The New Speak & Spell Robot Feels Your Pain

When I was but a wee younglin’ — the most robotic thing we had to “teach” us was the handheld “Speak & Spell” from Texas Instruments — which was merely a more glorified version of the “See N Say.”

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Real Guitar or Toy?

Misa Digital announced a new “guitar” this week that is more computer than guitar.  Instead of frets and strings, you have buttons and a touch-sensitive panel.  Instead of Bending the Soul of The Blues, you get to Press the Electrosynchrisity of Midi.

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Blog Comments or Formal Peer Review?

Noah Wardrip-Fruin poses a fascinating question on his blog: Is peer
review enough of a catchall against prejudice and misinformation; or
can adding blog readers to the process also help expand the
understanding of the author:

The blog-based review project started when Doug Sery, my editor at the MIT Press, brought up the question of who would peer-review the Expressive Processing
manuscript. I immediately realized that the peer review I most wanted
was from the community around Grand Text Auto. I said this to Doug, who
was already one of the blog’s readers, and he was enthusiastic. Next I
contacted Ben Vershbow at the Institute for the Future of the Book to
see if we could adapt their CommentPress tool for use in an ongoing
blog conversation. Ben not only agreed but also became a partner in
conceptualizing, planning, and producing the project. With the ball
rolling, I asked the Committee on Research of the University of
California at San Diego’s Academic Senate for some support (which it
generously provided) and approached Jeremy Douglass (of that same
university’s newly formed Software Studies initiative), who also became
a core collaborator — especially (and appropriately) for the
software-related aspects.

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Digital Tenure

We love the idea of Digital Tenure.  Writing for electronic publishing should, and must, be considered in matters of awarding faculty tenure at traditional universities.

Data is becoming a first-class object.
In the days of completely paper publication, the article or book was
the end of the line. And once the book was in libraries, the data were
often thrown away or allowed to deteriorate.

Now we’re
in a massive shift. Data become resources. They are no longer just a
byproduct of research. And that changes the nature of publishing, how
we think about what we do, and how we educate our graduate students.
The accumulation of that data should be considered a scholarly act as
well as the publication that comes out of it.

Consider
an assistant professor who has five years of field data. If she could
combine that with five years of data on children from a researcher in
another country, or another ethnic group or DNA strain, think of how
much more powerful their work could be. We can bring these together and
make comparisons on a large scale — these are things we couldn’t do
before.

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Scholarly Journals Die a Proper Electronic Death

Electronic Research!The Christian Science Monitor recently reported the timely and appropriate death of elitist hardcopy scholarly journals — a welcome and deserved demise and here’s why:

For years, traditional “peer review” has come under fire. A jury of three experts, the peer reviewers, assess each article and recommend only those that they feel represent the most significant new work.

At many elite scientific journals, fewer than 10 percent of the articles submitted are accepted. Many of the rejected articles eventually travel down the “food chain” to be published in a plethora of less prestigious (and less noticed) specialty journals.

A year ago, the respected US journal Science was forced to retract two papers it had published about stem cells. The articles had been submitted by a South Korean team led by Hwang Woo-Suk.

Peer reviewers, as well as the editors, had failed to detect the fraud. In general, peer reviewers, themselves researchers pressed for time, don’t try to re-create experiments and rarely ask to see the raw data that supports a paper’s conclusions.

While peer review is expected to separate the wheat from the chaff, it’s “slow, expensive, profligate of academic time, highly subjective, prone to bias, easily abused, poor at detecting gross defects, and almost useless for detecting fraud,” summed up one critic in BMJ, the British medical journal, in 1997.

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You are an Electronic Jigsaw Puzzle

The New York Times recently reported an allegedly sustained and multi-faceted effort by the United States government to monitor its citizens’ behavior in the name of national defense and homeland security with the assistance of private businesses. The pieces of this puzzle of electronic surveilling of its citizens by a government causes more than a moment of dismay and a period of concern.

An online news outlet has published details about secret rooms in AT&T buildings where government spies are said to be gaining access to millions of private e-mail messages and other Internet traffic.

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Extinction of Electronic Manners

Are good manners extinct on the electronic frontier?
Do you always say “please” when you make a request of someone?
Do you always say “thank you” when someone does you a favor?
Do you always get the same courtesy by default in return?
I always say “please” and “thank you” but many of the people I deal with during the day — both professionally and socially — rarely say please and hardly ever say “thank you” and I’m curious when, why, and how that simple measure of courtesy died.
I recently read somewhere that in the text world:

The person with the “least” power must always make the last reply in a conversation be it in email or live text chat.

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