Contest results ;)

by Iulia on March 19, 2014

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picture under Creative Commons license, see original here

Hi there,

The prize goes to…. E. Korswing– congratulations Elizabeth! Thanks very much everyone for your support!

Iulia, Maria and Rushina

see full text here.

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Open Source – Linux – a case study

by Iulia on March 19, 2014

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Photo under Creative Commons license

 

I was thinking for a long time now that maybe I should write something on the Open Source movement and maybe now it’s the time  – open source can be anything related to universal access to a resource and the possibility to redistribute it and improve it. It relates to the greater concept of Open Collaboration.

I was first introduced to Linux luckily at a point in its life when it was a rather stable platform. And at a point in time when my operating system was slow, had inter-version issues (see editors) and kept ‘freezing’. The new platform was a bit weird to me, due to the different types of rights, but I soon learned how to use it and it was a cool breeze to be able to work in a robust open document format (odt) and further save the document in an universal look like pdf. Yeah, I know, pdf is not open source, but it’s a happy workaround when users from other platforms haven’t got various readers at hand excerpt the no_no_ and Adobe Reader. I soon learned that my system can run for a pretty long time without interruption and my tasks became more fluid. I could do the stuff I wanted to in no time, I was impressed. And then I wanted to learn more about it…

Well, I pretty much liked the idea: it was based on open standards, this meaning that people coded the operating system and left it open for view to anyone. Anyone could pick the code and improve it, if wanted to (be it a program or even the linux core, called kernel). This turned into many different versions of distributions and even to forks between communities! This didn’t get me scared, I am on the same page with Mouffe and think that conflict is good; conflict is the engine of progress. Most Linux communities are virtual and organize themselves through online tools and mailing lists however offline events like conferences and workshops do exist so sometimes people get the chance to meet – this case study really qualifies for mediated mobilization and commons-based peer production.

I soon learned that corporations don’t leave their Operating System‘s code open – they don’t want someone looking into their work. And wondered: why would you refuse the potential of creativity and improvement, when it is out there?

Actually not all corporations do this. One of them, called Red Hat embraced Linux by developing it into Red Hat Enterprise platform and together with a robust team of selected developers adapted the OS to corporate/business standards. This meaning that businesses themselves could run the OS and be happy with it.. the same developers work side by side with Linux community alongside Fedora Project and they use both the community’s insights and innovations while having an input in Fedora’s development.

This goes to show that code can be open and businesses can support this – even gain advantage from the external communities’ input. The community of people can and will be involved, this shows a sense of participating in the world, by sharing and improving knowledge.

I do remember of a story – when one tech-oriented customer had an issue with his Sony MD player and had to actually ‘break the software code’ in order to see what’s in and he actually found a solution to it. He tried to speak to Sony to report the issue and offer them a solution, however Sony reps got very upset over the breaking of the code and decided not to cooperate and even threaten their customer with a lawsuit. Pretty sad that they decided to stop over the means as opposed to the purpose.

Now, there is a point that Mozorov tries to make regarding openness and open standards. While these are not bad, institutions can use this in a sneaky way. He mentions that now open standards are used to show the openness of the governments, however openness in the context of governments should mean something else – accountability and transparency in the day to day actions. This, again, doesn’t mean that open source as a concept is faulty, just that people should be aware of what governments’ responsibilities are and pressure them to follow up on these, when they don’t.

I trust that Open Source is here to stay.

What do you think? Any thoughts on the pros and cons of open software?

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Independent news?

by Maria on March 18, 2014

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How did you find out about Nelson Mandela’s death? Surprisingly many people would answer that it was a post on their Facebook or Twitter newsfeed or some other social media site that had alerted them to the news (see other examples above, photo from Social Media Today). And in many cases, they were informed about the event almost instantaneously.

Social media sources are becoming increasingly relevant as news outlets alongside with the fast technical development of mobile phones and other digital tools. People are connected 24/7 and expect to receive live streamed news during any hour of the day – or night.

The traditional media – television, newspapers and radio – are losing audiences. In order to survive, they too need to be on the web. Reporters have started twittering on the side of writing thoroughly researched articles and it seems that all established newspapers and TV channels now have Facebook pages.   

This development has also inspired a number of new media start-ups in the sector. These sites monitor news flows in social networks and traditional media, repackage the stories and quickly disseminate them to their target groups via social media. Here reporters and editors work together with volunteer contributors and commentators, who add to the interactive, ‘grassroot’- feeling of the sites.

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PolicyMic provides a good example of such a site. It is a fairly young, New York-based company that targets 20-30-year-olds and provides “(s)tories that matter to our generation and disrupt the world as we know it”. The company mission is to deliver news & analysis on political, cultural, and social issues in a way that engages and inspires this young generation, tired of traditional media.  

PolicyMic has a strong participatory component. Users can sign up, comment on articles and cast votes on good comments. These ‘smart young experts’ contribute to the  “counternarratives and a diversity of perspectives that aren’t typically showcased at other outlets”.

