Ada Lovelace Day: A tribute to Portuguese Women in Technology

Posted: March 24th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

It’s been crazy and chaotic, so I haven’t updated my blog in a while =( And there’s sooo many things I would love to write about; from the newspapers crisis to Obama’s intensive use of ICT and social networks during his campaign and what’s happening now…but, the day only has 24 hours, so it’s been impossible.

Anyway, a quick note about Ada Lovelace Day. I’m answering to a delicious pledge by Suw Charman-Anderson, asking bloggers to write about women in technology, as a tribute to Ada Lovelace.

Ada (1815-1852) was the first (known) programmer. She wrote a description of a mechanical general-purpose computer by Charles Babbage.

So, here is my contribution:

I’m not blogging specifically about computer scientists or other core professionals in Tech., but I thought it was a great opportunity to write about social scientists devoted to the study of technology. It’s time to recognize them as well!

So, I’m writing about Helena Monteiro. I could blog about an interesting and remarkable group of Portuguese sociologists that have been developing the sociology of technology in Portugal, as Luísa Oliveira, Margarida Fontes, among others. But, I chose Helena for four simple reasons:

1.She’s a fabulous example of how reality is multidisciplinary, as she comes from Maths (applied mathematics, as algebra, etc), but she’s now working at the Centre for Public administration & Policies and lecturing at the Institute of Social and Political Sciences, my home =);

2.She worked in the Tech field for years, so she has that impressive know-how and a clear vision of how things really work (in a real pragmatic sense);

3.She always acknowledged the importance of the study of the social impact of technology and how it is crucial to inform and develop technology;

4.She’s a pioneer, not only in the study, but also in the development of the e-health system in Portugal. She doesn’t reduce her work only to the academia (and you know what I mean when I say this: publications are not enough!), she makes things happen, pushing for better public policies and commitments from all the community (including industry). She definitely works for a better Portuguese electronic health system and for that she deserves a huge mention.

Therefore, she’s a fantastic role model. Plus, I have the pleasure to be close to her, so I can also underline how an amazing woman and human being she is.

Here is my tribute to Ada, to Helena, to all amazing women in technology and in society,

Thank you all,

P.S. Check Ada Lovelace blogs here

Me and Helena in Santo Domingo, Dominic Republic: Sociological analysis of a men’s bar =)


A Researcher’s Dilemma

Posted: February 11th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

The last issue of IJIRD journal has one of my articles about digital cities: “Are digital cities intelligent? The Portuguese Case”. This issue is edited by the world-known expert on intelligent cities Nicos Komninos and has extremely interesting overall contributions. Therefore, I’m really pleased and grateful to have a paper in this high quality edition. But I’m still feeling my usual uncertainties towards publications in peer-reviewed journals. My dilemma about this particular subject are well-known by my co-workers and friends and I want to share them in the blogosphere, striving perhaps for some catharsis, some redemption….

I surely agree/understand the need/importance of validating your findings/work with the reviews/inputs of the scientific community. However, I – like the majority of researchers – feel the pressure to publish, publish, and publish in order (they say) to make science go forward (and to build a strong curriculum in the same degree). Publish or perish, it is. And I’m not talking about peer-review process or the supposed “blind peer-review” process: even if I’m aware that a lot of journals work hard to accomplish this principle, it’s interesting to notice that the same people are always published, over and over again (sometimes presenting nothing new to the field)…and how you need a strong co-author to publish something, specially if you’re a young researcher/scholar. It seems like an interminable loop.

Well, for now, I’m just talking about disseminating scientific work.

So, I deeply believe that we are only disseminating science in a close and restrict circle which actually prevents major advances in science and society. Really, come on, how many people will buy/read my paper in this journal? Plus, because of contract limitations, I can’t simply make my full paper available on-line; accessible for everyone who’s interested in digital cities and the Portuguese experiences. My conviction of a “free shareable knowledge” is constantly oppressed by the system. And I succumb to the system as well, as I need to make a living of it.

But not everything is grey, the open access journals are definitely a fabulous idea, and the Internet had a crucial role on its development. Nevertheless, for me it’s still a residual problem, as for instance, the foundation that supports my research only gives high points for papers published in close peer-review process journals (with impact factor, of course). And this is completely non-sense, as both should have the same importance. We need to remind them that the majority of open journals are also peer-reviewed. And if they want citations, research of citations of articles in open access journals show that papers in these journals are more cited than non-open access articles. Interesting article here.

