Video on Wikipedia – Ben Moskowitz and Michael Dale

Posted: November 14, 2010 at 9:00 pm  |  By: morgancurrie  |  Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Thursday 11 November, Hilversum
by Serena Westra
After the lunch, the pre-conference seminar continues with three parallel working groups. I joined the working group ‘Video on Wikipedia’, which was moderated by Ben Moskowitz and Michael Dale. This working group was held in a smaller room where all the attenders, about 14, sat around a table. Ben and Michael introduce themselves. Before starting the discussion on video on Wikipedia, they ask us to introduce ourselves and explain our interest in this workshop. There is a big variety of people in the room, from video journalists to hackers and from students to researchers.

Ben starts the discussion. He wants to get rid of the top-down structure of video and broadcasting, and spread video. But how can you do this? Open source software can play a significant role in the solution. ‘We don’t need the entire community to use open source software, as long as a part does.’ There needs to be a standard system and browsers need to support it. The structures needs to be collaborative. Video is already used in Wikipedia. It is working, but can we go beyond it? There are three questions Ben Moskovitz and Michael Dale want to address in the discussion about video on Wikipedia.

First, how do we get content and where does it come from?

Some people in the room try to give an answer to this question, but it is hard to find one that fits. For example, the content can come from the users, like in YouTube, but as Ben says: ‘Wikipedia will never be YouTube.’ How can we convince the mass to spend time on video for Wikipedia? This is incredibly difficult, the tools are immature and there are some technical complications and Wikimedia cultural implications. ‘The people [of Wikimedia Foundation] are very consistent, could be good or bad.’ Another problem is that the best users who contribute to Wikipedia, are a bit resistant about video coming on Wikipedia. Some think it should be purely text based. Geert Lovink disagrees with this point: ‘It was never purely texted based, there has always been use of images and maps’.

There are some other solutions, like Geert Lovink suggests: ‘Maybe we can start with some experts as an example, like TED does only in a slightly different way. It needs to be open.’ Some one else agrees that there are some good examples that work already, like Open Images and Beeld en Geluid. Maybe we can work with them?

Another problem is that if you want to build on this software, you need a really solid base. Wikipedia doesn’t really have this. Do you want to change this too? As Michael Dale points out, Wikipedia is experimenting with software to solve this problem. This is more valuable that something perfect planned to him. Video should be accessible for people all over the world.

The second question of the addressed in the workshop is: What should/will be the relationship between the encyclopaedia and video?

Wikipedia is a genre, it is relatively fixt. Video is going to blow this away. It has to be verified, but how do you use the Wikipedia policy on video? Is it own research? You filmed it. How can you use NPOV [natural point of view] on video? Maybe the existing rules need to be set a side for video. For example, the users could decide if something is neutral. Or, the video can be seen as an artefact. They have a specific point of view, but are a part of a certain context.

What the role of video on Wikipedia will be is a difficult question. The video can be an illustration, supplanting the article or be something else? The people in the workshop can't come to a perfect answer to this question. I guess we have to wait and see how it will turn out in a few years.

The last question addressed in the workshop was: Can the collaborative editing model work with video?

Michael wonders if the open, collaborative editing model of Wikipedia can really work on video. Ben answering this question: ‘no, I’m sorry Michael but I don’t think so.’ But Michael is not so sure about this: ‘the tools can change as well.’ For example, the collaborative model can be realised through editing the basic time line. Everybody can provide a time line; maybe an user can choose the best one. Another example, suggested by Michael, is to create subsections. When you divide the video in smaller bits, which people can own, it is easier to use a collaborative model.
Beside that, according to Geert Lovink, tv, radio and film has always been collaborative. That is what the credits is all about: to see who collaborated.
Another attender of the workshop suggests the sandbox idea: person A has an idea and makes a raw version, person B has a the right technical equipment and can make the movie thanks to the creativity of person A.

However, the problem is not a technical one, as Michael discovered, but a social one. Will the users come? And how will they use it? According to Ben, video will be based on conflict. The video whit the most time and effort invested in it will win.

To find out how video on Wikipedia really works, the group is divided in two parts. The first group is taking a look at the technical elements of Wikipedia, the second group wants to post a video on Wikipedia. By the end of the workshop, they have uploaded two videos. One of them replaced an existing article on the online encyclopaedia, as a small experiment how it works and how long it stands. The second video addresses a new subject on Wikipedia where no article existed about yet.

