Bumping into borders

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Recently I had the great pleasure of making a small contribution to Border Bumping – “a work of dislocative media that situates cellular telecommunications infrastructure as a disruptive force, challenging the integrity of national borders”, by Julian Oliver.

I first met Julian in Linz last year at Ars Electronica where he and Danja Vasiliev were picking up the Golden Nica for Newstweek, and after talking to him for 5 minutes I had the sensation I was talking to somebody from a William Gibson book.

Julian explains the project in the following way on the Border Bumping site: “As we traverse borders our cellular devices hop from network to network across neighbouring territories, often before or after we ourselves have arrived. These moments, of our device operating in one territory whilst our body continues in another, can be seen to produce a new and contradictory terrain for action.. Running a freely available, custom-built smartphone application, Border Bumping agents collect cell tower and location data as they traverse national borders in trains, cars, buses, boats or on foot. Moments of discrepancy at the edges are logged and uploaded to the central Border Bumping server, at the point of crossing. For instance: a user is in Germany but her device reports she is in France. The Border Bumping server will take this report literally and the French border is redrawn accordingly. The ongoing collection and rendering of these disparities results in an ever evolving record of infrastructurally antagonised territory, a tele-cartography.”

As I spent most of last summer bumping into borders, travelling on the TransEuropeExpress, I had already become aware of this situation, especially crossing and re-crossing the Benelux countries. It also brought to mind the fascinating essay by Eleanor Saitta, Transnationality and Performance which begins:

Last week I crossed an international border to install an application on my cellphone.  That wasn’t the nominal purpose of the trip, but if we step back from our understanding of internationalization and international copyright law, that interaction between border crossing and the performance of an effectively physical act is almost surreal.  More surreal is the possibility (I can’t now check) that I could have simply traded my Icelandic SIM card for my American one and have effectively, virtually, performed that border crossing. That particular pseudo-border is one I’ve been crossing regularly this month.  My phone can speak GSM over Wi-Fi, instead of the cellular radio — a feature intended by T-Mobile (the US representatives of a German semi-state entity) to cheaply solve the problem of inadequate coverage at the rural borders of their network and in pockets of urban radio-invisibility.  In my case, though, it means that I can trivially make my phone believe temporarily that it’s on American soil, and have calls billed appropriately. Of course, I could actually be on US soil here — the American embassy, whose grounds are legally recognized as such, is just down the road — but my phone wouldn’t notice the difference.  Likewise, somehow Roger’s cell towers near the US-Canada border are much stronger than the AT&T or T-Mobile towers; my phone always crosses the border long before I do.

For Border Bumping, Julian asked me to do some research into cell towers, especially so-called “stealth” towers and build an archive mapping them. Sounds simple, huh? But just as we found when we tried to map Internet connectivity for the ChokePoint Project, reliable publicly available information on the geolocacalisation of cell towers is actually pretty hard to find. The situation isn’t helped by the fact that mobile service providers aren’t obliged to provide information as is shown in this statement from the Sitefinder – Mobile Phone Base Station Database website of Ofcom, the Independent regulator and competition authority for the UK communications industries:

Sitefinder was set up as a result of recommendations of the Stewart Report in 2000. It is a voluntary scheme under which mobile network operators make information available on the location and operating characteristics of individual base stations, so that people who wish to inform themselves about this can do so. Ofcom hosts the Sitefinder tool on behalf of Government, which can be searched for the location and details of mobile phone base station sites around specific locations. The data within Sitefinder is owned by the mobile network operators, who supply it on a voluntary basis. A request made under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, for Ofcom to make available the information contained within Sitefinder, is subject to an ongoing legal process. Meanwhile, the mobile network operators (except Everything Everywhere) continue to provide voluntary updates which are made every 3 months or so. The Sitefinder tool therefore remains available and reasonably current (except for Everything Everywhere sites); meanwhile Ofcom will not release the underlying database pending the outcome of the legal process. Ofcom cannot accept liability for any inaccuracies or omissions in the data provided within Sitefinder, or its currency.

Consequently finding information to build the database involved a lot of sniffing around online. Fortunately there are cell-tower nerds out there who go out and map this stuff but there is no coherent set of criteria  that everyone uses.

