Does IT make life better?

A new book is out claiming that IT may run counter to the general belief that technological advances ultimately create more jobs than they destroy.  I look forward to reading it.  The argument strikes me as plausible but the review leaves me  unconvinced in part because it seems that the authors are attributing causation to technology that may easily be attributable elsewhere.

According to the review, the authors advance three arguments but in actuality there are really only two.  One IT enables people to get wealthy without having to hire a whole bunch of labor; two, automation allows owners to benefit from IT at the expense of labor.  Let us look at these arguments in reverse order.

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Cyber attacks constitute warfare.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the Pentagon has determined that a cyber-attack constitutes an act of warfare which can merit a conventional (e.g., a Tomahawk missile) response:

The Pentagon’s first formal cyber strategy, unclassified portions of
which are expected to become public next month, represents an early
attempt to grapple with a changing world in which a hacker could pose as
significant a threat to U.S. nuclear reactors, subways or pipelines as a
hostile country’s military.

In part, the Pentagon intends its plan as a warning to potential
adversaries of the consequences of attacking the U.S. in this way. “If
you shut down our power grid, maybe we will put a missile down one of
your smokestacks,” said a military official.

From a practical standpoint this represents a big deal in that it means that the destruction of bits can result in the destruction of physical plant and/or human life.  From a socio-technical perspective however this finding is unsurprising and the logical evolution of our thinking; as the whatever distinction there was between the virtual and the “real” was largely arbitrary.  While for most of us cyberspace lacks a physical presence, it does indeed represent real things:  love, money, sex, politics.   There isn’t virtual reality, there’s just reality; and something that we recognize as artificial – e.g., individually taking on a platoon of soldiers in Call of Duty – is just that:  pretend.

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Book chapter accepted!

A graduate student and I have had a book chapter accepted.  Titled An Alternative Framework for Research on Situation Awareness in Computer Network Defense, we argue for a more holistic perspective on situation awareness as it pertains to cyber-security.  Too much of the current research is algorithmic – here’s a new probabilistic model that works if we make these 10 assumptions – kind of stuff.  That and the underlying assumption is that machines can have situation awareness.  Our goal in the chapter is to move the focus away from ‘machine-learning’ towards a contextual view that actually takes into account how human cyber-security analysts actually do that thing they do.  It will be interesting to see how well it’s received.  Here is the abstract:

In this chapter we present a new framework for the study of situation awareness in computer network defense (cyber-SA).  While immensely valuable, the research to date on cyber-SA has overemphasized an algorithmic level of analysis to the exclusion of the human actor.  Since situation awareness, and therefore cyber-SA, is a human cognitive process and state, it is essential that future cyber-SA research account for the human-in-the-loop.  To that end our framework presents a basis for examining cyber-SA at the cognitive, system, work, and enterprise levels of analysis.  In describing our framework we present examples of research that are emblematic of each type of analysis.

You can find out more about the forthcoming edited book here.

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Ordered!

Bonnie Nardi has a new book out:  My Life as a Night Elf Priest.  The synopsis:

World of Warcraft rapidly became the most popular online
world game on the planet, amassing 11.5 million subscribers–officially
making it an online community of gamers that had more inhabitants than
the state of Ohio and was almost twice as populous as Scotland. It’s a
massively multiplayer online game, or MMO in gamer jargon, where each
person controls a single character inside a virtual world, interacting
with other people’s characters and computer-controlled monsters,
quest-givers, and merchants.

In My Life as a
Night Elf Priest
, Bonnie Nardi, a well-known ethnographer who
has published extensively on how theories of what we do intersect with
how we adopt and use technology, compiles more than three years of
participatory research in Warcraft play and culture in the United
States and China into this field study of player behavior and activity.
She introduces us to her research strategy and the history, structure,
and culture of Warcraft; argues for applying activity theory and
theories of aesthetic experience to the study of gaming and play; and
educates us on issues of gender, culture, and addiction as part of the
play experience. Nardi paints a compelling portrait of what drives
online gamers both in this country and in China, where she spent a month
studying players in Internet cafes.

Bonnie Nardi has given us a
fresh look not only at World of Warcraft but at the field of
game studies as a whole. One of the first in-depth studies of a game
that has become an icon of digital culture, My Life
as a Night Elf Priest
will capture the interest of both the
gamer and the ethnographer.

“Ever since the creators of the
animated television show South Park turned their lovingly
sardonic gaze on the massively multiplayer online game World of
Warcraft
for an entire episode, WoW‘s status as an icon of
digital culture has been secure. My Life as a Night Elf Priest
digs deep beneath the surface of that icon to explore the rich
particulars of the World of Warcraft player’s experience.”
–Julian
Dibbell, Wired

As a former player of WoW and someone who is interested in both as an entertainment experience and a technological experience, I think this book looks fantastic!

Special Issue on Information Systems, Identity and Identification

Call for Papers : European Journal of Information Systems (EJIS) Special Issue on Information Systems, Identity and Identification

Research into the role of ‘identity’ in organizations has become increasingly popular in recent years.  Scholars from different organizational and management disciplines have applied the concept to address a wide variety of issues.  Lyon (2009) emphasizes that the topic can include both technological issues of identification and social issues of organizational and personal identity.  The European Journal of Information Systems has published a number of papers in each of these areas in recent years.

The purpose of this special issue is to solicit original research in information systems that studies questions of identity / identification.
Of particular interest will be papers that critically explore the inter-dependencies between technical issues of identification and social issues of identity.  For example, how pseudonymous authentication methods for social networks or organizational intranets can shape what information individuals choose to disclose in these environments, or how attitudes to personalised mobile devices are affected by identification technologies like biometrics, global positioning or RFID.  Furthermore, we encourage submissions that examine the interrelationships between organizational practices, change, information systems, and the shaping and articulation of personal and social identities.

Topics may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • The interrelationship of technology and identity in the context of IS implementation;
  • The role of identity in enabling collaboration and coordination across groups and organizations;
  • The relationship between identity, power and organizational politics;
  • Information systems research issues created by the study of identity;
  • Implementation, acceptance and ongoing challenges of access management;
  • The role of organizational identity in enabling organizational sustainability;
  • The influence of the presentation and perception of identity on information technology use;
  • Public sector usage of identity technologies;
  • Anonymity, pseudonymity, privacy and security concerns about technologies for identification.

Prospective authors are encouraged to contact the guest editors to discuss their proposals before submission.

Guest Editors for the Special Issue
Uri Gal, Copenhagen Business School, Denmark (ug.caict@cbs.dk) Edgar A.
Whitley, London School of Economics and Political Science, UK
(e.a.whitley@lse.ac.uk)

Deadline for submissions 15 January 2011

For more details see here.