Archive for: October, 2011

Books I'd like to read

Oct 31 2011 Published by under books I'd like to read

Another list of books for your reading and collection development pleasure.

Abelard to Apple: The Fate of American Colleges and Universities by Richard A. DeMillo

When academics get together to talk about the future, they talk mainly to each other, but the American system of higher education has many more stakeholders than that. Over the course of months, the intended audience for what was now clearly becoming a book manuscript shifted noticeably from my academic colleagues to a more general readership--parents, students, taxpayers, elected officials, employers, decision makers at all levels--citizens who have a stake in what happens to the nation's colleges and universities and want to be informed about the forces shaping their future.

This book is intended to reach the many stakeholders in America's higher education system who are outside the academy, who are not involved in higher education on a daily basis, and whose voices are seldom heard from within. It is not a book of secrets, but I suspect that many readers will be surprised by what they read here. Some of my colleagues will be shocked that the curtain has been parted, but many more will welcome the daylight.

Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn by Cathy N. Davidson

When Cathy Davidson and Duke University gave free iPods to the freshman class in 2003, critics said they were wasting their money. Yet when students in practically every discipline invented academic uses for their music players, suddenly the idea could be seen in a new light-as an innovative way to turn learning on its head.

This radical experiment is at the heart of Davidson's inspiring new book. Using cutting-edge research on the brain, she shows how "attention blindness" has produced one of our society's greatest challenges: while we've all acknowledged the great changes of the digital age, most of us still toil in schools and workplaces designed for the last century. Davidson introduces us to visionaries whose groundbreaking ideas-from schools with curriculums built around video games to companies that train workers using virtual environments-will open the doors to new ways of working and learning. A lively hybrid of Thomas Friedman and Norman Doidge, Now You See It is a refreshingly optimistic argument for a bold embrace of our connected, collaborative future.

The Penguin and the Leviathan: How Cooperation Triumphs over Self-Interest by Yochai Benkler

For centuries, we as a society have operated according to a very unflattering view of human nature: that, humans are universally and inherently selfish creatures. As a result, our most deeply entrenched social structures - our top-down business models, our punitive legal systems, our market-based approaches to everything from education reform to environmental regulation - have been built on the premise that humans are driven only by self interest, programmed to respond only to the invisible hand of the free markets or the iron fist of a controlling government.

In the last decade, however, this fallacy has finally begun to unravel, as hundreds of studies conducted across dozens of cultures have found that most people will act far more cooperatively than previously believed. Here, Harvard University Professor Yochai Benkler draws on cutting-edge findings from neuroscience, economics, sociology, evolutionary biology, political science, and a wealth of real world examples to debunk this long-held myth and reveal how we can harness the power of human cooperation to improve business processes, design smarter technology, reform our economic systems, maximize volunteer contributions to science, reduce crime, improve the efficacy of civic movements, and more.

Enhancing Campus Capacity for Leadership: An Examination of Grassroots Leaders in Higher Education by Adrianna Kezar and Jaime Lester

Enhancing Campus Capacity for Leadership explores a mostly untapped resource on college campuses--the leadership potential of staff and faculty at all levels. This book contributes to the growing tradition of giving voice to grassroots leaders, offering a unique contribution by honing in on leadership in educational settings. In an increasingly corporatized environment, grassroots leadership can provide a balance to the prestige and revenue seeking impulses of campus leaders, act as a conscience for institutional operations with greater integrity, create changes related to the teaching and learning core, build greater equity, improve relationships among campus stakeholders, and enhance the student experience.

The text documents the stories of grassroots leaders, including the motivation and background of these "bottom up" beacons, the tactics and strategies that they use, the obstacles they overcome, and the ways that they navigate power and join with formal authority. This investigation also showcases how grassroots leaders in institutional settings, particularly more marginalized groups, can face significant backlash. While we like to believe that organizations are civil and humane, the stories in this book demonstrate a dark side with which we must reckon. The book ends with a discussion of the future of leadership on college campuses, examining the possibilities for shared and collaborative forms of leadership and governance.

