KN^2 Knowledge Networking Knowledge Networking v.1.0.b

November 4, 2002 4:19 pm

During a visit to the New Museum of Contemporary art in New York City, I got to know about and its Commissioning program. This program provides financial support to artists for the creation of innovative new media works that respond to developments in technology while examining their cultural impact.

While receptive in principle to the idea of new media art, I have often been underwhelmed by the practice, which baldly stated tended either toward mindless techno-hyping or mere transference of old activities to new media. Of particular interest to me were the commissioned “works” supported by Tactical Response, projects addressing the current global political climate. Maptivist 2.0, by the Institute for Applied Autonomy (IAA/ uses wireless Internet devices to share information about surveillance and other police activities in real time. John Klima’s Context Breeder and Nungu’s Telematic Surveillance include visual takes on the social and conceptual links implicated in automated information technology-mediated knowledge networking. The supported works in general attempt to employ Open Source architectures.

In sum, the works bring an aesthetic perspective to politically articulate activities that feature new initiatives to support knowledge networking. While browsing the rhizome site, I ran across an interesting piece by Josehine Berry, "Bare Code: Net Art and the Free Software Movement," a piece in the Open Source Art Hack.

Posted by David Hakken

October 10, 2002 5:38 pm

CPSR Annual Meeting

Under the theme of “Shrinking World, Expanding Net,” Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility held its annual meeting at Harvard University on October 5th. Meeting chair Jean Camp described the meeting as a coming together of the Design for Values and the Design Communities. Since expanding the net was described as “doing good” and equated with expanding the net, the implication is that computer professionals are shrinking the world. Those present from the design community can be presumed to be trying to do so in a socially responsible manner.

The part of the day thru lunch was devoted to presentations on nine different projects intended to “bridge the digital divide.” The projects included:

  1. Grameen Phone, which builds on the famous Grameen Bank to sell cell phones to women in Bengla Desh, who start businesses and produce an expanded GDP;
  2. A National Academy of Sciences Evaluation Project on use of Geographic Information Systems in Africa to promote Environmental Quality through dispersed resource control, better diplomatic relations, and democracy through better information access;
  3. A project to use recycled, donated computer systems, including a Linux server and up to 9 Linux clients, to, at cost of $45 per system, set up self-sustaining, school-based community Interrnet centers (a case in Goa, South Asia, discussed);
  4. A “surfing the Knowledge Wave” analysis of various projects to increase the chances that massive public Information/Communications Technology investments actually increase the level and spread of computerization in the Caribbean;
  5. Various World Wide Web Consortium-based projects to broaden the access of people with disabilities to ICTs;
  6. MIT’s TEK (Time Equals Knowledge) Project, to email web searching and therefore make it reasonable for people on timed access with only low band width;
  7. An argument for why for-profit organizations should back off their demands that illegal software copying in non-Western contexts be treated as piracy, because this will increase access, greatly increase the user base, and enable later profits;
  8. An MIT Media Lab E-development Group project evaluating an effort to provide appropriate technology for a Dominican village without resources; and
  9. An American Academy of Arts and Sciences project to use encryption, networked computers, and statistical reasoning to increase the effectiveness of global human rights activism.

By and large, the presentations accepted as given the following presumptions

  1. that ICTs were neutral and could be a great source for good;
  2. that trying to solve problems technically could often be a good idea;
  3. that bridging digital divides (DDs) was self-evidently a good idea;
  4. that non-Western nations had particularly difficult DD problems;
  5. that markets were the appropriate or at least a necessary mechanism for overcoming DD problems in non-Western contexts;
  6. that states were not generally reliable mechanisms to bridge DDs;
  7. that a knowledge society was a self-evidently reasonable idea, and in general there was little need to discuss more long-term goals;
  8. Microsoft and proprietary software in general, sucked;
  9. It was not important to differentiate between Open Source/Linux/Free Software but was good to be generally flexible; and
  10. OS/L/FS ruled, especially that usable end-user products like Mozilla and Open Office have reached 1.0 releases

The remainder of the day was devoted to various official and semi-official projects of the “new model,” intended to be more activist, CPSR, including

  1. A Global Civil Society/Internet Governance project, which has monitored ICANN and attempted to intervene to make its actions more democratic;
  2. Participation in the Global Summit on the Information Society;
  3. A project to overcome a DD in access to encryption software, especially in human rights activity;
  4. a Patterned Language project, intended to collectivize knowledge in new ways;
  5. a computer forensics paper that won the student paper prize;
  6. the activity of new national chapters in Peru and Japan.

The intent, to project CPSR as the global public interest organization/NGO for digital technologies, was most explicit in the post-banquet discussion after the its Norbert Weiner award had been accepted by Carl Auerbach, soon to be ex-North American user representative to the ICANN board. The catalytic role of CPSR in various struggles during its 21 year history (e.g., leading the technical fight against Reagan’s “Star Wars” initiative) was evoked at several points. The implicit contrast was of the Internet Society (a democracy of the technically meritocratic) as opposed to ICANN (large, predatory corporations) as contrasting models of global governance. I enjoyed the conference, seeing a number of old friends and being impressed by personal dedication and moral courage. I was again discouraged by the technicism and the reluctance to try to formulate policy and deal with complex poltical contradictions. To me CPSR represents the best of the voluntarist, libertarian thrust of an earlier, somewhat naïve Utopian approach to computing and its social correlates. It gets my oney and my participation, but not my heart.

Posted by David Hakken

October 10, 2002 4:28 pm

International Conference on Universal Knowledge and Language

25-29 November, 2002
Taj Goa, Fort Aguada.

