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High-school English study guide for Homeland, the sequel to Little Brother

Neil Anderson from the Association from Media Literacy (which has a great-sounding upcoming conference) has produced an excellent study guide for my novel Homeland (the sequel to Little Brother) -- Anderson's guide encourages critical thinking about politics, literary technique, technology, privacy, surveillance, and history.

I'm immensely grateful to Anderson for his good work here. I often hear from teachers who want to know if there are any curricular materials they can use in connection with my books, and several of them have shared their own guides with me, but this one stands out as an unusually comprehensive and thoughtful one.

7. Word Meanings
Because communications technologies are central to Homeland‘s plot, the novel contains many tech-oriented words that might be unfamiliar to some readers. Because Marcus is a young adult, some words are specific to young adult culture. Explain how readers could use context to infer the meanings of unfamiliar words.

Some words that you might use for inferring meanings include:

*Rooted
*Pwned
*Faraday pouch
*Lulz
*Darknet
*Tor
*Distro

8. Representation

Marcus Yallow, Homeland’s protagonist, is a male. But there are several female characters: Ange is his girlfriend, Masha is an ally, Carrie is an enemy, and Flor is his campaign office boss.

Does Homeland represent a good balance of male and female characters or is it biased? Why?

Are the male and female characters fairly represented? Explain?

Homeland also includes representation from multiple racial/ethnic groups. Joe is African-American, Ange is Asian, etc.

How might this inclusiveness add to the novel’s authenticity and pleasure?

Some people think that it is important for audiences to see themselves represented in the media texts that they consume; that it helps them enjoy the texts and validates their own existence.

Does it really matter whether Homeland‘s characters represent a range of racial/ethnic groups?

Would the story be equally interesting and entertaining if all the characters were from only one racial/ethnic group?

Imagine that Marcus, Ange, Joe and Carrie are from other racial/ethnic groups, or that their genders are switched.

How might those changes influence readers’ responses to the story?

Homeland Study Guide [Neil Anderson/Association for Media Literacy]

Excerpt from my story “The Man Who Sold the Moon”


Medium have published an excerpt from "The Man Who Sold the Moon, my 36,000 word novella in Hieroglyph: Stories and Visions for a Better Future, a project to inspire optimism and ambition about the future and technology that Neal Stephenson kicked off (see also What Will it Take to Get Us Back to the Moon?).

“Hey,” someone said behind me. “Hey, dude?”

It occurred to me that I was the dude in question, and that this person had been calling out to me for some time, with a kind of mellow intensity — not angry, but insistent nonetheless. I turned around and found myself staring down at a surfer-looking guy half my age, sun-bleached ponytail and wraparound shades, ragged shorts and a grease-stained long-sleeved jersey and bare feet, crouched down like a Thai fisherman on his haunches, calf muscles springing out like wires, fingertips resting lightly on a gadget.

Minus was full of gadgets, half built, sanded to fit, painted to cover, with lots of exposed wiring, bare boards, blobs of hot glue and adhesive polymer clinging on for dear life against the forces of shear and torque and entropy. But even by those standards, surfer-guy’s gadget was pretty spectacular. It was the lens — big and round and polished, with the look of a precision-engineered artifact out of a real manufacturer’s shop — not something hacked together in a hacklab.

The Gadget and the Burn [Cory Doctorow/Medium]

Free cybersecurity MOOC



The Open University's "Introduction to Cyber Security" is a free online course -- with optional certificate -- that teaches the fundamentals of crypto, information security, and privacy; I host the series, which starts on Oct 13."

The course is designed to teach you to use privacy technologies and good practices to make it harder for police and governments to put you under surveillance, harder for identity thieves and voyeurs to spy on you, and easier for you and your correspondents to communicate in private.

I'm a visiting professor at the OU, and I was delighted to work on this with them.

We shop online. We work online. We play online. We live online. As our lives increasingly depend on digital services, the need to protect our information from being maliciously disrupted or misused is really important.

This free online course will help you to understand online security and start to protect your digital life, whether at home or work. You will learn how to recognise the threats that could harm you online and the steps you can take to reduce the chances that they will happen to you.

With cyber security often in the news today, the course will also frame your online safety in the context of the wider world, introducing you to different types of malware, including viruses and trojans, as well as concepts such as network security, cryptography, identity theft and risk management.


