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Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

nanotube-paper battery

Via Knowledge Problem, this is the type of thing that keeps me from getting a good night’s sleep. I start reading about cool new things and all of a sudden realize I should have gone to bed hours ago.

Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have developed a new energy storage device that easily could be mistaken for a simple sheet of black paper.

Rensselaer researchers infused this paper with aligned carbon nanotubes, which give the device its black color. The nanotubes act as electrodes and allow the storage devices to conduct electricity. The device, engineered to function as both a lithium-ion battery and a supercapacitor, can provide the long, steady power output comparable to a conventional battery, as well as a supercapacitor’s quick burst of high energy.

Paper thin batteries! The potential for future devices powered from such batteries is almost endless. The research is not done yet, as they haven’t found a way to cheaply mass produce the product, but apparently all of the materials are pretty inexpensive.

I don’t know. This is pretty interesting to me, maybe not to anyone else…

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Tech Daily has “tech policy profiles” of all the presidential candidates:

Presidential candidates have made plenty of headlines this year for their increasing use of technology to campaign, but they also have views on technology issues. In this special series, Technology Daily offers a detailed look at their views on matters facing the growing tech community. Tech Daily consulted the Congressional Record, speeches, candidates’ Web sites and campaign spokesmen to compile profiles of each presidential hopeful’s technology policy views

Let’s see … San Brownback is a decency nut (but so is Hilary Clinton); all the Democrats support net neutrality legislation, but all the Republican except Huckabee are against it; Obama and Clinton have the most to say on tech issues compared to other Democrats; Giuliani only has opinions on technology that will help him erode more civil liberties (he wants to build a virtual border fence?); How can McCain sponsor legislation that would require sex offender registries online and also a bill in support of online privacy?; yay for Ron Paul voting against silly Internet gambling bans and increased broadcast indecency penalties; Romney has drunk the Internet predators kool-aid; who the hell is Duncan Hunter?

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I’ve decided that I’m taking a hiatus from libertarian posts. How often can I post that I’m against banning things and for individual rights? Don’t answer that. I’ll probably post something that irks me the wrong way soon.

So, anyway I like new techie things. Here’s a fun link to play with via my old friend from high school Jeff.

The link, Built With, has you identify a web site and it will tell you what it’s built with (ie CSS, HTML, AJAX, the list goes on).

Fun times had by all, really no joke.

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Sometimes the technological generation gap – the gulf between digital natives and digital immigrants, if you will — manifests itself in weird ways. Just now, a group of older men at my work were talking in the office behind me. I don’t really pay much attention to people talking at work unless they’re talking directly to me, but I assumed they were discussing something complicated, given the amount of discussion it was warranting. Finally, one of them – the big department boss, actually – turns to me and says, “Maybe you can help. We’re trying to figure out how to determine the number of miles between two cities.”

Really? Really?

“Uh, Mapquest?” I suggest timidly, thinking surely there must be more to this issue, something more complicated that I am not yet grasping.

“I don’t know, will that work?” he asks. I pull up the site, type in the two cities. They hulk over me, watching observantly. “2803.56 miles,” I tell them. Satisfaction abounds.

This is actually not the first time people here have been amazed! at how quickly I will find something they ask for on the Internet. I know, I know, I’d be totally hopeless back in the days when reporters actually had to put in some effort to find information – to call people! Or go places! Or use books and almanacs and directories! … I admire them that they’ve all worked through that era. I know I’m a spoiled tech brat. But … it’s Mapquest, people, Mapquest. Hasn’t Mapquest been around since Geocities? Geez.

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This has already been everywhere, but oh well. There are just so many interesting things about danah boyd’s social-neworking/class analysis I don’t know where to start. A few weeks ago I mused that “Myspace will remain as the go-to site for musicians, aspiring porn stars and people looking to hook-up with strangers; Facebook for college kids, hipsters, tech geeks, activists and academics.”

