Thursday, September 25, 2014

Copyright on the WWW


This week on OKMOOC we are focusing on Copyright - the internet is changing copyright laws all over the world.  Well, not all over the world but certainly in Canada and the USA.  Probably parts of Europe as well.

The Remix Culture

I've learned about the 'Remix Culture' and that 'Fair Use is your Friend' where it would seem as long as you build on someone else's work and do not simply plagiarise it, it is OK.  But what is fair use to one is perhaps unfair use to another.  Larry Lessig taught us a real lesson in his video "Laws that Choke Creativity" in which he advocates very strongly for more openness and much less restrictive laws. However, he is not supported by all of our OKMOOC community, some of whom have advisedly pointed out that it takes millions to create a movie, yet sometimes before the movie has even hit the movie theatres, pirated versions are available and someone, somewhere else, is making easy money.

Creative Commons

We learned about 'Creative Commons', which it would seem was initiated in New Zealand and Creative Commons would seem to be heading in the right direction where originators of music, videos, commentaries, news, discussion, ideas are being asked to select their own kind of copyright.

For details see

I think back to my creation with Allen Bridgland many years ago of 'Father Phineas', a paper based game to generate leadership behaviour and from it, serious discussion on how successful leaders lead groups.   We - Alan and I - copyrighted the exercise.  Should we now apply a Creative Commons licence to the idea?    Yes, is my view.  What will Allen think about that?

Open Source Economics

Then Yocha Benkler in a TED presentation told us about the sea change taking place in 'Open Source Economics'.  His examples of the growth and popularity of Wikipedia - which is developed by and through thousands of contributors on the Internet who give their time freely - against Microsoft Encarta, developed by Microsoft paid employees gives some reality to what is happening worldwide.  Will 'Social Production' replace the current Industrial model?  Will the industrial system destroy the social model?   Benkler's presentation is dated 2005.   We have moved a long way on from that today in 2014.

But we haven't finished the week.  These are only the videos I have watched.  There are many more readings to investigate.

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Challenges of Participatory Culture with Dr Henry Jenkins

Dr Jenkins paper was one of our core reading's last week on OKMOOC.  A long paper.  An education all on its own.  I used to think that 'gaming' on the Internet was what youngsters did to while away the time.  I recall two 20 something's who worked at Payserv who spent their lunch hours challenging each other in some kind of 'Internet Warfare'.  They've both gone elsewhere, one of them now a most sought after Internet specialist who has more work than he can handle.  Not sure what happened to the other.

But now I have learned that Internet games are tools for learning in a much more interactive and enjoyable way than listening to some boring teacher telling us about the history of William the Conqueror.  My history teacher wrote on my school report way back in 1961 "David fritters away his time".  Largely true, I did.  I was bored stiff learning nothing more than how to regurgitate dates of historical events of English history that meant little or nothing to me in a school in Africa.  Now I enjoy learning history through movies and exciting, enjoyable readings.

What I learned from Dr Jenkins paper is that much more needs to be done to help the learners of today become the leaders of tomorrow and that he has many ideas of how that can be done.

For my part I have been building a 'Corporate Governance' course for Payserv Zimbabwe leaders.  Because one of the learners is in Zambia and the others are in Zimbabwe I have developed it 'on-line' and provided learners with links to various sites, asking them to research on such topics as leadership, corruption and ethics in business, while providing them with some of the less interesting aspects of the course - for example a copy of ZIMCODE - the proposed corporate code of conduct that has been sitting gathering dust for the past two years, politicians afraid perhaps to legalise it because far too many of them flout all the rules laid therein.

For me it has been an interesting experiment.  I have invited the learners to collaborate, to share their findings but there is some reluctance to do so.  Perhaps it is the ego at work that is preventing this sharing.  But we have made a start and there is more to come.

