Thoughts about SciBarCamp

(I will write a follow-up of resources for the "How can art benefit science?" discussion we had in another post shortly.)

Yesterday SciBarCamp took place here in Toronto, at University of Toronto's gorgeous Hart House.
Friday night, participants (about 100) gathered to meet, drink, introduce ourselves and decide on a program. Like ScienceOnline09 I attended in January, it was an unconference format, where participants are encouraged to be as active as possible. Ideally no lectures, more a facilitation of conversation.

So, some random thoughts I scribbled in my sketchbook throughout the highly active and thought-provoking sessions:

->The phrase "semantic web" was used a lot. A lot a lot. So much so, I began to count how many times. I noted it being said 36 times, and the word "semantic" even more.

->Science Commons, an extension of Creative Commons faces unique challenges to helping place scientific findings, developments and discoveries in the public domain. Unique challenges, country by country. One participant asked if Science Commons can't aggressively pursue a discovery by its nature belongs to everyone as part of reality, and short circuit notions of ownership over discoveries in court. Science Commons rep Kaitlin Thaney replied they prefer to remain an honest broker, and get people and group's buy-in on the concept.

->Science Communication discussion with Alicia Grubb had a lot of interesting ideas thrown around
. Did science sell-out, leading to an image problem? Is Kuhn's idea of science as being periodically overthrown in massive revolutions causing skepticism toward acceptance? Citing open notebooks instead of journals gaining acceptance in physics- and the potential problems if popular media starts to do so. Amazing way to achieve optimization of music data on a disk by using a collaborative system building on many individuals' work.

->Met Joel Sachs, amazing guy with a mind clearly running through possibilities much faster than mine (I think my mind divides its time with impossibilities).
With Jesse Greener, Joel discussed ways to harness groups to gather data on environmental impacts. For example, tons of of people recording local observations of migrating birds and plant buds year to year would give an idea of geographical places to look for climate change, such as the BioBlitz.

I couldn't help it: maybe just because I was watching The Matrix and Sara Connor recently, but I began to wonder if this is the type of data that one day would be used by an A.I. to create an artificial reality. A non-scary one. Let's say someone took at this data and merged it into Second Life. People would be able to virtually push themselves forward and backward in time and observe local phenomena simulations. If used long enough -let's say 10 million years, 'cuz why not- I could imagine future intelligences wishing those lazy folks back in the 21st century had at least gotten more data while despoiling the environment. Hopefully this "experiment" with our world isn't likely to happen again, and decentralized amateur records of as many local areas of flora and fauna would be great to virtually walk through. (Imagine a similar situation taking you back to the days following a K-T event).

->There was so much more. Getting away from "spatial determinism" with Sara Neault, the Encyclopedia of Problems and managing problems at cross-purposes and in feedback loops with Mark Tovey....

Thanks again to Eva Amsen for inviting me to such a great day. An thanks to the other organizers and sponsors! The day felt like big brainstorming sessions - no specific call to mobilize or solution to problems shone through, but I expect everyone had lots to walk away with and ponder. Who knows where it will lead?

As mentioned, I'll follow-up the discussion session I led about "Can art benefit science?" in the next couple of days.

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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow under Creative Commons Licence.
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