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April 3, 2006

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Seeking Changes to the DMCA
CNet (03/31/06) Broache, Anne; McCullagh, Declan

The entertainment industry has been lobbying the U.S. Copyright Office to head off changes to the controversial Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) of 1998 that security experts have been pushing for to protect their research. Princeton University computer science professor Edward Felten said that he and J. Alex Halderman, a graduate student, discovered the Sony rootkit vulnerability a month before it became public knowledge, but were unable to come forward for fear of a lawsuit under Section 1201 of the DMCA, which prohibits such a disclosure without the authorization of the record company. "A great many of consumers were at risk every day," due to the delay, Felten said. "Our exemption request is fundamentally asking for protection for those consumers." Previously, security researchers would notify vendors directly upon finding a flaw, though since the DMCA took effect, the climate has become tainted by fear of litigation, and some security researchers have actually left the field, Felten said. He claims that once he discovered the Sony vulnerability, he contacted his lawyers and opted not to publish his results immediately. Others have argued that Felten would not have had any legal liability had he published his findings, and Steven Metalitz of the International Intellectual Property Alliance, an organization representing major copyright holders, has said that Section 1201 already gives security researchers ample latitude to conduct their work. Sony's first attempt at an uninstaller for the rootkit was severely flawed, and Felten and other security experts developed alternatives to better protect against inadvertent reinstallation, though he says that they still fear litigation. Rules against circumventing copyright technologies create risk, said Matthew Schruers of the Computer and Communications Industry Association. "So that raises for me a perplexing question: Why on earth are we putting cybersecurity in the hands of copyright lawyers?"
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In a Wired South Korea, Robots Will Feel Right at Home
New York Times (03/02/06) P. 4; Onishi, Norimitsu

After successfully bringing broadband connectivity to 72 percent of all households in the last five years, making it the most wired country in the world, South Korea is now mobilizing its scientists and business leaders to develop robots that can integrate into human society, teaching children to speak English or performing public safety tasks. The Ministry of Information and Communication, which has already amassed a development team of more than 30 companies and 1,000 scientists, wants to have a robot in every household between 2015 and 2020, if not sooner. On the heels of the 1997 Asian financial crisis, South Korea determined that a sound future lay in extensive technological investment, and to that end deregulated telecommunications and Internet service and invested in companies laying cable throughout the country. Thanks to government-subsidized technology, South Koreans have been able to watch free TV on their cell phones since January. And later this month, South Korea will roll out WiBro, a nationwide, 10-Mbps wireless Internet service. Roughly 17 million South Koreans of a population of 48 million belong to Cyworld, a Web service where people share opinions and interact through an interconnected cluster of home pages. Technology has transformed South Korean society to a greater extent than perhaps any other country, as the ubiquity of the Internet enables opinions to spread with lightning speed and has given rise to broad-based social movements virtually overnight, while also raising some ethics and usage issues. South Korea wants to become the world's third-largest robot producer by 2013, having opted to develop service robots that gain intelligence by being connected to a network, rather than autonomous robots designed for military or industrial purposes.
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An Affordable Future for Eye Tracking in Sight
IST Results (04/03/06)

The IST-funded COGAIN project is exploring current eye-tracking technologies in an attempt to standardize the available products and bring costs down, ultimately delivering more independence to people with disabilities. "It's a big project and it's novel in that it brings together all the interested parties," said project coordinator Kari-Jouko Raiha, a computer science professor at the Finnish University of Tampere. The project could help people who have lost all capacity for motion except in their eyes, which become their only means of communication. The project could also improve the quality of life for those stricken with Cerebral Palsy, Multiple Sclerosis, or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. Existing equipment at the cutting edge operates with impressive spatial and temporal resolution, though the camera, computer, and software to integrate the two are very expensive, says Raiha. By partnering with manufacturers, COGAIN expects to bring down the cost of equipment and standardize control of the proprietary software so that anyone can develop applications. COGAIN could also develop its own applications, such as a new method of text entry, like the system being developed at the University of Cambridge, a project partner, that enables users to select letters as they move across the screen by fixing their gaze on them. Other researchers are exploring software to manipulate environmental controls and steer a wheelchair by tracking eye movements. While the project's immediate aim is to improve the quality of life for the disabled, the project could have an impact on commercial applications beyond health care, such the rapidly growing video-game industry, or in cars to alert drivers when they become drowsy. "Though we wouldn't be pursuing these specialized applications," Raiha said, "we are more interested in potential mainstream applications."
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Engineering and IT Majors Getting Notice
Dallas Morning News (04/02/06) Jacobs, Scott

