As is rather apparent at this point, I’m quite interested in utilizing the resources of the Virtual Knowledge Studio to conduct research related to the flow of information online and the social implications which follow. Of course, this range of interest is extremely broad, and I am definitely open to a topic that is outside of the range I outlined in my previous post. In particular, the discussion of virtual wayfinding techniques and the question as to how national identities are presented online have piqued my interest. I think that any of these ideas can effectively extend the research being done by other members of our group and can successfully make conclusions about the use and social implications of technology.

In terms of how I would like this research to be situated, my main goal for the trip is “international engagement,” so I have not seriously considered working towards published material. However, it is my perception that all or most of the research I am concerned with could be done without significant involvement of human subjects, since much of it could involve social network analysis and other related methods of study. If this turns out to be true, it might be worth pursuing the idea of a publication, as these topics are currently of wide interest to the academic community.

Challenges to be faced in the near future include the process of narrowing a research topic and creating a group where everyone is interested in and comfortable with the topic we choose to commit ourselves to. Let’s do this!

Google 411

Google has launched its own free 411 service, in direct competition with Tellme and 1-800-Free-411. They’ll even connect your call to the business you’re looking for. “Just dial 1-800-GOOG-411 (1-800-466-4411) from any phone.” (via TechCrunch)

Science News describes how Dartmouth computer scientist Hany Farid can detect manipulated photographs by using software to find anomalies in a forged image. (via BoingBoing)

The Coop

Following in the footsteps of Flock, Mozilla is developing The Coop to add social networking functionality to Firefox.

WEP Is Insecure

WEP encryption can be cracked in under two minutes. It’s not really “wired equivalent privacy,” as the name would have you think. Make sure your access points are set to WPA or WPA2!

While it required great efforts to write and apply patches for our timekeeping devices, the change in Daylight Savings Time has not had “any measurable impact” on energy consumption. (via Kottke)

A large component of the trip to Amsterdam consists of social research in the region. We will be working with the Virtual Knowledge Studio, which is a relatively new Dutch think tank concerned with the evolving use of technology in research.

I’m particularly interested in how technology usage patterns differ in various regions of the world. For instance, the use of mobile phones differs greatly between most continents. These differences are especially evident when looking at their use in various regions of the developing world. While we’re not surprised to see a twelve-year-old carrying her own pink RAZR, it’s common for multiple families to share a phone and even a single email address in many parts of the world. Other ideas contrary to our usage patterns, such as airtime rental have created new markets for trade elsewhere and are allowing rural areas to connect with the rest of the world.


The very advances in connectivity that are brought through new developments in communication technology carry the potential of modifying the way societies operate. People’s online behavior generally mirrors and extends their offline concerns, as is visible at any community website or forum. Online social networks have struggled with appealing to more than a small subset of the global population, as these concerns vary greatly between regions. For this very reason, Google’s Orkut has seen great success in developing regions such as Brazil and India, while Facebook is ingrained in the everyday lives of American college students.

Leading off of this issue is the fact that people have begun spending a significant amount of their social energy in online interactions – this means that people no longer have a need to connect with their neighbors for social stimulation. I suppose that this could make it more difficult for a tolerant society like ours or Amsterdam’s to promote assimilation and intercultural understanding, as individuals would be less likely to interact with others who have differing interests and value systems if they can find people similar to themselves online.


  • How do cultural differences in interpersonal interaction affect the way people use and expect technology to function?
  • Has the Internet’s emergence reduced cultural tolerance in Amsterdam due to the ease of long-distance communication?


In order to study the effects of technology, it would be necessary to first determine the usage patterns applied in a region. These could be determined through surveys and interviews of end-users, as well as discussions with people who teach the use of technology, such as librarians. Interviews of the general population could be used to determine what is expected of technology, and how it is used on a day-to-day basis. To answer the second question, the above methods could be extended to gauge the general sentiment regarding Internet use and its consequences.

Apple has announced that EMI’s entire catalog will be available without DRM on the iTunes Music Store, at a 30-cent premium over the currently available copy-protected music files. Is this the beginning of a new future for online music sales? (via BoingBoing)

Google TiSP

Google TiSP (BETA) is a fully functional, end-to-end system that provides in-home wireless access by connecting your commode-based TiSP wireless router to one of thousands of TiSP Access Nodes via fiber-optic cable strung through your local municipal sewage lines.

In preparation for my study abroad journey to Amsterdam this summer, I will be posting on topics relevant to the trip, specifically looking at Dutch culture and pragmatic tolerance. This marks the first post in a series of what I hope to be many.

A viewing of Submission, a short film written by Ayaan Hirsi Ali and directed by Theo van Gogh, evokes many responses. The film, while not very artistically stimulating, details the story of a young Muslim woman who was married by her parents through arranged marriage to a man she felt no attachment to. She elaborates, in an inquisitive prayer to Allah, explaining how she had loved in secret prior to the marriage, and is now subject to beatings by her husband and rape by her uncle. While attributing her tolerance to the trust required by Islam, she cannot help but feel alone – upon seeking help from her parents, she is told not to challenge the honor of her relatives.

Critics of this film challenge it as provocative, polarizing, insulting, and misrepresentative of Islam. In fact, Theo van Gogh was murdered months after Submission’s release in 2004, and a letter pinned to his body expressed anger at Hirsi Ali’s views against Islam. While this film is surely clear in its feelings regarding the trust called for by the Qur’an, the film transcends Islam, highlighting the problem of domestic abuse and cultural excuses for oppressive societal structures – these are visible throughout society, and are not problems faced only in the Islamic world.

On the other hand, Andrew Stuttaford at the National Review attributes this murder to the Dutch’s tolerant practices:

Mass immigration, of course, played a part in creating the social pathologies that cost Van Gogh his life, but its effects were exacerbated by official Holland’s embrace of multiculturalism, a dogma that made integration impossible and alienation a certainty.

I don’t believe that tolerance carries the certain result of a polarized society. In order for a society to cultivate and be tolerant of a plurality of ideas, it must recognize the point at which one’s personal freedoms are encroached by another and intervene to allow for that system of pragmatic tolerance to thrive.