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Master thesis

Master thesis

I’m now finished with two semesters coursework for my masters, and the thesis is left to write before I hopefully will be entitled to receive my masters degree. I have learned much from the two previous semesters, and hope to learn even more from the process leading up to my dissertation is printed and handed in. As a part of my documentation and thought process I will use this blog to write about topics and findings related to my thesis. This way I can both contribute to the Internet community (or a tiny tiny fragment of it) by adding knowledge I acquire, gain more experience in English writing and conveying academic ideas and results. Since I already update this blog I think this is a better solution to write here, than to create a new dedicated master blog. To make it easier for you to find information related to my master thesis, I have created a cloud tag to refeer to articles linked to this final paper. The tag “master project” will lead you to general post written about my project, and the tag “master thesis” is dedicated to information about the specific paper.

During the two previous semesters I have written, among more, about the following subjects: what is information and data, the bloggosphere and the agenda of the mass media, advertising  and branding in contemporary digital media society, technological determinism, the philosophy of technology. I have also revitalised my interest in programming, so for my final project and thesis I want to combine knowledge learned from the courses taken and also include a practical element.

I want to look into governments sharing their data repositories with the Internet users, and various topics related to this. Here is my project description at the current stage:




The liberal democracy, and the modern national state are ideas indebted to ideals of the enlightenment. As the power of societies changed from the Feudal state to the Bourgeois, a structure where the political decisions were to be rooted in the citizens became a goal. The philosopher Jürgen Habermas has described the conditions which lead up to and followed from the rise of the bourgeois public sphere. In a period from the late 18th and to the early 19th century democratic decisions were a result of discussions, exchange of meanings and political activity in coffee houses, in pamphlets, and in private arrangements. With changed conditions in the mid 19th century the bourgeois public sphere demised. Core ideals of the liberal democracy are information, education, equality and impartiality. Good decisions are often those that are well informed, and information is a key value to make weighted decisions. Habermas’ concern is about contemporary society is, among other, directed towards the commodification of the mass media. Critique is also directed towards public management, and the transformation where citizens are now users of public services or consumers of private commodities.

Many have asserted that the wide diffusion of the personal computer, and similar devices providing interactive means of gathering, sharing, commenting upon, analysing and treating information, in combination with the Internet, providing a two-way channel of information will reinvigorate democracy. Users are now free to make their own information based on their own sources, and create their own knowledge communities outside the domain of the mass media.

Open Government:

The United States’ government opened the service in 2009, and in 2010 was United Kingdoms’ equivalent released. Other governments have also created similar initiatives, sharing data repositories with the public. These data repositories contains data aggregated through the various state agencies, ministries, governmental organisations, and political administrations ranging from national to local levels. The UK government has shared 6,900 datasets, and the US shares 250,000. The sets are released under an open licence, and the sites encourage users to take advantage of the collections in creative ways by creating communities and sharing applications made from the datasets.


Various open frameworks have been developed and made available for users to create their own representations from the datasets shared by the open government. I want to use two tools, which are not exclusively visualisation tools: Processing, and its HTML5 canvas-object portation ProcesssingJS (where JS is the abbreviation for JavaScript) and Python. In addition I may use Google’s Map API for integration with geographical data.


Research aim:

I will see how Open Government data is an can be used to democratise the representation and interpretation of information gathered and produced by the governments. I will see what information the US, UK and Norwegian government shares on their data sites and review some ways these data are used. I will mainly look at examples where data has been used in new and alternative ways to convey information about the society, and how this is visualised. I will look into why data is shared, which motivations lies behind this sharing, how it can be used and how this sharing fits in with democratic ideas. I do also want to look into the semantic web aspect of such services.



My research will consist of two approaches.

First, I want to get in touch with people who have combined governmental data in applications to learn more about their motivations, aims and process, and to ask about the results and their opinions on digital media. I will also, at an early stage of the process, get in touch with government sources working with Open Government to learn more about the motivations, challenges and practices. To conduct these interviews I will use a qualitative semi-structured research interview that I will record and transcribe.

Second, I want to have a closer look at how these data are combined, what data that are available, and combine two or three different dataset in an application. I will write an application taking data from two or more sources and combine these to create meaning from data. In this process I hope to experience first hand how these repositories can be used, and learn more about the technical aspects of gathering, structuring and displaying data.

In addition I will read relevant literature ranging from the practical aspects with DIY-handbooks and blog post tutorials, to philosophy on democracy, public sphere, information and rationality.


Learning outcomes:

I want to combine the theoretical normative ideals of democracy, transparency, creativity and knowledge with the practical approach to sharing information and data. The theoretical aspects will be beneficiary for understanding information and its importance for democracy. The practical aspects will give insights to widespread technology that is expected to be utilized in more areas and to a greater extent. The project will also be interesting as many relevant theories within the field of digital media can be combined, e.g. intellectual property, crowd-sourcing, decentralisation of knowledge, bricolage, and semantic web. The project does also potentially hold an interesting philosophical debate in the epistemological questions which can be raised from a “data as truth”, and instrumental reason.


The article illustration is licenced under a Creative Commons licence, and is the property of OpenSoruceWay. It is found through Flickr. Please refer to link for more information about the illustration.



Just minutes ago the head of foreign affairs of one of the most powerful states in world, if not the the most powerful state, was giving a press conference regarding the recent leaks of diplomatic wires. In her press conference Hillary Clinton addressed several aspects related to the wires. Maybe the most important objective she had with her speech was to assure other nations that the United States perceived this a severe security breach, telling the world that this would and shall never happen again. She also insisted to refer to the wires as alleged, not verifying or denying any of the information that may have been published.

She also chose to mention the moral aspect of these leaks, and she made a distinction between earlier cases where information was conveyed showing serious crimes and situations. She said that this was not the case with this leak, and that the alleged leak was a criminal act undermining the tools of the diplomatic institute.