Turns out I’m mostly right, according to danah. She has been interviewing young people across the nation about their relationship with social networking and other technological phenomenon, and writes a series of academic and non-acedmic articles about her observations. One of her latest discussions is on class divisions evident in the Facebook/MySpace divide.

Until recently, American teenagers were flocking to MySpace. The picture is now being blurred. Some teens are flocking to MySpace. And some teens are flocking to Facebook. Who goes where gets kinda sticky… probably because it seems to primarily have to do with socio-economic class.

After hashing out the obvious origins of this divide (facebook’s original .edu account only membership policy), danah attempts to briefly deal with just what “class” actually means in U.S. society, which I thought was one of the most interesting parts of the essay. She cites sociologist Nalini Kotamraju, who argued that lifestyle and “social stratification” are more indicative of class in the U.S. than income.

In other words,” danah writes, “all of my anti-capitalist college friends who work in cafes and read Engels are not working class just because they make $14K a year and have no benefits. Class divisions in the United States have more to do with social networks (the real ones, not FB/MS), social capital, cultural capital, and attitudes than income.

Ezra picks up this thread and adds

I’m not making very much right now, but … there’s an issue of potential here. I’m choosing a low-income field, but it would be easy enough for me to take the LSAT, dart off to law school, and quintuple my salary. Not choosing that option doesn’t mean it’s not there. Should class actually be tired to the most-renumerative reality you could feasibly inhabit?

Similarly, I’ve been in grad school this year, and making practically nothing, like most of my fellow students. But no one would look at us, our lives, our possessions, and call us “working class.” We have ikea furniture and laptops and iPods and embarrassingly high weekly bar tabs, though combinations of previous incarnations in the working world, help from parents, student loans, meager part-time incomes, school stipends, etc. (for the record, my parents are not paying for anything for me, lest you think I’m one of those subsidized academic brats). And we have post-grad prospects that, while dismally not as bright-and-shiny as we’d like, at least mean that we’ll be able to make our way in the world and keep drinking expensive beer and maybe even open a savings account some day soon. Commenters at Ezra’s point out that, really, education is what we’re talking about here. And upward mobility. But education is the clearest predictor of upward mobility, so … class can be boiled down to education.

This is gonna get me off on a tangent here, but … I never realized how much the type of education you had predicts your future success until I moved to DC. I went to a state school in Ohio and entered the job market in Ohio and pretty much everybody else I was competing with went to school in Ohio and nobody much cared if you went to a private school or a state school or a community college. But in DC, which can afford to be much more picky, I’ve noticed that certain internships, certain types of jobs, certain networks, are nearly exclusively brimming with Ivy-leaguers or people with equally impressive academic credentials. Sometimes it’s hard not to feel like because you didn’t do the right internships at 20, you’re never gonna get where you want to be. But this is neither here nor there. Back to the class thing … I think it’s about education, but also about mindset. Which is what danah was originally saying, I think. So back to danah’s essay. Danah posits that:

The goodie two shoes, jocks, athletes, or other “good” kids are now going to Facebook. These kids tend to come from families who emphasize education and going to college. They are part of what we’d call hegemonic society. They are primarily white, but not exclusively. They are in honors classes, looking forward to the prom, and live in a world dictated by after school activities. MySpace is still home for Latino/Hispanic teens, immigrant teens, “burnouts,” “alternative kids,” “art fags,” punks, emos, goths, gangstas, queer kids, and other kids who didn’t play into the dominant high school popularity paradigm. These are kids whose parents didn’t go to college, who are expected to get a job when they finish high school. These are the teens who plan to go into the military immediately after schools. Teens who are really into music or in a band are also on MySpace. MySpace has most of the kids who are socially ostracized at school because they are geeks, freaks, or queers.

She points out that this is visually represented by the difference in Myspace and Facebook aesthetics. Personally I am horrified when someone (usually not a current friend but someone I went to high school with or something) posts a glittery blinking loony toon flash graphic on my MySpace comments section. Similarly by people whose pages have, like, sixteen slide shows of their friends or their kids, graphic memes, and blinking backgrounds. But danah points out that in certain cultures, “showy, sparkly, brash visual displays are acceptable and valued” (that explains all those moving-waterfall-florescent-wall-hangings that are so popular in my home town).

