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As part of Module 5 we have been encouraged to consider how Internet technologies can be thought of as an “information ecology“, rather than simply a set of tools, systems, and communication between them.

As we know from our physical environment, an ecosystem consists of everything from ourselves, animals, plants, physical structures and organisms which we may not even be able to see.

In considering an information ecosystem, we must be aware of the mulititude of elements that make up this virtual environment. These elements include but are not limited to defined objects such as users and tools, and also abilities like adaptation and creativity.

Every action we undertake in the online world produces an outcome. A click on a website produces a record in the site’s analytics program. A blog post produces another document on the web. A purchase transaction produces multiple actions from activating a shipping process, through to a series of financial transactions between ecommerce operators. Just as in the physical environment, the online equivalent produces equally powerful outcomes, not excluding destructive results.

In his paper Information Ecology, Felix Stalder presents the concept of Interdependency within an information ecology. The idea of Interdependency is that everything within that particular environment is connected through communicative processes, producing complex relationships. These complex relationships are formed partly via another dimension, that of Differentiation, which highlights that information only survives if it holds a unique value and is of use for others. In this form, a single item of information is not complex, but a group of items bound together by relationships is, and can produce highly valuable results. In trying to consider an example of what this actually means, I put forward the example of social networking, where a single profile holds little value but a network of a million profiles holds a very complex and interdependent ecology.

Interestingly, Stalder published his paper in 1997, and referenced from 1996 a note citing Apple Computer’s failure to capitalise on interdependency as a reason for their decline. Maybe this is a good example of how no single method of survival can be labelled as ideal, since Apple posted record quarterly profit of $US 1.61 billion in the first quarter of the current financial year, still keeping with their closed operating system format (Apple 2009).

What would happen if we disengaged one section of the information ecosystem? Think for example, what effect censorship has and how it would “disturb” other elements of the ecology. Censorship is in place in some countries at the moment, so the ecology has adapted to cope but we cannot quantify or establish the exact effects of such activity. In an environment where so much information is quantifiable, we still cannot measure the effects of typical ecosystem activity. As in the “real” world, not everything is measurable.

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This task involved working through a tutorial about evaluating a web site in terms of it’s purpose, author, content, coverage, currency and recognition.

The tutorial suggests thinking about the following points:

  • What is the purpose of the content and is it relevant to your goals?
  • Who is the author and publisher, and what are their credentials?
  • Does the site appear biased? Are alternate points of view presented?
  • Is the site reputable and recognised by others?

For the task presented in this module, I am to create an annotation for one of the sources found in the previous task (which should be related to the unit – not sure about that, but I will do the same for the concepts assignment anyway).

One of the sites returned in my search for “applescript, xcode” was a page from The Applescript Studio Programming Guide.

Applescript Studio Programming Guide

Applescript Studio Programming Guide

What is my judgement of the site according to what the tutorial taught me?

First of all, the information is highly credible since it is from the Apple website, and both of the terms I search for (“applescript” and “xcode“) are names of Apple products. This tells me I can trust the information provided and indicates that this site is most likely the best place to begin looking for information.

The type of information being presented is of an informative nature, providing documentation about how to use a particular Apple product. I know that the Developer Connection section of the site is a reputable source, since it a primary source of information for Apple software developers.

My  annotation would look something like this:

“The Applescript Studio Programming Guide presents extensive documentation for software developers wishing to use Xcode, Apple’s integrated development environment, to create software for Mac OS X. Neatly formatted, the documentation is compiled by Apple themselves, and arranged in a navigable fashion complete with search capabilities.

Links to internal Apple reference and terminology sites provide additional resources for visitors. The guide is dated 2007, so users of the latest Xcode products may wish to have a look at the Developer Connection home page for up to date documentation.”

All in all, I would rather use an annotation in my research when evaluating a source rather than rely on simple data such as author, url, date, etc. The additional information and comments that an annotation provides are a valuable source, and given the right circumstances, can provide credibility for a site.

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