Conversations on Innovation, Power and Responsibility with Jeff Ubois

My good friend and colleague Jeff Ubois recently edited and released a volume entitled Conversations on Innovation, Power and Responsibility for the Fondazione Giannino Bassetti. Some of my comments on the topic of innovation from a conversation with Jeff are included in the volume which collects a wide range of thoughts about the nature and consequence of technical change.

Table Of Contents


About the Question
Related Concepts
Choosing Subjects: Where Does Responsibility Matter Now?

Genetics And Healthcare
Thomas Murray, The Hastings Center
Ignacio Chapela: Drawing a Boundary Around the Lab
Arthur Caplan: Innovation as Politics
David Magnus & Mildred Cho: True Fictions

Christine Peterson: Nanotechnology and Enhancement
Lawrence Gasman: Nanomarkets

Robotics And Computing
Ronald Arkin: Embedding Values in Machines
Jeff Jonas: Applying the UN declaration of human rights
Marc Smith: Invention, mitigation, accounting and externalities
Mikko Ahonen: Open Innovation … and Radiation Safety

Roberto Verganti: Varieties of Design Innovation
Michael Twidale: IRBs, Design, Empowerment,
Accountability, Sustainability

My comments from the volume are after the fold…

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Event: Maker Faire 2009


I attended the Maker Faire down the hill in San Mateo at the County Fair Grounds.

The event is the gathering of the many forms of craft, tinkering, building, mashup, hacking, and experimental communities.

Here are some photos from today’s event.

[flickrset id=”72157618944488325″ thumbnail=”square” overlay=”true” size=”medium”]

My highlights: the full sized replicas of TV and movie robots from Lost in Space and Forbidden Planet; the littlebits snap together circuits, the LED bicycle wheel displays, the Telsa coils (of course), the flame throwers (of course), and the rolling metal ball robots.

It was a well attended event with many great displays.

Summer 2009 – Stanford Media X Workshop: New Metrics for New Media: Analytics for Social Media and Virtual Worlds

Stanford University - Media X Program

I will lead a workshop with Martha Russell on social network analysis of social media as part of the Stanford Media X Summer Institute on New Metrics for New Media: Analytics for Social Media and Virtual Worlds this Summer.  I am looking forward to working with the folks at Media X which hosts a range of cutting edge events devoted to exploring the newest trends in technology and society.


It is also worth noting that the traveling exhibit “Places and Spaces” will be displayed through the MEDIA X program at Stanford until December 18th, 2009.  There is a May 18, 5-6:30pm Reception in Wallenberg Hall on the campus.  The show includes an image I worked on with Danyel Fisher and Tony Capone that represents an overview of Usenet newsgroups.

2005 Usenet Treemap

The show includes a variety of information visualizations and maps that illustrate the utility of graphical representations of complex concepts and terrains.  From the Media X site:

“The Places & Spaces exhibit, at Wallenberg Hall has two components. The physical component is available for display and allows for close visual inspection through high-quality prints. It is meant to inspire cross-disciplinary discussion on how best to track and communicate human activity and scientific progress on a global scale. It includes hand-on science maps for children. The online counterpart provides links to a selected series of maps and their makers along with detailed explanations of why these maps work.” [Link]

There will be a reception following the May 18 Seminar that will include Jeff Heer and students, Katy Borner (virtual presence) and other mapmakers of the Places & Spaces exhibit.

Social Networks in the News at NYT

My colleague Scott Sargent at Telligent notes that there are two sections of the March 29th Sunday New York Times feature articles illustrated with network graphs.  The Business section runs an article “Is Facebook Growing Up Too Fast? ( and the Style Section has an article on The Celebrity Twitter Ecosystem.

20090329 NYT Facebook Ego Networks

20090329 NYT Facebook Ego Networks

My colleague Prof. Ben Shniederman is positively impressed by these images.  He writes, “Notice how the node layout remains stable as edges are removed, so by the 4th figure the edges can all be followed easily….”.  This is one of the themes he highlights in his paper and presentations about problems and improvements in network graph drawing (see: in particular Prof. Shniederman’s  5th edition of Designing the User Interface is now available with two full chapters on the website with wordles to open each chapter.

A somewhat related article ran the same day in the Style section on The Celebrity Twitter Ecosystem ( This image focused on the linkages between well known people using Twitter and, by extension, revealing who they follow and who follows them in the social network.

2009 -03- 29 - NYT - Twitter Ecosystem

In the first image no names are associated with the nodes, in the second the names are the major point of the diagram.

The practice of “anonymization” of network graphs may be moot in light of a recent publication mentioned on the Social Network Analysis email list (SOCNET) by Mark Round from QinetiQ of a paper:

Deanonymizing Social Networks – Arvind Narayanan & Vitaly Shmatikov

which suggests that just publishing the unique pattern of links around an individual is sufficient to identify them in an otherwise anonymized data base.

Operators of online social networks are increasingly sharing
potentially sensitive information about users and their relationships
with advertisers, application developers, and data-mining researchers.
Privacy is typically protected by anonymization, i.e., removing names,
addresses, etc.
We present a framework for analyzing privacy and anonymity in social
networks and develop a new re-identification algorithm targeting
anonymized social-network graphs. To demonstrate its effectiveness on
real-world networks, we show that a third of the users who can be
verified to have accounts on both Twitter, a popular microblogging
service, and Flickr, an online photo-sharing site, can be re-identified
in the anonymous Twitter graph with only a 12% error rate.
Our de-anonymization algorithm is based
purely on the network topology, does not require creation of a large
number of dummy “sybil” nodes, is robust to noise and all existing
defenses, and works even when the overlap between the target network
and the adversary’s auxiliary information is small.