This comment (and phrase) from Bruce Schneier struck a chord with me.
NYU professor Helen Nissenbaum gave an excellent lecture at Brown University last month, where she rebutted those who think that we should not regulate data collection, only data use: something she calls “big data exceptionalism.” Basically, this is the idea that collecting the “haystack” isn’t the problem; it what is done with it that is………Under this framework, the problem with wholesale data collection is not that it is used to curtail your freedom; the problem is that the collector has the power to curtail your freedom. Whether they use it or not, the fact that they have that power over us is itself a harm.
Of course, as Alan Kay said, we need ‘big ideas’ rather than assuming ‘big data’ will do our thinking for us. This is not to deny that large data sets are not useful, nor that they do not allow you to answer questions, you might not have been able to do so before. But A/B testing only gets you so far. And beware technicians who want to mould nature to their method, not vice versa; or change what meaningful consent means.
‘The rising prices of textbooks appears to be reaching a tipping point, the professor adds. The latest US Census Bureau statistics show that textbook prices increased more than 800 per cent from 1978 to 2014, more than triple the cost of inflation and more than the rate of increase of college tuition.’
Nice paean to David Attenborough, with the above title. There was a time when it is said that people like Jacob Bronowski were denied academic advance in the UK because he has appeared on TV. How the world of impact has changed. But just as many of us get excited by the power of the web to broaden access and change higher-ed, we should remember that some of the most potent educational agents of the twentieth century, got there before us. I am thinking cheap paperbacks (Pelican); the BBC; the OU on the BBC; and the movement throughout the 1930’s and beyond for prominent academics to reach out to that large part of the population who had been denied access to higher ed. If we want to build large scale resources for higher ed, we could do worse than look at the extraordinary teams the BBC put together. So, please don’t start lectures with those dismal learning outcomes, but just look at how Bond movies grab the attention and focus of their audience. Or just look at the Ascent of Man.
And not just because you have it in your pocket. Sean Baker has filmed a whole movie about ‘two miniskirted transgender prostitutes on the hunt for a woman who’s had an affair with one of their pimps’ with ‘just’ an iPhone. Below is an image my daughter Elizabeth Rees took, again, just with an iPhone. The subject matter is not the same, the father would add.
10 ideas on use of much maligned TALKING HEAD videos in online learning. Including: ‘Do NOT have some small, postage stamp size video embedded in the corner or anywhere else for that matter’.
I know, I just couldn’t resist another Catholic church reference. At least those Christian Brothers taught me a thing or two.
Fei-Fei Li, a Stanford University professor who is an expert in computer vision, said one of her Ph.D. candidates had an offer for a job paying more than $1 million a year, and that was only one of four from big and small companies. On the candidate’s list, one of the biggest technology companies was ranked lowest, in terms of both money and excitement, she noted dryly.
NYT. Time will tell.
I had previously posted Alan Kay’s nice slide to the effect that ‘we need big meaning rather than big data’, but here is a nice article by the ‘security guru’ Bruce Schneider on the dangers of collecting and storing data:
Data is a toxic asset. We need to start thinking about it as such, and treat it as we would any other source of toxicity. To do anything else is to risk our security and privacy.
In health and in education, expect major data breeches.
From the Chronicle of Higher Education.[via Audrey Watters].
Nice post from Donald Clark:10 ways MOOCs have forced Universities into a rethink.
One morsel of clickbait, which just happens to be true, is:
A common question when MOOCs are mentioned is, “How do you monetise MOOCs? It’s usually delivered with a ‘Gotcha’ tone. The financial and business models in education are complex. However, we can be sure of one thing, the current University system can’t monetise itself. The whole structure is propped up by state spending and huge loan books.
I had thought I ‘got’ Open as in terms of OER, Creative commons and the like, but clearly I am missing something (and in truth I have suspected I am missing something, for quite a while). This is from Stephen Downes:
Your new word for the day is ‘copyfraud’. Here’s the definition from Wikipedia: “Copyfraud refers to false copyright claims by individuals or institutions with respect to content that is in the public domain. Such claims are wrongful because material that is not copyrighted is free for all to use, modify and reproduce.” In the current case, copyfraud also applies to materials that are license CC-by. As Peter Murray-Rust writes in the GOAL mailing list, “Springer took all the images published in its journals and stamped COPYRIGHT SPRINGER over all of them and offered them for sale at 60 USD. This included all my publications in BioMedCentral, a CC-BY Open Access journal…” In another post he notes that Oxford University Press is “charging large prices for re-use of CC-BY articles (e.g. 400 USD for use in an academic course pack for 100 students.”
Clearly my idea of what CC-BY meant is wrong. There are other issues however I don’t understand. You use material from the web marked CC-BY-SA in a lecture or video that is hosted on a private site (say a university VLE). How does this work?
Marvin Minsky has died. There is a wonderful description in Steven Levy’s ‘Hackers’ about Minsky and The Tech Model Railway Club and Midnight Computing Wiring Society at MIT. It is inconceivable now to imagine a university tolerating such a state of affairs: the state of affairs that was key to the development of the modern world. Rebellion and discovery are often of a piece.
The people in charge of the lab, particularly Marvin Minsky, were very understanding about these things. Marvin, as the hackers called him (they invariably called each other by last name, knew that the hacker ethic was what kept the lab productive, and he was not going to tamper with one of the crucial components of hackers. On the other hand, there was Stu Nelson, constantly at odds with the rules, a hot potato who got hotter when he was eventually caught red-handed at phone hacking. Something have to be done. So Minsky called up his good friend Ed Friedkin, and told him he had this problem with an incredibly brilliant 19 year old who had a penchant for getting into sophisticated mischief. Could Fredkin hire him?