As Ben and Michael concluded in their workshop, the direction of video on Wikipedia is not clear yet and will show in one and a half or two years. I think we just have to wait and see!

example of video on wikipedia: Polar bear

Sentient City workshop @ IABR

Posted: November 9, 2009 at 2:50 pm  |  By: sabine  |  Tags: , , ,

Open podium event: presentations of the Sentient City workshop. NAi. Rotterdam. 6.11.09.
by Elena Tiis

After a one-day workshop aiming to develop “approaches toward urban computing and locative media applications, systems and infrastructures for near-future urban life in Rotterdam”, the results were presented at the Open Podium event of the Architecture Biennale.

By way of an introduction, IABR curator Jennifer Sigler notes that the exhibition has a blind spot. In its concentration on physical urban space it elides the effects of digital networks. This is why the Biennale comprises also a week-long (4th – 8th November) program on the theme of Connectivity.
Curated by the Mobile City bloggers Martijn de Waal and Michiel de Lange in collaboration with Mark Shepard of the Sentient City Survival Kit, the workshop investigated the importance of "the digital” for urban space. Shepard, in his lecture the previous day, had used Jane Jacobs’ idea of the sidewalk ballet and transposed it to the notion of the 'informational ballet,' a kind of invisible layer of urban space which architecture should have a chance at influencing.

In introducing the project sketches, Michiel de Lange describes the Mobile City as a knowledge network, aiming to bring together professionals from various sectors. The first part of the presentations showcased the results of the workshop, which was about critical design interventions and explore what “digital” means for the city. In the second part, Shepard’s Sentient City Kit was presented.

The projects of the day comprised:

1. “Nuggit”, which is something you have to offer – a skill, staff or a situation. It’s a kind of service without currency exchange. One becomes a nuggeteer by offering a nuggit, which is whatever one is offering in time and space, for a moment, or for a certain duration or on the spot. Walking someone’s dog for twenty minutes while waiting for the bus might be a nuggit. This is done by opening Nuggits on one’s smartphone and signaling one’s willingness to offer something.

2. “Goede Reis” team took the OV-chipkaart system (a public transport card with RFID, which was recently introduced in the Netherlands) as their starting point. The goals of the project were to raise awareness of the data collected by these cards, to improve social interaction and increase serendipity. The medium or location for these interventions are the turnstiles/ticket control machines in public transportation. The idea of the project is twofold: First, after you swipe your card, the machine says something about you so that the person entering behind can get a conversation going. The cardreader displays inferred information based on the travel information of the person, for instance “she’s late today!” Secondly, it aims to bridge the boundaries between the social, cultural and spatial aspects of the city by an LBT (location based task). This is one’s “score” for city exploration; the card tracks the areas of the city that are familiar and unfamiliar for the person and recommend exploring unknown areas and allocates points on that basis. Traveling to the south of the city although normally residing in the north is to significantly increase one’s score.

3. “Landmarks” team was concerned with making the “after” of events more visible to the point of actually making it mandatory for biennales and festivals. The timeline for a landmark would be as follows: initial event idea →going to the local government to get the event permit; in conjunction with this, one must agree to produce a landmark for it → the event produces an augmented reality landmark, a living monument capturing the experience in pictures, memories, text and sound which stays on as a reminder after the festival in question has finished.

4. “What clicks on the street” is about taking the Dutch “probleembuurt” (Dutch government terminology for a 'problematic neighbourhood') and reconsidering a “problem” as a space of negotiation. It is a way of getting at the qualitative information behind street noise and movement for the purpose of mediating what is considered a problem by different people. The point is to find unexpected ways of addressing intrusion; there should be a kind of “leakage” of personal information about the situation, producing an intimate message about the origin of the sound or situation in question. This would take the form of unexpected notes published on shop receipts, soundfiles via Bluetooth or “junkmail”.

In the case of all these project sketch presentations, there seems to be a palpable concern with bridging what one might term the modern metropolitan remove, or the anonymous façade of interactions in the city. All project an actual interest in spying upon the details of a stranger and a fascination to inscribing memories onto physical urban space. Indeed, “Landmarks” goes as far as to stipulate that this might be something mandatory in the case of festivals. The more disquieting, intrusive and even coercive edge of technologies that track and control is thus repurposed as something that can have benevolent uses.

The second part of the event opens the Sentient City exhibit with the presentation of Shepard’s survival toolkit. The toolkit is about imagining tactile objects in response to the transformation of urban culture. By taking a playful stance and imagining a type of “urban computing”, it wants to know what happens in an over-coded city as digital information on mobile devices comes in interface with urban space. By taking jabs at the future and as one example of critical design, the kit fabricates things which are relating and sensing.

