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 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
Environment Production Projects & Ideas

Open Source Ecology

Open Source Ecology is a movement dedicated to collaboratively build open source tools for communities who want to be independent of global supply chains, human exploitation, and environmental degradation, creating infrastructure for local technological agricultural self sufficiency.

We are farmer scientists – working to develop a world class research center for decentralization technologies using open source permaculture and technology to work together for providing basic needs and self replicating the entire operation at the cost of scrap metal. We seek societal transformation through interconnected self-sufficient villages and homes. This is a stepping stone to transcending survival and evolving to freedom.

For three years they have been taking their theory into practice in the Factor e Farm, in the fields of Missouri.

Take a look at their blog and their wiki for more info, and find out how you can support them.

Categories
Environment Projects & Ideas

DIY City

How can inhabitants interact with urban planners and affect the way their city evolves? How can they think, and propose, better solutions for urban problems in a horizontal way, adapted to the particularities of a district or neighboorhood, or building, instead of having an elite deciding what’s best for everyone?

DIYcity is a site where people from all over the world think about, talk about, and ultimately build tools for making their cities work better with web technologies. The result is an open source suite of tools that residents of any city, anywhere, can plug into and use to make their area better. This toolset, as it grows, becomes an initial version of a city/resident interface. This interface is the ultimate product, and the ultimate goal, of DIYcity.

Cityleft works for a new theoretical and practical scenario in urban planning. The new scenario is called Urbanism 3.0.

In Urbanism 3.0, Urban Art Interventions and Peer to Peer (P2P) projects are conceived to simulate alternative urban scenarios in public space capable to affect region making as well urban planning, involving the participation of a broad research community made of urbanists, social workers, NGOs, environmental artists, graphic designers, minorities, inhabitants, and so on.

The mention of anything 3.0 or 2.0 or whatever makes me cringe a little bit. We should drop the mentions of x.0 in our projects as this assumes that is the next, logical step in the evolution of a certain discipline, and inherently, excludes any other approaches. There are no hegemonic, totalizing, global solutions to problems or ways in which a discipline, science or cultural feature may evolve.

Categories
News & Media Projects & Ideas

Media Squat

Media Squat is a radio show in WFMU hosted by Doublas Rushkoff, author of the book Life Incorporated.

This participatory radio show – now called The Media Squat – looks at both sides of Life Incorporated: how life has been literally “incorporated” by business and economics, and how can we incorporate LIFE back into our world: local commerce, community, social currency, and other emerging forms of participatory culture. This is freeform, bottom-up, open source radio looking towards similarly open source, bottom-up solutions to some of the problems engendered by our relentlessly top-down society.

Each show will initiate a series of discussions, which will themselves comprise part of an expanding wiki of resources, support material, and community-generated content. A piece on “local currency” will branch out to embrace the local currency efforts, discussions, and tools out there. How does a person create a currency for his or her town? And where are the other people interested in doing this? Who has the best solar solutions, the most interesting way of organizing labor, the best free local Wi-Max network? Let’s talk to the CEO’s of GE and BP about their green efforts, and whether they believe their own hype. How about urban planning? Bike lanes? Ads on school buses and Coke machines in the cafeteria? What’s in those textbooks, anyway?

This is a 21st Century, cyberpunk reclamation of all technologies and social contracts as essentially open source, up for discussion, and open to modification. It’s an application of the hacker ethic and net collectivism to everything, done in the spirit of fun and adventure.