I share, therefore I am?

Connections are important, they create ideas and the transfer of information. They create opportunities for business. The United States Custom House in New York City, served that purpose from the revolutionary days up until the 20th century. It allowed the young US economy to be connected and develop industries such as textiles, whaling and cotton. Industries that are less important to the US now but were significant were the US was getting started.

The commercial internet is over twenty years old, from the point where Marc Andreessen developed the firstly web browser. The transformation of the internet in the last couple of years has been much faster than the first 15 years of the internet. Whether it’s the rise of social media networks or the advent of smartphones. We are seeing another rapid evolution of technology and its impact on business.

The sharing economy is becoming a ‘disruptive technology’, which includes companies such as: AirBnB, TaskRabbit and ZipCar. AirBnB was a company many people had not heard of until a couple of years ago. AirBnB believe that in 2013, they generated over $630m for the NYC economy and $2-300m for the economy in Paris.

This is a company that came out of nowhere. Over the summer in 2013, there were 200,000 rooms available and 400 castles available!

Hilton, one of the largest hotel chains available, has over 600,000 rooms available around the world. However, the big difference between the two is that AirBnB does not own a single room.

The rise of all the devices we all use, smartphones, PCs, Macs, etc. There is a term called “The Internet of Things” – which is basically saying all these devices are connected to the internet.

When social media emerged over a decade ago, it gave the internet a consciousness. It allowed us to participate in the information and the data we see. Up until then we viewed webpages. Now people are able to generate ideas, say what they like and what they dislike. That has made the internet now about people instead of webpages.

Sharing is a new expression. You can share articles and make comments with people all around the world.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs states that you must satisfy your most important needs first – whether it’s physiology, safety, love/belonging, esteem – before reaching self-actualisation. People share to move up the pyramid.

Hierarchy of needs

Sharing and technology creates positives and negatives in society. Sherry Turkle, from MIT, has done a lot of research on how technology alienates people. In Turkle’s book Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other, there is a really interesting quote:

“Drawn by the illusion of companionship without the demands of intimacy, we confuse Postings and online sharing with authentic Communication period.”

Many people do this, we all go to a meeting, we don’t really listen except when we have a point to make. We use our devices to tune out. Whenever I am at a concert/event there is at least 50% of people using a mobile device (including a tablet *facepalm*) to capture an event. They have to capture and share an event before they validate it. That’s one the problems of technology.

Technology can distance us, but it can bring us together.


Comics, X-Men & Misfits

Even though my module last term has ended, we now have to write another blog for another module entitled: Libraries and Publishing in an Information Society (LAPIS). For this module we will be using the hashtag #INM380.

As we were talking about publishing and how it was evolving, I wanted to write about how publishing information has impacted on me on a personal level.

As a young kid, growing up, my imagination was one of my main outlets – that probably still applies!

But another outlet was waking up on a Saturday morning and switching on the television to watch the X-Men!

The X-Men were mutants, individuals with mutated and enhanced genes that triggered in adolescence giving them superpowers. To me, it was the most coolest thing ever. A woman with brown skin  and black and white hair who could manipulate the weather (Storm); a beast of a man with blue fur (Beast) and a shy girl with a Southern accent who could not touch anyone without hurting them (Rogue).

Why could someone like me relate to them? I was different and could not fit in like the X-Men.

But the X-Men embraced who they were, they knew who they were and owned it. Watching X-Men made me a little less isolated because it fulfilled a need for me to see myself in the world.

Especially growing up, we have labels, but you cannot break people down into labels, they all have preconceived notions.

Because we allow others to create these definitions, we accept them to be true. We accept a standard of self not of our choosing. We become a splintered version of the people we are destined to be.

After 9/11 and 7/7, there was a big difference in how the world viewed me and confusion in who I was. All of a sudden the people with a ‘similar’ background or ethnicity were all over the media, but for all the wrong reasons. I also noticed I was highlighted – due to my skins colour or my name. There is a concept called stereotype threat, individuals of particular groups internalise and react to the negative stereotypes associated with that group. You act against your true nature, because you’re trying to live up to others assumptions or deny their assumptions!

Because I was so afraid of people thinking I was like those stereotypes I would not act to the best of my ability, underperform – whether it was academically or socially.  I was masking who I was. How can we stop this stereotype threat?

The mirror neuron theory states that your brain neurons react in the same way whether or not you are the one performing an action. For example, if I see you eating a delicious burger I would react the same way you are even though I am not eating it. So what if the media portrayed a positive image of groups that you and I belonged to? Perceptions would change, that was the secret of the success behind The Cosby Show. The Cosby Show helped to adjust perceptions of African-Americans. By focusing on the comedic trials and tribulations of a successful and lovable family that just happened to be African-American, it took away those limiting qualifiers of race. It helped to redefine what being an American family was. All through the power of story.

