Monday, May 31, 2010

Networked Networks Are Prone to Epic Failure

A recent post from Wired takes a complexity look at the fragility of networks which are inter-related and thus increase their fragility.... a useful post:


Networks that are resilient on their own become fragile and prone to catastrophic failure when connected, suggests a new study with troubling implications for tightly linked modern infrastructures. Electrical grids, water supplies, computer networks, roads, hospitals, financial systems - all are tied to each other in ways that could make them vulnerable. Most theoretical research on network properties has focused on single networks in isolation. In reality, many important networks are tied to each other. Anecdotal evidence hints at their fragility, but the underlying mathematics are largely unexplored.

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Friday, May 28, 2010

Word War III: Google vs. Governments

More on Google.... (as if there isn't already enough!)... now that information protection and government requests are becoming more visible on the discussion forums.. it might be that,

In the end, Google will become a regulated quasi-utility. It's easy to suggest why this should happen, but profoundly difficult to imagine how. Yet where there's a will, the political elites will eventually find a way. The key challenge for Google involves slowing down the process. Arguably, this now matters more to shareholders than new product development. Regulated companies make smaller profits than you'd otherwise expect.

Read more at - 'Word War III: Google vs. Governments'


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Google and Library of Congress archive tweets

Tweeting or Twittering has become a much publicised phenomenon recently... what with the protests in Iran; Chavez daily Tweets; and Obama's not-so-nice threats.... well, now the whole message archive is getting the Google treatment:

Every single public tweet, dating back to the very first missive posted on March 21, 2006, will now be housed in the government's Library of Congress. Plus, Google is making the Twitter archive searchable. The Library of Congress -- which boasts millions of books, recordings, photographs, maps and manuscripts in its collections -- announced on Wednesday (via Twitter) that is has acquired all public tweets in the Twitter archive. "Expect to see an emphasis on the scholarly and research implications of the acquisition. I'm no Ph.D., but it boggles my mind to think what we might be able to learn about ourselves and the world around us from this wealth of data," wrote a Library of Congress representative in a Facebook note.

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Monday, May 24, 2010

Mobile Lives

Hot off the press! A new book just published (May 14th, Routledge) called 'Mobile Lives' by Anthony Elliot and John Urry. It's description is ideal for this New Mobilities blog:

How should we understand the personal and social impacts of complex mobility systems? Can lifestyles based around intensive travel, transport and tourism be maintained in the 21st century? What possibility post-carbon lifestyles?

In this provocative study of "life on the move", Anthony Elliott and John Urry explore how complex mobility systems are transforming everyday, ordinary lives. The authors develop their arguments through an analysis of various sectors of mobile lives: networks, new digital technologies, consumerism, the lifestyles of ‘globals’, and intimate relationships at-a-distance. Elliott and Urry introduce a range of new concepts – miniaturized mobilities, affect storage, network capital, meetingness, neighbourhood lives, portable personhood, ambient place, globals – to capture the specific ways in which mobility systems intersect with mobile lives.

Also - another new book has just hit the market which may be of interest to some readers of this blog. It is titled UNDERSTANDING TOURISM by Kevin Hannam and Dan Knox, Sage 2010 and contains a very interesting mobilities view of tourism with useful student-friendly text and exercises.

Just thought I would pass it on!


Friday, May 21, 2010

First Person Experience of Body Transfer in Virtual Reality

More on the virtual theme..this time with a physical body element that gives a new depth to the avatar phenomenon:

European researchers have used immersive virtual reality in the first experiment to show that body ownership can be transferred to a virtual body. A first-person perspective of a life-sized virtual human female body that appears to substitute the male subjects' own bodies was sufficient to generate a body transfer illusion. The results support the notion that bottom-up perceptual mechanisms can temporarily override top down knowledge. resulting in a radical illusion of transfer of body ownership. The research also illustrates immersive virtual reality as a powerful tool in the study of body representation and experience, since it supports experimental manipulations that would otherwise be infeasible.  

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The real world of Second Life

It's been a while since I last blogged about Second Life...and the avatar antics in that world... well, now there seems to be a more detailed both 2nd and 1st Life!

What are we to make of an adult man who leads an online life in which his avatar is an 11-year-old girl?
Inhabitants of Second Life, the online virtual world where this man/girl hangs out, are not troubled by such questions. The ability to explore alternative identities is what attracts many people there in the first place.
For the rest of us, we can find some answers in Life 2.0, a carefully-produced documentary about the real physical lives of Second Lifers.

Filmmaker Jason Spingarn-Koff, who has a background in television science documentaries, either worked hard to track down the right subjects or got very lucky. Their stories are engrossing and, in one case, remarkable. The result is a calm and tender account of Second Life and its impact on three American families.
Aside from the adult who plays at being a child, Spingarn-Koff follows a working-class Detroit woman who makes her living selling clothes and buildings in Second Life. She was earning a six-figure income until another Second Life resident began cloning her products, prompting one of the first lawsuits aimed at protecting "property" in a virtual world.

The film's third strand is a portrait of a man and woman who meet in Second Life and eventually separate from their partners and move in together in the real world.

Second Life is genuinely strange, so it is easy to think that the extremophiles - such as the folks who take on animal avatars and seek out virtual sex with other virtual "furries" - define the place. But Spingarn-Koff's film succeeds because it ignores the oddness and focuses on the people behind the avatars, and what Second Life means to them. Somehow it makes Second Life seem both bizarre and rather ordinary.

Read original article at 'The real world of Second Life'

Monday, May 17, 2010

Hack attacks mounted on car control systems

Now this is interesting news: it seems that the computer systems used to control modern cars are 'very vulnerable to attack', according to new expert research:

An investigation by security researchers found the systems to be "fragile" and easily subverted.
The researchers showed how to kill a car engine remotely, turn off the brakes so the car would not stop and make instruments give false readings.Despite their success, the team said it would be hard for malicious attackers to reproduce their work.

The team of researchers, led by Professor Stefan Savage from the University of California-San Diego, and Tadayoshi Kohno from the University of Washington set out to see what resilience cars had to an attack on their control systems."Our findings suggest that, unfortunately, the answer is 'little,'" wrote the researchers from the Center for Automotive Embedded Systems Security.

The researchers concentrated their attacks on the electronic control units (ECUs)scattered throughout modern vehicles which oversee the workings of many car components. It is thought that modern vehicles have about 100 megabytes of binary code spread across up to 70 ECUs.

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