Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

OpenAg PhotologOpenAgSun, Nov 4, 15:46 UTC

As part of my work in developing the Knowledge Futures Group collaboration with the MIT Press, I'm doing a deep dive into trying to understand the world of academic publishing. One of the interesting things that I discovered as I navigated the different protocols and platforms was the Digital Object Identifier (DOI). There is a foundation that manages DOIs and coordinates a federation of registration agencies. DOIs are used for many things, but the general idea is to create a persistent identifier for some digital object like a dataset or a publication and manage it at a meta-level to the URL, which might change over the lifetime of the drafting and the publication of an academic journal article or the movement of a movie through a supply chain.

One registration agency, Crossref, focuses on DOIs for academic publications and citations across these publications and their service has proliferated the use of DOIs as a convenient and effective way of rigorously managing and tracking citations. Many services, like ORCID which manages affiliations and publications for academics, use DOIs as one way to import and manage publications.

Although DOIs can be used for many things, because they are somewhat non-trivial to get and set up and because of the success of Crossref which services academic publishers, they have become somewhat synonymous with authority, trustworthiness and formal publishing. Although Geoffrey Bilder from Crossref warns us that this is not true and that DOIs shouldn't signal that, I think that in fact they do, for now.

Something I noted as I started playing with all of the various tools available to academics to manage their profiles and their citations, and having only one peer reviewed paper to my name so far (thanks Karthik, Chelsea and Madars for that!), was that my blog posts weren't getting indexed. Also, as I was doing research while working on my dissertation, I noticed that blogs generally weren't very heavily cited. Using my privilege and in the name of research, I started bugging Amy Brand, director of the MIT Press, who worked on the adoption of DOIs when she was at Crossref. I asked whether I could get DOIs for my blog posts.

It wasn't as easy as it sounds. First of all, you need a DOI prefix--sort of like a domain--registered through one of the registration providers. Amy helped me get one, under the MIT Press, via Crossref. Boris defined the DOI suffix format, set up a submission generator and integrated everything into my blog. Alexa from MIT Press worked on getting the DOIs from my blog to Crossref. The next problem is that "blogs" are not a category of "thing" in the DOI world so the closest category according to the experts was "dataset." So, this thing, formerly known as a blog post, that I'm writing is now a dataset contribution to the scholarly world. I do believe that it meets the standard of something that someone might possibly want to cite, so I don't feel guilty having a DOI assigned to it. I hope that Crossref would consider adding a blog post "creationType" or extend the schema more broadly for other citable web resources.

Also, I wish APA would update their blog citation format so that the name of the blog is part of the citation and not just the URL. In a rare act of disobedience, I've gone rogue and added the name of this blog in the APA citation template on this blog against their official guidelines. Strictly speaking, the APA citation for this post would be "Ito, J. (2018, August 22). Blog DOI enabled. [Blog post]. https://doi.org/10.31859/20180822.2140" but the citation tool here gives you: "Ito, J. (2018, August 22). Blog DOI enabled. Joi Ito's Web [Blog post]. https://doi.org/10.31859/20180822.2140". Sorry not sorry if you get dinged on your paper for using the modified format.

When I tweeted about the issue of blog posts not being cited, one of the concerns from the Twittersphere was lack of peer review for blogs. I think this is a valid request and concern, but not all things that are worthy of being cited need to be peer reviewed. On the other hand, clearly citing others, noting any contributors and their contribution to a blog post, and having some sort of peer review when it makes sense, is probably a good idea.

I'm not stuck on the use of the world "blog" although that's what I think this is. I just think that having an ability to rapidly publish, as blogs enable us to do, and have it connect to the world of academic literature is something worth considering.

Recently, academic preprint servers have become very popular and a growing number of academics are skipping journal publishing altogether, putting their papers on archive servers and presenting them at conferences instead of submitting them to journals.

My sense is that blogs can play a role in this ecosystem if we can tweak the academic publishing side, the culture on both sides and some of the practices on the blogging side. Geoffrey suggests that DOIs should be assigned to anything that is citationworthy and I agree, but I think that blogs are and could be even more like informal publications than just a merely citationworthy blobs of data.

Boris Anthony who has been my partner in thinking about this stuff and has been designing and maintaining my blog for the last 15 years or so has been thinking deeply about the semantic web and the creation of knowledge and was critical in getting it sorted out on this blog. He was also the one who convinced me not to convert all of my blog posts into DOI'ed objects, but to pick the ones that might have some scholarly value. :-)

PS There appears to be a DOI plugin for Wordpress using a prefix registered by the developer.

