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Showing posts from 2010

After inventing the WWW, where do you go next?

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Sir Tim Berners-Lee is the keynote speaker at this ICTD conference happening here in London. The Michael Jackson in the computing world, Sir. Tim Berners-Lee has been credited for inventing the World Wide Web, launching the first basic communication via the Internet in 1989. So...he appears lost on stage, as if he walked into the wrong conference. A tech-geek at heart, it seems he is compelled to connect his general fabulous geekiness to starving children in Uganda. And sadly he tries. He brings up in some circular way this farmer in rural India who makes decisions on drilling the land and sowing the seeds and something about rainfall and er...as if he just had a crash course on farming ..farming for Dummies 1.0. And just when you wonder where its heading, he miraculously ties this to accessing the Internet for empowerment, a point already beaten to death not just at this conference but for the last decade in the ICTD field.

Okay, so while he may not be the development guru (nor does …

Geography for development: mapping for change

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Who doesn't love a good idea! Here's one, aerial mapping of a community space in Palestine by attaching a regular camera to a kite. So picture this..."tampering" with a regular camera and attaching it to a kite that flies overhead your community allows for a aerial perspective of your local space; piloted by Palestinian youth make it even better. This stems from the Voices Beyond Walls organization, a collective of independent Palestinian and international media technologists, filmmakers, photographers, educators, and activists that hold digital storytelling workshops with the youth in the refugee camps in the West Bank.

Here's another kind of mapping: in Kibera, Nairobi, digital mapping of this "blank spot" on Google maps becomes richly detailed through the initiative of local information surveying and sharing to create a digital public map of their own community. And why should one care? Well, besides its invisibility online, it has more pragmatic pur…

The ICTD conference kicks off with marital discord between practitioners and academics

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The ICTD conference for 2010 goes all Harry Potter on us, hosted by Royal Holloway, University of London. This university, started in 1886 and financially backboned substantively by Thomas Holloway who made his millions from patent medicine, is a fascinating site to hold the conference in. While we're immersed delightfully within the history of this educational space, we're confronted with the future of this relatively newly created ICTD conference space. Its a response to the persistent frustrations of the disconnect between academia and practice. It's about making "relevant" academia, to network these seemingly disparate groups in a fruitful manner and create sustainable thinking through interdisciplinary means.

So it is of little surprise that the conference launches with a panel of practitioners and moderated by Tim Unwin from Royal Holloway, University of London. In true academic self-flagellation, Tim remarks that only practitioners can truly "guide t…

Fokke n Sukke does a number on us Tedhead bloggers

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Granted, my profound ignorance of Dutch cartoons mitigated a little only due to self-centrism. Having learnt that us TEDx bloggers from the TEDx Amsterdam event (that recently wrapped up on Nov 30th) was covered by two specimens that don't wear pants, it piqued my attention for sure. Fokke, a run-of-the-mill duck wearing a small sailor's cap is accompanied by Sukke, a canary bird that wears a baseball cap backwards but apparently rocks the boat with their supposed tails that coincidently resemble male genitalia. But thats not all that they rock. Their benign disguise is coupled with politically incorrect humor and barbed sarcasms targeted at posers such as us TEDheadders, a subculture of The Economist reading, Mac hugging, Jon Stewart loving type of groupies.

So, Fokke & Sukke is a Dutch comic strip created by writer and illustrator Jean-Marc van Tol, and writers John Reid and Bastiaan Geleijnse and is published in the daily broadsheet NRC Handelsblad. These guys even won t…

Reporting from TEDx: Muthoni the Drummer queen

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Performance by Muthoni, the drummer queen
Starving artists, rich recording labels…that’s how the cliché goes. Microfinance, usually reserved for talk on farmer loans and such is now making waves into the world of the music industry. Fans are putting their money where their mouth is, enabling start-up capital to aspiring musicians from developing countries around the world. The clincher here is that musicians do not give up ownership or control of their music rights.

microfinance + music + digital media= Muthoni the drummer queen!

for more, check out TEDx Amsterdam site: Moving to the microfinance beat!

Reporting from TEDx: replaying Darwins journey + the circus as conference

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Sarah Darwin talks about Darwin's journey replayed today
Like the usual family pressure is not enough, having Charles Darwin as your great great grandfather must hardly be an easy feat. That said, rather than hide from it, Sarah Darwin embraces it openly and audaciously retraces the “emotional” journe, as she calls it, of the HMS Beagle. A biologist herself, Sarah describes how she and her family set sail round the world on the Dutch clipper Stad-Amsterdam, starting at the same port where Charles Darwin embarked around 178 years ago...
Check out the TEDx website for more:
Sarah Darwin: Following in your footsteps great great granddaddy!