The initial Border Bumping archive can be found here

Sharing The City

In this video, shot in Schillerkiez, Neukölln, Berlin for Edgeryders Local Action Heroes, I talked to Susa Stauch about the project Sharing The City

I asked her a few questions about the project:
What is the background to Sharing The City?
What are the issues affecting the Schillerkiez neighbourhood?
What does Sharing The City intend to do in the neighbourhood?
How are they getting people involved?
Are the things they are discovering specific to the local situation or are they transferable to other locations?
What can institutional support do to help projects like this?
You’ll have to watch the video to  find out the answers ;-)
It was a windy day as you will hear…
Projects/participants mentioned in the video:
Humboldt University, Berlin
I’d be interested to know how people in the edgeryders community, both local or elsewhere can help with the initiative. I’ve just seen this post  from Susa on the thinking behind the project and how the discussions at #lote influenced it http://edgeryders.ppa.coe.int/mine-becomes-ours/mission_case/unmonastery-berlin-neuk%C3%B6lln-schillerkiez

When the economy becomes collaborative

Cross-posted from the P2P Foundation blog, the official release of the report we’ve been working on:

The P2P Foundation is pleased to repost below the official post from Orange announcing “The report “Synthetic overview of the collaborative economy”, coproduced by Orange Labs and the P2P Foundation”.

During this month we will be serialising the report here on the blog, or you can download it immediately!

Source: Orange.com

when the economy becomes collaborative

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Exchanging houses during vacation time, sharing car with strangers, designing a lamp for one’s own living room in a FabLab, proposing a packaging design for a favorite brand, inventing a solution to help a company innovate, writing a article in wikipedia or a hotel review in a tourism site, ordering with neighbors organic vegetables… collaborative practices between individuals or between individuals and businesses are multiplying around us.

Equipped with Internet and the Web, strangers can interact, share, and cooperate at distance, consequently opening new development perspectives for our patterns of consumption, production and creation.
Therefore companies are invited to revisit their methods of organization, the way they innovate, their customer relationship as their clients become actors, as well as their models for sharing value.
Orange, as a major player in the information economy, is interested in these emerging transformations, which constitute both challenges and opportunities.

The report “Synthetic overview of the collaborative economy“, coproduced by Orange Labs and the P2P Foundation, provides a thorough mapping of the actors involved in this cooperative economy: for the first time, nearly all the dots of the emerging collaborative economy, and their inter-relation, are presented in a single overview.

P2P Foundation: Researching, Documenting and Promoting Peer to Peer Practices

The P2P Foundation is a non-profit organization, a knowledge commons and a global community of researchers and advocates that monitors the emergence of peer to peer dynamics in every field of society and human activity. Peer production, governance, and property models that are characterized by open access, participatory process of governance, and property formats that guarantee universal access are monitored. The aims of the P2P Foundation is to act as a global community of researchers, focused on understanding phenomena such as open innovation, co-creation and co-design, crowd-sourcing and crowd-funding. Of particular interest is the intersection between the newly enabled ‘horizontal’ social processes, with the pre-existing, more ‘vertically’ oriented institutions, such as corporations and governments.  In our research collection we have particularly focused on the sustainability of open practices, i.e. on open business models.

So what is this "Quest For Paid Work"?

I’ve been doing a series of interviews for Edgerydersa joint project of the Council of Europe and the European Commission, led by the Social Cohesion Research and Early Warning Division at the Council of Europe. I’ve been investigating how people make a living on the edge, or if they do at all – very pertinent (and personal). Here’s what I was working on:

How can people make a living on the edge as technologies change quicker than regulations and new business models disrupt old standards? While young (and not so young) people are defining a new society through their networked interactions and processes, often the obstacles to their ability to make a living are bureaucratic or outdated ways of doing.

The Edgeryders platform is organised through a series of “campaigns”  linked to specific areas of the work of the Social Cohesion Research and Early Warning Division. These campaigns are made up of “mission reports” written by members of the community which are then studied by ethnographers working on the project. The Quest For Paid Work is part of the Making A Living campaign which examines issues around employment.

My brief was to identify people who have experience in the area and share their stories with the wider community, looking for common methodologies, tools and tactics. The people spoke for themselves in the videos and I did summaries of the interviews in language appropriate to the members of the community who mostly have English as a second or third tongue. The videos were not meant to be professional quality but rather quick & dirty, using the resources and bandwidth available, to capture the reality of how technology is used (and sometimes fails). All the videos are in this playlist below and you can read all of my posts here.