Credits

Boris Anthony for doing the actual technical and design work to get the DOIs deployed on this site and for help with the ideas and the editing of the post.

Amy Brand for her guidance in getting, understanding and writing about DOIs.

Alexa Masi for helping us sort out how to get the DOIs properly formatted and sent over to Crossref.

34581570_10156015313486998_718869846225321984_o.jpgIn 2011, when we announced that I would join the Media Lab as the new Director, many people thought it was an unusual choice partially because I had never earned a higher degree - not even an undergraduate degree. I had dropped out of Tufts as well as the University of Chicago and had spent most of my life doing all sorts of weird jobs and building and running companies and nonprofits.

I think it took quite a bit of courage on the part of the Media Lab and MIT to hire a Director with no college degree, but once we got over the hump, some felt it was a kind of "badge of honor." (I'm also sure, not everyone felt this way.)

Jun Murai, father of the Japanese Internet and my mentor in Japan, who is the Dean of the Graduate School of Media and Governance at Keio University in Japan, had been encouraging me to complete a PhD in his program. We had been discussing this in earnest from June 2010,when they confirmed that Keio would be OK with awarding a PhD to someone without a Bachelor's or a Master's degree. When I joined the Media Lab, I asked the co-founder and first Director of the Lab, Nicholas Negroponte, whether it would help me if I completed the PhD. He recommended (at the time) that I not complete the PhD because it was more interesting that I didn't have a degree.

Eight years later, I am often referred to as "the academic" when I'm on panels; I advise and work with many students including PhD students. It felt that it was time to finish the PhD. In other words, one product of my profession is degrees and I felt like I needed to try the product. Even Nicholas agreed when I asked him.

The degree that I earned is a "Thesis PhD" which is a less common type of PhD that you don't see very much in the US. It involves writing about and defending the academic value and contribution of your work, rather than doing new work in residence in an institution. The sequencing and the ordering is different than typical PhDs.

The process involved writing a dissertation and putting together a package that was accepted by the university. After that, a committee was formally constituted with Jun Murai as the lead advisor and Rod Van Meter, Keiko Okawa, Hiroya Tanaka, and Jonathan Zittrain as committee members and thesis readers. They provided feedback and detailed critique on the thesis, which I rewrote based on this feedback. Oh June 6, I defended the thesis publicly at Keio University and, based on the questions and feedback from the defense, I rewrote the dissertation again.

On June 21 I had a final exam, which involved a presentation to the committee of all of the changes and responses to the criticisms and suggestions. The committee had a closed-door discussion and formally accepted the dissertation. I rewrote, formatted, and polished the dissertation some more and submitted the final version in printed form on July 20.

Finally, on behalf of the committee, Jun Murai prepared and presented the case at a faculty meeting on July 30, 2018 where they voted and awarded the PhD.

Although by definition and according to rules the dissertation is entirely my own work, I couldn't have done it without the help of my advisors, collaborators, and all of the people I've worked with over the years.

While I started this project mostly to understand the process and "see what it was like" to work on a degree, I learned a lot during the process of researching, reading, and talking to people about my dissertation. The dissertation, titled "The Practice of Change", is available online both in PDF and in LaTeX as a GitHub repo. It's a summary of a lot of the work that I've done so far, a question about how we understand, design solutions for, and try to address the current challenges to our society, and how the work going on at the Media Lab might be applied to or provide inspiration for people trying to work on addressing these challenges.

In some ways, the dissertation feels like I've gone around and kicked a dozen hornet's nests. I've mostly stayed out of extremely academic discourse in the past, but the process of trying to understand a number of different disciplines to try to understand and describe the context of my work has caused me to wade into many old and new arguments. I'm sure that many of my forays into various disciplines will cause annoyance to those well versed in those disciplines, but those constructive criticisms that I've received about my treatment of various disciplines have surfaced an exciting array of future work for me.

So while I do not believe that I have yet become a "serious academic" or that I will be focused primarily on research and academic output, I feel like I've discovered a new lens through which to look at things -- a new world to explore. It reminds me of entering a new zone in a game like World of Warcraft where there are new quests, new skills, new reps to grind, and lots of new things to learn. So fun.

Credits

To my late godfather Timothy Leary for “Question Authority and Think For Yourself.”

To Jun Murai for pushing me to do this dissertation.