Graduating college seniors with degrees in IT and engineering are entering a welcoming a job market offering more jobs and higher salaries according to recruiters and placement officers. "We have seen a big increase in the number of companies that are recruiting engineering students," said Michael Powell, director of the Engineering Career Assistance Center at the University of Texas in Austin. Challenger, Gray & Christmas reports that this year's entry-level job market is the best since 2001, while the National Association of Colleges and Employers predicts a 4.3 percent increase in salaries for civil engineering majors, and included computer science, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, information sciences and systems, computer engineering, and chemical engineering on its list of the 10 most in-demand majors. This year's graduating class is also the first to have entered college knowing about the tech bust, suggesting that IT graduates are more likely to be drawn to the field out of a genuine interest than by the promise of huge salary, according to Michael Doty, director of the career center at the University of Texas at Dallas. Doty says that among the healthiest IT fields are auditing, accounting, and security. Challenger CEO John Challenger says that applicants improve their chances by getting as much practical experience as possible in the form of part-time jobs, internships, and co-ops throughout college.
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Computers to Learn Cardiff Accent
BBC News (03/30/06)

A group of researchers from the University of Birmingham is visiting Cardiff, Wales, in search of people with a genuine local accent to build better speech recognition software, which often falters when trying to discern regional accents. Qualified subjects will have lived near Cardiff all their lives, and have parents who hail from the same area. Speech recognition is being used more widely in devices such as cell phones, computers, and cars, but its ability to recognize different accents has lagged behind. "People adapt to new accents very quickly, but it is extraordinarily hard to make computers do the same," said lead investigator Martin Russell, adding that his team's research will also provide insight into the multitude of accents in the British Isles of the 21st century. Russell's team will interview people in 17 different locations across Britain and Ireland.
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An Open-Source Run-Time for Distributed HPC
HPC Wire (03/31/06) Vol. 15, No. 13,Feldman, Michael

Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist Ralph Castain says the open-source OpenRTE project aims to: Supply a seamless, transparent distributed computing environment where users can perform their applications in a single cluster or on multiple clusters, and/or blend individual applications, without having to revise their application code; generate a resilient, production-quality platform where high-performance computing (HPC) applications are executable; and create a malleable system built atop a component framework that lets developers "overload" any OpenRTE operation, thus effecting the required research to support new enhanced features in a production environment. Castain describes OpenRTE as both complementary to and an evolution of grid computing technology. OpenRTE's design owes something to developers' previous experience with grid-based computing, but there are notable distinctions. Unlike grid computing, OpenRTE uses a component- rather than Web-services-based architecture and is designed to work exclusively on the user level and concentrate solely on scientific or technical applications. The evolutionary nature of OpenRTE lies in its support of the distributed, interconnected computing model at the core of grid computing. Castain expects the evolution of OpenRTE to move forward in two domains--the enablement of new HPC capabilities and the simplification of HPC computing. The scientist believes the latter of these two developments will encourage more people to join the HPC community.
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The Best of Times in Science and Tech
CNet (04/03/06) Olsen, Stefanie