Personal Learning Networks: Using the Power of Connections to Transform Education by Will Richardson

The Internet now connects us in unprecedented ways. We have access to tools will allow us to build global learning networks where we can pursue our intellectual and creative passions with people around the world. As educators, these networked opportunities present a very big challenge. To prepare students to flourish in this new learning world, schools will need to transform themselves in important ways. Personal Learning Networks: Using the Power of Connections to Transform Education is a road map to follow down the path to that transformation.

Using step-by-step advice and real-world stories, this book aims to narrow the technological divide, put educators on the same footing as students, and provide a recipe for incorporating these tools into every classroom.

The Mesh: Why the Future of Business Is Sharing by Lisa Gansky

Traditional businesses follow a simple formula: create a product or service, sell it, collect money. But in the last few years a fundamentally different model has taken root-one in which consumers have more choices, more tools, more information, and more peer-to-peer power. Pioneering entrepreneur Lisa Gansky calls it the Mesh and reveals why it will soon dominate the future of business.

Mesh companies use social media, wireless networks, and data crunched from every available source to provide people with goods and services at the exact moment they need them, without the burden and expense of owning them outright. Gansky reveals how there is real money to be made and trusted brands and strong communities to be built in helping your customers buy less but use more.

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Friday Fun: New craze of 'Working' sweeping the internet

Oct 28 2011 Published by under friday fun

With The Onion implementing a new paywall with non-US users, I'm forced to look for a new source of cheap amusement.

Yes, I'm too cheap to pay for The Onion online. For a paper copy, I'd easily pay $5 per week but online infotainment has no monetary value for me, and I suspect for anyone else. Writers starving? At a fundamental level, I'm ok with that. Hey, Onion, good luck with the new system. Can't win either way?

Anyways, if you Yanks are going to make me pay, I'll be turning my comical attentions to Canada's colonial master -- the Brits.

And that brings us to News Biscuit!

And this weeks little bit of silliness, so perfect for a Friday afternoon: New craze of 'Working' sweeping the internet.

Stand aside 'Planking', move over 'Batmanning', there's a new game in town. 'Working' is the new craze which has Facebook users flocking to upload photos of themselves engaged in the most menial, soul-destroying jobs, while wishing they'd paid more attention at school. Unemployed 19 year old Matt Johnstone from Seattle is the man credited with kicking off the latest internet phenomenon for people with way too much time on their hands.

Go ahead, click on the link. Every pageview probably nets the pitiful author of the piece a hundredth or even a thousandth of a cent.

(I'll have you all know that I've timed this to appear just as I'm heading off to a long Friday afternoon strategic planning meeting....)

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Will Amazon kill off book publishers?

As reported here and elsewhere, Amazon is actually dipping its toes into the world of publishing.

Which of course is an interesting challenge and threat for traditional trade publishers. And who knows, maybe academic publishers too, if Amazon decides it wants to disrupt that market as well.

In any case, The New York Times has a nice set of four essays debating the topic, Will Amazon Kill Off Publishers?.

Amazon is getting a lot of heat these days over its attempts to push its way into the hearts and minds of readers, writers and the larger book culture -- even comic books. Indeed, the news last week that Amazon would aggressively expand its publishing efforts by signing up authors has ruffled the feathers of many agents and publishers.

Will Amazon's plan shake up the book publishing industry as more writers have the option of a one-stop shop: agent, publisher and bookseller? Are publishers still needed?

Here are some highlights from each of the essays:

There's No Going Back by Michael Wolf, vice president of research, GigaOM

Ultimately, what matters is who owns the relationship with the reader. Amazon has a trusted relationship with the reader because it has become the trusted bookseller in the digital market for books. Same with Apple, or Barnes and Noble. The writer holds the other key relationship with the reader. They are the rock stars -- the brands with which the reader wants to connect.

Traditional publishers, unfortunately, don't have a relationship with the reader -- or if they do, it's extremely tenuous.

