I am very enthusiastic about the concept of wikibooks as yet another tool for expanding open source teaching, learning and research.

I have serious concerns about the lack of in-line citations even in featured wiki books (2010-09). A necessary step in establishing legitimacy in knowledge claims is the ability to verify sources. At this stage wiki articles which are constantly updated, provide more in-line citations, references and footnotes.

Most textbooks are already out-of-date by the time they are published as the latest research provides new data that unsettles previously held knowledge claims. Peer-reviewed academic journal articles become “dated” rapidly providing interesting histories of science but not necessarily the most current, objective and accurate representation of reality.

Wikibooks could allow for the most current research to be at least introduced if not included as an integral part of a chapter.

I also share concerns put forward by Garfinkel (2008-12) in his article entitled “Wikipedia and the Meaning of Truth” in MIT’s Technology Review. Garfinkel claimed that “wikitruth” is true enough for most readers including journalists who use “wikiclaims” as background material. Garfinkel distinguishes between the epistemological standards used in mathematics and science where legitimization of objective truth-claims are based on laws and observability in contrast to Wikipedia epistemology where “wikitruth”-claims are included as long as they are “verifiable.” “The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth.” He raises a number of key issues about the dangers of a consensus view of knowledge-claims-about-a-thing.

But these are fundamentally the same issues that anyone seriously wanting greater clarity on any topic would consider.

Wikipedia articles on any subject come up first in search engines and are not surprisingly already a primary resource for many Canadian primary, junior and high school students doing ‘research’ for written assignments, in-class presentations (often as PowerPoint presentations. Wiki environments require learning a new way to eRead with much more attention paid to critically examining and evaluating sources.

See also my October 24, 2008 post entitled “Wiki-ontology, wiki-epistemology: is it Really Real?

Watching the incredibly long line-ups of patient Virginian voters waiting in the early morning rain is really watching history happening. This election has shaken things up. Candidates in the future will not go through the same hurdles if they are not white, middle-aged and male. And youth have shaped the use of media with Web 2.0, texting, etc key to campaigns.

Regardless of the outcome, this election has made changes already in terms of the democratic deficit, voter fatigue and the crisis of confidence in the electoral process.

I was pleased to see my images used in this historic event through Flickr’s Creative Commons License:

“My Boots My Guitar “Wake Up America””

which James also embedded in his makepoliticalsnowviamedia blog providing a full list of clickable credits to the authors whose Creative Commons licensed works used.

Thanks to Corey Beaman for his stunning photography and video clip shown above which he made available via the Creative Commons license in Flickr. He also recommends the www.audi.com/ironman on his blog http://oneighturbo.com/. Billionaire technophile, Tony Stark is Iron Man, who directs a major industrial complex, wearing either his indestructible, hi-tech suit of armor or driving in his invincible Audi R8 which is oddly similar to his armour right down to details like Stark’s artificial heart which resembles the Audi’s mid-engine (http://oneighturbo.com/).The Audi R-8 was chosen by the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada as the “2008 Canadian Car of the Year, ” a 420 horsepower, 250 km/hr, two-seat sports car.As Quirks & Quarks’ Bob McDonald wrote in his blog, “Now there’s a clean, efficient car for you, perfect for a country with speed limits of 100km/hr and snow deep enough to ground this low rider on the first turn.”  McDonald used the Audi R-8 as an example of what might happen when publicly funded science is limited to one kind of science: applied science driven by building, nurturing and protecting investment climate and the economic environment See Mobilizing Science and Technology to Canada’s Advantage . He argued,“Take clean cars for example. Scientists have been working for decades on emission controls, fuel efficiency, fuel cells and alternative ways of making wheels go around. But until regulations are in place that force automakers to use these technologies, they often don’t make it to the road. [. . .] It seems the automakers and the journalists who write about them still think it’s 1969. So if the government is going to invest in new technologies, then regulations, penalties and tax incentives must also be in place to help those technologies get out of the laboratories and really make a difference. Here’s the other danger of focusing on applied science: it doesn’t really develop anything new; it just improves on what’s already out there.”