Introduction to Cyber Security

teachers and students, copyright and liability

Fair Duty by Meera Nair - Mon, 2014/09/01 - 17:47

Congress 2014 was held at Brock University this past spring; included among the customary panel discussions was a series of debates concerning copyright, fair dealing, licensing and open access. Titled Copyright and the Modern Academic, the series sought to widen discussion about the means by which information flow is facilitated in learning, teaching and research. Videos of the series are available at the Canadian Association of Learned Journals (see here) and at the Brock Video Centre (see here).

I was particularly interested in the third debate, Access Copyright—Friend or Foe, with speakers Howard Knopf and Roanie Levy. Knopf is a lawyer with Macera & Jarzyna, author of Excess Copyright, and a long-standing advocate for a more nuanced understanding of copyright and fair dealing. Levy is the Executive Director for Access Copyright, formerly General Counsel and Director of Policy & External Affairs for Access Copyright, and equally passionate about the roles of protection and licensing towards development of content. (Fuller biographies of both speakers are given approximately 5:30 minutes in.)

The arguments of Knopf and Levy were lively and thought-provoking, but what remains uppermost for me is the first issue raised from the audience at the beginning of the Q/A (at approximately 58 minutes in). It focused upon Access Copyright’s licensing terms that protect teachers and students in the context of teaching and learning, but not the subsequent behaviour of the student:

Most of us use Blackboard or Moodle; we upload links to articles, we upload articles, we create wikis, we want students to comment, we are creating a discourse community among our students asking them to critically analyze concepts or issue … It is not surprising that many times students download those articles and then those articles could now be posted on a student’s blog or on a student’s Facebook page … we all know how things move across the Internet. … I would personally find [the licensing terms] quite limiting, if I had to worry about that (emphasis mine).

Levy was reassuring that the discourse community, composed as it is of students and teachers (more broadly speaking, the educational body associated to the license) were safe within their actions. Levy was also emphatic that the educational community did not extend to the world at large: “students need to be made aware that content cannot just be shared with the entire world … sharing proprietary content that is not their own should not be encouraged.”

To which Knopf immediately stated that such sharing should be encouraged: “if what the student or professor is doing is fair dealing.”

Levy’s and Knopf’s remarks are not mutually inconsistent – quite the opposite in fact. Each statement reinforces the other. It is entirely plausible, and beneficial, for teachers to simultaneously state that piracy is undesirable and fair dealing is desirable. Discussion will, over time, encourage students to understand the nuance and care that goes into an evaluation of fair dealing. In the more immediate future, such conversation between teachers and students further exemplifies that post-secondary institutions take this matter seriously and are developing systems of good practice that amount to more than merely posting rules to a website.

Regrettably, with time running out and other questions waiting for attention, the crux of the first question was not addressed. More specifically, does a teacher have to worry about the personal conduct of a student outside the activities encouraged within class, with materials licensed at the choice of the teacher? The short answer is No.

A longer answer would suggest that in the scenario where a student’s personal behaviour is alleged as infringing, the copyright holder of the material in question might bring a complaint to the attention of the ISP providing the platform used by the student. Depending on the jurisdiction, the ISP might remove the material (under notice-and-takedown as found in American law) or forward the complaint to the student (under notice-and-notice as set within Canadian law). In neither case is the teacher involved.

An even longer answer would suggest that if anyone should insinuate that the teacher and/or university were liable, a look at CCH Canadian will quickly allay any worries. While that case is known best for its support of fair dealing, the Justices also confronted a claim that libraries were responsible for the conduct of its patrons with regard to self-serve photocopiers. Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, writing for a unanimous court, rejected that claim:

[E]ven if there were evidence of the photocopiers having been used to infringe copyright, the Law Society lacks sufficient control over the Great Library’s patrons to permit the conclusion that it sanctioned, approved or countenanced the infringement. The Law Society and Great Library patrons are not in a master-servant or employer-employee relationship such that the Law Society can be said to exercise control over the patrons who might commit infringement. … Nor does the Law Society exercise control over which works the patrons choose to copy, the patron’s purposes for copying or the photocopiers themselves (para 45).

