Categories
News & Media Projects & Ideas

Infochimps

Everything is digitized these days. Almost all of our activities, online and offline leave a footprint that will be stored in 0’s and 1’s. All this wealth of data is fueling new perspectives and disciplines in art, journalism, anthropology, social research and, of course, in marketing and advertising.

For most people though, it may be difficult to gain access to datasets, whether because of a lack of expertise, contacts or money. Infochimps is a searchable collection of datasets that can be shared or sold. For those datasets that are free, you don’t even need to create an account to download the data. You can see examples of what can be done with the data found in the site.

There are three facets to Infochimps, community curation, user uploading and marketplace.

  1. Community Curation – In order to have a comprehensive collection of datasets that are discoverable and useful, members of the Infochimps community curate datasets. This includes fixing mistakes, improving descriptions and pointing to other sources.
  2. User Uploading – Users upload their datasets, or datasets that they deem useful, building the commons.
  3. Marketplace – Infochimps provides a marketplace for users to buy and sell data.

Infochimps is powered by Infinite Monkeywrench, an open source (GPL 3) set of tools and programming frameworks to work with large sets of data. Infinite Monkeywrench can be downloaded here.

Categories
Politics Projects & Ideas

What do they know

Some european democracies have transparency laws, usually called Freedom of Information laws, that force the public institutions to answer the questions citizens ask them about their work and the data they generate. Sometimes, though, the same public institutions make it difficult to make information requests, by obscuring the process or the possibility to do so.

What do they know is a website that allows citizens in the UK to browse through Freedom of Information requests and make their own to all british public institutions.

You choose the public authority that you would like information from, then write a brief note describing what you want to know. We then send your request to the public authority. Any response they make is automatically published on the website for you and anyone else to find and read.

Under Freedom of Information (FOI) law, they have to respond. The response will either contain the information you want, or give a valid legal reason why it must be kept confidential.

What do they know is an open source project made by the non for-profit organization mySociety, which has developed other projects on accountability of the public institutions, like FixMyStreet.

If you want to participate, you can contribute as a volunteer, either with time or money, to the project.

Categories
Education Projects & Ideas

P2P University

Education is one of the cultural fields that is going through an intensive process of re-examination of their practices and processes as a result of the influence of new online communication structures. Lately there has been an intensive bloom of alternative education experiences, like Free Universities and other informal learning experiments, that are often based on a physical location.

The P2P University translates this efforts into online education, but doesn’t question the structure of courses or the roles of teachers and learners:

The Peer 2 Peer University (P2PU) is an online community of open study groups for short university-level courses. Think of it as online book clubs for open educational resources. The P2PU helps you navigate the wealth of open education materials that are out there, creates small groups of motivated learners, and supports the design and facilitation of courses. Students and tutors get recognition for their work, and we are building pathways to formal credit as well.

At the moment of this writing, there are no courses open for registration, but you can set up an account, and wait for new courses to be announced. The courses currently being taught at the P2P University have a wide range of subjects, from ecology to writing and from arts to politics.

Categories
Art & Craft Projects & Ideas

VODO

The changes that the new digital paradigm has brought to the distribution of cultural works, specially of those like still images, audio and video that can be easily copied and shared online without losing any of the quality or properties of the original work, don’t mean the disappearance of the role of intermediaries, if they are understood as curators, and not as business middlemen.

This trend has enabled the blooming of the netlabel scene in music, who has brought great artistic and commercial successes. VODO functions in exactly the same way as a netlabel, but its purpose its limited to the distribution of film works.

Each month, VODO distributes one film feature through P2P networks, also promoting it through partnerships with its distribution network, mainly bittorrent trackers and sites. The films distributed through VODO range from documentary to drama, from animation to live action.

Viewers of the films distributed by VODO can donate money back to the creators through its system, or become subscribers. This (a “regular supporter”) allows loyal VODO users to participate in the decision-making process, voting for films to be distributed through VODO, suggesting film-makers, and interacting with the creators of the films. VODO opens the curatorial process to everyone who wants to become involved.

Categories
Art & Craft Education Projects & Ideas

OurGoods

With a little help of your friends, so it goes the song. And it also seems to be the motto of OurGoods, a peer to peer social network that puts in contact people with a “have” with people with a “need”. It also provides the tools to facilitate the bartering between people. The project is intended to be used primarily by artists, with the aim to support that community in times of economic pressure, when resources are scarce.

OurGoods supports the production of new work through barter, because resource sharing is the paradigm of the 21st century. OurGoods is a scaleable, local initiative and part of the growing landscape of alternative models of exchange in art, design, and culture. OurGoods is specifically dedicated to the barter of creative skills, spaces, and objects. OurGoods helps independent projects get done.

The bartering platform is currently being tested as an aplha version, restricted to New York City only, but as the project matures, it will allow participation from people from outside the arts community and from other locations around the world to form local exchange networks.

One of the interesting peculiarities of the project is that it forbids the participation of organizations, requiring you to participate as an individual.

The starting point of the OurGoods project was the Trade School, in which you could register for classes in a range of different subjects, as long as you provided something (a service, a good, a space) to the teacher in return. The Trade School is scheduled for a re-opening in September.

You can find out more on OurGoods in this presentation or ask here for an invite code to participate in the beta.

