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September 3, 2014 / 8 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘information’

The State of the Internet Revolution in International Affairs: Less Progress Than You’d Think

Thursday, January 3rd, 2013

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

In January 2000 I wrote an article entitled “Bringing Middle East (and International Affairs) Studies into the Twenty-First Century.” Rereading that piece exactly a dozen years later to the day is an eye-opener. Some of the things I predicted then have become so commonplace that it is hard to believe such ideas were so daring to present back then. Others haven’t happened much at all.

Here I’m talking about how international affairs writing has been changed. I began by pointing out that our project to produce a high-level online journal on the region, the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal, then four years old, was an innovation that some had mocked and predicted would fail. But now that journal is entering its 17th year, having published around almost 500 full-length articles each reaching an audience of around 30,000 people! By way of comparison, most printed academic journals in the field have a circulation of around 1000.

At that time, I also had to explain our new turn to PDF/Adobe and how that was more convenient in several ways. That, too, is now taken for granted and new more advanced systems have been developed. I continued:

It is also necessary for funding agencies to rethink how their monies can be most effectively used. Amounts that have been paid for individual books–or even papers–and conferences could have 100 times more impact if applied to some of the new [computer-based] approaches discussed below.

Strange as it might seem, this still hasn’t completely happened. The money spent on a single conference or on a print journal could probably fund a journal or other online project for one or two years.

Following that I suggested a program for the future.

Equality for internet publications with printed media. Internet publications that meet the existing criteria should have equality in being indexed and being used for academic rank and tenure decisions. There is no intrinsic reason why a publication should not be treated differently simply because it is not produced originally on paper.

What might be called digitalphobia, however, has only gradually waned. In theory, this goal has been achieved but it is hard to get that point implemented.

Internet book publishing. Today it can take up to one year just to work through the reviewing process and gain acceptance for a book, as well as another year to be published. The resulting books usually sell for $30 to $50, putting them out of range for almost everyone except libraries (whose resources must be reaching their limit). It isn’t as if anyone is becoming rich in this process, on the contrary, academic presses are often losing money. We must work out acceptable ways to publish via the internet, both on a for-sale and free basis, so that authors will receive the proper credit and academic benefits. We should also be very aware of the possibility of creating `living books,’ monographs, and papers, which can be updated as events, new sources, and the author’s own interpretations develop. Such materials can also benefit from criticism so as easily to correct errors or alternative interpretations.

Twelve years later we are still only at the beginning of this transition. Publishers have benefited from the Kindle and other such products enough to save themselves. As for ebooks, the terms offered to authors are quite unattractive. And publishers do nothing much to publicize ebooks. Of course, they don’t do much to publicize print books either. It’s strange to have written books on Egypt, Syria, and Arab reformers—to cite only three examples—at a time when these issues are front-page news every day and see the publishers do absolutely zero to promote them.

The use of teleconferencing and computer telephones for research, meetings, and discussions. We now have access to low-cost, easy-to-use teleconferencing and voice-conferencing systems that allow us to erase geography in our daily work. These will come into increasing use in the coming years, especially as high-speed internet connections (such as ISDN, DSL, and cable modems) become more widespread.

It is amazing the extent to which this has not happened. Oh yes, there are such things but they have been strongly resisted and are still rare. Hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent on plane tickets and hotels instead. The argument is face-to-face meetings are so much better. Certainly, that is true on one level but the ratio of “in-person” events to those using digital communications is still absurdly high.

New styles of research and academic projects….An international team can be assembled to study a topic in which all exchange materials or smaller groups of partners work on a paper together. When impossible to meet face-to-face, they can meet now by teleconferencing after the papers are completed for a discussion on a higher level than would otherwise occur. The monies saved could be used to pay the researchers. The resulting book or individual papers can be published traditionally or on the internet.

While I know you can think of examples of such things they are still amazingly rare.

Big online archives and research tools where people know how to find them. We need a system of documentary collections and other materials that can be readily used by researchers.

