The importance of open internet

Who gets to define the Internet? Well during Sarkozy’s “EG8″ conference last week it seemed like the internet belongs to business – but thankfully there are important representatives who could organize a press conference to push the obvious view that the internet is not a commercial plaything. BoingBoing writes:

And so, yesterday, in Paris, civil society threw together an impromptu press conference, featuring Harvard’s Larry Lessig, La Quadrature du Net’s Jérémie Zimmermann, CUNY’s Jeff Jarvis, former ICANN board member/former White House advisor Susan Crawford, Reporters Without Borders’ Jean-François Julliard, and Harvard’s Yochai Benkler. The spirt of the event was captured by Lessig. Business is important, the professor argued. But there are more than the interests of just business at stake when it comes to the future of the global network.

At E-G8, Civil Society Groups Restake Their Claim on the ‘Net

[EN] La société civile s’en va t’en guerre à l’ e-G8 from OWNI on Vimeo.

GikII speakers & presentations

This year I am fortunate to be the local organizer for the wonderful GikII conference. This is GikII’s 6th year and its first time in Sweden so its time to be extra proud. In the call for papers we included:

For 2011, this ship full of seriously playful lawyers will enter for the first time the cold waters of the north (well, further north than Scotland) and enter that land of paradoxes: Sweden. Seen by outsiders as well-organised suicidal Bergman-watching conformists, but also the country that brought you Freedom of Information, ABBA, the Swedish chef, The Pirate Bay and (sort of…) Julian Assange. We offer fine weather, the summer solstice and a fair reception at the friendly harbour of Göteborg.

Now the conference is fast approaching and organization is steaming ahead. We have a schedule & information about the venue online. And check out these presentations!

This is going to be good! But then again, GikII always is.

The First in Line

The Swedish cartoonist Mattias Adolfsson has now published “The First in Line: From the sketchbooks of Mattias Adolfsson” it can be ordered directly from the publisher: Sanatorium förlag. Order before the 1 of June and you will get it signed with a small doodle.

I am fortunate to have a wonderful small original Adolfsson (Beatnik dragon) at home

I only wish that I had explained Creative Commons to him…

Toilet brush covert surveillance camera

Via BoingBoing comes the story of a creepy man secretly filming women in a Starbucks restroom.

A 25-year-old man hid a video camera disguised as a plastic coat hook inside the women’s restroom of a Starbucks in Glendora, CA, and secretly recorded more than 40 women and children using the toilet over two days. The man “downloaded the device about every hour to his laptop computer while sitting in his car,” according to police. (LA Times)

Most of us would be in agreement that the actions of the man are creepy. But what I find interesting is the point that nowhere in the original story (LA Times) is the manufacturers responsibility discussed. What moral responsibility does a manufacturer/designer have for a camera, disguised as a plastic coat hook, that can be affixed to a wall?

The coat hook is – in this context – an almost a reasonable product. There is a whole range of hidden bathroom camera devices on the market. How about the toothbrush camera, toilet brush camera, shower radio camera, bathroom light camera, toothpaste camera, hair clipper camera, soap dish camera, shower mirror camera, shampoo bottle camera… (all from the same manufacturer)

There may be certain situations where invading someones privacy with the help of covert surveillance cameras is legitimate – maybe even necessary. But the mass market for goods to cover these situations is hard to envision. It is even more difficult for me to understand when it could be a legitimate need to covertly film people in the bathroom. And yet there are mass market cheap goods that cover this particular situation.

So when the creepy 25-year-old uses these products – he is being creepy. But when would the use of this stuff not be creepy?

Does the fact that these products exist and are easy to buy promote and encourage creepy behavior?

Post-Social Media

Yesterday I was in Borås at the Social Media Day which is an annual politics and social media conference (ppt slides and movies here). This year was opened by the US ambassador to Sweden Matthew Barzun, who gave an interesting talk (ppt) (much of it in Swedish, which was impressive). He spoke about the promise of technology and the difficulty of predicting the future and the importance of values in developing and using technology.

