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friday :: december 29, 2006
learning to smell the roses

The smell of an odor is not merely a result of chemical detection but is also influenced by what the smeller learns about the odor. Now, researchers have discovered how such "perceptual learning" about an odor influences processing of information from the purely olfactory chemical detection system. Wen Li, Jay Gottfried, and colleagues at Northwestern University reported their findings with human subjects.

"Verbal context strongly influences the perception of odor quality—a rose by any other name would not smell as sweet," explained the researchers. "For example, the same odorant smells entirely different depending on whether it is labeled as fresh cucumber or mildew."

"Learning also changes odor quality. A cherry odor becomes smokier in quality after being experienced together with a smoky odor. Thus, a given set of olfactory receptors activated by an odorant may not map directly onto a given odor percept. Rather, odor perception may rely on more synthetic, or integrative, mechanisms subserved by higher-order brain regions," they wrote.

In a previous study, Gottfried and colleagues had identified regions of the cortex involved in "coding" odors. In the new study, they sought to explore whether perceptual learning about an odor lead to changes in subjects’ ability to differentiate the odors.

The researchers concluded that "prolonged exposure to one odorant resulted in improved differentiation among related odorants (and even among novel related odorants). Thus, with exposure to a floral-smelling alcohol (i.e., phenethyl alcohol), subjects effectively became floral ‘experts’ and simultaneously became experts for the underlying molecular group," they wrote. The subjects appeared to be "developing more refined, or differentiated, subcategories of these olfactory features," wrote the researchers.

"The current findings, along with recent data from our laboratory, provide further evidence that odor quality coding in olfactory cortex is not a straightforward outcome of odorant structure," they concluded. "In all likelihood, neural representations of odor quality are a dynamic product of lower-level coding from olfactory bulb and higher-level cortical inputs, under the regulation of learning and experience, attention, sensory context, and language.

"We speculate that the process of odor feature differentiation, via sensory exposure, may underlie much of the way that humans naturally learn to identify odors in the environment, with progressive and ever more refined differentiation, to the point where we are able to recognize thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of different smells," they wrote.

"This mechanism may underlie the acquisition of fine-grained percepts that distinguish, for example, the smell of Rosa damascena (Bulgarian Rose) from that of Rosa centifolia (Rose Maroc), to the point where we would be able to appreciate the immense richness of aromas in everyday life," they wrote.

Li et al.: "Learning to Smell the Roses: Experience-Dependent Neural Plasticity in Human Piriform and Orbitofrontal Cortices." Publishing in Neuron 52, 1097–1108, December 21, 2006 DOI 10.1016/j.neuron.2006.10.026 www.neuron.org >from *How learning influences smell*. December 20, 2006

related context
a quoi ca sert l'amour by edith piaf and theo sarapo
> window into human behavior, brain disease. 'von economo neurons may play a role in what makes humans 'human' – self awareness, moral reasoning and empathy –.' december 22, 2006
> how we differentiate smells. 'the magnitude of brain activity in the orbitofrontal cortex predicted how much of an olfactory expert a person would become as a result of passive learning. information about an odor is not static or fixed within these cortical regions, but is highly malleable and can be rapidly updated by perceptual experience. this malleability of the brain is called neural plasticity.' december 21, 2006
> paying attention sets off symphony of cell synchronization. 'the mystery of how attention improves the perception of incoming sensory stimulation has been a long-time concern of scientists. how attention operates?' december 20, 2006
> watch and learn. 'watching with intent to repeat ignites key learning area of brain.' december 20, 2006
> mental link between actions and words. 'what is the difference in our minds between talk and action?.' september 18, 2006

a rose tree may be a rose tree may be a rosy rose tree
... if watered

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friday :: december 22, 2006
urban survivor: cities change the songs of birds

By studying the songs of a bird species that has succeeded in adapting to urban life, researchers have gained insight into the kinds of environmental pressures that influence where particular songbirds thrive, and the specific attributes of city birds that allow them to adjust to noisy urban environments. The findings were reported by Hans Slabbekoorn and Ardie den Boer-Visser of Leiden University.

