Archive for 31 January 2007

European Union Law Hope for Treforest Conservation Area

A local campaigner has been successful in getting the European Parliament to consider a petition to have the environment considered in planning decisions.

Jonathan Bishop, of Fothergill Street, Treforest, is now calling on the European Union to investigate whether there have been any breaches of European Union Law with regard to the development of a Tesco store on Broadway in Treforest.

In a letter to the European Parliament Mr Bishop asked for his petition to be considered fully so that culturally significant areas “are protected from the capitalist menaces intent on destroying the environment for purely profit motivated goals”

Jim Bailey of Rhondda Cynon Taf Councils planning department confirmed that there was no environmental impact assessment on the proposed site of the Tesco Express despite the fact that it was being built on a Conservation Area.

Mr Bishop says that even if there have been no breaches of existing European Union Law, he would like the law to be change for future developments, “The natural, physical and cultural environment is important to all our communities, and all planning applications should have to consider the effect of the development on the environment, including the effect it has on material heritage, wildlife and people”
Bleddyn Lake, Co-ordinator for the Pontypridd & District Branch of Friends of the Earth agrees that the environment should be taken into account in planning, “Friends of the Earth is actively campaigning for changes in the planning system in Wales”, he said, “Communities can make a really valuable contribution to shaping developments and ensuring that they work for local people and the environment”. Mr Lake continued, “That role appears to be under threat with increasing pressure to speed up the planning process in response to business demands, like Mr Bishop, we want to see the views of local people and the environmental impact of planning decisions taken into account by planners.”

Friends of the Earth will be holding a meeting to discuss local environmental matters at which Mr Bishop will be present on Monday February 12 at 7.30pm at Clwb y Bont in Pontypridd.

e-Learning Industry Must Embrace Social Networking

Social networking is fast becoming a mainstream technology for connecting people and now the person known for inventing one of the most popular methods is calling on the e-learning industry to embrace the technology.

Jonathan Bishop, a director of e-learning firm Glamorgan Blended Learning believes his technology, the Circle of Friends, can break through many of the barriers to learning faced by learners engaged in distance and blended learning.

“There is a difference between what a learner can achieve by themselves and what they can achieve with the support of their peers”, he said, “the Circle of Friends allows learners to build networks of people who can support them in their learning.”

Mr Bishop, who has been developing and researching e-learning communities since the 1990s, will be presenting research on what the e-learning industry can learn from traditional approaches to teaching at a conference in April.

The Faith, Spirituality and Social Change Conference (, held on 14-15 April 2007 at the University of Winchester will be receiving Mr Bishop for the second time and hear him give a speech on how e-learning systems like online communities can bring about social change, through contributing to the economic, social and cultural development of those that use them.

Mr Bishop’s Circle of Friends technology became popular with the launch of Friendster, a website backed by venture capital investors Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers and Benchmark Capital. Since the Circle of Friends was first implemented in 1999 to when it was popularised by Friendster, the number of social networking websites using it has grown significantly. According to the conservative estimates of Philip Kim, author of Social Capital and Entrepreneurship, as of early 2005 there were at least 30 online networking sites, and according to online encyclopaedia Wikipedia there are now over 200 sites dedicated to social networking.

Mr Bishop argues that as the demand for effective e-learning solutions increases, so will it become important to use social networking solutions in the learning process, “While I don’t like to use neologisms like Web 2.0 and E-Learning 2.0, as learning is a social process it seems natural to use social technologies to enhance learning, and creating e-learning systems that are persuasive, adaptable, sociable and sustainable seems to be in the interests of both learners and teachers.”

Flaming in online communities: Do obnoxious messages cross the line of reality?

Lying in bed listening to my iPod, I decided to listen to a song by a Belgian band called ‘Triality’, a band that I renamed from E-clips as part of a Web branding deal in the year 2000 as there were three members whose music acted as a bridge between reality and fantasy.

The track I’m listening to is called ‘The Flame’ and contains these lyrics; “visions of an imaginary world, here lies the future of my own existence / a flame has awakened me crossing the line of reality“.

I think this is very pertinent to online communities, which can be seen to be imaginary worlds that we depend on. Furthermore the attacks that people post in online communities, known as ‘flames’, can be seen to awaken people through acting as a stimulus that provokes them to respond, which make a virtual act very real for the person being provoked.

Environmental Campaigner to Stand for Council

After a series of successful campaigns on the environment, a local activist has announced his intention to seek selection for the local government elections in 2008.

Jonathan Bishop, 27, who runs the Clean Treforest Campaign and is Youth Officer for the Pontypridd Labour Party has said that the time has come for change, “Plaid councillors like Geraint Day and Dennis Watkins seem to be able to talk their way into getting elected, but its action on the ground that counts.”

