I’m really excited to share my new essay, “The Relevance of Algorithms,” with those of you who are interested in such things. It’s been a treat to get to think through the issues surrounding algorithms and their place in public culture and knowledge, with some of the participants in Culture Digitally (here’s the full litany: Braun, Gillespie, Striphas, Thomas, the third CD podcast, and Anderson‘s post just last week), as well as with panelists and attendees at the recent 4S and AoIR conferences, with colleagues at Microsoft Research, and with all of you who are gravitating towards these issues in their scholarship right now.
The motivation of the essay was two-fold: first, in my research on online platforms and their efforts to manage what they deem to be “bad content,” I’m finding an emerging array of algorithmic techniques being deployed: for either locating and removing sex, violence, and other offenses, or (more troublingly) for quietly choreographing some users away from questionable materials while keeping it available for others. Second, I’ve been helping to shepherd along this anthology, and wanted my contribution to be in the spirit of the its aims: to take one step back from my research to articulate an emerging issue of concern or theoretical insight that (I hope) will be of value to my colleagues in communication, sociology, science & technology studies, and information science.
The anthology will ideally be out in Fall 2013. And we’re still finalizing the subtitle. So here’s the best citation I have.
With LeWeb just a week away, the Internet of Things, this year’s theme for LeWeb Paris, is on everyone’s minds. After all, with LeWeb’s tendency to pick sectors/trends on the rise, it’s no surprise that everyone’s talking about it. While we’ve not quite arrived at Microsoft’s vision of the future, Sigfox as made significant strides in laying down the groundwork for connected devices, with a network covering 80% of France, and 100% coverage set for early 2013.
Why do we need a whole new network dedicated to connected devices?
Imagine a large suburban area, and the difficulties associated with getting good cell service, when you share a cell tower with a couple thousand people. Now imagine how many connected devices each person may have – Fire Detector sensors that alert when they go off, tracking devices for animals, water, electricity, and gas meters,… – a network like that would soak up all the signal, not too mention it would be very energy intensive. That’s why co-founder and CEO Ludovic Le Moan joined up with technical director Christophe Fourtet, who had developed a radio communications network that was up to the task. Not only was this network built to deal with billions of devices, but could do it with 30-40x less bay stations, and consuming significantly less energy, meaning sensors could hold a charge for years.
The Boulder, Colorado-based Seamless Toy Company has created a set of modular, high-tech building blocks called ATOMS. Founded by Michael Rosenblatt, who has worked at MIT and Apple, the company aims to help teach kids programming by creating toys that can do all sorts of exciting things.
Gigaom reports that Rosenblatt wanted to make something that encourages kids to interact with electronics, even if they don’t have tech-savvy parents. ATOMS don’t require any electronics skills or programming experience. The company is currently seeking funds on Kickstarter, and will introduce a selection of different sets at launch.
Juan Hindo, Program Manager, Citizenship & Corporate Affairs, IBM
By Juan Hindo
Today, World Community Grid celebrates eight years of bringing together volunteers from around the world to support humanitarian research. World Community Grid taps the spare computational power of computers volunteered by the general public and provides it – free of charge – to scientists who might not otherwise have access to the intensive computing power they require for timely, humanitarian research.
…using social technology as a business tool is unavoidable and, for many, a critical component for success. According to Forrester Research, the market opportunity for social enterprise apps is expected to grow at a rate of 61 percent through 2016.
So IBM made some calls—1,160 to be exact—to business and IT professionals to find out how their businesses were adopting, and adapting to, the social side of business. IBM found that across the board, companies are increasing their social technology investments, although it seems the reasons why remain a little foggy.
The survey revealed that while 46 percent of the organizations questioned increased their investments in social technologies in 2012, only 22 percent believed that managers are prepared to incorporate social tools and approaches into their daily practices.
Gartner predicts that by 2015, about a quarter of all companies will have created a new seat at the senior executive table–the Chief Digital Officer. Gartner’s prediction is based on the major transformation underway as companies are digitizing both their sources of revenue as well as their services.
The research group said this is happening because “organizations are digitizing segments of business, such as moving marketing spend from analog to digital, or digitizing the research and development budget.” Also, Gartner says, organizations are digitizing how they service their clients, in order to drive higher client retention. Thirdly, it says, they are turning digitization into new revenue streams. As a result, of these changes, every budget is becoming an IT budget, and the Chief Digital Officer is becoming a logical addition to business leadership.
I had not heard much about the Chief Digital Officer until I read about Gartner’s prediction. But, the more I’ve thought about it, the more I like the concept. Chief Digital Officer succinctly captures the future direction of the CIO role.
Nate Silver and Political Data: Every One of His State-level Presidential Predictions Proved True
Beyond just personal vindication, Silver has proven to the public the power of Big Data in transforming our electoral process. We already rely on statistical models to do everything from flying our airplanes to predicting the weather. This serves as yet another example of computers showing their ability to be better at handling the unknown than loud-talking experts.
“Dear Nate Silver:
My name is Emma Gertlowitz and I’m eleven years old and for a million years I liked Justin Bieber because he was so cute but now I like you. I watched you on MSNBC and HBO and on “Charlie Rose” and I can’t stop thinking about how you study polls and create probability models and predict elections and how you’re always right, which I think is so unbelievably cute, and I keep imagining you saying to me, “Emma, I think that there’s a 93.7% chance of me falling in love with you…”—
Charlotte Davies, Crime Analyst, Environmental Investigation Agency
From tracking the illegal trading of ozone-depleting substances, to helping law enforcement agencies stop the trade of endangered big cats in Asia, data analytics increasingly is being used to fight environmental crime. Much like organized crime, environmental crime can be localized or global. Left unchecked, it can threaten biodiversity and species’ survival on a global level. Part of my mission as a crime analyst is to assist the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) in protecting the last of Asia’s endangered big cats — including the tiger, leopard, snow leopard and clouded leopard — which currently face various threats including habitat degradation, prey decline and poaching for their skin and bones. Using data analytics, my ability to track the illegal trade is now easier.