FutureWeb speaker Cathy Davidson strives for enhanced learning through technology

18 03 2010

Image courtesy of Duke UniversityThe future of the Web is the promise for the future of learning and education according to Cathy Davidson, FutureWeb panel leader.

Davidson, Ruth F. DeVarney Professor of English and John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies at Duke University, will lead the panel on the Future of Learning and the Web at FutureWeb2010.

Panelists will include Laurent Dubois, historian of French colonialism and the Caribbean,  Mark Anthony Neal,  author and  scholar of Black popular culture in America, Negar Mottahedeh, academic author and Tony O’Driscoll, author of Learning in 3D: Adding a New Dimension to Enterprise Learning and Collaboration.”

“All the panelists on my panel are public intellectuals who make the fullest use of the Internet and mobile technologies for the work they do out in the public,” Davidson said. “They are very public and political intellectuals who reach different audiences beyond the classroom or the academy. They’re new style educators.”

During the panel session, Davidson is hoping questions will be asked regarding where learning would be without the Internet and where it can go because of it.

“I think the main thing will be asking questions about…how would the world be different, how would learning be different if the Web didn’t exist and how will learning be different because of the web,” she said. “But even more than that, how do the future of the Web and the future of learning go together?”

Learning and technology

Davidson is the co-founder of HASTAC (Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Advanced Collaboratory), a network of individuals and institutions that examine how new technology can aid in education, organization and communication.

HASTAC recently joined the White House on the Educate to Innovate campaign, a movement by President Obama to improve the participation and performance of America’s students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

According to Davidson, education and technology can work hand in hand to modernize the way students learn.

“I think there’s some disappointment that learning institutions, formal institutions of education, have not really comprehended the new learning styles used today,” she said. “As individuals, we have done a much better job of accommodating to all the changes in the world than our institutions have. Our institutions are much slower to change than individuals and I think education is often the slowest at changing and the last at change.”

Davidson said she believes education needs to become more collaborative among students.

“Learning has to be much more student driven,” she said. “It has to focus more on collaboration rather than single individual achievement. One thing that HASTAC has pushed very hard since 2002 when we started is something called collaboration by difference….We try to come up with situations where people who are almost opposite in their skill sets or the ways they learn or their interests come together to focus on a problem and to solve that problem together.”

Davidson is a big proponent of using laptops in the classroom and said it is a regular occurrence for her to tell students to get on the Internet in class.

“I say not only should they be sitting there with their laptops, put them to work,” she said. “I try to conduct my class almost like a hypertext with the students participating, linking what’s happening in the classroom to Google searches and flows of information that come back into the classroom from their searches.”

Digital Media Learning Competition

One of HASTAC’s current projects is the 2010 Digital Media Learning Competition in conjunction with the MacArthur Foundation’s $50 million DML Initiative which allows individuals to explore how digital technology is changing learning and everyday life. Winners will be announced the first week of May.

To Davidson, the competition entails collaboration between individuals who can create technology with those who can think critically about it.

“For students it  means two things,” she said. “One is that informal learning is happening in all kinds of ways outside the school systems… We’re all learning how to collaborate, we’re learning how to customize…we’re learning how to participate in new ways. All those constitute new ways of social, civic and cognitive forms of learning.”

Where learning is headed

“The future of learning needs to see more and more of a return to learning by doing, learning by experiment, learning by creative engagement,” Davidson said. “(It needs to be) much more hands-on kinds of learning and I think that’s true in all fields whether we’re talking about the humanities or computer science.”

Davidson said she sees technology aiding in capabilities such as distance learning, teaching via gaming platforms or virtual environments and communication between teachers and students in different parts of the world.

“Digital technologies are a big factor in facilitating collaboration, not just as tools but in the deep structure the thinking,” Davidson said. “Learning is going to be done by communities that are not necessarily communities of people in the same place but distributed communities working together for specific goals.”

Upcoming projects

In addition to her work with the Digital Media Initiative and contribution to the FutureWeb conference, Davidson will soon make history with her book, Now You See it:  The Science of Attention in the Classroom, at Work, and Everywhere Else.

“It is about our ability to see new options when we have the right tools and the right partners,” she said.