This has happened to the extent that many college students only use online sources, more’s the pity. Often, though, these troves are mishandled (in terms of judging the quality of sources) and underutilized when it comes to primary source material. Ironically, it is just as easy to go to the original source yet people use the tool of Internet to restrict themselves lazily to secondary sources, for example, the opinions of journalists or bloggers rather than what people actually said or did.

Specialized seminar groups on every topic. Those interested in any subject, no matter how specialized, can organize mediated, membership discussion groups involving experts from anywhere in the world.

This has happened to some extent, both in terms of institutional and individual lists. Yet one wonders whether this is as systematic as it could be.

The use of internet broadcast lectures and conferences. Using current technology like Realplayer and Windows Media Player, sites can make available on demand either radio (sound only) or television (sound and picture) coverage of lectures and meetings so they would be permanently available to people everywhere in the world. The cost of such technologies is quite affordable. The greatest advantage of this technology, however, is that a lecture or conference attended by one hundred people on one day can now easily be seen by thousands of people–at their convenience–over a long period of time. Of course, as with other media, people must get used to using them.

Such things have developed dramatically.

Embedded footnotes. Increasingly, in publishing papers and books on internet, we can use notes linked to the sources being quoted, allowing instant access to sources. This creates an infinite chain of information that provides far more breadth and depth than anything written on paper. Obviously, any quotation out of context will be clearly seen, while translations can be checked as well.

This, of course, has happened so thoroughly it is hard to remember what earlier life was like.

Italy Foiled Weapons Smuggling to Egypt Based on Israeli Information

Sunday, December 9th, 2012

The smuggling of weapons through Italy, intended probably to Egypt and from there to Gaza, was thwarted in the southern city of Naples, based on information provided by Israeli authorities, the Italian news agency ANSA reported on Saturday. According to the report, Naples police arrested an Egyptian citizen on suspicion of attempting to smuggle five containers, one of which contained a rocket launcher.

“The operation that thwarted the smuggling attempt was done based on information received from Israel, and at this time the containers are being checked by police which were called to the scene,” said a police report.

The containers were seized in Naples at 5 in the morning, Saturday, by undercover police agents.

Channel 10: Liberman Dropped Ayalon for Leaks

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, was ousted from the Likud-Beiteinu Knesset list because party chairman Avigdor Liberman suspected him of leaking information to the daily Maariv.

A leak in Liberman’s world, commented the Channel 10 news reporter, is tantamount to betrayal, and so Ayalon did not get the graceful dismissal the two other dismissed members, MK Anastasia Michaeli and tourism minister Stas Misezhnikov received, when Liberman gave them the opportunity to resign on their own.

It should be noted that even after his quick and completely unexpected dumping (according to his Facebook page he heard about it  just moments before the rest of us did) – Ayalon would not say anything negative about his soon to be former boss. That kind of loyalty is rare in Israel’s volatile, dog eat dog politics, and attests to the love and warmth Liberman’s subordinates share for him.

By the way, this was not Ayalon’s first instance of being fed some humble pie by his boss — about a year ago Liberman was so upset about something his deputy had released that he made sure the public knew that he, Liberman, rebuked Ayalon for his conduct.

If you love him, let him go…

Are We Suffering From an Information Overload? (Podcast)

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

David Shenk, author of Data Smog and The Immortal Game, among other bestsellers, talks about the way that the world of data and information has changed in recent years. Are we now overwhelmed with information? And if so, how do we deal with it? Find out from this fascinating interview on the Goldstein on Gelt show.

The Hezi Family – Formerly Of Moshav Gadid; Now Of Ein Tzurim Caravilla Site

Sunday, December 2nd, 2012

The family: Carol & Shmuel Hezi and their six children, Asnat, Eitan, Amichai, Vardit, Harel and Maital

Background: I, Carol, was born in the States and grew up in Canada. I always assumed I would live in Israel one day. My second visit to Israel was as a university student – I planned on studying there for a year – then I met Shmuel, a native Israeli, and we got married. I completed my degree in Israel, and we began looking for a permanent home. We moved to Gush Katif when our oldest daughter was one year old. We lived in Kfar Darom with ten other families while our moshav, Gadid, was being built.

