Thursday, January 07, 2010

TED: Technology, Entertainment, Design

For years people have been mentioning TED to me. But it was only after hearing about it on radio that I signed up (thus the power of old media). TED standards for "Technology, Entertainment, Design" and is a not for profit organisation which has been running conferences since 1984. They now have a web site where anyone can watch videos or inspiring speakers and enter discussions. There are also two annual conferences, in California and Oxford and some in Asia.

TED is not perfect. It has a bit too much of that USA East Coast enthusiasm in it for my liking. Also I had some difficulty with the web site, which is a little too Web 2.0 to work well on my low bandwidth wireless set-up. I was not able to upload a photo for my profile.

While I was at it I ran some tested on the TED home page. It gets a poor score of 30/100 on the W3C Mobile test. The page has 48 errors on a W3C HTML test. It had 4 Priority One and 7 Priority Two problems on the TAW automated Accessibility test. These are things TED need to fix if they want to achieve their aims of speeding ideas more widely across the world.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Internet Transforming Politics and the Media

One example of a journalist who cannot be accused of not giving a topic the depth of analysis it deserves is the ABC's Eleanor Hall. She has just completed studies at Oxford University Internet Institute on the use of the Internet in politics. Her carefully researched 37 page Trinity Term Reuters Institute Fellowship Paper "Politics in the Youtube Age: Transforming the Political and Media Culture?", is available online. She argues that Obama's use of the Internet was not the grassroots campaign it was portrayed as, but had strong central coordination.

I concluded that the Obama campaign is less revolutionary than it at first appears and that there are a range of reasons why it is unlikely that British politicians will follow even some of the more riskfree elements of the Obama e-campaign.

The Obama campaign showed that online social networking can be a powerful political tool and the US President’s web supporters are justified in claiming this as the first election victory for YouTube politics. But it also showed that a web 2.0 community can be harnessed to a fairly traditional campaign hierarchy and could be open to manipulation by the very political gatekeepers it claims to
be challenging.

Obama’s is a story of how web 2.0 helped an outsider to get into the race for the White House but then how the candidate’s campaign used social networking to increase several important levers of its power. The campaign amassed a huge database of supporter contacts and information, it raised the biggest war chest of funds in US history and it used the web to marshal and direct its online supporters. It also used the internet to counter one of the other political power centres in the campaigning environment, the mainstream media. In doing all of this there were negotiations made and, sometimes uneasy, alliances formed.

The Obama team directed political activity but did not squash dissent, as campaign directors in a TV age campaign might have done. It broke away from the old “war room” approach to data that was characterised by secrecy and central control and gave supporters more autonomy in the way they involved themselves in the political campaign. The web 2.0 community showed it was powerful and Obama’s embrace of it meant many more citizens did engage in the political process. But this was still a political campaign with the goal of winning power and was strikingly similar in key respects to an old-style top down, command and control political operation.

As for British politicians emulating elements of the Obama e -campaign to re-engage citizens and reinvigorate the democratic process, most players agreed it appears unlikely to happen any time soon, despite the expenses crisis. While many MPs and citizens are increasingly using web 2.0 to engage in politics, institutional and cultural differences between the US and the UK make it unlikely Britain will ever see Obama-levels of enthusiasm for using web 2.0 in political campaigns. ...

From: Politics in the Youtube Age: Transforming the Political and Media Culture?, Eleanor Hall, Trinity Term, Reuters Institute Fellowship, University of Oxford, 2009

Labels: , , , ,

Oxford University Online Courses

Oxford University's Department for Continuing Education appears to provide the equivalent of the Cambridge University Online Courses. There are short introductory courses of 10-weeks for undergraduates, advanced diploma and postgraduate courses, as well as specalised professional development courses. An example of the undergaduate program is the one year Advanced Diploma in Data and Systems Analysis. One interesting professional development course offered is in Effective Online Tutoring (a problem with providing online edcuation is where to get trained tutors and one solution is to use the system itself to tran them).

Unlike Cambridge, Oxford provides an online demonstration of how their courses are presented. Oxford uses the same Australian developed Moodle Learning Management System, as I have used for developing courses at the Australian National University and the Australian Computer Society. They use the same structure of giving the student a summary of a topic, have them do some further reading and then report what they have found and discuss it in a forum online.

One limitation with the Oxford courses is that while the University of Oxford offers short undergraduate and postgraduate coruses, it does not offer undergraduate degrees or MBAs via distance or online learning. Perhaps this limitation will disappear over time, as the University gains experience and confidence in online education.

Labels: , , , ,

Friday, November 06, 2009

Oxford University five steps to Sustainable desktop computing

The Oxford University Computing Services have a simple five step process for "Sustainable desktop computing": Estimate, Research, Implement, Communicate, Share. There are then links to tools and techniques to help do these steps. I visited OUCS in 1994 and ave them a seminar in 2000.

Labels: , ,

Monday, January 12, 2009

Low Carbon ICT Project at Oxford University

The University of Oxford has started a Low Carbon ICT Project. The aim is for the University to show by example that energy, carbon emission and cost savings can be made in the use of computers and telecommunications. A Towards Low Carbon ICT conference was held in March 2008 (some slides and audio are available). There is a second conference planned for early 2009, which is to report results. Given the project had only 18 months, this is an ambitious goal.

Labels: ,