Archive for the 'gnowledge' Category

Address of a location in a boundary less world

March 15, 2015

If we are interested in a border less world, what kind of address we shall give to a friend who wants to visit? Or deliver a letter to someone?

Currently the postal departments all over the world use a very hierarchical way of locating a place.  First we name a country, then a state, district, town, street, building and if you live in an apartment, the flat number, and then of course person’s name. All this sounds very logical and politically correct.  But in a world where there are several possessed boundaries.  When such political boundaries do not exist, how would you locate yourself?

In the current modern techno-savvy world, we can simply use latitude and longitude of the place. Perfect! But the lat-long numbers are  difficult to remember.

If we link lat-long to a landmark, and if the landmark has a unique number, and if the landmark is not a political boundary, such as e.g. a tree that lives longer than most buildings and roads we build, we have a better system of locating ourselves.

For example, I can say that I work close to tree 355, live close to tree 400.  We can also give directions, e.g. turn right at tree 320, stop opposite tree 455.  Since there are many many trees the numbers will go on increasing, which may become difficult to remember.

We recently started a citizen science project to map the trees, map all the trees, in India. It is in this context that I realized that the platform that we have built assigning serial numbers to the trees and to the planting sites.  Then it occurred to me we can use these numbers as another way of giving address to ourselves and the sites we inhabit.

tree 51

tree 51 at metaStudio

I meet visitors at my office and eat my lunch, drink tea/coffee at tree 51 of http://trees.metastudio.org/.

If you want to create such landmarks and try to grab a smaller easy to remember number for your address, join at http://trees.metaStudio.org/ and map your tree anywhere in India.  If you live in any other part of the world, please send us a request by naming the locality where you want to create a landmark tree, we will create a tree mapping site for you.

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metaStudio, Emacs and orgmode

February 18, 2013

metaStudio, Emacs and orgmode

We have been developing a semantic platform for collaborative construction of knowledge networks of open educational resources.  We have reached some level of stability and so would invite members of the community to visit and explore the site.  The link to the site is: beta.metastudio.org

Here I will keep publishing a series of posts featuring some special features and a link to where the feature can be seen or a screenshot of the feature. In this post we feature a simple online orgmode editor implemented for collaborative editing of text.

Online Emacs Orgmode Editor

The site uses a very simple wiki style text editor that uses orgmode style markup (actually markDown).  The typed text is processed directly by orgmode vida emacs on the server side script.  The orgmode text as well as the automatically exported html are stored in the database.   This editor is limited only by the knowledge of the user about orgmode use and the html export limitations of orgmode.  It can have images, embedded videos, embedded java applets, or just about anything that we need to publish on the web.

The main highlight is the easy of use and very low learning curve.  Students and teachers who have never been exposed to any wiki or web authoring have picked up the editing methods with least training.

metastudio orgmode editor

metastudio orgmode editor

embedding video and orgmode

metastudio embedding video using orgmode

A Declaration on sustaining the Free Culture

February 27, 2011

This document is not written by me, but participated in the process along with others.  I am a signatory to the declaration.  I urge you to consider thinking about the issues raised and even if you agree with at least 80%, consider adding your signature.  Please continue to participate in the dialogue to create a sustainable creative commons.

We can no longer put off re-thinking the economic structures that have been producing, financing and funding culture up until now. Many of the old models have become anachronistic and detrimental to civil society. The aim of this document is to promote innovative strategies to defend and extend the sphere in which human creativity and knowledge can prosper freely and sustainably.

This document is addressed to policy reformers, citizens and free/libre culture activists to provide them practical tools to actively operate this change.  Read the full documents from the links given below.

FCForum Declaration: Sustainable Models for Creativity in the Digital Age [2 pages]

How To for Sustainable Creativity [30 pages]

1. Who Generates Culture?

In order to develop and grow, the human capacity for creativity requires access to existing culture, knowledge and information. Everyone can contribute to the production of culture, values and wealth on different scales, ranging from very basic to very complex creative contributions. The resources and time required for creative activities also vary in scale. We want to promote ways of liberating this time and these resources so that the distributed potential can be deployed in a sustainable way.

2. Basic Principles for Sustainable Creativity

  1. The restructuration of the cultural industries is not only necessary but inevitable.
  2. More culture is created and circulates in the digital era than ever before: in this context sharing has proved to be essential to the disseminate culture.
  3. The profits that the cultural lobbies are fighting to defend are based on the artificial production of scarcity.
  4. The cultural sphere needs to recognise the skills and contributions of all of its agents, not only producers.
  5. The digital context benefits creators as well as entrepreneurs and civil society. Appropriate models make it easier for users, consumers and producers to gain access to each other. The role of middle-men has to be revised in light of an approach based on collaboration.
  6. The Internet is an essential tool for establishing contact between creators and their audiences. This is one of the reasons why everybody must be guaranteed non-discriminatory access to it.
  7. Governments that don’ t promote the new forms of creation and diffusion of culture are generating lost profits for society and destroying its cultural diversity.
  8. As Free/Libre Software has shown, peer production and distribution are not incompatible with market strategies and commercial distribution.

