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1. Parental consent, the EU, and children as “digital natives”

Children have become heavy new media users. Empirical data shows that a number of children accessing the internet – contrary to the age of users – is constantly increasing. It is estimated that about 60% of European children are daily or almost daily internet users, and therefore, by many they are considered to be “digital natives”.

However, in our view, the use of this “digital natives” concept is misleading and poorly founded, and is based on the assumption that children are quick to pick up new technologies. A recent EU Kids Online study invalidates this assumption. The study shows that even though children actively surf on various online applications, they lack digital skills such as bookmarking a website, blocking unwanted communications, and changing privacy settings on social networking sites. Many children are not capable of critically evaluating information and changing filter preferences.Interestingly, the lack of skills to perform specific tasks while being online does not impinge on children’s beliefs in their abilities – 43% of surveyed children believe to know more about the internet than their parents. At the moment, no correlation between this proclaimed self-confidence and their actual understanding of how internet works can be done due to the lack of data. Nevertheless, it is worth questioning whether, and to what extent, it is reasonable to expect that children understand the implications of their behaviour and what measures could mitigate children’s online risks in the most efficient and effective way.

It is probably closer to the truth to say that, in terms of privacy and data protection awareness, children are anything but “digital natives”.

Indeed, children’s actions online are being recorded, commercialised and serve for the purposes of behavioural advertising without them actually realising. This media illiteracy is tackled by awareness raising campaigns and policy measures on domestic and EU levels. However, it seems that these measures only partially address the challenges posed by children’s online engagement.

Image credit: Photo by R. Nial Bradshaw via Flickr Creative Commons. This image has been cropped.
Image credit: Classroom laptops, by R. Nial Bradshaw. CC-BY-2.0 via Flickr. This image has been cropped.

The European Commission (EC) seems to be in favour of legislative measures providing for a stronger legal protection of children’s personal data in the online environment. In Article 8 of the proposal for the General Data Protection Regulation, the EC introduces verifiable parental (or custodian) consent that would serve as a means of legitimising the processing of a child’s personal data on the internet.

Article 8 of the proposal foresees that parental consent would be required in cases where the processing operations entail personal data of children under the age of 13. The age of 13 would be the bright-line from which the processing of children’s personal data would be subjected to fewer legal constraints.

In practice, this would divide all children into two groups; children that are capable to consent (i.e. 13-18 year olds) to the processing of their personal data and children that are dependent on parental approval of their online choices (i.e. 0-13 year olds). Drawing such a strict line opposes the stages of physical and social development. Also, it requires the reconsideration of the general positive perception of the proposed parental consent from a legal point of view. In particular, it is necessary to evaluate whether the proposed measure is proportionate and whether it coincides with the human rights framework.

In a recent article published in the International Data Privacy Law Journal, we have analysed the proposal to distinguish between children younger and older than 13 years and found many practical and principled objections. Apart from the practical objections, which are often self-evident (e.g. what about the protection of children in the age group from 13 to 18 year old? How to ensure the enforcement of the proposed parental consent?), there are several fundamental problems with the proposed 13 years-rule.

The bright-line rule, which would require data controllers to obtain parental consent before processing personal data of children aged under 13, seems to be incompatible with the notion of evolving capacities. The proposed measure is based on the assumption that from the age of 13 all children are able to provide an independent consent for the processing of their personal data in the online environment. The proposed Article 8 ignores the fact that every child develops at a different pace and that the introduction of parental consent does not ensure more guidance regarding online data processing. We also regret that Article 8 in its current form doesn’t foresee a way in which children could express their own views regarding the data processing operation; the responsibility to consent would rest exclusively with a parent or a legal guardian. This set-up opposes the idea of children’s participation in the decision-making process that concerns them, an idea anchored in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and that is recognised by both the EU and its Member States.

Finally, our analysis suggests that children’s rights to freedom of expression and privacy may be undermined, if the proposed parental consent is introduced. As a result of Article 8, children’s access to information could become limited and dependent on parents. Also, the scope of their right to privacy would shrink as parents would be required to intervene in children’s private spaces (e.g. gaming accounts) to make informed choices. Therefore, it can be observed that the introduction of parental consent contradicts the key principles of human rights law enshrined in the UNCRC.

Featured image credit: Student on iPod at school. Photo by Brad Flickinger. CC-BY-2.0 via Flickr.

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2. Gary King: an update on Dataverse

At the American Political Science Association meetings earlier this year, Gary King, Albert J. Weatherhead III University Professor at Harvard University, gave a presentation on Dataverse. Dataverse is an important tool that many researchers use to archive and share their research materials. As many readers of this blog may already know, the journal that I co-edit, Political Analysis, uses Dataverse to archive and disseminate the replication materials for the articles we publish in our journal. I asked Gary to write some remarks about Dataverse, based on his APSA presentation. His remarks are below.

*   *   *   *   *

An update on Dataverse

By Gary King

 
If you’re an academic researcher, odds are you’re not a professional archivist and so you probably have more interesting things to do when making data available than following the detailed protocols and procedures established over many years by the archiving community. That of course might be OK for any one of us but it is a terrible loss for all of us. The Dataverse Network Project offers a solution to this problem by eliminating transaction costs and changing the incentives to make data available by giving you substantial web visibility and academic citation credit for your data and scholarship (King, 2007). Dataverse Networks are installed at universities and other institutions around the world (e.g., here is the Dataverse network at Harvard’s IQSS), and represent the world’s largest collection of social science research data. In recent years, Dataverse has also been adopted by an increasingly diverse array of other fields and protocols and procedures are being built out to enable numerous fields of science, social science, and the humanities to work together.

With a few minutes of set-up time, you can add your own Dataverse to your homepage with a list of data sets or replication data sets you make available, with whatever levels of permission you want for the broader community, and a vast array of professional services (e.g., here’s my Dataverse on my homepage). People will be able to more easily find your data and homepage, explore your data and scholarship, find connections to other resources, download data in any format, and learn proper ways of citing your work. They will even be able to analyze your data while still on your web site with a vast array of statistical methods through the transparent and automated connection Dataverse has built to Zelig: Everyone’s Statistical Software, and through Zelig to R. The result is that your data will be professionally preserved and easier to access — effectively automating the tasks of professional archiving, including citing, sharing, analyzing, archiving, preserving, distributing, cataloging, translating, disseminating, naming, verifying, and replicating data.

Dataverse_Network_Diagram
Dataverse Network Diagram, by Institute for Quantitative Social Science. CC-BY-2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Dataverse is an active project with new developments in software, protocols, and community connections coming rapidly. A brand new version of the code, written from scratch, will be available in a few months. Through generous grants from the Sloan Foundation, we have been working hard on eliminating other types of transaction costs for capturing data for the research community. These include deep integration with scholarly journals so that it can be trivially easy for an editor to encourage or require data associated with publications to be made available. We presently offer journals three options:

  • Do it yourself. Authors publish data to their own dataverse, put the citation to their data in their final submitted paper. Journals verify compliance by having the copyeditor check for the existence of the citation.
  • Journal verification. Authors submit draft of replication data to Journal Dataverse. Journal reviews it, and approves it for release. Finally, the dataset is published with a formal data citation and back to the article. (See, for example, the Political Analysis Dataverse, with replication data back to 1999.)
  • Full automation: Seamless integration between journal submission system and Dataverse; Automatic Link created between article and data. The result is that it is easy for the journal and author and many errors are eliminated.

Full automation in our third option is where we are heading. Already today, in 400 scholarly journals in the Open Journal System, the author enters their data as part of submission of the final draft of the accepted paper for publication, and the citation, permanent links between the data and the article, and formal preservation is taken care of, all automatically. We are working on expanding this as an option for all of OJS’s 5,000+ journals, and to a wide array of other scholarly journal publishers. The result will be that we capture data with the least effort on anyone’s part, at exactly the point where it is easiest and most important to capture.

We are also working on extending Dataverse to cover new higher levels of security that are more prevalent in big data collections and those in public health, medicine, and other areas with informative data on human subjects. Yes, you can preserve data and make it available under appropriate protections, even if you have highly confidential, proprietary, or otherwise sensitive data. We are working on other privacy tools as well. We already have an extensive versioning system in Dataverse, but are planning to add support for continuously updated data such as streamed from sensors, tools for online fast data access, queries, visualization, analysis methods for when data cannot be moved because of size or privacy concerns, and ways to use the huge volume of web analytics to improve Dataverse and Zelig.

This post comes from the talk I gave at the American Political Association Meetings August 2014, using these slides. Many thanks to Mike Alvarez for inviting this post.

Featured image: Matrix code computer by Comfreak. CC0 via Pixabay.

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3. Does absence make the heart grow fonder?

Increasing numbers of people are forced to live their lives away from the ones they love, be they partners, parents, or friends. Having been a member of a long-distance relationship, I can attest to the strain that separation places on a relationship. Over the last few decades communication technologies have been increasingly marketed as solutions to the problem of strain, separation, and isolation. But how far do they go in actually addressing these issues?

237px-Skype-iconAs digital technologies have become ever engrained in our daily lives, a vast array of communication devices have been developed to help support our interpersonal relationships. Skype makes seeing distant loved ones easier; Snapchat allows us to send them inconsequential thoughts as they pop into our heads; and email allows us to send a letter anywhere in the world without even having to buy a stamp. The research community is continually investigating new designs, be they based on kissing or other less creepy ideas like exchanging love notes.

This interest results in a huge number of different device designs, few of which are ever evaluated. What is it we should be trying to support to help distant relationships?

