Tag Archives: Google

Raspberry Pi launched

Today the low cost, credit card sized computer Raspberry Pi was launched with the prime purpose of encouraging young adults and children to learn computer programming. This has been an area sadly lacking in UK schools since the demise of the BBC Micro Computer in 1994. The initial cost of the computer is just  £22 ($35) and runs on open-source operating system Linux.

At the moment it’s just a board (below) weighing about 45g that can be plugged into a TV and a keyboard. But it potentially marks a turning point when children and young adults are given something more exciting and challenging than building PowerPoint presentations in their ICT class. This is a generation adept at playing sophisticated online computer games. How uninspiring it must be to “power down” their brains and work on a spreadsheet or a powerpoint in the classroom.

But it’s more than this, it is about understanding the workings of technology both technically and critically, often referred to as digital literacy. Recently I had a discussion with a friend about the need to put digital literacy education on a par with other forms of literacy like the reading, writing and maths. He disagreed and, using the car analogy, said that you don’t need to know the technical workings of a car to drive it – that’s what mechanics are for. At first this seemed to me like an inapplicable comparison. Nevertheless, after refection, I could see that, in a way, it proves my point on two different levels. It’s an interesting analogy because one can drive a car without knowing it’s workings (other than knowing when to fill it with fuel!). Most people do. But knowledge obviously helps if the car develops a fault. However, to point out the other side of this analogy, you would not think it wise to drive a car without becoming proficient at driving it as this could be physically dangerous to you and other people.

A similar comparison can be made for the digital world. Of course the danger of using the internet may not be physical but knowing what happens if you open an email with a virus or even what to do if you are a victim of “trolling” may be of some benefit to your mental health. This knowledge could be on an even more banal level like knowing what happens to your data when you type a query into Google. As with the car analogy there could be said to be two levels of digital literacy in this case. Firstly, educating young people in the necessary skills to develop critical judgements and understanding of how the digital world functions seems sensible (the learning to drive bit) so that they can use the Internet confidently and analytically. And secondly, access at an early age to learning the basics of programming is an advantage because then they will have an understanding of the technical structure of the Internet (the technical workings bit) and be able to make, adapt and customise things for themselves. This adds a creative element too.

This is one of the many reasons why the release of Raspberry Pi is so crucial to the latter. Learning basic programming at an early age will make it seem a natural, basic and potentially enjoyable activity. Last year, at his MacTaggart lecture, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt criticised the UK education system by saying that he was “flabbergasted to learn that computer science is not taught as standard in UK schools” He went on to say this also ignored the legacy given to us by pioneering UK computer scientists like Alan Turing. Here’s a link to a post I wrote at the time.

In my experience computer/video games courses, at the few schools and colleges that run them, are the courses that fill up straight away because the students are passionate about gaming. It would seem a perfect time to start the process of educating our childen and young adults in the art of programming not just for their own benefit and education but to stop us lagging behind other more technologically ambitious and savvy nations that have had computer science programming on there curriculum for many years. Raspberry Pi is the perfect starting point.

Below Robert Mullins, co-founder of Raspberry Pi Foundation, is interviewed by Harriet Green about how and why Raspberry Pi was created.

[pro-player width=’465′ height=’308′ type=’video’]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Gky68aE578[/pro-player]

 

Social Media Week London – Thursday

Thursday began with three events at the Design Council. The first, The Future of Sharing discussed whether web users future will “embrace a world of ubiquitous sharing, or come to reject added noise and clutter”.

The event was prefaced with a consumer survey presentation by digital agency Beyond which looked at the future trends in online sharing.

The Current State of Sharing

The definition of online sharing within the context of this survey is very broad and can mean anything from sharing a link to your recently uploaded YouTube video or to the automatic sharing of your online activity. This is a term know as “frictionless sharing”, which posts your online activity through the use of applications directly to your profile without the need of a “like” or “share” button. Frictionless sharing was widely discussed as a social marketing tool. I question, however, its value to the social media user as it creates unnecessary noise and clutter and can interfere with the online conversation. This was backed up by a straw poll of the audience where only 4 people out of a room of around 170 wanted more frictionless sharing. However the assembled panel of marketeers recognised its value realising that recommendations from friends and colleagues are more valuable for selling products and services than traditional advertising and marketing are. Indeed this issue seemed to identify the course of the day’s attention.

The full survey can be viewed and downloaded at Beyond’s Future of Sharing web page.

Later in the morning there was a panel discussion entitled The Psychology of Online Influence. This event is also the title of a forthcoming book  by Web PsychologistNathalie Nahai who gave the first presentation concerned with new insights from the fields of neuropsychology and neuroaesthetics. The main angle of her presentation was discovering how we can apply these fields of research to “influence and communicate persuasively online”. Again this event was heavily weighted towards marketing and the value of social media tools and online communities to it.

Thursday afternoon began with massively oversubscribed Google@SocialMediaWeek, which was an interesting mix of both academic study and the features of Google+. The event started with a presentation from Robin Dunbar, Professor of Evolutionary Anthropology at Oxford University. He is the person to whom the phrase “Dunbar’s number” derives. It’s a reference to the number 150, which Dunbar claims is the “cognitive limit to the number of individuals with whom any one person can maintain stable relationships”. Professor Dunbar’s presentation, titled “Why the Internet won’t get you anymore friends”, was academically orientated, as one would expect, and full of valuable and interesting research conducted over many years. His conclusion suggested that the reason we “won’t get anymore friends” on the Internet is the size of our brains and the behaviour we carry forward from our primate ancestors. This was followed by Alex Bentley, Professor of Anthropology at Bristol University who used some of Dunbar’s data to ask the question “Does the Internet really change how we interact and decide?” which looked at the mapping of social behaviour and “how ideas, behaviour, and culture spread through the simple means of doing what others do”. This is a question that I think that will be ongoing for some considerable time to come.

