Yaba Yaba

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Archive for the ‘digital culture’ Category

Dear Times of India, what part of Creative Commons don’t you understand?

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Times of India is finding it hard to get its head around internet culture and intellectual rights. I mean, stealing a Wikipedia article? How stupid can you get?

Written by yishaym

February 11, 2010 at 10:05 am

Posted in digital culture

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Written by yishaym

June 18, 2008 at 9:52 am

Microsoft wants to be your digital nanny

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Apparently, DRM is not enough for MS. Ars reports that Microsoft has filed for a patent (patent application 2008/125,102) on technology it feels could address such situations via the use of what the company refers to as a “digital manners policy,” or DMP for short.

Sounds nice, no? Having a chip that temporarily bricks cell-phones in the quiet carriage. But of course, digital manners is the same kind of newspeak as DRM. Just like drm doesn’t protect your rights (it limits them), digital manners defies the whole concept of manners.

Not shooting at your neighbour is a matter of law. Not shouting at him is a matter of manners. The distinction is there for a purpose: some aspects of life are left to your own discretion and good judgement. They are enforced by social convention and peer pressure. Regulating such issues means proclaiming that you are not fit to make those judgements. It is acceptable in a nursery or a psychiatric ward, not on the street.

Digital manner is not about manners at all, its about a company thinking it has the right to dictate how you should behave. I wish I could wave it off as bad manners, but its much worse. It takes digital feudalism to new heights.

(ht /.)

Written by yishaym

June 12, 2008 at 1:39 pm

Blog street and TV lane

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Clay Shirky makes an interesting analogy between Gin and Television, and their relationship to social and cognitive surplus. Couldn’t help thinking about Hogarth.

Beer Street and Gin Lane (1751) Beer Street and Gin Lane are two prints issued in 1751 by English artist William Hogarth in support of what would become the Gin Act. Designed to be viewed alongside each other, they depict the evils of the consumption of gin as a contrast to the merits of drinking beer.

… On the simplest level, Hogarth portrays the inhabitants of Beer Street as happy and healthy, nourished by the native English ale, and those who live in Gin Lane as destroyed by their addiction to the foreign spirit of gin;

Gin Lane shows shocking scenes of infanticide, starvation, madness, decay and suicide, while Beer Street depicts industry, health, bonhomie and thriving commerce, but there are contrasts and subtle details that allude to the prosperity of Beer Street as the cause of the misery found in Gin Lane.

Nowadays you can get any form of trash on the TV, yet governments from US to China are trying to control the ‘net. Looks like the man has sided with the Gin makers this time.

Kinda gives a new dimension to “free as in beer”..

Written by yishaym

April 26, 2008 at 4:55 pm

if this is a stunt, it has my respect

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This is a campaign to ensure the UN convention for human rights is upheld and 118 is given an account in his real and legit (although stupid) name.

Well, if Derek Blackadder got his account back, I’m sure mr. 118 TAXI will. Along with a hefty load of new facefriends and more business than he can shake a stick at.

Btw, if you actually read this log regularly, and are wondering what I’m doing on facebook the answer is, if its bad enough for Sheikh Ali al-Maliki to want to block it, its good enough for me to be there.

Written by yishaym

April 6, 2008 at 12:40 am

Mapping electoral fraud in Zimbabwe

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Here’s another great story from Ethan Zukerman on how political activists are using technology to balance the advantage of the organized state. I think that’s what Clay Shirky means by here comes everybody.

… All this is useful context in considering the project that activist organization Sokwanele announced today: a Googlemaps mashup of election-rigging incidents. Each icon on the map corresponds to a media report of an incident that controvenes SADC standards for a free and fair election. Clicking on an icon will take you to the issue of Sokwanele’

digg story

Written by yishaym

March 27, 2008 at 6:04 pm

Adiós FaceBook

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Right, that’s it. enough. I’m gone.

To be honest, I wasn’t feeling very comfortable there for some time now. The idea that these guys are making a commodity out of our identity was gradually seeping in, and I – call me old fashioned – it just didn’t feel right.

blackadder.jpg But now this. Derek Blackadder. Derek is a Canadian trade unionist who was trying to use FaceBook to do what trade unionists do: organise workers and promote their causes. This guy must have read the about page

Facebook is a social utility that connects people with friends and others who work, study and live around them. People use Facebook to keep up with friends, upload an unlimited number of photos, share links and videos, and learn more about the people they meet.

And instead of thinking ‘oh, cool! I can throw a virtual wet fish at my homeboy’s virtual dog’ he thought ‘hey, social utility, connects – that could be useful for empowering workers, mobilizing campaigns, fighting corporations.

Ah, did you say fighting corporations? EEEEEEE wrong answer, dude. You’re out.

you can read the full story here, here, and all over the place. There’s a campaign to reinstate him, and knowing how these people are scared of bad publicity – they probably will (or already have), and say it was all a misunderstanding. But I say: why bother? You know this Internet? the great thing about it: you have the choice. At the end of the day, FB is just another social networking site. And not such a great find (unless you’re really, really into wet fish in the face). Just move on. It was getting too crowded anyway. See you guys at UnLtdWorld, Pulse, LinkedIn, or where ever the winds of web may take you.

(p.s. and leave a msg if you need an UnLtdWorld invite. They are seriously nice.)

OLPC: the realisation of a Cultural Revolution?