The psychological literature has a large number of concepts that could be used as a lens for examining interpersonal relationships and communication, such as Social presence and Closeness. Social presence can be thought of as the sense of emotional connectedness experienced through a single act of communication. Closeness is a longer-term feeling of connectedness that is also related to the amount of contact people experience. Closeness, arguably, is essential for relationships to survive. If we could establish a link between these two concepts, evaluations of communication technologies can focus purely on the experience of using the technology, confident in the knowledge that this will have a meaningful impact on the relationships’ feeling of Closeness. We thus designed a study that focussed on attempting to establish whether there is a link between Closeness and Social presence.

In order to answer this question we recruited 63 students to track their communication use over time. Each day they would record how close they felt towards a specified individual (either a partner, friend, sibling, or parent) who either lived in the same city or at a distance. Additionally, participants tracked their communication use and recorded a Social presence score for each act of communication. In total we collected 956 contact reports and 1281 daily Closeness ratings over a three-week period.

In analysing this data we could unpick some fascinating aspects as to how interpersonal relationships can be supported. Our data indicates the type of communication technology and the relationship type and distance can predict the Social presence ratings. All of the communication media our participants reported on were rated with much lower levels of Social presence compared to face to face conversations. This highlights the fundamental weakness communication technologies have – they simply aren’t the same as seeing someone.

However, establishing a relationship between Social presence and Closeness is useful because we can demonstrate that creating communication technologies that encourage emotionally significant experiences can support relationships in a more meaningful, long-term fashion as those technologies are likely to strengthen feelings of Closeness with absent others. Thus while absence may not make the heart grow stronger, communication technologies can be used to make sure that out of sight definitely doesn’t mean out of mind.

Image credits: (1) Fountain Pen Letters, by Andrys. Public Domain via Pixabay. (2) Skype-icon, by Keiner. Public Domain via Wikimedia

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4. Teens as Information-Mediaries: An Investigation of Teens, Technology, and Design

Today, we often take for granted how teens use technology. It seems to be embedded into their every day lives and something they pick up easily. But have we ever wondered how teens use technology to help others every day, especially others who do not understand technology as well? A group of researchers at the University of Washington’s iSchool are investigating these teens, whom they refer to as “info-mediaries” (InfoMes). Karen Fisher, Philip Fawcett, Ann Bishop, and Lassana Magassa are working with mainly groups of ethnic minority teens in the Seattle area to gain a better understanding of how teens, as information mediaries are using information and technology to help others.

IMG_1171

My group working on our app. We are in the visual stages where we are drawing out what our problem is.

To gain this insight, the research team created Teen Design Days (see video link for a longer explanation). This is a three-day workshop where the teens gathered to discuss, learn, and explore how they help people in their social networks with information and technology. The teens are paid for their time and by the end of the workshop, will have created a design project that would help them. The design days are structured around the developmental needs for teens, identified by J. Davidson and D. Koppenhaver in their 1992 publication, Adolescent Literacy as “physical activity, competence and achievement, self-definition, creative expression, positive social interaction, structure, and clear limits.” This means that along with the learning, the teens take an active role in shaping the outcome of the workshop. From designing the rules and expectations, to participating in “light-and-lively” activities (physical activity component), the teens are truly front and center. As they begin to move from discussing their role as information mediaries to more fully fleshing out designs and solutions to improve their InfoMe work, the teens talk with each other, share ideas, and revise their design.

IMG_1198

Our prototype app, Don't Think Twice, It's Alright.

From a research point of view, these design days allow the group to collect large amounts of data in a short time, create friendships with the youth they work with and the larger community as a whole, and get an insight into what the teens are facing on a daily basis and what ideas they have to solve these problems.

One of the researchers, Ann Bishop, made a visit to University of Illinois in early October to share InfoMe. I attended one of her presentations in which she gave an outline of their research. At the end of the session, the group expressed interest in participating in the “train-the-trainer” workshop model. We hoped that a session like that would give us ideas on how to design similar programs for the teens we currently serve.

IMG_1172

Telling the story of our problem (the stress of going home and visiting family and friends).

Our train-the-trainer workshop took place over a three-and-a-half hour time block at the Champaign Public Library. Bishop led us through a condensed design workshop, which included brainstorming problems we encounter daily and then splitting us into three groups based on the type of problems we identified. My group looked at the problem of visiting family and the hassles and stress that we confront. Through critical thinking, some storytelling, and using our limited drawing abilities (see photo, complete with stick figures), we more clearly defined our problem and then moved into thinking about what could help us out. My group created the beginnings of an app; one that would allow for family and friends to see your schedule when you’re visiting, for you to track your flight or train, and also a spot for stress relieving activities such as calming music or cat photos (whatever floats your boat). We created a prototype and if we had more time, would have continued to refine the app based on feedback from the rest of the group. When I left the workshop, I was energized and excited about the possibility of this for the future.

I believe the ideas behind InfoMe can be applied in our libraries. Not only is there potential for new designs to be brought forth, but also for teens to collaborate, and for librarians to gain insight into the teens they serve. I’m looking forward to following InfoMe and seeing what other insights they uncover with future Teen Design Days. For more information, make sure to visit their website, and read their various publications.

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5. The hand and the machine

Two hundred years ago last Friday the owner of the London Times, John Walter II, is said to have surprised a room full of printers who were preparing hand presses for the production of that day’s paper. He showed them an already completed copy of the paper and announced, “The Times is already printed – by steam.” The paper had been printed the night before on a steam-driven press, and without their labor. Walter anticipated and tried to mediate the shock and unrest with which this news was met by the now-idled printers. It was one of many scenes of change and conflict in early industrialization where the hand was replaced by the machine. Similar scenes of hand labor versus steam entered into cultural memory from Romantic poetry about framebreaking Luddites to John Henry’s hand-hammering race against the steam drill.

There were many reasons to celebrate the advent of the steam press in 1814, as well as reasons to worry about it. Steam printing brought the cost of printing down, increased the number of possible impressions per day by four times, and, in a way, we might say that it helped “democratize” access to information. That day, the Times proclaimed that the introduction of steam was the “greatest improvement” to printing since its very invention. Further down that page, which itself was “taken off last night by a mechanical apparatus,” we read why the hand press printers might have been concerned: “after the letters are placed by the compositors… little more remains for man to do, than to attend upon, and watch this unconscious agent in its operations.”

Moments of technological change do indeed put people out of work. My father, who worked at the Buffalo News for nearly his entire career, often told me about layoffs or fears of layoffs coming with the development of new computerized presses, print processes, and dwindling markets for print. But the narrative of the hand versus the machine, or of the movement from the hand to the machine, obscures a truth about labor, especially information labor. Forms of human labor are replaced (and often quantifiably reduced), but they are also rearranged, creating new forms of work and social relations around them. We would do well to avoid the assumption that no one worked the steam press once hand presses went mostly idle. As information, production, and circulation becomes more technologically abstracted from the hands of workers, there is an increased tendency to assume that no labor is behind it.

Two hundred years after the morning when the promise of faster, cheaper, and more accessible print created uncertainty among the workers who produced it, I am writing to you using an Apple Computer made by workers in Shenzhen, China with metals mined all over the global South. The software I am using to accomplish this task was likely written and maintained by programmers in India managed by consultants in the United States. You are likely reading this on a similar device. Information has been transmitted between us via networks of wires, servers, cable lines, and wireless routers, all with their own histories of people who labor. If you clicked over here from Facebook, a worker in a cubicle in Manilla may have glanced over this link among thousands of others while trying to filter out content that violates the social network’s terms of service. Technical laborers, paid highly or almost nothing at all, and working under a range of conditions, are silently mediating this moment of exchange between us. Though they may no longer be hand-pressed, the surfaces on which we read and write are never too distant from the hands of information workers.

Like research in book history and print culture studies, the common appearance of a worker’s hand in Google Books reminds us that, despite radical changes in technology over centuries, texts are material objects and are negotiated by numerous people for diverse purposes, only some of which we would call “reading” proper. The hand pulling the lever of a hand press and the hand turning pages in scanner may be representative of two poles on a two-century timeline, but, for me, they suggest many more continuities between early print and contemporary digital cultures than ruptures. John Walter II’s proclamation on 28 November 1814 was not a turn away from a Romantic past of artisanal labor toward a bleak and mechanized future. Rather, it was an early moment in an ongoing struggle to create and circulate words and images to ever more people while also sustaining the lives of those who produce them. Instead of assuming, two hundred years on, that we have been on a trajectory away from the hand, we must continue looking for and asking about the conditions of the hand in the machine.

Headline image credit: Hand of Google, by Unknown CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

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6. Hour of Code

In celebration of Computer Science Education Week Dec 8-14, students, parents, teachers and professionals will all engage in coding.

Dozens of websites will highlight free one hour tutorials to inspire and teach computer programing skills.

Curriculum has been created for use in classrooms all around the world, even if students don’t have internet.

57,000 events are scheduled to happen next week.

Here are some ideas for what you can do to celebrate!

  1. Complete an hour of code yourself using one of the many resources available on Code.org:
  2. Sign up as a teacher and get access to offline lessons you can do with kids in a library program. Like Graph Paper Programing
  3. Set up one of Thinksmith’s Unplugged Activities in the library for families to complete together
  4. Display Computer Science books with Hour of Code Posters found online
  5. Display Science Fiction books with Posters about hour of code
  6. Invite Teens to add pages to Feminist Hacker Barbie
  7. Install Scratch on library computers,and encourage to use them to make something (now is a great time to make a digital Christmas card)
  8. If you can’t host an event, volunteer at a CoderDojo or other coding club near you.
  9. Work with a colleague to plan at least one event in 2015 using one of the many tools available through hour of code.
  10. Encourage everyone in your life to complete one hour of code.