If the Supreme Court of Canada has deemed that a library is not responsible for activity conducted within its premises, with materials provided by the library and via the library’s own equipment, because of an absence of control of people, materials, or equipment, then it is illogical to suggest that a teacher is liable for activity of a student, carried out by the student’s own initiative, on a platform independent of the classroom.

Regardless of the status of the material involved (licensed, purchased, or utilized through exceptions to copyright), teachers are not implicated by personal copyright infractions of their students.


Podcast: Petard from Tech Review’s Twelve Tomorrows


Here's a reading (MP3) of the first part of my story "Petard: A Tale of Just Desserts" from the new MIT Tech Review anthology Twelve Tomorrows, edited by Bruce Sterling. The anthology also features fiction by William Gibson, Lauren Beukes, Chris Brown, Pat Cadigan, Warren Ellis, Joel Garreau, and Paul Graham Raven. The 2013 summer anthology was a huge hit -- Gardner Dozois called it "one of the year’s best SF anthologies to date, perhaps the best."

MP3

An American Attorney in Canada (Part 1: Copyright)

IPBlog (Calgary) - Thu, 2014/08/28 - 09:00
By Richard Stobbe Okay, so maybe it's neither as romantic as Gershwin's "An American in Paris", nor as historical as Mark Twain's "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court," but many US lawyers do find themselves facing legal issues in Canada. US practitioners who deal with Canadian legal matters must take note ...

A Hangout On Air Conversation with SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet

Google Public Policy BLOG - Wed, 2014/08/27 - 09:32
Posted by Soo Young Kim, Head of Marketing, Get Your Business Online

There are 28 million small businesses in the US, and small businesses represent almost half of US private-sector jobs. What kind of support and resources does our government provide to make sure these small businesses thrive? Where can we find tips on how to start or grow a business? What funding opportunities are there?
On Wednesday, August 27th, the leader of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and the voice of small business in President Obama’s Cabinet, Maria Contreras-Sweet, will join the Google Small Business Community for a Hangout on Air to share tips and insights for small businesses.
Since being appointed by President Obama, Administrator Contreras-Sweet has made a priority to meet and hear from small businesses. On Wednesday, she will answer questions directly from small businesses through Hangouts. Over the past two weeks, thousands of small business owners from all over the US, representing various backgrounds, experiences, and businesses, have submitted questions for the Administrator covering funding for businesses to technology.
Five small business participants will be joining the Hangout on camera along with the Administrator. One of the attendees, Brantley Crowder, is the director of e-commerce for Savannah Bee Company. Savannah Bee Company started in 2002 with a single beehive and a mission to support regional beekeepers by selling their honey and making honey-related health and beauty products. They started delving into digital with their website which launched in 2010 to support their stores in Charleston and Savannah.
The Hangout has participants like David Winslow, writing, “the SBA is beginning to make headway in an effort to lead the Government into a friendlier, more engaging place!”
Join the SBA Administrator tomorrow at 1:30 PM PT / 4:30 PM ET in the Google Small Business Community, a public community, which gives business people direct access to experts and industry leaders like Contreras-Sweet. The event will also be accessible live on the Google+ Your Business YouTube channel, in the event invitation, and the SBA website, and the video will be posted for viewing post-event.
RSVP to view the broadcast and submit your questions for a chance to have them answered live, on-air during the Hangout.

Adversarial Compatibility: hidden escape hatch rescues us from imprisonment through our stuff


My latest Guardian column, Adapting gadgets to our needs is the secret pivot on which technology turns, explains the hidden economics of stuff, and how different rules can trap you in your own past, or give you a better future.

Depending on your view, the stuff you own is either a boon to business or a tremendous loss of opportunity.

For example, your collection spice bottles in your pantry means that I could possibly sell you a spice rack. On the other hand, it also means that I can’t design a special spice rack that only admits spice bottles of my own patent-protected design, which would thereby ensure that if you wanted to buy spices in the future you’d either have to buy them from me or throw away that very nice spice rack I sold you.

In the tech world, this question is often framed in terms of “ecosystems” (as in the “Google/Chrome/Android ecosystem”) or platforms (as in the “Facebook platform”) but whatever you call it, the discussion turns on a crucial different concept: sunk cost.

