Oct 14

(Sl)activism – Progress or Stagnation?

Johannes Kast reflects on the meaning of slacktivism in the context of social progress.

The compensation effect” or “moral self-Licensing” is what psychologists call the ‘ethical credit’ people often reward themselves when having done a good deed. This might be as a result to signing a petition, buying eco-friendly products or doing any other perceived good deed. Further research shows that often times good behaviour now can quickly result in bad behaviour later. Nina Mazar and Chen-Bo Zhong found out that people generally act less altruistic and are more likely to steel or cheat after purchasing green products. Anna C. Merritt, Daniel A. Effron and Benoît Monin came to a similar conclusion in their paper: “Moral Self-Licensing: When Being Good Frees Us to Be Bad”.

Slacktivism essentially means engaging in or supporting activism with a minimal amount of effort. This for itself is certainly a welcoming trend, as sharing information creates awareness and giving ethical choices to people with little to no added effort makes them more likely to engage in them. A recent example is the Amazon smile campaign, where part of the price is donated to a pre-selected organisation of your choice. However, when Amazon is taking the burden of charity from the supporter the effect might be bad for aid organisations while very profitable for Amazon. The same was found about liking an organisation on Facebook. It turns out that liking an organisation might actually mean giving them less.

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Oct 14

#ChicagoGirl – ”From my laptop, I am running a revolution in Syria”

An excellent example of the use of social media in development – commentary by Charlotta Duse.



This is a very recommendable documentary about social media citizens journalists and activists in Syria and America, documenting the conflict in Syria (I have only found it with subtitles in Swedish). Although the interviews are a few years old, the content is still very actual.

Sharing via new media

By sharing videos, photos and stories from inside of Syria on social networks the young people we meet in this documentary are trying to shape the world’s view of the events in a country hard for the traditional media to portrait. Via Twitter, Facebook, Youtube etc. these persons have started their own citizens media agency with the goal to spread words and pictures of what is going on in Syria, this by risking their own lives. An added value to the sharing is of course also that people, in Syria or outside of the country, sympathizing with the activists feel a greater security seeing that more people feel the same way as they do – this is social medias gift of joining people together (Kluitenberg. 2003:2). But this of course requires the recourses to find and see the videos by the likeminded, as well as by global audience. 

The geographical distance is no problem – the ubiquity of information is nowadays a fact (Archetti.2011:182). This is one of the many potentials of digital networking and new media: a way of promoting and democratizing knowledge and communication everywhere. But you need to know where to look for it, what is shown to a majority of people is another issue. One can of course question the change a video on youtube makes, if nobody sees it. 

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Oct 14

Big Data and You: Accessing Big Data

Johannes Kast on open data and big data… and the data revolution.

Big Data is shaping the way we look at the world and offers an alternative way of predicting what is going to happen next. And the amount of data is exponentially increasing. While in 2012, 2.8 Billion Terrabyte of data were saved, the IDC predicts that this number will increase to 40 Billion in the year 2020. Data is changing how we make sense of the the world, it changes classic business models drastically and it has the potential to revolutionise social sciences and the development sector.

There is an obvious benefit for companies to use their collected user data to analyse their markets and consumers, a practice that social media has monetized for a while now. And the tendency to collect massive amounts of data by government agencies has been demonstrated by the scope of the recent NSA scandal. However the Open Data and Open Government trend, which is essentially unstructured data being made publicly available to everyone, is growing as well and can potentially open up new possibilities how non-profits (or other third parties) can play a more active and creative role in shaping our world.

While it can be argued that the current form of data being released is supply driven, while it should be demand driven there are already several access points made available. With more than 150,000 data sets and tools to use them, the US Open Data initiative is a step into the right direction, offering raw information on over twenty topics, such as agriculture, climate and education.

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Oct 14

A story about when public data was too big, and maybe not so public after all

How open is Sweden to open data? Charlotta Duse investigates.

A daily routine at the local newspaper where I work, and at many others, is that the news chief goes to the town hall to fetch the daily public documents. In these documents one finds correspondence between institutions, decisions made in the municipality, prosecutions, judges, new guidelines, construction permits etc; basically anything that goes on nearby. 

Anyone can get these documents, the data is public and protected by the principle of public access (http://www.regeringen.se/content/1/c6/24/55/92/61c8bc18.pdf): a principle to make sure that the democratic system can be looked into, as well as to promote civic participation. Just as we saw in Abigails post Open Data, transparency is, and should be, one part of ”the good” of open data.

After getting the daily documents, the editorial sorts out what is of interest for its readers. (It should be pointed out that this is no objective process – here lies a big risk of misinterpretation, focus on some things while ignoring others, judging what is public interest and what is not etc.) After choosing the happenings of interest the reporter write his or her article based on the document, a document often written in a complicated language, in a manner that anyone can understand the information given in it.

But some time ago, colleagues in Kalmar had troubles getting access to these public papers. The reason? 

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Oct 14

Real Virtualities

Abigail Leffler considers the use of open data in academia

Do you like cartoons? If you do, you may enjoy this eight and a half-minute long one by Piled higher and Deeper (PhD) advocating for the use of open data in academia.

The authors submit that ‘tax payers are already paying for knowledge to be distributed broadly’ (Shockey and Eisen: 2012). Research and peer-reviewed papers in the public domain benefit not only students and researchers in both developed and less developed countries (for the latter, open data is precious as it may be the only resource at hand), but authors as well, as it helps them gain more visibility in their field.

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Sep 14

Some Wednesday morning inspiration

Charlotta Duse introduces the topic of open data and related transparency and accountability issues.

Sanjay Pradhan is Vice President for Change, Knowledge and Learning at the World Bank and is known for his work on open development. In this TED talk he illustrates the possibilities with open data and transparency for accountability and inclusive development.


Sep 14

Hello world!

This is a test