Last week, Viking Press Publishers announced its partnership with iPad and the book will be one of the first to be available on the digital tablet.

“My book is going to be among the first generation of books that Viking Press publishes in its partnership with the iPad and that will be designed in multimedia formats, hypertext links, and interactive features and applications that push the boundaries of what a “book” is,” she said. “I’m thrilled.”

Davidson will lead the panel on the Future of Learning and the Web on Friday, April 30.

“I think FutureWeb is going to be as exciting as the WWW Conference,” she said. “Janna Anderson and Paul Jones and others have done an incredible job putting together FutureWeb.”

-By Laura Smith, http://www.imaginingtheinternet.org

FCC releases National Broadband Plan to Congress

18 03 2010

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission released its proposal for improving Web access on Tuesday. The National Broadband Plan aims to provide affordable, high-speed Internet to 90 percent of Americans by 2020.

Read the National Broadband Plan

The FCC issued a formal press release, saying the FCC delivered the plan to Congress, “setting an ambitious agenda for connecting all corners of the nation while transforming the economy and society with the communications network of the future – robust, affordable Internet.” It also reports:

“In every era, America must confront the challenge of connecting the nation anew,” said Blair Levin, executive director of the Omnibus Broadband Initiative at the FCC.  “Above all else, the plan is a call to action to meet that challenge for our era.  If we meet it, we will have networks, devices, and applications that create new solutions to seemingly intractable problems.”

The plan, officially titled “Connecting America: The National Broadband Plan,” targets stands to benefit nearly 100 million Americans who currently lack broadband in their homes, in addition to 14 million Americans who do not even have the option of broadband access.

Over the next decade, the plan’s goals include connecting 100 million households to affordable 100 megabits per second service, extending access to “anchor institutions” such as schools and hospitals and promoting the service to rural communities and “vulnerable populations.” The average speed under current conditions hovers around 3.9 megabits per second.

Image courtesy of Broadband.gov

Beyond providing high-speed Internet access, the FCC says the plan will further the education of Americans who are not yet digitally literate, promote broadband service competition by ensuring greater transparency and “enhance the safety of the American people by providing every first responder with access to a nationwide, wireless, interoperable public safety network.”

The FCC plans to finance the costs that arise as a result of the proposed broadband service. About 300 megahertz of the new spectrum will be made available to wireless Internet providers over the next five years. The FCC plans to cover other expenses by transferring funds currently used for other telecommunications into programs promoting the broadband expansion, including $15.5 billion to develop a high-speed Internet network into rural areas.

President Obama’s 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act first required the formation of the broadband plan in February 2009, with an allocated $7.2 billion to related initiatives. The FCC then initiated a task force that implemented new precedents for government transparency and rigor.

CNN reports:

“FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has framed the broadband plan as a boost for the economy. ‘The National Broadband Plan is a 21st century roadmap to spur economic growth and investment, create jobs, educate our children, protect our citizens, and engage in our democracy,’ he said in a news release. ‘It’s an action plan, and action is necessary to meet the challenges of global competitiveness and harness the power of broadband to help address so many vital national issues.’”

In order for the Broadband Plan to go into effect, Congress must first approve it. Still, the opposition is pointing out potential flaws in the proposal. After the FCC proposed that 500 megahertz of spectrum be open for mobile use, the broadcast industry protested when it found out the chunk would come directly from broadcast TV spectrum.

Despite potential obstacles to the plan’s success, the FCC has experienced widespread support for its cause. Proponents advocate the implications the plan has for the progress of Americans’ communication, education and the general economy. Information Week reports:

“History teaches us that nations that lead technological revolutions reap enormous rewards,” said Genachowski. “We can lead the revolution in wired and wireless broadband. But the moment to act is now.”

– By Ashley Dischinger, http://www.imaginingtheinternet.org

Internet among 237 nominees for 2010 Nobel Peace Prize

11 03 2010

The Internet could soon join the ranks of President Barack Obama, Nelson Mandela and the 14th Dalai Lama. Wired magazine announced on Tuesday the Internet is one of 237 individuals and organizations nominated for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.

