I’d like to announce a new project, Maker Librarian.
The goal of Maker Librarian is to serve as the primary resource for librarians who want to learn about makers, hackerspaces, the participatory library and everything in between. Over the coming weeks and months you’ll find;
– Daily updates on the latest technologies, maker news and what librarians and libraries are up to
– Interviews with the movers and shakers in the maker and hacker movement
– Discussion of the difficult ethical and legal issues that libraries will have to face as technologies, like 3D printers, become readily available
– A wiki for librarians to gather the best of training materials and classes for their programs
– And a few exciting projects that will be revealed in the near future…
Back in July Mitch Altman invited me to be part of a panel at HOPE #9 on the military funding of hackerspaces. My specific interest was the partnership between Make Magazine and DARPA and you can read my original thoughts here and here, and find the surrounding background and conversation here. The full video of the panel is now available online.
DARPA Funding for Hackers, Hackerspaces, and Education: A Good Thing?
Mitch Altman, Psytek, Willow Brugh, Fiacre O’Duinn, Matt Joyce
Mitch Altman caused a stir this spring when he publicly announced that he would not be helping U.S. Maker Faires this year, after it was publicly announced that they received funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). So, what’s the controversy? DARPA, an agency of the U.S. military, has funded many famous projects over the past several decades, including GPS and the Internet. People in DARPA are now making large amounts of grant funding available for hackers and hackerspaces to do projects of their choice, as well as funding for education through hands-on learning, which MAKE Magazine is using to help schools. Does it matter that DARPA is responsible for the development of new technology for the U.S. military with an annual budget of $3.2 billion? What are the ethics of using funds from people or organizations that may or may not be aligned with one’s own goals? What are the ramifications for the hacker/maker movement? Is DARPA funding overall a good thing? There is no simple answer. Explore the ethics and ramifications with Mitch, as moderator, and the panelists, as they give their perspectives on this complex set of issues.
Update: October 9
The panel from HOPE 9 was recently featured in an article in the New York Times discussing the issue of military funding and hackerspaces.
I’ve previously blogged, written about and, at this year’s Digital Odyssey, spoke on conflict minerals and the need for librarians to be aware of and respond to the issue. In the video above Bandi Mbubi speaks at TEDxExeter on his own experience of the effects of the war in Congo caused by tantalum mining.
Bandi Mbubi grew up in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, formerly Zaire, experiencing first hand the political unrest and oppression which have since worsened there. As a student activist, Bandi suffered persecution and fled the country, seeking political asylum in the U.K. But Mbubi has kept his home country on his radar, noting how the mining of tantalum — a mineral used in cell phones and computers — has fueled the ongoing war there in which 5 million have died.
A bioengineer and geneticist at Harvard’s Wyss Institute have successfully stored 5.5 petabits of data — around 700 terabytes — in a single gram of DNA, smashing the previous DNA data density record by a thousand times.
The work, carried out by George Church and Sri Kosuri, basically treats DNA as just another digital storage device. Instead of binary data being encoded as magnetic regions on a hard drive platter, strands of DNA that store 96 bits are synthesized, with each of the bases (TGAC) representing a binary value (T and G = 1, A and C = 0).
To read the data stored in DNA, you simply sequence it — just as if you were sequencing the human genome — and convert each of the TGAC bases back into binary. To aid with sequencing, each strand of DNA has a 19-bit address block at the start (the red bits in the image below) — so a whole vat of DNA can be sequenced out of order, and then sorted into usable data using the addresses.