Stories allow people to find an emotional connection to humankind. Stories give us a glimpse into the inner-workings of the human-spirit – its pitfalls and potential. Stories force to look at each other for who we truly are. In the hopes of possibly connecting our souls. Stories can be shields to the threats to our souls, threats to our identity. What the mirror neuron theory is saying is it’s human nature to follow the action of the masses. We repeat and or believe what people tell us to believe about others and about ourselves. Why not tell stories that challenge us and aspire us to be better. That is exactly what comics do.

The history of comics is all about the misfit, the unlikely hero, the ability to create greatness where there is once doubt. The unassuming Peter Parker, the wallflower who is picked on and misunderstood, gets bitten by a radioactive spider that gives him extraordinary powers and extraordinary responsibilities. Yet his path is filled with villains who would doubt his determination, threaten those who he loves, threaten his life choices and yet Spiderman, being the hero that he is, would always beat the bad guy and get the girl(s)! It’s through the flaws and desires that we connect with the heart of the character, so that we can champion the character, since we understand those struggles and want to move past them.

The reason I loved X-Men, apart from the brilliant stories, was that it told me that it was ok to be different. It was about confronting the labels I have been assigned and sculpting them and redefining them until you really know you are and what you actually believe.


I cannot believe that the DITA (Digital Information Technologies and Architecture) module is over. To be honest it has felt like one of the more technical modules that I have been on – maybe that is because I believe that I am not a technical person! It has been an interesting module learning about how information can be analysed and used in many different ways.

I have found that the subjects that we have covered quite sophisticated and time-consuming. But this has made me think about my own skills and how I need to improve my time-management.

I think blogging can be a fantastic way for people to communicate, but I have felt that in this case it has not been useful for me. I would have rather spent the time learning about some of the intense concepts. Though for others, this blog would possibly help them to learn instead.

Overall, it has been a useful experience. I am not considering starting a new blog in the new year. Which will be updated without the time constraints of this module! 🙂

Text Mining and Copyright

The electronic analysis of large amounts of copyright works allows researchers to discover patterns, trends and other useful information that cannot be detected through usual ‘human’ reading. This process, known as ‘text and data mining’, may lead to knowledge which can be found in the works being mined but not yet explicitly formulated. For example, the processing of data contained in a large collection of scientific papers in a particular medical field could suggest a possible association between a gene and a disease, or between a drug and an adverse event, without this connection being explicitly identified or mentioned in any of the papers.

Scientific publishers offer various text mining functionalities which have been developed in collaboration with researchers and private companies. For instance, Reed Elsevier makes available to subscribers an application developed with NextBio (a company specialising in biomedical text mining) that enables readers to conduct ‘deep searches’ and to make automatic connections between data contained in scientific articles and additional information about genes, diseases, and so on.

Google Books, one of the largest existing collections of digitised books, offers a ‘text mining experience’ to all users through Ngram Viewer, a graphic tool created in collaboration with researchers from Harvard University. The tool enables the tracking of the frequency of particular words or combinations of letters across over five million digitised books published between 1800 and 2000. However, access to the whole corpus of Google Books to carry out more sophisticated text mining research is restricted, and can only be obtained upon request.

Technologies based on the electronic analysis of large amounts of works are still in their infancy, and the possibilities they might open up in the future are largely unpredictable.

In the UK, copyright law provides an exception that allows researchers to make copies of works ‘for text and data analysis’. This means that where a user has lawful access to a work they can make a copy of it for the purpose of carrying out a computational analysis of anything recorded in the work. The exception applies under the following conditions:

1) The computational analysis must be for the purpose of non-commercial research
2) The copy is accompanied by sufficient acknowledgment (unless this is practically impossible)

The provision further specifies that copyright is infringed if the copy made is transferred to another person, or it is used for purposes different than those permitted by the exception (although the researcher could ask the owner for permission to do either of these things). Also, copies made for text and data analysis cannot be sold or let for hire.

Importantly, the provision states that the activities covered by the exception cannot be ruled out by contract. Contractual terms which purport to restrict or prevent the doing of the acts permitted under the exception are unenforceable.

Although text and data analysis is mainly concerned with mining literary works, the exception covers all categories of copyright works, and a parallel exception applies to recordings of performances.





No Mr Bond. I expect you to Pie!

