July 2, 2008
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New Knowledge Forge

Despite a hot room and a busy day — two other colloquia were scheduled at FEUP on the same day! — Monday’s colloquium on The New Knowledge Forge had terrific energy. It was great to see such a good crowd, and to hear so many good questions — especially the enthusiasm that Stewart Mader’s practical ideas on wiki adotion generated.

George Landow’s talk on Moving Beyond The Hammer is a great introduction to the impact of Web 2.0 ideas on scholarship — and on the invisible machinery of the printed book. And J. Nathan Matias’s discussion of Ethical Explanations made an extremely interesting connection between the way we describe laws (in his case, documenting the procedures of rules of order) and the ethics of software documentation.

Lots of good discussion in the breaks. What do the cosplay images in my NeoVictorian slides mean, exactly? And why are there so many Asian women?

New Knowledge Forge

I don’t pretend to fully understand cosplay. The simple answer is that ground zero of cosplay is in Tokyo, and that I was able to find more images of women (often images they took themselves) than men, and that they make a good illustration of NeoVictorian programming as something new, not just nostalgia for old technologies. The ways in which cosplay is not authentic — is better than authentic — are fascinating: cosplay is all about the rules of decorum, design, ethnicity, and class.

Even better were the discussions of the workplace. Who has fun in the mill? The mechanic — the fellow who fixes stuff! But software maintenance is ghastly, and operations is worse: can this be fixed? Would our workplace be better if we insisted on using our own tools: if it were a worker’s right to own and use her laptop, and to replace it when she sees fit with whatever brand of computer (and whatever software) lets her produce the best work? Should designers demand the right to sign their software, and writers insist on their right to be credited for — and to show prospective employers — the documents on which they work? Above all, do workers have a right to publish a professional blog?