Where Writers Can Grow
by Thomas Glave, author, "The Torturer's Wife"

And now, as things become more dire for writers who want to develop into actual artists, Amazon, the behemoth that fears no one, enters the fray. Can Amazon's profit-centered forays provide a healthy space for writers?

In recent years, some corporate publishers have dealt with writers in notably problematic and even damaging ways. But other writers have actually received real editing and invaluable counsel in those environments. I fear much more what Amazon's entry into publishing might do to independent publishing houses where writers' potential and the great possibilities of literature are often valued far above sales and the seductions of profitability.

Embracing New Opportunities by Laurel Saville, author, "Unraveling Anne"

What is Amazon up to? I imagine what any successful business is: looking for opportunities to grow by offering new, different, more relevant or better services than the competitors. It's what the new car dealership, restaurant or ad agency down the street does. It's what my husband does in his high-tech business. It's what I do in all my writing projects.

As a businessperson, I need readers. As a writer, I want them. Readers who are moved, changed, engaged and broadened by what I write. To get these readers in the world of book publishing, I need a lot of help. Some I've bought, like my M.F.A. education; some I've begged for, like family and friends as readers; some has been generously given, like my agent's uncompensated investment.

Monopoly vs. Diversity by Dennis Johnson, publisher of Melville House

Can Amazon sell a lot of books? You bet. They really do know how to develop algorithms that can move just about anything. Good books, bad books. Beautifully edited, completely unedited, edited by chimpanzees - it doesn't matter. The numbers, they brag, speak for themselves.

And they do, which tells us something else: it's all widgets to them. Amazon will soon be a pretty solid publishing company; even small presses like Melville House are already losing out to them on esoteric projects, such as obscure translation projects. But Amazon's publishing house will be in service to a different idol, because publishing isn't, right now, and hasn't been, for 500 years, about developing algorithms. It's been about art-making and culture-making and speaking truth to power.

I have to admit, I'm still unsure what I think of this particular development. Amazon's impulse to monopoly and apparent desire to remove every one else from the value chain are certainly worrying. Crowding out smaller players, concentrating buying power, narrowing publishing towards a certain device, these are all trends that are worrying.

On the other hand, perhaps this is the new shape of the publishing industry. Where all the players will be completely integrated across all the levels of that value chain. And the problem isn't with Amazon, but with all the other players for not getting the shape of the future sooner.

And what does this portend for scholarly publishing? Are the Elseviers of the world jockeying for position, looking to become the Amazon of academia? Or will the forces of Open Access find a way to prevent that kind of monopoly from coming into effect.

It would be very odd indeed if the disruptive forces of the online world blew up and freed scholarly communications from dangerous commercial monopolies while at the same time delivering the trade publishing world further into the arms of equally dangerous commercial monopolies.

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Around the Web: #OccupyScholComm in chronological order

Ah, #OccupyScholComm.

The perfect Open Access Week topic!

And just like the broader Occupy protests movement, the aims and policy pronouncements of the "movement" are perhaps not as vague as they might seem to the casual observer.

Basically, #OccupyScholComm is about scholars rejecting profit-driven toll-access publishing and taking back the control of their own scholarly output.

Or something like that.

Anyways, it all started with this tweet from OpenAccessHulk:


And grew from there. There's quite a bit of traffic on twitter under the #OccupyScholComm hashtag.

Since I seem to be the first person to use the tag in a blog post, I thought I'd collect a bunch of posts here. I'm doing them in chronological order, like I did with McMastergate, hoping to add more posts as they happen.

The posts don't have to explicitly use #OccupyScholCojmm but do need to reference the Occupy theme in some way. Of course, I appreciate any suggestions for posts I might have missed in the comments.

It's a good start. Let's keep it going and #OccupyScholComm together.

Update 2011.10.26. Added the In The Library with the Lead Pipe post.
Update 2011.10.27. Added Agnostic, Maybe post, which I knew about but forgot to add yesterday.

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Books I'd like to read

For your reading and collection development pleasure!