The house was tiny and the water in the taps was not drinkable–not dangerous, just not potable, so we used the tap water for washing and we always had a big pot of drinking water sitting on the kitchen counter. My mother-in-law wasn’t happy that we had to carry water into the house like she had done in Yemen, but I looked at it as my chance to live like a pioneer for a few months. The “few months” stretched into two years…

Our second child, a son, was born in Kfar Darom. Shmuel was a farmer; he grew flowers, tomatoes, and peppers for export, and later, bug-free lettuce and greens for the local market. He also worked as an agricultural advisor for one of the companies specializing in bug-free produce. When we first moved to Gadid, it was all sand, no roads or paths to walk on, just sand. Our four younger children were born in Gadid. The community was like an extended family. I never had to warn my children not to talk to strangers–instead I had to explain what a stranger was, because they had never met any.

Our house – then: We eventually added on to the house in Gadid. It wasn’t fancy but it was large, and usually full–my parents came on extended visits, Shumel’s family and friends from around the country came as well.

Our eldest daughter married and she and her husband rented a house in Gadid (one of the houses built by Ariel Sharon) in what became the “young neighborhood.” Their first child was born there and my daughter was nine months pregnant with her second child when the soldiers came to take her from her home.

The family’s home in Moshav Gadid

Day of uprooting from Gadid: Our two eldest boys doing their army service – they were sent home for a couple of weeks to be with the family. Luckily, their units were stationed elsewhere and were not involved in the expulsion. Still, it was very hard for them.

Our house – now: We were in hotels for 10 months. Now we live in a “caravilla,” a cardboard house that is well on its way to falling completely apart while we finish building the new house. It’s also very crowded when all the kids are home. Our daughter (who now has four children) could not get a caravilla here–they are at another site–so when they come for Shabbat, there are wall-to-wall people…

What we left behind: The community in which we had lived for 26 years. The trees that were finally tall enough to build a tree house in, the garden with fruit trees (one of my sons brought a laundry basket full of unripe mangos to his hotel room), the greenhouses, our livelihood, the sand dunes, the sea, the Beit Knesset – basically our whole way of life.

Feelings toward the State: Betrayal. We were, after all, encouraged by the State to move to Gadid in the first place.

The biggest difficulty: Economics. We finally have land again, but my husband and I are really too old to start rebuilding greenhouses and be farmers again. That’s for the young and healthy. Nor do we have the financial means to invest and rebuild.

Have you built a house? We are in the process of building a house now. This is not something I thought I would have to do again. It was more fun the first time.

American-Israeli Startup Creates First Smartphone Breathalzyer Test

Sunday, December 2nd, 2012

A joint American-Israeli startup has developed the world’s first breathalyzer attachment for smartphones, in order to prevent drunk driving.

Alcohoot, developed by Jonathan Ofir and Ben Biron, uses a smartphone add-on and application to turn the user’s phone into an accurate Blood Alcohol Content tester.

Ofir told NoCamels that he and Biron thought of the idea after working for the army safety unit and receiving updates about road deaths due to drunk driving.

Alcohooot uses Bluetooth technology and information about the user’s gender, weight, age, and height preprogrammed in, to create an individualized reading. It also stores past breathalyzer results.

It also calculates the amount of time it will take the body to register an acceptable Blood Alcohol Content level if the user has consumed alcohol to excess, and can even “Phone a Friend” to come get the drunken user.

The application will be free, the attachment $99 retail.

Thanks for Your Information

Thursday, November 29th, 2012

I wish to thank you for the information that you are getting out.

I wish the rest of the so called free press was as honest as your reporters and staff are.

Andrew A. Brimmer

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/letters-to-the-editor/feedback/thanks-for-your-information/2012/11/29/

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