Ira David Socol is a Ph.D. student studying special education technology at Michigan State University. This would not be of interest to our community were he not also a champion of liberation technologies in education. At his personal blog and institutional blog, Ira has various resources that may be of interest to those studying at the intersection of liberation technology and education. As Ira notes in an interview with OpenEducation.net:
Starting today through the end of the weekend, Random Hacks of Kindness (RHoK), in collaboration with Crisis Commons, is hosting its second hackathon — a global gathering of hackers in many locations around the world, coming together in real time for a marathon weekend of coding around problems relating to natural disaster risk and response. Washington D.C. is the headquarters for RHoK #1.0, where Microsoft is providing state-of-the art hacking space where we can get busy building software solutions to challenges facing regions affected by natural disaster risk. RHoK #1.0 Washington, D.C. is being held in conjunction with the second D.C. Crisis Camp bar camp and the Understanding Risk: Innovation in Disaster Risk Assessment Conference, a gathering of hundreds of experts from around the world who will be discussing some of the very challenges hackers are seeking to provide solutions for. More | Register
According to Victor Mair -- Professor of Chinese Language and Literature at the University of Pennsylvania and a blogger on the Language Log, F?is?bùk? ???? has become a popular way of transcribing the name "Facebook" in Chinese. And what does F?is?bùk? mean? "Absolutely must die." F?i means "not," s? means "die," and bùk? "impermissible, cannot." In other words, F?is?bùk? may be rendered as "cannot not die" (double negative), i.e., "absolutely must die." In any case, Facebook is usually blocked in China (as it is in Pakistan, Iran, and Syria; does North Korea have an Internet?), so Mair says that people can't use Facebook in China so it doesn't really matter what they call it. Nevertheless, Mair is sure the Chinese government must be pleased with the F?is?bùk? ("Absolutely Must Die") moniker.
In an article in The Hill today, Gautham Nagesh reports that Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) co-founder John Perry Barlow speaking at the Personal Democracy Forum (PDF) in New York on Thursday said that the deluge of information available on the web has rendered the United States ungovernable. The former Grateful Dead songwriter said those disppointed in President Barack Obama are disregarding the extent to which the political system is broken. Barlow blamed the Beltway establishment, which he said is loathe to give up any accumulated influence. Barlow argued that citizens by necessity will increasingly have to organize at the local level around the issues most important to them in order to get things done. Barlow said:
"There is a circle of fat around the Beltway that is incredibly thick. We can no longer try to run this country from the center. We've got to run it, just like the Internet, from the edges."
Barlow also had some harsh words for search engine leader Google, which he compared to the Catholic Church:
The Miller Center of Public Affairs has made available online footage from its debate a few weeks back, "Is Democracy Threatened by the Unchecked Nature of Information on the Internet?”
The debaters were:
Interestingly, the discussion referenced the new paper by Genzkow and Shapiro of the University of Chicago, which was highlighted on this blog few weeks back. The paper has been interpreted as providing evidence that mitigates against Cass Sunstein's concern about the internet making us more partisan, arguing as it does that "ideological segregation of online news consumption is low in absolute terms." Ethan Zuckerman has written a useful summary and commentary on the paper which calls into question this interpretation, and suggests the findings may be less than reassuring:
Thomas Loughran from the Department of Physics at the University of Notre Dame writes about his experiences working with BOSCO at trying to bring Internet access to Uganda. There are important practices to be gleaned from his experiences that can be applied to other projects such as Paul English's JoinAfrica.org, which seeks to extend Internet Acess to the entire African continent:
"I work with a small non-governmental organization (NGO) named BOSCO Uganda bringing connectivity to Northern Uganda. BOSCO is gaining experience using a variety of connectivity options in a war-affected rural environment, including Inveneo equipment and One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) in partnership with War Child Holland. We are piloting some mapping projects in rural areas. It seems to me, trying to think from a new-user perspective, that perhaps groups like BOSCO would be well advised not simply to wait for connectivity of the sort Kayak co-founder Paul English from JoinAfrica.org proposes, but to become involved and somehow track the coming and prepare for the arrival of higher speed internet and more widespread connectivity."
Privaserve.org -- a Dutch Foundation -- has published a case study on the success of IT social outsourcing in rural Zambia. According to the case study, the introduction of the Internet in Macha, Zambia, has led to job innovation. The case is a good example of how the introduction of new technologies can promote specialization and lead to changes in the division of labor. While the case touts the benefits of such changes, one must also question the unanticipated consequences -- both good and bad -- that such changes can engender. A brief description of the case is provided below:
80% of the world's population believes the Internet is a basic human right. Now, the folks over at ahumanright.org are hoping to build a global navigation satellite system to achieve this vision. They are building an online application development platform to allow people to participate both on a social and technical level. Currently, ahumanright.org is designing a pilot program for a developing country to roll out 10,000 end-user devices and ground stations to test the feasibility of such an idea using pre-existing satellite infrastructure. On their board, the organization has had people like the late Senator Gaylord Nelson, principal founder of Earth Day International; Lon Levin, founder of XM Satellite Radio; and Simon P. Warden, Director of the NASA Ames Research Center. So far, ahumanright.org has secured funding from Deutsche Telekom (T-Mobile) and are looking for volunteers. For more information or to get involved, please contact Kosta Grammatis.
Davinder Kumar writes in The Guardian that InfoLadies are using netbooks, medical supplies and bicycles to improve the life chances of millions of poor people in Bangladesh, a country where according to the 2009 United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Human Development Report over 36% of the country's population lives on less than US$1 a day, and almost every second child under five is underweight. Kumar describes the scene as follows:
Glenn Greenwald has an article in Salon.com that argues that the Obama administration is waging a war on whistleblowers, many of whom publish their stories online through sites such as Wikileaks. According to Greenwald, the DOJ last month announced it had obtained an indictment against NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake, who exposed serious waste, abuse and possible illegality. Then, the DOJ re-issued a Bush era subpoena to Jim Risen of The New York Times, demanding the identity of his source who revealed an extremely inept and damaging CIA effort to infiltrate the Iranian nuclear program.