My bookmarks for July 5th through July 7th

Here’s what I tagged on between July 5th and July 7th:

Changing the Way We Think

[As ever, you can read this on the BBC News website, and Nick Carr has picked up on it]

In her recently published book ID: The Quest for Identity in the 21st Century, Professor Susan Greenfield brings her considerable expertise as a neuroscientist to bear on the question of whether and how our current use of computers is changing the way our brains work.

Greenfield argues that the visual stimulus we get from screen-based information and entertainment differs so markedly from that available to previous generations that certain areas of the brain, specifically those areas that are older in evolutionary terms and retain the capacity to alter as a result of experience, may be affected in ways that express themselves a changes to personality and behaviour.

It’s an interesting hypothesis, and one that has the virtue of being experimentally testable, unlike many other claims about the effect of modern living on human psychology.

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The bustle of participation

I’m one of the bloggers over at the New Statesman New Media Awards blog.  Latest entry considers what Sam Johnson might have made of Twitter…

I’ve been up for an hour. In that time I’ve updated my Facebook status and dismissed various invitations to become a Zombie or share virtual fish or garden plants, sent a few Tweets, looked through the various blog postings that Bloglines has picked up from the RSS feeds I subscribe to, added new services to Friendfeed and replied to a dozen emails.

I’ve been far too busy to do any work, massaging my online presence, keeping up to date with the chatter and making my modest – fewer than 140 characters on Twitter – contributions to online discussions,

And in the midst of this hard work I remembered one of my favourite essays, written in 1759 by Samuel Johnson and published in ‘The Idler’.

Read the whole thing here.

Steven Spielberg interviewed on Seesmic

Steven Spielberg interviewed on Seesmic

Originally uploaded by BillT.

Gia and Sizemore are in Cannes interviewing cast and crew of Indiana Jones on Seesmic and posting to the timeline as live as they can – George Lucas, Harrison Ford, Cate Blanchett and the man. It’s a fascinating experiment in community interaction, with a lot of Twitter action supporting the Seesmic stuff… and it feels real.

Twitter is the Higgs Boson of the Internet

The Higgs field is what gives particles their mass.  Go into orbit and try to push a 1 tonne satellite – you can’t. It weighs nothing but its mass is unchanged by being in free fall or even in deep space, and so the force needed to change its momentum is still too great for a mere astronaut.

Without the Higgs field there would be no mass and no matter, because mass is what distorts space-time and creates the effects we interpret as the ‘force’ of gravity.  Without the Higgs field there would none of this world, none of us, nothing to be conscious or conscious of.

One way of imagining what the Higgs field does it that it makes space-time exert a drag on objects, like walking through water.  It’s a tiny effect, which is one reason why gravity is so weak compared to electromagnetism or the strong and weak nuclear forces, but it adds up.  With enough particles you can build atoms and planets and stars and galaxies. A whole observable universe, even.

And Twitter is doing something similar in the virtual world.

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@bbccouk Finished my column and going to make coffee…

[As ever you can read this on the BBC News website]

Unlike many of my friends and colleagues I wasn’t able to make it to Austin, Texas for this year’s  SXSW interactive, the four day technology conference and festival that is currently firing the imagination of the technology world.

So I wasn’t in the ballroom when the keynote address by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg went awry under the less-than-forensic questioning of technology journalist Sarah Lacy.

I didn’t see the crowd start to get restless and heckle Zuckerberg about the deeply-unpopular Beacon advertising system, or get a chance to grab the microphone and ask questions when Lacy threw the conversation open to the floor.

And yet I was there in another way, listening to and even interacting with some of my friends in the audience, picking up on the vibe in the room and even tuning in later as Sarah Lacy loudly defended herself.

Continue reading “@bbccouk Finished my column and going to make coffee…”