View the full list of previous laureates

The Italian version of Wired magazine backed the Internet’s nomination, labeling it “a tool for peace” and “a weapon of global hope.” Wired British Editor-in-Chief David Rowan issued a statement on the Wired Web site, calling the Internet “the strongest transforming force of the modern era.”

Wired reports that U.S. Editor-in-Chief Chris Anderson, another proponent of the Internet’s nomination, said:

“People want peace, and when given a voice, they’ll work tirelessly for it. In the short term, a Twitter account may be no match for an AK-47, but in the long term, the keyboard is mightier than the sword.”

Wired Italy launched a campaign this week, dubbed the Internet for Peace, in an effort to gather support behind the Internet’s nomination. The campaign’s Web site allows Internet enthusiasts to sign a petition, send in advocacy videos and receive free news updates.

The Internet for Peace issued a statement on its homepage, saying:

“We have finally realized that the Internet is much more than a network of computers. It is an endless web of people. This society is advancing dialogue, debate and consensus through communication. Because democracy has always flourished where there is openness, acceptance, discussion and participation. And contact with others has always been the most effective antidote against hatred and violence. That’s why the Internet is a tool for peace. And that’s why the next Nobel Peace Prize should go to the Net. A Nobel for each and every one of us.”

Director of the Nobel Institute Geir Lundestad said the organization received thousands of nominations for this year’s prize. The Nobel Institute does not release a full list of nominees, but nominators occasionally announce their choices.

Founder of the MIT Media Lab, creator of the $100 laptop project and contributor to the Imagining the Internet research initiative, Nicolas Negroponte, is an open supporter of the Internet’s nomination.  Other ambassadors include 2003 Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi, scientist Umberto Veronesi, fashion designer Giorgio Armani, Paraguay Vice President Luìs Federico Franco Gómez, and Creative Commons CEO Joi Ito.

The Nobel Institute said the revelation of this year’s laureate would be announced on October 8. The awarded prize will likely be the same as recent years’ awards. Obama received $1.4 million last year.  It is unknown who would receive the awarded money this year if the Internet snatches the coveted title.

The Atlantic Wire is reporting notable opposition to the Internet’s nomination, with tech writers and bloggers questioning the peace-promoting value of the technology. Challenges to the nomination include Foreign Policy’s tech writer Evgeny Morozov’s statement that “there are worthier technologies” of the prize, including the pacemaker and the mobile phone. He writes that if the Internet were to win, it could “undermine the reputation of the Nobel Peace Prize” and “stifle a very important and still unfolding debate about the Internet’s broader impact on society.”

Others argue that the assertion that the Internet deserves to win based on its success in bridging society is undermined by the gaps it is just as likely to encourage.

Luke Wilusz of The Columbia Chronicle shares his rebuttal to the nomination on his blog, saying:

“Wired should have looked at Internet activists and people who have used the medium for social improvement as potential nominees instead of trying to honor the tools those people use. Free speech in the face of oppression is an undoubtedly noble endeavor, but there are people to honor and recognize for that. You don’t put a medal on a microphone for a prolific speech, and you don’t honor paper for the brilliant novel printed on it.

Still, many non-individuals have received the Nobel Peace Prize over the years. Many winners are large groups of people belonging to peace networks, including Doctors Without Borders, the United Nations Peacekeeping Forces, Amnesty International, UNICEF and the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. If the Internet becomes the latest non-individual winner in October, it implies the award is based on the way people are utilizing the tool, rather than the technology itself.

-By Ashley Dischinger, http://www.imaginingtheinternet.org

FutureWeb conference details update; Register soon if you want discount

11 03 2010

THE SCHEDULE FOR FUTUREWEB is nearly finalized, and dozens of Web experts, including leaders from Google, NTIA, Microsoft, IBM, EPIC, Red Hat, Lulu and more, will meet there to discuss the likely evolution of the Web and what it will mean for our social, political and economic future.

FutureWeb takes place April 28-30 in conjunction with the global WWW2010 conference at the Raleigh Convention Center. Attendees of FutureWeb are also allowed access to the 9 a.m. WWW2010 keynotes by Vint Cerf, danah boyd and Carl Malamud April 28-30. Three-day passes for FutureWeb range are priced at $195, $95 and $60 for those who register prior to March 25. For details, see http://futureweb2010.wordpress.com/register/


Vint Cerf speaks at a 2007 event in Bangalore. Flickr photo by Charles Haynes at http://flickr.com/photos/87232391@N00/398654704.

Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, has been invited to participate in an April 28 public-interview session with Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet Project, and Danny Weitzner, leader with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. The event will kick off FutureWeb activities. It will be followed by a similar interview session with Cerf, an Internet pioneer and Google vice president and a keynote on the future of the Web by Rainie.

On ensuing days of the conference, Rainie will also host open Q&A interview sessions with boyd, a social networks researcher with Microsoft and Harvard’s Berkman Center; “Cluetrain Manifesto” co-author Doc Searls; electronic privacy expert Marc Rotenberg; and Bob Young, a founder of Red Hat and Lulu.

Other FutureWeb panel and special session topics will include the following:

  • Privacy, a panel discussion led by Rotenberg (EPIC)
  • Intellectual property, organized by Dave Levine (Stanford CIS and Elon Law)
  • Social networks, organized by Fred Stutzman (ClaimID)
  • Entrepreneurship, organized by Tom Miller (NC State Entrepreneurship Initiative)
  • Open Source, featuring Michael Tiemann (Red Hat), Bob Sutor (IBM) and Chris DiBona (Google)
  • Core Values of the Internet, featuring Weitzner, among others
  • Media, organized by Paul Jones (ibiblio), featuring Searls, Dan Conover (Xark), and Michael Clemente (Fox News)
  • Web analytics, organized by Michael Rappa (Institute for Advanced Analytics)
  • Education, organized by Cathy Davidson (HASTAC-MacArthur Digital Media & Learning)
  • Interactive Design, organized by David Burney (New Kind)
  • The Future of Publishing – a keynote talk by Young, CEO of Lulu

“With amazing Web leaders like Cerf, Weitzner, Dibona, Sutor, Searls, Rainie, Young, Rappa and so many others, it is unbelievable that we are able to keep the conference admission price so low,” conference director Janna Anderson said. “Most conferences cost two to five times more to attend. We can do it because these Web leaders have generously agreed to donate their time. They believe that open information exchange is the best way to assess the likely future and then work toward making it the best it can possibly be.”

FutureWeb is being organized and hosted by Imagining the Internet, a project based at Elon University and partially supported by the Pew Internet Project. Anderson is director of the Imagining the Internet Center at Elon.

“We are planning to include audience participation at every session, opening the floor to questions and discussion with the speakers and panelists,” Anderson said. “If you’re planning to attend FutureWeb, come ready to get personally involved and help make a difference.”

FutureWeb2010 will also host a free one-day workshop event for area high school students – the Social Media Futures Academy led by the students, administrators and faculty of Elon University’s Interactive Media master’s program. For more information about it, see http://futureweb2010.wordpress.com/for-students-2/

Details on five of the 10 FutureWeb panels

11 03 2010

FutureWeb takes place April 28-30 in conjunction with the global WWW2010 conference at the Raleigh Convention Center. Among the FutureWeb panel details available so far:

The Future of Entrepreneurship and the Web: Tom Miller, a leader of the Entrepreneurship Initiative at NC State University and vice provost for DELTA at NC State is the moderator. Panelists include Scot Wingo, serial entrepreneur, co-founder, president and CEO of ChannelAdvisor Corporation; Chris Evans, entrepreneur and philanthropist, formerly founder and CEO of Accipiter Solutions; and David Gardner, serial entrepreneur, founder and CEO of VenueGen.

The Future of Media and the Web: Paul Jones, founder of ibiblio.org, is the moderator. Panelists will include Doc Searls, Berkman Center Fellow at Harvard and co-author of “The Cluetrain Manifesto”; Penny Muse Abernathy, Knight Chair in journalism and digital media economics at University of North Carolina and former New York Times and Wall Street Journal executive and writer; Michael Clemente, senior vice president of news for FOX News; Dan Conover, media futurist.

The Future of Open Source and the Web: Tom Rabon, executive vice president for corporate affairs for Red Hat is the moderator. Panelists will include Michael Tiemann, vice president of open source affairs for Red Hat and author of the GNU C++ compiler, Chris DiBona, open source and public sector programs manager for Google and Bob Sutor, vice president for open source and Linux for IBM.

