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information science

  • The computerization of the economy—and everyday life—has transformed the division of labor between humans and machines, shifting many people into work that is hidden, poorly compensated, or accepted as part of being a “user” of digital technology. In Heteromation, And Other Stories Of Computing And Capitalism, Hamid Ekbia and Bonnie Nardi explore this phenomenon and its implications.

    Posted at 11:00 am on Mon, 07 Aug 2017 in computer science, economics, information science
  • We are celebrating National Library Week with Fantasies of the Library, a book that imagines the library as both the keeper of books and curator of ideas—as a platform of the future. The following excerpt from Anna-Sophie Springer and Etienne Turpin's Introduction explains how and why the project came together. 

    Like libraries, there are many kinds of fantasies, so which should you expect to encounter? We have set out to create a book about the library as a curatorial space—a physical knowledge infrastructure organized as the veritable index of cultural and epistemological orders and aspirations, but also as a virtual domain of possibilities for other orders, logics, and dispositions. Whether the fantasy is best characterized by the ambition for a correct and complete ordering of knowledge, or by the attempt to remake inherited orders in pursuit of less authoritarian styles of learning, we leave up to you to decide. But, before you begin, we want to share with you a few remarks about the book itself.

    Posted at 12:42 pm on Thu, 13 Apr 2017 in information science, library
  • Information is power. It drives commerce, protects nations, and forms the backbone of systems that range from health care to high finance. In Missed Information, David Sarokin and Jay Schulkin argue that better information and better access to it improves the quality of our decisions and makes for a more vibrant participatory society. The authors discuss their new book in this post.

    How did an environmental scientist and a neuroscientist come together to write this book? 

    Our backgrounds and disciplines are important, but the real value of our teaming up on Missed Information stems from a long period of friendship and professional collaboration, much of it spent in conversation over the ideas in our book. We should point out, though that—as an environmental scientist—Sarokin created the Toxics Release Inventory, the first federal law to explicitly use information as an environmental policy tool. Schulkin, as a neuroscientist, focuses daily on how information is processed in biological systems. And as creatures of the Information Age, we’re just fascinated by (and optimistic about) the possibilities of putting better data to better use.

    Posted at 11:00 am on Wed, 12 Oct 2016 in current affairs, information science
  • Two days ago a federal appeals court upheld an earlier F.C.C. decision to label broadband technology a utility, maintaining net neutrality. Regulating Code authors Ian Brown and Christopher T. Marsden offer their take on the decision.

    On June 14, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals upheld the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) right to regulate Internet Access Providers (IAPs) as common carriers. This confirms the US agency’s power to regulate IAPs to ensure users can access the content, applications, and services they wish without interference from their access provider: what is known as net neutrality. It is part of a wider international regulatory trend to support user rights and prevent interference with Internet traffic. However, as we showed in Regulating Code (2013), this regulatory trend is counteracted by the controlling tendency of the technologies deployed by the national security state and private surveillance partners. Our book was published only months prior to Edward Snowden’s revelations about cooperation between Five Eyes nations (including the USA, Canada and UK) and their corporate partners to conduct mass surveillance, and our warnings that net neutrality cannot be disentangled from privacy, surveillance, copyright enforcement, state censorship, and the role of social media, have come home to roost.

    Posted at 01:00 pm on Thu, 16 Jun 2016 in current affairs, information science, technology
  • How Not to Network a Nation: The Uneasy History of the Soviet Internet recounts the Soviet Union’s failed attempts to construct its own Internet during the Cold War. Benjamin Peters discusses his book and considers the implications of the Soviet experience for today’s networked world. 

    What was the OGAS project? What role did it play in the development of computer networks?

    The OGAS project was the most ambitious attempt to network the Soviet Union—to construct a national computer network. Viktor M. Glushkov, whose New York Times obituary dubbed him the “king of Soviet cybernetics,” considered the OGAS his lifework between his appointment as director of the Institute of Cybernetics in Kiev in 1962 and his death of an apparent brain hemorrhage in 1982. “OGAS” is short for the obshchee-gosudarstvennaya avtomatizirovannaya system—or the all-state automated system, which itself was a shortening of its full train-length name: the All-State Automated System for the Gathering and Processing of Information for the Accounting, Planning, and Governance of the National Economy, USSR. This heroic or gargantuan project, in Glushkov’s 1962 proposal, sought to build incrementally on preexisting and new telephony networks until it would go fully online 30 years later, offering up in the process a real-time decentralized hierarchical computer network for managing all the information flows in the command economy. He envisioned it reaching from one central computer center in Moscow, to several hundred regional computer centers in prominent cities, and then to as many as 20,000 local computing centers in factories and enterprises stretching over all of Soviet Eurasia. Its higher purpose was to realize “electronic socialism” technocratically, guiding the socialist experiment another step toward communism itself. However, the project encountered significant obstacles on the path to its realization in the 1960s and 1970s. By the 1980s, the OGAS project had splintered into a patchwork of unconnected and non-interoperable local factory control systems spread throughout the country.

    Posted at 01:10 pm on Tue, 24 May 2016 in history, information science, technology
  • The death in April of Wei Zexi, a Chinese cancer patient who died after mistaking an ad for an experimental cancer treatment for medically reliable information, should give pause to anyone who thinks that searching online for health information is, at worst, irrelevant but harmless.

    Posted at 11:13 am on Wed, 11 May 2016 in information science, web / tech
  • On Derby Day, Holly Kruse discusses how horse racing has adapted to interactive and social media technologies. She is the author of Off-Track and Online: The Networked Spaces of Horse Racing.

    The 142nd Kentucky Derby will be run today, May 7th, 2016, at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. The first Derby was run in 1875 and was won by a horse named Aristides. Churchill Downs’ founder, Col. Meriwether Lewis Clark, Jr., was inspired to create the Kentucky Derby after attending the 1872 Epsom Derby in England. Every May since the inaugural event, three-year-old Thoroughbreds have met on the track in Louisville; and since 1886, when the race was shortened from 1½ miles, the race has been run at the “classic” distance of 1¼ miles.

    Posted at 07:00 am on Sat, 07 May 2016 in information science, technology, web / tech
  • We are celebrating National Library Week with reflections from R. David Lankes. He is the author of The Atlas of New Librarianship. His forthcoming book, The New Librarianship Field Guideis a treatisie on how librarians can be essential positive change agents in their communities, dedicated to learning and making a difference.

    It is National Library Week. I’m sure you knew that and have already purchased your greeting cards and exchanged library-related gifts in celebration (“oh look dear, microfiche!”). In recognition of National Library week the MIT Press has asked me to write a blog post. Seeing as the last thing they asked me to write was a book, perhaps I should take this as a demotion. In any case, this led to the normal internal dialogue around what to write about.

    Posted at 08:00 am on Fri, 15 Apr 2016 in information science


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The MIT PressLog is the official blog of MIT Press. Founded in 2005, the Log chronicles news about MIT Press authors and books. The MIT PressLog also serves as forum for our authors to discuss issues related to their books and scholarship. Views expressed by guest contributors to the blog do not necessarily represent those of MIT Press.