Gender & Technology

Most of us (should) know that the net is not a particularly nice place. It is a neutral tool that allows all users to go out there and be themselves. Unfortunately the technology also offers people pseudo-anonymity or the illusion of real anonymity. I say unfortunately because this really brings the weirdos out of the woodwork. One of the most casual forms is the misogynist – but racism may be more common.

In an article on Women on the Web, Caitlin Fitzsimmons writes about the way in which men use technology to spread fear against women and approaches ways in which to deal with the issue. Many tend to think that the best approach is to ignore those who behave badly. This approach can be justified in different ways:

1. The simplest reason many ignore the problem is by claiming to be too tired/busy to react. This is usually connected to arguments that there are simply too many things to react to. So in general I agree with this argument except for the problem that too many people use this as an excuse all the time and react to nothing. If you cannot fight against everything then at least pick one injustice and fight against that!

2. Social shunning as punishment. In real life when someone behaves badly we often do not tell them or make a big fuss. Often it is enough to ignore what has happened, in particular if we ignore it visibly. We can, for example, create an embarrassing silence. This is the social equivalent of banishment and the socially aware individual recognizes that boundaries have been crossed and will adjust his/her behavior in the future. The problem with attempting this online is that the offender must feel the need to belong to the group for this to work. Also embarrassing silences only work when the whole social group falls unnaturally silent. This does not work online.

3. The third approach is the concept of the marketplace of ideas. This basically means that it is actually good for the weirdo’s to get out in the open and test their ideas since this will only encourage the opposition to develop better arguments and convince the weirdo’s that they are wrong. In an offline world this may work in theory in an open debate but it is hardly likely to work in practice.  In an online environment this approach is misguided. It also gives the weirdo’s way too much leeway and opportunity to cause pain to others.

Fitzsimmons writes:

The question is then how to tackle the problem. The panellists agreed that while there was no point in engaging directly with hateful comments, ignoring them was not really a viable option.’s Valenti said online misogyny was different to offline abuse in two key respects. “Unlike someone coming up to you on the street, it can be really hard to assess what kind of danger you’re in,” she added. “You don’t know if it’s a 15 year-old in Idaho spouting off or a really scary guy who really is likely to come around and rape you.”

The online/offline worlds are different and attempting to apply theoretical approaches to handling uncomfortable/threatening/harmful situations in the online world may only cause more harm. No I do not have a solution but I really like the way in which blogs like Feministing are using  technology to reach new readers – or actually viewers since Feministing uses YouTube videos (check out their channel here).

PhD in Edinburgh – short deadline

SCRIPT – a law and technology research centre at the University of Edinburgh, School of Law – is seeking to recruit a suitably-qualified candidate to undertake a fully-funded PhD studentship. This is a full-time, full maintenance, three-year position sponsored by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, which also supports the Centre. The area of research will fall within the “Open Science Business Model” strand of the Centre’s activities and the successful candidate will be supervised by Professor Graeme Laurie and Andres Guadamuz, Co-Directors of the Centre.

This studentship will benefit from collaboration with Roslin Cells Ltd, a not-for-profit company associated with the Roslin Institute which produces high-quality embryonic stem cell lines for research and clinical application. Roslin Cells, which is interested in issues of Open Science and wishes to develop a suitable open licensing strategy, will serve as a case study and this is expected to form a central part of the thesis.

This studentship is being fully funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council and candidates must be eligible to receive such support. Further details of the eligibility criteria are available from

Queries relating to this studentship can be addressed to Professor Graeme Laurie, Director of SCRIPT at or on 0131 650 2020.

An application form is available from the SCRIPT Administrator via

The closing deadline for application is 09:00 Friday 13th June 2008. Interviews will be held on the afternoon of Friday 20th June 2008.

The cultural significance of Free Software

Finding new books is always exiting and I am looking forward to reading Two Bits: The cultural significance of Free Software by Christopher M. Kelty

Free Software is a set of practices devoted to the collaborative creation of software source code that is made openly and freely available through an unconventional use of copyright law. Kelty shows how these specific practices have reoriented the relations of power around the creation, dissemination, and authorization of all kinds of knowledge after the arrival of the Internet. Two Bits also makes an important contribution to discussions of public spheres and social imaginaries by demonstrating how Free Software is a “recursive public” public organized around the ability to build, modify, and maintain the very infrastructure that gives it life in the first place.

My only concern so far was that in the beginning of the book I found the sentence: This is a book about Free Software, also known as Open Source Software, and is meant for anyone who wants to understand the cultural significance of Free Software.

It is always disconcerting when people mix up free and open source software – to many the difference may not be important but when someone writes a book about the subject they should know that these are not synonymous terms. Despite this after browsing through the book – it looks very promising.

The book is available under a Creative Commons license (by-nc-sa) and can be downloaded from the book website.

