Robots attack in hostile media

In 2007, a man in Sweden was injured by a industrial robot used for lifting heavy stones. The accident occurred when the man thought that the power was cut off and went inside the security area. The man received head injuries and broken ribs. Now that the matter has been investigated by the Swedish Work Environment Authority and the police, the prosecutor has chosen not to prosecute but to issue a fine of 25 000 kronor.

The exciting thing is the language with which the media chose to present what happened. If the machine had been a drill or a washing machine or a tractor, which caused the damage media would have used a completely different language – if it even had made it into the media.

Since this is Swedish media they are all in Swedish but here are the sources for this post: Dagens Nyheter, Dagens Industri, Norran, Piteå Tidningen, Gefle Dagblad, Sveriges Radio, Ny Teknik & Metro.

But because it is a robot the mainstream media have all chosen to write about the killer robot that attacks with the intention of causing harm. Certain media have even insinuated that such attacks may be coordinated! In the media the machine is given a being, a consciousness and a soul. Which is then developed into a being with the evil intentions rather than a product of design and programming. Like a modern Frankenstein, it is we create beyond our control.

Although industrial robots have long been among us, we want to still see them as exotic. We like to mix them together with the robots that we see in films where they quite often develop thoughts, ideas and feelings in order to finally figure out that we are superfluous and dangerous to their existence. This justifies the use of pre-emtive self-defense. In the world of film we are usually saved by a violent, technology hostile man (almost a luddite, except with guns) who shows that scientists do not understand the meaning of what is being created (see, eg, I, Robot or Terminator Trilogy). It is a paradox that in a technological world the hero that saves us all is an opponent to technology.

Films and media, in these cases, play on dark fears barely hidden in our subconscious. These fears are that we live in a world that we do not control, and a suspicion that those who claim to have control do not really have any control either. In a way this approach to technology and science is similar to our primitive need for religion to explain what we do not know. The difference is that today everybody can find out how things really work. But it’s too much hard work to read and discover the truth – much more fun to attack the robots.

Shooting Back

Providing cameras and video cameras to different groups is not an uncommon method which allows the subjects to bring their own lives into focus without the direct mediation of the “outsider” camera/filmmaker. Naturally all uses of technology contain risks of bias and slanted views – nobody still believes that the camera never lies? Even if many still believe that fashion images are “real”.

In January 2007, B’Tselem launched Shooting Back, a video advocacy project focusing on the Occupied Territories. We provide Palestinians living in high-conflict areas with video cameras, with the goal of bringing the reality of their lives under occupation to the attention of the Israeli and international public, exposing and seeking redress for violations of human rights.

In projects such as these technology in the form of the cameras and Internet as a distribution medium can be used to empower those involved in a conflict while still providing a preaceful alternative way of coping with everyday violence.

Flickr Growth

Media Culpa is an interesting media blog which also includes following Flickr. Since I use Flickr in lectures I find this very helpful. Here is the latest on Flickr growth from Media Culpa.

On May 17, 2008, the 2,500,000,000th photo was uploaded to Flickr (photo here). If we look at previous milestones, it appears that the growth of Flickr could be slowing down. In November last year I wrote that the first billion photos took three and a half years while the second billion took three months. Now we can assume that it took six months to get the next half a billion photos.

I have compiled the graph below out of data directly from Flickr by checking a series of photos to find the date they were uploaded and hopefully they are correct. Regarding the growth, we know that much of the explosive increase during mid 2007 (from June and three months forward) was due to the migration of photos from Yahoo Photos. But despite the fact that Yahoo Photos supposedly had 2 billion photos, the figures suggest that far less than 1 billion were migrated into Flickr.

So, while I don’t have any official figures from Flickr, it does not seem that the organic growth is keeping the same pace as it did in the fall last year. It will be interesting to keep an eye on the development the coming six months for Flickr.

flickr photos

Footnote: The series of data I used was the following:

22-okt-04 1000000
20-apr-05 10000000
15-feb-06 100000000
22-sep-06 250000000
15-maj-07 500000000
19-jul-07 850000000
20-aug-07 1180000000
06-okt-07 1500000000
13-nov-07 2000000000
17-may-08 2500000000

Offensive Report

Infocult writes about a report from ScanDefender which shows that 80% of the blogosphere contains “potentially offensive content,”  the majority of the medium is seen as threatening. This is the typical kind of scare tactics which is just annoying. What is it that is offensive? According to ScanDefender’s definition this is widely described as “rang[ing] from adult language to pornographic images”.

The focus of the report is on malware but it does find a small space to invoke the dangers of the blogosphere (download the report here). The whole point of the 80% offensive content seems to be only there to create a catchy headline.

Naturally there is offensive content on the Internet and also in blogs. But define your terms! What is offensive? To whom? By which objective standards? The blogosphere is huge so how did you arrive at 80%? etc, etc… The methodological questions are too many to list. Unfortunately this validity of claims such as these are not questioned – people seem to prefer the snappy headlines.

I find reports such as this offensive…

Yesterday's Anti-DRM

As you may have known yesterday was the international day to protest against DRM. For more information see Despite the fact that I defended my PhD and partied until two. I pulled myself out of bed at 6am to get dressed in yellow overalls and demonstrate outside Chalmers University at 7.30. At about 9.30 stopped handing out leaflets and took a well deserved break.

