education, technology, and everything else

Posts Tagged ‘internet’

Cassandra speaks again

Posted by Miranda on January 13, 2008

Cassandra, as you may know, was one of the daughters of Priam of Troy. She was cursed by Apollo in a very creative way. He gave her the gift of prophecy. The curse was that no one would believe her. I always felt a great deal of sympathy for Cassandra and many years ago, when my mother took me to Troy I sat on the wall there and tried to establish mental contact with her. She didn’t answer.

These days I sometimes feel like Cassandra though. I read so much enthusiasm in the edu-blogging world for technologies like video, Skype, social networking.. all sorts of new things. Perhaps it is because my town still has only dial-up and so many of these new technologies are unavailable to me that I feel less than hyped up. Could just be jealousy I suppose.

But then again it could be that because I work on the IT side and have a better understanding of how bandwidth works that I feel a sense of impending… not doom, that’s too strong. But I am beginning to believe it’s all going to fall. Articles like Net gridlock by 2010 – BBC, YouTube Comprises 10% of all Internet Traffic – WebPro News or Information Super Traffic Jam – Forbes have been catching my attention.

I’ve also been having personal experience with a traffic problem that in my opinion, already exists. I volunteer as a tech for a large discussion forum, the server for which is located in Miami. Over the last several months (since school started) our users have been having trouble getting to the forum at times of high traffic. We’ve been doing some informal studies, asking our users to send us results of traceroute from their home computers. The Washington DC, Atlanta GA, Miami FL corridor is a huge bottleneck. Signals can bounce around down there for quite a while. We are planning to move our forum to a server located in the UK.

The Forbes article says:

One solution suggested by network operators is to prioritize traffic based on service tiers and use revenue from content providers in the premium tiers to subsidize the high costs of infrastructure deployment. The crowd denounces this solution for creating Internet fast lanes and relegating everything else to the slow lane.

I believe this is just what will happen and it will start happening soon. Money talks and everyone else will be walking. Education will be a low priority and companies that can pay will get the bandwidth.

Sure there’ll be improvements to the global infrastructure. But they cost. Someone will have to pay and it will be you and me. Before those improvements take place, we are going to see some major slowdowns. and after they take place there will be rationing. It would be nice if the rationing was according to merit or usefulness but I fear that won’t be so.

Bandwidth isn’t infinite. But like Cassandra, I don’t expect anyone to pay attention.

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Pew report on library usage

Posted by Miranda on January 1, 2008

A post over on David Warlick’s blog Web Generation Uses Libraries… led me to start doing some looking around. The post refers to an article in the Raleigh News & Observer about a study done recently by Pew Internet and American Life Project and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Now it’s funny because the article doesn’t really draw any conclusion, the main thrust is this statistic: that 21% of Americans with questions related to health, job training, government benefits have gone to a library to get those questions answered.
But it’s quotable quote comes from Lee Rainie, Pew’s director:
“The age of books isn’t yet over”

Computerworld, reporting on the same study, concentrates on the fact that while at the library, 65% of respondents looked up information on the Internet on library computers. It also reports that 62% used computers to check on library resources, which to my mind is one of the most meaningless statistics ever. Even our little library in town keeps its card catalog on a computer these days, I mean you can’t check library resources except with a computer.

I just think it’s funny the way things get filtered according to what the writer wants to see..
According to the Pew site:

The focus of the survey was how Americans address common problems that might be linked to government.

not on library usage in general.

Well draw your own conclusions. The pdf of the report can be downloaded here and so can the original questionnaire.

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Doris Lessing and the Internet

Posted by Miranda on December 10, 2007

I read with interest a blog post this morning at TechCrunch claiming that Doris Lessing, the author who just won the Nobel prize for literature, said in her acceptance speech that the Internet makes us dumber. (And I have to say that the title just goes to prove Ms. Lessing’s point.
There’s plenty more such as this article in the Sydney Herald
Net dumbs us down: Nobel prize winner.

New Nobel laureate Doris Lessing has used her acceptance speech to rail against the internet, saying it has “seduced a whole generation into its inanities” and created a world where people know nothing.

I read the full text of Ms. Lessing’s speech and it doesn’t read to me as if she’s railing actually. Her comments about a generation seduced by the Internet are a tiny proportion of the speech.
There seems to be a certain defensiveness in many of the on-line comments.
And I think Ms. Lessing has a point.

Information literacy isn’t literacy.

It is my experience, speaking with my son’s high school friends, that the friends who read books appear to be better educated than the friends who don’t. I thought that might just be my generational bias, so on the drive to school this morning I asked him:

“As a general question” I asked him ” do you feel that the kids you know who read books are better educated?”

” I have two types of friends” my son said “preppy friends and stoner friends.The preppy friends read books and the stoners don’t. The stoners come across as dumber. They don’t have the vocabulary for one thing,” he said,” and you need vocabulary to express yourself. I know my vocabulary is way better than most of the people I know, and it’s because I read a lot, mostly novels.
“It’s just like the NewSpeak in 1984” he said ” if you take words away from people you can regiment their thoughts just the way you want, because if people don’t have the words to express what they think, they don’t think those things.”

The Internet is not all bad. I don’t believe it makes me dumber. If it wasn’t for the Internet I might not even have know that Ms. Lessing won the Nobel and I probably wouldn’t have been able to read her speech. But I do think there is a tendency to believe that if we have access to the Internet we have access to everything we need to educate ourselves and that just isn’t true.

As Frank Zappa said

“If you want to get laid, go to college. If you want an education, go to the library”

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