The look and feel of MySpace resonates far better with subaltern communities than it does with the upwardly mobile hegemonic teens. This is even clear in the blogosphere where people talk about how gauche MySpace is while commending Facebook on its aesthetics. I’m sure that a visual analyst would be able to explain how classed aesthetics are, but aesthetics are more than simply the “eye of the beholder” – they are culturally narrated and replicated. That “clean” or “modern” look of Facebook is akin to West Elm or Pottery Barn or any poshy Scandinavian design house (that I admit I’m drawn to) while the more flashy look of MySpace resembles the Las Vegas imagery that attracts millions every year. I suspect that lifestyles have aesthetic values and that these are being reproduced on MySpace and Facebook.

This is getting really long, but the last thing I want to share from danah’s essay is her analysis of class divisions in military use of social networking sites.

A month ago, the military banned MySpace but not Facebook. This was a very interesting move because the division in the military reflects the division in high schools. Soldiers are on MySpace; officers are on Facebook. MySpace is the primary way that young soldiers communicate with their peers. When I first started tracking soldiers’ MySpace profiles, I had to take a long deep breath. Many of them were extremely pro-war, pro-guns, anti-Arab, anti-Muslim, pro-killing, and xenophobic as hell. Over the last year, I’ve watched more and more profiles emerge from soldiers who aren’t quite sure what they are doing in Iraq.

I can’t help but wonder if part of the goal is to cut off communication between current soldiers and the group that the military hopes to recruit. Many young soldiers’ profiles aren’t public so it’s not about making a bad public impression. That said, young soldiers tend to have reasonably large networks because they tend to accept friend requests of anyone that they knew back home which means that they’re connecting to almost everyone from their high school. Many of these familiar strangers write comments supporting them. But what happens if the soldiers start to question why they’re in Iraq? And if this is witnessed by high school students from working class communities who the Army intends to recruit?”

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Mother Jones July/August issue is all about “open-source” politics. Haven’t read through much of it yet, but it looks like there’s some interesting stuff,

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Looking for even more ways to avoid interaaction with the real world? Ning is a “meta-networking” site that allows users to create their own social networks for whatever they want to. On the front page of the site right now (I’m assuming it changes daily) are networks for something called the Brooklyn Art Project, the “Sick Puppies Network,” and the “One Tree Hill VIP Lounge.” Ning’s passion, they tell us, is “putting new social networks in the hands of anyone with a good idea.”

With Ning, your social network can be anything and for anyone. You start by choosing a combination of features (videos, blogs, photos, forums, etc.) from an ever-growing list of options. Then customize how it looks, decide if it’s public or private, add your brand logo if you have one, and enable the people on your network to create their own custom personal profile pages.

I read about this today on Cultureby, and my first thought was, oh, that’s kind of cool, because I think I’m kind of conditioned to think that about every new Web platform that gets introduced. But then one of the commenters asked, “what is the value?”

Indeed.

What is the value added here? What do people get out of this? Why does everyone keep joining these things? At a certain point, do you really gain anything from joining a newer/bigger/more-compartmentalized/whatever network? Or do you just spend more time out of your day checking out 13.5 million sites, with absolutely nothing added for belonging to more than one? It’s kind of like blogrolls — the more blogs I read, the more other blogs I get led to, and the more blogs I, in turn, add to my RSS reader. At this point, I just look at my massive list of feeds every morning and feel daunted. I resort to skimming just about everything. I was probably better informed about life, the world and the blogosphere when I only read 5 blogs total.

(Another commenter at Cultureby pointed out that everyone keeps talking about how there needs to be one giant aggregator, something where you can combine Flickr, YouTube, blogging platforms, Facebook, LinkedIn, your RSS reader, etc., but if we got to that place, “would the security issues freak us all out?”)

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