Well, a propos, here’s one’s of Geert Lovink’s 2009 resolutions (Geert has this amazing ability…yes, I’m a big fan :-):

“Dismantling the academic exclusion machine. With this I mean the hilarious peer review dramas that we see around us everywhere, aimed to reproduce the old boys networks, excluding different voices, discourses and networked research practices. We need to have the civil courage to say no to these suppressive and utterly wrong bureaucratic procedures that, in the end, result in the elimination of quality, creativity and criticism (and, ironically, of innovation, too). In the same way we need to unleash a social movement of those who dare to say no to all these silly copyright contracts that we’re forced to sign. We should stop signing away our ‘intellectual property’ and begin to radicalize and help democratize and popularize the creative commons and floss movements.”

Ditto!


Corpus 2.0

Posted: January 24th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

It’s been a crazy busy month, so it’s been hard to keep updating my blog. Even, if my clock is incessantly clicking (so much, that I can’t even puzzle the definition, perception and impact of time on social structures :-), I just want to leave a quick note to introduce Marcia Nolte’s work. This Dutch artist created a set of interesting portraits, showing how the body will adapt to extensive use of products, mainly technological ones. Can you guess which ones?


Digital Art, Starry Night and New Year’s Eve

Posted: January 1st, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »


I found the perfect piece of digital art for a New Year’s Eve quick post. It’s a 3D recreation of one of my favourite paintings by Van Gogh: Starry Night. This painting was done while Van Gogh was in an Asylum at Saint-Remy in 1889. It portrays his view and perception of the surroundings during the night, although he only painted it during the day. Even though it was done while the artist was suffering from a major crisis (he suffered from mental health problems: paranoia, hallucinations, depression…), what involves sadness and despair, this starry night always brought me a feeling of peace, serenity, harmony and comfort. And I’m sure it was also a way for him to find some peace of mind and tranquillity.

This work was recreated in Second Life (the famous 3D virtual world) by Robbie Dingo. The soundtrack is the “Vincent” song by Don McLean that starts precisely with “Starry, Starry Night…”

Enjoy it and may your New Year’s Eve be a starry night, full of hope and new ways of seeing the world and feeling life.

Happy New Year!


Mumbai attacks and Social Media

Posted: December 3rd, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Although this is already a well debated subject and quite out of date in the high-speed world of media and scoops hunt, I still want to write some lines about the Mumbai attacks and the social media (1). I’ve been sick with the side effects of a wisdom tooth removal and therefore my delay in updating my blog. Still sick, but recovering 😉

The Mumbai attacks in India were highly covered all over the World. In every television channel, radio station, newspaper and magazine we followed the deadly terrorists’ attacks. And this was a reality in the traditional and in the new media. However, what was really interesting to see was the use of twitter, flickr, Wikipedia, blogs, YouTube and even google maps to cover the unfortunate terrorist event. Local bloggers and the so called citizen journalists used all these social media to give information, updated by the minute.

The media used them as sources for broadcasting their own news and also used some of these tools. We could find fresh news every few second on Twitter, on Mumbai, Bombay, and #Mumbai.

In Flickr, we could follow the pictures of the Mumbai Blast.

The Wikipedia page on the attack started at 18:20, 26 November 2008 by a user named Kensplanet. The page grew to nearly 5,000 words in 6 sections and was edited over 900 times in 21 hours…. And this is clear example of collaborative work. As Larry followed, during this time, 149 editors were anonymous (IP address only), 199 people made only one, and 93 authors could not be identified. Two contributors had made over 50 edits. Kensplanet, who started the article, had made 57.

Local bloggers covered every minute of the event at Metblogs Mumbai and GroundReport.

Videos were available at YouTube.

And even a Google Map was developed, tracking the points of the attack:

Therefore, this case was interesting to think about the repercussions of this new social media. I would emphasize the participation issue and the deconstruction of traditional media structures and domination. In fact, the gate-keeping media paradigm offers a reduced and manipulated vision of reality. And don’t tell me the model is obsolete: it’s still a reality. Everything is filtered and based in a solid system of influences, politics, hidden supports and manipulations. I’m talking about the scoop, the news that sell, the news that are useful for the large media corporations, and so on. And this is easily proved: for instance, check how many times developing countries (specially “third world countries”…I know this expression was eliminated since the non-aligned movement creation and it’s not used anymore, but it’s still helpful to portray a set of countries) are news and you will find that their are only noticed by the media, when they suffer a natural catastrophe, war, famine, etc.