“The 2008 Federal budget includes more money for science, which is a good thing, but the cash comes with a catch. The scientists have to do what the government wants, not pursue the basic questions of the universe. The new budget is mostly aimed at supporting the auto industry, manufacturing, fisheries, genomics and nuclear power. In other words, applied science that contributes to the economy. Of course, we need clean cars and new products. Applied science is aimed at developing new technologies, new industries, jobs and perhaps a boost to the economy. If it all happens within the four-year tenure of a politician, everyone looks good. But here’s a word of caution about this approach to funding research; it may not actually produce anything, and basic science can end up on the back burner. When the government invests in new technologies, industry doesn’t have to adopt them, and often resists doing it if extra costs are involved.”

More

Webliography

Bernier, Maxime. 2007. Mobilizing Science and Technology to Canada’s Advantage Corporate Publications. Industry Canada. (May 2007)  http://www.ic.gc.ca/cmb/welcomeic.nsf/vRTF/PublicationST/$file/S&Tstrategy.pdf

McDonald, Bob. 2008-03 http://www.cbc.ca/technology/quirks-blog/2008/03/new_government_adds_insult_to.html

McDonald, Bob. 2008-01-25  http://www.cbc.ca/technology/quirks-blog/2008/01/no_science_in_the_pms_ear.html 

McDonald, Bob. 2008-02 “Budget for science, or at least one kind of science.” http://www.cbc.ca/technology/quirks-blog/2008/02/budget_for_science_or_at_least.html

McDonald, Bob. 2008. Budget for science, or at least one kind of science quirks Friday, February 29, 2008.

A revised improved version of “Creative Commons” Adobe Photoshop layered image combining elements from M.C. Escher’s print, Davidhazy’s photo of ripples and a Google generated circumpolar globe. The previous version on Flickr was viewed 22,033 times by 2008-02 (uploaded 2006-10).

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The uber wealthy are the most mobile, the least at-risk to the unintended and frightening by-products of their industries. Pricewaterhouse Coopers reports that 18 % of North American CEOs are not concerned about climate change, while most Americans, the UK and EU are. In Canada these CEO’s have increased their lobbying power over public policy.

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King of Canada: Tom d’Acquino CEO of CEO’s

January 9th, 2007

The Canadian business community has taken the most active interest in politics at the CEO level than any other business community in in the world (d’Acquino cited in Brownlee 2005: 9 Newman 1998:159-160). And this interest and influence has been on the rise in the last decades. Canada’s business community has had more influence on Canadian public policy in the years 1995-2005 then in any other period since 1900.

Look at what we stand for and look at what all the governments, all the major parties . . . have done, and what they want to do. They have adopted the agendas we’ve been fighting for the in the past few decades (cited in Brownlee 2005: 12 Newman 1998:151).

Tom D’Acquino should know as he is the CEO of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives.

While the average North American is becoming increasingly concerned by climate change, a recent report by Pricewaterhouse Coopers has found that fewer than a fifth – 18 per cent – of North American chief executives are concerned about climate change putting them increasingly out of step with their colleagues in Europe and Asia Pacific.

This a current list of the Chief Executive Officers of the Officers of the Board of Directors of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives:

  • Dominic D’Alessandro, Vice Chair Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE) and President and CEO Manulife Financial
  • Thomas d’Aquino, Chief Executive Officer and President of Canadian Council of Chief Executives
  • Paul Desmarais. Jr. Vice Chair President of Canadian Council of Chief Executives and Chairman and C0-Chief Executive Officer of Power Corporation of Canada
  • Richard L. George, Honorary Chair Canadian Council of Chief Executives and President and CEO of Suncor Energy Inc.
  • Jacques Lamarre, Vice Chair of Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE) and President and CEO SNC-Lavalin Group, Inc.
  • Gordon M. Nixon, Chair of Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE) and President and CEO of Royal Bank of Canada
  • Hartley T. Richardson Vice Chair of Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE) and President and CEO of James Richardson and Sons, Ltd.
  • Annette Verschuren Vice Chair of Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE) and President of The Home Depot Canada

For more see: King of Canada: Tom d’Acquino CEO of CEO’s

The Baroque, Neoclassical and Romantic periods in Europe coincide with the period of colonization in what was called the New World. When we admire artistic creations from these periods how can be also remember colonial activities and their implications for everyday life in 2007.

