Saturday, December 01, 2012

Some thoughts on/from the last 2 days.

1. The mix of people actually worked quite well,
but that was lucky - it would be
better to have more structure another time. When cool points came up,
we shoud facilitate them being captured, nailed down, aired...etc

2. Academics (professors) tend to profess -
they also tend to profess "their thing"
all the time without trying to listen to others
first and then re-structure their
thing to fit - this is worse with engineering minded folks
(the MIT gang) than with social/humanaties/user type folks -
hence interventions from Alan Blackwell
(despite or because of his strategy of being contrarian),
and especially from Aaron Sloman were most useful.
Surprisingly (in a very good way) John Doyle was awesomely good at this too,
as well as having presented the most thoughtful (along with Aaron) piece of the day.

3. Key take homes

Architecture is probably a badly wrong word, but we're probably stuck with it.
Constraints that Deconstrain are crucial - crucially, picking the right constraint
(e.g. IP, the narrow waist of the hourglass) was a constraint, which freed up
everything above and below...
It isn't clear whether evolution (natural selection, survival of fittest of multipledifferent species) is better or worse than intelligent design  - certainly bacteria
appear to use a mix in some sense, and networks (and other artefacts of
"architecting") appear to use a mix too...(there were _many_ precursors to the Internet Architecture - this is also true of
mobile phone tech,, operating systems (pre unix/OSX/Linux), utilities, etc)

Users are important - William Gibson didn't just say
"The future is already here, it's just unevenly distributed";
He also said that "the street finds its use for tech":
so when mobile phones added SMS as an after thought, people started to do gifting
(emoticons etc) - twitter followed suit - and people (*users*) revised twitter
to add #tags, retweets, mentions - this is true of use of email for filesharing, and
use of OSNs for photos

Elephants in the room

-- We didn't ask any architects (in the Frank Lloyd Wright sense)
   Actually it's not clear to me that that would have helped (much)

-- We didn't say much about ethics- there's not really such a thing as an "ethically
neutral technology" -- many of the early internet technology inventors appeared to
have a strong societal gifting ethic -- so (in my experience) from 1980 til at least 2000, much of the work towards manking the internet work and deploying it, was done by
people for free or for little personal gain in wealth terms (ok, so a lot of social
capital accrued, although often with people who didn't really do the main work) - youfind a lot of the internet architects also do other stuff they don't speak much about
(e.g. community nets in their home towns) - Bruce Maggs at Akamia/Duke, runs free
community wireless access - Kevin Fall  and other folks at Berkeley deploy wireless
mesh nets in develping countries ....

-- Creeping asymmetry (in the sense of apps, power, centralisation, access links, ability
to server as well as be a client) - we mentioned the "evil" that is centralisation andp0wning of personal data by Online Social Network behemoths but this is just part and parcel of the post gift-era Internet - and the failure to maintain symmetry of powerbetween all Internet uses goes right down to the wire (asymetric capacity on uplink &downlink for ADSL and for 3G/4G, lack of always on, globally reachable IP addresses,all the way up to stunning operating systems on appliance-like tablets and smart
phones so they can't act as servers or routers, blocking of P2P apps by ISPs, and so
on and so on...)

4. Future workshop possible themes

A. I agree having some social scientists study folks like clark/doyle/wroclaski
"doing architecture" to some new stuff
(my 3 examples, for example) might yield
useful some methodology for
re-use in education (in computer science/engineering courses).

B. doing something on what Jane Q. Public "think" the net is,
and how they (re-)invent uses for it would be good

C. It'd be good to get some people from industry (perhaps industrial design)
engaged too..

Quotes of the day:-

- the Internet is a Giraffe built out of fish parts.

- biological (bacteria's) and computers operating systems - create a facade of diversity.

- deconstraining constraints is important
(see also, layering,
 generative architectures,
 a la Turing M/C, ]
and the "art of programming language design.

We're mainly bacteria, but we're impressed with all the rest.

Aaron Sloman:

Ptolemy versus aristotle:
Philosophies that are closing versus opning up
(bit like closed v. open questions)

Alan blackwell:
Relevance is the enemy

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misery me, there is a floccipaucinihilipilification (*) of chronsynclastic infundibuli in these parts and I must therefore refer you to frank zappa instead, and go home