What is GSSD?

Previous Director’s Messages


January 2006

GSSD Administration and New Venues

This Director’s Message focuses on matters of administration on the one hand, and on new venues in research and e-functionalities on the other. The contributors are the System Administrator, the Content Administrator, and the Co-Manager of a new initiative currently being developed in the area of interactive gaming and simulation.

Content Administrator – Dinsha Mistree

The GSSD website acts as a content identification and filtering device to browse among the myriad projects -- as well as theoretical and policy contributions -- that could facilitate the pursuit of sustainable development. To this end, we at GSSD do not try to maintain an all-inclusive site of sustainable development projects, but rather we selectively cull what the web and the world have to offer. In addition, we take into account the views and insights of others, specifically, web-based submissions, for inclusion in the GSSD knowledge base (done by filling out the ‘submit site’). The role of the content administrator is to regularly identify, monitor, and select the various initiatives, policy announcements, scholarly works, and other innovative measures worldwide, that bear directly on the knowledge framework of GSSD (as described in ‘Introduction’ on the Home Page, and described in more detail in “Mapping Sustainability” in ‘Reports’). For example, our most recent coverage has been about ‘e-governance’.

The GSSD structure is also currently being redefined in two critical realms. First, as advances in technology have changed how all social interactions take place, the current structure must better capture how technology is changing the face of sustainable development, particularly with regards to governance structures. Second, following recent political shifts, the nature and role of international institutions and international accords are changing. In the coming months, we hope to make content-representation and relevant alterations that better capture these shifts. For more information about content administration, please contact dmistree@mit.edu

System Administrator - Behram Mistree

The role of the system administrator is to make sure that all parts of the GSSD functions are operating effectively, and that the routine system synchronization and replication across the partner-mirror sites are always up to date. Because of the complexity of the technologies that comprise GSSD, occasional disturbances arise within the GSSD framework. These bugs limit GSSD in its mission to dissolve barriers and increase knowledge availability. A primary concern of the system administrator is to address these bugs as they arise and anticipate unexpected problems, thereby ensuring and building upon the functionality of the GSSD's networked website and database. Among the immediate issues that I have dealt with in this regard are addressing bugs that prevented effective replication and synchronization of content with partner institutions.

Recognizing that the web is a dynamic network, the system administrator is also responsible for ensuring that sites pointed to by the GSSD system are relevant, topical, and up to date. To this end, I have developed a 'bot’ that automatically screens GSSD's links for content, propriety, and existence. Finally, because the system administrator is responsible for all technical facets of the GSSD system, I keep and update a repository of contact information, passwords, and instructions pertinent to any necessary or potentially desired tasks. These tasks include tracking and recording visitor patterns on GSSD's website as well as the mechanics of posting content. For any issues regarding the technical maintenance or accessibility of the GSSD system, please contact me at bmistree@mit.edu.

Global Agenda! - New Interactive Simulation and Gaming - Christi Electris and Dinsha Mistree

The GSSD team has been working on a set of educational products to enhance both the teaching and learning of political science—with a focus on international relations—through simulation and interactive gaming. The Global Agenda! is simulation game currently at early stages of development. It is a multi-disciplinary project involving international relations theory, computer science, and media studies. For the most part, the entire initiative is devised and designed by MIT students and members of GSSD-MIT. Given their computational and conceptual skills, they will design and examine international political scenarios that they will be able to explore and play through Global Agenda! simulation game. This will give the students a computational and visual platform to test their hypotheses about interconnections between national actions and international implications, as well as between global processes and local implications. 

The objective has been to create a hands-on experience—and give rise to some fun—in the process of understanding how singular actions create unintended reactions, and how decision and policy are not open-ended, but invariably have certain consequences both domestically and internationally in all countries and at all levels of development. This simulation and gaming approach is intended to enhance the user’s understanding of transformation and change in relations among nations, taking into account the power of non-state actors - notably, international corporations, terrorist groups, and the United Nations—and addressing complex issues such as conflict and violence, trade-offs in strategies for sustainability, and the politics of diplomacy.

For more information and updates on our progress, please visit the Global Agenda! 
website: http://web.mit.edu/global/