Democracy in action: Why @Sweden is brilliant when its bad

In an interesting marketing strategy Visit Sweden decided that Sweden cannot be defined by a single voice and began letting “ordinary” Swedes have control over the @Sweden twitter account. It was cute, it was fun – but basically it was boring.

Recently 27 year old Sonja Abrahamsson took over the account and things began to heat up. Her comments are earthy and borderline questionable. None of the ones I have seen are directly racist but they may be seen by some as politically incorrect.

This was too much for several people and the so called scandal was a fact. Just check out the headlines

CNN writes Foul-mouthed Bieber-hating mother takes over @Sweden

Adland writes Sweden – the Worlds most democratic twitter account dissolves into pure anarchy

CIO writes Sweden teaches us how not to do social media

MSNBC writes Swedens democratic twitter experiment goes haywire

But is this really a problem? It feels like the world media is working hard to feel truly insulted over nothing. Sure the author may be non-pc, maybe a person I would prefer not to talk to or read but so what? The whole point of allowing “ordinary” Swedes to take over the account was to demonstrate that Sweden cannot be represented by one voice. Those who would argue that only a specific brand of politically correct Swedes should be allowed to talk miss the whole point. If you come to Sweden you will meet all kinds of people – the same is true if you visit any other country.

The main difference is that instead of a bland mix of picture perfect illustrations that ordinarily bore us with the falsehood this marketing of Sweden shows that ordinary people exist here. The fact that the experiment with @Sweden has achieved little public debate abroad shows that it was not really an exciting thing to do.

Those who argue that Abrahamsson is causing bad publicity for Sweden should think again. How may of those who are insulted (if there are many of those?) are actively cancelling trips to Sweden? Visit Sweden should stand by their choice and behind their idea – in Sweden we believe in freedom of expression. This means that often we hear about stuff we would prefer to avoid.

The critique is more amusing than relevant, a storm in a tea-cup. Unless Abrahamsson has broken any laws then I salute her ability to create a discussion about Sweden that goes beyond the boring stereotypes.

Thesis discussed on radio

The strange thing is that PhD students spend so much time actually writing and thinking the thesis that they forget that the product is important even after the defence. After my defence the thesis as a product has played a marginal role. It seems almost forgotten. Then “out of the blue” (as they say) freelance journalist (and free speech expert) Anders R Olsson discusses my thesis online.

What a thrill to hear someone else discuss my work – not with me but in a general review kind of way. Very, very nice feeling – thank you Anders.

Swedish radio has the recording online (only for thirty days) so if you want to spend seven Swedish minutes with Anders and my thesis then click here.

Video Campaigns and Responses

Starbucks and the government of Ethiopia have been discussing the trademark rights to some of the finest coffee in the world. The root of the conflict is that Starbucks has not recognised Ethiopia’s ownership of the Sidamo, Harar and Yirgacheffe names. (BBC News 26 October & 30 November 2006).

Oxfam began a campaign against Starbucks in order to help the Ethiopian coffee farmers. The idea is that if Starbucks signs the agreement with the Ethiopian intellectual property office the Ethiopian farmers will have more control over their products and this will result in better prices.

The Oxfam campaign is a typical online/offline mix with physical demonstrations being augmented with an information website containing documentation, photographs etc, and an â??act nowâ?? part where individuals can get involved on their own. A textbook example of an information campaign.

Oxfam have also created a video shot from their â??The Starbucks Day of Actionâ?? on December 16. The most natural place to leave a video on the Internet today is on the site YouTube so naturally Oxfam posted their video on YouTube (Watch it here). The video features demonstrators explaining their views and the positive reactions of people they meet.

What is interesting is not that the Internet is being used in this way but rather the Starbucks response. Starbucks created their own video response on December 20th  featuring the Head of Starbucks Coffee team answering questions. They too posted their video on YouTube (watch the Starbucks response on YouTube).

What is unique about the whole story is the way in which Starbucks as a corporation reacted to the unconventional protest use of YouTube. By responding in kind they showed that they understand the way in which information is created and consumed on the Internet.

Digital video cameras – and in particular mobile phone video cameras – have made the documentation of resistance a necessity. Websites such as YouTube and Google video have created an infrastructure for sharing of the results. By removing the need for camera crews, production teams and broadcast capabilities the creation and distribution of film has fallen into the hands of the creative amateur. The implications of this is that both the protesters and their corporate targets need to quickly master and use this medium of communication.

Whatever the outcome of the Oxfam campaign â?? this is the future of resistance information warfare.

