Accessibility of Online Information

Recent Doings in Seattle and Beyond

On November 7, Shelly Farnham and others organized a lively meeting of 40 or so Seattleites who are interested in using technology for social engagement and social change. Speakers included Kate Starbird (Disaster Events and Digital Volunteerism), Seth Vincent (Civic Hacking), Shelly Farnham (Social Media and Hyper-local Community Well-being), David Keyes (Community Technology: Adoption and Inclusive Community Engagement), Luis F.

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Image Credit: 
Sodapop

Indian Country Media Network

New online and print resource — including a variety of free reports https://indiancountrymedianetwork.com/

"Their logo is a conglomeration of many symbols:
 
The Four Directions, North, South, East, and West
The colors of the Four Directions
A Dreamcatcher
ICT, the original publication from which ICTMN evolved
The Turtle
 
Together they form the logo brand for Indian Country Today Media Network."

Community Oriented Social Media

Pattern ID: 
138
Rudyard
Discussion: 

Access to information and connections is essential to be successful in the 21st century. There is talk in many cities across the country of establishing municipal broadband- for example the grassroots organization “Upgrade Seattle” wants to “make the internet a city-owned and operated utility.” in Seattle.

 

A possible step further would be to create a publicly owned, operated and funded Social Network that would fill a role similar to that of radio and TV public broadcasting. The first and most obvious benefit would be the same one that comes from public broadcasting, that is- providing an alternative to the corporately owned, commercially funded media platforms, with a greater emphasis on community issues.

 

The services that companies like Facebook provide are valuable, and many of us willing give up a lot of equally valuable information in exchange for those services. The personal data Facebook mines from us is sold to other companies and used for market analysis, as well for generating personally targeted advertisements. A great wealth of information is produced thru all the clicks and likes and views from the users. All this data could go to good uses the private sector is not likely to be concerned with. Collection of census data and statistics for aiding scientific research are some of the immediate possibilities.

 

There is a need for people to have greater control over their information and how it is used. Perhaps not only a need, but a right. Then, beyond the issue of how our information is used, there’s the issue of how information filters to us through our “feeds.” The posts we see from our friends and the pages we follow (as well as advertisers) are sifted and prioritized based on hidden algorithms. There should be concern about how this system can create personal bubbles and opinion echo-chambers. Not to mention how it could influence people’s mental states (based on whether they see more police shootings or puppy videos, for example).

Categories: 
organization
Categories: 
social
Themes: 
Community Action
Pattern status: 
Draft

Archeodata

Problem: 
The amount of information that we have gathered as a species, be it in digital, analog or mental formats, is staggering, but a great deal of it has simply been abandoned after it's discovery or creation. The amount of man-hours dedicated to the countless forms of information analysis by as many individuals is incalculable, but a vast array of results from those analyses is or could be readily available to any community seeking niche information. At the time of writing this entry, it was estimated that there exists over 295 exabytes of information stored digitally. A fair amount of this information may be corrupted, duplicates or even the product of random generation, but a fair amount of it is also unique.
Context: 

Archeodata is distinctly separate from cultural knowledge in that the information it contains was only relevant to it's pursuer(s) and was later abandoned. This does not necessarily mean the information has been lost completely, only that it has been virtually forgotten and/or assumed to have no value. Possible examples could include analytic or statistical data, blueprints, music or computer code, while examples such as social mores, traditions, biological drives, simple relics, physical remains or any modern common knowledge (regardless of "age"/source) would not constitute archeodata. While the medium containing the data itself can sometimes offer addition physical data, what is important to defining archeodata is the presence of qualitative and/or quantitative information that has for all intents and purposes been abandoned, but can/could be accessed and applied to developing new, "cutting edge" perspectives.

Discussion: 
As a species we excel at information organization and dissemination. We are rare in that we are capable of mirroring behavior we have not physically seen but instead visualized through analysis of abstract information. The historic correlation between new methods of information dispersal and social "progress" is well accepted, e.g. the advent of writing, the creation of the printing press and telegraph, television and radios. These new technologies have, over the centuries, allowed progressively more information to be made accessible, and with modern digital communication we are now able to disseminate vast amounts of information quickly and easily.
 
