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Alchemical Musings

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Friday, January 13, 2006

His Master's Voice

I recently read that Guglielmo Marconi envisioned the radio being used primarily for 2-way communications, and Alexandar Graham Bell imagined the telephone being used to broadcast concerts to large audiences. Whether or not this is true, it's interesting to wonder if the inventors of technology are really the best at predicting its eventual usage.

Today I attended a focus group organized by the Marconi Society and EPIC which focused on the next generation of scholarly tools, and the future of research and the journal. Most people in the room were completely overwhelmed by the amount of information they were supposed to track, and many thought that better filtering tools would help. People also talked about the real problem of knowledge quality and credibility, and some sort of map for navigating the various layers of information in the world.

What I kept hearing in people's remarks was that people really need spaces, not maps. Researchers need virtual watering holes to gather around. The quest for knowledge is not a search for data, it is arrived at through dialectic. Communities of like minded researches will naturally perform the task of filtering, highlighting, and vetting important information. It will take AI a long long time to accomplish the comparable task with advanced search and filtering portals....

Seems to me like the Marconi Society should consider funding the development of a specialized distribution of a well established CMS, perhaps modeled on drupal's CivicSpace, or Shuttleworth's SchoolTool. CivicSpace is basically a drupal bundled and configured with some modules that are geared towards operating an NGO. SchoolTool a Zope3 app designed for operating a small-mid size k12 school. The work might also benefit from considering the social software design patterns we worked on in Ulises' course this past fall.

I also met some really cool people, doing really interesting and socially important work with technology.

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