Hour of Code is less than a week away! What will you do for the hour of code?

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7. App of the Week: Sphere 360º

Screen Shot 2014-12-02 at 6.51.23 PM

Title: Sphere 360º

Platform: iOS, with some limitations

Cost: Free

Sphere 360º bills itself as "the future of photography." It adds a three dimensional aspects to your panoramic shots, with sometimes startling results. Be it a Siberian forest or an Italian coastline, there's a definite concrete virtual reality aspect to viewing a "sphere."

The gallery of shared spheres is pretty intimidating. Many are taken with a rotating gadget called a Motrr, which can be controlled wirelessly. There is an "easy" mode, but there is a definite art to creating a sphere. Additionally, you must be connected to a network, which could make capturing nature scenes difficult

To begin your sphere, you can scan a panorama or upload one saved to your camera roll. To complete the sphere, you use your finger to create details and depth, essentially zooming in and moving around to flesh out the experience of being there.

If that's not enough to get your teens interested, Kendall Jenner recently recommended it her recent Vogue interview with an enthusiastic "Download immediately."

Even is you never create a sphere, the curated collections with their intuitive and smooth navigation could be a boon for teachers  and librarians looking to take student beyond the herky-jerky vagueness of Google Earth. And it's too kinesthetic to it justice outside the app.

The current version doesn't seem to be supported on the latest Apple hardware, so it's the rare case where something interesting isn't available on the newest devices.

Creator Spherical also has a 4D video app called Play, which is also free for a limited time.

If you have a suggestion for an App of the Week, let us know, and be sure to check out more great Apps of the Week in our archive.

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8. What to expect on your 19th century Indus river steamer journey

Congratulations on your new posting in the Punjab. Rather than riding eight-hours-a-day on horseback, suffering motion-sickness on a camel’s heaving back, or breaking your back sitting on hard wooden boards in a mail-cart, you’ll be travelling on the Bombay Government Flotilla, one of four flotillas that carry thousands of Europeans and Indians up and down the Indus.

While you may question the expenditure of a government flotilla, we assure you it’s a lot simpler than loading a squadron onto a small fleet of country boats, with indifferent crews, in varying states of repair, which might never reach their destinations. On board we’ll keeping the regiment together arriving as it started out — in one piece and maintaining proper discipline in transit.

So what can you expect on this exciting journey?

1.   Expect sun and swelter. Everything you touch will be red hot. You won’t be able to go below in the daytime, but the thin awnings on deck will do little to relieve you in the 115 degree heat. Many soldiers ask whether they should sleep with a berth next to a furnace or choose a wall of heat on deck. With dry winds that come down from the ‘burnt-up hills’, laden with fine sand, everything and everyone will be covered in a layer of fine grey grit. And don’t forget the sand-flies — they bite hard.

2.   Expect an uproarious time. Remember that you’re travelling on white man’s mastery of nature, so don’t expect to be the most important thing afloat. Your accommodation will be conveniently crushed between the machinery of furnaces, boilers, pistons, transmission, and paddle-wheels. Passengers trapped in close proximity to the machinery enthuse about the clamour of pistons ‘working up to four or five hundred horse-power’, the splash of paddle-wheels beating the river-water into foam, and the deafening hurricanes when engineers blow off the boiler’s steam ‘half-a-dozen times a day’. And if you’re lucky enough to have the wind blowing in your direction, look forward to being choked by the smoke, singed by the sparks, and splattered by smuts from the funnels.

3.   Expect to get intimate with your fellow passengers. When moving to a theatre of war, you’ll be squashed together on the decks ‘like pigs at a market in a pen at night’. Your comrades may jostle to get enough space to lie down; the top of a hatch is a prize reserved for the best bare-knuckle fighter. Never mind about a restless colleague, you’ll be packed so tight in the gaps between the baggage, that once you’re settled down it’ll be impossible to move until the morning.

4.   Expect cool nights with fresh dew. As you lay on deck with only a thin cotton awning over your head, gather round the funnel to get a little warmth. Be sure to hang on to your guttery [very thin duvet stuffed with raw cotton] as there will be no great-coats among the soldiers. Not to worry, the women and children suffer most.

5.   Expect to be out of your element and out of sorts. Feeling exposed? Living on the open decks for weeks on end in the winter will reduce your resistance to all common Indian diseases. Should you be lucky enough to get an attack fever and dysentery, you’ll lay stretched upon the hard planking without anything under or over you. The sepoys’ conditions, as one would expect, are the best of all. It will be impossible to cross the deck without walking on sick and dying invalids. If they die in the night, they will be ‘instantly thrown overboard’. And after the steamer arrives in the delta, the survivors are off-loaded into sea-going ships destined for Bombay.

Image credit: A daguerreotype of a typical river paddle steamer from the 1850s. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
A daguerreotype of a typical river paddle steamer from the 1850s. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

6.   Expect unbelievable meals. Passengers praise our ‘coarse and unpalatable’ food. Everyone from the boat captains to the cooks have their special arrangements with prices too high for poorer travellers and meals ‘so indifferent’ that passengers who had paid for them refuse to eat them. Even the water is undrinkable! Perhaps your whole regiment will be reduced to foraging in the villages along the banks. Sheep and cows can be bought for a few rupees; Muslim butchers slaughter them; and you can enjoy broiling away till midnight.

7.   Expect a tranquil environment. It takes a month or more to get up the whole navigable length of the Indus and they’ll be nothing to see on long stretches of the rivers, except ‘a vast dreary expanse’ of desert stretching out to the horizon, or an endless belt of tamarisk trees running along the low, muddy banks. Many villages are miles from the river to escape the floods, so it’s possible to sail all day without seeing another human being. Throughout the journey you’ll receive small stimulations from a native boat spreading its sail to taking pot shots at the largest living creatures to hand. Never mind the cost of the cartridges: simply steal rounds from the pouches of sick sepoys.

8.   Expect a friendly drink or two. Fed up with watching the ‘dreary wilderness’ floating slowly past? Drink yourself stupid. As a hundred soldiers boarded the Meanee en route to the siege of Multan, one of them – delirious from drink – ‘slipped from the men who led him and fell overboard’, a second died of delirium tremens during the voyage, and a third ‘was expected to do so’. En route they ‘lost three or four in the river from drowning’. Worried the military authorities will restrict the sale of alcohol on the boats? Buy country liquor from the villagers – it has roughly the same side-effects.

9.   Expect genuine thrills. The most intense excitement on a voyage on the Indus is the occasional shipwreck. Test your phlegm, and proof of national identity. Charles Stewart dismissed the danger of drowning with the utmost nonchalance on his sinking vessel. The really serious inconvenience was the interruption to his meals. React with that much aplomb, and we’ll know you’re British.

10.   Expect to see people working together in new ways. Watch every latent animosity in race relations come to the surface. British captains beat Indian pilots every time a boat runs aground; engineers beat the lascars feeding logs into the furnaces if the steam pressure falls; and soldiers beat the cooks if they make a mess of the grub. Passengers straight from England are often shocked.

Remember, in an alien and often threatening environment, it’s worth paying a premium for the reassurance of a European-style cocoon: a steam-hotel, albeit a poor one, gliding along the river while the guests sit on the decks.

Headline image credit: Indus Sunset by Ahmed Sajjad Zaidi. CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

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9. LEGO Mindstorms for Tweens (Or How I Had to Give Myself a Crash Course in Robotics)

Mindstorms Robot 2.5At my library, LEGOs are perpetually popular. We host a LEGO Contest at least once a year with a continual level of success. Also at my library, we are currently focusing on new technology initiatives to enhance our programming. Thus, my idea to combine the two and try a LEGO Mindstorms program was born.

As I had never used LEGO Mindstorms before, I did a ton of research well in advance. I put a call out on several listservs for help and ideas, and received a plethora of valuable insight. Then, I asked my IT department to order a Mindstorms EV3 kit to try out to see if it would be doable for us. I worked closely with one of our IT technicians to tentatively make a plan: he would familiarize himself with the robots, be there to troubleshoot, and help with more advanced questions; and I would learn the very basics and come up with the program outline.

We ended up DSC00589purchasing 6 LEGO Mindstorms EV3 core kits to use and downloaded the free software from the Mindstorms website. (Note: You can purchase a site license from the LEGO Education site to get the Teacher’s Edition of the software. It’s much more expensive, but it’s supposed to come with lesson plans and such already done for you.) One day, about a month before the program, I went up to the IT office to work on the outline when I received the news: the IT technician I had been working with was leaving the next week for another job! This meant I was on my own and needed to be good enough to not only use the robots, but also teach the tweens how to use them.

I borrowed one of the robots and set to work giving myself a crash course in LEGO Mindstorms. I found The LEGO Mindstorms EV3 Discovery Book by Laurens Valk to be extremely helpful. I decided to break the program up into three 1-hour sessions and a final 2 hour session that would meet weekly after school. I opened up the program to tweens in grades 4 to 7 and geared it towards those with no programming or robotics experience. You can find a detailed outline of each of the sessions here, but this is basically how I broke down my program:DSC00595

Day 1: I wanted to give the tweens a good foundation for programming/coding language which would help them with the LEGO Mindstorms software, so for the entire first day we worked with the Hour of Code website. The nice thing about it was that the programming blocks on code.org looked almost identical to the programming blocks from the Mindstorms software. We went though the first hour of code together, but since I anticipated that some tweens would work faster than others, I told them where to stop (which was before the next video) and gave them extra mazes to complete if they finished early.

