David Alan Grier and Erin Dian Dumbacher

Forward Slash

Forward Slash is a monthly column that incorporates a multimedia format to profile the lives, trials, and accomplishments of the rising generation of computing professionals, describing the challenges they face and the character they draw upon to do their daily work.

David Alan Grier,  an associate professor of international science and technology policy at George Washington University, is a Fellow of IEEE and the author of the forthcoming book The Company We Keep. Contact him at grier@gwu.edu or on Twitter @dagrier.

Erin Dian Dumbacher is an associate director of research at the Government Executive Media Group, a division of Atlantic Media. Contact her at erin.dumbacher@fulbrightmail.org or on Twitter @erin_dian.

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We live in a world of mass production, mass distributoin and mass consumption.  In such a place, we sometimes lose track of the contributions of individuals - especially when a technological rock-star is sitting at the table next to us in the restaurant.  The rockstar can command applause from the diners as he exits the place while the rest of us sit in awed silence.  Such is the world that we now inhabit when we work with computing technology.  

 

From Computer's Novemeber 2012 issue.

It's Complicated

Here's the deal.  We've watched comptuer science (and computer engineering) change over the years and adopt new methods and ideas.  Math to logic to statisticsto quality assurance to any number of ideas.  At this point in history, it seems to be adopting the methods of social science.  Is this new?  is it a tread?  Will it simplify our work or will it do something else?  Such is the question before ius.

 

From Computer's October 2012 issue.

The Winner Takes It All

Well, we'vbe realized that we're in the world of crowdsourcing and that we now seek advice (and labor) from a giant community on the web.  In the midst of all the issues that this phenomena raises, and there are many, we have to ask if thise new approach really democratizes the world.  Do we live in a world of one person/one vote or are some votes worth more than others?  

From Computer's August 2012 issue.

Repurposers

As we have been looking at new startups, we have been surprised by the conditions we have found.  Once high technology was associated with the modernist ideas of Eliot Noyes.  (Think of the film 2001: A space Odyssey.)  What we have found are new technology firms in all sorts of recycles spaces: real garages, former sweat shops, old office buildings.  The landscape of technology is no longer new but we need to think of it as a land of repurposers?

From Computer's July 2012 issue.

DIY

We're taking the leap into video.  We'll see how well this works.  In some ways, it models what we have been seeing in our seperate travels around the the world of computation.  New entrpreneurs, new engineers, new programmers seem to desire, most strongly, to so things on their own.  We have created an environment that will allow them to do so but will this environment be the best forum for long term innovation?

From Computer's June2012 issue.

Teaching the Intangible

Old New England Buildings.  Small Classes.  Frizbee on the Lawn.  Small circles of Friends discussing the great ideas of modern civilization late into the night.  Such are visions that we hold of higher education, visions that are not altogether consistent.  Still, we somehow believe or believed that higher education required close human contact in order to refine and improve character.  

Now we are seeing students flock to distance education programs, especially those for Masters degrees.   Erin can count dozen of friends who are getting advanced degrees on-line, even with they live next to the school that they are attending.  

So again, we are again prepared to ask the question "What does this all mean?" and forced to consider the answer "Perhaps more or less than it might seem?"

From Computer's May 2012 issue.

Learning from the Best

It's not all book learning.  When we prepare for life as a professional, we learn by watching, by doing, and by being mentored.  It's a complex process that's not the same for everyone. We wanted to consider whether things have changed -- if the old roles have somehow shifted in the past decade or so.  The setting is certainly different.  And perhaps, so is the way that such relationships have been established.

From Computer's April 2012 issue.

Free Agency

Once upon a time, a time that seems long long ago, we were told to start our careers by finding a good job with long term prospects. To prepare students for such jobs, we ran them through a series of institutions that taught them about organizations.  We now live in a world in which most of the expciting jobs seem closer to freelance opprtunities and we prepare our students in an open fluid world. The challenge now occurs when we have students prepared for one type of position but are offered the other.

From Computer's March2012 issue.

The New Internationalists

We start with the observation that computing seems to be an international career and that internationalism seems to pull on new professionals.  Behind that internationalism is the realization that we are involved in social endeavor and again our current sense of social enterprise tries to flip the motto, “don’t be evil,” and aim to make good.

From Computer's February 2012 issue.

Vision Clear

David Alan Grier and Erin Dumbacher present their new column Forward Slash and discuss their predictions for where technology is headed in 2012. From Computer's January 2012 issue.

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