Archive for the 'Research' Category

There’s More to Internet Freedom

Sunday, March 6th, 2011

(or, Is Google the new United Press Syndicate?)

Over at the Huffington Post I have a new blog post co-authored with Dan Schiller that tries to flag the current and timely Internet Freedom / Free Flow of Information / Right to Connect debate with a little more context. Here it is:

Free Flow of Information and Profit
by Dan Schiller and Christian Sandvig

(Photo tweeted from Cairo’s Tahrir Square by @richardengelnbc
click to enlarge)

In at least some sense it is a response to Monroe Price’s earlier post, “Clinton’s ‘Long Game’ Advancing Internet Freedom,” as well as Ethan Zuckerman’s reaction to Clinton’s 2011 Internet Freedom speech.

HuffPo made it a “Featured Post!”  Woo!

But there are no comments.  Boo! I think we used too many big words.

This photo is from Richard Engel of NBC.  Translation is supposedly “thank you / facebook / youth of Egypt.”

Internet Innovation: The Big Read

Monday, August 30th, 2010

(or: An Internet and Innovation Reading List for You.)

Recently I’ve been ginning up a reading list about the title given in this blog post, and I wondered if I could try to crowdsource some of this bad boy. If you had a semester and you wanted a graduate-level someone to learn all of the basics and some of the more advanced and interesting stuff about the broad topic “the Internet and innovation,” what would you tell them to read?

[The preview image for the
"History of the Internet"
video by Melih Bigil.]

Read the rest of this entry »

Technology Studies Needs Both Priests and Missionaries

Friday, July 2nd, 2010

(or: Your technology may be political, but who cares?)

I am a longtime admirer and participant in the intellectual crossroads known as Science and Technology Studies (STS). I first read Langdon Winner‘s “Do Artifacts Have Politics?” and he changed my life.  In my first job I had the chance to organize a conference around my own research interests, and my choice for the keynote was Steve Woolgar (“Laboratory Life,” “The Machine at Work,” “Science, The Very Idea,” “Virtual Society?”).

My intellectual links to STS were formed in  graduate school but I continue my involvement in an STS program now as a faculty member.  I really enjoyed the last 4S conference, where I presented some of my recent work, and I’d like to think it was well received.  I say all this to introduce this post because I want to emphasize that I feel like an STS insider.

In the last few weeks I’ve had a conversation like the one I’ll describe below with three other STS insiders, so I thought I’d share it.  Tell me if I’m crazy.

[Click to enlarge -- original photo by lawprier on flickr]

If you’ve read any STS, you know by now that STS scholars typically make arguments of the form: “What you thought was technical is actually political!” Read the rest of this entry »

The Slowest Dial is Mexico City

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

(or: When Systems Are Engineered, Who Gets the Best Addresses?)

In a project I’ve been working on about addressing systems in communication infrastructure (excited yet?), I’ve been telling people that early phone numbers were organized in part around the time it took to dial them on rotary telephones.

[a rotary dial -- click to enlarge -- photo by zen on flickr]

You see, youngsters, the weighted dial on a rotary telephone requires a fixed amount of time to dial each number.  It’s about one second per ten values so that the amount of time goes up as the number goes up, with one being the fastest number to dial (about a tenth of a second or 1 click) and zero being the slowest (about one second or 10 clicks).  These time estimates don’t include moving your fingers around, mind you.

You could say, who cares?  But if you add up all of the seconds required to dial and multiply by all of the phone calls, that’s a lot of seconds people spend dialing those nines and zeroes.

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Confessions of a Spy Car Driver

Friday, May 28th, 2010

(or: Inadvertently Illegal Programming, A Primer)

Earlier this month, Google’s official engineering blog confessed that the company’s Street View cars and bikes have “inadvertently” gathered personal data in transit on unencrypted Wi-Fi networks for the past three years (see the post: Wi-Fi Data Collection).  As chronicled in major news stories in the past three weeks, Google’s actions are under scrutiny by government regulators everywhere (see links to news stories at the end of this post).

[One of Google's Ominous-Looking Spy Cars
photo by byrion -- click to enlarge]

This is a topic close to my heart because my research group has been conducting similar surveys of wireless signals for the past five years as part of a project funded by the US National Science Foundation.  Here’s a picture of our own slightly less obtrusive Wi-Fi sampling car in South Central Los Angeles in 2005.  (On second thought, we shouldn’t have chosen a black SUV.  Too scary.)

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