This week we decided to look at Altmetrics (Alternative Metrics). Altmetrics are unconventional statistics are detail the impact of articles/journals – how often are they tweeted about, retweeted, linked to, downloads and too many others to mention on here! During our session in DITA, we were kindly allowed to use altmetric.com. Using the website definitely gave me a new perspective on donuts! It illustrated that there were many ways of measuring the impact of an article – in particularly on the internet.

There certainly was the most random articles on altmetric.com e.g. articles about hipsters! I believe this could be a useful tool, looking at citations of an articles just seems a bit one-dimensional and a bit unimaginative. As David Bawden mentioned in a RECS (Research, Evaluation and Communication Skills) lecture, most articles are barely cited, if at all. So I believe any way to measure the impact an article, even though it may not be the most scientific



Tagging Out Loud

In our Digital Information Technologies and Architectures (DITA) lesson, we decided to look at “Archiving, Understanding and Visualising Twitter Data” using an application called TAGS – Twitter Archiving Google Sheet.

The application amalgamates the APIs of Google and Twitter so I can search for tweets and their metadata – as well as archive them! There is quite a lot of metadata that Twitter makes available for you; the number of followers; the number of users followed and the twitter handle where the tweet was sent form. The information is made available via a Google Docs spreadsheet.

I could imagine this would be very useful for companies to track if their marketing campaigns are working, for example. Or to see what is trending on the internet. I found that the American TV programme “The Flash” was trending. What was also interesting was it was trending during the show and a couple of hours ended. My research suggested that this was due to the different timezones in the USA. The programme was actually shown at different times of the day.

There is a lot of potential with TAGS, I just wonder what else can really be done with it?

Google that API!

API stands for Application Programming Interface (API). It’s a doorway where people with the right key can pass. Let’s say for example you want to access Google’s data, specifically data from Google Maps. So you can make a mashup of your data and the Google Maps data. What the API that Google has written does, is it lets you come and check that you have the right key. If you have the right key then you can access google maps in a controlled manner and is limited per access – in one key you may have read-only access while another key could have access to everything on Google Maps. A well created API means that it will be much easier for a programmer to create software. There are API’s for pretty much everything these days. Apple has it’s own API so developer can create applications for Mac OS X. Twitter, Facebook and Amazon all have their own APIs for various purposes including to check analytics and monetise user data.



Blog Post 2 The SQL: Attack of the DDoS

In the past week at university, we have been talking about databases and Structured Query Language (SQL). However, the university’s IT infrastructure was attacked this past week, using a DDoS attack. This shifted the emphasis of my thoughts towards security and databases. It made me ask the following:

  • What the bejesus is a DDoS attack?
  • How can you protect against a DDoS attack?
  • Will the Spice Girls ever get back together again?!

Well, it certainly made me ask the first two!

A DDos is a Distributed Denial of Service attack which involves one computer asks multiple computers to flood a single computer with traffic.. In this post I will mainly be talking about attacks on individuals, but these same concepts can be applied to organisations/websites.

When accessing the internet we use printers, phones, tablets, etc. They connect to a modem and they usually appear with an IP (Internet Protocol) address which identifies computers on the internet. Unfortunately, that information is easily available and is how primarily individuals are attacked. Once a naughty individual know you real IP address they will send a large amount of data to the modem, so much it will overload the modem so that it cannot handle it and go offline. Denying the user the access to the network/internet.

There are many complicated way to mitigate the chances of you being one of the victims of a DDoS. However, I will provide a simple one – use a Virtual Private Network (VPN).You can usually get a VPN set up by many companies on the internet – some more reputable than others. A VPN is like having a PO address on the internet – an address that no one can trace back to you. Instead of giving your REAL IP address when clicking on a web address, a company will give you one of their own IP addresses. The website is delivered through the company’s servers and then it is forwarded to you, quickly and securely. You appear to where the company’s servers are located e.g. I maybe in the UK but actually appear as if I am in the US. The upside is that snoopers cannot trace you activity back to your real address and find out who or where you are.

Of course, you need to be able to trust the company that hosts the VPN servers, as you may be entering sensitive information such as your email address and password. But, as stated before, there are many other ways of hiding yourself in the internet.

Hope you found this interesting. Any comments would be welcome.


Introduction to my Blog


Pleased to see that you have stumbled on to my blog. The purpose of this blog will be to attempt to elaborate on the concepts from the module that I am studying: Digital Information Technologies and Architectures (DITA). A module providing the modern software skills in a ever changing Library and Information Services sector.

I have decided to keep this blog as clean and simple as possible so it is easy for most people to read.

See you in the next post.