Jonathan Bishop worked with different community groups to clean up his community as chair of the Clean Treforest campaign and town councillor

Mr Bishop said his recent campaigns on the environment have been successful, and says he will put the environment at the heart of his campaign if he gets selected, “I successfully managed to get graffiti cleaned up in Treforest and Efail Isaf and managed to get the public parks in those areas enhanced from the shabby states they were in”, he said, “My petition to the European Parliament on the environment was accepted, and there are now investigations as to whether building on the Treforest Conservation Area and in Ynysangharad War Memorial Park would constitute a breach of European Law”.

Rhondda Cynon Taf Council Leader Russell Roberts welcomed the announcement, “It takes people like Jonathan to keep the Council informed of what is happening in our communities so we can take action”, he said, “The council is committed to providing a safe and prosperous environment for all residents in Rhondda Cynon Taff, and its important that environmental problems are brought to our attention”.

Internet Addiction Debate Continues

The 2005 study on Internet addiction carried out by Stanford University researchers achieved an astonishing amount of mainstream media coverage throughout 2006 for a relatively small sample survey, indicating a fascination with the link between *Internet* and *addiction*.

Now a December 2006 study by Stanford has been released by CNS Spectrums, the monthly international journal of neuropsychiatry to add new findings to the issue.

Reporting on the study, the Washington Post, commented that concern about excessive internet use – variously termed problematic internet use, internet addiction, pathological internet use, compulsive internet use and computer addiction in some quarters, and vigorously dismissed as a fad illness in others – isnt new.

As far back as 1995, articles in medical journals and the establishment of a Pennsylvania treatment centre for over users generated interest in the subject, the journal reports, adding that theres still no consensus on how much time online constitutes too much or whether addiction is possible.

Internet users average about three hours online each day, according to the 2005 Stanford report, and the CNS Spectrums-commissioned assessment takes a closer look in the interest of improving relevant neuropsychiatric information.

The journal reports that the American Psychiatric Association may consider listing internet addiction in the next edition of its diagnostic manual.

Theres no question that there are people who are seriously in trouble because of the fact that theyre overdoing their internet involvement, said Ivan Goldberg, a psychiatrist in private practice in New York.

Dr Goldberg calls the problem a disorder rather than a true addiction, which Merriam-Websters medical dictionary defines as a compulsive physiological need for, and use of, a habit-forming substance.

Jonathan Bishop, a researcher in Wales specialising in online communities, is more sceptical. The internet is an environment, he said. You cant be addicted to the environment.

Dr Bishop, who has had several articles published on the topic, describes the problem as simply a matter of priorities, which can be solved by encouraging people to pursue other life goals and plans in place of time spent online.

The new CNS Spectrums study was based on results of a nationwide telephone survey of more than 2500 adults.

Like the 2005 survey, this one was conducted by Stanford University researchers. About 6 percent of respondents reported that their relationships suffered as a result of excessive internet use. About 9 percent attempted to conceal non-essential internet use and nearly 4 percent reported feeling preoccupied by the internet when offline.

About 8 percent said they used the net as a way to escape problems and almost 14 percent reported they found it hard to stay away from the internet for several days at a time.

The internet problem is still in its infancy, said lead study author Elias Aboujaoude, a psychiatrist and director of the Impulse Control Disorders Clinic at Stanford.

No single online activity was to blame for excessive use, he said. Theyre online in chat rooms, checking email every two minutes, blogs. It really runs the gamut. (The problem is) not limited to porn or gambling websites.

In the 2005 survey, conducted by the Stanford Institute for the Quantitative Study of Society, single people and younger people were more likely to use the internet than others. Survey participants reported that an hour spent online reduced face time with family members by nearly 24 minutes; an hour on the internet reduced sleep time by about 12 minutes.

More than half the time spent online involved communication (including chat rooms, email and instant messaging), the report said; the rest of the time was spent updating personal web pages and browsing news groups, social networking and dating websites, as well as other sites.

Evidence for treating virtual environments on par with organic ones

A principle of my ecological cognition framework is that the virtual environment is
similar to the organic (physical) environment and they should be treated equally,
something which has been supported by a US study into online communities, as UsabilityNews reports.
According to the study, large numbers of American Internet users hold such strong
views about their online communities that they compare the value of their online
world to their real‐world communities.
This is yet another reason why we should not have isolated solutions in response
to problems related to the Internet, and legal, medical and educational
frameworks should be blended so that circumstances that occur online are not
treated separately from those that occur online.
We do not need special laws for the Internet, existing frameworks such as
consumer, tax and human rights law should apply. There should be a 7 day cooling
off period for the purchase of certain products in the real‐world, not just those
bought online; taxes should be charged on Internet‐sold goods at the rate where
the Internet company is based, and you should have as much respect for your
private life in the virtual environment as you do in the organic one.

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