Friday, August 31, 2012

Green house...not the gases, the actual house

The Futurist magazine has a fair share of green technology predictions. In the article below it discusses future buildings being designed to be responsive to fluctuations in the surrounding climate in hopes to increase their resource efficiency. The technology is referred to as “Protocell cladding” which takes advantage of bioluminescent bacteria or other such materials by using them as coatings for the outside of building structures. These materials will be designed to collect water and sunlight, helping to cool the interiors and produce biofuels.
Coincidentally, another article in the futurist predicts the destruction of the worlds resources as the East becomes more materialistic like the West. Perhaps the green movement will reverse this trend by making our materials less "damaging" to the ecosystem. I guess I know which prediction I'll be rooting for.

Discussion on the "New Agora": Thoughts on SDP

Below is a link to a discussion on SDP, an idea on how to develop better group communication toward a truly democratic system.

Proponents of SDP are suggesting more than just a new process, but rather an entire paradigm shift in language and how we communicate about problems and ideas. The steps of SDP draw from centuries of beliefs and observations of functional and dysfunctional group dynamics. Some known problems such as Group Think (see space shuttle Challenger disaster investigations) which destroy sound decision making are accounted for using different strategies for moving decision making to a more democratic style. Deliberate tear down of power rankings is another key component. No one stakeholder's views should have any more weight than another's simply by position, power, or wealth. This differs from the Delphi study method where some participants are considered experts in their particular area. This arguably gives undue credence to their input before it is even evaluated. This is undesired in the SDP model.

This "New Agora" for democratic design and decision making could prove useful in developing new technology. One of my immediate criticisms is that this concept seems to be aimed at complex, even global problems such as social systems. It seems to cumbersome for solving a business problem or product design. The underlying theories and principles however, have been used effectively in these situations. It seems then, that the concepts could be used to develop a new culture for problem solving for an innovation think tank type of environment. I'm not sure that it would follow the SDP process exactly as defined in the article above, but certainly ideas such as one person/one vote for gathering ideas is sound logic. The product user may be the best person to ask about product design, not the engineering "expert".

Saturday, August 25, 2012


Traffic is a significant problem in large cities (and growing surrounding areas). The inconvenience of sitting in your vehicle when there are better things to do is one issue that bothers me. Then there is the cost of fuel and the pollution that adds to the nuisance. Technology has made some great strides towards reducing the latter. Halal (2008) dedicates an entire chapter in his book on the promise of technology. There is the dream of flying cars, hybrids and fuel cells, hydrogen replacement, and other wonderful petro elimination possibilities. Heck, my new Camry gets 40mpg which beats the 12 in my old pickup which only hauls dirt and sod these days.

This reduction of the cost of driving on the pocketbook and the environment is a great thing. But what about technology fulfilling its promise of getting rid of driving to work to begin with. Well, the technology is there for remote access and even virtual offices are becoming 3-D virtual. But is it a technology problem. Halal suggest that there is a deeper rooted issue for commuting to move to telecommuting...politics and culture. Societal structure barriers may be at blame for the congested freeways. To deal with technology and the changes it requires to grow, Halal suggests that more than an organization change is required. Capitalist America requires an "institutional change" (p. 108). Can we give up our control? The hierarchical nature of business management can be restrictive. Working from home gives up a sense of control to some managers. Where some see loss of control, others see freedom for creativity. These different corporate cultures remind me of the kids from Microsoft waltzing into Big Blue IBM in there flip flops and shorts back in the day. It will be interesting to see how those brave enough to defy the traditional corporate bureaucracy will fare. Will they die from poor structure and management or will they innovate and destroy the slow lumbering giants?

Halal, W. (2008). Technology's promise : expert knowledge on the transformation of business and society. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire England New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Human Augmentation Research: Dephi or NGT Method

The use of information systems to aid disabled people is a promising use of technology for the future. Physical disabilities such as mobility, vision, and hearing impairment are only a few things that are being addressed through technology. More research into these problems can bring some potentially unique and undiscovered solutions to the forefront of technology manufacturers and vendors. There are two research methods that may offer help in this area: the Delphi method and the nominal group technique (NGT).