Economic Models for Sustainable Creativity

The following list starts with the models that are most similar to those traditionally accepted by the cultural industries, and moves towards those that are closer to the idea of sharing that pertains to our age. Many of these models are currently actively implemented and are already working. We need to expand these conditions by removing barriers that limit their growth.

1. Pay for what you get

Or some advice for the restructuring of the cultural industries: the public is prepared to pay for cultural products or goods as long as they deem the price to be reasonable and paying does not restrict their freedom. Make it easy and accessible; make it affordable; don’ t make it compulsory, static and criminalised, make it optional and offer choice. Pay fair wages when you contract professional work.

2. Advertising

Between bombarding users with ads and the total absence of ads, there are intermediate, ethical options: Selective ads (accepting advertisements only from projects with affinities); giving users control over the consumption of ads; allowing users to request ads related to the article they are reading, for instance, …

3. Pay for a Plus

Sharing copies helps creators to build up a reputation, which then becomes the base for charging for services and other things that cannot be copied, such as live performances, works-for-hire, specially designed gadgets, attractive physical copies…

4. Freemium

Freemium is a business model that works by offering basic services, or a basic downloadable digital product, for free, while charging a premium for advanced or special features.

5. Contributions

A contribution-based model enables users to donate sums of money in order to help sustain a given project or enterprise. The more involved and respected users feel, the better this system works.

6. Crowdfunding

Enabling individual citizens or entities to contribute to a cultural enterprise by becoming stakeholders. This contribution can take the form of an investment before the work has been created, or via micro or macro credits or donations towards existing works.

7. Commons-based strategies and distributed value creation

The providers of commercial platforms for cooperation share their revenues with the creators who produce the material that makes their services valuable, while commoners are able to freely share and exploit the commons.

8. Collective Financing System

A flat-rate on internet connections can be consider only if it implies an equitable and democratic resource- pooling system and recognizes citizens rights to share and re-use works freely.

9. Basic income

When connecting the issue of free culture to visions of large-scale social transformations in capitalistic economies, the basic income idea propose to sustain the society as a productive body. A guaranteed basic income is a way to avoid precarity and redistribute economic wealth.

10. Public funding/policy making

We believe that in the context of a society of tax payers, culture must receive a share of public investment due to its undeniable social value. Social funding should not be seen as a substitute for public responsibilities in relation to the funding of culture and Free/Libre culture should not constitute an anomaly.

  1. Publicly funded works should be released, after a reasonable commercial life span, for circulation on digital networks so that the public who paid for them can access and re-use them.
  2. Tax deductions should promote micro-funding and the release of works without restrictive licences.
  3. The public should have the option to contribute to deciding how this public investment in culture is shared out.
  4. Alternative distribution channels should be encouraged. Cultural policies must work towards achieving greater cultural diversity and sustainable collaboration platforms.
  5. Networks of independent producers, distributors and authors should be supported, and they should be represented on public broadcasting.
  6. Impact statements should be a prerequisite for the introduction of any new cultural policy. We must analyze the effects that proposed regulations would have on on the cultural and knowledge commons before they are implemented.

Results

The Commons, Public Domain and Business

The new business models that consider collective production as a context that needs to be nurtured and safeguarded, and not simply as a context to exploit, are based on the premise that cooperation is compatible with market dynamics. The most evocative practical examples stem from free software communities. The “output” is shared under non-restrictive licences, allowing third parties to use and modify it as long as the same freedoms are obligatorily applied to derived works. This creates a commons that is constantly improved by successive contributions, while not preventing the commercial exploitation of the knowledge and skills arising from them and of the works themselves.

Users become generators of value, and join a virtuous circle of production and consumption that they benefit from.

Meanwhile, in this new context, it is necessary to defend, promote and implement the conditions that enable online collaboration.

Embroiled in a different logic, the traditional cultural industries want to keep feeding off collective production, without responding to the collaborative logic that is now current thanks to the Internet. These industries try to keep imposing appropriation frameworks onto the commons, becoming entrenched in a predatory idea of culture (the economy of scarcity), which is totally at odds with the philosophy of free culture (the economy of abundance).

Kozhikode Declaration: National Conference on Free Software and Education

September 12, 2010

This is a Draft Declaration

We request all those who read this page to suggest any changes before Monday 13th September 2010, so that the declaration can be released sooner than later.   The draft is uploaded on the wiki page.

The text is pasted here for broad dissemination.

The Role of ICT and Education in Social Inclusion

Information & Communication Technology (ICT) is one of the most powerful technologies ever developed by humankind. It has drastically changed the way we do things, the way we communicate and even the way we think. Education is one of the spheres of human activity that is being strongly influenced by ICT. While the teaching of ICT has been incorporated at the school-level, ICT itself is being used in the classroom and outside for teaching and learning more effectively. However, access to ICT is not universal due to various reasons, including obscurity and the high cost of proprietary software.