Stewart Brand’s description nails it:
I think that hackers — dedicated, innovative, irreverent computer programmers — other most interesting and effective body of intellectuals since the framers of the US Constitution….. No other group that I know of has set out to liberate a technology and succeeded. They not only did so against the active disinterest of corporate America, their success forced corporate America to adopt their style in the end. The quietest of all the ‘60s subcultures has emerged as the most innovative and powerful.
Professor Nicholas Negroponte, co-founder and chairman emeritus of the Media Lab, says:
“Marvin talked in riddles that made perfect sense, were always profound and often so funny that you would find yourself laughing days later.”
And from the Economist’s obituary.
He also, almost by the way, did other things, such as inventing a confocal scanning microscope and robotic “seeing hands” for surgery. His own intelligence continually leapt between postulations and speculations, all delivered with an endearing smile: what a thinking machine would have to notice when it drove down the highway, whether robots could be made tiny enough to beat up aphids or dexterous enough to put a pillow in a pillowcase, what would happen if you wrote “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik” to a different rhythm. Students flocked to his evening classes, never quite knowing what mental challenge he would toss out next.
Remember those compare and contrast questions (UC versus Crohns; DLE versus LP etc.). Well, look at these two quotes from articles in the same edition of Nature.
The first from the tsunami of papers showing that ‘Something in rotten in the state of
Denmark Science’ — essentially that the Mertonian norms for science have been well and truly trampled over.
Journals charge authors to correct others’ mistakes. For one article that we believed contained an invalidating error, our options were to post a comment in an online commenting system or pay a ‘discounted’ submission fee of US$1,716. With another journal from the same publisher, the fee was £1,470 (US$2,100) to publish a letter. Letters from the journal advised that “we are unable to take editorial considerations into account when assessing waiver requests, only the author’s documented ability to pay”.
Discrete Analysis’[the journal] costs are only $10 per submitted paper, says Gowers; money required to make use of Scholastica, software that was developed at the University of Chicago in Illinois for managing peer review and for setting up journal websites. (The journal also relies on the continued existence of arXiv, whose running costs amount to less than $10 per paper). A grant from the University of Cambridge will cover the cost of the first 500 or so submissions, after which Gower hopes to find additional funding or ask researchers for a submission fee.
Well done the Universities of Cambridge and Cornell (arXiv). For science, the way forward is clear. But for much clinical medicine, including much of my own field, we need to break down the barriers between publication and posting online information that others may find useful. This cannot happen until the financial costs approximate to zero.
There is an article in the FT highlighting the woes of Pearson, and the wisdom of selling the FT and the Economist. My interest is in the vigour and prospects for textbooks in a digital age, a topic that feature highly in the article. As some other commentators state, maybe we are going to see a race to the bottom with margins being slashed as ‘free’ but poor quality becomes the norm. Just like what has happened to most quality journalism. There are of course alternatives, if only the universities would step up.
“Did you know that this is the 30th anniversary of the very first fully online course?” –
“A very simple explanation is: In corporate, they have money”
Many big companies also pay for corporate learning services to administer and track internal programs like sexual harassment training. That has already led some academic-focused start-ups to rethink their audiences.
“A very simple explanation is: In corporate, they have money,” said Josh Coates, the chief executive of Instructure, an ed tech company that has broadened its strategy.
In 2011, Instructure began marketing a learning management system, called Canvas, to universities and school districts. Last year, the company expanded its business into employee-training platforms for corporations. Mr. Coates said he expected that Instructure would eventually derive much of its revenue from companies, which pay higher fees than schools.
“If they can make an employee 2 percent better by paying $50 for corporate training, they are going to do that in a heartbeat,” Mr. Coates said. “A school can’t do that kind of calculation. It’s not an obvious return on investment.”
In time, the smartphone will become the device of choice for knowledge acquisition, news, training, general education, heath and transaction services. In Africa alone, 400 million smartphones will be activated in the next four years — most of those running Android.
frederic.filloux in the Monday Note.
I have just been browsing on the new FT beta site. Coupled with Medium, quartz and the Intercept as examples, we have eventually rediscovered what the typographers learned hundreds of years ago [even look at my homepage!] Text, benefits from space; and narrow text blocks work even better. Rich DeMillo doesn’t follow, but the content more than makes up. He is blogging again now that his new book has been published. Recommended.
Great video from Bruce Schneier (in the Economist’s words, ‘the security guru’). A number of reasons for posting. First, re his comments on 23andme, we will see an attempt to link individual medical records with state security. Whereas once, society would demarcate safe-havens (journalist enquiry, legal representation, medical care), this may no longer hold in the future. In the UK, I doubt any online medical records are private in the sense that we once understood that term. The second reason, is of course that although Schneier’s background was in cryptography, it is his breadth of knowledge as a public intellectual that makes listening to him so compelling, and at the same time shines a not so flattering light on too much of UK academia. Third, his views on social change are nuanced — but still he is an optimist. A great summary of one of the key issues of our time.
Just because some colleagues asked:
To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first publication of the word “hypertext,” Gigaom talks to Ted Nelson, who coined the term and then introduced it in a 1965 paper for the Association for Computing Machinery.
What kind of reaction did you get from others?
No one, absolutely no one that I met, could imagine interactive computer screens. Whereas I could see them with my eyes closed, practically touch them and make them respond. It was very sensual.
And all during the 1960s and 1970s I was trying to tell people what interactive screens would be like, in my writings and my talks. But no one got it.
When pilgrims came to San Leonardo he would offer them—as the monks of old had done—a bed for the night, a share of his meagre dinner and a glass of the herb grappahe distilled himself. In the evening he would wander away both to pray, and to allow himself, twice a week, half an hour to pray with others on his mobile phone—for he was not entirely cut off from the traffic of the world.