The blind fight for audiences and the market driven demands leads to a powerful and controlling censorship. These hidden mechanisms of economic pressure make the media a powerful tool for perpetuating the symbolic order, as Pierre Bourdieu underlines in his delicious “Sur la Télévision” (you can read this amazing book or check his video here). Plus, the journalism world is narcissistic and falsely auto-critical, as Bourdieu remarkably notes. Of course he’s intention is not to “destroy” journalists, but to make them think about the “media game”, clearly embedded in their practice and that sometimes is even unconscious. Using the television example and his studies, Bourdieu emphasizes that “The television guided by the audiences’ index contributes to exercise on the supposedly free and educated consumer the market pressures, which have nothing to do with a democratic expression of a rational and well-informed collective opinion, of a public reason, as many cynic demagogues want to make believe.”

Therefore, social media have the potentiality to change this set of things, to create a rupture in the conservation of these established values, as it’s based on a free and easy world-wide participation (as long you’re in the Web of course, you want to participate and not considering the growing digital divide), interaction (real multi-directional one) and community driven. Plus, they have no editorial chains or censorship. In fact, a series of “independent media” sites are emerging all over the Web. Global Voices, Cover it Live and Mahalo are noteworthy examples.

(1) Some quick notes about social media:

Ben Parr defines in his blog that Social Media is the use of electronic and Internet tools for the purpose of sharing and discussing information and experiences with other human beings in more efficient ways”. This definition is quoted by Wikipedia, but raised some discussion, as social media is perceived as much more than electronic and internet tools. It’s a new media available to anyone on the Web: anyone can publish, share or access information (in a relatively cheap way). And this is revolutionary! But that’s not only that: social media allows creating and sharing meanings, relationships, communities and networks. As JD Lasica describes: social media is the term used to define the creation of personal content/medium and share it in the public sphere. Social media is intimately related to the Web 2.0 (Sir Tim Berner’s Lee questions the expression, as interaction, interactivity and many of the technological components of Web 2.0 have been a reality since the Web early days. Check also Tim O’Reilly’s article on this). Others jargons emerged with social media, as citizen’s media, independent media, participatory media and new media. Are they all meaningful? Aren’t they describing the same reality? Or are they defining different dimensions?


Ancient Rome 3D on Google Earth: Delicious!

Posted: November 14th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

After a post about maps, this is an interesting follow-up note: Google Earth launched yesterday “Ancient Rome 3D”. This is a joint project of Google and the University of Virginia’s Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities (IATH). It’s also the first time Google Earth includes an ancient city.

For all of us enthusiasts of Ancient Roman history, this is an amazing and delicious tool. The model shows the city (“Rome Reborn”) as it existed in 320 AD, recreating detailed models of more than 6,700 buildings and monuments. Some, like the Coliseum, also feature extremely detailed interiors. The images are completed with historical information in a new layer.

As this was developed, aiming the creation of an attractive educative tool, Google announced a curriculum competition in conjunction with the release of this new layer. Six K-12 educators who create the most interesting curricula based around the Ancient Rome 3D layer will receive new Mac laptops, classroom projectors, and a digital camera. Good luck 😉


Mapping Crime: Are you feeling safe in your neighbourhood?

Posted: November 9th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

The Mayor of London and the Metropolitan Police Authority (MET) developed a site where you can check the city crime map (following NYC and other cities experiments). It shows interactively where crime is occurring at a local neighbourhood level, providing all crime stats in the area. This crime mapping includes burglary, robbery and vehicle crime. It also allows the user to find local police, to check the safest neighbourhoods, to report a crime online or to send the Met’s a question or message, among others. It uses Google maps and the platform is still in progress.

However, it can be a useful local e-government initiative. Citizens can verify their residential areas crime, but also, be “closer” to the London police. Globally speaking, the project goals are clearly informing citizens, but also diminishing local crime and augmenting the feeling of security and trust in law enforcing agents. Of course it can’t show with perfect accuracy the real local situation, considering that crimes must be reported to be presented. In addition, as the website emphasizes sometimes victims can’t describe with precision the exact place where the crime occurred. Nonetheless, having the possibility to file crimes through the Internet might contribute to raise crime reports…that consequently might make the picture worse….and therefore augment fear. But, maybe I’m extrapolating too much…This is just a tool (that can even be used by criminals :-): it won’t reduce crime on its own. It must be part of a wide strategy…and I hope it is.