In a recent interview, SRI International CEO Curt Carlson shared his thoughts on the future of science and innovation. Carlson said that SRI, an autonomous nonprofit since its spinoff from Stanford University in 1970, is conducting extensive research in bio-informatics, using computing technology to develop new drugs. An SRI technology for a robotic surgery that uses probes to allow a doctor to work inside the chest cavity without having to make a large incision, or even be physically present during the procedure, spawned Intuitive Surgical, now a $4 billion company. DARPA has recently awarded SRI and Intuitive Surgical a grant to scale the technology down further to make it usable in battlefield situations. Carlson believes in the "genius of the team" when it comes to innovation, insisting that everybody in an organization must be involved in the process to create a true climate of innovation. The convergence of different discoveries has transformed the way scientists practice their craft and ushered in an era of unprecedented opportunity in science and technology, according to Carlson, who noted that since 1950, the greatest increase in productivity in a five-year period has been in the last five years, in spite of the dot-com bust, the Sept. 11 attacks, and the war on terror. In computing, Carlson said the Internet still needs to be faster and safer, and that a whole new architecture is needed. He also notes that the United States fails to produce enough computer scientists, and that declining levels of interest come from the media reporting more about an industry in decline rather than the tremendous opportunities available today. Carlson believes that scientific research is in good shape, but that the key to success is a collaborative approach, rather than the do-it-yourself model of the large corporate facility. SRI focuses now on putting together teams of experts from different organizations to move quickly and in a decentralized fashion, and considers team building one of the disciplines of innovation.
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Internet Injects Sweeping Change Into U.S. Politics
New York Times (04/02/06) P. 1; Nagourney, Adam

With November's midterm election fast approaching, Democrats and Republicans alike are stepping up their use of email, interactive Web sites, candidate and party blogs, and text messaging to organize get-out-the-vote efforts and assemble crowds for rallies. One reason why party operatives say they are increasingly relying on the Internet to get their message across is because using the Web is far more efficient and less costly than traditional methods such as knocking on doors or running telephone banks. In addition, new technology--such as podcasts featuring a daily downloaded message from a candidate, or so-called viral attack videos, designed to set off peer-to-peer distribution by email chains without being associated with any candidate or campaign--allows campaigns to target a more specific audience than a TV ad. Analysts also say the Internet could be a good way for both parties to target young voters. Carol Darr of the Institute for Politics, Democracy, and the Internet at George Washington University says that 80 percent of people ages 18 to 34 who contributed to John Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign made their contributions online. But although the Internet has proven useful for both parties to reach their political base--who tend to visit and linger at political sites--it has proven to be less effective at swaying voters who are not interested in politics. And in this age of multitasking, voters are not as captive to a Web site as they may be to a TV ad or a campaign mailing. "It's very easy to look at something and just click delete," said Carl Forti with the National Republican Congressional Committee.
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U.S. Slow to Switch to New Web Protocol
Washington Times (03/31/06) P. C11; Caterinicchia, Dan

Although the Defense Department began to switch over to IPv6 in 2003, the United States has fallen behind many nations in Asia and Europe in the transition as the 2008 deadline approaches. Under the current IPv4, less than 24 percent of the possible addresses are unused, while the new protocol could provide trillions of unique addresses for every human being. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) set the 2008 deadline for federal agencies to adopt the new protocol after a Government Accountability Office report found that the Defense Department was alone among federal agencies in preparing for the transition. The Chinese government is subsidizing the transition for its telecommunications companies, and Japan and the EU are offering incentives for businesses to make the switch. U.S. transition activities have been predominantly funded by the private sector. China is also preparing to host the 2008 Summer Olympics, which it intends to use as a showcase for its technological capabilities. To keep pace, some industry members have called for the creation of a dedicated transition office, though OMB has no intentions of creating such an organization. "IPv6 is part of the IT investments that are already included in the E-Gov and IT offices' responsibilities," OMB's Alex Conant said. Only about 10 percent of the world's 8,000 Internet service providers currently offer IPv6, and practical benefits of the new protocol for consumers are not likely to appear earlier than three or four years.
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Technologist Proposes Net Neutrality Solution
Telephony Online (03/29/06) Wilson, Carol

Former FCC CTO David Farber has proposed the formation of an independent group of experts to determine the future of Net neutrality, much as such groups have addressed issues such as spectrum allocation in the past. Such a group will allow for a coherent debate without the glare of the press. "We can get together under the auspices of CMU [Carnegie Mellon University, where he is currently affiliated] and Penn and people can talk and say things they mean without attribution," says Farber. He says, "It has to be fast and it has to inform the Congress with a set of facts." The group Farber has in mind would be comprised of expert economists, regulatory officials, and technologists. The debate over Net neutrality pits cable and telecom firms against content providers such as Google and Yahoo! as well as providers of various services, including VoIP. Normally, Farber says such issues would be handled by the National Research Council, but that process takes too long. Farber has an extensive background in Internet technology and distributed computing. He was involved in the design and implementation of Computer Science Net, NSFNet, and NASAs Research and Education Network, all forerunners to today's Internet. He also worked for 11 years at Bell Labs, where he helped design the first electronic switching system, which is now core technology for today's phone network.
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U.S. Retakes Lead in Ranking of Tech Readiness
Associated Press (03/28/06)

