I came to The Encyclopaedia of Life via Kevin Kelly’s website and a former project of his to catalogue and identify every living species on earth by giving it its own web page. This led to me to The Global Names Architecture (GNA) for connection biological information.
Also via Kevin Kelly, The Quantified Self a blog all about self knowledge through numbers and Wink: remarkable books that belong on paper.
The Museum of Modern Art exhibition pageAccess to Tools: Publications from the Whole Earth Catalog, 1968-1974
On our #citylis #infodomains theme of Healthcare information I added The Wellness Syndrome / Carl Cederström and André Spicer published by Polity examining the modern ideology of wellness to my want to read list.
Combining the Quantified Self and Healthcare Information I read this intriguing article on building your own pancreas. It uses data from internet of things (IoT) type devices with a hacker mentality to create new, and social systems, for monitoring and medicating diabetes. There is an interesting point made about “data and free speech” but the potential legal grey area of DIY code and healthcare regulation.
This little video, also from the Quantified Self blog, is about time tracking. Greg Kroleski talks about 6 years spent tracking his time. The methodology (one week every quarter in a spreadsheet) and visualisation (mostly graphs) are not that unusual but as well as the raw data what I found interesting was the ‘taxonomy of time’ he developed to categories his activities and the difficulties of categorising.
Interesting post on Visualising Data on the use of pink and blue, or not, for gendered visualisation. Potentially relevant to a project I’m thinking of working on for my #dataviz assignment.
“Since World War II, information theory has had many offspring, all of which share fundamental traits: that the composition of information must be binary, and thus digital, compressible, reversible, predictable, scalable, and measurable. What has been most urgent as of late is the development of critical theoretical positions that follow the spread of such platforms over society at large. Subjects are not just actors in a network, but also network architects themselves, both supplicator and designer in an increasingly automated sociality.” – Marvin Jordan and Mike Pepi
Great visualisation by Allison McCann on women’s sports data. Ok tongue in cheek there, but it demonstrates how second class women’s sport still is.
Meanwhile the Washington Post highlight a debate between the US and The Netherlands over marijuana usage featuring what they describe as a “passive aggressive infographic”. Remember folks information may be beautiful but it’s not always neutral!
There have been a number of times this year that a #citylis lecture has subsequent exposed connections in a way I’ve found uncanny. A sure sign that the course is opening my mind and encouraging me to pay attention. Coincidences are just connections I wouldn’t have noticed without being receptive to them.
This week’s connections were provided by the Inquiring Minds podcast a weekly show I would encourage you to subscribe to if you are at all interested in intersections of science, society and the world around us.
On a sunny spring afternoon I had about an hour’s walk home in front of me so I listened to Episode 75: Kevin Kelly: What Technology Wants (the ‘fact’ that sunny days and fresh air help you think better is only proven by my own anecdata!).
Connecting Healthcare Information
In the slot before the main feature co-hosts Kishore Hari and Indre Viskontas discussed the, possibly tangled and dark, connections between celebrity, disorders, medication and public awareness campaigns. This touched on many of this issues we discussed in our Information Domains lecture last week on Healthcare information with another session of Pharmaceutical information to come.
“We have to be a little more vigilant about how we as a society are promoting a particular disease” – Indre Viskontas
Inquiring Minds hope to have a follow up on this story. In the meantime other episodes to catch up on that connect with this theme are: Episode 74 featuring Kathleen Hall Jamieson on Fact Checking Science, Episode 36 featuring Harry Collins on Why Googling Doesn’t Make You a Scientific Expert, Episode 17 featuring Michael Pollan on The Science of Eating Well (And Not Falling for Fad Diets) and Episode 7 featuring George Johnson on Why Mostt of What You’ve Heard About Cancer is Wrong.
Another pre-feature chat concerned the MIT Self-Assembly Lab who have made a chair assemble itself in water.
Their research looks at how things can make themselves.
“Self-Assembly is a process by which disordered parts build an ordered structure through local interaction.” – MIT Self-Assembly Lab
This is more than a little bit mind expanding. They are researching the “building blocks. energy and interactions” for self-making things.
Now, when we studied entropy we looked at how ordered structures consisting of many independent parts tended to disorder. The self-assembly lab look at creating materials that can create order from disorder pieces: shifting from high to low entropy.
One of the questions this poses is do information technologies such as the Semantic Web and machine learning suggest a similar ability to self-order information resources? If so, what is the role and purpose of information professionals?
Kevin Kelly on Cataloguing Cool Tools, Surveillance and Technology as a Force
“Kevin Kelly is a former editor of the Whole Earth Catalog and co-founder of Wired magazine, where he remains editor-at-large. He has been an irrepressible prophet of our digital future for 40 years.
It’s also hard to cover the eclectic mind swirl and surfing journey the ideas tumbling out of this podcast took me on.
Access to Tools
Let’s start with the Whole Earth Catalog, again pretty coincidentally given that during Reading Week some of us were participating in an optional workshop on cataloguing using RDA and MARC21.
Where Librarians catalogue books and documents the Whole Earth Catalog collected … well bits of information about everything. Often these were tools, tools being an infinitely malleable term. The Catalog was sub-titled “access to tools” and books were just one example in the broad taxonomy of tools they catalogued.
“”Tools” were endless and whatever users and staff deemed them to be. They could be actual tools for everything from jewelry work and enameling to woodworking and blacksmithing. Other tools were books of every type – from views of the future to death and dying to gravity and time to population control; maps; and how-to guides for everything from living in a tipi to building a pipe organ to using a compass.” – Whole Earth Catalog
Rising out of late 1960s counterculture, perhaps Stewart Brand’s Whole Earth Catalog should be linked to that emergent history of the web that threads through Paul Otlet’s Universal Bibliography, Vannevar Bush’s Memex, Ted Nelson’s Hypertext to Tim Berners-Lee’s World Wide Web? It has been described as a cross between an early search engine and social medium published in zine form.
“With a seemingly haphazard arrangement of information within its categories, the CATALOG was the desktop-published equivalent an early search engine that invited readers to learn something new on every page – and to connect unrelated ideas and concepts.” – Whole Earth Catalog
Kevin Kelly described working on the whole Earth Catalog as:
“living on the web decades before the internet was born” – Kevin Kelly
Kelly still catalogues tools via Cool Tools. Every weekday this blog publishes and article about tools that work and has collated 1200 of the best of them into a book that is subtitled “A Catalog of Possibilities” … which perhaps sums up a reason for being of many catalogues.
Surveillance, Tracking and Technology as Force
Kelly also talks about the Internet, tracking and surveillance. He thinks that it’s not going to be possible to stop the internet tracking us. He sees technology as an evolutionary force. this doesn’t necessarily mean that it is deterministic but once systems evolve they neither fully control nor are fully controlled by the humans that originally innovated and introduced them into our systems and ecosystems. They are relentless in their adaptability and mutation.
The Internet is a force that tracks. In some ways resistance is futile. It’s going to be increasingly difficult to live off the grid or to use the Internet and benefit from it without accepting its trackable element. Instead of resistance, Kelly argues that we should accept this property of and figure out how to make it more beneficial than malevolent or malicious and how to work to ensure its multifarious and reciprocal. Tracking is not going to go away but it can also still be negotiated and contested.
Kelly raises the spectre of our looming identity crisis as we increasingly ask “What will humans be?” as we create forms of intelligence and self-creating machines that potentially seriously disrupt our place in the world and our ongoing development as a species.