Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Social Media maps social use of space

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As a child I used to go to Devil Lake, a park in central Wisconsin.  Devil lake is in some vast country side, bordering on wilderness, lovely in itself but the impact of the lake and the cliff formations created during the last Ice Age has produced a lovely park around the lake.  Year after year we would walk the steps up to get some amazing views including rocks balanced on top of each other.

This map of the area, showing Flickr, shows pretty clearly the path, including a spot where it goes away from the cliff edge, and the roads in to the park.  Interesting that in a remote area Flickr can tell us, when read on a map, that a lovely place exists.

This was created with happen.in Search Baraboo Wisconsin and just go a bit south.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

The web and the real world

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It was a very cute trick to have a Snowden robot come in to TED in Vancouver. I am sure the typical TED audience must have felt they were very cool and advanced and enlightened, but that feeling of being cool and advanced and enlightened the the purpose for the strange stew of unrelated factoids that make up a TED conference.  One minute its quantum physics, then schools in Micronesia, then bird migration in Europe.

The talks vary from catastrophic dystopian images of climate catastrophe to optomistic of the potential of technology or just good will.

Its almost as if it does not matter what the subject matter the TED speaker is presenting, what assumptions they make, or if they are telling you that your grandchild are doomed or not: the high does from the sheer eroticism of innovation and information flow.  This is the ecstasy of simulated reality, conferences designed from the beginning to only ever be short YouTube videos, five minutes on one subject matter and then shift.  No attention span required, just a Spielberg defined sense of wonder at the potential of future technology.

Spielberg has become as much famous for his lack of focus as anything else.  He flows from the Holocaust, to cute aliens, to evil aliens, to nightmarish futures to Lincoln.  His moves affirm and deny, horrify and satisfy, entertain and bored.  In turn they are nothing but the ability of a director and his audience not to pay attention, to concentrate, to master.

Thus when TED made his surprise appearance as a robot boy, wearing a badge on his robot body of two bars.  Isn't it all just too cute, a room for the imaginative futurists see the robot boy talk about some kind of nightmare dystopia that he says has already happened in America with a cute little badge around his robot neck.  Yes American liberty is not only doomed, it no longer exists, the freedom of speech that everyone in the room is engaging in is already an illusion, how horrifying.  And how wise and innovative it makes everyone participating feel, now lets hear about Bill Gate's work in Africa to make himself and the rest of us feel better.

The fact that Robot boy had a source didn't seem to matter.  Not in a binary world which takes ON/OFF switches for the fundamental atoms of existence.  TBL has assigned Snowden the value of Hero in the binary of Hero xor Villain.

And where is the source of Robot Snowden.  Somewhere in some other reality there is a city called Moscow, where a complex called the Kremlin exists.  This inconveniently real place is providing Snowden not only asylum, but somehow they are allowing him access to these robot AVs,  internet connection, someone has to pay the bills for all this stuff.  And in Russia someone has to approve this stuff, you don't just get to call in to a TED conference if you are Pussy Riot.  Putin's Kremlin has to say yes.  And they say yes for a reason.

At the source of Robot Snowden the Kremlin is shutting down the last remaining voices of Russian descent as Putin aims to annex Crimea in to the Great Russian Fatherland.  As Snowden tells Americans that they are not free and they all live in an Orwellian nightmare, and as the participants all tweet about how they are not free and living in an Orwellian nightmare, Tatars, Ukraine's and Jews are leaving Crimea.  A new Cold War is being started from this Kremlin that is source of this Robot Snowden.

Oddly in Second Life people seem to be upset when they learn that the girl they have been having a virtual affair with it actually a middle aged man or an underaged child.  But this is only possible because for a while the player, in the eroticism of communication, took the message for the reality.  Only in the bliss illusion is it possible to have a collapse of revelation.

Events coming from Russia will have a profound and negative impact on the lives of everyone at the TED conference.  Not as profound as on the real losers, the people of Ukraine and Russia who are entering a dark period of their history, but still negative.   Perhaps like Greenwald they think that if they don't tweet about it it won't touch them, but the truth is their Internet connectivity to the world has become itself a blinder.  What is emerging in Russia is a new threat to global freedom and security that will impact everyone, a threat behind the Robotboy Snowden and his news of American evil.




Friday, 28 February 2014

Ukraine tweet dashboard app

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This dashboard allows users to monitor the tweets coming from the fluid situation in Ukraine.

UPDATE March 19: While Ukraine is a buzz of tweeting, Crimea has gone almost entirely silent, is this chaos or have the Russians shut mobile web down, or are people just afraid.  Likely not fear because there are not even trolls supporting Putin.

