Open Data Phenomenon Trend Literature

On Tuesday it is just one month until the master thesis is to be handed in, hence the next weeks will be spent in front of the keyboard writing down findings from literature and interviews, editing the text, making connections and hopefully complete a text that can convey something interesting about what I perceive as an interesting trend in society.

At the current stage the chapter headings are written in section and subsection markup, but these are not written in stone. Trying to unravel a relatively new phenomenon  is hard, and especially when the intersections between disciplines, methodology, theories and praxis are so varied. Since 2009 have a new trend emerged in which government share raw data from the public sector with the public sphere. How did this trend emerge? How does it work? What are the motivations, and how are the data used? In which context does this trend emerge? Many questions are to be asked, and hopefully the results of the research and literature review will yield a descriptive title.

I want to divide the literature I have read into specific and general literature. The general literature is the many books which writes about the general trend in society related to what I hope to understand, on the other hand is the specific literature employed to answer smaller and more concentrated questions. After conducting one of the interviews I reviewed Edward Tufte’s The Visual Display of Quantitative Information. I think this is a book holds a key function in understanding computer visualisations, a popular usage of open public data, but it can not help me understand how, why and by which means the phenomenon came into existence. Books with a general scope are the books of Clay Shirky. Both his Here Comes Everybody and Cognitive Surplus seems to describe a general trend in our current society, and perhaps it is in the same ideological field that the interest for using public data starts. The alteration of our spare-time habits, and consumer/production dichotomy and the abolition of the self-supporting organisations structures are very interesting theories, and may explain trends such as Twitter, Wikipedia and Flick, but can it also explain “unprecedented level of openness in Government” to cite President Barack Obama. In the same categories of thoughts can we also find Jeff Howe’s book on Crowdsourcing, titled with its subject of discussion, or in Charles Leadbeater’s We Think focusing on the rise of mass creativity. This books exemplifies and describes the rise of the entrepreneurial web-culture, both as profit and non-profit, intensionally or not. Perhaps these books can explain the 2003 EU directive encouraging government to enable their information of re-use, as the axiom of crowds and content is that unexpected value creation will eventually happen.

The culture of Internet is important. Not only the culture as in the content provided by companies addressing their old customers on the new arena, but also the inherent culture of the Internet; the techno-meritocratic, the hacker, the communitarian and the entrepreneur cultures, as described by Manuel Castells’ in the Internet Galaxy. Perhaps the hacker-culture openness is gaining prevalence on the expense of the entrepreneurs, or have they merged? Bill Gates Open Letters to Hackers seems to be writing a long time ago considering todays remix culture where software companies developing operative systems provides a distribution platforms for smaller apps developed by everything from gigantic organisations to independent developers. For the mass market this came with App Store on iPhone, and later in Mac OSX and for Android users Google has provided Android Market (For the hacker community apt-like services has been available for longer, and with open source usage of code repositories such as git and subversion the newest versions have been available to be downloaded and compiled for free) Interesting fact, the governmental data can also be used for free, as in free speech, for people who intend to make profit on services in which they are included. An established rule in open source development testing is that “given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow”. Linus law, named after the father of the Linux core and bazaar development, by Eric S. Raymond in his book The Cathedral and the Bazaar. If source code is available, why shouldn’t governmental information be? The whistle-blower website Wikileaks got much attention after releasing US diplomatic cables and the arrest of its leader Julian Assange, formerly known as Mendax. The hacker culture is not about what the culture itself would define as cracking, or in most cases disillusioned script-kiddis, it is about making changes to, improving software and learning the skill of computers. Could a parallel be drawn to society, or knowledge in general? Do FOI, Freedom Of Information, have something in common with the famous quote from Emacs text-editor programmer and Open Source guru Richard Stallman “free as in free speech; not as in free beer.” In his book on Wikileaks, Wikileaks and The Age of Transparency, Micah Sifry dedicates a chapter to the open government and the open data government trend. If you are sceptical to transparency or want a good reflection on how it is not all good I can recommend Lawrence Lessig’s article Against Transparency in the New Republic.

Governments sharing their information online is not only interesting for the hacker community or former consumers now emancipated from the fetters of Falcon Crest, it also adds up to large number of data that can be used in what is considered to be the next major iteration of the World Wide Web: the semantic web. Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the father of the World Wide Web has in an online draft stipulated a rating system for how data can contribute in a web of data. The web as we know it is made up from document linked through URLs, but what if it can also contain data. If you want to see how document and data function differently you can try to compare Google to Wolfram Alpha, the latter being a search engine presenting the results based on data while Google’s page rank engine gives you results according to the textual information on a page and its keywords.

If you are interested in the subject I have added my literature below. Please note that web links are not included in these files. If you have any books you recommend that are not on the list below please post the reference to them in the comment field.


Literature as it was the 18. July 2011 pdf


Literature 1807 bibTex zipped


The illustrative photo, where none of the books are those mentioned in this chapter is licensed under Creative Commons by Sanford Kearns and found on Flickr. Please refer to the link for more information.


“Think less but see it grow like a riot, like a riot, oh
I’m not easily offended
It’s not hard to let it go from a mess to the masses”

The article’s title being a slightly modified song title by Phoenix, and containing the chorus from the same song, this is not a tribute to the popular French band but rather an explanation on something I have seen as being a growing phenomena in mine, and others, Internet habits: the growing need to fill out lists and compete and compare with online connected friends. Internet services helping you to coordinate your cultural and geographical memory, but they could also be used to brag how culturally superior you are. How you choose to use them are your choice, but be advised, no matter how you use them: They are terrible time consuming.

