Saturday, April 30, 2005

Queen's Night

It's a special Queen's Day today because it's the 25th anniversary of Queen's day. In Brazil you have carnival, here we have Queen's day. Here in Holland we have a odd and fun phenomena each year where people can sell their junk on the street without a license. Had a blast last night with friends across the city, and maybe a few too many glasses of ye old amber nectar.

Democracy innovation
It's no new news that democracies across the western industrialized countries have been in decline. People have steadily lost interest in voting, in listening to what politicians have to say, and the disconnect has been painful. Ouch! I was very happy to find a juicy link to this bumper report in my inbox by Power: An independent inquiry into Britain's democracy. It is entitled, Beyond the Ballot: 57 Democratic innovations from around the world, which you can view here (pdf). You can also listen to a brief podcast between with Helena Kennedy and Sam Giddy about 'experiments in democracy' on BBC Radio 4. (Real audio file) Also let me point to this link which shows how my individual frustration led me to a ("toungue-in-cheek") personal redesign of some taxation forms for the Netherlands a couple years back. I am bot sure now that personalized tax would be efficient although it is certainly an equalizer. Would love to talk to the dutch government and other parties to explore this thread further.

Local initiatives of interest

Check out 10 new voices. "A pioneering program to seed innovative community news ventures in the United States. Through 2006, New Voices will help fund the start-up of 10 micro-local news projects with $12,000 grants; support them with an educational Web site, and help foster their sustainability through $5,000 second-year matching grants."
And a local community blog called Northfield .

Measuring hearts and minds

I previewed what Microsoft was up to with their MyLifeBits software last month. That was a scary and powerful new software tool integrating all your communication devices and recording "everything"from phone calls to your walk through the park (as plotted over a map using the GPS in your phone). So those smart ladies and gents over at MIT now have released some of the data they have been gathering in their research project called Reality Mining .
"The Reality Mining experiment is one of the largest academic mobile phone projects in the US. Our research agenda takes advantage of the increasingly widespread use of mobile phones to provide insight into the dynamics of both individual and group behavior. By leveraging recent advances in machine learning we are building generative models that can be used to predict what a single user will do next, as well as model behavior of large organizations."
Found via Information Aesthetics and Boing Boing

....and last but not least (trying to answer the value proposition of this blog), a ....

Mind Reading Machine that knows your thoughts before you do!

REMOTE measurements of a person's brain activity can show what they are thinking - even when they are not aware of it themselves.

So far, the technique has only been used to identify visual patterns. But it may eventually be possible to probe awareness, focus of attention, memory and even someone's intentions. In the meantime, it could help detect whether people who appear to be in a coma are in fact conscious.

In previous studies, scientists have trained monkeys to move robotic arms with the power of thought. Others have managed to recreate scenes moving in front of cats by recording information direct from the animals' neurons (New Scientist, 2 October 1999, p 17). Both these experiments required electrodes to be inserted into creatures' brains though.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Looking down from above

I came across this interesting new social geographic visualization company Social Explorer. Of course, their site is "still in BETA..." as it is very much a work in progress. They are using Flash as the front-end interface and splicing the data with the huge vats of information from the USGS (United States Geological Survey) . This is really an exciting development.

Here is where i zoomed in to a portion of the map of USA
to look at people living above and below the poverty line, 1999-2001 data.

"Social Explorer is dedicated to providing demographic information in an easily understood format,data maps. We serve hundreds of interactive data maps of United States.

Here, you can visually analyze and understand the demography of the U.S., explore your neighborhood and learn about the people that live around you.

Social Explorer is an organization based in New York City. Our objective is to help Visually Analyze and Understand the Demography of the U.S. through the use of Interactive Maps. Our primary functions include Demographic Data Analysis, Interactive Map Design and Software Development.

One of our main goals is to show demographic change that's occured in the U.S. since 1870 till present. We maintain a collection of interactive maps that visually show some of the available Census Data running back to 1870s.

We have over 60 years of combined experince in data analysis. With Dr. Beveridge at helm, we have produced statistical information and themathic maps to Prudential Financial Services, New York Times, Time Warner, and many other entities."

Citizens are gaining more "god's eye/satellite/military intelligence" vision. We can peer down at the people living next to us and further away. Google Maps is amazing at this too. Hopefully this will help to increase awareness and acceptance. But as we know, it all depends on the way that people are perceiving this information. These maps can go a long way in altering our perception to be more inclusive. Inshallah!

Thanks to Netimperative for alerting me on this news. Go read what they post on this subject here
On the theme of the present, LondonConnect launched April 25th, a city portal for locals and visitors to the capital organized in a simple, user-friendly way. It is intended to be upgraded in phases and is here to stay. Wonderful new addition to help us navigate through the unwieldly complications that huge cities present. Go take a test drive and report back to Lifesized to let me know what you thought.

And finally a interesting podcast by Benjamin Walker on Philip K. Dick

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

The future of the future of the future

Ok. An original post this may be not. But passing on high value information it is. And this is all thanks to the smart ol group at paidContent who supply me with a steady stream of interesting links.

Here are links to 3 .pdf files entitled:
1. The Age of Engagement by Morgan Stanley read the article (pdf)
2. Television Networks in the 21st Century Deloitte read the article (pdf)
3. Synpase: The Future of News Media Center read the article (pdf)

Other news. Yesterday, i had the pleasure of interviewing Irene van der Schleij, who is the mother of a good friend of mine, and also a cultural worker here in the Netherlands. She gave me her opinions on living in Holland. She has lived here all here life and has two kids now in the 30s. She gave me a fantastic book by Hans Kaldenbach called "Doe maar gewoon" 99 tips to get on with Dutch people, a book written for "alloctone" which means foreigners, mainly of Turkish, Marrocan, and South American, Antilles background. It is a fantastic list of how some Dutch people are.

tip 12: Genieten lijkt wel een zonde (enjoyment seems like an exception. Dutch people seem to have inbuilt brakes that stop them from fully enjoying themselves. They say it has something to do with Calvinism....)
tip 18: Leuk: brutale kinderen (it's good if dutch kids make rude comments = kids that can be rude become self-confident and wise(not sure about that one!))
tip 72: Voor de echte straf eerst een waarschuwing (For a real punnishment, first a warning)
tip 88: Het uiten van gevoelens (expression of feelings. Dutch people are not allowed to get really angry. Crying has to stay really short only after a death or separation. They talk about their emotions more than express them. In a conflict, Dutch people have to stay 'netjes'(clean). You cannot get emotional which leads to people staying angry for a long time after a conflict.

I now want to see an international grid of this book. We all come from somewhere. And i believe each country imprints a psychology which we take for granted as being "Indian, American, Chinese,etc". I'm up for questioning our deeply held country identities. Is this racist? Only stupid people will think that. Isn't it about time that we collected a big 'ol list of the good, the bad, the ugly and beautiful sides of where we come from to understand each other better and help each other get closer. De-indentify to re-identify.