Visualizations & Fine Print

Jeff Nugent blogged a fascinating piece today on knowledge representations through tag clouds. It is a subject we had brainstormed before, but in this post, he shared his reactions to a presentation at ELI by George Siemens and Cyprien Lomas on their use of ManyEyes…a web application from IBM that looked exciting and that I immediately joined.

Jeff linked to some neat visualizations by Chris Lott of data from the Horizon Report in his blog. Jeff then elaborated with some very cool ideas of educational uses:

  • Tag clouds for individual and class sets of student papers / essays.
  • Tag clouds for speeches and lectures.
  • Tag clouds for analyzing the content of websites.
  • Tag clouds of classic pieces of literature.
  • Tag clouds generated from set of stories covering the same news event.

Just to name a few…

To follow his line of thinking, I decided to dump my last month’s blog posting into ManyEyes, and it produced the following:

Britt Blog wordcloud

Interesting! I can understand George Siemens doing this…as it really causes you to reflect on what you are blogging.

Now the rub…and the question for others.

Most of us click right through that legal agreement clause, but my friend Bud Deihl took the time to read it, and it has some pretty scary language in it. According to the IBM Terms of Legal Use statement, when I created the wordcloud above, I gave IBM “a perpetual, worldwide and irrevocable license under all intellectual property rights (including copyright) to use, copy, distribute, sublicense, display, perform and prepare derivative works of any information that You provide to IBM, including but not limited to arrangements, visualizations, and selections of information, and feedback and suggestions You provide to IBM.” Wow! Hope they do not go too crazy with my blog notes!

But seriously…there is some interesting language here that “fair use” may put to the test. The Terms of Use notes that you “also agree not to submit anyone else’s copyrightable material to alphaWorks Services unless You obtain written permission of the copyright holder to license the copyrightable material to IBM, consistent with the terms of this Agreement. You also agree not to submit any Software to IBM through the Service. You represent that the information you submit does not violate a privacy, publicity or moral right, or disclose personal, government, business or other information without permission. If You are a student or employee of a college or university, a member of the university’s intellectual property licensing department or other authorized person must approve the terms of this Agreement.”

What exactly does this mean? Does every faculty member now need to go get someone’s approval to use this application? If I develop a tag cloud from the collective papers of a class to look for themes, do I need releases from each student? Can one take a chapter from a textbook and develop a wordcloud as a conversation-starter in class?

I do not know. I do know from the blogs above that people are already using ManyEyes. As with many Web 2.0 applications, the early adopters are out pushing the envelopes, and the policy will lag behind. I would be interested in my colleagues’ thoughts on this.

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