Two New OA Books (+1)

This has been a busy week for books on Open Access. On Wednesday I blogged about the book Understanding Open Access in the Academic Environment: A Guide for Authors by Kylie Pappalardo. Today Open Access News wrote about two more new Open Access books:

E. Canessa and M. Zennaro at the Science Dissemination Unit of the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) in Trieste have put together an edited book Science Dissemination using Open Access.

From today’s announcement:

The book is a compendium of selected literature on Open Access, both on the technical and organizational levels, and was written in an effort to guide the scientific community on the requirements of Open Access, and the plethora of low-cost solutions available. The book also aims to encourage decision makers in academia and research centers to adopt institutional and regional Open Access Journals and Archives to make their own scientific results public and fully searchable on the Internet. Discussions on open publishing via Academic Webcasting are also included.

The other book is a 144 pp. collection of articles on OA by 38 authors, edited by Barbara Malina entitled Open Access Opportunities and Challenges: A Handbook, the German UNESCO Commission, July 2008. This is an English translation of Open Access: Chancen und Herausforderungen – ein Handbuch (2007).


8th International Conference on Human Choice and Computers
Social Dimensions of ICT Policy

University of Pretoria
25-26 September 2008

Thursday 25 September

9:00 – 9:30 Opening session
Welcome speeches by conference organizers at the University of Pretoria

9:30 – 10:30 Plenary session: keynote speech
Communication, Information and ICT Policy: Towards enabling research frameworks, Robin Mansell

10:30 – 11:00 coffee break

11:00 – 12:30 Plenary session: Issues of governance of the information society
• 15 Years of Ways of Internet Governance: towards a new agenda for action, Jacques Berleur
• Free and Open Source Software in low-income countries: emergent properties? (panel): Gianluca Miscione (chair), Dorothy K. Gordon, Kevin Johnston

12:30 – 14:00 lunch break

14:00 – 15:30 Track 1: Harnessing the empowering capacity of ICT
• Government policies for ICT diffusion and the governance of grassroots movements, Magda Hercheui
• Egyptian women artisans: ICTs are not the entry to modern markets, Leila Hassanin
• Digital divides and the role of policy and regulation: a qualitative study of Greece, Panayiota Tsatsou

Track 2: National information systems infrastructures
• Institutional strategies towards improving health information systems in Sub-Saharan Africa, Solomon B. Bishaw
• Technology, globalization and governance: research perspectives and prospects, Diego Navarra and Tony Cornford
• Globalization and national security issues for the state: implications for national ICT policies, Jackie Phahlamohlaka

15:30 – 16:00 coffee break

16:00 – 17:30 Track 1: ICT and development in Africa
• Examining trust in mobile banking transactions: the case of M-PESA in Kenya, Olga Morawczynski and Gianluca Miscione
• Next generation ICT policy in South Africa: towards a human development-based ICT policy, Walter Brown and Irwin Brown
• Challenges of ICT policy for rural communities: a case study from South Africa, Mpostol Jeremia Mashinini

Track 2: ICT in education
• A human environmentalist approach to diffusion in ICT policies, Elaine Byrne and Lizette Weilbach
• ICT and socio-economic development: a university’s engagement in a rural community in Yola, Nigeria, Jainaba M.L. Kah and Muhammadou M.O. Kah
• Lessons from a dropped ICT curriculum design project: a retrospective view, Roohollah Honarvar

Friday 26 September

9:00 – 10:00 Plenary session: keynote speech Dorothy Gordon

10:00 – 10:30 coffee break

10:30 – 11:30 Plenary session: panel on the policy implications of a UK mega-programme in the health sector
Evaluating ‘Connecting for Health’: policy implications of a UK mega-programme, Kathy McGrath (chair) Jane Hendy, Ela Klekun, Leslie Willcocks, Terry Young

11:30 – 12:30 Plenary session: panel on ICT and women’s empowerment
Gender research in Africa into ICTs for empowerment (GRACE), Ineke Buskens and Anne Webb (co-chairs), Gertrudes Macueve, Ibou Sane

12:30 – 14:00 lunch break

14:00 – 16:00 Track 1: European Union and national ICT policies
• Empowerment through ICT: a critical discourse analysis of the Egyptian ICT policy, Bernd Carsten Stahl
• American and African geospatial myths: the argumentative structure of spatial data infrastructure initiatives, Yola Georgiadou and Vincent Homburg
• ICT policy as a governable domain: the case of Greece and the European Commission, Ioanna Chini
• National variations of the information society: evidence from the Greek case, Dimitris Boucas

Track 2: Challenging two fundamental institutions of modernity: IPR and measurement
• Social networks within filtered ICT networks: internet usage within Iran, Farid Shirazi
• No-IPR model as solution to reuse and understanding of information systems, Kai K. Kimppa
• Measuring ICT for development, Anouk Mukherjee
• Open Access and Action Research, Mathias Klang

16:00 – 16:30 coffee break

16:30 – 17:30 Closing plenary session: Discussion of emerging issues on ICT policy research, Chrisanthi Avgerou (chair)

Frenchmen risk being banned from the Internet

The French have gone and done it! Times Online reports:

Anyone who persists in illicit downloading of music or films will be barred from broadband access under a controversial new law that makes France a pioneer in combating internet piracy.

