January 26, 2011

Unbelievable [2:11 pm]

Attention Turns to the Dangers of Distracted Pedestrians [pdf]

Pedestrian fatalities increased slightly for the first time in four years in the first six months of 2010, according to a report released last week by the Governors Highway Safety Association, an organization based in Washington that represents state highway safety agencies.

Among the states, Arizona and Florida had the largest increases in pedestrian fatalities, followed by North Carolina, Oregon and Oklahoma. Nationally, pedestrian traffic fatalities had dropped to 4,091 in 2009 from 4,892 in 2005, the report stated.

“One of the reasons we think the trend may be turning negatively is because of distracted pedestrians,” said Jonathan Adkins, spokesman for the safety group.

The New York bill was proposed by State Senator Carl Kruger, a Brooklyn Democrat who has grown alarmed by the amount of distraction he sees on the streets in his neighborhood and across New York City. Since September, Mr. Kruger wrote in the bill, three pedestrians have been killed and one was critically injured while crossing streets and listening to music through headphones.

“We’re taught from knee-high to look in both directions, wait, listen and then cross,” he said. “You can perform none of those functions if you are engaged in some kind of wired activity.”

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January 20, 2011

Russia and “Safe Harbors” [2:09 pm]

Russia faces rare Internet copyright challenge - [pdf]

Russia’s loose copyright protection laws were put to the test Thursday when prosecutors filed charges against a social network user who put 18 of his favourite pop groups songs online.

The 26-year-old V Kontakte In Contact website user faces a six-year prison sentence if convicted of violating the unnamed Russian groups “copyright and related rights.”

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January 14, 2011

A Little Look Inside [11:08 am]

Won’t You Be My Wireless Neighbor? [pdf]

A few months ago, the Belkin_G-Plus_MIMO network changed its name and gained a padlock icon in my computer’s list of available connections. Then — crickets. The era of unintentional, unasked-for or simply unacknowledged Internet sharing, it seemed, had come to an end.

Suddenly disconnected, I realized how lucky I’d been all those years, having that tremendous body of information and awesome communication technology at my fingertips, all basically free. It may have been unfair, but I don’t believe I was stealing: the owners’ leaving their networks password-free was essentially a gift, an ethereal gesture of kindness. Sometimes I’d imagine my anonymous benefactors, those people behind Netgear 1 or belkin54g, thinking, “Well, I have Internet to spare.”

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January 11, 2011

RIP, David Noble [10:11 am]

A 1979/80 TPP Proseminar picture; Dave Noble is far left

I learned today that Dave Noble (far left in the image above), a real intellectual light of my graduate school experience at MIT’s Technology and Policy Program, died December 27, 2010.

NOBLE, David Franklin - Passed away suddenly in Toronto on December 27, 2010, David F. Noble was an internationally acclaimed scholar and courageous activist, most recently on the faculty of York University. Born in New York City, he had held positions at MIT, the Smithsonian Institution and Drexel University, as well as many visiting professorships. Dave prized truth, justice and integrity and he often found himself in conflict with powers-that-be. His numerous books challenged core ideas and major institutions of technology, science, corporate capitalism and higher education. As a relentless activist against injustice, he took the risks that no one else would take. Despite his public persona, Dave was an intensely sweet, loving and compassionate person, a proud father of three talented daughters, and a passionately loving husband who celebrated life. He treasured his summers in the Vermont woods with his family, his many devoted friends, colleagues and allies, and the transcendent pleasure of music and nature. Dave is survived by his wife Sarah Dopp of Toronto; daughters Clare O’Connor of Toronto, Helen O’Connor of Toulon, France and Alice O’Connor of Vancouver, BC; sister Jane Pafford of Arcadia, Florida; brothers Doug Noble of Rochester, New York and Henry Noble of Seattle, Washington. A public memorial service will be announced in the coming weeks.

Published in the Toronto Star on December 30, 2010

Some of my TPP students have heard me speak of what an outstanding experience it was to take classes from David. The obituary gets it exactly right — David was at least as much an activist as a scholar, and it was a privilege to learn from him.

[As an aside, I am intrigued by (a) the fact that the Toronto Star's obituary archive is handled by Legacy.com; (b) the fact that Legacy.com runs a virtual "condolence book" as a business proposition (you get to pay to keep it live); and (c) the fact that, as soon as I posted a note, I was invited to add a link to my Facebook wall.

The world continues to evolve and change at a ridiculous rate, mediated by technology in ways that David was particularly interested in exploring and interpreting in his unique fashion.]

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Tackling The “Second Enclosure Movement” [7:44 am]

Brussels Wants 7-Year Limit on Works Digitized by Google [pdf]

Companies like Google that digitize artworks and books from public bodies should allow other companies and institutions to commercialize those materials after seven years, three experts advising the European Commission said Monday.

The experts, including Maurice C. Lévy, the chairman and chief executive of Publicis, a communications and advertising company based in Paris, also encouraged the emergence of additional innovative companies besides Google to help digitize Europe’s cultural heritage.

“We believe there is a lot of opportunity for new players to come and confront Google,” Mr. Lévy said. Google had been “essential in the process” of digitizing cultural materials like books, films, photographs and paintings, but it was not “very good for competition to have one player on the ground,” he said.

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