To my thesis advisors: Hiroya Tanaka, Rodney D. Van Meter, Keiko Okawa and Jonathan L. Zittrain for their extensive feedback, guidance and encouragement.

To Nicholas Negroponte for the Media Lab and his mentorship.

To the late Kenichi Fukui for encouraging me to think about complex systems and the limits of reduction.

To the late John Perry Barlow for the “Declaration of Independence of Cyberspace.”

To Hashim Sarkis for sending me in the direction of Foucault.

To Martin Nowak for his guidance on Evolutionary Dynamics.

To my colleagues at MIT and particularly at the Media Lab for continuous inspiration and my raison d’être.

To my research colleagues Karthik Dinakar, Chia Evers, Natalie Saltiel, Pratik Shah, and Andre Uhl for helping me with everything, including this thesis.

To Yuka Sasaki, Stephanie Strom, and Mika Tanaka for their help on helping me pull this dissertation together.

To David Weinberger for “The final edit.”

To Sean Bonner, Danese Cooper, Ariel Ekblaw, Pieter Franken, Mizuko Ito, Mike Linksvayer, Pip Mothersill, Diane Peters, Deb Roy and Jeffrey Shapard for their feedback on various parts of the dissertation.

Finally, thanks to Kio and Mizuka for making room in our family life to work on this and for supporting me through the process.

On May 13, 2018, I innocently asked:

240 replies later, it is clear that blogs don't make it into the academic journalsphere and people cited two main reasons, the lack of longevity of links and the lack of peer review. I would like to point out that my blog URLs have been solid and permanent since I launched this version of my website in 2002 but it's a fairly valid point. There are a number of ideas about how to solve this, and several people pointed out that The Internet Archive does a pretty good job of keeping an archive of many sites.

There was quite a bit of discussion about peer review. Karim Lakhani posted a link about a study he did on peer review:

In the study, he says that, "we find that evaluators systematically give lower scores to research proposals that are closer to their own areas of expertise and to those that are highly novel."

Many people on Twitter mentioned pre-prints which is an emerging trend of publishing drafts before peer review since it can take so long. Many fields are skipping formal peer review and just focusing on pre-prints. In some fields ad hoc and informal peer groups are reviewing pre-prints and some journals are even referring to these informal review groups.

This sounds an awful lot like how we review each other's work on blogs. We cite, discuss and share links -- the best blog posts getting the most links. In the early days of Google, this would guarantee being on the first page of search results. Some great blog posts like Tim O'Reilly's "What Is Web 2.0" have ended up becoming canonical. So when people tell me that their professors don't want them to cite blogs in their academic papers, I'm not feelin' it.

It may be true that peer review is better than the alternatives, but it definitely could be improved. SCIgen, invented in 2005 by MIT researchers creates meaningless papers that have been successfully submitted to conferences. In 2014 Springer and IEEE removed more than 120 papers when a French researcher discovered that they were computer-generated fakes. Even peer review itself has been successfully imitated by machines.

At the Media Lab and MIT Press, we are working on trying to think about new ways to publish with experiments like PubPub. There are discussions about the future of peer review. People like Jess Polka at ASAPbio are working on these issues as well. Very excited about the progress, but a long way to go.

One thing we can do is make blogs more citation friendly. Some people on Twitter mentioned that it's more clear who did what in an academic paper than on a blog post. I started, at the urging of Jeremy Rubin, to put credits at the bottom of blog posts when I received a lot of help -- for example my post on the FinTech Bubble. Also, Boris just added a "cite" button at the bottom of each of my blog posts. Try it! I suppose the next thing is to consider DOI numbers for each post although it seems non-obvious how independent bloggers would get them without paying a bunch of money.

One annoying thing is that the citation format for blogs suck. When you Goggle, "cite blog post," you end up at... a blog post about "How to Cite a Blog Post in MLA, APA, or Chicago." According to that blog post, the APA citation for this post would be, "Ito, J. (2018, May). Citing Blogs. [Blog post]. https://joi.ito.com/weblog/2018/05/28/citing-blogs.html" That's annoying. Isn't the name of my blog relevant? If you look at the Citing Electronic Sources section of the MIT Academic Integrity website, they link to the Purdue OWL page. Purdue gives a slightly more cryptic example using a blog comment in the square brackets, but roughly similar. I don't see why the name of my blog is less important than some random journal so I'm going to put it in italics - APA guidelines be damned. Who do we lobby to change the APA guidelines to lift blog names out of the URL and into the body of the citation?

