Thursday, June 12, 2003

Enslaved by New Technology

I'm sitting here reading a paper by Edwin Parker from 1973: Implications of New Information Technology. He addresses the impending digital divide and notes that new technologies--even if well meaning--often serve to widen the divide because the lower class only has access to older technology while the upper class has all the benefits. In particular, Parker mentions resistance to cable television. In the intervening years, it seems that the 'new technology' of cable has completely penetrated the lower class and has enslaved them with marketing messages and consumer credit.

At what point did cable go from being a new technology for the rarified enclaves of the elite to a disciplinary tool for the prole?

JSTOR Link to the original article (membership req'd)

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Down and Out in Amazon's Digital Commons

I recently came across a political economy type tidbit that you may find interesting.

Jeff Bezos recently told the world about his favourite books on NPR. Bezos is the founder and CEO of and is partly responsible for the land rush to fence the digital commons. More recently, he has come under fire for Amazon's aggressive support of intellectual property protection and patent picketing.

His most recent sci-fi pick came as a bit of a suprise: Down and Out in the Tragic Kingdom by Cory Doctorow. In a strange twist, Doctorow is on the executive of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). More oddly perhaps, Down and Out in the Tragic Kingdom was released under the Creative Commons License and is freely downloadable while simultaneously being an best seller. The final irony lies in the actual story. Doctorow has created a story where an individual's personal reputation (a la Mauss and the gift economy) determines their resource consumption. Odd...

Down and Out in the Magic Kindom

NPR Announcement

NPR Sound Sample

PS- as a final interesting note, notice how Doctorow thanks people who have formatted his book into various formats such as the iSolo palm reader format. He provides links back to their websites. Since the download site is very popular and highly moderated by google, the links to the sites of the contributors likewise become highly moderated. The gift economy in action... powered by google.

Knowledge Mangement for Engineers

Knowledge management for engineers is a notoriously difficult thing. One of the problems lies in how engineers actually use information: they don't use formal sources, they rely on personal contacts, and if they can't find information they need they'll just make do.

Perhaps we're studying the wrong information seeking dimension of engineers. Perhaps we should look at how they interact with other epistemic communities. Engineers are notoriously paranoid about litigation and go to great pains to document their interactions with other actors such as suppliers, architects, consultants, and vendors. Maybe KM insights lie in these documents.

In large civil engineering projects, a notorious artifact that spans various epistemic cultures--a boundary object according to Susan Leigh Star--is the change order or engineering change notice. Perhaps we can find some insights in studying these documents as boundary objects.

Susan Leigh Star
Sample spec on change orders
Academic Paper: Representation of Activity Knowledge for Project Managemen