Saturday, 28 April 2007

An update...

In the post dated 2 Apr 07 (Who cares about standards?) several organisations were mentioned which received a letter informing them about the issue with Griffith University; the letter is presented in that post.

Four weeks later it is interesting to see who responded and how.

Australian Universities Quality Agency:
Dr David Woodhouse, Executive Director: the information has been noted for their records.

Carrick Institute
Mr Morrish Besley, AC, Director: no response so far.
Professor Margaret Gardner, Director: not a matter for her.
Professor John Hay, AC, Chairman, Director: merely acknowledged the letter.

Federal Department of Education
Ms Julie Bishop MP, Minister: no response so far.
Mr Pat Farmer, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister: no response so far.

Federal Ombudsman's Office
No response so far.

Queensland Department of Education
Ms Rachel Hunter, Director-General: no response so far.
Mr Rod Welford MP, Minister: letter has been forwarded to the minister.

Queensland Ombudsman's Office
The information has been noted for their records.

Vice Chancellor's Committee
Mr John Mullarvey, Chief Executive Officer: no response so far.
Mr Peter Rodely, Committee Executive Officer: no response so far.
Mrs Julie Ryan, Executive Assistant to the Chief Executive Officer: no response so far.
Mr Tim Sealey, Assistant Director: no response so far.

The above are all entities which in one way or another should have some interest in the quality of education in general and its tertiary sector in particular. Although my letter did not request some action to be taken, one would think that regardless of some person's own opinion these institutions would see it as their duty to at least learn enough about this matter to make an informed decision about how to proceed.

The Vice Chancellor's Committee had already expressed its own lack of interest on a previous occasion. The Carrick Institute, which hands out various performance-based prizes to Australian Universities each year, doesn't want to know about it. Others have added my remarks to their files, but for what purpose is less clear. Some responses are still outstanding.

The question does suggest itself - to what extent are these organisations dedicated to their stated aims in an objective and mutually independent manner?

Saturday, 21 April 2007

Life is a game of cards

Not an original remark, I'm sure. So here is a further refinement.

The other day I was sitting at my Solitaire during another boring backup session. Then a not uncommon situation occurred, one that is most frustrating.

The Aces are laid out on top, almost all of the other cards arranged in red/black sets below, and only two or three remain to be turned. At that point you need one Two or one Three of some suit to begin hauling the deck up to the Aces, but that very card is one of those hidden and to retrieve it some other must be removed. That other can't be used because, you guessed it, that Two or Three blocks any move.

Just about all the cards are there and waiting to go, but a single one holds everything up.

There endeth the metaphor.

In life things can get arranged, one by one, until a single item is left to set the closing event in motion. Sometimes the air becomes almost palpable, so obvious is the next step. But that next step is yet to come, the outcome still in the future no matter how obvious. Perhaps akin to the way a storm builds going through the familiar phases, but when it breaks no-one can say for sure.

Is that how the story of Otoom goes? The pieces have come together for years now, some clearly visible, some less so. Those pieces like the cards belong to many suits and have many different values. Together they form an entire deck, although there are still some missing.

The game is not finished until all the Aces are covered. With one card here and one there to go the final stage will be quick - but when?

Sunday, 15 April 2007

The joys of reality (Jean Baudrillard)

In our constant search for the ultimate symbol of reality, so that it may reflect to us the spectacle of death, the recent act by Jean Baudrillard has given us a timely invitation. People of reflective moods eagerly enter into engagements to fulfill the destiny of their thoughts.

The creative act becomes attuned to the lights, be they the summary manifestation of a nuclear furnace by day or the local subsidiaries in our streets and shops during the night. It also assumes the silhouettes of darkness, the non-reflection of the something without intent, without act, and without causality, making it the perfect representation of any wish ready to come into being.

Light, the positive, to accentuate the other; and darkness, the negative, the succor to the former. The act of our creating of course does not care for the causality of either. For the hero the light is not a friend; it is the foe because without a danger his status is brought to ridicule and the night needs the danger to give it spice. The essential need of light is then darkness, and the prerequisite for adulation must be the destroyer waiting in the shadows. Yet the foe would not realise the awaited destiny alone and so depends on its counterpart yet again. Causality remains undefined.

The symbol of one becomes the symbol of the other, until its trademark is the combinatorial reflectivity shimmering under whatever radiation.

