Organizing my Online Brain

So what have I been doing at the Think-Know course facilitated by Howard Rheingold?

These past few weeks we’ve been using Diigo extensively. This social bookmark-service is well-suited for group collaboration. While the course group is reserved for members, you’re welcome to join my own group about the impact of technology on society and the economy (apply and I’ll respond).

The next phase was mindmapping. This is an example of a Cmap I made of one of our synchronous sessions:

mindmap of an online course

(click to enlarge)

During that session we talked about TheBrain, which is a mindmap and database in one. The nodes of the knowledge plex are called ‘thoughts”, and some people have more than 100,000 thoughts in their online brains. This is the company-presentation of TheBrain 7:

This is a section of the Technology-thoughts in my online brain – the tools enables you to have this kind of random walks:

Now what are the benefits of using a tool such as TheBrain? It allows to get things done by externalizing a number of cumbersome brain processes. It generates ideas – e.g. I was integrating a thought about Andy Clark‘s Extended Mind and Natural Born Cyborgs, and through a link/association with another thought about the reproduction of traditional gender relations in the counterculture, I realized I should study Donna Haraway and her feminist thinking regarding cyborgs and minds. This is a typical ‘jump thought’ facilitated by these tools and which makes them so valuable.

mindmap with donna haraway as active thought

Disclaimer: I’m using the above mentioned tools on my own expenses, I have no ties with the companies involved.

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Fred Turner on Burning Man as the Cultural Infrastructure for Commons-Based Peer Production

“Fred Turner discusses his opinions on the social phenomenon of Burning Man and how he thinks the ideals of the festival apply to the marketplace that is evolving in our society, specifically in the Silicon Valley.”

Turner is also the author of the fascinating book From Counterculture to Cyberculture. 
via Diigo http://blog.p2pfoundation.net/fred-turner-on-burning-man-as-the-cultural-infrastructure-for-commons-based-peer-production/2012/11/08

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Peeragogy Handbook Rocks

Remember the Peeragogy Handbook Project, facilitated by Howard Rheingold? A group of learners from various continents work peer2peer to create this handbook which wants to inspire people who want to take their learning in their own hands.

The handbook has a very practical side – given that so many learning resources are online and for free, and that so many people are out there, worldwide, who want to learn, how can we connect and build a learning experience which can be very different from the typical classroom-experience? The handbook also has texts and links about the theoretical underpinnings of these learning-styles.

I wrote about Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) but these days I lack time to be actively involved – but I do consult the Handbook regularly and can see how it gets improved almost every day. Some very friendly co-learners now created a little video introducing my chapter about MOOCs:

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Half an Hour: International MOOCs Past and Present

Stephen Downes on Half an Hour now has a list with international Massive Open Online Courses. 
Let’s not forget: there is more out there than the xMOOCs such as offered by Coursera, edX and Udacity – the connectivist courses offer a very different learning experience, based on distributed platforms, the learner as center and peer2peer philosophy. 

So I’m very glad to find this list with international courses! 
via Diigo http://halfanhour.blogspot.ca/2012/11/international-moocs-past-and-present.html

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Our Brains in the Cloud

Who are we when parts of our brains are in our heads, but other parts are in the cloud, is one of the questions Keith Kleiner asks on SingularityHUB in this interview:

Also consider the business model of SingularityHUB – you can become a member (for a modest contribution), which gives you access to more content – for instance to a longer version of the interview.

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Research the publishing industry by making things

Whiteboardmag has a story about how publishing giant Sanoma launches an in house startup accelerator. In other words: rather than endlessly researching and creating fiction-spreadsheets, they’ll foster intrapreneurship in order to find out about winning ideas in their industry. A kind of Makers-ethos: 
“These days, the successful models come from making things. I thought we should have a model where we can create concepts and validate them fast, make prototypes, test them in the market, see which ones fly. “
via Diigo http://www.whiteboardmag.com/sanoma-intrapreneurship-in-house-startup-accelerator/

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Do we get more happiness from virtual worlds than from real good news?

An academic study co-authored last year by leading virtual world academic Edward Castronova suggests that people get more happiness from being in Second Life than they do from good news in their real life. 

Wagner James Au on New World Notes says this is probably also true for other virtual environments, not only for Second Life. He also points to the bigger question of the shifting boundaries between virtual and real. 

Social media help extend immersive experiences to so-called real world networks. Virtual money is convertible in real money, and solidarity actions for real world issues can start out in virtual environments. 

Manuel Castells explains we live in a cultural of virtual reality – I think the deconstruction of the boundaries between real and virtual is becoming fairly obvious. Virtual is not some exclusive feature of 3D environments, and reality is ever more being augmented and digitally annotated.
via Diigo http://nwn.blogs.com/nwn/2012/10/second-life-and-the-matrix.html

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Pilot Your Own Robotic Sub And Explore The Ocean With AcquatiCo | Singularity Hub

Another great story from Singularity Hub. If this Kickstarter project is successful, it will enable us to explore the oceans by just using our laptop or tablet. 

Which in a way reminds me of those cute iPad-robots enabling people to move around , see, hear and communicate from  whatever distance. So yes indeed, let’s do this in the oceans as well! 

