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Serendipity Should be Less of a Concern

Serendipitous encounters / Photo: Hartwig HKD, flickr

Serendipitous encounters / Photo: Hartwig HKD, flickr

Those among you who are interested in the origin of words may already know the etymology of “serendipity.” The word is based on an ancient tale called “The Three Princes of Serendip” and describes an accidental and fortunate discovery of something unexpected.

Serendipitous discoveries take place because of how things are ordered and because of the search tools and practices we employ. At the ISN we are also concerned with the order of things. We classify our content by using about 3000 keywords on international relations and security. With this concern in mind, on Wednesday in our weekly editorial meeting we discussed a recent NY Times article by Damon Darlin on the loss of serendipity in the digital age. According to Darlin, because of the internet tools in place today we have “lost the fortunate discovery of something we never knew we wanted to find.”

So we wondered: Does indexing information really remove the element of surprise?

I believe this is not the case. Indexed information in any encyclopedia is a beautiful opportunity for serendipity. To support my argument I will cite Jorge Luis Borges, who, in his “Investigation of the Word” (in Selected Non-Fictions) talks about the “alphabetical disorder” of dictionaries. What a beautiful opportunity of finding words with very different meanings next to each other just because they share the same initial letters!

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EPC: Waaaahhhhhhh

Photo: Addox/flickr

Photo: Addox/flickr

In one of the whiniest tirades I’ve read written by anyone over 3 feet tall, the European Publishers Council released the the so-called “Hamburg Declaration on Intellecutal Property Rights” in June.

The temper tantrum Declaration was signed by around 160 publishers and was meant to prompt the European Commission into action, calling on it to improve the “protection of intellectual property on the [i]nternet.”

Some gems from the document:

Numerous providers are using the work of authors, publishers and broadcasters without paying for it. Over the long term, this threatens the production of high-quality content and the existence of independent journalism.

I won’t even get into how this is totally not true. Oh by the way, signatories included folks from the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times Group, Ringier and Axel Springer….all bastions of independent journalism.

There should be no parts of the Internet where laws do not apply.

Oh really?

Legislators and governments at the national and international level should protect more effectively the intellectual creation of value by authors, publishers and broadcasters. Unauthorized use of intellectual property must remain prohibited whatever the means of distribution.

Yikes. I didn’t ask permission to cut and paste. Sorry y’all.

In any case, Google was one of the first to respond to the EPC’s call with a helpful hint: Exclude yourself from Google.

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China Internet Users Surpass US Population

Photo: faungg/flickr

Photo: faungg/flickr

Via The Guardian:

China has more internet users that the entire population of the United States, according to new research by the government-sanctioned China Internet Network Information Center.

The study says that at the end of June there were 338m internet users in China, a 13.4% jump since the end of 2008, and well ahead of the official US population, put at 307m by the US Census Bureau.

But, according to the story, penetration is still relatively low, with China at just over 25 percent and the US at 70 percent.

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