Humanity is the only species known to encode and transmit information through abstract symbolism, i.e. writing, allowing a healthy amount of current understanding to have already been built on archeodata. Modern archaeology and anthropology are focus heavily on the recovery and study of ancient archeodata while many of the modern "hard" sciences owe significant breakthroughs to the recovery and synthesis of the same. For example, during the 1854 Broad Street cholera outbreak Dr John Snow tracked outbreaks of the disease using a standard dot map/Voronoi diagram, then famously used the data to identify the source of the outbreak as the public well on Broad Street. Afterwards, officials rejected his assertion that water was responsible for bearing the disease and his data was abandoned until 1866 when his information was used to combat a similar outbreak in Bromley. These studies were of minor interest to the medical community at the time, but several decades later were of great interest to Pasteur, Cook and Lister as they established modern germ theory. More recently, there is much debate on the ethics of using data from the infamous Nazi freezing experiments, which remains some of our only data on death from exposure. Conversely, after the death of Nokolai Tesla many of his notes were initially seized by the US government, and after declassification showed theories applicable to to modern plasma torches, radar and wireless networks.
 
The issue of privacy does not apply to true archeodata because it has, by nature, been abandoned or lost, and thus assumed to possess no value by laypersons. Information is only considered sensitive or private when it's dispersal could potentially impact ones freedoms, but this obviously does not apply to what has been discarded. For example, online fetish communities often include a clause in their membership agreement that members cannot use any information about other members obtained through any means for any purpose; this is done with the stated intention of creating a "safe space" or judgement-free community where members can explore interests without social repercussions. Likewise, government surveillance of citizens is a hotly debated topic with similar arguments for and against, where, conversely, examining the sexuality of various historic cultures is as widely accepted as our poring over ancient journals and entering tombs. A defining hallmark of archeodata is that the information holds no value to whomever, if anyone, is aware of it.
 
Much data already exists, but in addition to organization it also requires verification. For example, until the recovery and translation of Homer's epic cycle the existence of the city of Troy had been forgotten. It was found after centuries of searching evidence to verify the data that had been implied. Conversely, while the existence of Atlantis or Camelot has been implied by various recovered sources there is much more evidence against their existences then for them.  
 
Archeodata is not limited to information or statistics. A fantastic amount of software code has been written that is considered largely obsolete, ranging from machine-specific drivers to video games, and occasionally this type of information proves useful, or at least entertaining. Conversely, the rate at which software and digital hardware develop can make recovering this type of data difficult: after going out of business, the contractor that built the US military's inventory of A-10 Thunderbolts simply threw out their schematics, forcing the US Air Force to scavenge existing parts until they learned how to build suitable replacements. Similarly, NASA engineers attempting to access old Apollo mission schematics found contemporary hardware incompatible with older storage mediums while the original computers were completely inoperable. Likewise, ancient music has been the subject of much curiosity, but while many ancient instruments have been unearthed relatively few cultures through histories had developed a system of music notation and many of the ancient ones we don't know how to read. 
 
There also comes the unfortunate truth that at some point, data that is of interest to us now will also lose relevance. Our intense desire to analyze our environment is matched only by our desire to preserve our individual analyses, and it is impossible for one to predict all the ways in which information can be used. Many groups intentionally store archeodata in many forms, ranging from humble time capsules to massive national archives. Perhaps the Ur example of the intentional preperation of archeodata is Wikipedia's Terminal Event Management Policy: should a "non-localized event... render the continuation of Wikipedia in its current form untenable" occur, a series of protocols have been developed to increase the chances of the Wikimedia Foundations data banks being preserved. The "worst-case scenario" scenario, with ten minutes or less until failure, involves broadcasting the entire database, compressed, into space via radio telescopes around the world. Conversely, since 1983 the US Department of Energy has been struggling to figure out how to label nuclear waste disposal sites in such a way that their contents will be recognizable as dangerous for the length of their existence, or about 10,000 years. It feels safe to assume that in the space of that time our language and culture may be lost where artifacts remain, thus leaving the correct archeodata in an accessible way might be our only responsible option.
 
Data is much like a physical tool in that in can be applied to achieve desired results from the natural world, and in that sense finding new data is sort of like finding that a strange tool: you recognize that it is what it is, even if you just don't know what to do with it, until that perfect moment comes along when everything "clicks" and you see exactly how it can be used. The key is to remembering that even if you can use something as a wrench, that doesn't mean you might not be able to use it later on as a screwdriver or a hammer. 
Solution: 

While the internet and digital communications have already drastically increased accessibility to archeodata, there are vast archives and databases which remain, for whatever reasons, inaccessible. Communities wishing to prepare archeodata for future discovery must preserve it accordingly in an accessible manner, whether digital or analog. The advent of digital communications allow for quick and easy dissemination of large amounts of data, but with the very real possibility of network failure or hardware malfunctions the need for backups is obvious. Adding "tags" to data, or small external pieces of information by which the larger can be identified/sorted, has also shown to be a reliable means of sorting large amounts of information, e.g. the Dewey decimal system, internet tags.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

There already exists a profound amount of information, however that is really all much of it does. Countless individuals have compiled or accumulated vast amounts of data, used it for their purposes and then left it abandoned. This does not negate the validity of their data, but it does insinuate the need for making it accessible. 