This did not mean that we were done for the day. Oh no. At 11.30 we gathered at the center of town to continue our demonstrations until 1pm. The results? We handed out well over a thousand leaflets, we were interviewed by two newspapers and my headache never left me for a moment.

It was a brilliant way to celebrate my new life as Dr. Klang. This is the first time I wrote Dr. Klang! Feels kind of strange, but nice…

Strategic Media Relations

â??beware of Greeks bearing giftsâ??: The phrase comes from Virgil’s poem of the Trojan war (The Aeneid) and represents an interpretation to the phrase spoken by Laocoon attempting to warn the Trojans not to bring the wooden horse into the city, â??Whatever it is, I fear Greeks even when they bring gifts.â?? (Quidquid id est, timeo Danaos et dona ferentes). Naturally the Trojans did not listen and they were massacred. More on the story at wikipedia.

So when I received an email recommending a privacy story my paranoia reminded me of Loacoon. The mail began: â??Thought you might be interested in reading and possibly linking to the following story published in the Star-Telegramâ?? â?? the story was on the use of biometrics at Disney Theme parks, written by two students. Interesting but definitely old news. Even I wrote about it ages ago (July 2005)

I have never heard of the Star-Telegram nor of the sender of the email. So I began to dig. The first clue came from the email address this mail comes from an account director at a â??Strategic Media Relationsâ?? company.

Why would someone I do not know, working at a PR firm want to draw my attention to a mildly interesting news story? It was not even a news story really more an information piece. So I checked my logs.

It seems like the PR firm searches for blogs on technorati and then emails them with â??newsâ?? stories. The idea would most probably be to create increased interest in their clients. This is confirmed by the email which includes a paragraph about a cooperation between four schools of journalism.

My problem is that I would probably have linked to the story and I have no real problem linking to the journalism project. But the use of the PR firm sending friendly emails as if they were concerned about privacy issues (which I am) just makes the whole thing â?? sad.

I will not post their story since it is not the story they are interested in â?? they are marketers and spammers. Please correct me if I am wrong.

I realise that this post has been thin on the details but that is because I do not inadvertently want to do what the email attempted to manipulate me into doing.

La Stampa goes (partly) CC

In an act which is begins to show that some mainstream media is begining to get it! La Stampa, a leading Italien daily has just released its two cultural supplements, TuttoScienze (science) and TuttoLibri (books), under a Creative Commons license (Att-NC-ND 2.5).

Ok so the license is one of the less permissable, but at least it shows that they are thinking and acting with an awareness of what is really happinging rather than attempting to fight against the current legal-technical developments online.

Will blog for cash (and even for free)

Actually I am sceptical to the idea of making money from blogging. In a previous post on the Blogburst I reported about the downsides of commercial feeds (they eat your broadband, usually you dont get more readers, and payment is virtually nil). Obviously there are the exceptions to the rule. In the same way as Madonna makes money from selling records is an exception from the thousands (hundreds of thousands?) who never will.

Dont get me wrong – I am not against money per se. I just dont believe that I will make money directly from my blog. Despite this, I found this news interesting.

Scoopt, the world’s first commercial citizen journalism photography agency, has just launched ScooptWords to help bloggers sell their content to newspapers and magazines. Within the Scoopt interface, you can easily add a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license to your blog right alongside a Scoopt commercial badge. Use the CC license to tell people how your work can be used non-commercially; use the ScooptWords badge to let editors know that your writing can be purchased for commercial use. There’s so much great blog content being created every day — it’ll be very exciting to see how it helps change the way newspapers and magazines are created.

(via Creative Commons)

The attempts to create commercial forms of citizen journalism are fascinating to watch. Again we see the new social uses of media threatening the established business models. Blogs will not kill print media but they will force print media news to adapt to a new reality.  As usual in situations such as these there will be commercial winners and losers.

Freelancers & Copyright

My last post was an attempt to blog via mail but it was less than successful since all that was posted was the header. I obviously have a lot to learn in this area. The post was supposed to include this text:
Today I am attending the Nordic Seminar for Freelance Journalists. This year it is being held in Kungälv at a conference center with a great view of Bohus Fästning (Bohus Fortress). The whole event is between Friday and Sunday but I am here to talk about Creative Commons licensing for the intellectual property slot on Friday afternoon.

Bohus Fortress

The IP block begins with a discussion on recent caselaw which is followed by a presentation called the archaeology of copyright. After a short coffee break I will present Creative Commons licenses and the session closes with a presentation of the Nordic and European Union rules of Copyright. This sounds like an interesting way to spend the afternoon even if it seems like summer has finally arrived.

It will be interesting to hear first hand from the point of view of freelance journalists their views on copyright and hopefully we will even discuss the influence such technology as blogs.

I was concerned that the freelance journalists would not take well to CC but I could not have been more wrong. Their major concern is that their work can be (and often is) “stolen”, in addition to the need to be better at negotiating for payments for the online use of their work by their print media customers.

They often spoke of their concern for their reputation and themselves as trademarks – in particular their concern that online publication in forms that they could not predict may seriously damage their future work.

We had a very good discussion and the response was positive.