“Eduardo Labarca wants to bring the ocean you. Not through the kind of striking, high-definition imagery that Planet Earth brought, but through an immersive experience where you actually get to navigate the corals, chase the fish, explore the shipwreck yourself. Which is why Labarca created AcquatiCo, a web-based ocean exploration platform. A Kickstarter campaign has been launched for the startup. If successful, it will be the first step in the company’s goal of giving people unprecedented access to the ocean’s treasures using just their computers, tablets or smartphones. I got a chance to talk with the Singularity University graduate and ask him about AcquatiCo, and his vision to “democratize the ocean.” ”

via Diigo http://singularityhub.com/2012/10/23/pilot-your-own-robotic-sub-and-explore-the-ocean-with-acquatico/

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Find out about the future by looking at Defense

The computer visionary Doug Engelbart designed in the 1960s the NLS – the “oN-Line System” – a revolutionary computer collaboration system implemented by researchers at the Augmentation Research Center (ARC) at the Stanford Research Institute (SRI). The NLS system, so explains Wikipedia, was the first to employ the practical use of hypertext links, the mouse, raster-scan video monitors, information organized by relevance, screen windowing, presentation programs, and other modern computing concepts. The project was funded by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, NASA, and the U.S. Air Force.

Throughout the history of computing we see the crucial role being played by the military and the intelligence community (this is just one of the many interesting discussion threads of Howard Rheingold’s course about Think-Know tools). One of these famously funded project gave us the Mother of all Demos by Engelbart (the mouse! videoconferencing! hyperlinks!):

Maybe it’s a good idea to have a look at what they’re funding now in order to get an idea of the longer term developments in computing. Typically projects which are too long term and risky to be interesting for big corporations or even venture capitalists sometimes get support from those defense-related agencies. However, these days the capital needed for innovative projects is no longer as enormous as it used to be, and we see how agencies invest in commercial start-ups not only to stimulate research which otherwise may not have been done, but also to get first-hand information about research which the private sector is doing anyway.

One of the most fascinating agencies is DARPA, which has a habit of changing names. Wikipedia: “Its original name was simply Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), but it was renamed to “DARPA” (for Defense) in March 1972, then renamed “ARPA” again in February 1993, and then renamed “DARPA” again in March 1996.”

DARPA of course is not only active regarding information processing. This is what Wikipedia tells us about the more recent history: “During the 1980s, the attention of the Agency was centered on information processing and aircraft-related programs, including the National Aerospace Plane (NASP) or Hypersonic Research Program. The Strategic Computing Program enabled DARPA to exploit advanced processing and networking technologies and to rebuild and strengthen relationships with universities after the Vietnam War. In addition, DARPA began to pursue new concepts for small, lightweight satellites (LIGHTSAT) and directed new programs regarding defense manufacturing, submarine technology, and armor/anti-armor.
On October 28, 2009 the agency broke ground on a new facility in Arlington, Virginia a few miles from the Pentagon.
In fall 2011, DARPA hosted the 100 Year Starship Symposium with the aim of getting the public to start thinking seriously about interstellar travel.”
Interstellar travel really sounds cool, but let me look at that another time. For now, let’s just read how the Information Innovation Office describes itself on the DARPA-site:

I2O aims to ensure U.S. technological superiority in all areas where information can provide a decisive military advantage. This includes the conventional defense mission areas where information has already driven a revolution in military affairs: intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, command, control, communications, computing, networking, decision-making, planning, training, mission rehearsal, and operations support.

It also includes emergent information-enabled technologies and application domains such as social science and human, social, cultural, and behavioral modeling; social networking and crowd-based development paradigms; natural language processing, knowledge management, and machine learning and reasoning; medical/bio informatics; and information assurance and cyber-security.

I2O works to ensure U.S. technological superiority in these areas by conceptualizing and executing advanced research and development (R&D) projects to develop and demonstrate interdisciplinary, crosscutting and convergent technologies derived from emerging technological and societal trends that have the potential for game-changing disruptions of the status quo.

The capabilities developed by I2O enable the warfighter to better understand the battlespace and the capabilities, intentions and activities of allies and adversaries; empower the warfighter to discover insightful and effective strategies, tactics and plans; and securely connect the warfighter to the people and resources required for mission success.

Headings on that page are “understand“, “empower” and “connect“.

One of the many fascinating programs is Social Media in Strategic Communication (SMISC). It aims to develop “a new science of social networks built on an emerging technology base. Through the program, DARPA seeks to develop tools to support the efforts of human operators to counter misinformation or deception campaigns with truthful information.”

It’s all there: analyzing narratives, experiments with role-playing games which make heavy use of social media…

In-Q-Tel

Yet another interesting organization is In-Q-Tel, launched in 1999 as an independent, not-for-profit organization, IQT was created to bridge the gap between the technology needs of the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) and new advances in commercial technology.

Just looking here at information and communication technologies, the site of this special kind of venture capitalist explains:

Focus areas in the ICT practice include advanced analytic tools, next generation infrastructure and computing platforms, mobile communication and wireless technologies, embedded systems and components, geospatial and visualization tools, and digital identity analytics.

For more concrete information one can simply consult the list of companies in which In-Q-Tel invests (note to self: make a Twitter list which includes these companies to get updates!). To give but two examples:
Streambase Systems, Inc., a leader in high-performance Complex Event Processing (CEP), provides software for rapidly building systems that analyze and act on real-time streaming data for instantaneous decision-making. The World Economic Forum awarded StreamBase the title of 2010 Technology Pioneer.

Cloudera Enterprise is the most cost-effective way to perform large-scale data storage and analysis, and includes the tools, platform, and support necessary to use Hadoop in a production environment. (The Apache Hadoop software library is a framework that allows for the distributed processing of large data sets across clusters of computers using simple programming models.)

Read also:

- Pentagon’s Plan X

- Bezos, CIA invest $30M in quantum computing startup

- Big Data and Cyberpunk

- Cloudera Makes Hadoop Real-Time with Impala (SiliconAngle)

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