According to Skulmoski and Hartman (2007) the Dephi method is well suited when the goal is to improve our understanding of problems, opportunities, and possible solutions. It is an iterative process of data collection from experts which allows them to voice their ideas on complex problems and then revise their ideas based upon anonymous interaction with the other experts feedback and thoughts. This method has been used for extremely difficult and  complex issues such as nuclear proliferation and war strategies.

The nominal group technique can be useful for collecting semi-quantitative, rank-ordered feedback data obtained from the participant’s perceptions of the strengths and weaknesses of an evaluated process or function such as a training program (Dobie, Rhodes, Tysinger, & Freeman, 2004). This process has been used to evaluate course development activities by soliciting input from participants in a round robin fashion and then analyzing the data in rich discussions. There is less anonymity in NGT than in the Delphi method. It is also less iterative in nature. Based on these two methods, a complex problem such as computer augmentation for disabled persons may be benefited most by the Delphi method of research. Since this technology requires extreme innovation to overcome the challenges that have impeded progress, the forecasting nature of Delphi studies based on expert ideas may spawn creativity for new solutions. The NGT is more of an evaluation tool, not that new ideas could not spawn from the post discussion phase. It just seems that the “steel sharpens steel” phenomenon would seemingly be greater in the Delphi type of interaction among experts in the field.

Dobie, A., Rhodes, M., Tysinger, J. W., & Freeman, J. (2004). Family Medicine, 36(6), 402-6.

Skulmoski, G. J., & Hartman, F. T. (2007). The Delphi Method for Graduate Research. Journal of Information Technology Education, 6, 1-21.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Sometimes all of the talk of "greenness" makes me want to take a blow torch to a polar ice cap. I am a huge outdoors nut, and I love nature as much as the next person, but humans will be humans.  I hate the drama and hidden agendas on both sides of the greenhouse argument. When the earth has had enough, she will show us the door. It won't be the first time, ask an apatosaurus.

What I do love is science. This cool presentation on biomimicry is very thought provoking. Perhaps science, with a little help from nature's prototypes, can slow down the pace at which we sprint towards the destruction of human existence by our own devices. And if we don't blow ourselves up, the next supercaldera, asteroid, or calthrate gun might end it all tomorrow. Despite all this, we should not plan on getting roasted or frozen (global warming or dimming, you pick) by circumstance before our great grandchildren have to deal with our screwups. Here's lookin' at you science.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Horizon Report 2012

I found the following snippet in the 2012 Horizon Report...

 ...[Judy Willis] equates the success of game-based learning with the release of dopamine, a pysiological response to a prosperous choice or action, and outlines the phases of this natural learning process.(Judy Willis, Edutopia, 14 April 2011)

So what are we waiting for... Drug induced super learning complements of your own brain. I am suprised that Microsoft and the Xbox partners have not tried to capitilize on this given the success of the gesture based Kinect add on.

I imagine that there are several limitations for schools to quickly adopt these technologies given the obvious existing financial constraints. Some have begun to issue tablet PCs and we'll see how that plays out over time. They are obviously more prone to damage than desktops due to the portability and form factor. But what about usability? Will limitations on screensize be a problem? I am curious on the communities thoughts regarding what is slowing and will continue to slow adoption...

Monday, July 16, 2012

Security and Trust in SaaS cloud

Cloud computing is one of the hottest topics in IS today. Vendors are scrambling to gain market share in all delivery areas. SaaS is the most recognized form over IaaS and PaaS models. My research is in the area of trust development in SaaS and how the basic principles of security aid in trust formation. One of the more facinating (but outside the scope of my study) aspects of trust in cloud computing, or any technology for that matter, is the difference between real and percieved risk. There is an epistemological dichotomy between subjective and objective risk assessments. Within a controversial paper on societal risk, Starr (1980) states that risk assessments by the public are often uninformed and do not provide a measurement of actual risk, but are rather mere perceptions of risk and may lead to irrational behavior. No one would debate that there isn't a risk in cloud computing, but where does that risk differ from architectures of today? In the case of cloud-based services, the consumer has a very abstract view of the underlying security infrastructure. Any risk assessment performed could be considered uninformed in the strictest sense that Starr implies.

