FREAKS AND FORCES
The “Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace,” 20 years later; ad firm says DIYers like Trump; and more.
This is civic tech: The great John Perry Barlow looks back on the 20th anniversary of his “Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace” for the Freedom of the Press Foundation. And while he expresses a few regrets (was it the champagne, he asks?) about his somewhat naive belief that the net would govern itself “with consensus systems aimed at the commonweal,” he asserts, “I do not believe that the Nation State, for all its efforts to bring the Net to heel, has really succeeded. It is still the case that if one is reasonably savvy technically, he or she can express whatever they wish without fear of reprisal….The War between the Control Freaks and the Forces of Open-ness, whether of code, government, or expression, remains the same dead heat it’s been stuck on all these years.”
Speaking of the forces of openness: New York City Council member Ben Kallos is pushing two bills, the Free and Open Source Software Act, which would minimize city contracts using proprietary software, and the Civic Commons Act, which would encourage the collaborative use of free and open source software among agencies, cities and states. The council’s committee on contracting will hear testimony on both bills February 23.
Our Christine Cupaiuolo takes a close look at two technologies that British researchers have been using in conjunction with major political debates there. The first, Democratic Replay, is an open-source web platform that enables viewers “to re-watch a debate with a full array of interactive visuals and analytics on discourse, audience feedback, debate topics (such as healthcare or the economy), and, in the future, data-mining tools that could answer such questions as, “Did the candidate actually promise this last year?” The second, Democratic Reflection, is an audience-response web app that enables viewers to choose in real-time from a panoply of nuanced responses, that range from straightforward (“This is informative” / “I’m losing interest”) to more complex reflections (“If s/he understood my situation, s/he wouldn’t say this” / “S/he’s provided convincing evidence for this claim”). As she reports, the University of Leeds team that built the tool is “open to discussions with media partners in and outside Britain interested in using the Democratic Reflection app in future debates.”
Tech and the presidentials: It looks like some voters in New Hampshire have been receiving so-called “voter-shaming” mailers aimed at trying to push them to vote by supposedly comparing their voting history to their neighbors, but as Rachel Stockman reports for LawNewz.com, it’s not clear what campaign is sending them out.
Has presidential long-shot John Kasich been reading Sherry Turkle on the dangers of the digital age? Here he is talking at campaign event yesterday in New Hampshire, as reported by Ross Choma and David Corn for Mother Jones:
“Our lives are being lived so fast. We’re constantly on the device. The Apple TV…Have to get the new Apple phone.” He held up an iPhone, as he continued: “We have to slow our lives down and listen to people’s hurts and victories.” He repeated this call to de-accelerate: “When we do…it’s a more beautiful world.”
Video satirist Hugh Atkin catches Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio debating with himself on whether or not President Obama knows what he’s doing. The results aren’t pretty.
The almost-too-close-to-call Iowa Democratic caucus battle gets a detailed deconstruction from Darren Samuelsohn of Politico, who shows that party leaders in the state were not prepared for the way the Clinton-Sanders race tightened and precinct volunteers were often not interested in using Microsoft’s app for reporting caucus results.
Digital advertising firm Dstillery used location data to identify more than 16,000 mobile phones that appeared at caucus locations across Iowa, Donovan Slack reports for USA Today. The company found that sports fans and techies were more likely to show up at caucuses won by Marco Rubio or Bernie Sanders, where those who were into grilling, lawn and garden care, and other household DIYers were more likely at caucuses won decisively by Donald Trump.
International internet: Facebook’s Free Basics program had only reached one million of India’s 252 million internet users, Reuters’s Jeremy Wagstaff and Himank Sharma report. The decision by Indian regulators to effectively kill the program for violating net neutrality will likely embolden other regulators to demand equal access from ISPs elsewhere, they note.
Commenting on Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook page, Anil Dash tries to school the company CEO in the problematic history of Western colonialism in India, writing, “A colonialist “trust us, it’s for your own benefit” pitch is a hard sell with good reason….What about pausing the Internet Basics effort and spending some time on a real effort to listen to Indian voices about what would help them have connectivity on their own terms, in a way they find acceptable?” Zuckerberg kind of maybe gets it, replying “I think you’re right about focusing on following the local culture and empowering local entrepreneurs.” The giant social networking company is also facing a setback in France, where regulators are giving Facebook three months to stop tracking non-users activity and to also end the transfer of personal data to the United States, Reuters reports.
BrokenToilets.org, a new online magazine about global development and culture, is looking for pitches from writers for articles about open data.