Planned Obsolescence: Publishing, Technology, and the Future of the Academy by Kathleen Fitzpatrick

Academic institutions are facing a crisis in scholarly publishing at multiple levels: presses are stressed as never before, library budgets are squeezed, faculty are having difficulty publishing their work, and promotion and tenure committees are facing a range of new ways of working without a clear sense of how to understand and evaluate them. Planned Obsolescence is both a provocation to think more broadly about the academy's future and an argument for re-conceiving that future in more communally-oriented ways. Facing these issues head-on, Kathleen Fitzpatrick focuses on the technological changes especially greater utilization of internet publication technologies, including digital archives, social networking tools, and multimedia necessary to allow academic publishing to thrive into the future. But she goes further, insisting that the key issues that must be addressed are social and institutional in origin. Confronting a change-averse academy, she insists that before we can successfully change the systems through which we disseminate research, scholars must re-evaluate their ways of working how they research, write, and review while administrators must reconsider the purposes of publishing and the role it plays within the university. Springing from original research as well as Fitzpatrick's own hands-on experiments in new modes of scholarly communication through MediaCommons, the digital scholarly network she co-founded, Planned Obsolescence explores all of these aspects of scholarly work, as well as issues surrounding the preservation of digital scholarship and the place of publishing within the structure of the contemporary university.

Program or Be Programmed: Ten Commands for a Digital Age by Douglas Rushkoff

The debate over whether the Net is good or bad for us fills the airwaves and the blogosphere. But for all the heat of claim and counter-claim, the argument is essentially beside the point: It's here; it's everywhere. The real question is, do we direct technology, or do we let ourselves be directed by it and those who have mastered it? "Choose the former," writes Rushkoff, "and you gain access to the control panel of civilization. Choose the latter, and it could be the last real choice you get to make."

In ten chapters, composed of ten "commands" accompanied by original illustrations from comic artist Leland Purvis, Rushkoff provides cyber enthusiasts and technophobes alike with the guidelines to navigate this new universe.

In this spirited, accessible poetics of new media, Rushkoff picks up where Marshall McLuhan left off, helping readers come to recognize programming as the new literacy of the digital age--and as a template through which to see beyond social conventions and power structures that have vexed us for centuries. This is a friendly little book with a big and actionable message.

The Digital Scholar: How Technology is Changing Academic Practice by Martin Weller

While industries such as music, newspapers, film and publishing have seen radical changes in their business models and practices as a direct result of new technologies, higher education has so far resisted the wholesale changes we have seen elsewhere. However, a gradual and fundamental shift in the practice of academics is taking place. Every aspect of scholarly practice is seeing changes effected by the adoption and possibilities of new technologies. This book will explore these changes, their implications for higher education, the possibilities for new forms of scholarly practice and what lessons can be drawn from other sectors.

Unlocking the Gates: How and Why Leading Universities Are Opening Up Access to Their Courses by Taylor Walsh

Over the past decade, a small revolution has taken place at some of the world's leading universities, as they have started to provide free access to undergraduate course materials--including syllabi, assignments, and lectures--to anyone with an Internet connection. Yale offers high-quality audio and video recordings of a careful selection of popular lectures, MIT supplies digital materials for nearly all of its courses, Carnegie Mellon boasts a purpose-built interactive learning environment, and some of the most selective universities in India have created a vast body of online content in order to reach more of the country's exploding student population. Although they don't offer online credit or degrees, efforts like these are beginning to open up elite institutions--and may foreshadow significant changes in the way all universities approach teaching and learning. Unlocking the Gates is one of the first books to examine this important development.

The Innovative University: Changing the DNA of Higher Education from the Inside Out by Clayton Christensen

The language of crisis is nothing new in higher education--for years critics have raised alarms about rising tuition, compromised access, out of control costs, and a host of other issues. Yet, though those issues are still part of the current crisis, it is not the same as past ones. For the first time, disruptive technologies are at work in higher education. For most of their histories, traditional universities and colleges have had no serious competition except from institutions with similar operating models. Now, though, there are disruptive competitors offering online degrees. Many of these institutions operate as for-profit entities, emphasizing marketable degrees for working adults. Traditional colleges and universities have valuable qualities and capacities that can offset those disruptors' advantages--but not for everyone who aspires to higher education, and not without real innovation. How can institutions of higher education think constructively and creatively about their response to impending disruption?

