Serendipity killed the Internet: Ian Leslie writing in More Intelligent Life
The word that best describes this subtle blend of chance and agency is “serendipity”. It was coined by Horace Walpole, man of letters and aristocratic dilettante. Writing to a friend in 1754, Walpole explained an unexpected discovery he had just made by reference to a Persian fairy tale, “The Three Princes of Serendip”. The princes, he told his correspondent, were “always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things which they were not in quest of…now do you understand Serendipity?” These days, we tend to associate serendipity with luck, and we neglect the sagacity. But some conditions are more conducive to accidental discovery than others.
Today’s world wide web has developed to organise, and make sense of, the exponential increase in information made available to everyone by the digital revolution, and it is amazingly good at doing so. If you are searching for something, you can find it online, and quickly. But a side-effect of this awesome efficiency may be a shrinking, rather than an expansion, of our horizons, because we are less likely to come across things we are not in quest of.
When the internet was new, its early enthusiasts hoped it would emulate the greatest serendipity machine ever invented: the city. The modern metropolis, as it arose in the 19th century, was also an attempt to organise an exponential increase, this one in population. Artists and writers saw it as a giant playground of discovery, teeming with surprise encounters. The flâneur was born: one who wanders the streets with purpose, but without a map.
Most city-dwellers aren’t flâneurs, however. In 1952 a French sociologist called Paul-Henry Chombart de Lauwe asked a student to keep a journal of her daily movements. When he mapped her paths onto a map of Paris he saw the emergence of a triangle, with vertices at her apartment, her university and the home of her piano teacher. Her movements, he said, illustrated “the narrowness of the real Paris in which each individual lives”
Interesting report from the Pew Internet that took a look at Facebook users. From their summary:
The average Facebook user gets more from their friends on Facebook than they give to their friends. Why? Because of a segment of “power users,” who specialize in different Facebook activities and contribute much more than the typical user does.
The typical Facebook user in our sample was moderately active over our month of observation, in their tendency to send friend requests, add content, and “like” the content of their friends. However, a proportion of Facebook participants – ranging between 20% and 30% of users depending on the type of activity – were power users who performed these same activities at a much higher rate; daily or more than weekly. As a result of these power users, the average Facebook user receives friend requests, receives personal messages, is tagged in photos, and receives feedback in terms of “likes” at a higher frequency than they contribute. What’s more, power users tend to specialize. Some 43% of those in our sample were power users in at least one Facebook activity: sending friend requests, pressing the like button, sending private messages, or tagging friends in photos. Only 5% of Facebook users were power users on all of these activities, 9% on three, and 11% on two. Because of these power users, and their tendency to specialize on specific Facebook activities, there is a consistent pattern in our sample where Facebook users across activities tend to receive more from friends than they give to others.
- On average, Facebook users in our sample get more friend requests than they make: 63% received at least one friend request during the period we studied, but only 40% made a friend request.
- It is more common to be “liked” than to like others. The postings, uploads, and updates of Facebook users are liked – through the use of the “like” button – more often than these users like the contributions of others. Users in the sample pressed the like button next to friends’ content an average of 14 times per month and received feedback from friends in the form of a “like” 20 times per month.
- On average, users receive more messages than they send. In the month of our analysis, users received an average of nearly 12 private messages, and sent nine.
- People comment more often than they update their status. Users in our sample made an average of nine status updates or wall posts per month and contributed 21 comments.
- People are tagged more in photos than they tag others. Some 35% of those in our sample were tagged in a photo, compared with just 12% who tagged a friend in a photo.
There's been a lot of controversy in Canada regarding proposed changes that the Canadian copyright clearance agency (Access Copyright) has imposed on copyright use. After facing significant opposition to their new "all in" pricing model for universities, Access Copyright just announced the agreement of the University of Toronto and the University of Western Ontario to the new scheme. While the agreement, based on a per student charge, is almost 50% less than the originally proposed rate it remains to be seen if this decrease will be enough to placate the other schools. Opposition to the deal has already been voiced by the Canadian Association of Universtity Teachers (CAUT):
The Canadian Association of University Teachers is condemning an agreement two universities have made that allows for the surveillance of faculty correspondence, unjustified restriction to copyrighted works and more than a million-dollar increase in fees.
This week, the University of Western Ontario and the University of Toronto signed a deal with the licensing group Access Copyright that includes: provisions defining e-mailing hyperlinks as equivalent to photocopying a document; a flat fee of $27.50 for each full-time equivalent student; and, surveillance of academic staff email.
“Toronto’s and Western Ontario’s actions are inexplicable,” said James L. Turk, CAUT executive director. “They have buckled under to Access Copyright’s outrageous and unjustified demands at a time when courts have extended rights to use copyrighted material, better alternatives are becoming available to the services Access offers and just before the passage of new federal copyright legislation that provides additional protections for the educational sector”.
Turk also pointed out that the Supreme Court is set to clarify the educational use of copyrighted works in the coming months, clarifications that could undercut Access’s bargaining position. In contrast to Western Ontario and Toronto, many institutions have opted out of agreements with Access Copyright or are fighting its demands at the Copyright Board of Canada.
“These two universities threw in the towel on the copyright battle prematurely,” said Turk. “We call on other post-secondary institutions not to follow Toronto’s and Western Ontario’s example of capitulating to Access Copyright. It‘s time to stand up for the right to fair and reasonable access to copyrighted works for educational purposes”.
In the telegraph a look at 'vanity' magazine publishing impresses Thomas Marks (Telegraph):
Small magazines are proliferating in London. Steven Watson, the founder of the innovative subscription service Stack – which transfers the lucky-dip principle of the vegetable box to the delivery of independent magazines – speaks enthusiastically about the quality of their production values and content. There is The Ride Journal, freewheeling its way through cycle culture, Boat Magazine, a nomadic publication that relocates to a different city every six months, the offbeat fashion journal Address, the creative film criticism of Little White Lies. While many industry leaders are struggling for subscriptions and advertising revenue, their former readers have started generating editorial content for themselves.
No doubt some of these publications trade on their hipness and many flash and fade after a handful of issues. But they have an energy that raises them well beyond vanity projects: they begin like apprenticeships but the best evolve into impressive small enterprises. Nevertheless, there remains a certain amount of gratifying amateurishness involved: Scott and Smith describe lugging sale-or-return copies of Lost in London around London in a rucksack. Many writers and photographers relish the chance to take the imaginative risks they often avoid when they’re being remunerated – so long as they can find paid work elsewhere.From the Twitter:
Flow of venture capital into K-12 market exploded over the past year EdWeek
Utah is working on free online textbooks for high school http://shar.es/fjoan
Opening the book conference to people who buy books. Finally, (well, 2013) - BookExpo for the readers. BookExpo
Scientific publishing: The price of information Economist
In sports, ManUtd fought back from three goals down to draw at Chelsea. (MEN)