Day 2: I introduced the tweens to the LEGO Mindstorms software, the parts of the robot, and the steering blocks. Then I gave them some challenges to try based on what we learned, which you can find in my outline. (Note: To save time for this program, we pre-built the robots for them. We chose the Track3r bot with the claw arm as pictured at the top of this post.)

Day 3: We went over the rest of the action blocks (display, brick status, and sound) and the flow blocks. Then I gave them some more challenges based on what they learned that day, which you can find in my outline. We didn’t bother learning any of the other more complicated blocks since this was a beginner class, but I encouraged them to play around with these blocks if they felt comfortable.DSC00599

Day 4: I began with a very brief overview and asked if they had any questions. Then I gave them some time to just play around and experiment with programming their robots. With about an hour left, I gave them one final challenge using the mission pad mat that comes with the Mindstorms kit.

Here are some videos of the neat things they programmed the robots to do:

What I Learned:

  • The tweens had the most fun when they had free reign to experiment and play.
  • The final challenge that I gave them seemed to be too difficult and they got frustrated and just didn’t try. Next time I would either make up an easier version of that challenge or just forget it altogether.
  • Because we only had 6 kits, we put the tweens in groups of 2 and 3. This seemed to be a good number per kit.
  • I didn’t end up needing the full 2 hours for the last session day, so the next time I might just host four 1-hour sessions.

Tips:

  • I realize that these robot kits are expensive and not every library has the funds to purchase multiple kits. One of the suggestions from the listserv was to work with your school’s robotics team to see if they would lend you kits and/or work with you to run the classes.
  • I was the only adult in the room with 16 tweens most of the time. For one of the sessions, I had the help of an older teen who had been on his school’s robotics team. It made all the difference when it came time for the tweens to complete their challenges. If you can have a second person in the room, especially if it’s someone who has advanced robotics experience, you’ll be much less overwhelmed.
  • For any challenge you give the tweens, have an answer key ready in case they get truly stumped so you can give them hints. I made up answers to my challenges, which you can find here and here. They helped me immensely, though please note that they aren’t the only possible answers and I am still not a robotics expert by any means.
  • I also tried this as a standalone 2 hour program. I geared it towards kids in grades 4 to 7 who had a basic understanding of programming or Mindstorms. I ended up getting a mix of beginners and non-beginners. The outline of this session was 30 minutes of software and robot overview followed by 90 minutes of challenges. Because I wasn’t sure about the experience level of this group, I gave them options for each challenge: an easy option and a more challenging one (make your robot move in a square or make your robot move in a triangle). This worked out really well!
  • If you don’t want to use the mission pad that comes with the kits, you can also download and create your own challenge maps here.

Other Helpful Links:

Beyond Legos: Coding for Kids (ALSC Blog)
Build Better Robots with LEGO Mindstorms Education EV3 (The Digital Shift)
Tinker Group
Getting Giggles
Robotics for the Rest of Us (YALSA Blog)

Have you hosted a LEGO Mindstorms program at your library? If so, any other tips/tricks?

Kim Castle-Alberts is a member of the School-Age Programs and Services Committee. She is also a Youth Services/Emerging Technologies Librarian at the Hudson Library & Historical Society in Ohio. You can find her on her blog, on Twitter, or at kim.alberts@hudson.lib.oh.us. 

All photos are courtesy of the Hudson Librar & Historical Society.

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10. A brief history of the e-cigarette

Electronic cigarettes are growing in popularity around the world. With the announcement of vape as our Word of the Year, we have put together a timeline of the history of e-cigarettes.

1963
Herbert A. Gilbert patents a non-tobacco cigarette that heats a nicotine solution and produced steam, but it is never manufactured.

1979
Dr. Norman Jacobson, one of the pioneers of the word “vaping,” develops the Favor cigarette, a way to inhale nicotine with no smoke.

2003
Chinese pharmacist Hon Lik first develops an electronic alternative to traditional cigarettes.

2004
The first e-cigarettes, a Chinese invention, comes from the Ruyan company.

2007
E-cigarettes enter the US market.

February 2012
Nicotine and Tobacco Research publishes a study, entitled “Electronic Cigarettes: Effective Nicotine Delivery After Acute Administration,” which explores nicotine intake with different electronic cigarette devices.

June 2013
The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency will regulate e-cigarettes as medicines from 2016 when new European tobacco laws come into force.

December 2013
Nicotine and Tobacco Research publishes a study, entitled “Secondhand Exposure to Vapors From Electronic Cigarettes.” It reveals that “using an e-cigarette in indoor environments may involuntarily expose non-users to nicotine, but not to toxic tobacco-specific combustion products.”

Different types of electronic cigarettes by TBEC Review. CC BY 2.0 via Flickr.
Different types of electronic cigarettes by TBEC Review. CC BY 2.0 via Flickr.

December 2013
World leading tobacco experts argue that a recently published World Health Organization (WHO)-commissioned review of evidence on e-cigarettes contains important errors, misinterpretations, and misrepresentations, putting policy-makers and the public in danger of foregoing the potential public health benefits of e-cigarettes.”

September 2013
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) urges the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to “issue a rule to regulate all tobacco products, including cigars, little cigars, e-cigarettes and others.”

15 January 2014
The Chicago City Council voted to regulate electronic cigarettes the same as traditional cigarettes,  which “prohibits the use of e-cigarettes in public places, requires stores selling them to keep them behind the counter, and prohibits their sale to minors.”

26 January 2014
The UK bans e-cigarettes for people under 18.

February 2014
The European Parliament approves regulations on e-cigarettes. “Beginning in mid-2016, advertising for e-cigarettes would be banned in the 28 nations of the European Union, as it already is for ordinary tobacco products. E-cigarettes would also be required to carry graphic health warnings and must be childproof. The amount of nicotine would be limited to 20 milligrams per milliliter, similar to ordinary cigarettes.”

March 2014
Journal of Psychiatric Research reports on e-cigarette use within different age groups and finds that “a notable proportion of adolescents and young adults who never smoked cigarettes had ever-used e-cigarettes. E-cigarette use was not consistently associated with attempting to quit tobacco among young adults. Adults most often reported e-cigarettes as a substitute for tobacco, although not always to quit. Reviewed studies showed a somewhat different pattern of e-cigarette use among young people (new e-cigarette users who had never used tobacco) versus adults (former or current tobacco users).”

14 April 2014
A US congressional report surveys the marketing tactics of e-cigarette companies, which directs sales towards youth, and calls on the FDA to set regulations for e-cigarette marketing.

24 April 2014
The FDA proposes regulations on e-cigarettes, which gives them authority over e-cigarettes and expands its’ authority over tobacco products. The AAP still urges the FDA to protect young people from the effects of e-cigarettes.

April 2014
A proposal from the FDA requires  e-cigarettes to “undergo an agency review,” which would ban e-cigarette sales to minors and require e-cigarettes to have warning labels.

April 2014
The AAP releases a statement on the dangers of e-cigarette poisoning in children.

4 May 2014
The AAP surveyed a random sample of adults, and according to the research presented, “the vast majority of young adults who have used the devices believe they are less harmful than regular cigarettes…”

12 May 2014
Tobacco Control BMJ releases a study on e-cigarette use and individuals with mental health conditions.

May 2014
A study for Nicotine and Tobacco Research finds that the vapors from e-cigarettes contain “toxic and carcinogenic carbonyl compounds,” and the amount of formaldehyde in the vapors is similar to the amount reported in tobacco smoke.

2 June 2014
A study titled “Exposure to Electronic Cigarette Television Advertisements Among Youth and Young Adults”, found that “exposure of young people ages 12 to 17 to e-cigarette ads on TV increased 256% from 2011 to 2013. Young adult (ages 18 to 24) exposure increased 321% over the same period.”

25 June 2014
The White House alters the wording of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) tobacco regulations, allowing the online sale of e-cigarettes.

26 June 2014
The British Medical Association (BMA) calls to ban e-cigarette use in public. Doctors and medical students decide that e-cigarettes may lead to nicotine addiction.

July 2014
The BBC bans the use of e-cigarettes in all its offices and studios.

August 2014
A study from Nicotine and Tobacco Research states that “there is a risk of thirdhand exposure to nicotine from e-cigarettes,” although the exposure levels differ depending on the brand of the devices used.

August 2014
A study from Nicotine and Tobacco Research states that “in 2013, over a quarter million never-smoking youth had used e-cigarettes. E-cigarette use was associated with increased intentions to smoke cigarettes.”

24 August 2014
The American Heart Association (AHA) calls on the FDA for more research on e-cigarettes, to apply the same regulations on e-cigarettes as tobacco and nicotine products, and to create new regulations to prevent access, sale, and marketing to youth.

26 August 2014
A World Health Organization (WHO) report states that e-cigarettes need regulation to “impede e-cigarette promotion to non-smokers and young people; minimize potential health risks to e-cigarette users and nonusers; prohibit unproven health claims about e-cigarettes; and protect existing tobacco control efforts from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry.”

The WHO reports that “governments should ban the use of electronic cigarettes in public places and outlaw tactics to lure young users.”

4 September 2014
The New England Journal of Medicine’s findings state that “like conventional cigarettes, electronic cigarettes may function as a ‘gateway drug’ that can prime the brain to be more receptive to harder drugs.”