Making A Living #LOTE Session

I was joint-facilitator with Jovin Hurry (who did most of the heavy lifting) at the Making a Living session of the Living On The Edge conference held at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg on June 15. This post about the session is the follow up from the Edgeryders platform

The session was divided into the 5 areas of the Making a Living campaign and Edgeryders distributed themselves on the 5 corresponding tables: Paid Work, Social Innovation, Recruitment, Allies and ?. Every 15 minutes they rotated to a new  table/topic, except for one person who became the table host and filled in the newcomers on the dicussions so far, ensuring fresh ideas and perspectives.

The topic coordinators reported back at both the end of the session, and in the Dynamic Reporting session using the papers from each table which were used to harvest the ideas of the Edgeryders who rotated through them.

This video features the “table hosts” summarizing the discussions and possible outcomes:

The Quest For Paid Work: (Making a) Living On The Edge – Olivier Schulbaum

 

 

Olivier is part of a social enterprise called Platoniq and is based in Palma de Mallorca. Platoniq work on various projects mostly based on ICT, the latest of which is Goteo, a crowdfunding platform with crowdsourcing options so a project is not just asking for money but building a community. Platoniq have never believed in living off a service in Internet so they live off offline services through workshops, consultancy for social enterprises or cooperatives – developing tools on Internet and these tools bring them reputation and that is the base of the business which is giving services to public administrations, which is hard right now in Spain, and also to private entities.

Goteo is the result of two years research on alternative economy models based on Internet – P2P credits, microcredits etc. Goteo is based on crowdfunding and crowdsourcing with open DNA, only helping projects to be founded if they have, for example, open design, free software, open hardware etc., concentrating on these new business models. More than crowdfunding, it’s like micro credits which are paid back in the form of educational packages, code, design etc.

Open licensing is totally integrated in the Goteo platform so any project using it has these licenses right from the start. When a person helps a project through Goteo, they are helping to open up processes – an example is an open shoes project which is not just about buying shoes but putting money to “liberate” parts of the process like the design so everyone can build their own shoes.

Platoniq always have two approaches, online and offline so Goteo was conceived without code at first and this influenced the final design of the platform. It was really co-designed through workshops and other processes – which means it has more features and is much richer than other “similar” platforms. This is the capital that Goteo brings with it and is also where the money comes from, from workshops and not through the small percentage of money they get from the platform. The business model is selling services around it which is a common thing with many open practices.

Sprints & lemons

The enterprise moved from Barcelona to Palma de Mallorca in part because Susanne from the Platoniq team is originally from there and because it is nicer to live there. They have a garden where they produce their own tomatoes and lemons etc. and turn to the Internet when they need to know how to do something or share practices with other ecological producers. Before opening their new office they were spending half of what they spent in Barcelona, even though they had a free office in the Catalonian capital. Previously they were working with people full time in the Barcelona office but now they do sprints, coming together to work three days a month in a very focussed manner.

The crisis has produced a schizophrenic situation because there are lots of institutions that want Platoniq to help them develop participatory projects – they have less money than before and they think that participation will be cheaper and the users will provide the content. It’s a big mistake they have to fight. 50% of money they make is from institutions so it has been affected a lot by the crisis – if before clients were taking a year to pay, now they are taking two. However they are doing more workshops as crowdfunding seems to be one of the alternatives for projects to find a way of being funded. It’s important to use this moment to show that open models are much more effective and not as obsolete as closed ones, Olivier says.

Platoniq have both online and offline networks and are taking advantage of the fact that Mallorca residents pay half price travel to maintain them – meaning they can go to say, Bilbao, and work with interesting people for a few days, something they couldn’t do before. He thinks it’s necessary for people to meet each other and have a sprint from time to time and concentrate on the things to develop instead of having an online to do list – sometimes it’s good to be located somewhere and work with people for a few days and then to meet on Internet.

Testing the limits

A recent campaign on Goteo to fund a legal case against the ex-director of one the crisis-ridden banks in Spain has tested the limits of the platform – normally they have between 8,000 and 10,00 visits a day and with this campaign they had double that amount in the first hour, collapsing the server. So many people are fed up of the situation where banks always get public money whatever they do while there is no money for R+D, health, education etc. that they responded, he says. The server had to be changed in the middle of the campaign and the idea was to get €15,000 in six days, and they got it in 24 hours. If there hadn’t of been the server problem, they would probably have got it in 3 hours. It also created the schizophrenic situation of using a bank payment platform to go against the banks. It’s a very interesting sociological case to investigate, Olivier feels, being, he thinks, the first political/social campaign done through crowdfunding, and therefore a very interesting citizen evolution in his opinion.