The United States has recaptured its ranking as the most tech-ready nation in the World Economic Forum's networked readiness index after temporarily losing it to Singapore, marking the third time in five years that America has led the rest of the world. The forum based its assessment on such factors as low telephone and Internet pricing and the quality of math and science education. "The long pipeline of scientific and technological innovation is a remarkable source of strength for the U.S. economy," noted report co-editor Augusto Lopez-Claros, while co-editor Soumitra Dutta with the INSEAD international business school cited the ready availability of venture capital as well as broad collaboration between research entities and business. The forum still awarded high marks to second-place holder Singapore, which made the top three rankings of the index for the fourth year in a row on the strength of its outstanding regulatory domain and world-class levels of education and training. Denmark was ranked the third most tech-ready country, while Iceland, Finland, and Sweden ranked fourth, fifth, and eighth, respectively; the Nordic nations were cited for their friendliness toward new business ventures and a bent for embracing the latest technologies.
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Native Language Domains Threaten 'Net
Network World (03/27/06) Vol. 23, No. 12, P. 7; Marsan, Carolyn Duffy

ICANN's delay in implementing internationalized domain names (IDNs) threatens the foundations of the Internet itself, say experts. While ICANN this summer plans to run a test bed for IDNs, countries such as China, Egypt, Iran, and Saudi Arabia are moving ahead with plans of their own without the approval of ICANN. These and other countries that do not use the Roman script no longer want to wait for ICANN to implement suggestions made by the IETF in 2003 regarding the introduction of non-English language characters in the DNS infrastructure. Currently there is a single DNS root run by ICANN, but the introduction of alternative naming systems could splinter that root, which would lead to multiple networks run by individual countries. The issue will likely be at the forefront of the upcoming ICANN meeting in New Zealand. "ICANN's lack of action with IDNs has created a vacuum that is the prime enabler of countries that are interested in running alternative roots," says Rodney Jaffe, chairman and CTO of UltraDNS and a member of ICANN's Security and Stability Advisory Committee, which is scheduled to present a report detailing the status of IDNs and the possibility of alternative DNS roots. "Instead of being 12 or 15 countries that talk about running their own root infrastructure, there will probably be 40 to 60 countries talking about it at the New Zealand meeting." ICANN's test bed will include two approaches, one inserting IDN records into the root zone of the DNS and the other, advocated by the IETF, which changes non-ASCII characters into ASCII equivalents. IDNs are already available for some country codes and gTLDs such as .info and .org. Microsoft plans to provide support for IDNs in the next version of Internet Explorer, due out later this year, while other browsers, including Mozilla and Netscape, are already IDN-capable. "We think IDNs are going to snowball," says Register.com's Rob Holmes. "We currently have IDNs in 40 extensions. The greatest preponderance of them is in .com, .net and .org. But a big growth area is for .de [Germany] and .cn [China]."
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On the Fly
Defense News (03/27/06) Vol. 21, No. 13, P. 24; Fabey, Michael