The Future of Learning and the Web: Cathy Davidson, professor of Interdisciplinary Studies, Duke University, co-founder of Humanities, Arts, Science and Technology Advanced Collaboratory (HASTAC) is the moderator. Panelists will include Laurent Dubois, historian of French colonialism and the Caribbean who also writes on the global politics of football; Mark Anthony Neal, author and one of the foremost scholars of Black popular culture in America; Negar Mottahedeh, who staged the first-ever Twitter Film Festival; and Tony O’Driscoll, author of “Learning in 3D: Adding a New Dimension to Enterprise Learning and Collaboration.”

The Future of Public Health and the Web: David Potenziani, senior associate dean, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill Gillings School of Public Health, is the moderator. Panelists include Charles Coleman, managing director and senior strategist of SAS Institute’s Education and Medical/Healthcare practice; Aaron Fleischauer, team leader of epidemiology surveillance for the Centers for Disease Control; Alice Ammerman, director of UNC-Chapel Hill Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention; and Marci Campbell, professor and nutrition researcher at Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.

For more information on the FutureWeb schedule as details become available, check the site regularly: http://futureweb2010.wordpress.com/schedule/

EPIC files suit over Google Buzz, argues violation of data privacy laws

10 03 2010

As the hype surrounding last month’s launch of Google Buzz refuses to cease, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission addressing privacy concerns. The public interest research group, which advocates the protection of privacy rights in the electronic information age, accused Google Buzz of converting the personal information of Gmail users, without consent, into public information on the new social networking site.

EPIC, which will send officials from its organization to coordinate a session on The Future of Privacy and the Web at the FutureWeb conference in Raleigh on April 30, challenged Google Buzz in a formal complaint. It argued the social networking application caused “clear harm to service subscribers” when it automatically drew from contacts in the program into the social network.

Gmail users said they didn’t necessarily want all of their e-mail contacts to follow them in the social network, which is designed similarly to Facebook’s interface. User contact information was made public, though they have the option to set it to remain private. Still, Google Buzz users reported the interface was somewhat confusing, and it was difficult to figure out how to alter privacy settings.

Since the launch of Google Buzz on Feb. 9, Google has changed elements of the service twice. In an attempt to directly address customers’ concerns over privacy, it clarified the option to not display follower information on public profiles. It also added a feature that makes it possible to block followers who have not created a Google Profile.

EPIC wrote in the complaint that, “This change in business practices and service terms violated user privacy expectations, diminished user privacy, contradicted Google’s own privacy policy, and may have also violated federal wiretap laws.”

The Internet privacy watchdog group urged the FTC to launch an immediate investigation into Google’s social networking application to determine whether they should issue a punishment. EPIC called for the FTC to force Google to present Google Buzz as a voluntary service rather than an opt-out application. The group requested that Google provide notice and request consent from users before making any more changes to the privacy policies.

Google says it welcomes all feedback on its latest service, allowing it to make the appropriate changes to Google Buzz. The Washington Post reports:

“We’ve already made a few changes based on user feedback, and we have more improvements in the works,” a Google representative said in a statement. “We also welcome dialogue with EPIC and appreciate hearing directly from them about their concerns. Our door is always open to organizations with suggestions about our products and services.”

EPIC soon filed an amendment to its FTC complaint, in response to a letter from the FTC that acknowledged its complaint, but pointed out the agency could neither confirm nor deny whether it is pursuing a related investigation. EPIC responded to the letter, arguing that Google violated its own Gmail Privacy Policy by using Gmail users’ contact lists and related data for a separate, unrelated service.

A week after EPIC issued its initial complaint, Gmail user Andranik Souvalian sued Google in Rhode Island over similar concerns. Souvalian says that, “Google intentionally exceeded its authorization to access and control confidential and private information.” He argues that Google Buzz is directly in violation of the Stored Communications Act and the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.

By Ashley Dischinger

New Google broadband service offers hope for faster downloads in Greensboro

5 03 2010

When Google announced it is looking for cities to partner with for an ultra high-speed fiber optic network up to 100 times faster than a standard connection, leaders in Greensboro and many other North Carolina communities were among the first step forward and give their support.

