digital Humanities Summer Institute, then to Boston for the Oxford Internet Institute held at Harvard University this year, and after a quick vacation in calm, sedate New York City, I’m finally back home in quiet, unpolluted Toronto (yeah, right).

Whew… I need a vacation from my vacation!

Well, my plan is take the next week and write one hour each day about these events from the large swath of notes I have. So to begin, here are some links to photos taken by other participants at these events:


1) Oxford Internet Institute / Berkman Center Photos:

2) Digital Humanities Photos:

Monday, 25 June 2007

Guatemala Mining

Congrats to Steven Schnoor for getting your engaging footage on CBC's "On the Map" with Avi Lewis:


I wish they had developed this story a bit more though:


Here's the YouTube Video (up to 45 000 views now) for those who haven't seen it yet:


Friday, 15 June 2007

Infoscape Lab and YouTube Analysis

Jean Burgess on the AoIR Listserv has put together a quick summary of people doing research on YouTube:


Another good discussion on the "Layers of the Net" is also taking place. Here are some of the sources for the "original" discussion of the layers of the net (this list is pasted here more so I don't forget too):

1) Abbate's Inventing the Internet

2) M. A. Padlipsky's The Elements of Networking Style:

3) Yochai Benkler talks about a Physical, Logical and Content layer:

4) The 5 layer TCP/IP model is defined in the early 1970's at ARPA (Vint Cerf):

Cerf, V., and R. Kahn, "A Protocol for Packet Network Intercommunication", IEEE Transactions on Communications, Vol. COM-22, No. 5, pp 637-648, May 1974.

5) The 7 layer OSI model: http://www.comsoc.org/livepubs/50_journals/pdf/RightsManagement_eid=136833.pdf

Here's another book I should read too (from the AoIR list):

Devices of the Soul: Battling for Our Selves in an Age of Machines, by Steve Talbott http://www.knowprose.com/node/17646

Wednesday, 6 June 2007

Congress of the Humanities 2007: Society for Digital Humanities Sessions

At the Congress of the Humanities in Saskatchewan, I attended several sessions at the Society for Digital Humanities (SDH) conference: http://www.sdh-semi.org/conference2007.php. I was actually in Saskatoon to present at Canadian Communication Association sessions, but that didn't stop me from hitting the Digital Humanities and the Canadian Political Science Association conference before I presented later in the week at the CCA. I like to keep up on what is happening in those areas during my spare time, because my MA was in Humanities Computing and I'm now teaching in a Politics Department.

The SDH conference started earlier than the CCA conference, so I was able to see most of its presenters on the last day. The fact that there were no concurrent panels also helped.

Geoffrey Rockwell and Sean Gouglas (who was channeling Stéfan Sinclair because he was unable to attend) described some threats that are facing the Digital Humanities as a developing research field. Google was one of the more pressing threats that were mentioned on a few occasions. Google's ability to create textual tools and their massive server farm are making digitization projects question how to proceed into the future when GoogleBooks is pretty much taking on the project of digitizing everything; however, Google's commercialization imperative limits the tools they are developing, and how public's access to the digitized works are being filtered.

I'm more inclined to believe that this "crisis" narrative is the same one that is facing the Arts, Computer Sciences, and Information Studies, as well as many other newer disciplines and fields as a general malaise of the interdisciplinary shift in the university. The new media shift is placing all fields into technology's house, so to speak. I'm inclined to think what is unique about the Digital Humanities is the community of scholars and their tool platforms. The group of people are the discipline, and the social network is reflected in the tools they create and share -- perhaps the Digital Humanities is one of the first "new" disciplines that reflects the digital social network paradigm shift (like the Association of Internet Researchers), rather than the traditional physical space of a department in a university.

Also, for the moment, Google will most likely keep developing and mostly digitizing the commercial books as their focus, before targeting the Humanities in my opinion. They may have the storage capacity to digitize and save texts, but the process of digitizing books will slow them down for some time, despite their nifty digitizaing machines. Google Analytics may also be offering some textual analysis tools, but I believe the Digital Humanities will always need to develop their own set of tools and be critical of the commercial tools that exist.