Digital Culture book

The book Structures of Participation in Digital Culture is now available for download for free. Here is a part of the blurb:

Structures of Participation in Digital Culture, …explores digital technologies that are engines of cultural innovation, from the virtualization of group networks and social identities to the digital convergence of textural and audio-visual media. User-centered content production, from Wikipedia to YouTube to Open Source, has become the emblem of this transformation, but the changes run deeper and wider than these novel organizational forms…

The contents include some familiar and some unfamiliar names and a lot of chapters that seem worth reading, take a look at this:

  • The Past and the Internet (Geoffrey Bowker),
  • History, Memory, Place, and Technology: Plato’s Phaedrus Online (Gregory Crane),
  • Other Networks: Media Urbanism and the Culture of the Copy in South Asia (Ravi Sundaram),
  • Pirate Infrastructures (Brian Larkin),
  • Technologies of the Childhood Imagination: Yu-Gi-Oh!, Media Mixes, and Everyday Cultural Production (Mizuko Ito),
  • Pushing the Borders: Player Participation and Game Culture (T. L. Taylor),
  • None of This Is Real: Identity and Participation in Friendster (danah boyd),
  • Notes on Contagious Media (Jonah Peretti),
  • Picturing the Public (Warren Sack),
  • Toward Participatory Expertise (Shay David),
  • Game Engines as Open Networks (Robert F. Nideffer),
  • The Diablo Program (Doug Thomas),
  • Disciplining Markets in the Digital Age (Joe Karaganis),
  • Price Discrimination and the Shape of the Digital Commodity (Tarleton Gillespie),
  • The Ecology of Control: Filters, Digital Rights Management, and Trusted Computing (Joe Karaganis).

Download the Entire Book

Open Content Licensing in Swedish

Right now I am putting the finishing touches to a booklet on Open Content Licensing in Swedish and I am struggling to make it interesting as well as informative – not an easy combination when it comes to copyright licenses. Another difficulty is working with the topic in Swedish since it is not a language I am used to working with.

Anyway I would really appreciate any Swedish readers who would like to take a look at the text and send me comments.  So feel free to read it: licensbok_iis_15.pdf

We are not alone

Techno Tuesday captures the reality of travel


Picture by Andy Rementer (CC BY-NC)

Wifi searching has become more common due to the costs being charged by commercial actors and the closing up of so many networks. This is mainly due to the default settings of the major Internet providers who are now automatically providing wifi routers with closed defaults (more about this stuff here). In addition to the scare tactics in the media. Using a scanner I walked around my new apartment and found 40 wireless networks but only two were open – these were too far away for me to be able to use.

Too little, too late

Question Technology writes that Encyclopedia Britannica begun making their material available free online.

Not only can bloggers access encyclopedia articles for free, their readers can access any article they link to.  For example, you should be able to read this entry on history of technology (you’ll see ugly ads, though; it’s ad-free when you sign in).

Whatever your position in the Britannica vs Wikipedia debate this last move can only be seen as a reaction to the wealth of information available online.

My main gripe however, is that Britannica still wants you to sign up (it’s free) and then log in (it’s automatic) these steps are massive barriers which will only serve to promote the openness of wikipedia.

Scholarly Communication (NCSC 2008)

On my way down to Lund to attend the Fourth Nordic Conference on Scholarly Communication. for me the highlights of the first day will be

Open Scholarship: Synergies between Open Access and Open Education
Melissa Hagemann, OSI

Access, Usage and Citation Metrics: What Function for Digital Libraries and Repositories in Research Evaluation?
Chris Armbruster, Research Network 1989 and Max Planck Digital Library

Judging Merit – The Value of Publications
Ingegerd Rabow, Lunds Universitet

And naturally the opportunity to speak to lots of people with the same interests.

On BitTorrent Media Distribution

David Erman from the Blekinge Institute of Technology has written an interesting thesis entitled “On BitTorrent Media Distribution”. Well worth download it here.

Large-scale, real-time multimedia distribution over the Internet has been the subject of research for a substantial amount of time. A large number of mechanisms, policies, methods, and schemes have been proposed for media coding, scheduling, and distribution. Internet Protocol (IP) multicast was expected to be the primary transport mechanism for this, though it was never deployed to the expected extent. Recent developments in overlay networks have reactualised the research on multicast, with the consequence that many of the previous mechanisms and schemes are being re-evaluated.

This thesis provides a brief overview of several important techniques for media broadcasting and stream merging, as well as a discussion of traditional IP multicast and overlay multicast. Additionally, we propose a number of modifications and extensions to the BitTorrent (BT) distribution and replication system to make it suitable for use in providing a streaming video delivery service, and implement parts of these in a simulator. Also, we report on a simulation study of the implemented extensions to the BT system, as well as a detailed validation study of the BT simulator itself. Furthermore, we present a comprehensive set of BT models for several important traffic characteristics, at both session and message levels.