Jul 27, 2011

Paper demand response

For long I've been a subscriber of alerts from the Social Sciences Research Network (SSRN). Today I've received an email informing me of another service they are offering resulting from requests from both authors and readers:
"In response to requests from authors and readers to purchase printed and bound hard copies of papers on SSRN, we provide a 'Purchase Bound Hard Copy' service for most free PDF files in SSRN's eLibrary.FAQ
Clearly an(other) argument to build upon the affordances of paper beyond all the digital offerings available and being built that shows market demand for paper products. 

Just yesterday another argument crossed my information spaces. In short, Paula Simões compared the consumer costs associate with buying a paper Book versus buying an eBook with DRM (Digital Rights Management). Albeit the immediate cost of acquisition favouring the eBook, after the purchase the costs are much higher for the eBook then for the paper Book. Those costs, besides the need to have additional artefacts to actually decode and read the product (eReader, computer, etc), concern social factors and even use factors. While we can lend books to our friends, sell them in second hand markets, and even leave them to our family or donate them to libraries, eBooks with DRM do not allow such affordances. And this is no minor issue. The original post as receive a lot of other comments that are adding layers of costs associated with DRM (you can use the google translate if Portuguese is a barrier).

Thing is, most of us do not have the required time to undergo an exhaustive study of all our artefacts restrictions so things like DRM might go unnoticed for quiet a long time... until the day we realize by self experience or by reading about others' experiences, that DRM restricts the social behaviour of sharing information by restricting the product to a specific artefact and only for the person who acquire it.

Am I missing something or this is one more point in favour of good old paper? Since people are talking way beyond their geographic limitations, will people keep on paying for eBooks with DRM? Seems that in Portugal, two large national editors are going to have to rethink their product restrictions policies.

Jul 22, 2011

assembling Talk to Me

By Monica Pinheiro (2010)
Assembling narratives in research work are quiet extraordinary. A monumental task that very often is dismissed from the final thesis object. Encountering research work which accommodates the assembling stage of work is no easy task, yet we are surrounded by work-in-progress, messy processes, until we crystallize our deliverable products (aka, thesis). But like the fading boundaries between work and leisure, so are multidisciplinary boundaries. The interwoven net of objects and people gives the canvas for the playground where different actors' establish their agency, across time and (dis)place, allowing us to (de)construct (new) affordances for artefacts in interdependent layers of infrastructure.
"Talk to Me is an exhibition on the communication between people and objects that will open at The Museum of Modern Art [MoMa] on July 24th 2011. It will feature a wide range of objects from all over the world, from interfaces and products to diagrams, visualizations, perhaps even vehicles and furniture, by bona-fide designers, students, scientists, all designed in the past few years or currently under development. As you can tell, our net is cast very wide and the exhibition happens at the end of a long hunting and gathering exercise. This online journal will document the process and progress of Talk to MeThis is where we will share our findings, considerations, and explorations as we research, investigate, travel and hear from our networks of designers, artists, scientists and scholars."
Depending on one's own ability to read the surroundings, as much as to communicate a coherent chain of arguments, the thesis appears as a final product made to convince peers that we are ready for the passage. All the travelling reduced to words that account for a flow that's still moving beyond those words. A reality in motion which, as researchers, we have to accept we will no longer follow. At some point we freeze the arguments and the sequence of events becomes the ability to narrate the choosen facts in a discretionary way (structure), as long as we follow the rules. This rules are the methods, codes of conduct and trust agreements in use among the scientific community. 
"Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?", oath taken by witnesses [jurados] in USA court rooms.
But the rules do not account for what is left unsaid. If you look again to Talk to Me, journalling (or documenting, if you prefer), give a richer account of the journey that can better elucidate how we came from point A to point 2 and are an example of the need to document the process in as much as inscribing it in the account of the process, so as to admit debate, collection and reflection before closure [people shifting from observed objects, to participants, to actors in the research work].

Are we not to give such an account that other researchers can re-construct our journey so they in turn can de-construct the argument? Methods become an accepted legitimizing tool in which one as to frame convincing arguments that can be trusted in order to evaluate the merit of the narrative. If so, why is it so hard to find thesis describing all the dead ends, the failed routes, the bad choices, the fear, the anguish, the whereabouts of everything that did not work? Isn't that the correct and exempt description that would allow verifiability? Was it not the (after) journey (immersion) that one followed that led us to those conclusions? Had we taken a different turn (choice), would we still reach the same conclusions?

Hard time deciding on colliding rules that govern science... let alone my English skills (un) improvements [note to self: write narrative in language not native to self - translation/meaning/nuance errors; write in one's language - barriers to feedback/localization]! Any actions/ideas of what cold help me stick to writing my argument (aka thesis) bringing the spiral to an halt?