“There is no reason that the internet should be a lawless zone,” President Sarkozy told his Cabinet yesterday as it endorsed the “three-strikes-and-you’re-out” scheme that from next January will hit illegal downloaders where it hurts.

This is, as I have argued earlier (last time in January), a really bad idea. Why is banning people from the Internet a bad idea?

The Internet has been promoted and become our most basic communications infrastructure (my focus here is Europe since this is where the the French are).

1. The punishment does not fit the crime: We have changed the way Banks, Post Offices, ticket sales, hotel booking, insurance (etc, etc) work and banning someone from the Internet will be tantamount to branding a symbol of guilt onto the person. Not to mention the increased costs involved in time and money. Indeed why should copyright violation prevent me from online banking?

2. Group punishment: If an Internet connection is involved in copyright violation this does not mean that all those dependent upon that connection should be punished. The actual violator may be underage or the network may be open to others.

3. Privatizing the law: The ability to punish copyright violators should not be delegated to private bodies. Internet providers are not equipped to mete out legal punishments.

Earlier, when arguing against proposals such as these I wrote:

The proposals seen above are simplistic, naive and dangerous they show a fundamental lack of understanding not only of technology or its role in society but also a lack of understanding of the role of communication in a democratic society. The actions of the politicians proposing such measures show that they are not acting in the interests of the individuals they are there to serve.

Even if the French have chosen to go the other way – I still believe that they are wrong…

The Science of Death

A new podcast from the University of Bath. This time it’s Professor Allan Kellehear from the Centre for Death & Society at the University of Bath talking about the point of death and organ retention in a lecture called The science of death. From the blurb:

The research literature about ‘brain death’ is characterised by biomedical, bioethical and legal writing. This has led to overlooking wider but no less pertinent social, historical and cultural understandings about death. By ignoring the work of other social and clinical colleagues in the study of dying, the literature on the determination of death has become unnecessarily abstract and socially disconnected from parallel concerns about death and dying. These circumstances foster incomplete suggestions and narrow discussions about the nature of death as well as an ongoing misunderstanding of general public and health care staff responses to brain death criteria. I outline these problems through a review of the key literature on the determination of death.

Are we secure yet?

Thankfully the term “war on terrorism” seems to have fallen out of fashion. Unfortunately the threat of terrorism is being used to systematically and creatively remove civil liberties. At some point a society must ask itself if the security needed to prevent terrorism is in itself an act of terrorism and repression.

Unfortunately all the silliness is not confined to high government (even though a lot of the silliness originates from there). In times of tension the wacko’s, weirdo’s and sociopaths step forward and fill the lower levels of the security system. These are the working stiffs in the security system. Heady with power and filled with self importance they are responsible for degrading ordinary people all in the name of terrorism and security. In reality it’s all for their own little ego’s.

You think I may be exaggerating?  Then give me some better explanations for these:

A man trying to fly British Airways to Dusseldorf was told that he could not board the plane wearing the t-shirt he had on. The offending t-shirt had a picture of Megatron (a 40 foot tall cartoon robot with a gun as an arm).

In Canada (Kelowna Airport, British Columbia) a PhD student was not allowed to board the plane because she wore a necklace with a pendant in the shape of a gun (a silver classic Colt45, under two inches in length with no moving parts) story and photo here.

A classic example of misguided airport security in relation to clothes is Raed Jarrar’s experience at JFK where he was forced to take off a shirt with Arabic writing on it or miss his flight; new BBC article. The story upset many people but inspired some: You can now buy t-shirts from Casual Disobedience with text “I am not a terrorist” in Arabic. I bought one and it is among my favorites.

Another classic is when John Gilmore was refused carriage by British Airways recently for declining to take off a button that read “Suspected Terrorist”.

These are only examples relating to clothes or jewelry in relation to airport security – there are plenty of stories of offending clothing (political, not sexual) that have got people detained or arrested. I think I need to develop this into a full length article…

New book: Wikiworld

The works on the causes and effects on the “new openness” are coming in fast. My most recent find is Juha Suoranta & Tere Vadén (University of Tampere, Finland) who have published an open access book entitled Wikiworld – Political Economy and the Promise of Participatory Media:

In the digital world of learning there is a progressive transformation from the institutionalized and individualized forms of learning to open learning and collaboration. The book provides a view on the use of new technologies and learning practices in furthering socially just futures, while at the same time paying critical attention to the constants, or “unmoved movers” of the information society development; the West and Capitalism. The essential issue in the Wikiworld is one of freedom ­ levels and kinds of freedom. Our message is clear: we write for the radical openness of education for all.

It sounds interesting and  I will download it as soon as I get to a better connection. Right now I am on a train surfing via mobile not the best thing for downloading books… its online here.

Boyle Book Cover Competition

Via an email list I found out that James Boyle, the new Chairman of the Board at Creative Commons and a founder of Science Commons, is holding a contest to design a cover for his new book, The Public Domain: Enclosing the Commons of the Mind. In the book, Boyle argues that more and more of material that used to be free to use without having to pay a fee or ask permission is becoming private property — at the expense of innovation, science, culture and politics.