October 2014
A study for Nicotine and Tobacco Research states that “over 75% of US adults reported uncertainty or disapproval of the use of e-cigarettes in smoke-free areas. Current cigarette smokers, adults aware or have ever used e-cigarettes were more supportive to exempting e-cigarettes from smoking restrictions.”

Headline image credit: Vaping an electronic cigarette by Jon Williams. CC BY 2.0 via Flickr.

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11. The Physical Act of Writing

We spend lots of time talking about the writing process here at TWT. This post tackles something that has nothing to do with meaning, structure, focus, word choice, elaboration, voice, or conventions. It deals with the physical act of writing, which can be challenging for some children.

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12. Celebrating Alan Turing

Alan Mathison Turing (1912-1954) was a mathematician and computer scientist, remembered for his revolutionary Automatic Computing Engine, on which the first personal computer was based, and his crucial role in breaking the ENIGMA code during the Second World War. He continues to be regarded as one of the greatest scientists of the 20th century.

We live in an age that Turing both predicted and defined. His life and achievements are starting to be celebrated in popular culture, largely with the help of the newly released film The Imitation Game, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Turing and Keira Knightley as Joan Clarke. We’re proud to publish some of Turing’s own work in mathematics, computing, and artificial intelligence, as well as numerous explorations of his life and work. Use our interactive Enigma Machine below to learn more about Turing’s extraordinary achievements.

 

Image credits: (1) Bletchley Park Bombe by Antoine Taveneaux. CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons. (2) Alan Turing Aged 16, Unknown Artist. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons. (3) Good question by Garrett Coakley. CC-BY-SA 2.0 via Flickr

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13. Connecting To The World

For the past three years, I've been using this old Nokia 3500 to keep in touch with my family and a handful of friends. Assuming I remembered to charge it and was carrying it at the time of the call.    I know, I know. It's a disgrace for a former telecoms journo to be using this old clunker, right? Thing is, it really suited me. I could make and receive calls and texts. And most days, I

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14. Innovation and safety in high-risk organizations

The construction or recertification of a nuclear power plant often draws considerable attention from activists concerned about safety. However, nuclear powered US Navy (USN) ships routinely dock in the most heavily populated areas without creating any controversy at all. How has the USN managed to maintain such an impressive safety record?

The USN is not alone, many organizations, such as nuclear public utilities, confront the need to maintain perfect reliability or face catastrophe. However, this compelling need to be reliable does not insulate them from the need to innovate and change.  Given the high stakes and the risks that changes in one part of an organization’s system will have consequences for others, how can such organizations make better decisions regarding innovation? The experience of the USN is apt here as well.

Given that they have at their core a nuclear reactor, navy submarines are clearly high-risk organizations that need to innovate yet must maintain 100% reliability.  Shaped by the disastrous loss of the USS Thresher in 1963 the U.S. Navy (USN) adopted a very cautious approach dominated by safety considerations. In contrast, the Soviet Navy, mindful of its inferior naval position relative to the United States and her allies, adopted a much more aggressive approach focused on pushing the limits of what its submarines could do.

Decision-making in both organizations was complex and very different. It was a complex interaction among individuals confronting a central problem (their opponents’ capabilities) with a wide range of solutions. In addition, the solution was arrived at through a negotiated political process in response to another party that was, ironically, never directly addressed, i.e. the submarines never fought the opponent.

Perhaps ironically, given its government’s reputation for rigidity, it was the Soviet Navy that was far more entrepreneurial and innovative. The Soviets often decided to develop multiple types of different attack submarines – submarines armed with scores of guided missiles to attack U.S. carrier battle groups, referred to as SSGNs, and smaller submarines designed to attack other submarines. In contrast the USN adopted a much more conservative approach, choosing to modify its designs slightly such as by adding vertical launch tubes to its Los Angeles class submarines. It helped the USN that it needed its submarines to mostly do one thing – attack enemy submarines – while the Soviets needed their submarines to both attack submarines and USN carrier groups.

The Hunt for Red October, Soviet Submarine, by Kevin Labianco. CC-BY-NC-ND-2.0 via Flickr.
The Hunt for Red October, Soviet Submarine – 1970s, by Kevin Labianco. CC-BY-NC-ND-2.0 via Flickr.

As a result of their innovation, aided by utilizing design bureaus, something that does not exist in the U.S. military-industry complex, the Soviets made great strides in closing the performance gaps with the USN. Their Alfa class submarines were very fast and deep diving. Their final class of submarine before the disintegration of the Soviet Union – the Akula class – was largely a match for the Los Angeles class boats of the USN. However, they did so at a high price.

Soviet submarines suffered from many accidents, including ones involving their nuclear reactor. Both their SSGNs, designed to attack USN carrier groups, as well as their attack submarines, had many problems. After 1963 the Soviets had at least 15 major accidents that resulted in a total loss of the boat or major damage to its nuclear reactor. One submarine, the K429 actually sunk twice. The innovative Alfas, immortalized in The Hunt for Red October, were so trouble-prone that they were all decommissioned in 1990 save for one that had its innovative reactor replaced with a conventional one. In contrast, the USN had no accidents, though one submarine, the USS Scorpion, was lost in 1968 to unknown causes.

Why were the USN submarines so much more reliable? There were four basic reasons. First, the U.S. system allowed for much more open communication among the relevant actors. This allowed for easier mutual adjustment between the complex yet tightly integrated systems. Second, the U.S. system diffused power much more than in the Soviet political system. As a result, the U.S. pursued less radical innovations. Third, in the U.S. system decision makers often worked with more than one group – for example a U.S. admiral not only worked within the Navy, but also interacted with the shipyards and with Congress. Finally, Admiral Rickover was a strong safety advocate who instilled a strong safety culture that has endured to this day.

In short, share information, share power, make sure you know what you are doing and have someone powerful who is an advocate for safety. Like so much in management it sounds like common sense if you explain it well, but in reality it is very hard to do, as the Soviets discovered.

Feature image credit: Submarine, by subadei. CC-BY-2.0 via Flickr.

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15. Guest Post: Thinking About Scrivener?

scrivenerThinking About Scrivener?

By Pamela Brunskill

You’ve probably heard about Scrivener, and if you’re wondering if you have time to learn how to use it or whether it’s as great as everyone says it is, take half an hour and try it. Scrivener allows you to organize your drafts, using tools effective writers have been doing for ages, but all in one place. You don’t need to use all that Scrivener has to offer, and it can still transform your writing process.

For a relative beginner writer like me, Scrivener has been incredibly helpful in learning how to write and manage all the details in a lengthy manuscript. There are a LOT of great features, but some of my favorites are:

• On the main screen there’s a binder on the left hand side that allows you to add folders, chapters, and research. You can import websites, images, and research there, too.
• You can split your page horizontally or vertically to see two versions of the same piece at once. Or you can use it the split the view to two different parts of your manuscript, or a chapter and a website at the same time, or…you get the idea. You can also view your manuscript as a single page.
• There’s a synopsis tab you can view on the right hand side that allows you to jot down the purpose of the chapter and keep notes you can utilize in the chapter. I like to view this tab at the same time I’m working on a chapter to remind me how to focus my writing, to keep me from going on tangents.
• By changing the view mode, you can look at your chapters on a virtual cork board where you can rearrange the note cards that represent your chapters, just as you would on an actual cork board. But, when you’re done, the program has already rearranged the corresponding chapters in your binder.

Write, structure, revise

scrivenerwin-writing_studio

 

This is an example of what your screen looks like on Scrivener.
Image taken from Literature and Latte’s website.

Scrivener isn’t magical—it won’t write your book for you, but it can certainly help you turn that first draft into a brilliant one. And once you’re ready to send off your manuscript to a critique partner, editor, or friend, there’s a compile button. You check which sections of your manuscript you want to include, and then you can print, save, or export it in various formats, such as Word, PDF, ebook, and Web Page.

I am still learning all the great tools Scrivener has available, but within an hour of downloading it, I got the basics. If you’re worried that it will take a long time to learn a new program, don’t be. Literature and Latte, the company that developed Scrivener, provides tutorials to get you started. In this ten-minute video, Keith Blount, the original designer of Scrivener, demonstrates how to do all of what I mentioned and more.

 

Click on the image above to view the video

If you need more help getting started, Literature and Latte offers several video tutorials, and there are a number of blogs out there devoted to the subject. Children’s and YA author Dee Romito also has a great, step-by-step overview to set up your first project at I Write for Apples. And, of course, there are books and Scrivener coaches out there as well if you want to really get into it. But, even with a minimal understanding, Scrivener can help manage your big projects and keep you organized.

I use Scrivener for my adult non-fiction and for my picture books (it’s great to see the double-page spread and visualize page turns), but there are templates for all different forms of writing.

scrivenerwin-order_from_chaos

If you want to test out Scrivener on your computer, Literature and Latte offers a free 30 day trial. The best part is that the days don’t even have to be consecutive—if you use it one day, and then again a month later, you have only used two days! If you’re wondering, I bought the program after the first day, and it’s been well worth the money, at least in my book. Right now, Scrivener costs $45, and for the month of November the company is offering discounts for those participating in NaNoWriMo. Either way, to get the software, go to Literature and Latte and download it. It’s worth it.