Introduction to Information Science and Technology edited by Charles H. Davis and Debora Shaw

This guide to information science and technology -- the product of a unique scholarly collaboration --presents a clear, concise, and approachable account of the fundamental issues, with appropriate historical background and theoretical grounding. Topics covered include information needs, seeking, and use; representation and organization of information; computers and networks; structured information systems; information systems applications; users perspectives in information systems; social informatics; communication using information technologies; information policy; and the information profession.

I have a bit of a backlog of these, so there'll probably be another post pretty soon, maybe even this week.

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Friday Fun: Nobel Prize Committee Snubs Professor Huckman's Bigfoot Research Again

Oct 21 2011 Published by under friday fun

I like to think of Nobel Week as stretching through the entirety of October and certainly The Cronk has made that much easier this year with a fun little article, Nobel Prize Committee Snubs Professor Huckman's Bigfoot Research Again!

For the thirteenth time in thirteen years, Professor Mikael Huckman's write-in campaign to the Nobel Prize in Physiology was overlooked in favor of what Huckman refers to as "political hogwash."

Huckman has been the head researcher at the Sasquatch Studies Institute for over two decades and has appeared in over 100 self-produced documentary films and scholarly promotional trifold pamphlets.


"I have tangible clay casts of giant toe prints and crystal clear recordings of Sasquatch howling," said Huckman. "Still, we get beat out by theories and conjecture every year. I've just put a motion-sensing camera on the back of my garage laboratory and our findings are irrefutable. He looks about the same size and shape as my neighbor's dog at night, but he can shrink and disguise himself as a feral cat during the day. Now that we have solid proof of the creature's dexterity and ability to adapt we'll finally get our ticket to Stockholm."

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Around the Web: Scientists & social media, Radical scholars, Coming to blows over books and more

Oct 20 2011 Published by under around the web

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The power of blogs, or #OccupyScholComm

I've long been a believer in the power of blogs to drive and aggregate conversations at every level. Frivolous, for sure. But also serious and scholarly.

The rise of science blogs over the last few years has certainly demonstrated that. In librarianship as well, blogs are a powerful source of comment, theory and practical advice. I've always thought that the practical side of the library world was ripe to be the first field to truly leave journals behind and embrace blogging as a kind of replacement. It would be messy, sure, but it would be democratizing and re-invigorating.

The kinds of discussions we see in the best of the library blogosphere are as good as anything we see in the formal literature. In the Library with the Lead Pipe is a great example of one of the ways it could work, with Research Blogging or PLoS Blogs as an example of how meaningful aggregation or community could arise.

Impossible, you say?

Let's see what Paul Krugman has to say about economics blogs:

Second, even for more academic research, the journals ceased being a means of communication a long time ago - more than 20 years ago for sure. New research would be unveiled in seminars, circulated as NBER Working Papers, long before anything showed up in a journal. Whole literatures could flourish, mature, and grow decadent before the first article got properly published - this happened to me with target zones back in the late 1980s, where my original 1988 working paper had spawned a large derivative literature by the time it actually got published. The journals have long served as tombstones, certifications for tenure committees, rather than a forum in which ideas get argued.

What the blogs have done, in a way, is open up that process. Twenty years ago it was possible and even normal to get research into circulation and have everyone talking about it without having gone through the refereeing process - but you had to be part of a certain circle, and basically had to have graduated from a prestigious department, to be part of that game. Now you can break in from anywhere; although there's still at any given time a sort of magic circle that's hard to get into, it's less formal and less defined by where you sit or where you went to school.


As you can see, I think this is all positive. The econoblogosphere makes it a lot harder for economists to shout down other people by pulling rank -- although some of them still try -- but that's a good thing.

