Stu's Fluency Blog

Sunday, March 12, 2006

The Coming Storm Over Mass E-mails

It seems as if every time I do a talk these days on e-rulemaking and the reserach problems we are tackling, at least one person wants to know whether all this is leading to a new set of rules governing speech. In the March 13, 2006 edition of The New York Times, we begin to see more concrete signs of a coming storm.

"In the eyes of one conservative group, a lesser-known Senate lobbying proposal would have forced Revolutionary patriots to reveal their leafleting routes to King George.

A fanciful leap, for sure, but what the provision would do is require the disclosure of money spent on the kind of grassroots campaigns that involve paying lobbyists to recruit large numbers of people to call or write or e-mail their lawmakers and press their views on, say, school prayer or trigger locks or greenhouse gases.

To its supporters, the provision would unmask "Astroturf" ventures, fake grassroots operations with big money funneled through shell groups that employ friendly voices and benign names to cajole voters into swamping government officials with messages. Nearly every elected official has felt the onslaught of mass campaigns: phone lines clogged, letter bins overflowing, servers jammed with e-mail."

Since so many organizations and for profit firms (ex., CTSG or Get Active) have been rather cavilier as they generate completely unmanageable amounts of e-mail, we now face the possibility of having less free speech and more regulated speech. Perhaps this will give some cause for retrospection about possibly counterproductive use of IT to flood the government with popular and unpopular sentiment.

Monday, January 23, 2006

CBC Down

Well, this is a reminder of the limits of technology. In this case, at 10:20 pm when the polls have just closed and the returns from the Canadian election are due, the CBC servers simply cannot handle the traffic. Too bad, eh?

The last time I remember being in direct contact with server overload like this, it was 9/11 and I was trying to get the news online.

Which brings me to the an observation linking back to class. Luke mentioned the problem of emergency broadcast in the age of the podcast. How dependent do I want to be on the Internet for information when the next crisis hits this country in real time?

Tuesday, January 17, 2006


The impact of the scholarship of Lawrence Lessig on questions of digital governance probably cannot be overstated. My serveral readings of Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace (1999) changed the way I think about the possibilities for governance, or what he calls regulability. I see architecture pretty much everywhere now, but not much of it has anything to do with buildings. It is more about what is enabled and disabled by certain forms of digital technology.

Perhaps more to the point for this class, the book is being edited by anyone who cares to on the Code v.2 wiki. The idea is a very bold one that is suggestive of the spirit of collaboration and innovation that is central is a central guiding principle in the argument found in Free Culture.

Lessig's personal home page Google ranks as an 8 of 10, making him nearly as important, at least according to the Google page rank algorithm, as entire institutions, like the Washington Post. His blog is considered an excellent place for legal and technology nerds who cannot get enough of the copyright debates or discussions about how to make cool digital objects without using Microsoft or other proprietary tools.

In his brief discussion of blogs (p. 41), Lessig writes: "The best blog entries are relatively short; they point directly to words used by others . . .They are arguably the most important form of unchoreographed public discourse we have." While I'm not certain I would go this far yet, most of us find ourselves playing catch-up with Professor Lessig.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Podcasts and Education

The School of Information Sciences, the Pittsburgh Technology Council, and Apple will present two information sessions on Podcasting in Education. Both will be held on Wednesday, December 14, 2005 in the Kurtzman Room of the William Pitt Union.

1) Podcasting in the K-12 Environment

8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.


2) Podcasting in the Higher Ed. Environment 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.


Apple SMEs with hands-on Podcast implementation experience will present and discuss with you key issues ranging from content creation and management, to digital divide concerns, to hardware and software requirements.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Kofi's Take on Internet Governance

"Governance of matters related to the Internet, such as spam and cybercrime, is being dealt with in a dispersed and fragmented manner, while the Internet's infrastructure has been managed in an informal but effective collaboration among private businesses, civil society and the academic and technical communities. But developing countries find it difficult to follow all these processes and feel left out of Internet governance structures.

The United States deserves our thanks for having developed the Internet and made it available to the world. For historical reasons, the United States has the ultimate authority over some of the Internet's core resources. It is an authority that many say should be shared with the international community. The United States, which has exercised its oversight responsibilities fairly and honorably, recognizes that other governments have legitimate public policy and sovereignty concerns, and that efforts to make the governance arrangements more international should continue.

The need for change is a reflection of the future, when Internet growth will be most dramatic in developing countries. What we are seeing is the beginning of a dialogue between two different cultures: the nongovernmental Internet community, with its traditions of informal, bottom-up decision making, and the more formal, structured world of governments and intergovernmental organizations."

{Excerpt from Kofi A. Annan's November 5, 2005 Washington Post article}

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

What's Your Ideology?

This year the Information Technology & Politics section of the American Political Science Association (APSA) gave its best instructional website award to the founders of IDEALOG, which advertises itself as a website for analyzing political values. The award announcement read:

"The award was given for the simplicity and utility of the site. There are sites which may have much more information on a broader range of subjects, but IDEAlog's ability to raise important, nuanced issues on the specific topic of U.S. political ideology is worthy of recognition. The site is a simple test that students (and others) can take to identify their own political ideology, providing instructors the opportunity to address overlapping issues and to point out to students that ideology is not always clear cut.

The original version of the IDEALog program was released in 1989. It was inspired by "The World's Smallest Political Quiz," a computer program that explained the libertarian political philosophy. In 1992, IDEAlog won the Computer Software Award, Instructional Category, of the Computers and Multimedia Section of the American Political Science Association (ITP’s predecessor!). Indeed, Kenneth Janda and Jerry Goldman from Northwestern University are now 3-time award winners with a web site that permits professors to track class results, even over a number of iterations, to monitor ideological change. Since its inception, more than 1,000 classes and more than 10,000 students have visited IDEAlog. While other nominations were also strong, the committee decided to go with the web site it thought had the greatest immediate impact for political science instruction."

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

CMU Report on Copyright and Digital Access to Books

Here is an interesting study from Carnegie Mellon University relevant to the ongoing effort to digitize and provide open access to all books. The report's ends:

"I encourage librarians to continue advocating for open or affordable access to scholarly information. And I urge them to lobby for the development of laws, licenses, and technologies that do not sacrifi ce public rights."

Sounds prudent to me.