The Spotify Syndrome
Highly contagious matter, spreads through the social media Facebook, and results in an endless amount of time spent listening to collaborated “indie” play-lists, party hits and seasonal variations consisting of the best and well-known classics and the worst and hidden katzenjammer from the last 5 decades. Now with the ability to send your friends songs as easy as a poke on Facebook sending them in sleepless nights of bongo drums trance and pan flute ballades.

The iCheckMovies Disorder
This disorder creates an addictiveness to watch the canonized films voted forward of fellow film lovers on the great service IMDB. Not just the famous top 500 list, but also sorted by decade, genre and how much they played in this service generates hours of work from the Great Train Robbery to Toy Story 3. In addition to the democratic elected movies, iCheckMovies also provides you with the award winning movies from the Academy, BAFTA, Cannes and other festivals and institutions. This is a time consuming activity, but from your hard and beneficial (for yourself and your own general education) you get rewarded with different prizes depending on how many percent of the films you have seen in each category.

The Foursquare Virus
Both Spotify (in its most advance version) and iCheckMovies are services which are constrained to happen in front of a computer screen on the top of a lap or a desk, the next virus on our time consuming list is mobile. This means that it is following you around, in your very own pocket. Do you have a cell phone with a API-oriented operative system – such as iOS or Android – and wireless or mobile network this service could follow you anywhere. And anywhere is also the point of this service since the goal – the point creating activity – is to check-in at different establishments. This gives you points, badges and ultimately first-life perks. The latter can be found in e.g. Pizza Hut and Starbucks that will give you free pizza and coffee if you manage to reach the rank of major, in other words if you are the most frequent customer checking-in during a 30-days timespan.

The services above are time consuming, and can create an addiction. On the other hand will they provide you with hours of fun, a systematic approach to listen or see something and a diary of what you have done. The last two is interesting since they do not produce any value except that they reefer to other products, except of course if you are a major. All services make you able to see what you friends have been doing, even though many of the users are probably more interested in how they present themselves. Another interesting observation is that the meta-actions are becoming more important. The fact that many users, me included, spends hours on updating what we have done, what we have listened to, what we have watched, where we have been, who we know, where we have worked, how far we have jogged and more, takes up time that could  be used doing more of this. I know for my own sake that I could probably watch one or two full-feature movies each month instead of find movies I have watched and check the list, but there is little I can do about it. I am a listomanic. Are you?


Foursquare, Spotify, iCheckMovies

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)


Then I was finnished with one of my first exams here back in Norway after my Erasmus-semester abroad.
The exam was in the course “Media and popular culture”. An interesting course, with many different thoughts from different scientists. From the culturalism, to the Freudian psycoanalysts to structuralism and Postmodernism.

The good thing about this course is that the exam-method gives the opportunity to develop some ideas and get to know the litterature on the subject which you have to write the text. Instead of sitting three hours in a classroom, this exam is given over three days. So last Monday I got the message that I’m going to write about postmodernism or feminist views on popular culture. Since I knew something more on the first topic, I choose that and on Thursday I delivered my views on postmodernism and popular culture. Instead of just keeping my ideas to myself I want to share them with you. So here are some of the things I wrote about.

First the term postmodernism. The term is a combination of post – after – and modernism, so its a reaction to the modernism. It is also a lot more, but first the term-part. As modernism as a style and direction within art grew old, it lost the provocing and revolusinary pinch that it had in the beginning. In the beginning the modernist artist, example Dali and Picasso, provoced the former victorian-classical style where moral taboos, big skin-chairs and a politeness form were important. It came with a new style which oposed thoose ideas and was seemed as a fresh breath and provocing, then again, one gereration later. This was accepted into the institutions and thaugh at the universities. The “best” of the modernism had transfered into a high-modernism.

This is one of the main anchors in the post-modernism. When many of the former tradition had a segregation between high- and massculture this is different from postmodernism which is not operating with the ideal of a high culture. The high culture, quoted the mass culture when it used part of it in its work, but in the postmodernistic works are the quotes incorporated so its difficult to draw a distinguised line between them.

Postmodernism as a term, was first used in the 1870s, but it is first in the late-1950s and in the 1960 is is more frequently appared. At this point the second world was had come to and end and there were some technical, but also ideological changes. One of these changes was the death of the meta-narratives. The metanarratives are ideas which are big-stories, it could be the idea of an ultimate ideology which covers any situation, it could be the idea of finding the ultimate pattern of how humans behave. The goals for sciene were no more the ideals and the thruth, rather skills and performativity. One example of an ultimate idea could be Matthew Arnolds definition of arts as «(i) the ability to know what is best; (ii) what is best; (iii) the mental and spiritual application of what is best, and (iv) the pursuit of what is best.»

New technology did also play a part, new medias and ways to experience them altered the definition of arts. New mass medias arrised, where some of them introduced a new way to percept the reality. The technology also altered, mainly by making it easier, the ways reproduction of a creative work was done.

Jean Baudrillard Hyperrealism could be applied to this fact. His theory is that if there are no longer a distinction between original and copy. e.g. You have the same experience watching a movie or listen to a record in Oslo as in Trondheim. It does not matter if the work is an original or a copy. The experience is still the same. This void of distinction he calls the hyperreality. The real and the simmulation of the real implodes, and the simmulation can be experienced as more real than the reality itselfes.

Another phenomen linked to the postmodern art is the presens of pastiche. A pastiche is as a form of expression near linked to the parody, but without the parodys sarcasm and stinch of critisism and laughter. It is e.g where Austin Power has a lot of expressions from the James Bond movies, its clear and you can see it, but it does not have the parody element.

Well, the paper had some more things as well. But translating the whole paper and all the arguments in it lasts too long. Therefor I just quit it here.