Some examples with Westminster postcode:

I also found Wikicrimes that allows checking crimes in different countries. This collaborative platform was conceived by Vasco Furtado, Professor at University of Fortaleza, Brazil. The technological infrastructure is provided by IVIA.
Quick historical note:
Crime mapping history definitely includes sociologi
sts from the so called Chicago School. In the beginning of the 19th century, urban sociologists from the University of Chicago started to use maps as a visual tool to illustrate the spatial distribution of social problems in the city. In this group we can find Park and Burgess, who developed the concentric circles model (The City, 1925), supporting the theory of human/social ecology. The concentric circles consist in a diagram that shows different zones in the city, zones that expand from the CBD (central business district). The theory illustrates five concentric zones. These zones are defined by their residential composition, moving from the very poor and socially deviant, in the inner zone of transition to a peripheral suburban commuter ring. So, areas of social and physical deterioration concentrate near the city centre and more wealthy areas located near the city's boundary. This theory aims to explain the existence of social problems such as unemployment and crime in specific Chicago areas. Shaw and McKay (Juvenile Delinquency and Urban Areas, 1969), also part of the Chicago Sociology group, constructed several maps to show the location of the residences of more than 10,000 male delinquents. Shaw and McKay observed that the spatial distribution of juvenile delinquents’ houses stayed constant over the years. They seek to demonstrate that crime was a normal response to social characteristics of a community, sustaining the Social Disorganization theory. However, as I’m extending myself too much on the earlier contributes of sociologists to crime mapping ;-), crime maps go back to 1829. Borden Dent in “Brief History of Crime Mapping” shows that its origins can be found in France. In 1829, Adriano Balbi and André Michel Guerry (a geographer and a lawyer with passion for statistics) created three choropleth maps showing the relationship between violent and property crimes and educational levels (later called “moral statistics”). Of course, that with computers and new technologies (locative media, for instance, have been essential), new techniques and tools for mapping crime were developed and improved.


Is Success Killing the Internet?

Posted: November 5th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

A Web of Wide Open Innovation….Or Closed Appliances?

Is the Internet as we knew it – an open platform for innovation – a victim of its own commercial success?



These are the mottoes for a conference at the New American Foundation, tomorrow, 5th of November in Washington (USA). This event will bring together Jonathan Zittrain and Adam Thierer. Zittrain is the author of the “Future of the Internet and how to stop it”. He argues that the openness of the Internet brought connectivity and creativity, but at the same time spam, viruses, cyber-terrorism, etc. For Zittrain the future of the Internet might be closed networks and restricted devices, subverting the spirit of the Web. On the other hand, Adam Thierer, author of “Manifesto for Media Freedom” emphasizes that fears about a loss of openness and innovation are exacerbated. They are a façade used for more “net neutrality” and regulations. For Thierer the Net is undoubtedly alive and digital innovation and online openness are a reality as they were never before.

Yes, this will be an extremely interesting conference and debate of ideas about the future of Internet policy and regulation. But, don’t worry; even if you’re not in Washington, you can “attend” this event, as it will be webcast live here, starting at 3:30 EST.

Keynote Speakers:

Jonathan Zittrain

Professor of Law, Harvard Law School

Author,
The Future of the Internet

Adam Thierer

Senior Fellow and Director, Center for Digital Media Freedom,

Progress & Freedom Foundation

Co-Author, A Manifesto for Media Freedom

Michael Calabrese

Director, Wireless Future Program,

New America Foundation

Moderator

David Gray

Director, Workforce & Family Program

New America Foundation

(My quick comment to the event on “comments” LOL)


Post for Portuguese Speakers

Posted: November 2nd, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | 2 Comments »
For all of you who speak Portuguese (and we are not so little, as Portuguese is the 6th most spoken language in the world), Julieta Leite, a friend architect working at Université René Descartes, is doing an online survey to collect data for her PhD research about cities. The survey does not ask for any personally identifiable information and will only take you 5 minutes to answer. So please, take some time to participate and to publicize it.
Thank you,

The Atlas of Cyberspace

Posted: October 29th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

A quick note to introduce a really interesting book:
The Atlas of Cyberspace (Martin Dodge and Rob Kitchin, CASA) explores the spatial and visual nature of cyberspace and its infrastructure and traffic. It examines why and how cyberspace is being mapped, namely what new cartographic/visual techniques are being used to show the digital landscapes beyond our screen. But the authors go further and address the stories and motivations of each map.

It’s interesting to see that traditional/conventional maps, the same used to represent the real world, were first used, but soon we moved to new fascinating, abstract and innovative forms of representing the virtual world. In this sense, the science fiction and artistic ways of representation provide great imagery and ideas. The mapping conversations and communities chapter is simply delicious, it’s the “people-centered” information visualization part and shows from emails to game space mapping.

After collecting thousand of maps, the authors emphasize in their final thoughts that: there is no one true map of cyberspace. Welcome to the brave new world!

And the best is that you can get a free version of the Full book (PDF via CCC license) and enjoy the wonderful maps.

I love free sharable knowledge…Thanks Martin and Rob.

Chat Circles (Mapping chats)
Fernanda Viégas and Judith Donath, assisted by Joey Rozier,
Rodrigo Leroux and Matt Lee (Sociable Media Group, Media Lab, MIT).