Kiev Maiden Protest site Sevastopol Parliament

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Brazil tweets

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Tweeter is becoming very popular in major cities of Brazil, and as people are more likely in emerging economies to first encounter the internet via smartphones than PCs or laptops a great deal of geo-tagged tweeting takes places in Brazil's major cities. Here are some apps tracking real time tweeting in Brazil. Tweeting app for Rio Tweeting app for Brasilia Tweeting app for Sao Paulo

Monday, 3 February 2014

Twitter about this blog

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Friday, 24 January 2014

Looking at Governors and parties in US

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PoliticoMagazine has ranked all 50 states in the United States.  The method is pretty objective:

"With this in mind, Politico Magazine rounded up 14 different state rankings from reputable sources like the Census Bureau, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the FBI, and on important factors such as high school graduation rates, per capita income, life expectancy and crime rate. Then we averaged out each state’s 14 rankings to come up with a master list—atop which sits none other than New Hampshire."
The result is graphed here, showing all 50 states, Blue bars are a state with a Democratic governors, red is a state with a Republican governor. 

Big Brothers big failure

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Many people in Ukraine have received txt messages indicating that the phone company, and thus the government, has them registered as protestors.  People have responded to this with concerned statements that it was 'Orwellian' which means they are again linking it to the idea of Big Brother in Orwell's most read book 1984.

And what was the response?  The protests in Ukraine have expanded, the government has been forced for now in to a retreat.

Seems Big Brother has failed.

In fact if you re-read 1984 you will notice that Big Brother failed at the end of the book.  Everyone takes the sufferings of Winston and his final destruction by the party as evidence that Orwell believed that the technology of surveillance and psychology along with ruthless ideology could crush the individual and reduce humanity to a machine.

Assange and Snowden, along with many people in the EFF and all over the web are fond of pointing out that the current technology of agencies like the NSA dwarf anything Orwell could have imagined back in 1948.  And on a level this is true, were are being watched all the time and the state and private companies, along with criminal groups, have massive amounts of data about us, they have been collecting it for a long time.

But does the collection of data mean effective execution of power?

The final line of 1984 is written in lovely, complex, subversive and critical English:

It was chiefly in order to allow time for the preliminary work of translation that the final adoption of Newspeak had been fixed for so late a date as 2050.

But obviously the existence of the sentence above proves that in the end Newspeak and the project of Big Brother failed.  The novel closes with discussion of the Declaration of Independence, of Milton, Shakespeare, Byron and a discussion of freedom.

In fact Orwell closes the entire peace with 'The Principles of Newspeak' where he opens:
Newspeak was the official language of Oceania and had been devised to meet the ideological needs of Ingsco, or English Socialism.
Not only is the state clearly set in the past but it is clearly political, it was the kind of statement Newspeak was suppose to make impossible, but somehow in the future Ingsoc and Big Brother and Newspeak vanished and English and Shakespeare and the Declaration of Independence survived.

Clearly Orwell didn't think much of Big Brother's long term chances.

And neither should we.  Just possession of data about subjects in a society does not give power.  Every parent knows this.  They know so much about their children, and this knowledge can come to such little effect.  Anyone who has worked as a school teacher, a social worker, a home care giver or a police officer can tell you that though information is critical, it is more often than not of limited value in controlling the subject.

Foucault was certainly brilliant for his insight that modern prison created a regime of surveillance.  But Foucault also understood that power always created its own opposition, that these regimes of watching resulting in regimes of hiding and deviance.

Yes the United States has a historically unprecedented ability to collect, store and manage information about not only its people but the people of the world.  And yet how much has this ability given it?  Did it enable the US to win the war in Iraq?  Could reading people's mobile phones or emails enabled it to end the conflict in Syria?  To stop protests in Europe?  Was the US able to stop massive leaks of its data by Manning and Snowden?

If I was given control of the NSA tomorrow the first thing I would look at, before abuses, is value for money.  How much reduction in crime, terrorism and radicalism did all this work get the US?

I think we should remember Gödel who proved that mathematics could not be fully reduced to logic, that statements could be true but could never be proven.  If mathematics, the most formal activity humanity undertakes has pieces of illogic installed in it then what for people.

The reality is that humans are not formal systems, that if you know every fact about a person they can still surprise you.  Humans are very good at hiding their true intentions, changing their minds before anyone can learn about it, and engaging in irrationalism.

As I write this it is being report that the 2012 Philpott murders in Derby England, where parents set fire to a house with their own children inside killing six children, could not have been predicted.  The UK is the ultimate surveillance state. The Philpotts would have been monitored not only by police, school and social workers.  The Philpotts may have been one of the most watched families in the world.

And yet after the murders of the children the Council had to conclude that there was no way that anyone could have predicted the outcome.

I was in Cairo at the start of 2011.  Even though it was pretty obvious the Regime was not popular, there was no reason to think that in 2 months a revolution would break out.  I travelled through Spain in 2007 and what reasons were there to conclude the booming economy was about to collapse.

Perhaps the most obvious example is the 2008 stock market collapse.  Not only did some of the worlds most advanced computers and analysis software fail to see it coming, to a large extent the existence of this software promoted and may have caused the collapse.

My reading of 1984 is a bit different than most.  I see O'Brian in a desperate effort to remove free thinking and descent, his vicious confidence is a defence mechanism from the fact that no matter how much the Party cracks down on humanity, humanity remains time and time corrupt, irrational, selfish and free.  I see the massive data collections by Big Business, Big Brother and Criminal Groups as much a desperate effort to try and find something of value, an effort that has failed again and again, and always will fail.