Developers at Boeing Phantom Works have designed software to collect and process data from the Global Information Grid (GIG) that military planners can use to reroute planes in the middle of a mission. The software connects to the GIG through modules that are essentially plug-and-play. "These GIG-enabling technologies demonstrate they can provide both the aircrew and the commanders with an unparalleled view of the common operating picture, as well as improved real-time situational awareness," said Boeing's Patrick Stokes. "This dramatically improves their ability to complete missions in a dynamic, time-critical environment." Existing communications channels lack the speed to relay maps, sensor tracking data, and other electronic information about a changing battlefield landscape to jets already en route in real time. Targets change positions more frequently and rapidly today than they did even in recent engagements such as Desert Storm. Some time next decade, the U.S. Air Force will launch the Transformation Satellite (TSAT) constellation, which will enable aircraft to connect to the GIG, though in the meantime defense contractors are preparing software and patches to upgrade the existing communications infrastructure. Boeing claims that pilots and crew members can use the software to receive and transmit images, maps displaying the position of friendly and hostile forces, and other tactically relevant information. The Air Force Research Laboratory has contracted Boeing Phantom Works since 2004 to develop machine-to-machine communication in an attempt to deliver the same data to air and ground crews. The Air Force calls this the infosphere, the "system of systems that integrates, aggregates, and distributes information to users at all echelons, from the command center to the battlefield," taking advantage of technologies used in Web development and e-commerce.
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2020 Computing: Science in an Exponential World
Nature (03/22/06) Vol. 440, No. 7083, P. 413; Szalay, Alexander; Gray, Jim

With the volume of scientific data doubling annually in many disciplines, the traditional scientist's notebook is no longer sufficient to manage and analyze the results of most research projects, and the fundamental methods by which science is practiced could be shaken to their core as data production continues its exponential progression, write Johns Hopkins University's Alexander Szalay and Microsoft Research's Jim Gray. Though most scientists use some type of desktop application to manage their data, these programs cannot scale to the level required to analyze datasets with millions of records, let alone the petabyte-level of data production soon to materialize from projects such as the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope. Databases have become an essential tool for pattern identification and analysis, but there is a shortage of adequate data-visualization tools. Experiment documentation and reproduction also become serious concerns as science comes to rely more heavily on computer programs that change rapidly, take on new formats, or become obsolete. The growing trend of interdisciplinary collaboration means that data sets travel between departments, requiring graduate students to have at least a basic familiarity with data management, statistics, and the concepts of computation. Data sharing standards are critical in the areas of formatting, semantics, and workflow to ensure that scientists sharing information are not hindered by proprietary formats. Multidisciplinary databases enable scientists to build on existing repositories with new data, expanding the shared knowledge base and enriching the value of their own experiment. Though shared data sets are designed to prevent scientists from having to reinvent the wheel, the speed of the Internet has not increased apace with the volume of data, and distributed computing raises questions about security, cost, and public access to the information, which few archives currently address.
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March of the Qubits
New Scientist (03/25/06) Vol. 189, No. 2544, P. 42; Cho, Dan

University of Oxford physicist David Deutsch has revised his timetable for the development of a practical quantum computer from 20 years to 10, thanks to a discussion with Oxford researcher Simon Benjamin about cluster states, also known as one-way computing. All approaches to quantum computing, which exploits both the superposition and quantum entanglement of quantum bits (qubits), have thus far run up against the same obstacle: The challenge of maintaining entanglement while executing calculations. One-way computing, proposed five years ago by scientists at Germany's Ludwig Maximilian University, offers a new quantum computer architecture in which the qubits are arranged so that all entanglements needed for the calculation are established at the outset. Every step of the calculation boasts its own series of qubits in a cluster state, as opposed to the traditional method of performing multiple operations over time on a given set of qubits. This necessitates the computer configuring entangled qubits into a grid divided into columns, measuring the state of the qubits in the first column and making the appropriate physical modifications to the next column, and so on until the answer to the calculation is yielded in the measurement of the final column. Several research teams have proposed a system in which the properties of "stationary" qubits and photons are combined, allowing any qubit to be measured or manipulated without interfering with its neighbors. The technique should give quantum computers the scalability for carrying out bigger and bigger computations.
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The Spies Inside
InformationWeek (03/27/06)No. 1082, P. 34; Chabrow, Eric

