RE: Open Knowledge Festival—Between Open Data and Public Knowledge

The first Open Knowledge Festival (#OKfest) took place in Helsinki, Finland, September 17-22, 2012. The festival, arranged by the UK based Open Knowledge Foundation was dedicated to the growing culture of openness extended through digital technology. Following that spirit it covered 13 different “topic streams” coordinated by multiple program planners and attracting talks, panels, workshops … Continue reading RE: Open Knowledge Festival—Between Open Data and Public Knowledge

Wikipedians look to the past, coders looks to the future(s)

Anil Dash just published an interesting post looking at the social implications of the code fork, and how it has changed from a huge contested point to a feature of the collaborated process:

“While Linus Torvalds is best known as the creator of Linux, it’s one of his more geeky creations, and the social implications of its design, that may well end up being his greatest legacy. Because Linus has, in just a few short years, changed the social dynamic around forking, turning the idea of multiple versions of a work from a cultural weakness into a cultural strength. Perhaps the technologies that let us easily collaborate together online have finally matured enough to let our work reflect the reality that some problems are better solved with lots of different efforts instead of one committee-built compromise.”

ShiftSpace's network graph on

This is something we touched upon in the Collaborative Futures book, both in the Multiplicity and Social Coding and the Forks vs. Knives chapters. Anil goes on to suggest a distributed collaborative model that encourages forking might reinvigorate Wikipedia, which follows the more traditional centralized collaborative model:

“Most importantly, the new culture of ubiquitous forking can have profound impacts on lots of other categories of software. There have been recent rumblings that participation in Wikipedia editing has plateaued, or even begun to decline. Aside from the (frankly, absurd) idea that “everything’s already been documented!” one of the best ways for Wikipedia to reinvigorate itself, and to break away from the stultifying and arcane editing discussions that are its worst feature, could be to embrace the idea that there’s not One True Version of every Wikipedia article.”

Extending the distributed model beyond code and leveraging forking in other collaborative processes have interested me for quite some time. In commenting on Anil’s post, I realized something  about the inherent difference between Wikipedia and software. Instead of rewriting it, I’ll just quote my comment in its entirety:

I’m happy that both the merging and the network view issues were addressed on the previous comments. I have been interested in extending the git&github models beyond software myself. I understand the interest in considering Wikipedia as the next logical step for networked collaboration right after code, but I think there is a fundamental difference between the two. While software code contains a set of rules that would operate a system, Wikipedia’s model is almost opposite – it documents a system that is already happening or has happened. Wikipedia attempts to document a monolithic past while software attempts to imagine the multiplicity of the future(s). Read the rest of this comment→

Diaspora’s Kickstarter $$$,$$$ success endangers both Diaspora, Kickstarter & you

The Internets is all buzzing with chatter against Facebook’s latest privacy breaches. Into this happy mix a bunch of NYU students have been cast as the Davids against the social networking Goliath. Is that really a good thing? Can we help? Diaspora is a new initiative by 4 NYU students to create a “privacy aware, … Continue reading Diaspora’s Kickstarter $$$,$$$ success endangers both Diaspora, Kickstarter & you

Upgrade New York: “Free As In What?” video

We have just uploaded the video documentation for one of the most interesting Upgrade events we had in the past year with Biella Coleman and Zach Lieberman discussing the tensions within the Free Software / Open Source world(s?) on the meaning of “free”. It explores the tensions between ethics and pragmatics, between “to free” and … Continue reading Upgrade New York: “Free As In What?” video

Towards the (week of) Collaborative Futures

During the upcoming week I will be working in Berlin with 6 super smart people (Adam Hyde, Mike Linksvayer, Michael Mandiberg, Alan Toner, Aleksandar Erkalovic, Marta Peirano) on writing a whole book from scratch titled “Collaborative Futures”. The format for this collaborative writing was developed by Adam Hyde and the Floss Manuals community which is … Continue reading Towards the (week of) Collaborative Futures

The Techno Cultural Industrial Complex

Google is impatient with our culture-upload speed, and starts taking the job to its own hands. Before we get to excited or too paranoid, let’s see what we stand to gain or loose. Who’s exploiting who? Or is it a mutual opportunity?

Sumerian bust of a Bearded Man circa 3500-3200 BC
Sumerian bust of a Bearded Man circa 3500-3200 BC

Last week Google have announced a somewhat surprising initiative, to digitize the artefacts and documents of the Iraqi National Museum. The first ring of this is great! A private American company helping with the reconstruction of the ravaged Iraqi cultural heritage and making it available to the public online. And all for free.

I do acknowledge that there’s a high level of paranoia whenever Google announces anything. And while I definitely share some of the suspicions, I do not wish to align this post with the side of the conspiracy theorists. Yet I believe it is not hard to suspect that there is more than pure altruism in play here. Google has been expressing frequent PR attempts lately to fight against the inevitable (just a matter of time) anti-trust lawsuit by aligning itself on the side of the public interest.

Still licking the wounds of its somewhat failed book deal (digitizing the world’s books for free), Google is still trying to make an attempt to dive into publishing (rather than indexing) public content on the web. It seems like Google is impatient with the world’s pace of uploading its knowledge online, every failed Google search is a net loss for Google and almost every new service it has announced lately is geared towards increasing this process.

So Is Googlizing Iraqi Heritage Inherently Wrong?

Continue reading “The Techno Cultural Industrial Complex”