In the meantime I am enjoying the learning experience with Stanford and hopefully I can improve the quality of my 'online courses'

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Citizen Journalism, Power, Responsibility and ISIS

Empowerment and Responsibility

"I can do anything but with it comes responsibility".  So says Brian Conly in his introduction to his controversial video telling the world about the rise of Citizen Journalism

I wish other people knew that.  Here in Zim we are always hearing about ‘empowering’ people.  Everyone wants to be empowered but very few people seem to realise that by empowering people you are also giving them responsibility.  Instead we see that 70% of loans provided to young farmers are not repaid.  They have been empowered but they have not assumed any responsibility for what they do.  It is reflected sometimes at work where people are given jobs to do, but don’t take responsibility for doing it well.  At one of my consulting jobs management took on some casuals to phone customers and obtain data such as telephone numbers and e-mail addresses.  Later they discovered that 75% of the e-mail addresses had been incorrectly recorded.  By then the contract workers had been and gone with their money! 

Clearly the Open Knowledge and other forms of openness now available on the Internet come with abundant opportunities but equally, with it comes responsibility and many people worldwide, particularly the young and inexperienced are probably less aware of this than others.

The reluctant Revolutionary-Journalist

Back to Brian Conly and his story on how citizen journalism is re-shaping the world.  He talks about Iraq, Libya and then his experiences in Tunis.  How people who don’t want to be journalists and don’t want to be revolutionaries have become both through their life circumstances and the availability of the Internet and You-Tube and how people want to tell their stories and his life-work is to help them do that.  The video is December 2012.  

ISIS and the Internet

I wonder how he feels about things today after the beheading of Americans and British people by ISIS and how ISIS are using the internet and You-Tube to show the most bizarre scenes of the people they behead.  Brian Conly says that everything changes and it does.  This is today’s citizen journalism at its worst.  Power without responsibility.

Brain Conly's video can be found at

The Participatory Culture - with Dr Henry Jenkins


Henry Jenkins video on the Participatory Culture reminded me of ‘Bambazonke’ which is a participatory e-mail letter that goes out daily from a friend of mine, Mike Garden here in Zimbabwe.  From time to time Mike asks for ‘readers’ comments’ on a variety of subjects close to the Zimbabwean heart.  Very often wild-life stories – decimation of rhinos and elephants, that kind of thing.  Then there was the case of Mac Bailey who was taken and eaten by a crocodile on the banks of the Kariba lake.  This generated a great deal of participatory discussion as to how and why it all happened, all posted by e-mail back to Mike, edited by Mike and re-posted out to his community.  More recently a houseboat staffer was taken and eaten by a lion and that too has generated discussion.  Sometimes it is the failure of the powers that be to generate electricity, the rotten state of the roads in Harare and Bulawayo, or corruption in high places and who is doing what (or not doing what) to fix the problem.  Mike told he had been picked up  by the police and questioned at least once to explain his venturing into politics and ‘journalism without a licence’

Dangerous Games

Then there was the case here last year of ‘Baba Jukwa’ who created a great deal of controversy in Zimbabwe during the last elections.  More recently, he has been identified and arrested for ‘inciting acts of terrorism’ because of the accusations he made about certain ZANU PF politicians and the interest that he acquired – thousands of visits to his website to see what was alleged to be going on in the under-world of Zimbabwean politics.    Just today I see he has been convicted of possessing ammunition in an ‘insecure place’ which led to a fine of $150.00.  It would seem there was an attempt to use this possession of ammunition as a pretext for his ‘conspiring to commit acts of terrorism’ until it was found that he held the ammunition legally, thus the lesser charge.  His other more serious charges have not seen the courts because of on-going investigations and the identified ‘Baba Jukwa’ insisting that he is not the one!

So the ‘participatory culture’ here in Zimbabwe is slow to take off.  