Law enforcement officials, IT professionals, and industry watchdogs are taking new approaches to controlling PC adware and spyware, as past efforts have yielded few effective measures. Organized criminal groups are involved in much of the spyware designed to steal individual identities, money, and trade secrets, according to Chris Painter with the U.S. Justice Department. Spyware is a problem with an international scope, and is harder to curb because much of the malware installed on PCs hails from nations where virtual crime is a great temptation to skilled but underemployed people. Adware, meanwhile, is employed to track users' Web habits for marketing and advertising purposes, sometimes without users' consent; critics draw little if any distinction between adware and spyware, given the surreptitious nature of both, according to Overstock.com's Jonathan Johnson. The threat of adware and spyware is prompting PC users to exercise more caution when surfing the Web or trying new software. FTC action against adware company 180solutions was requested by the Center for Democracy and Technology in January on the grounds that the company repeatedly and intentionally attempted to trick Internet users into downloading intrusive software. 180solutions paid Web publishers or affiliates to distribute the software without adequate oversight to make sure installation proceeded only when user permission was secured; 180solutions claims it spent $2.5 million on software to deter this practice, but the software is not foolproof. Criticism from the likes of the Center for Democracy and Technology may spur adware to reform such deceptive methods and attain a measure of legitimacy as an advertising medium, eventually becoming a workable tool for people to access free content.
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Searching and Ranking Ontologies on the Semantic Web
University of Southampton (ECS) (03/29/06) Thomas, Edward; Alani, Harith; Sleeman, Derek

Applications for ontology searching, retrieval, and ranking are becoming increasingly essential enablement tools for ontology search and reuse. One such example is OntoSearch, which can be used to capture and mine ontologies on the Semantic Web. With OntoSearch, a user can specify different kinds of criteria (types of files to be returned, types of entities to be matched by each keyword, partial or precise matches on entities, and a sub-graph to be searched for), and retrieve a number of ontologies that match the criteria for the user to visualize and assess. OntoSearch currently allows two search strategies: A structure-based search using a simple query language that permits the inclusion of all identified requirements, and a more narrow, keyword-based search for classes. The first type of search describes sub-graphs that might be found in an ontology via an N/Triples-based query format, and builds queries from several such fragments, assigning dollar signs to variables to link each fragment and assemble structural searches, and then returning matching ontologies to the user. The second type of search looks for correspondences in class names, labels, and comments, using keywords and other data inputted into the search form to construct a query in a language used for all other OntoSearch queries. The system returns both a reference for every criteria-matching ontology and the URL of each matching class contained in that ontology. AKTiveRank is a prototype ontology-ranking system that applies class match, hierarchical centrality, structural density, and semantic similarity measures to all returned ontologies, and aggregates them into a overall ontology score.
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Six Degrees of Reputation: The Use and Abuse of Online Review and Recommendation Systems
First Monday (03/06) Vol. 11, No. 3,David, Shay; Pinch, Trevor

Cornell University's Shay David and Trevor Pinch probed online economies of reputation and user practices in online product reviews at several leading e-commerce sites through quantitative and qualitative analysis, and they indicate that hundreds of product reviews on Amazon.com might be duplicates, based on cases whereby book and CD reviews were partially or entirely copied from one item to another. "What we hoped to gain from studying these cases is a better understanding of the system as a whole, not only where it 'fails' but also to get a sense of its potential when it functions properly," the authors write. David and Pinch say the production and exchange of these information goods is being affected as barriers between authors and readers collapse, and they take note of the methods authors, editors, and readers use to guarantee the promotion of their agendas and the forging of expert identities. Of the various reputation management strategies and practices the authors study, the most common usage for reused reviews was the promotion of an agenda, product, or opinion. The authors suggest a framework for talking about the changes of the authorship, creativity, expertise, and reputation classifications being re-negotiated as the reputation economy transitions to a tiered model. They cite Lawrence Lessig's model of norms, law, markets, and code and their interactions as a useful tool for comprehending the shifting landscape of online recommendation systems, as the four categories collectively establish regulations on acceptable and unacceptable human behavior, which in turn determines the regulation of individuals, groups, organizations, communities, or states. David and Pinch also point to Lessig's axiom of how power nexuses influence a combination of these categories to bolster their long-standing interests, and that the creation of a more just and equitable society hinges on an understanding of and intervention in such interplay. The authors observe that code, norms, and law directly influence what is evidently an activity within a market--online CD and book sales, in this case--while markets should play a role as the system matures; users' power to interpret technologies and employ them in increasingly novel contexts should be added to the equation, David and Pinch contend, and the kinds of user practices they document lead to the conclusion that the online reviewing system will stabilize to a certain degree.
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