Credits

Boris Anthony, Travis Rich for the work on citations for this blog and the discussion about the citation format.

Amy Brand for the link to the Peer Review Transparency site and the introduction to Jess Polka.

On Ethics and Techno-Utopianism at the Media Lab »

I received a lot of excited feedback from people who saw the 60 Minutes segment on the Media Lab. I also got a few less congratulatory messages questioning the "gee-whiz-isn't-this-all-great" depiction of the Lab and asking why we seemed so relentlessly upbeat at a time when so many of the negative consequences of technology are coming to light. Juxtaposed with the first segment in the program about Aleksandr Kogan, the academic who created the Cambridge Analytica app that mined Facebook, the Media Lab segment appeared, to some, blithely upbeat. And perhaps it reinforced the sometimes unfair image of the Media...

Earth Day Energy Summit 2018 in Hawaii »

On Friday, I spoke at the Elemental Excelerator Earth Day Energy Summit in Honolulu. The discussion was about the push for Hawaii to become 100% free of fossil fuels. It reminded me of when my mother and I lived in Hawaii in the 80s and she was working with the late Senator Dick Matsuura and others to explore the idea. My mother and father worked for Energy Conversion Devices (ECD). (I got my first job working with computers as a 13-year-old at ECD. I would later join the board of directors from 1995 - 2000.) ECD was a pioneer...

My comments at the John Perry Barlow Memorial Symposium yesterday »

Yesterday, I participated in a memorial symposium John Perry Barlow's at the Internet Archive in San Francisco. It was amazing to see so many old friends that I realized I had missed so dearly. It really felt like Barlow was in the room - he was the energy that united us. It also reminded me of the roots of the Internet and how different the culture of many of the founders was from the Silicon Valley. It gave me hope that we still have a fire in our belly to continue the fight for freedom and liberty that John...

On Tea with Teachers »

One of the greatest things at MIT are the student run programs. One program is Tea with Teachers. It's a fun thing where they do short interviews with various "teacher" types at MIT and post them on YouTube. I got to do one with them in September last year and they just posted it last week. They also let me "highjack" their Instagram feed for a week too. And I'm sorry about the chicken....

PhDs, blogging and procrastination »

I'm in the middle of trying to write a PhD thesis to complete a PhD at Keio University. I was working on this when I got my current job at the Media Lab and Nicholas Negroponte told me that I should dump the idea of finishing a degree because my not having an earned degree was a badge of honor at this point. 7 years later, people call me "the academic" on panels and while some people are still "impressed" that I don't have a degree, just as many students wonder whether I really understand their point of view having...

Reducing Reduction Essay Competition »

Image by Nick Philip In November 2017, I wrote with the help of some colleagues, "Reducing Reduction: A Manifesto". We received a number of interesting responses so the Journal of Design and Science decided to use it to create an issue on the theme of Reducing Reduction. MIT Press announced an essay competition for a publication from MIT Press. Here are the details of the competition: The MIT Press and the MIT Media Lab announce a call for essays on the topic of resisting reduction, broadly defined, for the Journal of Design and Science. Essays should be in conversation...

Super-Presentation - It's a Wrap! »

Six years ago, NHK, the Japanese public broadcaster, approached me and asked me if I wanted to work on a TV show airing TED Talks that I would comment on. I'd do the comments with the camera on my laptop and just upload them from wherever I was. A few months later, NHK had cut a deal with TED, and I was sitting in front of five video cameras and a full crew in my office at the Media Lab, shooting a series called "Super-Presentation" for NHK's educational network. The show featured a TED talk (or two) and involved...

Resisting Reduction: A Manifesto »

Designing our Complex Future with Machines While I had long been planning to write a manifesto against the technological singularity and launch it into the conversational sphere for public reaction and comment, an invitation earlier this year from John Brockman to read and discuss The Human Use of Human Beings by Norbert Wiener with him and his illustrious group of thinkers as part of an ongoing collaborative book project contributed to the thoughts contained herein. The essay below is now phase 1 of an experimental, open publishing project in partnership with the MIT Press. In phase 2, a new version...

My email and task management protocol »

November 2010, before I "settled down" with a "real job." The last blog post I wrote was about how little time I have to do email and the difficulty in coping with it. Often when I meet new people, they quickly take a look at my blog and read the top post, which in this case is a whiny post about how busy I am - fine, but not exactly the most exciting place to start a conversation. The fact that I haven't written anything really interesting on this blog since then is a testament to the fact that...