March’10 Snippets (Google Funding, Web Accessibility: A Foundation for Research, Hunkin’s Hypothesis, Web Science Institute, 508 Draft, and Call for UAAG 2.0 Review)

Information Dump

Information Dump

Through the course of the month there are a few small snippets of information, thoughts, views, or opinions that I wish to keep a note about but do not want to devote a huge amount of time to, or create a major blog post about. The idea is that I really only want to create at maximum two/three blog posts a month, at a minimum one post a month, but with some substance as opposed to many blog posts which are really just announcements or rehashing of old information. In this case I decided to create a unified information dump for the end of each month so that the information is recorded and linked to other sources, but does not occupy many tedious blog entries. In this case, he’s my data dump for the previous month.

  1. Google funds new research to help blind web surfers: Drs Andy Brown, Caroline Jay and Simon Harper who are based at the University’s School of Computer Science, have already developed a prototype screen reader that has been successfully tested on blind web surfers in an independent evaluation. The team used specialist eye tracking techniques to find out how sighted people interact with complex Web pages so they could translate the pages into audio…
  2. Web Accessibility: A Foundation for Research - Cover Image

    Web Accessibility: A Foundation for Research

    Web Accessibility: A Foundation for Research [|]: Doing well after a year and a half of being released; we just got the latest sales figures. At least the chapter authors knowledge is getting out there and hopefully making a difference within the Accessibility research domain. The book covers key areas of evaluation and methodology, client-side applications, specialist and novel technologies, along with initial appraisals of disabilities, this important book provides a comprehensive coverage of web accessibility.
    Harper, Simon; Yesilada, Yeliz (Eds.) (2008). Web Accessibility: A Foundation for Research Web Accessibility: A Foundation for Research, 1 (1) : 10.1007/978-1-84800-050-6
  3. Comment on Hunkin’s Hypothesis: ‘Technology Is What Makes Us Human’: I quite like the idea that ‘technology is what makes us human’ and I can seem some similarities between this work and the general ideas of cognitive science as discussed in Norman’s 1982 paper: ‘the idea was that domains strongly shape cognition, and that studying and supporting cognition in real and complex domains is salutary, if not essential, for developing a science of cognition and, of course, for applying it to real problems.’However, Hunkin’s more detailed quote seems too strong: ‘Technology isn’t just something outside ourselves, it’s an innate part of human nature, like sex, sleeping or eating, and that its been a major driving force in evolution. Tool using, along with language and bipedalism, is essentially what makes us human. The complicated theories used to explain why we first stood up are largely unnecessary. Our hands simply became too useful for holding tools to waste them on walking.’I could see how that if taken in an illustrative context it could be quite insightful, in that Humans are the only species which create more complex technologies (I’m not including chimps stone tooling as technology here) and so I can see how we could be defined by the technology we produce, or that complex technology is a predictor of humanity.
  4. UK Web Science Institute: It seems that the UK government is devoting £30 million to the creation of a new Web Science Institute. I can see that this may be politically expedient; the Web being one of the most powerful facilitators for human interaction and information dissemination that we currently have. The real proof will be in just exactly what evolves from this initiative, how that £30 million is spent, and what the focus will be as the Institute develops. It isn’t really certain yet who owns ‘Web Science’ but I would think that the many different views and takes on what Web Science really is, and the heterogeneity of the World Wide Web itself, will mean there will be many-a debate. While, the Web Science Institute seems a reasonable enough idea I hope that the funding will not just be confined to those researchers and scientists who tow the line and follow the accepted path set out by the Institute. The Web did not evolve in this way and it would seem churlish to expect research scientists to now follow some centralised vision of what Web Science is and how it should be investigated. However, on the brighter side I imagine this will be good news for many-a research scientist in the UK.
  5. 508 Draft is Released: The US Federal Governments draft 508 document is released.
  6. Call for Review: UAAG 2.0 and Implementing UAAG 2.0 Working Drafts: I’m a member of a user agents working group, and I been working with a number of other good people (volunteers) on these guidelines for the last two years. Until you go through this process you cannot realise how much work is involved, day in day out, in creating guidelines like these. Even though they are not the longest set of guidelines within the Web accessibility initiative the amount of time taken double guessing meanings, understanding intentions, and just plain wordsmithing, is huge. So let’s have your input, it’ll make my job so much easier.

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