“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.

 

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xkcd: Tradition


 

xkcd: Tradition.

Students in Internet, Society and Everyday Life might think I was kidding yesterday that Baby Boomers represent a dominant cohort in the age structure of our population, making said students an effective minority group. Well, this cartoon from XKCD is kidding, about that grain of truth.

Internet Memes: The Mythology of Augmented Society » Cyborgology


There is a fascinating exploration of memes at Cyborgology, though not one for the faint of heart.

Bloggers here at Cyborgology have explored the internet meme in interesting ways. Most notably, David Banks analyzed the performative meme, arguing for its function in cultural cohesion, and P J Rey delineated the political and strategic role of internet memes in the #OWS movement. Here, I wish to take a step back, and deconstruct the very structure of the internet meme, exploring what the internet meme is and what it does. Specifically, I argue that the internet meme is the predominant (and logical) form of myth in an augmented society, and that it both reflects and shapes cultural realities.

via Internet Memes: The Mythology of Augmented Society » Cyborgology.

The System is Down


This now classic web cartoon from Homestarrunner.com pokes fun at techno. I think of it whenever I consider some system being “down.”

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All kidding aside, the possibility of the internet coming down was very real for a small group of volunteers policing internet security. I was quite fascinated to hear this podcast yesterday, via NPR’s “Digital Life” and “Fresh Air.

For the past three years, a highly encrypted computer worm called Conficker has been spreading rapidly around the world. As many as 12 million computers have been infected with the self-updating worm, a type of malware that can get inside computers and operate without their permission.”

What Conficker does is penetrate the core of the [operating system] of the computer and essentially turn over control of your computer to a remote controller,” writer Mark Bowden tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross. “[That person] could then utilize all of these computers, including yours, that are connected. … And you have effectively the largest, most powerful computer in the world.”

The gigantic networked system created by the Conficker worm is what’s known as a “botnet.” The Conficker botnet is powerful enough to take over computer networks that control banking, telephones, security systems, air traffic control and even the Internet itself, says Bowden. His new book, Worm: The First Digital World War, details how Conficker was discovered, how it works, and the ongoing programming battle to bring down the Conficker worm, which he says could have widespread consequences if used nefariously.

“If you were to launch with a botnet that has 10 million computers in it — launch a denial of service attack — you could launch a large enough attack that it would not just overwhelm the target of the attack, but the root servers of the Internet itself, and could crash the entire Internet,” he says. “What frightens security folks, and increasingly government and Pentagon officials, is that a botnet of that size could also be used as a weapon.”

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Given that loss of life could ensue should the internet be “brought down,” what should individuals, groups, organizations, governments and the international community be doing to prevent this?