Something else that differed in the Digital Humanities Conference from the CCA and CPSA was the fact that I did not hear any talk of supporting Net Neutrality here; however, the support for Open Source code and Open documents was apparent. Geoffrey Rockwell, indeed, ended his talk by emphasizing the opportunity to work with Google so that some the Digital Humanities might be able to coordinate tools that would help in the analysis of literary and artistic texts. This is something the other conferences would never consider.

Again, in contrast, the CPSA is still very traditional in its political science focus, and I saw no informational politics covered at the conference. There were scholars interested in IP Law and Net Neutrality, but this was more attached to SSHRC issues of developing research, not technologically themed papers. This looks like an opportunity for the CPSA to open up their doors to a new generation of research.

Other sessions at the SDH focused on new techniques of annotating texts using database techniques and how to prepare books for digitization. Geoffrey Rockwell's blog covers these sessions well. I found the Gouglas and Rockwell talk to be the most engaging in terms of my own research on narrative networks though.

Sunday, 3 June 2007

Infoscape Lab Media Coverage

The Toronto Star's Susan Delacourt included a nice section in the Saturday paper on the Infoscape Lab's findings from last week: http://www.thestar.com/News/article/220723

Wednesday, 9 May 2007

Suspending Students: Supplement

I guess I could supplement my previous comment with an actual case of student free speech:

York settles with student who was banned over protest
By ELIZABETH CHURCH [Education Reporter]
The Globe and Mail [Toronto]
Tue 8 May 2007, Page A10

YouTube Revenue Sharing

YouTube has started to offer revenue sharing with its prolific original content creators -- see the story here:

Does this mean that Political Parties and Bloggers will now begin to make some money for their actions (or were they already a part of "YouTube's professional content partners")?

Geist on Facebook (in the Toronto Star)

I agree with most of Micheal Geist's Toronto Star article http://www.michaelgeist.ca/content/view/1925/135/; however, I have to quibble with the point concerning the students being suspended. I think the point of their suspension was that their "conversation" was not out of earshot, and what a better time to let them know in life that on-line documents can easily be made public, unlike conversations (unless they are recorded). Also, we do not know the full extent of these students' school files, so that leaves the reason for their suspensions open to some speculation. My point is that all K-12 schools and universities have Student Codes of Conduct, and one of the key components is that students can not make their school look bad.

When I was in high school, I certainly remember students being suspended for things they said in conversations, especially if the school administration was in earshot. I can't see how this is any different, or how it should be a protected part of free speech, especially when education, in many ways, aims to foster civilized and respectful cultural behaviour acceptable for life and success beyond the walls of the institution. In this instance, a warning and an apology might have sufficed, but really the suspension is not something out of line with previous practices given that the students were on a network with the schools name on it. In fact, I can’t think of a better way for students to learn this lesson en masse than a harsh penalty being made to ensure that they understand what the limits and boundaries are of privacy, and also how principles are used to ensure a safe, secure, open and inclusive learning environment.

A story on this issue can be found here: http://www.canada.com/montrealgazette/news/story.html?id=479f0b59-d37a-4797-9aff-b99bf3957fec&k=65802

Sunday, 6 May 2007

New Publications / Summer Plans 2007

I’ve had some great news in the past few weeks. First off, I’ve had a few articles published:

1) Elmer, Greg, Peter Malachy Ryan, Zachary Devereaux, Ganaele Langlois, Fenwick McKelvey, and Joanna Redden. “Election Bloggers: Methods for Determining Political Influence.” First Monday (April 2007): click here.

2) Ryan, Peter Malachy. “Computer Geek Erotica: We know about the Red Pill, but was the Blue Pill Viagra?” Graduate Student Article Competition. Ryerson University, 2007: click here.

Also, my summer is shaping up to be quite full. I’ve been accepted to the following two summer institutes:

1) Oxford Internet Institute at Harvard Berkman Law School:

2) Digital Humanities Summer Institute in Victoria:

In other words, I’m going to be quite busy until the end of July. Of course, now that my Blog is back up and running, I'll write all about it.