Thank you Pamela for writing this up for everyone to read. I started the 30 day trial after talking to you about the software at Craft Day.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: Author, Book, opportunity, Technology, writing Tagged: Free 30 day trial, Manage Manuscript, Scrivener, Writer's Software

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16. Using Apps to Explore the Natural World

I love nature and the outdoors, and like to build on children’s natural curiosity and sense of wonder in library programming. Technology is part of our world today, and even more so, part of our children’s world. I’m excited about some of  the ways that technology can encourage and enhance exploration of the natural world. Here are six apps that you can share with children and families. All require users to do something in the world, beyond the device itself. Most can be used by preschool children, with parent/caregiver assistance, and by elementary age and older children more independently.

Merlin Bird ID

(free, iPad, iPhone, Android)
I’m a big fan of citizen science11708506813_1a7185bc68_m projects and have participated in Project Feederwatch with my own children for close to ten years. A few years ago I starting sharing information about The Great Backyard Bird Count in a storytime on birds and birdwatching. I was delighted when the Cornell Lab of Ornithology developed the Merlin Bird ID app. The question and answer format is easy enough for preschoolers to use (with an adults help, at least initially, as it involves reading).  It asks where the bird was seen (on the ground, in a tree, flying, etc.), what three main colors it was, and what size using a comparison chart that preschoolers can relate to. Then it comes up with possibilities for that bird. We identified one bird as a group from a picture of a Northern Cardinal, the state bird of Ohio, that I had seen at my feeder that day. Then children explored on their own using the three ipads we have for use in programming. The Merlin app also has a bird guide for browsing and playing different bird calls, an aspect that the children were particularly drawn to. Just listen to the Wild Turkey and you’ll see what I mean!

Other apps that build on children’s interest in the natural world include:

Out-A-Bout

(free, iPhone, iPad)

btree

Developed by the Fred Rogers Center, this app for preschoolers encourages movement, physical activity, and early literacy. It requires interactivity, as you take a photo of your child doing different activities like pretending to climb a tree, to jump, to squat like a frog.  Then the app creates a storybook from the images, that can be read multiple times, saved, and shared.

Nature’s Notebook

(free, iPhone, iPad, Android)

From the USA National Phenology Network, Nature’s Notebook is a citizen science project focused on recording seasonal changes in plants and animals. You register with the website, and then use the app to record observations. Lesson plans are provided for students from elementary to high school.  I already do programs on hibernation (getting ready for winter), the frog and butterfly life cycle, and trees, so I’m looking forward to suggesting this app to parents and teachers.

Trees Pro HD

(free, iPhone, iPad; two additional tree packs for $2.99; Android: $12.99)

This app can help identify trees by leaf type, bark, and fruit, flower or nut. Take a quiz to test your tree knowledge.

Project Noah

(free, iPhone, iPad, Android)

Another citizen science opportunity that is very kid-friendly and encourages closer observation of the natural world. A child, or family together, can choose missions, local or global, to participate in. Earn patches as you record nature spottings along the way, from the initial Tadpole patch to Bug Lover (50 arthropods) or Reptile Specialist (20 reptile spotting). The field guide includes photos from other Project Noah participants with a map of where the plant or animal was spotted.

Night Sky Lite

(free, iPhone, iPad, Android)

Just hold your de9684969716_411c2d9bb4_mvice up to the sky and this app identifies stars, constellations, and planets overhead. Great for budding stargazers. For those who want to learn more, upgrades provide additional information about the wonders overhead (and eliminate the ads at the bottom.)

What are some of your favorite apps for nature or outdoor exploration?

-Robin L. Gibson is a Youth Services Librarian at the Westerville Public Library in Westerville Ohio and member of the Children and Technology Committee.

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17. Online Harrassment

A conversation about Online Harassment.

For many teens, online is one of their 3rd places where they can find community and celebrate their various interests. These were safe places where they could find support outside of their physical community, especially if they were being harassed by peers.

Lately though many female content creators have been sharing their experiences which aren’t positive. Female YouTube personalities have sexually suggestive comments posted. Many women in the gaming industry have come under attack, with their personal information being released publicly, forcing at least 3 to have to leave their homes. A female researcher’s survey about sexism was corrupted by false data .We must also not forget the hundreds of celebrity photos that were released earlier this year.

Sadly, harassment isn’t anything new, but according to a new report from Pew Reserach Center

“Young adults, those 18-29, are more likely than any other demographic group to experience online harassment, and Young women, those 18-24, experience certain severe types of harassment at disproportionately high levels: 26% of these young women have been stalked online, and 25% were the target of online sexual harassment.”

The survey only included adults, so we have no data for teens, but even this information is concerning. Online harassment fell into one of two categories: personal attacks from someone you know and anonymous people on the internet (aka trolls).

There is a saying online don’t feed the trolls, but what do you do when they release your personal information as a way to silence you?

I decided to have a conversation with the teens at my regular programs about online harassment, and discovered that no one else was talking to them about this subject.

We talked mostly about GamerGate, and how this group is attacking women gamers and critics. GamerGate claims that they are doing this because they want ethics in games journalism, yet they don’t seem to be targeting men who speak out against them, or talking to the largest review websites in gaming journalism.

It allowed us to talk about censorship, how to properly argue, and gender equality. We discussed why someone would try to prevent someone from posting opinions online, and why arguments become personal attacks. We also discussed the wrong ways to convince someone that you are right. Specifically does attacking women improve ethics in games journalism, and what could GamerGate supporters do instead? One of my teens pointed out these excellent videos about common fallacies created by PBS Idea Channel’s Mike Rugnetta. We took a moment to watch them, and a few of the teens decided to take a break from gaming and were talking about Ad Hominem and trying to figure out whether you can separate a person from what they believe.

Pew Research indicated that 70% of adults have witnessed harassment online. Talking with my teen group revealed that all of them had experienced or known someone who has experienced harassment. While you can talk to a parent, teacher, or an adult about bullying, they shared the difficulty in reporting and stopping anonymous comments. Even the Internet Safety resources from NetSmartz and Onguard online have few resources to help with the large volume of attacks that have been targeted at some woman from individuals of GamerGate.

While the actions of some members of the internet are negative, I hope we can take this opportunity to have a conversation about anonymous harassment, and help give teens the tools to civilly interact online. As Emma Watson recently pointed out in a speech to the UN, equality for women is an important issue for EVERYone!

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18. Young Children, New Media & Libraries Survey: The Results Are In!

Have you heard that librarians are using new media in their programming for young children? Are you perhaps one of these trail-blazers? Do you ever wonder what else is happening in the library world with respect to new media? For the first time, we have some answers to these questions and more, and we are going to share some teasers with you. The full results will be published in Children & Libraries in 2015. Many thanks to everyone who responded to the survey.

Between August 1 and August 18, 2014, 415* children’s librarians responded to a survey of 9 questions concerning the use of new media with young children in libraries. The survey was created as a collaborative effort between Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), LittleeLit.com, and the iSchool at the University of Washington, and was partially inspired by a similar survey created by Karen Nemeth, Fran Simon, and Dale McManis in the early childhood education world. They investigated technology use in the classroom and published and presented their results at a number of NAEYC-related events.

Cen Campbell and the LittleeLit.com community had been developing promising practices for the use of technology with young children in public libraries, but had no statistics on how widespread and varied this use was in the United States. So a team that included Cen, Joanna Ison, Liz Mills, and Amy Koester–in partnership with ALSC–designed the first survey of public libraries to find out about emergent technology access and programming for children. The survey was then pilot-tested with public libraries in Washington and California, refined and administered through SurveyMonkey.com, and disseminated through the ALSC listserv, the Little eLit Google group, Storytime Underground, and all parties’ respective social media accounts.

Pie chart of the respondents by legal service area population.

Pie chart of the respondents by legal service area population.


Here is some of what we learned:

How is new media being used?

  • More than 70% of respondents are using some kind of new media in their programming for young children. 40% are using devices in storytime; 31% are using devices in other programs that are not storytimes.
  • More than 20% of respondents are offering device mentoring in some form (e.g., appointment with librarian, office hours for devices, etc.). Of that number, 2% are offering mentoring for devices that are multilingual for non-native English speakers.

Who do our respondents represent?

  • 22% of respondents are serving a legal service area population of less than 5,000; 40% of those respondents are planning to increase their availability and use of new media devices in library programs and services.
  • 18% of total respondents serve the 25,000-49,999 legal service area population; 60% of those respondents are planning to increase their availability and use.

What types of new media are being used and how were they acquired?

  • Respondents indicated quite an array of devices being used: Tablets (iPads, Samsung Galaxies, Nexus 7), Kindles and Nooks, digital cameras and MP3 players, AWE stations and Playaways, as well as LeapPads, Nabis, Tumblebooks, and others.
  • 58% consulted some kind of outside source when acquiring their new media: personal experience, recommendation from colleague, training, professional journals, and others.

Is there another viewpoint?

  • 14% of total respondents indicated that no devices are present in their libraries either because of a lack of community need or because of budgetary constraints.

Thank you to everyone who responded to the Young Children, New Media, and Libraries survey. We greatly appreciate your collaboration to help us gain a better understanding of what is taking place in your libraries around the country. Stay tuned for further data analysis and an explanation of methods coming soon!

A map of where survey respondents are from.

A visual map of where survey respondents are from.

*The total of 415 respondents includes five duplicate submissions–that is, five libraries submitted two copies of the survey, each with different responses (presumably by two different staff members). These duplicates are included in our data and will be discussed as a possible contributor to margin of error in the comprehensive write-up of this study.


Our guest blogger today were Cen Campbell and Liz Mills. Cen is a children’s librarian and founder of LittleeLit.com. She is currently co-chairing the Evolving the Carnegie Award Task for ALSC. Liz received her MLIS in 2013 and is now a second-year PhD student at the iSchool. she is interested in studying how storytimes of all kinds are planned and designed with respect to learning theory and connected learning.