IT for Change

Organization's slogan: 
An India-based NGO working on information society theory and practice from the standpoint of equity, social justice and gender equality.
Civic Organization Disclaimer: 
Possible disclaimer: This information has been entered by a person who isn't associated with the organization. It may be incomplete or contain mistakes. If you are associated with this organization and would like to maintain this information, please get a Public Sphere Project account and ask us to transfer ownership of this information to you.

IT for Change works in the following areas.

Development for IS

An equitable information society can flourish only through inclusive and informed debate, involving not merely actors from the technology arena but all actors in the development sphere, especially from the South. Current information society and 'ICTs for development' or ICTD approaches predominantly represent Northern realities and perspectives, tending to favour market-fundamentalist thinking and valorising technology per se. IT for Change attempts to de-construct the dominant approach and concepts in relation to ICTs and development and articulate alternatives, based on information provided by field work.

Internet governance

The manner in which the Internet is being shaped today is an important determinant of the directions of social change. It is no longer a simple technical platform about which scientists and technical experts are best placed to take all the important decisions. The question then becomes important: who decides the direction in which the Internet is evolving? A common response is that the Internet is a dynamic platform which responds to user needs. User determination of the trajectory of the Internet's evolution is today largely a myth, though some remarkable oases of alternative practices amongst committed techies or perhaps even involving some ordinary 'power users' do exist. To the extent the user has a role, it is in his capacity as a consumer, which capacity itself is very differentially distributed between the affluent and the marginalsied groups. Largely, it is the corporatist and statist powers that play an overwhelming driving role in shaping the Internet. Other than in very authoritarian countries, it is the global corporate power, often with strong support from governments, especially those of the North, that is the major determinant of the directions that the Internet is taking. The Internet being a major force in our shifting social configurations, it should not be difficult to see what this means for our future, especially for people and communities that are already marginalised.

 
Gender

IT for Change (ITfC) focuses on theory-building and policy research, adopting a pro-South feminist approach. ITfC seeks to build a theoretical framework of gender and information society that problematises women’s citizenship in the changing social order. ITfC’s research and advocacy have critiqued market-based approaches in policy making – globally and nationally – and have pushed for new frameworks based on citizenship and rights-based approaches.IT for Change's work in the area of governance looks at how new technology paradigms open up novel opportunities for deepening democracy while also presenting challenges to many conceptions of democratic governance. We engage with policies in the area of e-governance, public information systems, decentralisation and community based governance structures. We also engage with demonstration projects to explore bottom-up, participatory designs of governance systems that centre on divergent and dynamic priorities of local communities and engage their ongoing active participation.

Governance

IT for Change's work in the area of governance looks at how new technology paradigms open up novel opportunities for deepening democracy while also presenting challenges to many conceptions of democratic governance. We engage with policies in the area of e-governance, public information systems, decentralisation and community based governance structures. We also engage with demonstration projects to explore bottom-up, participatory designs of governance systems that centre on divergent and dynamic priorities of local communities and engage their ongoing active participation.

Education

IT for Change (ITfC) believes that ICTs can help to shape participatory and collaborative processes of learning as well as teacher professional development in education, and is concerned by the attempts to use ICT programs in schools to justify, without any basis, the privatisation of both curriculum and pedagogy in the Indian public education system.

Public Software

Public software is all software that is essential for participating in the digital society and thus needs to be provided to everyone as an universal right and entitlement. It includes operating system, text / image / audio / video editors, email, web browser, search engine etc. Public software needs to be free software, providing the freedom to use, study, modify and share, to ensure universal access as well as participation in its creation and modification.

Organizational engagement: 
Active
Organization's headquarters: 
Bangalore, India
Organization's geographic focus: 
India-based
Contact person: 
Parminder Jeet Singh
Contact information: 
ITfC(at)ITforChange(dot)net

Civic Data Challenge

Organization's slogan: 
The Civic Data Challenge turns the raw data of “civic health" into beautiful, useful applications and visualizations, enabling communities to be better understood and made to thrive.

The Civic Data Challenge turns the raw data of “civic health" into beautiful, useful applications and visualizations, enabling communities to be better understood and made to thrive.

Civic health data has been collected for years, and we now have an opportunity to make this trove of community insight more valuable and accessible to decision makers and the public. The Civic Data Challenge will bring new eyes, new minds, new findings, and new skill sets to the field of civic health.