Categories
Education Intellectual Property Projects & Ideas

Open Knowledge Foundation

The Open Knowledge Foundation is an english non-for-profit organization whose objective is to promote open knowledge, defined as:

Any content, information or data that people are free to use, re-use and redistribute — without any legal, technological or social restriction. The main principles are:

  1. Free and open access to the material
  2. Freedom to redistribute the material
  3. Freedom to reuse the material
  4. No restriction of the above based on who someone is (e.g. their nationality) or their field of endeavour (e.g. commercial or non-commercial)

The main purpose seems to be to apply to culture and knowledge the same principles that were developed for free and open source software. To achieve their objectives they work on several projects, a couple of which revolve around the idea of open data and open government too. Some of their projects are:

If you want to participate, they are very open to suggestions, proposals for new projects and, of course, donations. You can also take a look at the tasks list on their wiki.

Categories
Politics Projects & Ideas

Parlio

Parlamentary political activity usually has two sides in the modern democracies of the west. On the first side, you get the visual, staged dramatization, ready for night news consumption, of the debates and arguments between the most prominent political representatives. On the other, there are all the bureocracy rituals, anchored in the nineteenth century foundation of this particular way of embodying political action.

Making this rituals of power more understandable for citizens, quantifying them and exposing lazyness and contradictions of politicians are some of the objectives of Parlio. They focus their activity on the Basque Parliament, the legislative body of the Basque Country autonomous community of Spain. In their own words:

We take the data from the Basque Parliament’s official site and we bring it to the people in a much more user friendly way, so we can really know what the politicians are doing… and what they are not.

However, as usual in public service websites in Spain, where there is no access to information law (the largest EU country without that law, according to Access-Info), the data in the Basque Parliament official website is not provided in a standard format and is not easily re-usable by third parties. Parlio, then, has also the secondary function of translating that data to structured formats, where mashups and other web 2.0 magic trickery takes place. The ruby module that scraps the content out of the Basque Parliament website is avaliable here with a MIT license, so you can, too gather the data for your own purposes. It seems that the whole Parlio website, also in Ruby, will be open sourced at some point. The whole Parlio website has been also open sourced (updated 7.12.09).

In fact, Parlio is funded by Pro Bono Publico, a spanish open association that promotes the use of free and open standards, data and technological platforms in the public institutions. They are looking for designers and developers with any level of expertise to help them shape other projects around public institutions and transparency.

This project was submitted through the front page form by Ana Malagon, one of the developers of Parlio.

Categories
Economy Politics Projects & Ideas

Follow the money

You follow drugs, you get drug addicts and drug dealers. But you start to follow the money, and you don’t know where the fuck it’s gonna take you.
Detective Lester Freamon.

The European Union is one of the most cryptic and opaque political insitutions, much more than some of the governments and states that is comprised of. That opacity includes the European Union budget, its subsidies, and how and to whom this money is distributed, which is very hard for citizens to understand.

Some journalists, transparency NGOs and analysts have started Follow The Money, to shed some light in the way money is spent and given by european institutions. This site builds upon the work of farmsubsidy.org, which used laws of access to information and new transparency rules on financial regulation in the EU to report on who was getting the farm subsidies money.

FollowTheMoney.eu aims to make it easier for European citizens to understand the EU budget: how it gets decided, where the money comes from and how it is spent. FollowTheMoney.eu comes from journalists, researchers and activists who want to make the European Union work in a more transparent and accountable way.

The team has released a companion to farmsubsidy.org, called fishsubsidy.org. This time, obviously, the focus is on money granted to fishing industries.

You can find issues where some action is needed, as well as events to attend and participate in the front page of Follow The Money. If you are really into transparency and budgetting and want to get involved with this project, you can find more about becoming part of the team in the about page.

This project was found via Furilo.

Categories
Environment Projects & Ideas

Guerrilla Gardening

When your city council neglects to take care of the public green spaces in your city, who you gonna call? Not the city council gardeners, but your own neighbours and friends.

Guerrilla Gardening is a loose network of local groups that want to regain control of the public space, and more precisely, of the green spots in our cities, from the institutions. The act of citizens looking after their own green spaces fosters consciousness of public spaces, improves their involvement in city matters, and of course, makes better looking gardens. And maybe some vegetables and fruits for tasty victories over concrete and ugliness.

Guerrilla Gardening

In the Guerrilla Gardening website you can find a community posting board with local groups in your country, with sub-boards for states and cities. If your country or city is not listed, you can send an email to open up a new board and start organizing a local Guerrilla Gardening group.

The Guerrilla Gardening groups are totally independent from each other, there is no central organization nor do you need to affilliate or even sign up to the website. You can just set up your own website to organize your community, as this group in Madrid has done (weird copyright legal notice and all).

Categories
News & Media Projects & Ideas

Knowmore.org

Knowmore.org is a site that gathers information on corporations and their products, in order for people to have better and informed choices.

We are a grassroots, web-based community dedicated to chronicling and resisting corporate attacks on democracy, worker’s and human rights, fair trade, business ethics and the environment. Our shared goal of a more informed and conscious consumer is being accomplished via this website: a vast database of easily searchable corporate and political info designed to aid responsible citizens, progressive thinkers and activists.

Ethical Consumerism is an important movement toward corporate reform, through which individuals recognize their own role in systems of oppression, and take personal steps toward resistance and positive change.

They site rates the performance of a company in five different areas or issues: workers’ rights, human rights, environment, political influence and business ethics.  Knowmore was conceived and founded by independent hip hop artists B. Dolan and Sage Francis.

Find how you can participate in this project.