February 26, 2007

Critical Mass in Computing

Category: Academic,Books/Articles,Politics,Tech — Biella @ 4:43 pm

Social Studies of Science just published an article by on the importance of reaching a critical mass for recruiting women to study computer science.

Below is the abstract:

The Strength of Numbers
Strategies to Include Women into Computer Science
Vivian Anette Lagesen

Vivian Anette Lagesen, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Norway, Vivian.Lagesen@hf.ntnu.no

This paper investigates four different inclusion strategies used to recruit women to computer science: achieving a critical mass, educational reform, redefining the gendered symbolism of computer science and changing the content of the discipline. The relationship between and the relative importance of these four strategies are explored by looking at the extensive and successful Women and Computing Initiative (WCI) that was run by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), starting in 1996, to recruit and retain more women in computer science. The findings suggest that a direct effort to increase the relative number of women is the most important strategy. While raising the number of women recruited seems to affect the symbolic perception of computer science, this effect is difficult to achieve through attempts to directly change the symbolic image of the discipline. In addition, a substantial increase in the number of women appears to cause an improvement in their learning environment, probably because minority problems such as too much visibility and unwanted attention became less prominent.

Key Words: computer science • critical mass • gender • higher education • inclusion

February 25, 2007

Lancet, Medicalization in the 21st Century

Category: Academic,Books/Articles,Politics — Biella @ 1:03 pm

So I was alerted to this collection of essays in The Lancet on Medicalisation in the 21st century. The line-up of folks are some of my favorite in the field (Nancy Tomes, Nick Rose, Jonathan Metzel) and it is good to see this discussion happening in the medical journal. Sadly it is not open access but if you really want to read them and don’t have access to the journal, just ping me, and I am sure I can make something available.

Grave Food vs Flowers

Category: Academic,Anthropology,Humor — Biella @ 12:07 pm

“A plains Indian had just placed food on a new grave, when a whilte man looking on jocularly asked, “Do you expect the dead man to come up and eat that food?” To which the Indian responded, “As soon as your dead come up to smell the flowers you place on their graves” [Story told by anthropologist Margaret Mead, and which I read about this morning (and laughed, seriously) in Taking Laughter Seriously by John Morreal]

New(ish) collections on commons, openness and space

Category: Academic,Books/Articles,IP Law,Politics,Tech — Biella @ 7:57 am

In the shade of the commons, to download go here

Open Hybrid Space

February 23, 2007

On Mole-patrol

Category: Uncategorized — Biella @ 2:15 pm

So last year as I entered the job market, I posted less “personal” blog entries and have more or less kept with the tradition except with the occasional post, especially when it concerns my mom. Right when I moved to Canada, I broke with this tradition and wrote a longish entry about my moles which I thought of as a public serive announcement to get people to go on mole patrol, because really, that is the only way to deal with recalcitrant moles.

Of course, I am on constant mole-patrol and a day before I left Puerto Rico, as my sister moved her hair away from her neck to pull it back, I noticed a funky looking mole. Now, it was not all that weird but a little weird and I was like, go go go to the dermatologist and check it out. It took a few weeks to get an appointment and then they took it out, bioposied it, and indeed, there was melanoma. Everyone was shocked because, well it is shocking news to get and if anything, I thought the mole would have abnormal cells like mind did. She thankfully was pretty calm throughout the whole process (I attribute it, in part, to the fact that she does not spend too much time on the Internet, where you can arm yourself with a lot of good, but often downright frightening information).

A few days ago, after a battery of tests, we found out that the melanoma was very small and contained and they had taken everything out. So for now, we are on the clear but it means constant mole partrol for her and I… Melanoma runs in families and as kids we also ran around on the beach so this issue is not going to go away. But I guess it is good that I had my scare in August, otherwise I would have never given her mole a second thought. I probably would not have made myself stare as I did at her hidden moles, every chance I had.

So anyway, again, go to your dermatologist and check your moles. Or at least go on mole patrol. It is well worth the hassle…

February 22, 2007

The power of analogy

Category: Academic,IP Law,Politics,Tech — Biella @ 8:52 am

The other night I was rocking out to a newly acquired swath of rock and techno from the 1970s and 1980s when Mako pinged me on IRC to chat about my recent blog post, the outcome of which the was his following blog entry. And indeed, I made the associations and links very quickly to gesture to the absurdity of how these example are collapsed and under the umbrella of IP law and as a move to argue for maximalist positions. He took the time to explain how certain folks, like Pat Choate in Hot Property used these very examples to argue for more not less protection.

