Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Tuesday 9/03/2004Let nobody say that our greatest and most ancient universities are set in their ways. Today, top news terrier Graeme Wearden fearlessly penetrates the Oxford Internet Institute -- under the patronage of Oxford U itself -- to dig out hot poop on information warfare.

Tuesday 9/03/2004
Let nobody say that our greatest and most ancient universities are set in their ways. Today, top news terrier Graeme Wearden fearlessly penetrates the Oxford Internet Institute -- under the patronage of Oxford U itself -- to dig out hot poop on information warfare. He got his story, but against the odds. For although the OII seeks to become -- take a deep breath -- "the world's leading multi-disciplinary academic centre focused on furthering understanding of the economic, political, institutional, scientific, legal and other social factors shaping the Internet and its implications for society," it's not entirely comfortable in the brave new world which it so wishes to understand.

For example, it's been set up since 2001 and has already divined that the Net is "a phenomenon that goes far beyond its basic technical capabilities and layers of diverse and increasingly powerful services and applications to encompass all the people, services, information, and technologies that are intertwined in this 'network of networks'." -- not bad going for three years of intensive intellectual analysis. But it hasn't quite twigged that people might want to access "this 'network of networks'" as part of their job, which is why the seminar Wearden attended ran in a room with no mobile phone coverage and not a sniff of Wi-Fi.

Undeterred, our sterling sleuth pulled out his laptop and proceeded to document the goings-on with the intention of filing later in the day. Oh dear. So intense is the cerebration, so focused the intellect at these things that the sound of someone typing provoked a sea of outraged glares. "It was like letting rip an enormous fart in the British Library Reading Room," the uncomfortable hack would have said afterwards were he as rude as I am, "only slightly less smelly".

However, he wasn't entirely blameless for the next outrage he perpetrated on the mighty minds of the OII. The day was wearing on and the discussions were wearing thin, and the quiet murmurings of the speaker merged seamlessly with the whisper of the air conditioning and his daydreams of sundrenched beaches… and feeling his attention wander, he elected to take what NASA call a Power Nap: a few minutes of sleep that refresh and reinvigorate. Spacemen do it, pilots do it, even captains at sea: but they take a precautionary measure that our hero neglected -- they remove their hands from the controls. As his hands slumped across the keyboard, the autorepeat kicked in and the keyboard buffer steadily filled -- until the computer decided enough was enough and started to bleep, loudly and repeatedly.

He woke up shortly afterwards: the speaker hadn't actually thrown a chalk eraser at his head but that was probably due to the podium being to heavy to act as a projectile.

Wearden's campaign for an honorary degree from the Uni, we hear, has some way to go.