The Past Participatory Culture

Other elements of Jenkins talk related to the old ways of participatory culture – the Bowling Society of the ‘50’s in the USA.    Here we had a different kind of, but similar participatory culture.  It was called ‘The Country Club’ or its equivalent here in Harare, the ‘Sports Club’.  Today the country clubs have vanished because those who used to frequent them have been forcibly removed from the land.  The Sports Clubs still exist – or some of them do – but in a much reduced capacity.  Although the ‘Golf Club’ still functions because it attracts people of all ages, walks of life and ethnic origin.    Web sites and Blog sites are in the minority.  Which is why I am doing what I can to resurrect my own blog site.

Perhaps I am out of touch with young people?  I shall have a chat with my grandson on this subject.  But us adults are, I think, still fixated on Facebook and Linked-In as our form of participatory culture.  We do not use these sites with same fervour as it would seem they do in the developed world.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Ten Paradoxes of Technology with Andrew Feenberg – School of Communication, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, Canada.

Boring but Intellectually Superior

I forced myself to watch this – well, listen really – because it was recommended by the Stanford Faculty.  While Andrew Feenberg is a boring speaker, I think he has a highly intellectual mind.  But he is not an entertaining academic like Alex Couros, hence I see a number of unpleasant responses to his talk.   Academics need to learn to be entertaining as well as learned  if they want people to listen to them and accept their ideas, especially now that they speak on the Internet.  Nonetheless I found his talk had very interesting elements in the context of the development of technology and the utopian and dystopian effects that will continue to persist in the future.

An Event from my Youth

I am reminded of my youth.  I lived in a very isolated part of Africa.  It was 1951.  My dad was a Government Medical Officer responsible for an area the size of Wales but we lived in a very small and isolated community.  I was 6 going on 7 years old and had no friends anywhere near of my age.  I did correspondence school with my mother in the mornings.  In the afternoons I was free to play.  I ‘played’ with Gandy, the borehole pump attendant.  Gandy was a relatively uneducated adult African.  Nonetheless he taught me a lot of things about the African bush.  Together we explored the flora and fauna in the surrounding bush.  I learned about lizards, beetles, grasshoppers and other equatorial bugs.  Even snakes as one day we came across a cobra in a trench that had been dug for sewer pipes and we both ran for our lives.  

Gandy lived in small house not far from ours. It had been built at the same time as our home and was standard brick under an asbestos roof with modern window frames and paned glass. One cold winter’s day Gandy did not appear for work and my dad sent me to find him. I went to his house and knocked on the door. No answer. I called his name. Nothing. I pressed the door handle and the door opened. There were the remains of a wood fire on the floor and his bedroom was filled with smoke. I saw Gandy in his bed apparently asleep. I called his name. He did not stir. I shook his shoulders. He did not wake. Then I realised his body was cold to the touch. In a moment I realised he was dead and I ran screaming back to my dad. Gandy had been used to living in a traditional pole and dagga hut with a thatched roof where the smoke from a fire for warmth drifted out through the thatch. He did not know about carbon monoxide poisoning from a fire in a room that was sealed to the outside. In short he did not know about the technology and its good and bad effects and it led to an early death.

An Inconvenient Truth

Al Gore in his presentation  “An Inconvenient Truth” referred to the fact that technology can be dangerous in the hands of those who do not know how to use it.

Technology as a Killer and a Paradox of Means

This doesn't apply only to Gandy and his brick under asbestos roof.  It applies to all technology.  Today the mobile phone is ubiquitous but it is frequently misused.  Drivers in Zimbabwe - and probably elsewhere - insist on using this device while driving a motor vehicle.   I have even seen drivers texting while driving.  In doing so they are not only risking their own lives but the lives of other road users.  In these circumstances the mobile phone is a potential killer.  The motor vehicle itself is a potential killer.  It kills more people world wide than, for example, cigarettes.  Yet we are warned that smoking cigarettes can kill.  Perhaps there should be a sign on all motor vehicles "Entering this Vehicle Can Seriously Damage Your Health".  But we don't do that - well, not yet anyway.  Why?   Because it is not yet politically correct to do so.  Everyone either owns or wants to own a motor vehicle - sometimes to get from A to B, but more frequently to display their own version of the 'Paradox of Means'