He also told the story of the Swedish engineer Laila Ohlgren, who, in the early days of mobile phones, solved an interesting issue of data roaming: by the time you finish dialing you have lost contact with the original phone mast. She proposed the simple – but breathtakingly fundamental – change of dialing the complete number first and then hitting the dial button. Fantastic, simple, basic… and totally revolutionary thinking.

Next up was Marie Grusell who spoke on the topic of party leaders use of twitter in their communication. She made interesting points on the differences between dialog and monologue and the relatively low usage of twitter among Swedish politicians. My focus on this was cultural and I wondered why the use was so low. An interesting comparison to the low numbers (the highest was Gudrun Schyman with 183 following and 9,447 followers) is the Norwegian Prime Minister @jensstoltenberg who follws 34,768 and is followed by 48,698.

This was followed by Per Schlingmann & Hampus Brynolf who held a low-tech (i.e. no ppt) discussion on social media now and in the future. There talk was experienced based and they seemed to be in relative agreement that social media would become a natural part of the political dialogue, that nobody wins elections through social media – but they may lose them through social media, that technology has led to the need for politics to be prepared with immediate answers for everything – which creates a need for an artificial, slowing down to think before you tweet. They also pointed to the unfortunate lack of focus on the everyday social media use in politics and the overemphasis on campaigning.

This was followed by Anders Kihl who demonstrated the ways in which Borås has been working to create multiple access points to municipal information and dialogues. As a practitioner Anders is very down to earth and the work done in Borås shows that everyday social media use in politics is important and engaging.

Jan Nolin introduced the concept of Wikipolitics into the discussion which had so far been very much focused on the concept of social media as a communications channel. He argued that social media channels does not take into consideration the importance of the possibility of using social media as political movements – not only in protests but provides a potential for the harnessing of the power of crowds in everyday socio-political life.

Next up was Grethe Lindhe from Malmö who presented the ways in which the region was using technology to enable citizens to propose and bring up questions into the political arena. By creating this possibility the Malmö region believed that politics would be made more accessible to a larger section of the citizenry.

Lars Höglund took his starting point in the large SOM-survey to attempt to deepen our understanding of the participatory elements of politics and the internet. My main beef was that I got stuck on the group they call “the internet generation” which was defined as those born between 1977-1997. What annoys me about this is that this groups’ aspect is that they have not experienced a pre-web age. Why this classification annoys me is that these digital natives (a term coined by Marc Prensky) are supposed to have special insights into technology. Let me give an analogy: While I was born during the age of the automobile this does not make me competent to talk in depth about the effects of cars on society, our dependence upon fossil fuels or the rise and fall of the car industry.

Last up – before the closing panel was me. I had been asked to talk about the links between social media and the law but I used my time to present some of the interesting points from my latest research into attempts by municipalities to regulate social media through policies. Its a work in progress and yesterday I addressed the concept of the municipality lawyer being negative to social media in a talk entitled Law is simple, people are not. Slides below

One of the things we were asked in the panel was whats up next? What will we be doing with social media today and in the future. What is post-social media? All in all it was a very good meeting. Lots of interesting people and discussions. I am looking forward to the next time.

Politics and social media #msmboras

Tomorrow is the second annual MSMBorås (twitter @msmboras & #msmboras) a growing interesting conference on the relationship between politics and social media. One of the great things is that this meeting does not take place in the political center of Sweden (i.e. Stockholm) but in the town of Borås.

The meeting is a good mix between researchers and active politicians, political commentators/observers and social media aficionados.

This year is opened by Matthew Barzun who will speak on the topic Social media, politics and democracy in the US. Today Barzun is the US Ambassador to Sweden but he has worked on Obama’s first campaign and has been invited back to lead the coming presidential campaign.

This will be followed by Marie Grusell talking on twitter in political elections, Per Schlingmann & Hampus Brynolf on social media in politics now and in the future, Anders Kihl on social media in local politics.

After lunch Jan Nolin presents on Wikipolitics as a collective method of political problem solving, Grethe Lindhe on citizen dialogues, Lars Höglund on the citizens opinions of social media in politics, then I will talk about legal consequences of social media use (kind of boring title – I wish I had chosen more wisely). Then the day is closed with a discussion.

This is going to be extremely interesting.