Knowledge, Culture and Language have been addressed by scientists and scholars as isolated domains in the past. Current trends are compelling philosophers, computer engineers, social leaders and policy-makers to enlarge the understanding of the convergence of information media, and to take a more integrated approach to societal development.

THE INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON UNIVERSAL KNOWLEDGE organized by the UNDL Foundation, Geneva, Transcultura International Institute, Paris and the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, aims at providing an appropriate framework and atmosphere for such approach and understanding. The Program of the conference is organized under the broad and provocative theme "Universal Knowledge and Language" and will be focussed from four interrelated perspectives: Phillosophical, Cultural, Linguistic and Engineering. The conference is being chaired by Prof. M.G.K. Menon. It will feature a number of eminent speakers from various countries, which will also include Prof. Murali Manohar Joshi, the honorable Minister of HRD of India. Prof. Ashok Misra, director IIT Bombay is the co-chair of the international advisory committee. I request you to visit the website of the conference at and participate in the event which will definitely be an enlightening one.

Posted by David Hakken

October 10, 2002 4:20 pm


For those persons frustrated with the numerous pop-up ads that frequently appear when browsing the Web, this small program will be a welcome addition. Utilizing two built-in engines, PopUpBuster protects users from all unwanted pop-up and pop-under windows. Additionally, clicking on a link opens a new window if it is designed to do so, and this link will also be free from pop-ups. PopUpBuster is not invasive and can be overridden by clicking the shift or control keys.


Posted by David Hakken

Sat Aug 17, 2002 08:05

Tula, the main character in this summer’s surprise movie hit, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” is transformed from a mousey “seating hostess” into a Greek goddess, so attractive to an “X-zeno” named Miller that he converts to Greek Orthodoxy in order to marry her. Of interest to the filmgoer is the strange timelessness of the story, easily made of equal relevance to any time over the last 150 years; its ethnic mobility (locatable in any number of US ethnic groups, as long as they are now-constructed-as-white); and its mobility of place—ostensibly about Chicago, it was filmed in Toronto. Of interest to cyberspace ethnography is the role assumed by computing in the heroine’s transformation. It is studying computers at a local college that leads to a self-makeover, gets her out of the restaurant, and into the travel agency where “the new her” is noticed by Prince Charming. “This,” as she says, “is when my life began.” Already in the mid 1980s in Shefflield, England, Barbara Andrews and I had noticed the place of computing in individual women’s narratives of self, as, e.g., a means to “get out of the house and into Modern.” It’s place in “My Big…” suggests that this role for computing is now tropic, integrated deeply into popular culture. What is also worth noticing is the terms of this integration. Like the “deus ex machina” of Greek tragedy, once computing has set the action in motion, it recedes quickly into the background of this hackneyed story of “individual immigrant success via assimilation into general American ethnic culture.” On the one hand, such a tropic role in 2002 suggest that computing is quite safe in American culture, its place unlikely to be disturbed by any number of burst economic bubbles. On the other hand, tropic incorporation on terms like these comes at the price of general irrelevance, except as an artificial plot device. If so, the future of cyberspace, as a distinct let alone liberatory alternative culture, looks rather dim.

Posted by David Hakken

Sat Aug 17, 2002 05:05 1.0.1[link] 1.0.1 is a "multi-platform office productivity suite" that includes a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation manager, and drawing program. Available for free downloading and accessible in 27 different languages, the software can run on Solaris, Linux (including PPC Linux), and Windows. Designers are currently working on additional ports to include Mac OS X. [MG]

Posted by David Hakken

July 17, 2002 12:06


This October, "dot-org" is slated to get a new landlord when VeriSign relinquishes its hold on the domain. Dot-org is indispensable to consumer advocates, public interest groups and political dissidents, who see the dot-org domain as the "only place on the Internet devoted to noncommercial speech." Initially, officials at the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) planned to open bidding only to nonprofit groups, but they later decided to open the contract to all comers in an effort to gather as many qualified bids as possible. ICANN president Stuart Lynn said the first priority is to find a stable operator to replace VeriSign. ICANN plans to award the contract in September 2002.

SOURCE: The Washington Post, AUTHOR: David McGuire]

Posted by David Hakken


From the Scout Report

Usability and privacy: a study of Kazaa P2P file-sharing [link]

Published on the Hewlett Packard (HP) Web site, this report finds that a large percentage of Kazaa users have either accidentally or unknowingly shared their private files with everyone who has access to the Kazaa network. Conducted by Nathaniel S. Good of HP Labs and Aaron Krekelberg of the University of Minnesota, this study discloses shortcomings in the Kazaa software, which in turn, poses a serious threat to computer privacy. Using various experiments to analyze the usability of the Kazaa file sharing interface, the researchers discovered that the majority of the users in the study were unable to tell what files they were sharing, and in certain cases, were not even aware they were sharing files at all. The researchers also created dummy files on a server and discovered in a 24-hour period that the files had been accessed and downloaded several times by unique visitors. Available in Adobe Acrobat (.pdf), this nine page report, on the whole, is primarily for those affiliated with P2P file sharing systems.

Posted by David Hakken

Those of us interested in automated information technology and knowledge networking think the following sources of information are of interest.

Red Rock Eater is Phil Agre’s personal list, typically composed of interesting links but carrying provocative essays and reviews on occasion.

Also of interest is Communications Related Headlines, a daily service of the Benton Foundation, and the weekly Scout Report of interesting web resources.