That’s the money, time, mental energy and social friction you’ve already sunk into the stuff you own. Your spice rack’s sunk cost includes the money you spend on the rack, the time you spent buying fixings for it and the time you spent afixing it, the emotional toil of getting your family to agree on a spice rack, and the incredible feeling of dread that arises when you contemplate going through the whole operation again.

If you’ve already got a lot of sunk costs, the canny product strategy is to convince you that you can buy something that will help you organise your spices, rip all your CDs and put them on a mobile device, or keep your clothes organised.

But what a vendor really wants is to get you to sink cost into his platform, ecosystem, or what have you. To convince you to buy his wares, in order to increase the likelihood that you’ll go on doing so – because they match the decor, because you already have the adapters, and so on.

Adapting gadgets to our needs is the secret pivot on which technology turns [The Guardian]

(Image: David Joyce, CC-BY-SA: Story, Lumix G1 Adapter Breakdown, Chad Kainz, CC-BY)

Tech Review’s annual science fiction issue, edited by Bruce Sterling, featuring William Gibson


The summer annual features stories "inspired by the real-life breakthroughs covered in the pages of MIT Technology Review," including "Petard," my story about hacktivism; and "Death Cookie/Easy Ice," an excerpt from William Gibson's forthcoming (and stone brilliant) futuristic novel The Peripheral.

Other authors in the collection include Lauren Beukes, Chris Brown, Pat Cadigan, Warren Ellis, Joel Garreau, and Paul Graham Raven. The 2013 summer anthology was a huge hit -- Gardner Dozois called it "one of the year’s best SF anthologies to date, perhaps the best."

The 2014 edition is out this month, available direct from MIT Tech Review.

Twelve Tomorrows | MIT Technology Review

Intellectual Asset Management Best Practices – Part 1

IPBlog (Calgary) - Mon, 2014/08/25 - 11:00
- By Richard Stobbe Does your organization have “intellectual assets”? Regardless of what your organization does – whether it is a service-based business, or in the manufacturing sector, whether it is driven by cloud-based software or bricks-and-mortar locations, whether it is a multinational or a local start-up – chances are good that ...

Louvain – 25 August 1914

Fair Duty by Meera Nair - Sun, 2014/08/24 - 14:36

Librarians and historians alike may well feel somber as we approach the 100th anniversary of the Le sac de Louvain, a collective punishment meted out by German forces to the people of Louvain for seeming resistance to the German presence. Included among the sites of destruction was the library of the University of Louvain. Set ablaze the night of 25 August 1914, by the next morning its contents had been reduced to ashes.

In 2013, Mark Derez, Archivist of University Archives and Art Collection Leuven (Louvain), presented the story of that destruction, response, and reconstruction. An abbreviated version of his presentation was published in 2014 by the WWI Daily. Derez writes:

The destruction of Leuven had not been unique – in four Belgian provinces, 18,000 houses were destroyed and 5,000 Belgian civilians were killed … [But] there was an emotional element at work… Of all the atrocities committed, that which spoke most to the imagination was the devastation of the university library, for in no way could it have been considered a military target. … [This assault] produced a worldwide stream of solidarity. While the war was still on, twenty-five committees were formed in neutral and Allied countries to collect money and books.

Among those who took it upon themselves to encourage donations of books by Americans and American libraries, was Theodore Wesley Koch. A scholar of Dante, and an internationally respected librarian, Koch’s appreciation of the benefit wrought by libraries for the public was all too evident. As Librarian for the University of Michigan, he had introduced measures that allowed students to borrow books (previously only the professoriate enjoyed that privilege) and allowed public access to the periodical collection.

In a publication titled The University of Louvain and its Library, produced in London and Toronto in July 1917, Koch details the history of the university and the depth and breadth of the library’s contents. It began with a bequest of 852 volumes in 1627, “rich in history and theology,” from former student Laurent Beyerlinck. Subsequent patrons and librarians worked together through a period of nearly 300 years to amass over 250,000 items including rare manuscripts, incunabula, and university archival material beginning with the original papal bull authorizing its foundation.

Koch draws particular attention to the work of C.F. de Nelis, appointed as University Librarian in 1752, whose first act was to: “… ask the Government to require Belgian printers to send to the University Library at least one copy of every book printed by them (p.17).” (A condition that sounds very much like that included within the Statute of Anne (1710), where publishers were to remit nine copies of each book produced, “printed upon the best paper,” to various university libraries.)