Freeman (2000a 127) describes one of the distant relatives of the 17th century as a fur trader, interpreter and man of public affairs whose influence increased in 1643 with the formation of the United Colonies of New England (Plymouth, Connecticut, Massechusetts and New Haven). His name was connected with almost every Indian transaction on record.

Selected webliography and bibliography

Freeman, Victoria. 2000. Distant Relations: How My Ancestors Colonized North America. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart.

Freeman, Victoria. 2000a. “Ambassador to the Indians.”Distant Relations: How My Ancestors Colonized North America. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart. pp.127-147.

The Guardian, (2003/12/11) Global warming is killing us too, say Inuit. The Inuit people of Canada and Alaska are launching a human rights case against the Bush administration claiming they face extinction because of global warming. By repudiating the Kyoto protocol and refusing to cut US carbon dioxide emissions, (25% of the world’s total).

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Flynn-Burhoe, Maureen. 1997. “Modernity: Risks and Realities: Reviewing Beck
and Potter
. Ottawa: Carleton University.

Tools Jonathan Potter offers in his book Representing Reality Discourse, Rhetoric and Social Construction “Introduction” and Chapters 1 and 2, which could enhance Beck’s discussion of myths of modernity as described in Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity “Preface.”

The image of Ulrich Beck writing by a sparkling lake provides a powerful backdrop to this highly influential catalytic work, Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity. Beck, a sociology professor at the University of Munich wrote the original German text, Risikogesellschaft, in 1986 in the aftermath of the Chernobyl catastrophe. It became ‘one of the most influential European works of social analysis in the late twentieth century.’ (Lash and Wynne, Introduction Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity, 1992: 1) Global hazards threaten the health of plants, animals and people in urban environments and pristine havens. The ecological crisis is central to this thought-provoking social analysis of the contemporary period. Beck places us as eye-witnesses to a transformation in society in which environmental risks have become the predominant product, not just an unpleasant, manageable side-effect, of industrial society.

Beck’s vision of a new era calls for a macro-sociology of change in which science as modernism’s secular religion is dethroned. Potter’s investigation in Representing Reality Discourse, Rhetoric and Social Construction is at the micro level, examining how scientific facts are constructed. This brief comparison looks at tools Potter offers in his book (Introduction and Chapters 1 and 2) which could enhance Beck’s discussion of myths of modernity as described in the Preface of Risk Society.

Beck reinterprets this period, not as the mythical ‘end of history’ but as a continuity or even a beginning of modernity. This reflexive modernity or risk society evolves beyond its classical industrial society. In ‘classical industrial society, the ‘logic’ of wealth production dominates the ‘logic of risk production, in the risk society this is reversed (Beck 1993: 12).’

In this myth of modernism faith in science and progress drives an industrial society perceived as a ‘thoroughly modern society’ (Beck, 1992: 11). Beck questions science’s claim to elitist truth and enlightenment. Scientists have made errors that have resulted in environmental disasters. He does not call for the end of science but for a change within science. He extends scientific skepticism to the foundations and consequences of science itself (Beck, 1992: 55).

This is where Potter’s more precise methods would be valuable to Beck. Beck’s analysis is far-reaching, at times vague. He describes science as becoming “self-service shops for financially well endowed customers in need of arguments’ (Beck, 1992: 173) There is no connection made here to empirical studies, no proof to substantiate his claims. Potter’s tools could provide the missing analytic glue.

