Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

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Medical apocalypse

By Richard Gunderman, MD PhD
When many people hear the word apocalypse, they picture four remorseless horsemen bringing death and destruction during the world’s final days. In fact, the Greeks who introduced the word over 2,000 years ago had no intention of invoking the end times. Instead the word apocalypse, which is composed of the roots for “away” and “cover,” means to pull the cover away, to reveal, and to see hidden things.

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Social media and the culture of connectivity

By José van Dijck
In 2006, there appeared to be a remarkable consensus among Internet gurus, activists, bloggers, and academics about the promise of Web 2.0 that users would attain more power than they ever had in the era of mass media. Rapidly growing platforms like Facebook (2004), YouTube (2005), and Twitter (2006) facilitated users’ desire to make connections and exchange self-generated content.

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American copyright in the digital age

In 2010, Aaron Swartz, a 26-year-old computer programmer and founder of Reddit, downloaded thousands of scholarly articles from the online journal archive JSTOR. He had legal access to the database through his research fellowship at Harvard University; he also, however, had a history of dramatic activism against pay-for-content online services, having previously downloaded and released roughly 100,000,000 documents from the PACER database.

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Cyber attacks: electric shock

By Alfred Rolington
Cyber attacks on Iran have been well publicised in the press and on Western television. General William Shelton, a top American cyber general, has now turned these attacks around saying that these events are giving Iran a strategic and tactical cyber advantage creating a very serious “force to be reckoned with.”

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Are you still writing 2012 on your tweets?

Twitter is a joke factory, where professional comics and civilian jesters crank out one-liners round the clock. In that joke factory, there are popular models. Every day, new jokes play on phrases such as “Dance like no one is watching,” “Sex is like pizza,” and “When life hands you lemons.” While the repetition can be maddening, I’m impressed by how, inevitably, there’s always another good joke lurking in even the most tired formula.

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The future of information technologies in the legal world

By Richard Susskind
The uncharitable might say that I write the same book every four years or so. Some critics certainly accuse me of having said the same thing for many years. I don’t disagree. Since the early 80s, my enduring interest has been in the ways in which technology can modernize and improve the work of the legal profession and the courts. My main underpinning conviction has indeed not changed – that legal work is document and information intensive and that a whole host of information technologies can and should streamline and sometimes even overhaul traditional methods of practicing law and administering justice.

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On animals and tools

Try this experiment: Ask someone to name three tools, without thinking hard about it. This is a parlor game, not a scientific study, so your results may vary, but I’ve done this dozens of times and heard surprisingly consistent answers. The most common is hammer, screwdriver, and saw, in that order.

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In praise of the podcast

PB. The initials are not exactly as familiar as, say, BBC, or NPR, but we’re not operating in a massively different environment. PB: Philosophy Bites. Time was when to broadcast on the radio (or the ‘wireless’) you’d have to seek a license for permission to use a teeny weeny portion of the radio frequency spectrum. Broadcasting was time-consuming, bureaucratic, and above all expensive. It required staff and costly equipment and it was possible only with the support of highly-trained studio technicians and engineers. No longer

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How to avoid programming

By Robert St. Amant
What does a computer scientist do? You might expect that we spend a lot of our time programming, and this sometimes happens, for some of us. When I spend a few weeks or even months building a software system, the effort can be enormously fun and satisfying. But most of the time, what I actually do is a bit different. Here’s an example from my past work, related to the idea of computational thinking.

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The “Choice” Bazaar

Daniel Callahan
Some years ago I wrote a book on abortion that espoused women’s legal right to choose abortion, which was later cited in Roe v. Wade. It should have made me popular with feminists, but it did not and for one reason: I also argued that abortion is an ethical choice, and that not all abortions would necessarily be good choices. Trained as a philosopher, I pointed out that a traditional part of morality is deciding how to make good choices in the shaping of one’s life.

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Is the George Washington Bridge a work of art?

By David Blockley
Happy 81st Birthday, George Washington Bridge! The French architect Le Corbusier reportedly said you are “the most beautiful bridge in the world” – you “gleam in the sky like a reversed arch.” But are you really a work of art? The designer Othmar H. Ammann certainly was conscious of the need to make beautiful bridges.

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Computer programming is the new literacy

By Robert St. Amant
It’s widely held that computer programming is the new literacy. (Disagreement can be found, even among computing professionals, but it’s not nearly as common.) It’s an effective analogy. We all agree that everyone should be literate, and we might see a natural association between writing letters for people to read and writing programs for computers to carry out.

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Innovating with technology

By Mark Dodgson and David Gann
If you have ever been lucky enough to design and build a home, you would in the past have been confronted by technical drawings that are incomprehensible to anyone but trained architects. Nowadays you can have a computerised model of your house that lets you move around it in virtual reality so that you get a high fidelity sense of the layout and feel of rooms. That’s innovation.

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Avast, ye file sharers! Is Internet piracy dead?

The Internet has two faces. For every exercised freedom of speech and shared idea, there’s an act of fraud, counterfeiting, and copyright infringement. How is the law – in particular the English legal system – attempting to stem the tide of the last problem – online infringement – and take pirates down?

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Understanding ‘the body’ in fairy tales

By Scott B. Weingart and Jeana Jorgensen
Computational analysis and feminist theory generally aren’t the first things that come to mind in association with fairy tales. This unlikely pairing, however, can lead to important insights regarding how cultures understand and represent themselves. For example, by looking at how characters are described in European fairy tales, we’ve been able to show how Western culture tends to bias the younger generation, especially the men.

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Imagining the Internet and why it matters

By Robin Mansell
Societies are benefitting in numerous ways from an open Internet, not least because of the collaborative culture it seems to favour. Increasingly, however, national and regional legislative initiatives are raising questions about how citizens’ interests (freedom from monitoring of their online activities) can be reconciled with the interests of the state (securing their safety) and of companies (safeguarding their revenue streams).

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