If life on earth is the creative effect of its star, and if the neon tube or TV screen is the creative result of us, then the symbolisation process initiated by the sun moves in the inexorable direction of mutual ambiguity in its attempt to portray life. It has passed many a way station, but today the acquisitioned technicity from ancient plants and ancient atoms translates the world for us. It also translates the world to us, because the representational complexity of Life has become too large for our linear minds to process.

To be sure, the serious thinker grapples with the iconoclastic significance of nothing. But for the rest the reference is compacted into the form of infantile worlds, or worlds within worlds, who play their theme songs in endless repetition. Why shouldn't they - we need to remember them as templates.

The formality of linear constraints prompts for an escape. Amorphous symbols have programmed society to conceptualise on their own terms, and the real, that universal template already suffering its first interpretation via God, has turned into a prefabricated logo-set long ago. What else but for on-off voltage potentials to transmute the ying-yang nature of our spirit into the digital realm. Functional modules of a third-order programming language reflect the perceived symbolisation of manifested energy from some star; they are clustered to produce 3D renditions of societal arrangements and give themselves off as being virtual.

But the gamer knows better. Roaming the conceptual space where symbol and simulation interplay as if being moved around the surface of a Klein bottle, there never is an inner, because there never can be an outer. The synergy of both is the emergent icon, a representation in its own right just as the ancient hero carried light and darkness on him.

And so the rendition within the computer game is not Life, but equally Life does not exist without the computer game. The new reality is of the nth order. Symbiosis through synergy through clustering through complexity - a recursive function that has become the arbiter at all scales.

Is it the ultimate symbol of reality? Only annihilation will tell.

References:

J. Baudrillard, "Simulacra and Simulations", from "Jean Baudrillard, Selected Writings", ed. Mark Poster (Stanford; Stanford University Press, 1988), pp.166-184.

J. Baudrillard, "Paroxysm: The Perfect Crime", AFAA (Association Fran├žaise d'Action Artistique) 1993, pp. 5-12.

Monday, 2 April 2007

Who cares about standards?

There is a tendency to look the other way, not to get involved. It happens with individuals, it also happens in wider society and its institutions.
Historically universities enjoyed an autonomy that was well deserved in a world often beset with ideologies of the religious and political kind. Yet there also can be a fine line between freedom to act and freedom from standards.
After having contacted the thirty-two heads of Griffith University's schools and/or departments about the matters referred to in the Examiners' report, individuals in the following offices have been informed: the Vice Chancellor's Committee, the Australian Universities Quality Agency, the Carrick Institute, the Federal Department of Education, the Federal Ombudsman's Office, the Queensland Department of Education, and the Queensland Ombudsman's Office.
A couple of them were contacted in the past and had expressed a reluctance to address the issue. Let's see what all of them have to say as an opinion, as of now.
This is the text of the letter:
Dear ...,
I would like to submit the following information regarding questionable behaviour at the School of Information & Communication Technology, Griffith University, Brisbane.
It centres around an evaluation of my honours thesis in 1999, and despite several representations since (including an appeal) none of the contentious points had been addressed nor was a satisfying solution achieved.
To summarise, the examiners of the thesis criticised content that did not even exist, neglected significant passages that did, disregarded established sources of references to suit their agenda, and displayed a profound lack of knowledge about the subject matter.
An overall description can be found on my website [1], the details of their mistakes are listed on another page [2], and certain curious events leading up to the evaluation are mentioned in an open letter to one of the lecturers, Dr Terry Dartnall [3].
Since then I was able to achieve what had been my goal from the very beginning, namely develop a model of the mind as well as design a computer simulation representing a prototype of an artificial mind. The model can be seen as a conceptual tool set that allows human behaviour to be analysed from the scale of an individual up to society at large. Although the endeavour was successful, since its completion in August 2003 my lack of professional status presented a very real obstacle to getting the work to a wider audience.
The difficulties are not merely restricted to the personal level. As can be seen on one of the web pages [4], since 2003 there are now over 140 events from politics to science which confirm the validity of the mind model. One particularly pertinent example would be the Iraq war, the seriousness of which had been ascertained from the very beginning. See my comments on the Iraq Study Group Report [5]. Regardless of one's political persuasion the global dangers and the sheer costs evoked by such an ill-considered adventure should not have to be emphasised.
I feel the performance by certain persons at Griffith is inexcusable; moreover, the continued silence by the very people involved is nothing less than shameful. This letter is not designed as a request for action by your office. Rather, I wanted to bring this matter to your attention.
Yours sincerely, etc.