Storybird are a new company who style themselves as advocates for imagination.  They rethink the contours of publishing, games and social interaction. Basically you sign up for free and you pick a style of artwork that you like from a range which are uploaded by artists. Then you use the art to create a story, adding in text as you like. Then you invite someone to collaborate. It was designed so that families could communicate and have fun even if they were apart or if they don’t often spend lots of face time together.

It has sections for artists, parents, teachers and children.

It is designed for children aged 3 – 13 and going on my experience, they LOVE it. I have two kids in this age range and they are busy making stories and reading way more than they ever were as a result of trying this out.

Next step is to set them up collaborating with their french Granny.

Here is the first one I made. Sweet.

What do you think?

What is your favourite web tool to use with children?


Transmission Revolutions

So, we have defined information to our satisfaction. Good.

Now we got to think about the  way that we have moved this stuff around in the past because there are some similarities to the way we use information today. The three main transmission methods in the past were oral, writing and print. All of them were revolutions.

The oral method was a big jump for us. We started to use sequences of sounds to represent ideas or things to others. The evolution of the voicebox was crucial here, physically. This method was learned by the whole community. It was shared. No point chatting away if the other person cannot understand the language, or the code, but when everyone is in on the concept, it transmits information pretty well. Information travelled slowly though, from person to person. It had to be memorised in order to be reliable. It had to be performed in order to transmit the correct tones and subtleties. But it worked, and it still works today.

Writing appeared in a number of geographical centres at the same time, along with agriculture. Unlike, oral information, the written word was fixed. There was less debate with what exactly the information was, as there was a record of it. Writing went hand in hand with new complicated systems such as beaurocracy. As a transmission method it allowed information to travel over time and space. Writing also introduced new storage forms, from symbols scratched on walls to pen marks on paper.

Printing, in this part of the world, exploded in the 17th century with the invention of the Gutenburg Press. It was quick, it was cheap (compared to hiring your average scribe) and it kickstarted information literacy in a big way. People got access to info in a way that just was not possible before. This is still important today.

Probably the most important aspect of all these transmission methods is that each of them  interacted with peoples behaviour to create economic characteristics. This is where information revolutions become really important. The cost of storage changed. The cost of transmission changed. The cost of production changed. It appears that the internet is having much the same effect today and we don’t know which way it will play out yet, but if we watch how the technical characteristics interact with social behaviours, we may get a clue.

What is Information?

There are many different ways of looking at information.

According to Wikipedia, Information is a sequence of signals that can be interpreted as a message. This message may contain data, wisdom or images but the message itself is the information.

The word comes from the latin informare, which means to give form to an idea. It could also be a pattern, but one which influences.  Unlike Schrodingers Cat, there is no need for a conscious mind to perceive this pattern in order for it to influence. DNA is a good example of this.

What we do know about information is that it can be measured, as the video below demonsatrates.

It is measured according to our ability to store it, transmit it and compute with it, and in these respects it has grown much larger in recent years. These jumps in growth have driven change in wealth, cultural production, transparency in government, and it has even been part of political revolutions, yet information growth in computers is nowhere near as large as natural systems such as the circulatory system. It is just evolving much faster at present.

There is a tendency to think of information studies as a new field, but it has a long history. It is just that people think it for granted. Below is a picture of the Bombos Ochre Plaque which is about 70,000 years old and it has marks on it which are obviously organised. This could be art or it could be a pattern for counting. The suggestion is that it is the latter because it is systematic rather than random.