Darwinian Evolution Online

The Complete Works of Charles Darwin are to be found online â?? for free. So OK you are hard to please and you have seen books online before. But wait! This site offers more. You can even download Charles Darwin audio books â?? for free.

An amazing collection of Darwinâ??s works are available in MP3 hits like the â??Fertilisation of Orchidsâ?? (1862) to the â??On the Origin of Speciesâ?? (1859) all iPod ready.

This site contains every Darwin publication as well as many of his handwritten manuscripts. All told there are more than 50,000 searchable text pages and 40,000 images. There is also the most comprehensive Darwin bibliography ever published and the largest manuscript catalogue ever assembled. More than 150 ancillary texts are also included, ranging from reference works to contemporary reviews, obituaries, descriptions of Darwin’s Beagle specimens and important works for understanding Darwin’s context. Free audio mp3 versions of his works are also available.

The site was launched on 19 October this year and is amazing. It is a testimony to the victory of content over web-design.

(via Markmedia)

Expression, not Repression

Amnesty is one of those organisations which you know you should support more than you already do. They have also moved into the digital domain and are supporting all kinds of online expression. In an attempt to prevent online censorship they launched their irrepressible campaign.

Part of irrepressible is a technical solution that breaks censored texts into small pieces and maintains them online. Read more about how to help here.

If you cannot do more then at least sign their petition:

I believe the Internet should be a force for political freedom, not repression. People have the right to seek and receive information and to express their peaceful beliefs online without fear or interference.

I call on governments to stop the unwarranted restriction of freedom of expression on the Internet â?? and on companies to stop helping them do it.

Amnesty International will also be present at the Internet Governance Forum in Athens next week. Again they will be â??â?¦stressing the importance of protecting free expression and privacy onlineâ??

Read their press release here.

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…

Toxic Waste Export

When Europe strengthens legislation against toxic waste a sad side effect is the fact that exporting our poisonous mess to countries with less ability to enforce such legislation. Read the detailed reports of the toxic waste trade and the Panamanian flagged ship, the Probo Koala, in Der Spiegel and Greenpeace.

The Probo Koala scandal deals with a load of highly toxic waste. Discharging it in Europe was too costly. Therefore the company and crew dumped the waste on less regulated shores of West Africa. The result was seven dead and more than 40,000 in need of medical help. The government fell earlier this month as a result of the scandal. (via Other Bhopals).

After dumping its deadly cargo on the poor and unprotected the ship sailed to Europe and recieved a clean bill of health. On monday Greenpeace sailed alongside the ship with their vessel Arctic Sunrise up alongside the tanker in Paldiski, Estonia sprayed the slogan ‘Toxic Trade Kills‘ on the tanker and preventing it from leaving.

(via The Orchid)

Bad week for George?

It’s a busy time. Returning from vacation and catching up on the news. This quote is too good to miss. It’s straight of CNN from the Saturday press conference held by Bush & Putin. This is George Bush’s vision of democracy:

“I talked about my desire to promote institutional change in parts of the world, like Iraq where there’s a free press and free religion, and I told him that a lot of people in our country would hope that Russia would do the same,” Bush said.

To that, Putin replied, “We certainly would not want to have the same kind of democracy that they have in Iraq, quite honestly.”

Earlier today I posted on George Bush’s attempts to give the German Chancellor an unwanted massage only later did I read this report from the press conference. And now this! Does George Bush really think that any country would want to change places with Iraq? Doesn’t he even watch the news or read a newspaper? Putin’s reply smacks of dignity and exasperation.

If this is one of his good weeks then I would hate to see his bad weeks…

(via När jag ändå har ordet)

Bush: Sexism, Bad Manners & Power

Incredible! The world seems to be in the process of erupting into more and more violence. Afghanistan is ongoing but rarely reported, Gaza has fallen in the shadow of Lebanon. Iraq shows no sign of stabilising. Not to mention the hotspots in the rest of the world.

So when the world leaders meet in the G8 conference in St Petersburg one expects that the gravity of world affairs will ensure that the world leaders would act with an enhanced level of decorum that maybe could reflect the situation.

What does Bush do? Itâ??s unbelievable!!!

The actions of little George are totally unacceptable even if it was in the privacy of his own office and the victim was the office temp. But Angela Merkel is not the office temp but she is the German Chancellor. The unwelcome actions of George Bush go beyond ugly sexism and condescending male-female relations. The actions are an inexcusable insult on Germany. Actually it could be interpreted as the patronising US attitude towards the rest of the world.

More on this Unfogged, Bild.t, The News Blog, Talking Points Memo.

(via Bitch PhD)