Bionic eye helps man see


When I was a kid, this was the stuff of science fiction (“The Six Million Dollar Man.”) Now it’s closer within reach.

About a decade ago Allen Zderad, a 68-year-old Minnesotan, was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, an incurable disease that attacks your retina, leaving you blind. Now for the first time in 10 years Zderad can see thanks to a pioneering bionic implant. The implant reads and sends light photons to the bionic nerve, going around the damaged retina. The sight is fairly crude, but this is a big step forward toward a possible cure for blindness

via The Optimist Daily.

Scholars Sound the Alert From the ‘Dark Side’ of Tech Innovation – Technology – The Chronicle of Higher Education

Drone by Jonathan Nackstrand / AFP / Getty Images

Jonathan Nackstrand / AFP / Getty Images

Given the detailed description of the event, I don’t think this was a gathering of mere Luddites. I’m glad to see The Chronicle publish this report, given that it also came out this week with a special supplement on “digital learning” that was mostly complementary. Technology is full of wonder, but what are its implications not only for academic freedom, but more importantly for learning.

Companies, colleges, and columnists gush about the utopian possibilities of technology. But digital life has a bleaker side, too. Over the weekend, a cross-disciplinary group of scholars convened here to focus attention on the lesser-noticed consequences of innovation.

Surveillance. Racism. Drones. Those were some of the issues discussed at the conference, which was called “The Dark Side of the Digital” and hosted by the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee‘s Center for 21st Century Studies. (One speaker even flew a small drone as a visual aid; it hit the classroom ceiling and crashed.)

After a week of faculty backlash against online education, including the refusal of San Jose State University professors to teach a Harvard philosophy course offered via edX, the down sides of digital learning emerged as a hot topic, too.

via Scholars Sound the Alert From the ‘Dark Side’ of Tech Innovation – Technology – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

IBM Security Tool Can Flag ‘Disgruntled Employees’

A vintage Scot Tissue ad, first appearing in the 1930s and urging employers to stock bathrooms with Scot Tissue products to prevent turning their employees into radical communists.

Is government “Big Brother,” or is industry? What are the privacy implications of the ability to mine and analyze such data?

A new International Business Machines Corp. security tool uses Big Data to help CIOs detect internal and external security threats in new ways—and can even scan email and social media to flag apparently “disgruntled” employees who might be inclined to reveal company secrets, according to Sandy Bird, chief technology officer of IBM’s security systems division.

via IBM Security Tool Can Flag ‘Disgruntled Employees’ – The CIO Report – WSJ.

“Napster, Udacity, and the Academy” – Clay Shirky

Clay Shirky

Clay Shirky (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve just been reading a thread on an academic listserv about Coursera. This led me to the following post by Clay Shirky about massively open online courses or MOOCs. Can you get your University education for free? Will services like Udacity and Coursera change higher education the way Napster changed music?


A massive open online class is usually a series of video lectures with associated written materials and self-scoring tests, open to anyone. That’s what makes them OOCs. The M part, though, comes from the world. As we learned from Wikipedia, demand for knowledge is so enormous that good, free online materials can attract extraordinary numbers of people from all over the world.

via » Napster, Udacity, and the Academy Clay Shirky.


One People Flash Mob — Occupy

I love this example of artful augmented protest. It’s artful because it draws on Dancing without Borders, and pop culture, and augmented because it uses YouTube to convey the choreography, which is to say the internet to animate the motion of bodies, and other Web 2.0 technologies to organize the flash mob. Personally, I also love the positivity and humor of the flash mob. My students have impressed upon me the power of YouTube, which I often take for granted, but I would have them understand the complex combinations of technologies, and the augmentation of our very physical presence. No wonder the powers that be want to censor the internet.

Last November 19, a group of over 100 dancers converged on Oakland’s Frank Ogawa Plaza  to dance their solidarity with the Occupy movement. Dancing without Borders organized the dance flash mob, which included a mini drama featuring a momentarily tense, then peaceful encounter between a stereotypical white man in a power suit, representing the 1 percent, moved to action first by a young girl and then by an African American man, whom he ends up embracing:


It’s been said that revolutionaries  lack a sense of humor, but the dance mob demonstrates the power of joy and light heartedness in the pursuit of positive change.The statement on Dancing without Borders’ website reads:  “By celebrating life, community and peace through music, conscious dance, we ignite our light within, inspire each other and renew our spirit as a collective.”  Group movement has been a vital part of ritual since prehistoric times; why not revive it during these days?

via Dance Flash Mob Embodies Occupy Movement | Care2 Causes.

Emma Goldman would be proud.

Soulful Cyborg

Who says being a cyborg is necessarily soulless? I was mesmerized yesterday listening to this RadioBoston podcast of Julia Easterlin, this Berklee grad who uses a looping machine to perform as a one-woman chorus.

When 22 year-old singer/songwriter Julia Easterlin walks into a room, she is warm and humble, equipped with just a backpack. She carefully unpacks her rectangular looping machine and starts explaining how it works: “I have a microphone plugged into this machine, and I’m able to set it up so that I record what I’m singing live and then it plays back. And then over the playback, I record many other layers — again and again. And it essentially creates a one-woman chorus to back up my lead vocal.”


When she sat down recently with Radio Boston‘s Adam Ragusea, Easterlin put her looping skills on display, starting with a rhythmic base. She slowly added percussion, trilling her tongue and clapping her hands. Next came a vocal bass line. She ran those loops and then recorded a second section — another set of vocals.


Vodpod videos no longer available.


President Obama Threatens to Veto Law to Repeal Net Neutrality

Net Neutrality is one of the issues we will consider this semester. Here’s some background on current developments.

The White House has threatened to veto Republican-sponsored legislation that would overturn the net neutrality rules the FCC passed last December.

The U.S. Senate is expected to vote on S.J. Resolution 6 [PDF], “Disapproval of Federal Communications Commission Rule Regulating the Internet and Broadband Industry Practices”, sometime on Thursday. The resolution, if it were to pass both houses, would begin a process that could overturn the decision of the FCC. The U.S. House of Representatives rejected the FCC’s net neutrality rules back in April.

“Disapproval of the rule would threaten those values and cast uncertainty over those innovative new businesses that are a critical part of the Nation’s economic recovery,” the White House said in its veto threat. “It would be ill-advised to threaten the very foundations of innovation in the Internet economy and the democratic spirit that has made the Internet a force for social progress around the world.”

The FCC rules prevent broadband providers from blocking access to specific websites and applications. However, the rules are less clear when it comes to wireless providers. Supporters, such as Obama and the White House, believe that some regulations are necessary to stop ISPs such as Comcast from throttling or blocking content. Opponents, such as Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), one of the sponsors of the bill, argue that the net neutrality regulations would over-regulate the Internet, stifle the economy and set a bad precedent.

via President Obama Threatens to Veto Law to Repeal Net Neutrality.

What’s your view?

Steve Jobs Dead: Apple Co-Founder Dies At 56

Apple has lost a visionary and creative genius, and the world has lost an amazing human being. Those of us who have been fortunate enough to know and work with Steve have lost a dear friend and an inspiring mentor. Steve leaves behind a company that only he could have built, and his spirit will forever be the foundation of Apple.

If you would like to share your thoughts, memories, and condolences, please email

via Steve Jobs Dead: Apple Co-Founder Dies At 56.

It is difficult to capture in a few words what the death of Steve Jobs means to the world of innovation. We will be talking and reading about this for some time to come.