March 26 will be the deadline municipalities, including Greensboro, can provide a Request for Information (RFI) in order to get the service. Google is asking for information about communities so as to determine where to build its networks.

With these networks, Google has promised download speeds 100 times faster than what current Greensboro residents have now-1 gigabyte per second.

“Our networks will deliver Internet speeds more than 100 times faster than what most Americans have access to today — over 1 gigabit per second, fiber-to-the-home connections,” said Google product manager James Kelly in an interview with FOX News. “We’ll offer service at a competitive price to at least 50,000 and potentially up to 500,000 people.”

To promote Google Fiber, a group of folks dressed up as the "Googlers" and appeared at the Atlantic Coast Conference basketball tournament in Greensboro in March. Photo courtesy http://googlegreensboro.com.

At a Greensboro public city meeting last week, about 15 people spoke before Assistant City Manager Denise Turner on the issue.

“This is something that could be transformative for Greensboro,” Roch Smith, who runs the local blog Greensboro 101 and attended the meeting, told the Greensboro News & Record.

Jay Ovittore founded the Facebook group “Bring Google Fiber to Greensboro, NC!” which currently has over 3,000 members. He believes there are several reasons why Greensboro could benefit from the service.

“We currently have 11 percent unemployment and this kind of infrastructure is very appealing to companies looking to locate in a city,” Ovittore said. “So it would help with job recruitment…Greensboro would be able to diversify it’s job opportunities portfolio, instead of being a single industry specific job market.”

Ovittore also said education and the healthcare system could benefit from Google Fiber.

“With our great university system here, we will better be able to retain the brainpower we train in our schools instead of having our students leave for a bigger city,” he said. “With a hospital system as good as Moses Cone is, the ability to do remote diagnosis and to transfer large digital images in full clarity would be a reality with Google Fiber.”

Ovittore also explained since Greensboro currently only has one broadband service provider, Google Fiber would allow for competition that would drive prices down. It would also alleviate the scars Time Warner left with its data capping and tier billing experiment in Greensboro last spring, which ended up being shelved.

“Acquiring Google Fiber would certainly make it that Greensboro is an innovative, forward thinking city,” Ovittore said. “We have been ahead of the curve before and I would to see us back out front again…What is most important is that our city is having this conversation about real high-speed internet,” Ovittore said.

Other North Carolina cities are following the Google Fiber trend too. Officials in Hickory and Lenoir have temporarily changed the cities’ names, calling the area “Google Holler” while they apply for the network.

-By Laura Smith

Super-powered social media tool Google Buzz released, raises privacy concerns

4 03 2010

Lately, it seems, every social media mogul has jumped on the Twitter train, and search engine giant Google is no exception. The company released Google Buzz, its own microblogging tool, Feb. 9, allowing users to share photos, videos, links and status updates – this time with no 140-character limit. (See FutureWeb speaker Chris DiBona‘s Buzz account here, on his personal profile page: http://www.google.com/profiles/cdibona.)

The logo appeared as a tab in Gmail users' inboxes Feb. 9, prompting them to "follow" their contacts in a fashion similar to Twitter.

Unlike other social networks, Buzz started with a built-in user base. Anyone with a Gmail account was automatically enrolled into the network, inviting some serious privacy concerns. Gmail users who thought their contact lists were private now run the risk of exposing who they’ve been in contact with. The privacy policy states, “When you first enter Google Buzz, to make the startup experience easier, we may automatically select people for you to follow based on the people you e-mail and chat with most.”

To most, this sounds helpful, but to professionals like journalists and lawyers with confidential sources and clients, it threatens to unravel entire private networks.

FutureWeb keynote speaker and social media expert danah boyd recognized this oversight quickly, Tweeting a link to an article that gives users a step-by-step guide to turning down the noise.

“Privacy isn’t a technological binary that you turn off and on,” boyd has said. “Privacy is about having control of a situation. It’s about controlling what information flows where and adjusting measures of trust when things flow in unexpected ways.”

Users are shown are preview of the landing interface on Google Buzz's Web site. Photo courtesy of Google.

For those unsatisfied with Buzz’s current form, Google has launched an official product ideas Web site on which users can make suggestions. More than 900 have already contributed.