However, these two academic heavyweights were just a prelude to the main Google+ presentation. As I mentioned earlier in this post, much of what interests marketers about social media is the high value placed on personal recommendations and the ability for these recommendations to be converted into sales. Mobile Sales Director at Google UK, Ian Carrington qualified this by revealing an astonishing statistic that individuals are 300% more likely to make a purchase if someone they know has recommended it to them.

This led on to the main theme and big idea of the session, the development of “circles” on Google+ and the use of the “plus 1” (+1) button that’s becoming ever-more prevalent on blogs and webpages (indeed, this blog already has one, below!). The idea being that everytime one of your friends, or someone in one of your circles, clicks on the +1 button this will personalise your Google searches to reflect your friends/circles choices. Personally I think this sounds annoying and there appears no way of turning the feature off. It certainly takes the serendipity out of searching the web. This reminds me of a book I read recently, The Filter Bubble by Eli Praiser, which discusses invisible algorithmic editing on the web and its potential implications.

The event ended with a very entertaining (and brave!) live demonstration by Beth Foster, Senior Google+ Strategist of how Google+ ‘hangouts’ works.  It was a bit like a conference call or a multiple Skype call except the experience felt more like being in a room with your mates…. only one that would allow anyone to come in. Very impressive and lots of fun.

As darkness fell I made my way into Soho and Londata II: Taming the firehose – putting data to work in social media, an event hosted by data management company Media Science. To my pleasant surprise there was an array of free alcoholic drinks (sponsored by Windows Azure) including, tastefully, some organic pale ale which was very much to my liking. After a bit of networking and a few drinks we were given three presentations on the merits of social media, data modelling and management (I wouldn’t blame you, dear reader, for thinking that drinking alcohol would’ve been a mandatory requirement before listening to three presentation on this subject, but this was not the case).

And so to the final event of the evening. I’d  managed to get one of the last batch of tickets for the Social Media London Official Closing Party at The Penthouse on Leicester Square. Again there was a generous free bar and food arrived at regular intervals on trays. This was purely social but in the physical sense although there had been a good use of the Twitter #smwldn hashtag all day… as you would expect from an event like this. Suitably stimulated both mentally and physically I made my way home.

Eric Schmidt’s MacTaggart lecture

It is perhaps indicative of the pervasive nature of the internet that Eric Schmidt, the Google chairman, was the first non-television MacTaggart lecture speaker to address the Edinburgh International Television Festival yesterday. As one would expect much of his speech was directed at the challenges facing the British television industry and it’s relationship with the Web and, of course, Google.

A surprise to many, however, may have been his criticism of the UK education system. Schmidt  announced that he was “flabbergasted to learn that computer science is not taught as standard in UK schools”. He suggests that rather than just learning to use software in IT classes the understanding of computer programming and writing code should be given a much higher priority.

This has a wider implication that impacts on digital literacy. It’s a subject that is raised in Douglas Rushkoff ‘s book Program or Be Programmed, in which he argues that in using modern technology we have a choice: “choose the former and you gain access to the control panel of civilization. Choose the latter, and it could be the last real choice you get to make” (p:7-8). This quote might seem rather dramatic in it’s sentiment but it illustrates Schmidt’s worry over the future of our young people’s ability to gain critical and technical understanding in an increasing ubiquitous digital world.

The discussion begins a 68:31

[pro-player width=’465′ height=’291′ type=’video’]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hSzEFsfc9Ao[/pro-player]

 

British Library & Question Time

The snow has nearly gone and yesterday was was a eventful day. I had my monthly meeting with my supervisors in the  morning. This time at the British Library which is always an inspiring place to visit. We spoke for about two hours and mainly discussed my impending deadline for the Application to Register and Plan of Work which outline my research. This has to be reviewed and accepted by a panel of academics who judge whether it will contribute to knowledge and is sufficiently original to warrant pursuing.

There were just minor changes to the document and for the rest of the meeting we discussed the practical implications of the research, the books I needed to read. I feel I’m a little deficient in my knowledge of the sociological background surrounding subject so I was recommended some books to read.

Before Christmas, while  watching Question Time on BBC One, I applied to be a member of the audience on the programme as it was visiting my local area. On Monday I was called by a producer and last night was in the audience. We were asked to submit two questions and they pick a sample and the author get s to ask the question to the panel. My first Question was about Alastair Campbell and the Iraq Enquiry. My second is about the breaking news story concerning Google adopting to remove censorship from it’s Chinese google.cn website after a cyber attack on its gmail accounts. “Was Google ethically wrong to set-up in China and right to stop playing by the censorship rules now?” This was probably a bit obscure for the likes of a mainstream political programme but in internet circles this is big news. Needless to say I didn’t get to ask either of my questions.

Went down the pub afterwards just in time to watch the end of the Rovers v Villa game on TV. We lost again!

Earlier in the day I visited my Twitter account and found that David Gauntlett has uploaded another of his videos. This covers ideas from his forthcoming book Making is Connecting. He’s very prolific and a bit of a rising star in his field and he’s also building quite a reputation. I feel privileged that he’s my supervisor.

[youtube nF4OBfVQmCI 460 280]