Wednesday, August 13, 2008

NSF and Google-induced stupidity

The NSF has just published Fostering Learning in the Networked World: The Cyberlearning Opportunity and Challenge. Reading it reminds me of why I bailed out of academia. The introduction starts: "To address the global problems of war and peace, economics, poverty, health, and the environment, we need a world citizenry with ready access to knowledge about science, technology, engineering, and mathematics."

Wow. Another thing the world citizenry needs is a ban on vapid topic sentences whose only purpose is to inflate the perceived importance of the author's pet project.

In the NSF-funded land of cyberlearning, there is a five-tiered hierarchy of human interaction, represented by the cool picture below: The report explains the picture thus: "[The figure above] depicts historical advances in the communication and information resources available for human interaction. Basic face-to-face interaction at the bottom level requires no resources to mediate communication. The second wave of resources offered symbol systems such as written language, graphics, and mathematics but introduced a mediating layer between people. The communication revolution of radio, telephony, television, and satellites was the third wave. The outcomes of the fourth wave—networked personal computers, web publishing, and global search—set the stage for the fifth wave of cyberinfrastructure and participatory technologies that are reviewed in our report."

So, we are going to solve the "global problems of war and peace" with a framework that explicitly omits mediation from the realm of face-to-face communication. I wonder how much cyberinfrastructure South Ossetia would need to put this framework to use.

Next time I will get back on my network clustering thread again...

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