In the new work, the researchers studied songs of the great tit (Parus major), a successful urban-dwelling species, in the center of ten major European cities, including London, Prague, Paris, and Amsterdam. The researchers then compared these songs to those of great tits in nearby forest sites. The results of the comparison showed that for songs important for mate attractions and territory defense, the urban songs were shorter and sung faster than the forest songs. The urban songs also showed an upshift in frequency that is consistent with the need to compete with low-frequency environmental noise, such as traffic noise.

Anthropogenic Impact on Signals Used by Wild Birds

Earlier work, from Dr. Slabbekoorn and another coauthor, had shown that songs of individual birds were adjusted to local traffic noise conditions. The researchers had shown that great tit males in territories with loud low-frequency noise used fewer low-frequency song notes compared to nearby individuals in quieter territories. That single-population study, in Leiden, The Netherlands, included only urban birds, but territory conditions ranged from very quiet to very noisy. The earlier study predicted the possibility that in general, great tits in noisy cities sing higher than great tits in quieter forests: In other words, songs undergo a habitat-dependent acoustic shift in cities that is driven by traffic noise.

With the new findings, Slabbekoorn and den Boer-Visser confirm this prediction and also identify several additional acoustic features that have diverged between city and forest birds. The findings also offer strong support for a theory known as the acoustic-adaptation hypothesis, which states that some aspects of the vocal variety of animal communication sounds are shaped by the environment. The authors point out that song divergence within a species as a result of such “environmental shaping” could potentially play a crucial role in the process of speciation, although it is not at all clear whether urban and forest populations of great tits are on such a path.

Conservation Implications: Adjust or Leave

Speciation takes place over long, evolutionary time scales, but major shifts in a region’s bird population, including extinction, can take place here and now. Urbanization typically leads to a turnover in species composition such that those species occurring in the original habitat are replaced by those that cope well with urban conditions. Many species do not live in cities and do not breed close to highways, and indeed the birds of urbanized areas are highly similar: The same few species become common everywhere, while the area’s original species variety is lost. The new study, which focuses on an urban “survivor,” provides some insight into the mechanism behind the homogenizing impact of the urban environment. The capacity of great tits to sing within a relatively wide frequency range, and the ability to adjust songs by leaving out lower frequencies, seems critical to the bird’s ability to thrive despite urban noise. Species without these capacities may have no other choice than to escape city life. >from * Cities change the songs of birds* December 4, 2006. Slabbekoorn et al.: “Cities Change the Songs of Birds.” Publishing in Current Biology 16, 2326–2331, December 5, 2006 DOI 10.1016/j.cub.2006.10.008.

related context
singing for survival. "the first evidence of a functionally referential communication system in a free-ranging ape species." december 20, 2006
> the design of the world. "we want to produce a new breed of change maker - citizens who think as designers. these people would be a "synthesis of artist, inventor, mechanic, objective economist, and evolutionary strategist." november 24, 2006
> how and why civilisation arose. a by-product of adaptation to climate change and were the products of hostile environments. september 22, 2006
> military strategy as urban planning. a commitment to human rights in a world of evermore fortified and militarized cities. june 9, 2006
> the urban evolution lab. cities provide an ideal theatre in which to see behaviour evolving at a pace rarely seen in the wild. april 19, 2006
> changes in bird song could be used as an early warning system. to detect man-made ecological disturbances. november 30, 2005
> how does your city affect you?. november 4, 2005
> predict and prevent societal collapse. "he inhabitants eventually ran out of finite resources, including food and building materials, causing a massive famine and the collapse of their society." september 16, 2005
> the green into our urban open spaces. december 10, 2004
> autumn triggers chickadee's brain expansion. october 3, 2003

urban rare birds survivors

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friday :: december 8, 2006
"creative clusters" and real estate market boom

Emerging out of Blair's Britain in the late 90s as an antidote to post-industrial unemployment, early creative industries discourse was notable for a promotional hype characteristic of the dot.com era in the US. Over the past 3-5 years creative industries has undergone a process of internationalisation and become a permanent fixture in the short-term interests that define government policy packages across the world. At the policy level, creative industries have managed to transcend the North-South divide that preoccupied research on the information economies and communication technologies for two decades. Today, one finds countries as diverse as Austria, Brazil, Singapore and New Zealand eagerly promoting the promise of exceptional economic growth rates of "culture" in its "immaterial" form. Governments in Hong Kong, Japan, Australia, and the Netherlands have initiated creative industries policy platforms with remarkably similar assumptions and expectations given their very different cultural and political environments.