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I just came across Ivan Illich’s Consitution for Cultural Revolution.  Strikingly relevant today as it was in 1971, if not more. Yes, Illich is radical, provocative. But its hard to deny he has a point when he argues:

The goals of development are always and everywhere stated in terms of consumer value packages standardized around the North Atlantic – and therefore always and everywhere imply more privileges for a few. Political reorganization cannot change this fact; it can only rationalize it. Different ideologies create different minorities of privileged consumers, but heart surgery or a university education is always priced out of range for all but a few: be they the rich, the orthodox, or the most fascinating subjects for experiments by surgeons or pedagogues.

Underdevelopment is the result of a state of mind common to both socialist and capitalist countries. Present development goals are neither desirable nor reasonable. Unfortunately antiimperialism is no antidote. Although exploitation of poor countries is an undeniable reality, current nationalism is merely the affirmation of the right of colonial elites to repeat history and follow the road traveled by the rich toward the universal consumption of internationally marketed packages, a road which can ultimately lead only to universal pollution and universal frustration.

His proposal? Establish access to educational goods as a basic undeniable equal right, open to free choice and trade:

A cultural revolutionary must fight for legal protection from the imposition of any obligatory graded curriculum. The first article of a bill of rights for a modern and humanist society corresponds to the first amendment of the United States Constitution. The state shall make no law with respect to an establishment of education. There shall be no graded curriculum, obligatory for all. To make this disestablishment effective, we need a law forbidding discrimination in hiring, voting, or admission to centers of learning based on previous attendance at some curriculum. This guarantee would not exclude specific tests of competence, but would remove the present absurd discrimination in favor of the person who learns a given skill with the largest expenditure of public funds. A third legal reform would guarantee the right of each citizen to an equal share of public educational resources, the right to verify his share of these resources, and the right to sue for them if they are denied. A generalized GI bill, or an edu-credit card in the hand of every citizen, would effectively implement this third guarantee.

I wonder, isn’t this percisely the agenda of OLPC? And in a broader view, the open source education movement? Public debate tends to focus on cost and benefit, technical specification, production politics. Its not about that. Its about breaking the feudal structure of knowledge production. About the right of any person to own the means of intellectual production. About equal access to the global conversation. Which is probably why the focus is on children rather than schools. As Illich concludes:

The social and psychological destruction inherent in obligatory schooling is merely an illustration of the destruction implicit in all international institutions which now dictate the kinds of goods, services, and welfare available to satisfy basic human needs. Only a cultural and institutional revolution which reestablishes man’s control over his environment can arrest the violence by which development of institutions is now imposed by a few for their own interest. Maybe Marx has said it better, criticizing Ricardo and his school: “They want production to be limited to ‘useful things,’ but they forget that the production of too many useful things results in too many useless people.”

I suspect Papert and Negraponte would agree.

Written by yishaym

December 7, 2007 at 7:01 pm

Maths test tomorrow? wack some zombies

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Especially if you’re a girl. Recent research* shows that playing 10 hours of shoot-em-ups improves spatial cognition skills which are associated with success in mathematics and science:

Playing an action video game can differentially enhance male and female performance on spatial tasks; females showed larger improvements than males with prior gender differences virtually eliminated (Useful Field of View) or reduced (Mental rotation task).Non-action games may be less likely to have a beneficial effect because they do not sufficiently exercise spatial attentional capacities.

Spatial abilities—including MRT—have been associated with 1) success in mathematics and science courses (Delgado & Prieto, 2004); 2) performance on standardized tests (e.g. SAT: Casey, et al., 1995); and 3) the choice of mathematics and science in college (Casey, et al, 1995). [..] Superior spatial ability is related to employment in engineering and science (McGee, 1979) and females, who typically score lower on tests of spatial skills, are underrepresented in these fields with worldwide participation rates as low as one in five.

Non-video game players in our study realized large gains after only ten hours of training; we can only imagine the benefits that might be realized after weeks, months, or even years of action video gaming experience.

I find the erasure of gender difference fascinating. It strengthens the argument that such differences are predominantly cultivated by the kinds of things we do as kids. Its also interesting to see the parallel with the differences between art and science students.

On the down side, killing zombies is not like bike riding. you have to keep practising:

Underlying processes in the brain are qualitatively different from those in more typical cases of skill acquisition that involve practice—generally these show decay if there is no continued practice to maintain the level of skill.

*: 2007Playing an Action Video Game Reduces Gender Difference in Spatial Cognition. Psychological Science, (18)10:850-855. PDF


Written by yishaym

October 3, 2007 at 10:48 am

Mayday! Mayday! kids are seeing titties!

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Reuter’s lazy summer story about Nigerian kids using OLPCs to browse porn is making the rounds. Yawn.

I have two young kids at home. They both use both our computers independently, mostly for internet access. I would never consider installing any filter on any system I own or manage. In fact, I’m totally pissed over the unbearable ease of use of filters. For me, any case of person A deciding what person B should or should not browse is a violation of human rights. What are they really going to censor, this, this, this or this?
The other aspect which surprises me is the ease in which we get carried along with the ‘porn threat’ discourse. I can easily name quite a few more serious internet ‘risks’, such as racial bullying, homophobic hate, sexist comments on Digg, Fox news, big brother, and Mac (not to mention McDonnalds) ads.

As a matter of fact, I think this is a heads-up for the OLPC: if its good enough for porn, then its good enough for education!

Written by yishaym

July 21, 2007 at 4:27 pm