Internet & Society Grab Bag, Dec. 12

A few items loosely related to the theme of how the internet is affecting society…

TOP OF THIS LIST: Web Won’t Let Government Hide , by Ryan Singel, Wired News, Nov. 29. Excellent overview of valuable resources on government information in this age of shrinking access to such information through conventional channels.

Excerpt: “Governments at every level these days are providing less information about their inner workings, sometimes using fear of terrorism as an excuse. But it’s precisely times like these that mandate citizens’ rights to check the efficiency of their government and hold those who fail accountable, open government advocates say. The government itself won’t make it easy, so an increasing number of websites and data crunchers are stepping in to provide information about the inner workings of government.”

A good complement to this article, coincidentally also published Nov. 29, is Activists Crawl Through Web to Untangle U.S. Secrecy, by William Fisher, Inter Press News Agency.

Read the rest of this list…

  1. Looking for a good year-end tax deduction? CONTENTIOUS readers who pay US taxes might be interested in making a tax-deductible donation to OMB Watch. Of the many groups that illuminate the inner working of the US government this is one of the most enterprising and useful. OMB Watch is especially good at keeping an eye on the federal budget – a topic that is woefully under- and mis-reported in the major news media. I got an e-mail yesterday titled “OMB Watch needs your help.” They’re asking for year-end donations, and I think they deserve it. Donate today
  2. Ukraine Revolution Blog: Yet another example of how blogs are offering new context on current events. This, I think, is one of the key values of this new type of media.
  3. I’ve been meaning to highlight this organization for awhile. “The Witness Archive consists of more than 1000 hours of raw footage documenting a vast range of international human rights abuses. Shot by local human rights defenders from nearly 50 countries, this material features first-hand testimonies, interviews and imagery about rights violations and conflict sites around the world.” A few of their videos are available for online viewing. I wish they’d offer at least clips of every video in their archive. Still, it’s an incredible effort and a valuable resource. Co-founded by musician Peter Gabriel.
  4. Art Mobs: Using mobile phones and iPods for a shared yet distributed experience of works of art. Sounds intriguing.
  5. More art mobs: Can an online crowd create a poem, a novel, or a painting?, by Clive Thompson,, July 21. “In a sense, the world of online collaboration is discovering what artists have always known: Rigid conventions are often crucial to producing art. Novels, poems, and oil paintings are really just structural devices that take an artist’s zillion competing ideas – an internal, self-contradicting mob – and focus them into a coherent work.”
  6. Bhutan: World’s Largest Printed Book, by Michael Hawley. I found out about this from this excellent recent IT Conversations podcast – definitely download and listen to that MP3 file. Story: An MIT professor travels to the tiny Himalayan nation of Bhutan, takes many extraordinary photos, and ends up publishing a 5×7 foot, 133-lb book. If you’re wondering what to get me for Christmas this year, this book is on my Best Book Buys wish list. Yeah, it costs $10,000 – but shipping is free!