AND


Peter van Lindonk's talk on demanding creativity as ground for unity for stimulating ideas
It’s about time someone added chutzpah into conferences! Aren’t most conferences about remembering the lines but forgetting the theatre of it all? Peter van Lindonk, the co-founder of the annual PINC-Conference, knows this better than most people as he ro…

TEDx Amsterdam's Photogenic moments...

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Reporting from TEDx: Dr Anita Goel on personalized medicine

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Dr Anita Goel on Personalized medicine
It’s nice to know you’re special. Anita Goel backs this up with science, showing that no two people are alike in their molecular profiles, and as such no two treatments can be alike. Tailored diagnostics – personalized medicine has come to our doorsteps. Covered with ivy, Dr. Goel is a product of Harvard-MIT and Stanford, a physicist, a physician, founder and CEO of Nanobiosym, a company that has a not-so-humble vision to “to revolutionize healthcare globally.” She states that their goal is to give patients worldwide real-time access to their own diagnostic information via low-cost handheld devices and provide a personalized approach to cure through one’s genetic makeup. So what, individualism is the new holism? For more, check out the TEDx site:

Dr Anita Goel: healthcare at your digital fingertips

Reporting from TEDx: Cacao Man: I am from Mars !

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Santa Claus look alike, Dr. Howard-Yana Shapiro, talks of chocolate through 26 Mayan languages. Where does cacao come from and why does this matter? Being the global director of plant science and external research at Mars Incorporated, he shares with us the buzz phrase of today= sustainable cacao.

Chocolate matters! But not in the way we imagine, Christmas stockings and all. He says, "everything is on the move, forced by nature," meaning that to satisfy our love for chocolate, we need to start thinking of its effect on people and cultures, nurturing nature and naturalizing this nurturing as a habit of the future. He approaches this through the eyes of a scientist and anthropologist, an important and yet surprisingly rare combination in the field. "We will not certify poverty!" he stresses, talking of how deforestation is deeply connected to chocolate and how corporations need to equate business models with eco-models, where co-dependency is but a must.

According to…

Becoming the Press at TEDx: the hoopla around it

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Green bordered Press Passes and RESERVED written on red velvet seats...its nice being the Press! Cookies and koffie; polaroids being taken to give some kind of instant energy feeling; long-bearded men, probably all eco-warriors or physicists... spotted! Admittedly, as we blog away with our Apple computers in a row (with every other minute checking Facebook), we're deeply concerned about more pressing issues such as what we should do with our goodie bags post conference when we go for the after-party to Chicago Boom! Such are the troubling times we live in.

Other issues do seep in such as what can we say about someone whose claim to fame is that she is the great great granddaughter of Charles Darwin...ok, but what about it? And of aliens on stage...er? and fake snow falling on a man who has come from Africa in his native costume, saying that this is the first time he has left his hometown and he receives unanimous applaud...because??? One is tempted to see this as condescending, an…

Live blogging at TEDx...

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Blogging live on Alef Arendsen:
Even trendy renewable energy requires PR. Granted, Al Gore helped to make climate change a topic again. But for the most part it’s been all about what you can do for the world and not for yourself. The New Motion, a company about “electric mobility powered by renewable energy,” turns this around. “If we want to create lasting change, we have to accept the premise that we act on self-interest,” says Alef Arendsen, one of the co-founders. For more, check out the TEDx blog site:
Alef Arendsen: Fixing my problem fixes yours

TEDx starts with a Boom...

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Jon Rosenfeld from Boom Chicago, an Amsterdam comedy institution known for its live shows and video productions is hosting TEDx Amsterdam today. He starts for sure with a bang, a boom and happily no bust, cracking up the audience with his witty oneliners such as, "we're all TEDheads here. We're the nerds from high school that made it!" or "we're the Economist readers ...we have that secret nudge, that all knowing wink of getting off on an orgy of ideas" and more, paving way for Prof. dr. Gerardus 't Hooft, the Nobel Prize winner in Physics. Now thats a hard act to follow! In fact, I believe usually scientists do not usually follow comedians when launching into their talks on how nuclear energy transforms the world. So well, kudos to him as he slowly works his way to engaging us with his facetious warning that, "blackholes are not safe to be close to...it can be dangerous!" While starting with the cliche of beam me up Scotty which is oh wel…