Despite the proliferation of the creative industries model, it remains hard to point to stories of actual "creative innovation", or to be even sure what this might mean. What is clear – if largely unacknowledged – is that investment in "creative clusters" effectively functions to encourage a corresponding boom in adjacent real estate markets. Here lies perhaps the core truth of the creative industries: the creative industries are a service industry, one in which state investment in "high culture" shifts to a form of welfarism for property developers. This smoke and mirrors trick is cleverly performed through a language of populist democracy that appeals to a range of political and business agents. What is more surprising is the extent to which this hype is seemingly embraced by those most vulnerable: namely, the content producers (designers, software inventors, artists, filmmakers, etc.) of creative information (brands, patents, copyrights).

Much research in the creative industries is highly speculative, interpretive and economistic, concerned with large-scale industry data rather than the network of formal and informal relations that make possible creative production. It is also usually produced quickly, with little detailed qualitative analysis of the structure of economic relationships creative industries firms operate in. In many cases, the policy discourses travel and are taken up without critical appraisal of distinctly local conditions.

In contrast to the homogeneity of creative industries at the policy level, there is much localised variation to be found in terms of the material factors that shape the development of creative industries projects. For example, a recent UNCTAD (2004) policy report on creative industries and development makes note of the “‘precarious”’ nature of employment for many within the creative industries. Such attention to the uneven and variable empirics of creative industries marks a departure from much of the hype that characterised earlier creative industries discourse, and also reflects the spread of this discourse out of highly developed market economies to ones where the private sector has a very different role.

This conference wishes to bring these trends and tendencies into critical question. It seeks to address the local, intra-regional and trans-national variations that constitute international creative industries as an uneven field of actors, interests and conditions. The conference explores a range of key topics that, in the majority of cases, remain invisible to both academic research and policy-making in the creative industries.

Overall, the conference adopts a comparative focus in order to illuminate the variability of international creative industries. Such an approach enables new questions to be asked about the mutually constitutive tensions between the forces, practices, histories and policies that define creative production, distribution and organisation within an era of information economies and network cultures. >from * MyCreativity: Convention on International Creative Industries Research* Amsterdam, November, 16-18 , 2006.

related context
nau21, towards a new public domain. creative spaces + production spaces + social spaces. "a citizen, collaborative and independent grassroot project that conforms a structure of creative nodes (individual or collective) that puts in network to be able to give a service to the creators (in sciences, arts and technologies) of the city."
> immaterial civil war by matteo pasquinelli. prototypes of conflict within cognitive capitalism. barcelona, september 26, 2006
> net community hacks cultural funding system. "our much-discussed, game-theory-oriented approach to cultural funding represents a clear rejection of all the austrian cultural industry's hegemonic tendencies." may 5, 2006
> creative capital: culture, innovation and the public domain. "what is the cultural dimension of the knowledge economy? And what does this imply for the public domain?" august 19, 2005
> urban art and the public sphere. "visquem can ricart!" july 15, 2005.
> can ricart + parc central, urban space of 21th century. june 10, 2005
> parccentralpark. "an emerging urban kitchen." can ricart area, 2004
> fused space: new technology in/as public space. "definitions= public space : the physical collective space that is freely accessible to everyone. virtual public space : the space created by the internet and other kinds of technological networks like sms, and mobile phones accessible to everyone. public domain : both the physical and the virtual public space; the commonly shared space of ideas and memories and the physical manifestations that they embody." july 23, 2004
> public domain of communication. "the cultural, political and legal frame is a space that we call public domain of communication. as a public domain we understand a sphere which does not belong neither to the state nor to the market, but to the whole society, and it is managed and controlled by the society itself (not to be misunderstood with the public service performed by the state)." april 23, 2003
> science commons, building a free flow of knowledge.. "the free flow of knowledge can be found in the internet. a new model for scientific production, publishing and access emerge in the new environment of the networked society. but the shared on-line environment, "like our physical environment, constitutes a global commons, with similar imperatives for stewardship and preservation." and, in this terrain, the choice we face, and science in particular, is not between progress and the status quo, it is between progress and a new dark ages. Information should be kept free." march 15, 2002