The library was successfully reconstructed, inside and out. But it opened in 1928 to both acclaim and controversy. Architect Whitney Warren had sought to design not merely a modern library in neo-renaissance style, but also a war memorial replete with a bell tower whose carillon would ring forth patriotic anthems. Derez describes in detail the clash between those who sought to demilitarize the halls of learning and those who wanted the atrocities to be immortalized. So too does Matthew Battles in Library: An Unquiet History (2003). The final design and play list stopped short of overt jingoism but was memorial enough to attract unpleasant attention from Germany in the next world war. Merely 12 years after it opened, the library was once again destroyed in the 1940 shelling.

The library has since been rebuilt again to Warren’s design. Complete with its bells.

The rallying of the international library community in support of public benefit continues to this day. Preservation of our past, and preparation for our future, were prominent topics of discussion at the satellite conference and the annual conference of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) held in Strasbourg and Lyon over the past few weeks. In her opening remarks, IFLA president Sinikka Sipilä spoke of strong libraries as integral to strong societies; and emphasized that “access to information supports development by empowering people to exercise their civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, learn and apply new skills and make decisions and participate in an active and engaged civil society.”

To that end, the Lyon Declaration on Access to Information and Development was unveiled on 18 August 2014; it calls upon Member States of the United Nations to ensure that information access, sharing, and use are incorporated in the post-2015 development agenda. Details are here; at the time of this writing, 134 organizations have given their support.

 


Risk Management - a roundtable discussion

IPBlog (Calgary) - Fri, 2014/08/22 - 13:00
Field Law sponsored the Canadian Lawyer magazine's in-house general counsel roundtable, moderated by Jennifer Brown: see this link. The participants - from the University of Calgary and technology-driven companies Pason Systems Corp. and Trican Well Services - discuss how risk management is addressed in their organizations. Calgary - 07:00 MST

Chrome now available for download in Cuba

Google Public Policy BLOG - Wed, 2014/08/20 - 17:55
By Pedro Less Andrade, Director of Government Affairs & Public Policy, Latin America
U.S. export controls and sanctions can sometimes limit the products available in certain countries. But these trade restrictions are always evolving, and over time, we’ve been working to figure out how to make more tools available in sanctioned countries. In the past couple years we’ve made Chrome downloadable in Syria and Iran. We’re happy to say that Internet users in Cuba can now use Chrome too, and browse the web faster and more safely than they could before.

Innovation in Canada

IPBlog (Calgary) - Wed, 2014/08/20 - 17:00
By Richard Stobbe A recent survey of the top patent producing corporations in Canada (see this link, courtesy of our colleagues at IPPractice.ca) shows a few interesting trends: Despite its fall from grace over the past 4 or 5 years, BlackBerry remains among the top innovators in the country. The top five patentees ...

Neal Stephenson and Cory speaking at Seattle’s Town Hall, Oct 26


We're getting together to talk about Hieroglyph: Stories and Visions for a Better Future , a project that Stephenson kicked off -- I've got a story in it called "The Man Who Sold the Moon."

The project's mission is to promote "Asimovian robots, Heinleinian rocket ships, Gibsonian cyberspace… plausible, thought-out pictures of alternate realities in which... compelling innovation has taken place." Tickets are $5.


Neal Stephenson and Cory Doctorow: Reigniting Society’s Ambition with Science Fiction

Re: Drool all over the trailer for Doctor Who's season 8 premiere

Russell McOrmond on Disqus - Fri, 2014/08/15 - 06:43

Has there been a posting yet about when regular season episodes will be airing on Space? Will it continue Sat 30th, and each Saturday after for a while?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D...

Re: The Elusive Prime Ministerial Library

Russell McOrmond on Disqus - Tue, 2014/08/12 - 12:43

(Sorry -- was only pointed to this recently)

We don't have an office similar to the president in Canada, and I wouldn't want to given even more excessive emphasis on the leader of the party in power than they already have.

I find the emphasis given to party leaders during and after elections to already be excessive. I'm in support of policy changes that reign in these party leaders (especially PMO, OLO, etc), and opposed to concepts like presidential-style libraries coming to Canada.