However, in another seminal work Slovic (1999) states that gender, race, political worldviews, affiliation, emotional affect, and trust are factors that have strongly correlated with risk judgments. This clearly refutes the claims of Starr and introduces several perspectives that will have subjective influence on risk assessments. Each variable introduced by Slovic may modify the trust formation in cloud computing. Thompson (1999) also rejects Starr’s view of risk as a stark contrast to the traditional conceptions of risk that shape law and public policy, which are based on subjective judgments of the archetypal “reasonable person.” That is to say, if a reasonable person would consider an act risky, then it is a risk to them. This philosophical viewpoint reflects the condition of an individual’s risk assessment of a technology, at least to the extent that it influences their decision to use the technology. Thompson stresses that Starr’s objective measure of risk is an assessment of probability that an event may or may not occur and does not account for perceptions of the layperson. This is a crucial point for SaaS as most users are from the general population and laypersons in the sense of computer science and security.
A grim reality is that most actual dangers or “real risk” are not realized until after decisions are made. Starr and Whipple (1984) state that benefits of a technology precede the risks of its use. Railroads, automobiles, and airplanes have greatly altered our social structure in positive and negative ways that were not predicted when put into action. The obvious benefits of reducing travel time and shrinking geographic limitations were realized immediately as were the profound positive effects on the economy and social culture. Risk such as pollution, traffic, drunk driving, and other user and non-user risks have been spread over space and time in a non-uniform distribution pattern (1984). Similarly, the use of cloud based services are expected to offer enterprises long-term IS savings, including reducing infrastructure costs of IT and pay-for-service models for avoiding waste (ISACA, 2007). These savings will precede any unforeseen losses of proprietary information, litigation due to service agreement breaches or lost client data, or other dangers that may lurk in the uncertain realm of the cloud model. This would seem to suggest that the real risks associated with cloud application use may not have any influence on trust formation since the perceived benefit of cloud use precedes any known risks. The hypothesis is that some initial trusting belief exists based on perceived risk.

The parlance on "real risk" versus "perceived risk" elucidates the fact that a person’s perception of risk in using cloud-based services may not be consistent with the actual risks that exist or the damages they may incur should they choose to use the service. Both sides of the argument also seem to agree that actual risks do not predict human behavior when making risk based decisions. This is not to say that the individual’s beliefs and perceptions of the security afforded by the vendor are not sufficient for making a subjective assessment to accept or reject the risk of SaaS cloud use. Rather, for personal risk assessments of technology for the common SaaS user, the objective assessment approach Starr suggests does not seem practical in cases of new technology such as cloud computing where there is a great deal of uncertainty. Starr assumes access to empirical information, which is not available to consumers who simply perceive risk through observation, cognition, and emotion. Thompson argues that the subjective approach is better suited than attempting to establish relative frequencies in nature and calculate probabilistic measurements of risk. This illustrates an important context differential between a formal risk assessment conducted by an organization and a personal risk assessment made by an individual. Even in the case of organizational risk assessments, the individuals involved will undoubtedly have some degree of personal perspectives, assumptions, political agendas, and other subjective influences on the results.

Slovic, P. (1999). Trust, emotion, sex, politics, and science: surveying the risk-assessment battlefield. Risk Analysis, 19, 687-701.

Starr, C. (1980). Introductory Remarks. In R. C. Schwing & W. A. Albers (Eds.), Societal risk assessment: How safe is safe enough? New York, NY: Plenum.

Starr, C., & Whipple, C. (1984). A perspective on health and safety risk analysis. Management Science, 30(4), 452-463.

Thompson, P. (1999). Risk objectivism and risk subjectivism: when are risks real? Risk: Issues in Health & Safety, 1(Winter), 3–22.