abra makabra! ... la rikabra

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friday :: december 1, 2006
u.s. copyright office issues new rights

The Librarian of Congress, on the recommendation of the Register of Copyrights, has announced the classes of works subject to the exemption from the prohibition against circumvention of technological measures that control access to copyrighted works. Persons making noninfringing uses of the following six classes of works will not be subject to the prohibition against circumventing access controls (17 U.S.C. § 1201(a)(1)) during the next three years.

1. Audiovisual works included in the educational library of a college or university’s film or media studies department, when circumvention is accomplished for the purpose of making compilations of portions of those works for educational use in the classroom by media studies or film professors.

2. Computer programs and video games distributed in formats that have become obsolete and that require the original media or hardware as a condition of access, when circumvention is accomplished for the purpose of preservation or archival reproduction of published digital works by a library or archive. A format shall be considered obsolete if the machine or system necessary to render perceptible a work stored in that format is no longer manufactured or is no longer reasonably available in the commercial marketplace.

3. Computer programs protected by dongles that prevent access due to malfunction or damage and which are obsolete. A dongle shall be considered obsolete if it is no longer manufactured or if a replacement or repair is no longer reasonably available in the commercial marketplace.

4. Literary works distributed in ebook format when all existing ebook editions of the work (including digital text editions made available by authorized entities) contain access controls that prevent the enabling either of the book’s read-aloud function or of screen readers that render the text into a specialized format.

5. Computer programs in the form of firmware that enable wireless telephone handsets to connect to a wireless telephone communication network, when circumvention is accomplished for the sole purpose of lawfully connecting to a wireless telephone communication network.

6. Sound recordings, and audiovisual works associated with those sound recordings, distributed in compact disc format and protected by technological protection measures that control access to lawfully purchased works and create or exploit security flaws or vulnerabilities that compromise the security of personal computers, when circumvention is accomplished solely for the purpose of good faith testing, investigating, or correcting such security flaws or vulnerabilities.

These exemptions will go into effect upon publication in the Federal Register on November 27, 2006 and will remain in effect through October 27, 2009. >from *Rulemaking on Exemptions from Prohibition on Circumvention of Technological Measures that Control Access to Copyrighted Works*. November 22, 2006

related context
isamu kaneko case. 2004. what's wrong with the arrest?
> grokster and morpheus survive. a federal judge ruled that companies providing peer-to-peer (p2p) file sharing software cannot be held liable for copyright infringement by users of the software. 2003
> jon johansen case. criminal charges for accessing own dvd. freedom of speech should not be sacrificed in the movie industry's war to restrict the public from playing dvds on their platform of choice, backing up dvds they have purchased, and making other fair uses of dvds. 2002
> edward felten case. freedom of speech should not be sacrificed in the recording industry's war to restrict the public from making copies of digital music. eff asked a federal court to declare that scientists can publish their research on digital music security weaknesses. 2001
> dmitry skylarov case. the first programmer jailed simply for coding and distributing software --permits electronic book owners to convert the e-book format so they can make use without access restrictions. "dmitry programmed a format converter which has many legitimate uses, including enabling the blind to hear e-books," the first criminal prosecution brought under the controversial statute which forbids distributing technology or information that can be helpful in bypassing technological restrictions. 2001
> on intellectual property.

new rights research digest cabin

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