Does anyone know of a case of people using these types of examples to argue the opposite or differently as I think can also be done?? (that is aside from Mako’s wonderful post)

February 20, 2007

Counterfeit drugs

Category: Academic,Politics,Tech — Biella @ 3:05 pm

A pirated movie carries little consequence, except for that the movie industry may lose some cash flow. A fake Rolex purchased on the bustling streets of NYC saves you a lot of money (and robs you of a warranty). But counterfeit drugs, the consequences and stakes are at a whole other, more serious, order of things.

February 19, 2007

When More Is Not Enough

Category: Academic,Mad Movement,Pharma,Politics,Psychiatry,Research,Tech — Biella @ 12:28 pm

When More is Not Enough is not only clever parody but has such a nice fusion of content and form….

A simple list of favorite articles and books

Category: Academic,Books/Articles,Tech — Biella @ 8:42 am

While I use delicious, I find it somewhat of a chaotic mess, even if you can eventually find stuff thanks to le tagging. Because of the chaos, I have decided to compile a simple list of my favorite articles and books. Most of these are good for teaching and make a worthy second read. I have had to rely on memory to get most of the articles I have on the list there so there will be others coming soon. I am also more interested in getting the articles there than the books (and actually am putting books that I would use to teach with which is why there is not much up there now).

February 15, 2007

I cite, you cite, I rant…

Category: Academic,Books/Articles,Politics,Tech,Uncategorized — Biella @ 4:29 pm

Since there are few topics about academic etiquette than get me as excited as the norms of citations, I was quite fascinated by Joseph Reagle’s blog entry on the topic, a discussion that spanned a summary of Helen Nissenbaums’ work on the subject to his own wrangling with how he should recognize others who have independently reached similar conclusions as his own.

Citations fascinate me because they are one of the few tangible inscriptions that reveal just how much of our work is indebted to others; it is “stimergic” (and if you don’t know what that is, read Joe’s entry as his moral wrangling over citations had to do with this term, his use of it and the discovery that someone else came up with it also). Despite the fact that all disciplines use them, we use them slightly distinctly. Lawyers use them in lawyerly-like ways: they cite the crap out of everything (it is kinda annoying but kinda helpful) and this makes total sense: they are covering their asses (lawyers know how to do this well), they are following the logic of their own practice as case law is quite citational, and well, law professors usually have one if not two research assistants, and this I am sure helps them in covering their citational bases.

Another big difference in practices of citations is between a conventions that includes the name of the person you are citing in the body of the text and those that stuff all that data in a footnote. I can’t stand the later convention, not only because it is a pain in the neck to have to go back to the footnote JUST to see who the heck the author is citing but I think the credit should be right there, springing off the page so that the politics of collaborative recognition are, well, very evident (and I do understand that if you are citing a buttload of folks, that sometimes it is just better to do that in footnotes and sometimes with history they are citing way to may folks to really do it effectively in the body of the text).

Joe raises some fundamentally thorny questions of who and how do we cite given that we may come up with an idea with the power of our own little brains, only to find out (gasp) that others, past and present and very unknown others, say something similar. On the whole, I tend to try to make clear, as Joe did in the example he provided, where I am totally taking the idea from someone to apply to another idea of mine and where I have an independently crafted idea and I am citing others so as to support my own position, which usually only strengthens my own argument. And what I find is that just because a cohort of folks may be working on similar topic (open souce, hackers), since we do so from our own perspectives and methods, most of the research will be “original,” though not as much as we tend to perform to our superiors. Also I sometimes find myself with an idea, which I consider as my own, but where I am so in need of a citation because it is an idea that seems at an intuitive level to be right on but it is hard to truly substantiate with the data I have (I am in that position right now and am desperate to find someone who says what I say and thus have a means to support what otherwise seems like a lofty idea…)

And in fact, one thing that bothers me about citations is that we don’t seem to take seriously that the date of publication may not just tell us when something was published but help us gauge if something can become “dated.” What I mean is that when (and I guess if) I publish my book on hackers and Debian, it will not be a reflection not of some timeless aspects of hacking but firmly based out of the time period (roughly 10 years give or take 3 or 4) that I was either researching and writing about the topic. And while you can and should cite folks who wrote stuff in the past because that stuff still matters (a lot of what Steven Levy says for example still holds water) a lot changes. And yet I can’t stand how folks then cite someone as “wrong” when in fact all that went wrong is that time does what it does best: MOVE FORWARD and social phenomenon change along with the passing of new moons. This is not as likely to happen in the hard sciences but sure as heck happens with anything in the so-called human realm (which is why it bothers me that the social sciences and humanities model our citational and journal practices so similarly to the hard sciences, when it seems there are enough differences to warrant more differences than there are but that is a whole other topic). So now I try to note where my analysis diverges because the context so radically changed and really leave critique for those things I can safely and fairly disagree with on its own terms.