But far from the privacy threat some perceive it to be, Google calls its social tool a new way for users to connect with the networks they already have.

“Buzz is like an entirely new world inside of Gmail,” product manager Todd Jackson said. “Organizing the worlds’ social information has become a large-scale problem, the kind Google likes to solve.”

Striving to be more sophisticated than its competitors, the network uses an algorithm to filter through posts and publish only the information it deems a particular user would find interesting. It might even “recommend” posts from people a user is not following based on the people who comment. Like other social networks, it is integrated for mobile use, and plans for expansion are in the works.

Buzz is set to hit the Middle East in the near future, with an expected launch in Arabic.

“The service will be available across the world,” Google Chief Internet Evangelist and FutureWeb keynote Vint Cerf told reporters in Dubai.

Google Buzz has been integrated for mobile use. Photo courtesy of Google.

By Rachel Cieri

Pew Research Center releases new study on participatory news consumerism

4 03 2010

The Pew Internet & American Life Project and Project for Excellence in Journalism released a joint report Monday exploring the “participatory news consumer.” This new breed of news consumers is the product of advancing technologies and interactive media that continue to enhance the news consumer’s experience.

Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet Project and a keynote speaker at FutureWeb, is a co-author of the Pew Research Center report on the participatory news consumer. (Photo courtesy of Flickr.)

Lee Rainie, Director of the Pew Internet & American Life Project and leading participant in the FutureWeb 2010 conference, is co-author of the report. Rainie is scheduled as a keynote speaker to address issues surrounding the future of the Web, a topic that directly relates to his recently released participatory news consumer report.

The full 50-page report details research gathered on topics such as the general American news environment, the specific ways in which people use the news and the Internet’s impact on the news industry. The report also covers more recent trends in consumer news such as the attitudes and behaviors of on-the-go news consumers and news that takes on the characteristics of a social activity.

Pew’s research reflects many of the topics that will be discussed at FutureWeb 2010, namely the growing trend of participatory news. The explosion of the digital era, along with interactive Web sites, social media and new technologies, allows an overwhelming 92% of Americans to access their news through multiple platforms on a daily basis.

Almost half of those surveyed say they get news from four to six media platforms, including national TV, local TV, the Internet, national newspapers, local newspapers and the radio. The report also revealed that the Internet is now the third most popular source of news.

The increasing popularity of the Internet is directly related to the survey’s findings that Americans are now embracing a variety of participatory news media. Approximately 37% of Internet users have contributed to the creation of news, commented on stories or propagated news through postings on social media sites such as Twitter or Facebook.

The majority of those surveyed say that their news experience is becoming increasingly social. Friends, family and co-workers commonly share links, post news stories to their social networking sites and link to other news on personal blogs. Topics and current events are discussed through the Internet platform.

Pew reports:

“The advent of social media like social networking sites and blogs has helped the news become a social experience in a fresh way for consumers. The ascent of mobile connectivity via smart phones has turned news gathering and news awareness into an anytime, anywhere affair for a segment of avid news watchers.”

Pew also reports:

“Online, the social experience is widespread: 75% of online news consumers say they get news forwarded through e-mail or posts on social networking sites and 52% say they share links to news with others via those means.”

The report is based on the findings of a daily tracking survey on Americans’ use of the Internet, with data collected through phone interviews conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International between December 28, 2009 and January 19, 2010. The sampling reviewed the responses of 2,259 adults, age 18 and older. Pew Internet reports a 95% confidence rate that the range of error is plus or minus 2.3 percentage points.

The Internet & American Life Project continues to conduct surveys and analyze research on Internet-related issues that continue to impact the daily lives of Americas, as part of a nonpartisan, not-for-profit initiative. The team has been examining the social impact of the Internet since the late 1990s.

The Project for Excellence in Journalism aims to conduct research to better understand the information revolution. This project specifically evaluates press performance through content analysis in a manner that simultaneously helps journalists who produce the news and news consumers.

The Pew Internet & American Life Center is currently conducting research on what specific technologies are utilized the most, what people are doing online and how consumers are using Pew’s research. For more information, visit the Pew Internet homepage.

By Ashley Dischinger