9th European Conference on
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Slides from Hal Abelson's keynote
Universities, the Internet, and the Information Commons
Slides available in PDF, PowerPoint and HTML
Universities have a mission to create, preserve, and disseminate knowledge. In addressing that mission, universities should take care to preserve and strengthen the information commons -- the shared wellspring of ideas and innovation from which all may freely draw.
Today, both the commons and the university communities that rely upon it are confronting stresses from both within and outside the university: squabbles over who owns academic work, technologies like Digital Restrictions Management that impede the dissemination of knowledge, and the impact of increasingly stringent and overreaching intellectual property laws.
This talk describes initiatives aimed at bolstering the information commons, both at MIT and elsewhere. These include MIT OpenCourseWare, an effort to publish the materials of all MIT courses for free use worldwide, the DSpace Federation for institutional research publication archives, and the Creative Commons project to promote sharing on the Internet.
Harold (Hal) Abelson is Class of 1922 Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT and a Fellow of the IEEE. He holds an A.B. degree from Princeton University and a Ph.D. degree in mathematics from MIT. He joined the MIT faculty in 1973.
Abelson was winner of the 1995 Taylor L. Booth Education Award given by IEEE Computer Society, cited for his continued contributions to the pedagogy and teaching of introductory computer science. He was designated as one of MIT's six inaugural MacVicar Faculty Fellows, in recognition of his significant and sustained contributions to teaching and undergraduate education, and also recipient in 1992 of the Bose Award (MIT's School of Engineering teaching award). He is also co-director of the MIT-Microsoft Research Alliance in educational technology and co-head of the MIT Council on Educational Technology.
Abelson is a founding director Creative Commons and Public Knowledge, and was also a founding director of the Free Software Foundation, three organizations devoted to strengthing the information commons.
Together with Gerald Sussman, Abelson developed MIT's introductory computer science subject, a subject organized around the notion that a computer language is primarily a formal medium for expressing ideas about methodology, rather than just a way to get a computer to perform operations. This work, through a popular computer science textbook by Abelson and Gerald and Julie Sussman, "Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs," videos of their lectures, and the availability on personal computers of the Scheme dialect of Lisp (used in teaching the course), has had a world-wide impact on university computer-science education.
Abelson and Sussman also cooperate in codirecting the MIT Project on Mathematics and Computation, a joint project of the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory MIT Laboratory for Computer Science, whose goal is to create better computational tools for scientists and engineers. His current research is the in area of "amorphous computing", an effort to create new programming technologies for harnessing the power of the new computing substrates that are emerging from advances in microfabrication and molecular biology.
All W and No P Makes CSCW a Dull Field:
CSCW was built on the recognition that work is inherently collaborative. But that doesn’t mean that all collaborations involve work. We also join together to play and not just at games, but at life more generally. We engage in desultory conversations, gossip, and flirtations, we pursue humorous speculation and casual role-play. Ludic activities such as these are motivated by intrinsic pleasure rather than any particular outcome. But playful interactions do have benefits. They allow us to explore new perspectives, negotiate shared orientations, maintain emotional bonds, and set new directions. Play is important for our lives, and this includes our working lives as well as our private ones.
Focusing collaborative technologies too narrowly on work risks missing the benefits of more playful forms of collaboration. The problem is that CSCW, like most domains of HCI, tends to understand successful systems in terms of clear usability and utility, while play is by definition is less well defined and more open to appropriation and interpretation. In this talk, I discuss a number of examples of systems that support “computer supported collaborative playfulness”. Equally importantly, I discuss how embracing ludic activities changes our assumptions about interactive systems, and discuss approaches to designing for and evaluating ludic technologies.
William Gaver is Professor of Interaction Research at the Royal College of Art and leader of the RCA’s involvement in the Equator IRC. He has pursued research on innovative technologies for over 15 years, working with and for companies such as Apple, Hewlett Packard, IBM and Xerox. He has gained an international reputation for a range of work that spans auditory interfaces, theories of perception and action, and interaction design. Currently he focuses on design-led methodologies and innovative technologies for everyday life.
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