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Government - Written by on Monday, September 13, 2010 14:41 - 2 Comments

Thomas Gegenhuber
Repair the world

The ARS Electronica Festival in Linz is a conference that supports cutting-edge experiments in digital culture. The motto of this year’s festival was “REPAIR – ready to pull the lifeline,” and the highlight was the “Open Source Life” symposium. The bottom line of “Open Source Life” is how to transfer the ideas of open source to other layers of society.
Although I saw a lot of good ideas, here are some of my favorites:

  1. OpenStreetMap and Ushahidi as tools for change

    Erica Hagen and Mikel Maron presented their project, Map Kibera, with which they mapped the neighborhood of Kibera, a slum in the City of Nairobi, Kenya. By engaging the community, the grey space on every map was turned into a dense, detailed and public available OpenStreetMap map. Alongside empowering the citizens of Kibera, this map makes it easier for NGOs to do their work: in the second phase of the project, the team used Ushahidi to create the site voiceofkibera.org, where citizens can submit geolocated issues and problems to be addressed. For instance, this was useful for reporting problems in the referendum process. Many citizens access voiceofkibera.org via phone, as the rate of web-enabled phones in Kibera is fairly high. The project was realized with less than $100k and probably had more impact than several top-down development aid initiatives would have.

  2. Where is my trash? TrashTracker

    How to create consciousness for the environment and sustainability? Prof. Carlo Ratti, director of MITs Sensable City Lab, thought of following answer: let’s track our trash by using “small, smart, location aware tags” to find out where it ends up. The “Trash Tracker” will increase the knowledge of the “removal chain” and can lead to improvements in waste management.

  3. The nice facebook: Diaspora

    In the battle David against Goliath, Diaspora would be David. Diaspora is aiming to create a “privacy aware, personally controlled, do-it-all, open source social network.” After presenting the project, I asked Maxwell Salzberg from Diaspora about the high switching costs for an user to move from one social network to the next. I used the analogy of a city: when you move into a new city, you lose most of your friends; switching social networks will be the same. Salzberg agreed that social network mobility should be a core feature. My perspective is that governments need to think about regulations for social networks in that sense to create more competition between social network providers, and allow for user mobility between sites.

  4. Investigate environmental crime: Infodoalamar.info

    Infondoalmar.info enables grassroots monitoring of environmental crimes in the Mediterranean Sea. The site locates ships with hazardous waste that have been illegally sunk. It makes the invisible visible and creates pressure on public authorities. This project is based on empowering the citizens and declares that we need everyone to take actively care about the environment. David Eaves put forward the concept of the long tail in public service. The long tail knowledge of the citizens will lead to a long-term success of this platform: Government might know lot, but without reports from citizens it is impossible to track all the environmental crime. In fact, analysis of the traffic showed that Italian officials from ministries and agencies are already one of the biggest users of the site.


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Sep 14, 2010 4:56

Regarding Diaspora:
At the end of the day I think it’s a question what kind of principal philosophy the platform operator is applying. I’m using e.g. http://chocobrain.com
They’re already applying user oriented privacy protection. See e.g.: http://www.chocobrain.com/content/chocoBRAIN-Privacy-See-our-philosophy/38CFBF5A94E511DF82C23627CF5951C2

Retrospect: Free Culture Research Conference 2010 «
Oct 14, 2010 11:51

[...] but the switching costs for facebook users to another social network are very high. To use following analogy: Moving from one social network to the next is like moving into another city. You lose a lot of [...]

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