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at alscblog@gmail.com.

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19. 2014 AES Convention: shrinking opportunities in music audio

Checking the website for the Audio Engineering Society (AES) convention in Los Angeles, I took note of the swipes promoting the event. Each heading was framed as follows: If it’s about ____________, it’s at AES. The slide show contained nine headings that are to be a part of the upcoming convention (in no particular order because you start at whatever point in the slide show you happened to log-in to the site).

  • Archiving & Restoration
  • Networked Audio
  • Broadcast & Streaming
  • Product Design
  • Recording
  • Project Studios
  • Sound for Picture
  • Live Sound
  • Game Sound

The list was interesting to me on many levels, but one significant one that struck me immediately was the absence of mixing and mastering (my main areas of work in audio). A relatively short time ago almost half of these categories did not exist. There was no streaming, no project studios, no networked audio and no game sound. So what is the state of affairs for the young audio engineering student or practitioner?

Yamaha M7CL digital live sound mixing console left half angled
Yamaha M7CL digital live sound mixing console left half angled. CC0 via Wikimedia Commons

Interestingly, of the four new fields mentioned, three of them represent diminished opportunities in the field of music recording, with one a singular beacon of hope.

Streaming audio represents the brave new world of audio delivery systems. As these services continue to capture more of the consumer market share they continue to diminish artists ability to earn a decent living (or pay an accomplished audio engineer). A friend of mine with 3 CD releases recently got his Spotify statement and saw that he had more that 60,000 streams of his music. His check was for $17. CDs don’t pay as well as vinyl records used to, downloads don’t pay as well as CDs, and streaming doesn’t pay as well as downloads (not to mention “file-sharing” which doesn’t pay anything). Sure, there may be jobs at Pandora and Spotify for a few engineers helping with the infrastructure of audio streaming, but generally streaming is another brick in the wall that is restricting audio jobs by shrinking the earning capacity of recording artists.

Project studios now dominate most recording projects outside the reasonably well-funded major label records and even most of that work is done in project studios (though they might be quite elaborate facilities). Project studios rarely have spots for interns or assistant engineers so they provide no entree positions for those trying to come up in the engineering ranks. Not only does that limit the available sources of income, but it also prevents the kind of mentoring that actually trains young engineers in the fine points of running sessions. Of course, almost no project studios provide regular, dependable work or with any kind of benefits.

Networked audio systems provide new, faster, and more elaborate connectivity of audio using digital technology. While there may be opportunities in the tech realm for engineers designing and building digital audio networks there is, once again, a shrinking of opportunities for those aspiring to making commercial music recordings. In many instances, these networking systems allow fewer people to do more—a boon only to a small number of audio engineers working with music recordings who can now do remote recordings without having to be present and without having to employ local recording engineers and studios to complete projects with musicians in other locations.

The one bright spot here is Game Sound. The explosive world of video games is providing many good jobs for audio engineers who want to record music. These recordings have become more interesting, higher quality, and featuring more prominent and talented composers and musicians than virtually any other area of music production. The only reservation here is that the music is intended as secondary to the game play (of course) and there is a preponderance of violent video games and therefore musical styles that tend to fit well into a violent atmosphere. However, this is changing with a much broader array of game types achieving new levels of popularity (Mindcraft!).

I do not fault AES for pointing to these areas of interest for audio engineers (other than the apparent absence of mixing and mastering). These are the places where significant activity, development, and change are occurring. They’re just not very encouraging for those of us who became audio engineers because of our deep love of music and our desire to be engaged in its production.

 Headline Image: Sound Mixing via CC0 Public Domain via Pixabay

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20. Welcoming We Give Books to the First Book Family

We can’t keep it a secret any longer!

iStock_000024504532LargeAs of today, We Give Books has a new home at First Book. The online platform, which features nearly 300 digitally-optimized children’s books, enables anyone with access to the Internet to put books in WGB-FB-logothe hands of kids in need, simply by reading online.

This generous gift to First Book comes from The Pearson Foundation along with $1.3M in cash to support We Give Books and help First Book deliver new online programs and services to our growing network of 140,000 classrooms and community organizations serving children in need.

You can get involved too!

Children, parents, caretakers and educators can visit www.wegivebooks.org and select books to read together. Reading on the site also triggers donations of new books to programs and classrooms serving children in need. Launched just four years ago, We Give Books has helped deliver more than 3.25 million books to children around the world.

We could not be more thankful to the Pearson Foundation or more thrilled for We Give Books to join the First Book family, helping us provide even more critical reading opportunities to young people across the United States and around the world.

Learn more about We Give Books joining First Book here. Then check out We Give Books and start reading today.

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21. Can I borrow a Mac?

Our Youth Services department recently underwent a freshening up. After reconfiguring our floor space and thinking about how it is used we decided to purchase several MacBook PROs for afterschool use. We had been circulating e-readers and tablets so this was a natural next step for us.

We made an initial purchase of eight laptops, and the kids went wild! We rolled out this new service a year ago and it has proven to be so popular that we had to invest in six more just to keep up with the demand.

So, how does this work you wonder? First, the laptops can only be used by children in grades 6-12th in our Youth Services department, they never leave the library. All one needs is a library card in good standing, a valid student ID and they are ready to borrow one. We ask each child to read and sign an agreement form that clearly states out the laptops may be used and we take a moment to discuss the terms of the agreement.

Our staff quickly realized this was an excellent opportunity to have more interaction with the children who are borrowing them. Not only was this a great way to learn their names, we now have the chance to talk to them about school, books, movies, etc. while we are preparing their laptop for use.

Everyone who registers to use a laptop is entered into a database. If there is a behavior infraction while using a laptop it is noted in the database. With over a thousand users, we have had only a few issues. Remarkably, none of these laptops have been damaged in anyway.

Each laptop comes loaded with a variety of popular applications kids really want. iPhoto, Garage Band, iMovie and Scratch 1.4 are a few that are in frequent use. Also popular is Face Time and Photo Booth. One might think these laptops are being borrowed for social media and gaming purposes, but I mostly observe them being used as a vehicle for creativity.

Recently, we began to offer technology classes specifically geared to children in grades 4 and up. We’ve held classes featuring programs such as Garage Band and iMovie where children created their own music or movies. Other well attended sessions featured Raspberry Pi; the credit card sized computer that can connect to a television and a keyboard and has quite a bit of functionality for something so small and Ardunio; an open source electronics platform that makes building interactive objects, such as robots more accessible.

It’s interesting to see just how adept these young people are with these types of programs and how eager they are to learn even more. If you have reached out to this age group I am interested to hear what you are doing, what’s worked and what hasn’t. I am always looking for the next big thing to offer.

 Allison Santos, Princeton Public Library, Princeton, NJ
ALSC Digital Content Task Force

 

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22. Kindle Killer

The Kindle saga has now come to an end.

If you recall, earlier this year my Kindle 2 began giving me trouble. I reset it to its factory settings and it behaved itself until about the end of August when the screen decided it was no longer going to work. So after four years together, it left me for what I hope will be a happier place in Digital Device Heaven.

I moved all my Kindle content over to Bookman’s old Kindle 1 and the two of us were getting along just fine. The Kindle 1 battery only held a charge for 5-6 days but that was fine. I planned on buying it a new battery once the current one was demanding to be charged every day or two. But apparently we were not getting along as well as I thought we were because two weeks ago Kindle 1 decided it would no longer do highlights or bookmarks. It told me my memory was full and I had to delete books. Wow, I didn’t realize I had that many, but ok, I deleted about 10 books. That should be enough.

Nope.

So then I deleted all but 20 books. That definitely would be enough free space.

Nope.

So then I thought, maybe it was the book I was reading. All the trouble had begun when I downloaded a book from the library Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error by Kathryn Schulz. Perhaps the whole highlighting trouble was just to do with some new DRM on library ebooks. So I opened Jane Austen’s Emma, a DRM-free Project Gutenberg book. And it still would not highlight. And when I tried to bookmark a page it said there was not enough memory.

Clearly it is the Kindle going kablooey. I cannot read on it if I cannot highlight. Though I have continued to read Being Wrong, which I am enjoying very much. However, it has been so long since I have read a book and not marked it up in some manner that it feels totally weird and I am having a hard time remembering things about the book. I briefly considered giving up reading it, but I don’t want to give it up. I have kept reading and when I am done with it, I won’t be able to really blog about it because I won’t be able to remember enough specifics.

Isn’t that interesting? Between college and blogging I had an entire decade in which I read books and didn’t mark them up and I was happy as a clam. Of course, ask me what I read during that decade and I would be hard pressed to come up with much. But then sometimes now at the end of the year when I look back on my books read there is one book I don’t recall reading. Of course I can read the blog post I wrote about it and it will come back, so that’s something. I find it somewhat amusing that I am reading a book called Being Wrong with a constant feeling of wrongness hovering around me.

With the Kindle 1 at death’s door, I was also having a hard debate with myself over whether to get another ereader. If it is only going to last for four or five years, is it really worth it? And if I did get another ereader, what would I get? I didn’t want another Kindle. Amazon has gotten too big and even nastier as a company. It’s kind of like the Walmart of the internet and I refuse to shop at Walmart which means I could not in good conscious buy anything from Amazon. I wouldn’t want a Nook. I don’t have anything against Barnes and Noble, but they are having such business problems with the Nook that with my luck I’d get one and next year they would no longer sell or support them.

