Archive for the 'ideas' 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.

On the Artchitecture of Life

December 6, 2014

A conversation on the architecture of life has been recorded and released as an audio podcast at Syntalk.  The speakers are: Dr. Pushpa M. Bhargava (molecular biology, CCMB, Hyderabad), Prof. Nagarjuna G. (philosophy of science, HBCSE, Mumbai).  The following description is the text copied from the Syntalk link.

SynTalk thinks about the key conditions that characterize and create ‘biological’ life while constantly wondering whether life is a random accident, and if we are alone in the universe (because of a singularity?). What is the future of life? How aliens (if any) are also likely to be carbon and water based, but could be completely different morphologically and functionally. How was the first cell formed, and is this one of the biggest open questions today? The continuing journey after the big bang from the physical to astrophysical to chemical to biological to social evolution (across all species via, say, pollination) way into the distant future. The concepts are derived off / from Darwin, Crick, Watson, Hoyle, Prigogine, Manfred Eigen, Delbruck, Maturana, & Stuart Kauffman, among others. Is it possible to create synthetic life in a laboratory, and does the clue to this possibility lie in the (chemical?) nature of a virus? How does speciation happen? The core significance of the cell being a ‘phase separated structure’ with organizational closure. Is the cell the unity of life? How we do ‘not’ really know where biology ends and chemistry begins. Is life a physical state (just as liquid is a state of water)? The definition of life via replication (DNA, tRNA), metabolism (metabolic charts, glucose) and energy transduction. We discuss the role of glucose as a key molecule for all life, and wonder what it is like for glucose (& other bio molecules) to be ‘outside’ life. How does self organization arise in both physical and biological systems, and how (for example) phospholipids (with hydrophobic tails and hydrophilic heads) organize itself in water? How affinities can emerge between two DNA strands. How life is a dialogical state, and neither the physical equilibrium (oxidized state like carbon dioxide) nor the state of chemical death (‘petroleum state’). How virus ‘lives’ on the border of life and non-life. How all living stems can be characterized using unique chemistry, biochemistry, structure, & function. Why life originated from water? What is the role of weak bonds (in, say, the colloidal state of protoplasm)? How does ‘conscious cognition’ arise in living systems, & what are the links with ‘emancipated reflexive motor actions’, microtubules, dance, lizard, play, & consciousness (Mind from Matter). How does a living system talk to itself (why does a child suck its thumb)? How the feeling of ‘free will’ gives an (illusory) advantage. How life has multiple answers, and an inherent capability to change. How life is an expression of abundance. How a bio molecule is not like a sphere. The future with artificial life, cognitive robotics, & ‘languages in nature’ (of animals & languages). Why we can’t wear a full body armour anymore?

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).

Debian Dependency Map

December 16, 2008

Several of us use Debian GNU/Linux and among other features we have all appreciated the way Debian software package dependencies are calculated to give us a stable package. At gnowledge.org we harvested the data from the packages.tgz file of Debian 4.0 and created a program that graphically displays the dependencies, called dependency maps. Search
for your favorite package and see how dependent a software is on other packages.

Few examples:
http://www.gnowledge.org/debmap_view?objid=python
http://www.gnowledge.org/debmap_view?objid=emacs21

Search for your favorite from:

http://www.gnowledge.org/search_debmap?val=1

One of the main reasons why we are interested in Debian dependency maps is that we are inspired by that model and now wants to create a similar knowledge.tgz file for all concepts and activities as gnowledge.org is in the process of creating a gnowledge distribution. You will also be able to see how we are using the idea of Debian for knowledge domain.

gnowledge.org is waiting for all of you to spread the message,
specifically among the teachers of any subject whatsoever to add the dependency relations so that we can soon have a gnowledge (free knowledge distribution) distro.

a navigator applet for large documents and sites

March 26, 2007

I am not happy with the way how we write and browse electronic documents. I think that the design of the word processors are responsible for this. (I will not elaborate about this here, but will write about this issue later.) Though , I like structured documentation, like LaTeX, I do not like the way such documents are presented, particularly while reading them on the screen. Most applications kept in mind the printed page as an outcome, and hence may not have payed much attention to alternatives the new technology offers.

With this view in mind, I keep on hacking (exploring new possibilities), to see if I can come up with an alternative. The other day I came up with the following idea.

document navigator

The diagram above is a navigator of a document that has four chapters. Except the fourth chapter the other three are further divided into sections and sub-sections. Since the navigator is laid horizontally, the document’s subdivisions are first divided with a vertical separator, and then the next sub-division is made by a horizontal separator. This way the structure of the given docuement will be represented.Second, by displaying each component in a different color, we can provide visual differentiation of the document parts.

Then comes the problem of navigation. In order to navigate the complex document, we need to use only the four arrow keys: up, down, left and right. The keys, up and down will be used to change the level, say from sub-section to section or sub-section to sub-subsection, respectively. The keys, right and left will be used for moving from one section to other and will circle among the siblings only. Thus, the entire complex document can be accessed with very little effort.


This navigator also serves the purpose of a table of contents of the document. Depending on the current position, an application developer can display the current cell in a different color, with the title of the current section displayed just below the navigator, followed by the content of the section.

This way, a very small device like a mobile phone or PDA can display a very large and complex document in a convenient way.

On a normal desktop, since horizontal spread of the screen is more than the vertical, it is good to have the same navigator oriented vertically as shown below.

vertical document navigator

The motivation for this navigator came in while developing the gnowledge.org portal. For example, if you look at Cell (Biology) link at the portal, the links spread vertically displaying the hierarchy. Since each link has very little to show, the page is overwhelmed by several links, with very little text to read. Normally, most application developers use collapse and expand the tree to solve this problem. Even this will take away the space and will make the page divided into several narrow columns. In order to solve this problem, I came up with this idea. No one knows if this will be liked by people. Only usage and feedback will tell if this is a good navigation model.

If this model of a document is available to the author, at the time of creating the document, then it will force the author to use the ‘healthy’ practice of writing structured documents. This model is also useful for collaborative authoring environments. And as mentioned above, it is certainly good for handhelds, which need not download the entire document into the PDA.

As mentioned in the beginning, this model provides a non-traditional authoring and presentation model for structured documents, but based on the legacy ideas on structured documentation.

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