"peer production" entries
MOOCs get the attention, but DIY and peer-to-peer exchange are more fertile grounds for development
Somehow, recently, a lot of people have taken an interest in the broadcast of canned educational materials, and this practice — under a term that proponents and detractors have settled on, massive open online course (MOOC) — is getting a publicity surge. I know that the series of online classes offered by Stanford proved to be extraordinarily popular, leading to the foundation of Udacity and a number of other companies. But I wish people would stop getting so excited over this transitional technology. The attention drowns out two truly significant trends in progressive education: do-it-yourself labs and peer-to-peer exchanges.
In the current opinion torrent, Clay Shirky treats MOOCs in a recent article, and Joseph E. Aoun, president of Northeastern University, writes (in a Boston Globe subscription-only article) that traditional colleges will have to deal with the MOOC challenge. Jon Bruner points out on Radar that non-elite American institutions could use a good scare (although I know a lot of people whose lives were dramatically improved by attending such colleges). The December issue of Communications of the ACM offers Professor Richard A. DeMillo from the Georgia Institute of Technology assessing the possible role of MOOCs in changing education, along with an editorial by editor-in-chief Moshe Y. Vardi culminating with, “If I had my wish, I would wave a wand and make MOOCs disappear.”
There’s a popular metaphor for this early stage of innovation: we look back to the time when film-makers made the first moving pictures with professional performers by setting up cameras before stages in theaters. This era didn’t last long before visionaries such as Georges Méliès, D. W. Griffith, Sergei Eisenstein, and Luis Buñuel uncovered what the new medium could do for itself. How soon will colleges get tired of putting lectures online and offer courses that take advantage of new media? Read more…
A doctor looks to software communities as inspiration for her own research
(The following article sprang from a collaboration between Andy Oram and Brigitte Piniewski to cover open source concepts in an upcoming book on health care. This book, titled “Wireless Health: Remaking of Medicine by Pervasive Technologies,” is edited by Professor Mehran Mehregany of Case Western Reserve University. and has an expected release date of February 2013. It is designed to provide the reader with the fundamental and practical knowledge necessary for an overall grasp of the field of wireless health. The approach is an integrated, multidisciplinary treatment of the subject by a team of leading topic experts. The selection here is part of a larger chapter by Brigitte Piniewski about personalized medicine and public health.)
Medical research and open source software have much to learn from each other. As software transforms the practice and delivery of medicine, the communities and development methods that have grown up around software–particularly free and open source software–also provide models that doctors and researchers can apply to their own work. Some of the principles that software communities can offer for spreading health throughout the population include these:
Like a living species, software evolves as code is updated and functionality is improved.
Software of low utility is dropped as users select better tools and drive forward functionality to meet new use cases.
Open source culture demonstrates how a transparent approach to sharing software practices enables problem areas to be identified and corrected accurately, cost-effectively, and at the pace of change.
Can open data dominate biological science as open source has in software?
To move from a hothouse environment of experimentation to the mainstream of one of the world's most lucrative and tradition-bound industries, Sage Bionetworks must aim for its nucleus: rewards and incentives. Comparisons to open source software and a summary of tasks for Sage Congress.
The Vioxx problem is just one instance of the wider malaise afflicting the drug industry. Managers from major pharma companies expressed confidence that they could expand public or "pre-competitive" research in the direction Sage Congress proposed. The sector left to engage is the one that's central to all this work–the public.
Report from a movement that believes in open source and open data in science
Through two days of demos, keynotes, panels, and breakout sessions, Sage Congress brought its vision to a high-level cohort of 230 attendees from universities, pharmaceutical companies, government health agencies, and others who can make change in the field.
Although a lot of government agencies produce open source software, hardly any develop relationships with a community of outside programmers, testers, and other contributors. NCI sees the advantages of a give-and-take.
VoIP Drupal is a window onto the promises and challenges faced by a new open source project, including its documentation. A meeting at at MIT this week worked out some long-term plans for firming up VoIP Drupal's documentation and other training materials.
The speakers, who included household names of the free culture movement such as Lawrence Lessig and Eric von Hippel, emphasized the culture shift that is breaking the seemingly iron grip of current policies that favor wealthy companies with portfolios of patents and copyrights. But I think even these speakers failed to convey how huge a sea change in underway.
Mixtures of grassroots content generation and unique expertise have existed, and more models will be found. Understanding the points of commonality between the systems will help us develop such models.
Joining the pilgrimage that all institutions are making toward wider data use, FLOSS Manuals is exposing more and more of the writing process.