Education is a basic requirement for a comfortable life in today’s society. In view of this, some countries, including India, have made it a fundamental right. This is certainly a move in the right direction. Education in ICT and ICT-enabled education are also becoming wide-spread. Part of the reason for this is the rapid decline in the cost of hardware. At the same time, the high cost of software is acting as a hurdle for further progress. Another factor that prevents more wide-spread use of ICT is the fact that the interface is not available in many languages, which bothers a lot of people.

Obscurity stops people and especially students to learn how things work, software in particular. The right to use, know, change and share technical knowledge about modern artefacts is an essential human right in knowledge societies.

Why is Software Freedom a necessity and not a choice?

Proprietary software does not allow community participation in shaping the ICT to be used for education, and is not suitable for education since their solutions treat students as consumers. Free software community (sometimes called free and open source software community) on the other hand produced GNU/Linux operating system and a comprehensive stack of collaborative workspaces that enable students during the last 25 years. Most of the free software workspaces are made accessible for speakers of all languages of the world, including physically challenged students. The software freedom granted to the people (1. to use the software for any purpose; 2. to study how it works; 3. to modify it and 4. to distribute the modified software) is unquestionably the core source of the free software revolution that is being witnessed. Any software that grants these four freedoms is called Free Software. These freedoms are essential for students to learn how things work, and to share their experience, knowledge and collaborate with others without legal encumbrances.

The software freedom makes it eminently suitable for any purpose, especially for education. The software used in education has to be freely available and accessible to all because education has to be universal. Moreover, the software has to be available in the language used by the community in that part of the world, however small the community may be. This is normally not possible with proprietary software because some communities could be too small to satisfy the commercial interests of the company.

But the situation is different with Free Software. Since the source code is available for study and modification by anyone, students of computer science and software engineering are able to see code written by master programmers and learn from them, just as students of literature learn from works of great writers, or students of art or cinema learn from the works of great artists and movie makers. This is obviously not possible with proprietary software.

Any community that has people with reasonable software skills can customise the interface to show the menu and other items in their own language. They can also create fonts for the language if they are not available. And they can localise applications to suit their culture and environment.

Finally, the students who have computers in their homes can use the same software they use in their educational institutions without either breaking the law and using illegal software, or spending a lot of money to buy the same software.

Thus, Free Software is undeniably the most ideal for use in all educational institutions at all levels; for primary, secondary or higher education. Proprietary software keeps people divided and helpless, while Free Software empowers them. Free software nurtures the much needed creativity by encouraging us to critical thinking and reasoning while proprietary software forces us to consume what they pack.

It is important for the graduating students to become entrepreneurs or join the various agencies for employment. Considering this requirement it is essential that the syllabus in educational institutions focuses on skills and does not include any specific branded applications. Therefore, the syllabus should be neutral and not mention any particular brand.

Just as the software requires to be free, it is essential that learning and teaching resources including documentation, books, journals, and other media should be released with a license (such as Creative Commons by Share Alike) which grants similar freedoms for other resources. All these resources must also be encoded in an open standard so that the exchanged documents are decodable in all platforms ensuring interoperability.

Therefore

considering all the reasons mentioned above, we, the undersigned, call on all educational institutions, policy makers, students and teachers in all corners of the world to discard all proprietary software and use exclusively Free Software.

A Free Knowledge Verse from Sanskrit

February 18, 2010

Yesterday I went to MET (Maharastra Education Trust) college at Bandra in Mumbai to deliver a key note address on “Introduction to Free Software Movement” for Tech@MET festival.  I looked at a verse written in their handout that fits very well with free software and free knowledge movement.  The verse in Sanskrit is as follows: (Find the English Translation below)

न चौर हार्यम न च राज हार्यम |

न भ्रात्रभाज्यम न च भारकारी ||

व्यये कृते वर्धते नित्यं |

विद्या धनं सर्वे धनं प्रधानम्  ||

Knowledge can neither be stolen by a thief, nor snatched by a king.

It is indivisible unlike ancestral property, it never burdens the bearer,

it multiplies manifold when offered to others.

Knowledge is the supreme form of wealth.

The college does not seem to use free software as of now, but has intentions to use.  The vice chairman of the MET trust Mr. Sunil G. Karve mentioned that free software goes well with their philosophy.  I do hope, it will eventually go well with their practice as well.

If any of you know the exact source of this verse, please let me know.

GNOWSYS Mode for Semantic Web

October 25, 2009

Since I could not go to the 8th International Semantic Web Conference ISWC 2009 to present our contribution,  and also to the Workshop on Collaborative Construction, Management and Linking of Structured Knowledge ), I have uploaded the video of the presentation.  The reasons for not being able to go to the conference are posted in my earlier blog post.

The papers are available from the Semantic Web archives and the CEUR site.

More about GNOWSYS-mode from the gnowledge lab’s site.

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