The medium is the message, in Computer Science?

We should all know that the medium is the message. What does it mean for research in Computer Science?

I have done some work recently on tag clouds. What is fascinating is that a new widget changes in several significant ways how we perceive what would otherwise be classical problems. You cannot substitute pie charts for tag clouds, no matter how hard you try. Pie charts simply do not scale nearly as well. For every new trick hackers invent, there are many academic papers to write.

I have been saying for a year now that videos on the Web will change e-Learning in a lasting manner. You cannot think about online learning the same way now that we have YouTube. Whereas adding an online video to a Web site used to cost hundreds of dollars, you can now do it for a few cents. Selecting and composing these videos so that they make sense to the viewer is another matter. I have been saying for some time that I do not want a recommender system, I want a composer system: do you not give me the best videos, help me build coherent lists of videos.

What about online word processors and spreadsheets? This pushes the data on the Web. This is a bad thing for security (depending on who you talk to), but it might be a great thing for Business Intelligence. There is a very real opportunity there for a company like Google to help a company make sense of what its employees are doing. I am not talking about micromanaging your employees: who has time to figure out who is cheating with whom? I am talking about cross-referencing, aggregating, and indexing the data in ways that were unthinkable in the desktop era.

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Daniel Lemire

A computer science professor at the Université du Québec (TELUQ).

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