This type of participatory journalism opens vast possibilities for movements such as Indymedia, as with all the free and user friendly tools the web offers today – any and all voices can be easily heard. Even people without any formal journalistic training can write about their local communities and issues that may be overlooked by traditional media.  

PolicyMic is not an activist movement, but it seems to search for a middleground between entertainment and more serious and critical journalism. It addresses a group that has been marginalized in the traditional news media – the youth – and provides them a voice of their own. However, one could argue that “their generation” is typically white, wealthy and well-educated with unlimited internet access, time and ability to respond to quite a sophisticated debate.

It is also important to keep in mind the fundamental differences between news from traditional and new media outlets. Traditional press – even when dominated by big conglomerations – still holds on to the importance of research, verified, objective and truthful facts and the knowledge of experts and professional journalists. When in the hands of an amateur, news can indeed show new interesting perspectives of the world, but at the same time fall into the trap of subjectivity and erroneous reporting. 

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Mad Graffitti Week Egypt

by Iulia on March 18, 2014

egyptcourtesy of Ganzeer

In a previous post we briefly mentioned Graffitti Harimi, a campaign meant to be pro women empowerment/contra street harassment. We didn’t get the chance to get into details – due to the rather broad topic of the article – however that was an interesting example of the potential of social media in street art movements.

We are going to look now at a different street art campaign, which spread in Egypt in 2012 in the run-up to the anniversary of the 25 January revolution, called Mad Graffitti Week with the aim to to destroy the military council using the weapon of art and to further get the power back to civilian authorities.

The call for this campaign was made public on social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter) as well as on activist blogs. While the Facebook page‘s messages are mostly in the local language, Twitter updates are written in English – it looks like a good strategy to confirm identity through the first and offer international visibility through the latter. It aimed at both artists – street artists, filmmakers, musicians, etc. and regular population. Artists were encouraged to contribute with their particular ways into conveying the message while people were given the possibility to contribute to the campaign by printing posters at home and posting them on the city walls.

Although slogans associated with stencils/posters were in Egyptian we could get hold of a few translations:  ‘Take to the streets on 25 January.’ ‘Liars’ – with reference to the military council. The most common stencil is that of Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi — some of them read ‘Put him on trial’ or ‘Tantawi is Mubarak’.

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These social media platforms helped circulate booklets of drawings (with further use as posters) and stencils (with clear instructions on how to cut and paint) sometimes using cloud storage capabilities (scribd, dropbox) also showing ways to scale images in order to transform them into wall-size posters. Due to the networking capabilities of these platforms these materials become widespread and further people started to be involved. Supporting efforts showed up in the form of street art not only in Egypt, but also in Germany, UK, Austria, Poland and Canada.

This is yet an interesting example of mediation and mediated mobilization– the social media capabilities of spreading the message and promote dialogue (interactivity and network formation) and the particular ways in which people could contribute and make their offline action heard by using ICT tools.

 

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The persuasive power of parody

March 16, 2014

In November 2013, SAIH (Norwegian Students’ and Academics’ International Assistance Fund) released a short video titled Let’s save Africa! – Gone wrong (see above). The film is structured as a fake documentary about an African ‘child charity actor’. The narrative follows the young boy on a film set, making footage for charity purposes. In between […]

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Of Sexual Harassment and Other Demons

March 13, 2014

Photo courtesy of Melody Patry / Index on Censorship. Authors: Mira and Zeft In the post below we would like to pick again an uncomfortable subject – sexual harassment and sexual abuse. Worst scenarios include gang harassment and gang rape happening not only in Egypt and India, but also in France and the US, to […]

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ICT4C or ICT4D

March 12, 2014

If it was not for the culture jammers to tear down billboard messages and if it were the technology geeks to innovate so as to change the linearity of  billboards and make the outdoor medium a space for social interaction then perhaps it is not activism but a dignified form of technology innovation. Many case […]

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Cool contest or ‘let the fun begin’ ;)

March 10, 2014

picture under Creative Commons license, see original here          Hey you! we do have a hunch that deep down inside you beats the heart of a new media activist or supporter, therefore we have prepared for you a fresh contest and a cool prize! Beware, it won’t be easy but not too […]

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Brand Activism – ‘Gay OK’ @ Sochi Olympics

March 8, 2014

In continuation to the earlier post highlighting child activism, I present one which is targeting children. We have seen how activists challenge the commercial brands toward social and environmental responsibility. Here is an example of how some brands challenge politicians and nations toward a similar cause. The recent Sochi Winter Olympics were fogged by gay […]

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Activism Ain’t Just for Adults!

March 6, 2014

   photo courtesy of Martha Payne Hi there! I am picking last lines of the previous article and expanding the underlying idea – I will try to present below another example of the Streisand effect in the framework of New Media Activism. But first of all let’s see what this syntagm means, right? The Streisand […]

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