A rather silly comment in the Christian Science Monitor about the consequences of the supposed lack of the word for 'integrity' in Bulgarian on the Bulgarian economy recently drew the ire of Mark Lieberman on the Language Log:
I've been planning to write a column or speak on the radio about this for a long time and I'm happy that Amanda Carpenter beat me to it. Her observation on fashion and make up being to women what sports are to men, is one of not insignificant sociological depth. What we talk about and consequently what we're interested in is a function of the group we talk about it with. And the discourse (and even the interest) has a dimension of group utility.
What is the difference between a discourse analyst with training in linguistic methodology and a blogger or the reader of a blog? Discourse analysis relies on the human capacity to understand text but it is also embedded in the social practices of discussing and inferring the meaning from text. The following example of a simple computer-generated graphical representation of Obama's speech (courtesy of Wordle.net) in many ways does the job of half an academic paper. It presents the data and lets the reader infer meanings (particularly in comparison with other speeches).
Obama and swaying fields of corn was a major theme of his 30-minute pre-election and then Elizabeth Alexander's poem at the inauguration brought it home during the inauguration:
BBC NEWS | World | Americas | The 'misunderestimated' president? "I want to thank my friend, Senator Bill Frist, for joining us today. He married a Texas girl, I want you to know. Karyn is with us. A West Texas girl, just like me."
I finally upgraded the site to Drupal 6 (many modules are still rough around the edges but enough for a small site like mine) and a new theme. I've also integrated lots more content here. Hopefully, it will make things better all around but at the very least it gave me a fun holiday project to work on.
Another example of why the adoption of technologies is not dependent only on the technologies themselves but rather on the desire of the users themselves. This reminded me of two instances of extremely popular and seemingly easy-to-use Web2.0 services falling short on usability.
This is an interesting list of tips for disseminating technology in an institution. I find 4 and 5 particularly intriguing. Not doing a pilot seems so counterintuitive but given that so many pilots get so entrenched that their adoption is a given no matter what the results that skipping them in certain instances (and just doing a brief trial) may be the best solution. More creative gathering of feedback may include walking into classrooms and asking the students. Well-worth reviewing.
This report suggests that institutions should pay attention to more than just the features of a given platform. OpenSource (Sakai) and closed-source (Blackboard) systems alike relying on the Java enterprise approach are often too heavyweight for relatively small institutions. Even a basic install requires enterprise-level support. Moreover, more lightweight equivalents Moodle, Elgg and Drupal can be up and running on a single left-over machine and scale up when uptake increases.