Interview with Thomas W. Malone: Collective Intelligence, Privacy and Small Towns

In the newest issue of my video-podcast MIT Professor Thomas W. Malone talks about his reasearch on collective intelligence and the changing notion of privacy. Professor Malone is the founding director of MIT's Center for Collective Intelligence. In 2004, he published The Future of Work, a critically acclaimed book about the impact of electronic communication on management, organizations and business. Before he started teaching at MIT, Mr. Malone was a research scientist at the legendary Xerox Palo Alto Research Center. So enjoy the podcast which contains a short introduction, the interview plus two exlusive bonus tracks :pimp:

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Austria must not leave CERN!

Some of you may yet not have paid any attention to the fact that I'm living, working and teaching in beautiful Vienna, capital of Austria. No surprise, as I usually don't blog about .at-specific topics on this blog. But today I have to make an exception as Austrian minister of scientific affairs Johannes Hahn recently announced – as a complete surprise to all involved parties by the way – that Austria will quit the CERN project. Naturally, a massive wave of protest has risen among Austrian scientists and a petition has been put online.

CERN explained in 3 minutes


Even though the page is in German, signing should be quite doable. It's a simple online form, after clicking on the approval list your name is going to appear on the list of supporters which will be presented to the Austrian parliament soon – these guys are the only ones able to stop Hahn's completely erratic plan. There are plenty good reasons for this:

  • The ministry of scientific affair's budget has been raised by 15% percent this year. CERN project accounts for a mere 0,47% of that sum or, in absolute numbers: 16 mio Euros. But from 1994 to 2007 Austrian industry grossed an average total of 6 mio Euros per year via direct CERN projects.
  • The kind of experiments conducted at CERN are so expensive that one single country could hardly handle such a project. Austria has been a partner for 50 years now. The CERN is seen as the top European science cooperation showcase – being a part of that has huge benefits for a countries scientific community.
  • In the past, many great inventions were direct or indirect results of CERN: among them the world wide web, computer tomography, new cancer therapies – to name just a few. And thanks to Prof. Oberhummer I got some more I got some more numbers to put this situation into perspective: 16 Mio Euros is the sum the Austrian public railway company is currently losing – every 3 days.

By the way: Albany, a much poorer country than Austria, recently applied for a CERN membership. Pls Mister Hahn, don't be short sighted. The Austrian scientific community will suffer for years from the aftermaths of this historic misjudgment! As Prof. Herman Feshbach, physics Nobel Prize winner in 2004, puts it:

Scientific prospects at CERN have never been brighter and more exciting, as the great Large Hadron Collider (LHC) project approaches its operational phase. Many years' investment in research, development, and construction are about to bear fruit. There are good reasons to anticipate discoveries that will dramatically advance our most basic understanding of what the physical world is made of, how it works, and even how it came to be. While the primary goal of CERN is to address such fundamental issues, the laboratory is also a treasury of engineering marvels. It has been a seedbed of innovation in computer and communications technology, cryogenics, and large-scale, high-tech project management. Young people learn cutting-edge skills at CERN that they take back to businesses and schools of their home countries. For these reasons I believe that CERN has yielded, and will continue to yield, excellent long-term returns on investment, just as a matter of economics, even apart from its unique scientific value. In addition, since its origins in the aftermath of World War II, CERN has been an inspiring, visible symbol of European unity and cultural vitality. It would be a great loss for Austria, and a blow to Europe and the scientific world, if short-term thinking and lack of vision caused Austria – birthplace of Ludwig Boltzmann, Erwin Schr?dinger, Wolfgang Pauli, Victor Franz Hess, and Lise Meitner – to pull out of CERN now.

Particle Hunters: the CMS-experiment at CERN


The simpler explanation of the internet

Lonja explains the technical development of the internet in an elegant and nearly-hypnotic short video, only using black-and-white icons. Very instructive movie – I will definitely show this to plenty of my students in the next couple of years:

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Guest post by Kim de Vries: Your Friend has just tackled you

Kim de VriesBite, lick, or tackle them back, or click here to theorize about what this all means. I'm very happy to publish the first guest posting here on datadirt. Kim De Vries, who I met via Facebook, wrote a very interesting paper about the symbolic kind of communication we all know so well from social networks like Facebook. “He who never superpoked shall throw the first rock” – enjoy the reading! Dr. Kim De Vries is working at the California State University Stanislaus, you can reach her at kdevries [at]


Though Facebook was initially the province of college students, it has become popular with a broad range of users since opening its door to anyone with an email address in September 2006. However, until very recently, most research on Facebook has focused on the student demographic rather than exploring how Facebook is growing into a massive online society that is inhabited by many different groups using Facebook in a variety of ways for a variety of reasons. The academics studying Facebook generally join it and use it in order to observe students; now that more faculty are using Facebook outside the classroom, to organize events and to socialize, turning the focus to our own use of Facebook reveals that our own communities are being affected as well.

As of August 2008, Facebook is one of the most rapidly growing social networks, boasting 100 million active users, translated into twelve European and a growing number of Asian and African languages. The extent to which groups of people connected on Facebook can be defined as communities is highly debatable and a useful alternative has been suggested by Rieder and Sch