Tagactivism

Grassroots mapping (kite, camera, coke)

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Grassrooots Mapping: Field Mapping Training from TungstenMonkey on Vimeo.

Grassrootsmapping.org:

Seeking to invert the traditional power structure of cartography, the grassroots mappers use helium balloons and kites to loft their own “community satellites” made with inexpensive digital cameras. The resulting images are georeferenced and stitched into maps which are 100x higher resolution that those offered by Google, at extremely low cost.

Huh. There’s so much in this video I won’t even comment much. This pretty much sums up the awesomeness that open source & hacking can be.

Tech year 2009 wrap up: cloud computing, Android, privacy discussions

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retro future

A couple of days ago I’ve given a short look back at the year 2009 from a personal point of view. Right after, I realized there were a couple more things with a wider tech perspective that I’d like to include – again, more for personal documentation than anything else. So here goes.

Everything went to the cloud We had been talking about cloud computing for a few years, but for me, 2009 clearly was the year The Cloud took off. I moved practically everything to the cloud, and cloud often equals Google these days. My email has been living inside gMail for years, but in 2009 I’ve ditched my email client altogether. Now I’m IMAP-ing browser-based between my computers and my phone.

Everything but my most sensitive documents live in the cloud, especially most collaborative docs. (Again, Google Docs or Etherpad, but Etherpad has also been acquired by Google recently.) My calendars are 100% up in Google Calendar.

Am I happy about this focus on Google? Far from it. But at this point, I see no equally well-executed alternative. For an overview of just how googley 2009 was, head over to Gina Trapani. Also, I recommend This Week In Google, a great weekly podcast with Leo Laporte, Jeff Jarvis and, again, Gina Trapani.

Still all this is clearly just the beginning. It should be interesting to watch where cloud computing goes in 2010.

Android killed the iPhone (for me) Ok, ok, Android may not have killed the iPhone officially. But ever since I switched to an Android-based phone (HTC Hero), I haven’t felt the urge to get an iPhone. Not a single time. Before I had been playing with the idea, and had always restrained. (I really don’t like the product policy behond the iPhone.) Android is a gorgeous, stable, powerful platform, and it’s all open source. It’s clear to me that while I might change phones a few times over the next couple of years, it’s not likely I’ll be leaving Android anytime soon.

Speaking of open source, 2009 is also the year I ditched Windows for good. I now live a Windows-free live (with a mix of Mac OSX, Ubuntu and Android), and boy, it’s feeling good.

The fight for our data 2009 has also been a year of intense battles in the digital realm, although certainly it’s not the last (or worst) to come. These fights have been along many different fronts, and not all have been going well at all.

In politics, Europe has been covered in conflicts regarding data retention. (German government introduced excessive data retention laws which are now under court review as far as I know.) Also in Germany, the basis for government-run censorship was laid under the pretense of fighting child abuse, search for #zensursula for details. The best German-language resource for these topics is certainly netzpolitik.org, so check them out for more details and updates. Good news, if not a solution to the problem: President Köhler has so far refused to sign the law.

In the corporate world, the conflict lines have been a lot more fragmented and twisted. However, one thing has become clear: Internet consumers will have to make a clear point regarding their expectations in terms of privacy and data control in digital contexts. Be it Facebook and its privacy settings, be it data ownership in other social networks. Important keywords in this field are: Data Portability identification systems like OAuth, microformats or the decentralized social web. (Like so often, Chris Messina is right in the middle of it. Check out the DiSo Project.) The same goes for End User License Agreements (EULA for short). Everybody is so used to just clicking those pages upon pages of legalese away that we’re bound to have a discussion about their use and legitimacy sometime soon. This isn’t new, but hasn’t been solved either, so maybe 2010 will bring some news there.

But worry not, it’s not all lost – these topics seemed to be very niche, and maybe still are. However, everybody in their right mind will come to the conclusion that there’s a line to what consumers have to bear before just moving on to another brand or product. (Even my mom was asking about the insanity of DRM the other day!) It looks like these topics, obscure as they may seem, are getting more publicity and more people to help out. Hopefully we can all collaboratively take some of the load off of the few individuals that have been doing such a tremendous job of raising awareness so far. (You know who you are.)

Obviously I’m happy to be able to end this post on a happy note.

So, again in short: the tech year of 2009 the way I perceived it = year of privacy discussions, cloud computing, Android.

Did I forget anything important? Let me know…

(image source)

Presentation: Internet und Politik

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Today I gave a presentation on internet and its role on politics at ISWA. In the talk I’m laying out the basics of online politics: social networking, new rules of engagement, and a (very brief) view on the state of the political web in Germany. It’s all in German, so I’ll just post the presentation without any further comment.

As always, looking forward to your feedback!

Update: It looks like Slideshare ate some of the images in the presentation. Will repost a new version soon.

Rette Deine Freiheit

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This video is a great (and appropriately biased) summary of the German government laws to censor the internet under the premise of fighting child abuse. Nicknamed Zensursula (pun on the German word for censorship “Zensur” and the name of the minister in charge, Ursula von der Leyen), the plan is opposed by a more and more organized opposition spanning several political parties (and fractions of parties), a lot of NGOs, activists, scientists, journalists, lawyers.

In short: The Zensursula plans won’t help a single abused child, but rather warn the abusers; and the whole project is based on perfectly wrong premises. Example: One of the most-often repeated arguments of the censorship side is that the internet may not be a lawless space – of course it isn’t in the least, all the national laws apply there as well, and are in most cases fairly easy to enforce. While not helping anyone in the least bit, this opens the doors for more classic censorship (think intellectual property rights etc.).

