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

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

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

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…


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)

Difference and the unexpected are what matters

Nice video about how education changes and should change. Because difference and the unexpected matter more than identical competences and predictability.
Coursera is one of the examples of the ‘new education’, but I think other educational practices would be even more illustrative of the deep changes. Stephen Downes and George Siemens started back in 2008 with Massive Open Online Courses. Those courses are distributed, learner-centered. I remember how we had meetings at various online venues, also in Second Life and I even think World of Warcraft. People were expected to blog and interact on various platforms, and Stephen’s aggregation tool brought it all together. The important thing was to connect and to develop a personal learning project. The newsletter was like the newspaper of a vibrant learning community. I report about that kind of MOOCs in the Peeragogy Handbook.

3D printing: does the revolution look vintage already?

Nice overview of 3D-printing:
Hat tip to Bruce Sterling on Beyond the Beyond. I liked his comment:
Really makes one anticipate 3d printing in 2022, when all this contemporary stuff looks charmingly crude and tentative. Very “early teens.”
So does our revolution look vintage now already? More about all this during the MetaMeets conference (November 30, December 1, ‘s-Hertogenbosch,The Netherlands): “The Art of Creation : Virtuality meets Reality”. If there really is a Makers revolution going on, how can we support that and profit from it in virtual environments?

Old texts make us dream and build the future

I just finished the first session of Howard Rheingold’s online Think-Know course. It seems the participants are an amazing group of people dispersed over several continents. The next weeks we’ll dive into both the theoretical-historical background of intellect augmentation and the practical skills of personal knowledge management. We’ve been reading Rheingold’s Tools for Thought (available online), As we may think (Vannevar Bush), Augmenting Human Intellect: a conceptual framework (Douglas Engelbart) and Man-Computer Symbiosis (JCR Licklider). Dates of publication: first edition of Tools for Thought was in 1985, As We May Think was published in 1945, Man-Computer Symbiosis in 1960 and Augmenting Human Intellect in 1962. Why bother reading those old texts about a fast-moving technology? My personal opinion: because we don’t move that very fast. We tend to use new technology to repeat old formats. We had print books, we’ll make ebooks now which try to be as print book-like as possible. We have print newspapers, well, even this day and age newspapers online try to imitate their print look and feel. It’s like the fledgling movie industry once was, trying to capture theater pieces rather than making actual movies. The visionaries, living during the Second World War or during the Cold War, were convinced the world becomes very dangerous and moves very fast and in very complex ways. How can we humans cope with that, avoiding some horrible self-destruction? How can we make sense of the floods of information, data and noise? Those daring intellectuals dreamed up very new ways to read, write and collaborate – in fact, new ways to think. They were often too far ahead to be of much interest to commercial corporations, but the military were more than interested as they realized what was at stake. How do we design interfaces which allow for new, in-depth, inspiring thought and collaboration? I think that data journalism, liveblogging, fluid and stream-like coverage, 3D visualization, local and contextual meaning, crap detection, filters and curation point the way to radical change, as do the artful organization of personal learning networks and tools such as combined databases/mindmaps. All this being made possible by ever-increasing computational power (raw power, but also ever more sophisticated software) and by the ever-shrinking devices we carry around (and which make our mind-amplifying electronic tools ubiquitous and hardly visible). This course also makes us actually experiment with all this – for instance inciting us to collectively mindmap in real-time even though we are geographically totally dispersed. Here you see our raw mindmap (we’ll straighten it out during the coming days): our course mindmap If you want more ‘old’ but extremely inspiring texts about mind-amplifying tools: the New Media Reader (MIT) is a must-read

A VC: Second Screen, Third Screen, …

Fred Wilson on A VC about his debate-watching experience. He is in need of lots and lots of screens. Or of better aggregation and filtering. How do we represent the abundant and real-time information so that we can cope better with a fast-moving world?  “I had the #debates feed on my personal Nexus 7. I had John Heilemann’s twitter feed on my phone. I had Tumblr going on my laptop. And I had CNN on the family room Nexus 7. And I was actually watching the debate first and foremost.”
via Diigo

Liveblogging going full circle: Circa News is an interesting mobile news app. As Online Journalism Blog says:
It’s a simple idea: look at the latest news, pick stories you want to follow, and get a notification when something new happens on that story. The key difference is that updates are not delivered as traditional articles, but as bitesize updates. In other words, as a liveblog would.
You can read a complete story, but then you can ask to get notifications for new chunks of information – liveblog-wise – rather than getting newly drafted stories which irritatingly repeat what you know already. Liveblogging often starts from a mobile device, in this case the stories are also published in a mobile-native way – going full circle, but also allowing for sharing the story either completely or just a particular ‘point’. The whole news-reading experience on this app just seems fluid. It also reminds me of the ‘living stories‘ idea introduced by Google (complete coverage of an on-going story being gathered together on one URL). The post on Online Journalism gives some other examples of innovative liveblogging. The author, Paul Bradshaw, also analyzes this trend in his book Model for the 21st Century Newsroom Redux. Also have a look at TechCrunch about this app (‘Circa’s New iOS App Will Change The Way You Consume News’).
Site of the Circa News app
Site of the Circa News app

Ada Lovelace Day

Ada Lovelace
And today is Ada Lovelace Day: “Ada Lovelace Day is about sharing stories of women — whether engineers, scientists, technologists or mathematicians — who have inspired you to become who you are today. The aim is to create new role models for girls and women in these male-dominated fields.”

Read also chapter two in Howard Rheingold’s Tools for Thought, The First Programmer Was a Lady:

Over a hundred years before a monstrous array of vacuum tubes surged into history in an overheated room in Pennsylvania, a properly attired Victorian Gentleman demonstrated an elegant little mechanism of wood and brass in a London drawing room. One of the ladies attending this demonstration brought along the daughter of a friend. She was a teenager with long dark hair, a talent for mathematics, and a weakness for wagering on horse races. When she took a close look at the device and realized what this older gentleman was trying to do, she surprised them all by joining him in an enterprise that might have altered history, had they succeeded. (…)