Showing posts from July, 2008

A sequence of three books or the aesthetics of the reading lists

As anyone acquainted with film editing or the order in which food and wine should be served knows too well, how you put together words, sounds or pictures is essential to the overall meaning of the whole. Sometimes, syntax is everything. After all, all the colours are already in the rainbow, all the sounds already silently vibrate in the chord of a violin, and all the words may be found in the OED. It is how you put them together that makes the difference. With this proviso, it is easy to see that the order in which we read macro-blocks of words - also known as books - makes a difference and sometimes a big one in our insights and appreciation. A reading list is not just a list, it is, in film jargon, a sequence, and as such it acquires a sense of its own. The book-sequence that I have in mind in this blog may seem rather peculiar, but then, sometimes, it is the unexpected juxtaposition of seemingly unrelated elements that represents the pleasant novelty. Here it is. It starts wit

WPE-2008 Workshop on Philosophy and Engineering

Following the first successful Workshop on Philosophy and Engineering at the University of Delft last year, WPE-2008 will be held at The Royal Academy of Engineering, Carlton House Terrace, London, from November 10-12 2008. This is a multi-disciplinary conference for philosophers, ethicists and engineers interested in the philosophical and ethical issues surrounding engineering and technology. Extended abstracts are now being invited on the following three ‘demes’: Philosophy, Ethics and Reflections from Practitioners. The deadline for abstracts is August 18 2008. For the call for papers click on the title. Further information is online. For further information, contact Natasha McCarthy on or David Goldberg on

NA-CAP 2008 Conference

NACAP is a great success this year, don't miss the booklet with the abstracts . The talks are all very interesting, Bloomington is lovely, Indiana University is great and the steaks are fabolous. Let us hope NACAP 2009 will also be hosted there!

Lively, Google's Second Life

Second Google? The giant is planning to find its space in web-based virtual environments. Here is a wiki article . You may wish to contribute to improve it. Unfortunately, expect more fragmentation. They say cats' have seven lives but they (the lives) all belong to them and they (the cats) are the same in all of them. Not so with virtual environments and ourselves. Yet, one day, changing avatars depending on the environment will seem a odd as it would be today to change car depending on the road on which you're driving. One day.

The relevance of Information

The following article: "Understanding Epistemic Relevance", Erkenntnis , 2008, 69.1, 69-92, is now in print. Here is the abstract. You may click on the title for the preprint. Agents require a constant flow, and a high level of processing, of relevant semantic information, in order to interact successfully among themselves and with the environment in which they are embedded. Standard theories of information, however, are silent on the nature of epistemic relevance. In this paper, a subjectivist interpretation of epistemic relevance is developed and defended. It is based on a counterfactual and metatheoretical analysis of the degree of relevance of some semantic information i to an informee/agent a , as a function of the accuracy of i understood as an answer to a query q , given the probability that q might be asked by a . This interpretation of epistemic relevance vindicates a strongly semantic theory of information, according to which semantic information encapsulate

Understanding who we are, online? offline? onlife!

Click on the title and you will be sent to a short, insightful piece on interpersonal perception (part of the wider phenomenon of interpersonal relationship ), that is, how we go about grasping each others' profiles, identities and personalities online (including ours'), and what the constants and variables are that make a difference in this process. Absolutely worth reading. A quick comment on aside: many of the points made are applicable to our life offline as well, and this is not surprising, if the threshold between the two is becoming increasingly porous. Ultimately, it will be onlife interpersonal relationship that will matter. When you apply for a job, don't forget to update your Facebook files .

Thinkers and visionaries share their ideas on the information revolution

It took some time, patience, convincing and the editorial skills of my PA and RA, but in the end, we did it: the PHILOSOPHY OF COMPUTING AND INFORMATION: 5 QUESTIONS is out. The book contains interviews with Margaret Boden, Valentino Braitenberg, Brian Cantwell Smith, Gregory Chaitin, Daniel Dennett, Keith Devlin, Fred Dretske, Hubert Dreyfus, Luciano Floridi, Tony Hoare, John McCarthy, John Searle, Aaron Sloman, Patrick Suppes, Johan van Benthem, Terry Winograd and Stephen Wolfram. Here is the Preface. When Vincent Hendricks invited me to contribute to, and edit, this volume on the Philosophy of Computing and Information (PCI), I was flattered. When I discovered that I had the freedom to invite some of the best researchers in the world to join me in the enterprise, and pick their brains about their experiences, interests and views, I was thrilled. It was only when I finally realised what it meant to coordinate such an effort that I was overwhelmed by its magnitude. After some th

CALL FOR PAPERS Software Quality Journal - Special Issue on Cultural Issues and Software Quality

With software development an increasingly globally integrated activity involving a complex chain of cooperating partners it is clear that culture can play an important role in determining the efficiency of the process and the efficacy of the software produced. SQJ wishes to address this important area in the form of a Special Issue. It is clear that approaches to software development can have culturally dependent outcomes, responses and effects. For example Open Source has produced differing responses in many parts of Asia than from those in many European countries. Likewise culturally diverse project teams are likely to have a fundamentally different dynamic to those of a more mono-cultural grouping and consequent impact on the software produced. Equally the groupist or individualist nature of the owner/ producer/actor/user may elicit varying software creations. Although research has been conducted into models of culturally sensitive software development, little work exists reportin

Presence 2008

From the website: Academics and practitioners with an interest in research, theory, technologies and applications related to the concept of (tele)presence are invited to submit their work for presentation at PRESENCE 2008 in Padova, Italy, on October 16-18, 2008. The goal of the PRESENCE 2008 conference is to bring together academic researchers studying presence, content and technology developers, and interested commercial parties so they can meet, share experiences, present research, and exchange ideas. Following the format of the previous successful PRESENCE workshops, PRESENCE 2008 will be an informal, highly interactive conference with distinguished invited speakers, paper presentations, special sessions on specific topics, and poster sessions. Ample time will be reserved for informal interactions between all participants, and several social events (included in the registration fee) will be organized to facilitate this. PRESENCE 2008 is organized by the International Society fo

Stealing Wi-Fi connectivity... who can throw the first modem?

Very entertaining and informative article from Time , don't miss it. And yes, I'm guilty too. The Residence in Bari, where I spent far too much time working by myself than I wish to remember, did not have any Internet connection. However, if I could place myself just at the right angle on the balcony (third floor, a rather risky exercise), a very feeble, yet still perceivable signal would reach me, as a drop of water in the desert, and I could be "onlife" again. Blessed be the user who did not password it (and the very good weather too, there are disadvantages about being in Oxford). I survived through many lonely weekends thanks to that digital tiny stream.

Philosophy's Relevance in Computer Science

From the website: The conference aims to present the multilayered reciprocal effects between philosophical basic reflection and applied research in the context of Philosophy and Information Science. It addresses a larger public and offers a forum of discussion between experts from different specialist areas. It will be held at the University of Paderborn, 3-4 October 2008.