To cut a long story short, this video is spot on. (It’s German, though. If you happen to know a translated or subtitled version, please let me know.)

RetteDeineFreiheit.de from alexanderlehmann on Vimeo.

More on the website: http://rettedeinefreiheit.de.

Some Impressions: Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum

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Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum, Panel about Citizen Journalism

Just coming back from Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum (GMF) – and on my way to Barcamp Cologne 3 – I’m in a little cafe in the middle of nowhere (sorry dotdean), where Cappuccino still tastes like early 90s cappuccino, and where laptop dwellers in cafes are still greeted with curious stares. It is, to be short, the opposite of GMF – a truly global, international, intercultural event, and a remarkable one at that.

Why the praise? It’s the people of course. I can hardly remember another conference where so many folks working on such courageous projects get together not to have themselves celebrated (like we occasionally do at all those web conferences), but to talk, on eye level, with each other, exchange ideas and experiences, and seemed to be humbled by each other’s presence. When I was sitting on the panel with four bloggers, activists and citizen journalists in the old German parliamentary buildings (full disclosure: I was invited as moderator by Deutsche Welle, paid gig), I couldn’t help but feeling awe in the face of what these folks pull off in their day-to-day lives. Who was on the panel? Nancy Watzman, investigative journalist, consultant to the Sunlight Foundation, and author of Political Party Time; Israel Yoroba who writes Le Blog de Yoro; Oliver Nyirugubara, Program Coordinator for Voices of Africa; and a blogger/activist from Iran who asked not to be named because it would put her under unnecessary risk.

These are the prototypical bloggers and activists we read and talk about all the time, the ones who fight within or from the outside for freedom of expression in the repressive regimes in their countries (or in one case: corruption in their not-so-repressive regime). These are folks who take real risks every day to do what they’re doing. And I can’t overstate how much that demands our respect and support.

The Global Media Forum will be on again next year. If you get the chance, don’t miss out. It’s inspiring, and impressive.

For more impressions, Nancy Watzman also shares some of her thoughts on the conference, as does Kevin Anderson.

Photo by Deutsche Welle: Panel on Citizen Journalism and Freedom of Speech, with Gabriel Gonzalez (center) giving a brief introduction

You donated $9.55 to EFF through my ads (thanks!)

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A little while back, I proposed to run social ads on blogs and to donate the revenue. This, it seemed, would be the easiest way to raise some funds and to donate money, paying with your attention. Eyeballs for money, the usual model for ads, applied in a social way. Here’s the ad I put on my blog. Every time someone clicked the ad, some money came in through Google Adsense:

Of course the deal is still on: Click the ad, I’ll donate for a good cause.

Not too many people clicked, but those of you who did raised $9.55. Not huge, but not so bad for just a few clicks, eh?

EFF.orgSo this time, a round $10 will go went to the Electronic Frontier Foundation to help protect bloggers rights and our privacy. The money raised in August will go to Stiftung Bridge (“Bridge Foundation”), a German non-profit that fights for digital rights by supporting small projects.

Thanks a lot, all of you. And please consider doing the same thing.

Beijing 2008: Reporters and bloggers face threats

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Reporters Without Borders: Beijing 2008Sadly, the whole idea of giving the Olympic Games to China in order to get the government to respects human and media rights more has turned out to be a complete and utter failure. Without much commenting on my behalf, let me point out just some of the recent findings of human rights organizations.

Amnesty International (ai) just published their report “Chinese Authorities’ Broken Promises Threaten Olympic Legacy” in which they state:

In the run-up to the Olympics, the Chinese authorities have locked up, put under house arrest and forcibly removed individuals they believe may threaten the image of “stability” and “harmony” they want to present to the world.

Internet censorships continues, even in the confined Olympic media center:

Reports have just confirmed that foreign journalists working from the Olympics press centre in Beijing are unable to access amnesty.org, the Amnesty International website. In addition, The China Debate, a site recently launched by Amnesty International as a forum to discuss human rights has been blocked in China. A number of other websites are also reported to have been blocked, including Taiwan newspaper Liberty Times and the Chinese versions of both Germany’s Deutsche Welle and the BBC. This flies in the face of official promises to ensure “complete media freedom” for the Games. Internet control and censorship is increasing as the Olympics approach. Many other sites, including several reporting on HIV/AIDS issues in Beijing, have been targeted.

What’s more, reporters and activists (including, I suspect, bloggers) face legal and other threats:

Amnesty International believes that local activists and journalists working on human rights issues in China are at particular risk of abuse during the Games.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) confirms this situation:

Chinese authorities deleted an Internet link to an article that appeared on 17 July 2008 in the prominent Chinese newspaper Xinjingbao (Beijing News) of an interview with a US photographer of Hong Kong origin, Liu Xiangcheng, who worked in China during the 1980s. They acted over a small photo showing men with bullet wounds following the 1989 military crackdown against the Tiananmen Square uprising. (…) The Hong Kong newspaper Ming Pao reported that the authorities also immediately demanded the removal of the newspaper from newsstands and censorship of the article online. The same source said that several staff on the paper, the editor and the journalist, were facing legal proceedings.

RSF calls for a boycott of the games (PDF). Amnesty International takes a slightly different approach. In cooperation with, as far as I can tell, New Zealand students, they organize the Freedom Challenge 08 in which so-called freedom teams rally support for human rights in China.

Do you know of any valid, up-to-date information sources on the situation for bloggers in China these days?