I wasn’t going to get a new ereader then. I would just have to figure out how to manage my reading glasses on the bus and metro train and get used to carrying a book in my bag. I wasn’t happy about the prospect, but I was going to make it work.

Then Bookman told me I was being daft. You use the ereader five days a week and for those five days you spend more time reading on it than you do in paper books. You don’t want to mess around with reading glasses, especially in the winter. I’m going to get you a new Kindle. No! I said, not a Kindle. A Nook then? he asked. No not a Nook either. What then? I don’t know, I said. Well, you think about it, he said.

I thought about it. He was right that I do use the ereader a lot and I was dreading trying to juggle book and glasses and mittens and lenses fogging up or getting scratched and all that. I was still reluctant though. Bookman insisted again and told me if I didn’t decide he would just get me a Kindle. No Kindle. Amazon bad. Plus, I am clearly a Kindle killer. I’ve already killed two this year and did not want to make it a trifecta.

The only other alternative to Kindle and Nook is Kobo. I looked at the Kobo website. Maybe a Kobo Touch? Bookman ordered one before I had time to make up reasons why I shouldn’t have one. Kobo is in Canada. It took two weeks for it to get here. It arrived Friday. It’s so tiny. I need to find a cover for it to protect it in my bag. Since I won’t start carrying it until I am finished with Being Wrong on the Kindle, I have time to find a cover.

Yesterday I did all the setup stuff with it and added a couple of public domain books. I played around with it to figure out how to highlight and turn pages and get the various menus and how to make the font bigger so I can read without my glasses. The touch screen is nice, though in comparison with my iPad its responsiveness is frustratingly slow especially when trying to highlight something. But it is e-ink and at least I can highlight things!

I think Kobo and I will get along just fine. I’ll be finishing up the book on Kindle and it can join its Kindle 2 friend in Digital Device Heaven. Then Kobo and I can begin what I hope will be a long and beautiful friendship.


Filed under: Books, ebooks, Kindle, Technology Tagged: Kobo

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23. Instagram of the Week – October 27

A brief look at ‘grams of interest to engage teens and librarians navigating this social media platform. This week we’re looking at ways libraries can use Instagram to market services. As librarians, we know that we provide our communities with so more than books, but how can we show patrons everything we have to offer? From audio books to online materials and wireless printing to smiling faces at the Information Desk, here’s a few ways to get that information out there. The key to this week’s installment is reading the captions — there are many different approaches libraries can take.

Have you come across a related Instagram post this week, or has your library posted something similar? Have a topic you’d like to see in the next installment of Instagram of the Week? Share it in the comments section of this post.

 

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24. Feeling Chatty

Yesterday was one of those days when I logged off my computer at work and didn’t want to look at a computer screen again until I absolutely had to. I got to spend most of my day outside the library today which is nice to do now and then. I attended a local conference put on by the consortium my library belongs to. The topic was library marketing. It was pretty interesting. We had a chance to do some brainstorming there too and the other person who attended from my library and I came up with what we think are some good ideas to connect with a particular group of students. The trick now is finding the time to flesh it out and plan it and then put it into practice. We have such a small staff at my library that much of the time it feels like we are barely managing to keep our heads above water with all the things we have to do.

Even though it was a good day, these conference things always leave me worn out. And since I am all caught up writing about books I have finished reading and I’ve not got any particularly fascinating book news to share, I am still feeling a little chatty so you’ve been warned.

Oh! I do have something fun to share. Have you heard about the Hemingwrite? An MIT graduate and a Michigan software developer teamed up and designed a typewriter for the digital age. It looks a lot like the typewriter I went off to college with, typewrite body with a screen that shows your text before you hit return and it then typed your line. This one, however, is even better. It has an e-ink display, wifi and cloud storage. The display is six inches and everything you type is backed up to Evernote. It is also compatible with GoogleDocs and Dropbox. It’s portable too with a battery life of six weeks or more. The designers wanted to create a writing tool designed just for writing so there would be no distractions from the internet or email or Facebook.

I don’t really have any problems with distractions when I am writing on my computer but the Hemingwrite is so neat I kinda want one. I will resist, however, because what I really want is an actual manual typewriter. I have absolutely no need for one but I admit to suffering from a bit of typewriter nostalgia. Between junior high and high school computers happened. When I was in 8th grade I took a typing class and by the end of the semester could type a whopping 60 words a minute on the industrial looking manual typewriters we had. In tenth grade I took a computer class; that’s how fast things changed (though it was years before I actually had my own computer). But aside from the nostalgia, there is a small part of my brain that says, hey, a manual typewriter will really come in handy when the world falls apart and there is no reliable electricity or internet. What I think I might need to type when the world falls apart I have no idea. Perhaps since I will be one of the few people with a manual portable typewriter I could use it to make a living typing letters and forms for people. Or maybe since I have so many fountain pens and bottles of ink I should forget about getting a typewriter and work on improving my penmanship then I can hire myself out as a scribe.

It will soon be Halloween so it’s okay to consider horrible end-of-the-world scenarios. It also means the RIP Challenge is almost over. I didn’t do as well with it as I had hoped. I only managed She and Famous Modern Ghost Stories. I am still reading House of Leaves but I’m only about 2/3 of the way through. It is a chunky book and the pages are much larger than usual. There are some sections where there are only a few words on the page and for about five pages I can feel like I am really zooming along. But then I come up to page after page of densely written text that includes the main story, footnotes to the main story, and another story also told in footnotes. It is a completely crazy book and I found early that I could not stop reading in the middle of a chapter. So I have more or less been confined to reading the book at home when I have a chunk of time to give it which has made reading it go slowly.

But that’s ok. I am glad to finally be reading this book and in a couple weeks I will be done. Bookman has to work Halloween night and we do not hand out candy. We did for years but never got more than 5-20 kids at our door which doesn’t make all the trouble worthwhile. Not that I didn’t enjoy the trouble, I love carving pumpkins, but the effort was not rewarded. My Halloween plan is to curl up under a blanket with the cats, a cup of hot chocolate by my side, and a book in my hands. I’ll start off with House of Leaves but if it starts to creep me out at all I will have something else at hand to read instead like Proust or The Magicians, or maybe I’ll start reading A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing. As usual, there are too many choices. I’ll manage though, I generally always do.

You are probably tired of my rambling by now and if you have made it this far I’m not sure whether I should congratulate you or feel sorry for you. Either way, I hope you have a good book to turn to to help you wash this chat-fest from you mind. And also, have a happy Halloween!


Filed under: Books, Challenges, Technology

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25. What do rumors, diseases, and memes have in common?

Are you worried about catching the flu, or perhaps even Ebola? Just how worried should you be? Well, that depends on how fast a disease will spread over social and transportation networks, so it’s obviously important to obtain good estimates of the speed of disease transmission and to figure out good containment strategies to combat disease spread.

Diseases, rumors, memes, and other information all spread over networks. A lot of research has explored the effects of network structure on such spreading. Unfortunately, most of this research has a major issue: it considers networks that are not realistic enough, and this can lead to incorrect predictions of transmission speeds, which people are most important in a network, and so on. So how does one address this problem?

Traditionally, most studies of propagation on networks assume a very simple network structure that is static and only includes one type of connection between people. By contrast, real networks change in time  one contacts different people during weekdays and on weekends, one (hopefully) stays home when one is sick, new University students arrive from all parts of the world every autumn to settle into new cities. They also include multiple types of social ties (Facebook, Twitter, and – gasp – even face-to-face friendships), multiple modes of transportation, and so on. That is, we consume and communicate information through all sorts of channels. To consider a network with only one type of social tie ignores these facts and can potentially lead to incorrect predictions of which memes go viral and how fast information spreads. It also fails to allow differentiation between people who are important in one medium from people who are important in a different medium (or across multiple media). In fact, most real networks include a far richer “multilayer” structure. Collapsing such structures to obtain and then study a simpler network representation can yield incorrect answers for how fast diseases or ideas spread, the robustness level of infrastructures, how long it takes for interaction oscillators to synchronize, and more.

mobile-phone-426559_640
Image credit: Mobile Phone, by geralt. Public domain via Pixabay.

Recently, an increasingly large number of researchers are studying mathematical objects called “multilayer networks”. These generalize ordinary networks and allow one to incorporate time-dependence, multiple modes of connection, and other complexities. Work on multilayer networks dates back many decades in fields like sociology and engineering, and of course it is well-known that networks don’t exist in isolation but rather are coupled to other networks. The last few years have seen a rapid explosion of new theoretical tools to study multilayer networks.

And what types of things do researchers need to figure out? For one thing, it is known that multilayer structures induce correlations that are invisible if one collapses multilayer networks into simpler representations, so it is essential to figure out when and by how much such correlations increase or decrease the propagation of diseases and information, how they change the ability of oscillators to synchronize, and so on. From the standpoint of theory, it is necessary to develop better methods to measure multilayer structures, as a large majority of the tools that have been used thus far to study multilayer networks are mostly just more complicated versions of existing diagnostic and models. We need to do better. It is also necessary to systematically examine the effects of multilayer structures, such as correlations between different layers (e.g., perhaps a person who is important for the social network that is encapsulated in one layer also tends to be important in other layers?), on different types of dynamical processes. In these efforts, it is crucial to consider not only simplistic (“toy”) models — as in most of the work on multilayer networks thus far — but to move the field towards the examination of ever more realistic and diverse models and to estimate the parameters of these models from empirical data. As our review article illustrates, multilayer networks are both exciting and important to study, but the increasingly large community that is studying them still has a long way to go. We hope that our article will help steer these efforts, which promise to be very fruitful.

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