Archive for the ‘Undercurrent in English’ Category

Steal this story vs. please pay here: The coming debate about public service media

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010

The re-emergence of “paid content” in the past couple of years, most aggressively marketed by Rupert Murdoch, has dominated media coverage. But in the shadow of The Times’ new paywall and the apps for Apple craze another development has taken hold — an approach to news publishing that has the potential to reinvent the idea of public service media. This is the idea of promoting (almost) unrestricted re-use, re-publication of your material, in order to achieve the greatest possible impact of your journalism. ProPublica is one of the news organizations to embrace this principle in their invitation to steal their stories. Logically, they use the established Creative Commons licensing system, but they implement it in an innovative way. Instead of just the discreet Creative Commons logo attached to stories, there is a “Republish” button that produces the text with html tags, ready for pasting into a publishing tool — exactly the kind of extra service that has always been needed to unleash the potential in Creative Commons.

The US startup ambitious journalism projects that have sprung up recently, wholly or partly funded by foundations, in essence share the “steal this story” approach:

Instead of planning how to get the story published before word of it leaked, the excited editors started throwing out ideas for how they could share Johnson’s reporting with a large array of competitive news outlets across the state and around the country. No one would get a scoop; rather, every outlet would run the story at around the same time, customized to resonate with its audience, be they newspaper subscribers, Web readers, television viewers, or radio listeners.

The quote describes California Watch, who also have case-studied themselves.


“Goethe” and the WikiLeaks pact

Monday, June 21st, 2010

John le Carrés “The Russia House” revolves around documents written by “Goethe”, a Soviet scientist deeply involved in the empire’s nuclear weapons programmes. By having the documents published in the West, “Goethe” aims to tell the truth about the deteriorating Soviet capabilities in the perestroika days of the late 1980s. Truth and transparency will translate into real peace, he thinks. The documents come into the hands of the British authorities, however, and publishing them proves more than difficult.

Today, it is more than likely that a new “Goethe” would submit the documents to WikiLeaks instead of contacting a book publisher or media organization. The recent strange and consequential case involving the arrest of Bradley Manning and his alleged involvement with leaking the Iraq helicopter attack video which was published by WikiLeaks demonstrates the potential of such a global whistleblower site, though we do not know all the details of Manning’s actions yet.

In April, I heard Daniel Schmitt of WikiLeaks present the concept and thinking behind the site at a conference in Berlin. WikiLeaks will factcheck all submitted material thoroughly in a verification process where they can draw on more than 1000 anonymous experts in different fields. If they conclude it is genuine and of public importance, it will be published — and crucially, all the material a source has sent in will be published, not only edited excerpts. This principle sets WikiLeaks apart and constitutes much of its appeal. A new “Goethe” would not have experienced the same as Daniel Ellsberg did with the Pentagon Papers — indeed, Ellsberg has said that today, he would have posted them on the internet.


Momentum building for open government data in Norway

Sunday, June 13th, 2010

A series of promising new initiatives gives reasons to be a lot more optimistic about government data reuse in Norway today than anyone could have been a year ago. The right tools will hopefully soon be available. Now convincing examples of reuse are needed.


Casual Friday

Friday, April 30th, 2010

Casual Friday, originally uploaded by oaø.

Time out. Enjoy the weekend!

Girl in midair during a swan dive into a lake

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

Girl in midair during a swan dive into a lake, originally uploaded by UW Digital Collections.

Summer soon! Another highlight from the Flickr Commons. Photo: Vern C. Gorst.

Launch of Norwegian instance of CKAN!

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

At the government data project at the University of Bergen, we see the Norwegian language version of CKAN, launched this week, as a significant step on the way to opening up data sources for reuse in Norway. With CKAN, we have one more piece of crucial infrastructure in place:

Thanks to help from the fast and efficient CKAN community, the translation could be implemented in a short time. In addition, data packages that we had already registered as part of our project could be imported from a Google spreadsheet. With 136 packages already online at, we feel we have had a good start.

We of course hope that the Norwegian open data community – both inside and outside government agencies – now will seize the opportunity and engage in registering data sources at In addition, we believe that the existence of the website will alert more people to the need for a proper “store” of government data. In fact, the Norwegian minister responsible for IT policy recently stated that work on a Norwegian “” had begun.

In the context of the international open data community, we certainly aim to share experiences made with as we move forward.

(First published on the Open Knowledge Foundation blog.)

Lisbon metro

Sunday, March 14th, 2010

Photo: Estúdio Horácio Novais/Biblioteca de Arte-Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian

Open government data in Norway: mounting interest but no breakthrough yet

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

A loose community is forming, slowly pushing open data higher on the agenda of Norway’s politicians and civil servants. But these developers, journalists, academics, and IT business people have so far not achieved a significant breakthrough. Government pledges for opening up more data sources are still vague and non-binding.

The past few months I have led a fact-finding project about open data in Norway at the University of Bergen’s Department of Information Science and Media Studies. In the first phase of the project, we interviewed and surveyed civil servants at the state, regional and local government levels about their opinions on and interest in making datasets available for re-use. Our first project report (see English summary), presented at a seminar in Bergen in January, is mainly based on this work. Among the findings:


Alive and kicking after involuntary vacation

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

Users trying to reach this blog during the past week have been met by a password popup. Essential software upgrades had been postponed for too long, and there was no other choice — the website had to be hospitalized. In fact, the situation was so serious that the decision was taken to migrate from MT to WordPress. All 884 Undercurrent blog posts have survived the journey. Importantly, as far as I can tell, the RSS feeds still work. Probably RSS subscribers have received a batch of old entries — apologize for that! Please tell me if you find links or other things that don’t work as they should.

Vivian Maier

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

She was an unknown street photographer of Chicago and died last year. John Maloof discovered her photos after buying tens of thousands of negatives at an auction. A selection of photos are already online. Maloof writes:

After some researching, I have only little information about Vivian. Central Camera (110 yr old camera shop in Chicago) has encountered Vivian from time to time when she would purchase film while out on the Chicago streets. From what they knew of her, they say she was a very “keep your distance from me” type of person but was also outspoken. She loved foreign films and didn’t care much for American films.

The Independent has also written about her.

UPDATE: The online art project Artsy has an excellent page on Maier where you also can buy prints.