I mean there was a need for such a statement after yesterdays release of a large amount of confidential and secret documents to newspapers in Britain, France, Germany and the United States, revealing information from one of the biggest governmental bodies in the world. Not only is it embarrassing for the US government and their bodies, it does also show the opinions and discourses which are dominating this gigantic organisation.

That the Russian government is made up from two characters that can be characterized as Batman and Robin, or the dominant alpha-male and the subordinate president is controversial just because the sender is a state. Neither that Berlusconi is partying a lot, nor that Sarkoszy is the emperor without clothes are impressions made from nothing.

More interesting are the accusations on to how the Department of State are using its connections to surveillance the United Nations secretary, or how the embassies have been used as intelligence offices. It is not in the characteristics, but in the politics the dynamite can be found.

As I was sitting and working on my presentation on the Public Sphere, Habermas and Internet for the Unravelling Narratives conference tomorrow maybe what I thought was most interesting with the Wikileaks cablegate in particular is how the government construct one rhetoric for use internally in the organisation and another for the world. The fact that there is such a span between the alleged secret observations and the information told by the government in press conferences and in interviews shows that the public debate is not in consensus with the internal opinions. I will think it over twice and maybe include it into my presentation. Hopefully I will get to publish the power point before midnight.

Information society

Information society

As the hypervisuality from the 90’s went over in the overflow of information of the 00’s something happend. The traditionaly trend that things changes more often and that things last shorter went into warpdrive. In the 60’s and 70’s the television-planning was buildt into big groups of programs. The variety was limited and so was also the offers of different television channels. In the eighties something happend, the national regulations, controlling the broadcasting sector, were loosened up and more and more commercial channels were able to broadcast. A good thing democratical and cultural, since now the public broadcasters are competing in an open sector. In many of the commercial channels, and also in some of the commersialized public channels, the trend went to short series wich last for 20 – 45 minutes with different problems and dilemmaes in which people can recognize them selfes. Now, with the World Wide Web – 2.0 – the consumers are going to be producers. Or at least they have the oportunity. The people can produce their own material, and publish it onto the public sphere. This was also normal in the 90’s with programs like American Funniest Homevideoes and different hidden camera shows. Now these videoes, among others are uploaded into cyberspace and is there accesable for everyone. Every consumer is now also a potensial producer, but where Lou DiMaggio is controlling the AFV videoes selected to be broadcasted together with his producers. You are the editor of the new time.

It took the human race millions of years to be the master of things we now are taking for granted, like the fire or the geometrical figure of a circle. It took thousands of year to be master over – with todays eyes considered- simple technology and it took centuries to come to state where the production system released the humans of beeng machines (NB: In some parts of the world, humans are still treaten as machines, which life is based upon producing cheap shoes for the western world…sad ), but it took only decades to controll the information. First wheat, then sugar, then oil and now information is one of the most important commodities which people consume. The information accessable is huger than the rate that a human beeing can consume, and some people mean that the time of the great storries are history. Where people before used pages on pages to express their feelings and meanings, knowing that the transfer time would be as long as it took to physical deliver the physical document, this is now done in real time, and with new technology like google wave the reciver would be able to see the message as it beeing written. There is no doubt this have to change the dialogue in some kind of way. The way of communication is changed into a more informal and more oral-simmilar communication.

Depending on which way you read the text above, this could be either positive or negative, and I have to admit that I´m happy that the new means of communication exist, and that we are now able to communicate across nations and cultures in a way that 100 years ago just was a dream – or not even that. On the other hand this new power gives responsibility. I like to be online and to be accesable, but sometimes its just good to be withdrawn from the public space. Like in holidays. Sometime is it good to just sit down and relax, pull the chord out of the modem, turn of the cell phone and just read a book or take a walk. The new technology is facinating and I look forward for what to come, but I hope that also in the future the gadgets and computers also will have a standby-button.

This text is based upon a general perception of time and media. There are no empirical evidences for what I´m writing and the text in this article is hereby released under creative common licence (No commercial reproduction, BY and share-alike)

Shared opinions

Shared opinions

Today the ministry of government administration and reform published their new book about digital medias and sharing culture through the Internet. The meeting was hold at their offices, but also through media channels like their homepage and twitter. The book raises different problems and questions which are actual for a society, in which more and more information is spread in other untraditional ways. Some of the questions the book raises is if its right to criminalize music downloading and if public governmental information should be free. It also raises the problematic question about the conflict between freedom of speech and privacy protection on the Internet.

The book is divided into three categories.1) Free, open and accessible information. 2) Democratic culture of sharing. 3) Children and youths in the network society.

Each category with different authors and editors. The book is also publised under the licens Creative Commons 3 with mentioning author and share alike as licence. This means that every user willing to use the document in different forms are free to do so, as long as the author get his or hers recognition, and as long the information is shared in the same way. This has already been done in the translation of the book into equipment for seeing impared.

The photos in the book are found on Flickr and are gatherd on their basis of high photographic quality, but also that they are published with an open license.

In addition to the physical book, every article is also published on the website delte meninger.(trans.:”shared opinions”. In Norwegian) On this page it is also possible to discuss the articles.

I’ve been reading some of the articles and they are dealing with interessting topics. Its good that the politicians and the ministries and govermental institutions finally are entering the debate on these topics. This debate is going to be interesting before the next parlament election this fall since many of the political parties are going to use the digital/social medias in their campaign. its also interesting to get a more idealistic debate on the piracy legislation and how information should be treated in a world where more and more people which earlier were understood as consumers are beginning to produce and influence the public areana. I will come back to discuss some of the opinions and questions which are raised in this book, but first I have to read a lot of literature before the exam next week.