Mapping Information Landscapes – a first step

Filed Under (Built Learning Environments, Events) by ronan on 04-04-2014

Manchester March 2014Spent a great couple of days at Manchester University last week working on Mapping Information Landscapes with colleagues Fred Garnett and Drew Whitworth. The aim was to secure some funding to develop a rationale and methodology that would help gain a deep understanding of urban “cityscapes” from the information patterns they present. We looked at the issues from a range of different perspectives; scientific, philosophical, technological, geographical, knowledge management, information science.

So what is my interest in this? Well, I’m not so sure about the mapping aspect; that is,  I don’t know how it might be done, although I’m sure there is technology that can help. The information landscapes certainly engage me, and the terms communities, resources and learning in this context are all difficult to define and shape into something that has wide appeal; herein lies the problem for the academic. Yet in all communities, information forms the basis of learning and the associated resources can be in demand; in addition, the skills required to engage with resources can be in demand. This landscape can be monetised and institutionalised or it can  evolve more openly (my preference). Perspectives can be from the ‘information’ point of view, i.e. watching information flow(s) through communities. Equally, a perspective from the individual might provide a sociological lens, or a ‘learning’ (theory) perspective may be used to understand knowledge creation. An economic view, in this era of neo-liberalism, would perhaps seek to monetise the landscape and identify a commercial angle. Cultural and heritage angles are also important.  I’m interested in all these views (and others) of the information landscape.

I was impressed with the range of people – some of whom are in the photo – from Norway, Russia (5 delegates), Brazil, Pakistan and the UK. Fred has promised to curate the conversation that has come out of the event, and this will shed more light on the issues and, more importantly, the progress we may have made. Fred’s presentation slides can be found here


New Technologies and Ethics in educational research

Filed Under (Events, General, Research) by ronan on 04-04-2014

Professor Luciano Floridi at the BERA seminar March 2014

Prof. Luciano Floridi at the BERA seminar 13/03/2014



I attended a recent BERA (British Educational Research Association) event which looked in the main at new technologies and ethics. The outline for the day noted: “For those who engage in research in learning technology there are codes and guidelines for best practice in research ethics from professional bodies such as the British Educational Research Association and the American Educational Research Association.  These cover the researchers’ responsibilities to the participants in their research, to their sponsors and the wider community and to those who publish and disseminate their work.”

The keynote presentation – and it really was keynote – was from Professor Luciano Floridi Professor of Philosophy and Ethics of Information at the University of Oxford, Senior Research Fellow at the Oxford Internet Institute, and Fellow of St Cross College, Oxford.  Floridi’s books include: The Fourth Revolution – How the infosphere is reshaping human reality (OUP, 2014), The Ethics of Information (OUP, 2013), The Philosophy of Information (OUP, 2011), The Cambridge Handbook of Information and Computer Ethics (editor, CUP, 2010), which I recall reviewing some time ago and Information: A Very Short Introduction (OUP, 2010). I was interested to hear Prof. Floridi explain the challenges associated with data protection as an ethical issue and particularly pleased to get his view on the emerging challenges around big data in the education context.
One of the areas for discussion was the identity of groups (of people) and how we might treat such groups in relation to how the individual is treated vis-a-vis privacy laws and information disclosure. The problem is that groups are transient in nature, may come together for a brief period of time or may have a long history. Also groups can be self-selecting or one may find oneself included in a group against one’s will.  Of course technology enables data to be manipulated in many ways and can be seen both as empowering the individual and as a threat, this compounds significantly the ethical challenges.

The abstract of Prof. Floridi’s talk is outlined below.

In education research, the analysis of large datasets (Big Data) has become a major driver of innovation and success. However, the use of Educational Big Data (EBD) raises serious ethical problems, which may threaten the significant opportunities it offers. The risk is that of a double bottleneck: ethical mistakes or misunderstandings may lead to distorted legislation, which may cripple the usability of Big Data in educational research and practice. In this talk, I clarify what the nature of Big Data is and how it leads to a group of ethical problems that are either unprecedented, or at least utterly renewed. In the end, I shall argue that we should invest in the development of a national framework for the ethical use of EBD.”


All change in the copyright world

Filed Under (Events, General) by ronan on 04-04-2014

kewgardensI attended the Executive Briefing by CILIP on the imminent changes to UK copyright legislation and licensing, on Tuesday at the Hallam Conference Centre in London. This was an update for librarians and information professionals and the turnout was impressive – about 200 candidates eager to hear about the new copyright exceptions.  Apart from what has now become the accepted rather superficial introduction from the politician, in this case, Viscount Younger of Leckie Under Secretary of State for Intellectual Property, Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, all of the speakers had a great deal to contribute. So too did the audience. I was particularly impressed with the Chair Naomi Korn’s facilitation of the event, her knowledge of the subject matter and clear communication style ensured the event moved along at a steady pace.

While I was initially tempted to take notes on all the various aspects of the very recently published statutory instruments it soon became apparent that such tactics were futile. Rather I shall wait until the dust settles a little and then make use of the various resource to which our speakers directed us. Moreover  the issues will be discussed in greater detail in the coming months as the politicians shape up to pass the legislation.

Some of the presentations form the event are available here .

The Live event blog

The CILIP Copyright pages are available here

The CILIP Press release can be found here