Or Nigel Thrift on an emerging new field where blogs are the cutting edge of scholarly communication:

For one thing that I have found really interesting about the turn to speculative realism is that is has clearly been fuelled by online communities which have turned above all to blogs as an important means of swapping material, revealing first thoughts, and making revisions. I doubt that the growth of speculative realism would have been so insistent without these communities scattered all over the world, or so rapid. Why?

First, they are a key preserve of particular communities like postgraduates and early career researchers, not least because so much activity can go on below the radar, so to speak, outside the attention of the kind of disciplinary policing that journals and other institutions tend to impose.


Fourth, they allow all manner of researchers to communicate with each other, establish reading groups and the like, often concerning intellectual alleyways which might prove of the greatest importance. There is real debate.

Fifth, new material reaches an audience much more rapidly than it would through the normal means of communication.

So did these blogs have an effect? I think that they did. In the case of speculative realism, they allowed the field to agglomerate more quickly than it otherwise would and to gain momentum faster than it otherwise would have...

Still skeptical?

Of course, the revolution won't happen over night. And it's unlikely that we'll ever have a scholarly communications landscape that is only or even primarily populated by blogs.

But on the other hand, blogs are certainly a way that scholars can take back their scholarship and control how it is disseminated. As the great philosopher once said, it is time to #OccupyScholComm.


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Friday Fun: 31 Days of Halloween!

Oct 14 2011 Published by under friday fun, science fiction

The science fiction news site blastr has a very entertaining series going for the month of October, 31 Days of Halloween.

As you would imagine, every day this month they are featuring a post about Halloween. And fortunately the topics range from the bizarre to the ridiculous all the way to the barely safe for work.

Here's a sampling:


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SONYC Presentation: Enhanced eBooks & BookApps: the Promise and Perils

Waaaaay back on September 20, I flew down to New York City to take part in one of the Science Online New York City panel discussions, this one on Enhanced eBooks & BookApps: the Promise and Perils (and here).

Ably organized and moderated by David Dobbs, the other panelists were Evan Ratliff, Amanda Moon, Carl Zimmer and Dean Johnson.

Here's a description of the panel:

Enhanced ebooks and tablet apps clearly offer new ways to present material and engage readers. Yet some of the software restrictions and rights deals that these ebooks, apps and their platforms use can make them unfriendly to librarians, archivists, and future users. How can authors, designers, and publishers best exploit these new opportunities while avoiding their current and potential downsides?

Some questions that the panel will discuss include: How do we develop AppBooks or enhanced eBooks that make the most of the technology without locking the contents in proprietary formats that may be hard to crack open in 5 or 50 years? How can we reconcile the desires and agendas of authors, app developers, publishers, librarians, archivists, and readers?

September's panel includes representatives from all these groups and promises a lively discussion around one of the hotter topics from the ScienceOnline e-book session last January.

I wrote a post about my views a while back as part of my preparations: On the evilness of the emerging ebook app ecosystem.

So, how did the panel discussion go? Pretty well, I think. Sure, there was a fair bit of gosh-wow about the admittedly thrilling potential of book apps to really bring something new and innovative to the whatever-books-become landscape. But I think I was able to get in a few good points about the kinds of things we'll have to watch for in order to ensure the app ecosystem lives up to it's full potential as part of an open cultural commons. The audience seemed to be at least of bit on my side during the Q&A, not to mention at the Rockefeller University campus pub afterwards.

For those that weren't able to make it, there's a surprisingly complete and comprehensive (and comprehensible!) Storify of the event here. Storify is a very cool tool that allows you to assemble online objects, in this case some of the many hundreds of tweets about the event, into, well, a story.

There's also a video stream of all the talks that you can watch. I start about 37 minutes in and go for about 11 minutes. I just listened to myself and thought my part went pretty well.

The Lessig-y slides I used to frame my talk are here.

And last but certainly not least, I'd like to thank David for organizing the event as well as Carol Feltes of the Markus Library at Rockefeller University for her hospitality.

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