Jonathan Potter, a professor of Discourse Analysis at Loughborough University recognises two important precursors in his research: John Austin in How to Do Things with Words and Berger and Luckmann’s The Social Construction of Reality. The description of the ‘skilful interweaving of theoretical, methodological and empirical material’ (Southgate, 1992: 358) used in the review of another of his publications applies equally well to Representing Reality.

Beck calls for a constant questioning of the role of science, of technological progress. Potter offers specific theories and methodologies: the sociology of scientific knowledge (SSK) a ‘radical reappraisal of the traditional view of scientific facts’ (Potter, 1996: 13). This calls for a relativist stance in which the validity of scientists’ truths should also be questioned. In constructionist theory analysts question the elite status of scientific knowledge by closely observing in their habitat (the laboratory) the culture of laboratory scientists as one would an ‘exotic’ ethnic group. Interest theories connect scientists and their social milieu, linking their findings with their ideologies and allegiances. The Quine-Duhem model of the web of belief uses the metaphor of a drum to describe the network of belief. The skin of the drum is tightened and pulled in different directions as new and opposing scientific findings are added to the network. The drum network allows room for contradictory findings. It also allows for the discarding of theories that no longer can be substantiated by new findings. Traditional social scientists use reports or descriptive accounts as if they were factual objects. Ethnomethodologists question these false assumptions by using indexicality, reflexivity (considering reports both for the event they describe and the relation of the report to the event) and the documentary method of interpretation. Conversation analysis deals with practices of description by converting theoretical or philosophical issues of fact and description into questions that can be addressed analytically through studies of records of interaction. Speakers of descriptive discourses, even in what might appear to be the most mundane conversation are designing their talk-in-interaction for certain affects. By investigating fact-construction at the micro level, through discourse analysis of what appear at times to be mundane conversations, Potter reveals the rich potential of this tool for questioning fundamentals of truth.

As risks spread around the globe so does public awareness. The consequences of classical industrial society are questioned. The modernist view, based an assumption of realism in science created a system in which scientists working in an exclusive, inaccessible environment disallowed public skepticism. Lay people often those most directly affected by the pollution of modern technology search for ways to protect themselves. No longer confident in technical experts they become experts in compiling their own dossiers.

Potter’s subtle, intriguing arguments might convince policy makers and scientists where Beck might fail. There is a risk however that the tools of fact construction he describes could be better used by those who are already in power, the risk producers. Informed readers, the general public might be aware they are being manipulated by the presentation of ‘facts’ but it would take a skilful professional to be able to consciously construct facts for their own purposes.

This brief comparison of one aspect of these two social analyses was also written by a sparkling lake. On the surface the clear water mirrors the stunning autumn colours of the Gatineau Hills. However, like any seemingly pristine lake, closer examination reveals an over-abundance of algae growth in some areas, a reflection of a potential threat of pollution. Only through a professional laboratory’s water analysis can concerned residents of the lake arm themselves with factual information, to enhance their input into municipal policies. With good rhetorical skills and a solid dossier lake residents too can be agents of change. Beck’s essay style may well be dense, vague prose but it is well worth the effort. At his best he is inspirational. He pulls all of us into his sphere of action, the public and scientists giving hope that a democratic reciprocal discourse is possible.

Bibliography

Beck, Ulrich. 1992. Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity. Translated by Mark Ritter. London: Sage.

Draper, E. 1993. ‘Risk, Society and Social Theory,’ Contemporary Sociology. 22:5:641-644.

Dryzek, J. S. 1995. ‘Toward an ecological modernity,’ Policy Sciences. 28:1:231-242.

Hall, J. R. 1994. ‘Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity.’ The Sociological Review. 42:2.

Lidskog, R. 1993. ‘Ulrich Beck: The Risk Society. Toward a New Modernity,’ acta sociologica 36:4:400-403.

Potter, Jonathan. 1996. Representing Reality Discourse, Rhetoric and Social Construction. London: Sage Publications.