Russian doll for the TEDx: a blog within a blog

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So, fanatic that I am for TED conferences...well, actually, calling this a conference is akin to calling caviar food or the ipad a computer. The cult of TED is more like it, from Ideas Worth Spreading to Fanaticism Worth Holding onto! It all started in the oh so cliche California where people came together to give "the talk of their lives " er...in 18 minutes. (Andy Warhol promised a 5 minute fame so lets just say inflation just kicked in). It started by pontificating about Technology, Entertainment and Design and now has spread to any topic that can be delivered in a way that will make an audience feel cool n cutting edge, and if you can squeeze in a tear or two from them, more the power to you! Ah and did I mention this is an invite only event, nurturing the VIP instinct amongst an eclectic group of people who need reassurances of their role in life like myself? There is nothing like a good dose of intellectual elitism to get people's attention...simple supply and dema…

Book Release: Dot Com Mantra: Social Computing in the Central Himalayas

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At last, eight months in the Central Himalayas spent examining how people use computers and the Internet has panned out - my first book published by Ashgate publishing (UK) has just got released.

ABSTRACT: Billions of dollars are being spent nationally and globally on providing computing access to digitally disadvantaged groups and cultures with an expectation that computers and the Internet can lead to higher socio-economic mobility. This ethnographic study of social computing in the Central Himalayas, India, investigates alternative social practices with new technologies and media amongst a population that is for the most part undocumented. In doing so, this book offers fresh and critical perspectives in areas of contemporary debate: informal learning with computers, cyberleisure, gender access and empowerment, digital intermediaries, and glocalization of information and media.

REVIEWS:

'A towering piece of research and writing, imbued with theoretical and methodological vigor, an…

The politics of the floating gay

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The floating gay parade, 80 boats with specific themes sailed along the Prinsengracht/ Amstel river canal with Lady Gaga ruling the airwaves. Cher managed to seep in a little but gone are the days of Madonna and Barbara Streisand. While no doubt an enjoyable spectator sport, there were some troubling trends. For instance, the energy on the boats lay low (my benchmark = NYC and San Francisco gay pride parades). You start to think about the relationship between the parade participants or “actors” and the crowd or the “audience.” Usually, in such parades, the line between the spectator and the spectacle is blurred, with the run of the mill you and I dressing up with stringy pink wigs, rainbow socks, to sometimes a full blown, out-of-the-closet costume. And you cheer...like your life depended on it. Your vocal cords compete with the likes of a newborn baby. Yet, at the Amsterdam parade, there was a sober quality where the audience barely even cheered, let alone waved at the floats that we…

Culture on the go: the New Yorker's Subway

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Commuting can be a drag, even more so in a densely populated city like Manhattan. I’ve done the uptown-downtown journey for years where you learn to block ungainly sights, smells and sounds on the subway. It’s a talent onto itself really. Jammed with the loudly enthusiastic tourists, the drunk and the homeless, and the emaciated college kids heading to east village, you develop a protective force field that usually is a potent combination of your iPod, the Economist and shades. That said, it is astonishing that the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) takes this reality and turns it to its advantage. Understanding that New Yorkers are constantly on the move, it capitalizes on this and makes this commute a cultural experience. And we do stop and notice. While there is comfort in standardization through the quintessential subway blue and white tiles, there is also difference. Difference that reflects specific neighborhood stops. So if you get off the Natural history museum, that’s easy.…

The fate of Paul the Octopus

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They say the legendary Paul, the German octopus who predicted all Germany’s matches and the final victor of World Cup correctly, is about to retire. I think not. He has a future awaiting him…

1) Paul is going to sign on for the hot remake of Bond’s Octopussy. The question is, can he seduce the British star Daniel Craig like the way he charmed the Spanish? Maud Adams, move over, Paul's the real deal.

2) Paul wonders how anyone in their right mind can actually think that entertaining kids in a German aquarium is retirement? That’s a load of work people! Instead, he wants to cash in! Although the Spanish economy is er, not doing as well as it did in the World Cup final, he wants his share! Lawyers, make your move!

3) Paul is thinking of joining Wall Street; while everyone was busy seeing his moves on predicting the World Cup final, no one noticed him picking out the next Google…oh well, you snooze, you lose.

Shut up and watch the game!

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Saying something profound about football is not my forte. Yet, here you have it, I'm in the Netherlands and its the World Cup final between Holland and Spain. As you will soon guess, this is definitely not the blog where you will get insightful commentary about Robben’s missed opportunity to strike a goal or Iniesta's amazing play that won the Spanish it’s world cup; I've barely wrapped my head around the fact that there are defenders, keepers and strikers…that there are referees who play bad cop with no real good cop around. It's a nasty job apparently.

Also, I realize that like any other ritual, there is the core and then, there are the spectators, ready to peripherally engage by following the code. It doesn't take much to learn the code. Wear orange. Wrap your beesies, those little furry creatures that come along with every 15 euro purchase from Albert Heijn around your headband like antennae of Dutch support. Scream "kill...kill...kill," and mumble …