If we want to discuss the creation of political era specific libraries, that is a separate issue.

My London Worldcon schedule


I'll be joining thousands of fans and hundreds of presenters at Loncon 3, the 72nd World Science Fiction Convention, later this week. I hope to see you there!

Weds, Aug 13
* 18h: Group signing at Forbidden Planet, Shaftesbury Ave, with Chris Achilleos,
Madeline Ashby,
Gregory Benford,
Adam Christopher,
Wesley Chu,
Phil & Kaja Foglio,
Anne Lyle,
Ramez Naam,
Kim Newman,
V. E. Schwab,
Charles Stross,
Mike Shevdon and
Danie Ware

Thurs, Aug 14
* 15.00-16.30 - Panel: Digital Vigilantes, Capital Suite 2 (ExCeL);
with: Kin-Ming Looi, Lilian Edwards, David Dingwall, Neil McKellar

Fri, Aug 15
* 11.00-12.00 - Panel: The Pleasures of a Good, Long Info-Dump, Capital
Suite 7+12 (ExCeL); with: Jack William Bell (M), Kim Stanley Robinson,
M. Darusha Wehm

Sat, Aug 16
* 12.00-13.30 - Panel: Fresh Perspectives: Comic Books for Young People,
London Suite 3 (ExCeL); with: Emily Wagner (M), Inko, Kaluas AE
Mogensen, Smuzz

* 14.30-15.00 - Reading, London Suite 1 (ExCeL)

* 16.00-17.00 - Kaffeeklatsch, London Suite 5 (ExCeL), with Anne Lyle

* 20.00-21.00 - The Sidewise, Prometheus, Seiun and Golden Duck Awards,
Capital Suite 8+11 (ExCeL)

Sunday, Aug 17
* 09.00-10.00 - Stroll with the Stars, front of Aloft (ExCeL), with:
Judith Clute, John Clute, Farah Mendlesohn, Joe Haldeman, Gay Haldeman,
Elizabeth Hand, Tricia Sullivan, Jonathan Strahan

Monday, Aug 18

* 12.00-13.30 - Panel: Brave Young World, Capital Suite 13 (ExCeL);
with: Heather Urbanski (M), David Farnell, Gillian Redfearn

* 13.30-15.00 - Panel: Young Adults in Fandom, Capital Suite 10 (ExCeL);
with: Kelley Armstrong (M), Monika Drzewiecka, Meg Frank

Disrupting elections with Kickstarter-like campaigning apps


The UK parliamentary farce over #DRIP showed us that, more than any other industry, the political machine is in dire need of disruption.


In my latest Guardian column, How the Kickstarter model could transform UK elections, I suggest that the way that minority politicians could overcome the collective action deadlock of voters being unwilling to "throw away" their ballots on the parties they support, and so holding their nose and voting for the mainstream party they hate least, or not voting at all, by taking a page out of Kickstarter's playbook:

Here's how that could work:

"Yellow Party! Well, I love what you stand for, but come on, you haven't got a snowball's chance. It's throwing away my vote."

"Oh, I'm not asking you to vote for me! Not quite, anyway. All I want you to do is go on record saying that you would vote for me, if 20% of your neighbours made the same promise. Then, on election day, we'll send you a text or and email letting you know how many people there are who've made the same promise, and you get to decide whether it's worth your while.

"The current MP, Ms Setforlife, got elected with only 8,000 votes in the last election. If I can show you that 9,000 of your neighbours feel the same way as you do, and if you act on that information – well, we could change everything."

This threshold-style action system is at the heart of Kickstarter (pledge whatever you like, but no one has to spend anything unless enough money is raised to see the project to completion) and it's utterly adaptable to elections.

In democracies all over the world, voting is in decline. A permanent political class has emerged, and what it has to offer benefits a small elite at the public's wider expense.

How the Kickstarter model could transform UK elections

Documentary on the making of the Homeland audiobook with Wil Wheaton

Skyboat Media produced this great little documentary about Wil Wheaton's recording sessions for the audiobook of my novel Homeland, in which he had to read out Pi for four minutes straight, read out dialog in which the narrator had a fanboy moment about meeting Wil Wheaton, and many other fun moments.

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