Rustin, M. 1994. ‘Incomplete Modernity: Ulrich Beck’s “Risk Society,’ Dissent 41:3 394-400

Satterwhite, J. H. 1994. ‘Ulrich Beck: Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity.’ Social Science Quarterly. 75:1 236.

Southgate, D. 1994. ‘Mapping the Language of Racism.’ Sociology. 28:1:358-9.

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© Maureen Flynn-Burhoe 2001. Personal research tool. Carleton University. Last updated March 2002. Please contact for comments, corrections and copyright.

Poincare, Perelman, Hamilton, Yau

“It’s just the way it is,” isn’t anymore. As I read the Nasar and Grubermanifold New Yorker article (2006) I was deeply moved by the life story of Gregory Perelman who can live on a $100 a month and who managed to wipe out an entire branch of pure mathematics in a few years by working alone, even isolated in the slow world. He is described as an idealist, an ascetic, a Russian Jew who lives with his mother in a gray neighbourhood of gray apartment buildings. But in this article he shines brilliantly. He may be part of the answer to my own puzzle, the ethical dilemma of being an academic in the 21st century.

Henri Poincaré created a True Knowledge Gap in mathematics, giving rise to an entire branch in his discipline when he slipped in an offhand question that became the legendary problem of the 20th century (Nasar and Grubermanifold 2006).

By the nineteen-sixties, topology had become one of the most productive areas of mathematics, and young topologists were launching regular attacks on the Poincaré. To the astonishment of most mathematicians, it turned out that manifolds of the fourth, fifth, and higher dimensions were more tractable than those of the third dimension. By 1982, Poincaré’s conjecture had been proved in all dimensions except the third. In 2000, the Clay Mathematics Institute, a private foundation that promotes mathematical research, named the Poincaré one of the seven most important outstanding problems in mathematics and offered a million dollars to anyone who could prove it.

In 1992 when Gregory Perelman (b. 1968) posted his solution to the problem on the Internet on a site used by mathematicians working with advanced concepts, he supplied enough information for the handful of minds capable of understanding to know that he had cracked it.

It took me a few days to feel I had understood enough of their article to appreciate it. I used my new Firefox add-on Gnosis.[1]

Why then did this story continue to unfold on some very messy battle Fields? Politics, power and control. To understand more fully, I worked out some of the ideas at Tim’s and in an easy chair playing with pictures. I also had to map out a brief timeline and the biographies of the main characters: Perelman, Hamilton, Yau, Tian, Zhu, Cao, Ball and Thurston. I played with the concepts of Knowledge Collisions in the Battle Fields of Mathematics but this was not about knowledge collisions on a level playing field.

Poincaré’s bagel, coffee mug handle, soccer ball and noose knot were great for starters. The table itself was easily transformed into a topology of Battle Fields. Cigars and necks protruded on the topological landscape like stalagmites. I laid a silk cloth over it all so it could drape over the edge of the table. I left a space on the table edge for a dented fender. The True Gap gaped like a crevice in an otherwise relatively level playing field. The coffee mug with its insignia of Stephen Hawkings casts a long shadow and the handle represented the branch of mathematics called topology. Since we are looking at a cross section of topological field the branch that has disappeared over the edge represents a small sorrow [2]

I didn’t know where to put Gregory Perelman my new hero, so I put a spoon in the coffee mug which he of course had stirred up. Then I balanced a swing at the top of it giving him a higher vantage point from which he can quietly survey the field. He swings slowly back and forth without those below noticing. All they can see is the spoon and the bottom of his swing. I turned him into a pearl and remembered a quote, “Not every sea has pearls . . .”

My early experiences in academia were entirely positive. It was only when I was in my fifth year of graduate studies, my second in my PhD that I began to realize the hidden power and politics behind the scenes in the ivory towers as one professor after another sought to gain control over academic and/or grant capital at any cost. I caught myself transforming campus towers into Freudian phallic symbols as I watched with dismay my PhD slipping away from me. I was disgusted mainly with my own naïvity, my lack of campus street-smarts but by then it was too late. It seems my university students in their twenties had figured it out long before I did. No wonder we all make fun of Ph.D.s!