Designers, data scientists, researchers, and app developers are especially encouraged to join the challenge.

Challenge participants will be provided civic health data, as well as data on health, safety, education, and the economy.  Participants will analyze the data, identify connections and correlations, and create visual representations and applications to showcase their findings. These may include infographics, apps, animations, videos, or other innovations.

Judges will evaluate entries based on the quality of the analysis and design, the compelling nature of the finding, and the utility of the product. Winners will be chosen in the categories of health, public safety, education, economy, and “Best in Show.” Challenge Judges will also choose a “Wild Card” winner.

The Challenge opened on April 3 and entries must be received by July 29. Winners will be announced at the 67thAnnual National Conference on Citizenship on September 14 in Philadelphia.

The Challenge is presented by NCoC (the National Conference on Citizenship) in partnership with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. NCoC and Knight Foundation hope the Challenge will uncover new findings on why community engagement and attachment are critical to building thriving communities.

For more information, please visit www.CivicDataChallenge.org.

Organizational engagement: 
Active

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CIRAL Web Space

The creation of a living body of knowledge that is easily accessible and updateable is an important component of CIRAL.  By creating this space on the Public Sphere Project, the Liberating Voices pattern language can be easily incorporated into the work to facilitate the sense of shared vision CIRAL is striving for.

Project Goals: 
Become a centralized online space for the work of CIRAL
Facilitate project design and coordination
Host action and research results to form a growing body of knowledge

Participatory Culture Foundation

Organization's slogan: 
We make open tools for the shared culture we’re all creating together.
Civic Organization Disclaimer: 
Disclaimer: This information has been entered by a person who isn't associated with the organization. It may be incomplete or contain mistakes. If you are associated with this organization and would like to maintain this information, please get a Public Sphere Project account and ask us to transfer ownership of this information to you.

Democracy and culture can only thrive when people are engaged in creating the world around them; not when they are passive recipients or alienated from the society they live in.

Participatory Culture Foundation (PCF), a 501c3 non-profit organization, is dedicated to supporting a democratic media by creating open and decentralized video tools and services. We work to eliminate gatekeepers and empower communities around the world.

They have created tools such as Miro which is a participatory video uploading, sharing, and viewing program/service. They also created a method for creating universal subtitles and started the Open Video Alliance.

Organizational engagement: 
Active

Free Software Foundation

Organization's slogan: 
The Free Software Foundation (FSF) is a nonprofit with a worldwide mission to promote computer user freedom and to defend the rights of all free software users.
Civic Organization Disclaimer: 
Possible disclaimer: This information has been entered by a person who isn't associated with the organization. It may be incomplete or contain mistakes. If you are associated with this organization and would like to maintain this information, please get a Public Sphere Project account and ask us to transfer ownership of this information to you.

As our society grows more dependent on computers, the software we run is of critical importance to securing the future of a free society. Free software is about having control over the technology we use in our homes, schools and businesses, where computers work for our individual and communal benefit, not for proprietary software companies or governments who might seek to restrict and monitor us.

The Free Software Foundation is working to secure freedom for computer users by promoting the development and use of free (as in freedom) software and documentation — particularly the GNU operating system — and by campaigning against threats to computer user freedom like Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) and software patents.

Year the organization was founded: 
1985
Organizational engagement: 
Active
Organization's headquarters: 
Boston, MA

Wikileaks

Organization's slogan: 
We open governments.
Civic Organization Disclaimer: 
Possible disclaimer: This information has been entered by a person who isn't associated with the organization. It may be incomplete or contain mistakes. If you are associated with this organization and would like to maintain this information, please get a Public Sphere Project account and ask us to transfer ownership of this information to you.

WikiLeaks is a not-for-profit media organisation. Our goal is to bring important news and information to the public. We provide an innovative, secure and anonymous way for sources to leak information to our journalists (our electronic drop box). One of our most important activities is to publish original source material alongside our news stories so readers and historians alike can see evidence of the truth. We are a young organisation that has grown very quickly, relying on a network of dedicated volunteers around the globe. Since 2007, when the organisation was officially launched, WikiLeaks has worked to report on and publish important information. We also develop and adapt technologies to support these activities.

WikiLeaks has sustained and triumphed against legal and political attacks designed to silence our publishing organisation, our journalists and our anonymous sources. The broader principles on which our work is based are the defence of freedom of speech and media publishing, the improvement of our common historical record and the support of the rights of all people to create new history. We derive these principles from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In particular, Article 19 inspires the work of our journalists and other volunteers. It states that everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. We agree, and we seek to uphold this and the other Articles of the Declaration.

Year the organization was founded: 
2007
Organizational engagement: 
Active
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