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Joanna Cruz

Student , The Cooper Union For The Advancement of Science and Art

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Would you rather be an information producer, propagator, or consumer?

In my Bioelectricity class this week, we talked about the propagation of electrical signals in the body. We learned that sensory cells and neurons act like information "producers." As sensory cells in the eye, ear, nose, tongue and body generate the electric signals that stimulate neurons, "information" is produced by the body! This information is then transmitted in the form of action potentials (or "spikes") along myelinated axons which act as "information propagators" as they efficiently and rapidly distribute these signals. These signals may be received by the dendrites of other neurons which act as receivers, or "consumers" of the action potentials.

Learning this material has inspired me to ask: how can biology inspire us as we disseminate "ideas worth spreading?” or as we consider our roles as information producers, information propagators, or an information consumers? How can we best help propagate worthy and novel ideas?

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  • Feb 25 2012: I love the distinction between producing, consuming and propagating. As others have pointed out, propagating can (and should) involve some sort of filtering and curating.

    One way to deepen this discussion is to look at specific types of information, like scientific research, product designs or news stories. I am particularly interested in news because virtually anyone can be a citizen journalist given the right dose of will and resourcefulness. Should we doing more as individuals to find and broadcast the stories around us?
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      Feb 27 2012: Hi, Jose,
      I like how you thinking about specifying the types of information. For scientific research, I think everyone is a consumer and a propagator but it does not apply to producer. Before becoming a producer, one has to be absorb enough information(being a consumer) and then have some thought of ones own and willing to share(being a propagator) and finally generating products(being a producer). As a student which I see as a consumer, I feel the more information I consume, the harder it is to become a producer given how advanced the technology has become today
      • Feb 27 2012: Science is an interesting case because although true producers need to be experts, as you say, some sciences really benefit for participants who help provide or collect data. For example, biologists will call on citizens to help document local species of ants, bird, etc. Then the cognitive and behavioral sciences depend on volunteers to join experiments. Sometimes people also crowdsource and volunteer their data digitally, as in a study of ALS patients on a health-data website: http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2011-04/als-patients-crowdsource-their-own-clinical-study. This trend of increased participation has been branded citizen science: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citizen_science

        The Open Science movement also blurs the line between producers and consumers, because it gives non-experts a chance to contribute nuggets of genuine insight and innovation. So far our two best proofs of concept are the Polymath Project (proving a math theorem on an open blog) and Foldit (citizens playing a video game that identifies protein structures). It will be exciting to see what sort of progress emerges from these types of efforts. More on Open Science from a TEDster: http://www.ted.com/talks/michael_nielsen_open_science_now.html

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