So here I am typing away in my living room office with my old PC perched on this great glass-topped Business Depot computer desk, reflecting Mount Tzuhalem with the fire crackling off to my left and our family sound asleep. I’m emptying my PC into a dozen or more free Web 2.0 sites.

I’m not a Perelman but he is my hero. If you can only learn to live on $100 a month, keep access to the Internet, connect one’s PC’s memory to the free Web 2.0 you can sit back in the slow world and quietly watch a lifetime of experience upload to this strange virtual space we call the Internet.

Perelman’s copyright took the risk of losing his intellectual capital. For some Yau and his students really did deserve the Fields Award he received from Ball.

But for me I would rather face the perils of a Perelman Risk, tie my intellectual capital to my Creative Commons stake and at least let people share some of the amazing experiences I was privileged to have before the Fawlty Towers crumbled around me.

Footnotes


[1] See the article on ClearForest. I had to select a chunk of the article at a time for Gnosis to do its magic but undeniable it makes digesting lengthy, complex articles less cumbersome. At the most elemental level it is similar to the Google generated highlighted key words in .pdf files found in response to a user’s Google search inquiry. Gnosis uses a number of colour codes to highlight a number of themes which I am just trying to work out now.

[2] Its a bit like the death of a meteorite in a fiery explosion would be to the person who had named and followed the passage of the meteorite for decades.
[I have even heard on academic hearsay which is as reliable as Frank I suppose, so I should not repeat this but . . . this is not a journal it is a blog . . . an archaeologist explained to his First Nations guide (who later whispered this to me) that he would not reveal their findings in the field since it would be so hotly contested by his colleagues in his branch it would consume his entire career to defend it. Academic hearsay. Fireworks, not a meteor. Take away 5 credibility, legitimacy points from this author immediately!]

For more reading on science on Web 2.0 see yanfeng.org

Selected webliography

Swaminathan, Nikhil. 2006. peer_review_is_sooooo_old_school
Scientific American Blog. December 22, 2006.

Nasar, Sylvia , Grubermanifold, David. 2006.”Manifest Destiny.” The New Yorker: Fact. Annals of Mathematics. A legendary problem and the battle over who solved it. Issue of 2006-08-28; Posted 2006-08-21; accessed December 22, 2006.

Vukovar (1991)

Echoes of Geurnica: Vukovar (1991)

I created this Adobe Photoshop image in 1994 in response to the words and images of the women refugees of Vukovar. Women make up the largest percentage of refugees worldwide. Urban ethnographer and documentary videographer Ph.D. Cynthia Porter Gehrie, Ph.D. (Northwestern University) worked with the NONA Center for Multi Media, Zagreb, Croatia cgehrie@videodocument.org to produce a site where the story of these women could reach the world. (Currently under construction)

“I spent three months in the basement, and I had no idea of the extent of the destruction in the city. When they were taking us from the Hospital, where we all gathered, to the general warehouse, from the truck I saw what the city looked like. We drove through the main street all the way to Mitnica. The houses in ruins seemed to weep and moan as if in pain, and only the chimneys stood defiantly. I can still see a house devoured by flames and next to it a cow, which came from who knows where, dazed by the horror and destruction around it. When I close my eyes, I can see the ruins, the ghastly dead streets and, tormented by insomnia as I am, I can feel the eerie silence falling over the city of ghosts (Kumpf 1994)”

While looking for images in 1994 to complete this digitage, I came upon photojournalist, Ron Haviv’s site: “Blood and Honey: A Balkan War Journal.” (Which is now available through Amazon.com) This is the url of his powerful photo of a Geurnica-like cow which so perfectly resonated with the eloquent, haunting words of a owman who knew what it was to be a refugee. She wrote about “a house devoured by flames and next to it a cow, which came from who knows where, dazed by the horror and destruction around it (Kumpf1994).”


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