Details, including specs and a link to some great source material for imagery, are available at the Worth1000 website. Both the book and the cover will be distributed under a CC Attribution-NonCommercial license.

Boyle is a great writer and enjoys exploring legal questions surrounding property in a way which makes it accessible and interesting to the reader. His book Shamans, Software and Spleens: Law and the Construction of the Information Society was a real eye opener for me. I am definitely going to get his new book.

When my PhD was almost finished I announced a similar competition for the design of the book cover and was lucky to get it widely publicized. The whole idea of the competition was actually quite resented and discussed on my blog. Professional designers felt I was cutting them out of the market by asking for free work. Interesting discussions ensued. The results of the competition were posted on my blog and the winner was chosen by popular vote and used on the cover of my PhD.

On closets

The metaphor of “coming out of the closet” is a good one. The image of the closet as the place where socially unacceptable secrets are hidden is very apt. In a discussion on religion in Sweden with my Greek flatmate in Lund I used the term “closet Christian” without really reflecting over its meaning. He questioned the term and I began to expand what I meant. The more I spoke the more the term struck me as odd – but suitable.

The metaphor of the closet, and in particular the idea of coming out of the closet, refers mainly to homosexuality. But the content of the closet is naturally dependent upon the social setting. Sweden is a very secular society, it is not radical, but rather a form of absolute indifference.

It is not really a disbelief based upon the questioning of the existence of god in the manner of Epicurus

Is god willing to prevent evil but not able – then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able but not willing – then he is malevolent.
Is god both able and willing – then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing – then why call him god?
Epicurus (341-271 BCE)

But it is a more casual, detached form. It has become such an accepted position that there is little or no need to argue the position. Most people do not even feel the need to explain the lack of belief. It is a simple fact, disbelief is the ruling norm.

Sweden is also extremely accepting of homosexuality. So much so that it is easier to be a homosexual than a Christian. What I mean by this is that, in Sweden, it is easier to shock your surroundings by admitting to believing in god than admitting to a non-heterosexual lifestyle. So I guess that there must be groups of Christians who prefer to keep their faith hidden so that they will not be stigmatized (however lightly) by the groups in which they mix.

Defending Security by Obscurity

Almost as soon as Google launched its “Social Graph API” the discussions began. As with other innovations in the field of social networking the Google social graph will be a potential new threat to privacy – and like everything else produced by Google it will be well-packaged and presented in a non-threatening manner.

So what is the social graph and why is it important?

Basically the social graph is a way to take existing data and to use it in new ways. By analyzing the information available the social graph will present relationships between data and people online. One of the examples used in the instructional video (found here) is this:

social graph by Google

the user Brad joins twitter and searches for friends. The social graph knows that b3 belongs to Brad (maybe his blog), from the Blog the social graph knows that Bradfitz is also Brad. Bradfitz is friends with Jane274 who is also known as Jane on twitter. Since they are friends on livejournal Brad can ask Jane to be friends on twitter.

The criticism against this model is that Jane274 may accept Bradfitz on livejournal but Jane may be trying to avoid Brad on twitter – even if they are the same people. Maybe Jane is trying to avoid Brad alltogether but has failed on livejournal? Who knows? Whatever the reason Jane may be using different names to create watertight compartments of her online life. This model of security is not particularly strong but it works reasonably well and is known as security by obscurity.

Tim O’Reilly argues that the weakness or false sense of security created by security by obscurity is dangerous and therefore social graphs should be implemented. He realises people will get hurt when the obscurity is lost but considers this to be a necessary cost of evolution

It’s a lot like the evolutionary value of pain. Search creates feedback loops that allow us to learn from and modify our behavior. A false sense of security helps bad actors more than tools that make information more visible…But even here, analogies to living things are relevant. We get sick. We develop antibodies and then we recover. Or we die.

Basically it’s evolve or die to Tim.

This is OK if you are pretty sure to be among those who survive the radical treatment. But what about those who are hurt by the treatment – what about those who die? Danah Boyd at apophenia writes:

…I’m not jumping up and down at the idea of being in the camp who dies because the healthy think that infecting society with viruses to see who survives is a good idea. I’m also not so stoked to prepare for a situation where a huge chunk of society are chronically ill because of these experiments. What really bothers me is that the geeks get to make the decisions without any perspective from those who will be marginalized in the process.

The problem is that the people who will get hurt in large scale social experiments such as these are never those who are responsible in carrying them out. The costs will be carried by those who are not techie enough to defend themselves. The experts will continue to go about their lives because they will always have the ability (time, money, knowledge) to defend themselves.

Those in the position of privilege should remember that with great strength comes great responsibility. In other words those who have the ability to create systems such as these should really think about the social implications of the tools they are creating. Not as seen from their positions of privilege but from the perspective of the users who may be hurt.

Law in a noise society

An interesting thesis will be defended at the IT university soon. Fellow Swede and IT lawyer Niklas Lundblad will be defending his thesis Law in a Noise Society (abstract) on the 20th February at 2 pm.

Congratulations Nicklas!