Shepard’s four concept sketches for survival in the Sentient City are an exercise in the archaeology of society that does not yet exist. By reconstructing a future possibility, we can get to know in the present the kind of future that we could want. These items address the social, cultural and political implications of the Sentient City, in response to computing leaving desktops and information processing entering urban realm, modifying our behaviour.

1. GPS Serendipitor (like a Tom Tom, but one which picks out a route which one hasn’t used before to get from A to B)
2. RFID Under(a)ware (underwear that has vibrators sewn into it which sense the presence of RFID tags)
3. Ad-hoc Dark Roast Travel Mug (a travel mug which sends subversive messages to one’s fellow passengers)
4. CCD-Me Not Umbrella (an umbrella which hides one from CCTV monitoring)


SoftWhere 2008: Software Studies Workshop

Posted: June 8, 2008 at 8:49 pm  |  By: Anne Helmond  |  Tags: ,

Report by Anne Helmond

The University of California in San Diego (UCSD) organized a two day event in order to pioneer the emerging field of Software Studies. The first day was a public event titled SoftWhere 2008 which consisted of over fifteen short presentation in Pecha Kucha style. The second day consisted of a closed strategic session that dealt with more formal questions on the shaping of a new field of studies and will be discussed in a follow-up blog post.

SoftWhere 2008
The title of the workshop 'SoftWhere' embodies the question of demarcating an area of study. Our current society is penetrated by and shaped by software and should thus be subject to appropriate critique. The ubiquity of software has led to a software culture and we are now living in a software society. What does it mean to live in such a software society instead of an industrial society? A world which is created by software is opaque and that is why we need to study software. We should question the streams behind, embedded in and woven through our society and look at what is happening behind the screens. SoftWhere? SoftEverywhere!

SoftWhere 2008

The Software Studies workshop was organized by UCSD and most of the participants were either from the University of California in San Diego or Irvine or Los Angeles. Participants were asked to prepare a short presentation preferably in Pecha Kucha style.

SoftWhere 2008Jeremy Douglass, the first Software Studies Initiative postdoc, was strictly timing our presentations as each of us had either exactly seven minutes or if you followed the Pecha Kucha style of 20 seconds for 20 slides six minutes and fourty seconds. It turned out to be a great format to listen to almost twenty presentations in just one afternoon. Douglass was a great timekeeper, or rather his iPhone stopwatch that made an alarming sound after seven minutes forcing some speakers to cut their story short. In Jeremy's own apologetic words: "It's not me, it's the software."

The presentations showed the diverse perspectives on software and software culture. The diversity of approaches and topics in the research may serve as an intellectual map of the people present. They may also serve to determine a common ground in the extremely diverse approaches to software studies. Liz Losh from Virtualpolitik wrote an extensive post on the "speed dating" Pecha Kucha presentations.

Critical storage studies
The presentations showed the diverse approaches to studying software and they also served as a showcase of the current state of research into software. However, some presentations did not deal with studies of software itself but also with the questions surrounding the field of software studies. Matthew Kirschenbaum for example talked about preservation as software studies, or what he would jokingly refer to as critical storage studies. Critical X Studies is a term used by Bill Benzon who at first was skeptical about the new field of Critical Code Studies:

While I tend to be skeptical of any enterprise whose name takes the form “Critical X Studies,” where X is the domain under investigation, there’s certainly room to look at the cultural production of computer code and the styles of computer languages and programs.

What Kirschenbaum is referring to with critical storage studies is the fact that without preservation there is no field. If we want to establish and maintain a new field of Software Studies we should also look at the preservation of software. Emulators are only one way of thinking about storage and keeping software 'alive' because we are dealing with a hybrid cultural heritage. This is illustrated 'the Preserving Virtual Worlds Project' that Kirschenbaum is currently working on.

Taxonomy of Software Studies
Critical Code Studies is just one of the many fields bordering or moving into the field of Software Studies. Mark Marino presented the pitfalls embodied within the metaphor of Critical X Studies as described by Liz Losh. However, these different fields that at some points overlap and form different layers of software form the grounds of Bogost's taxonomy of Software Studies consisting of five levels:

  1. Reception/operation
  2. Interface
  3. Form/function
  4. Code
  5. Platform

While this is not a definite taxonomy of the field it does present a useful way to think of how the existing overlapping fields operate. In this taxonomy Nick Montfort and Ian Bogost's new book series Platform Studies is seen as complimentary to Software Studies. We are approaching different layers of software through both a philosophical and critical practice that may entail either the study of code or the other things (cultural studies). Part of software studies itself is turning it inside-out:
SoftWhere 2008

What are we looking at if we study software? Which layers do we need to address and which questions and fields have previously addressed similar issues? These questions were part of the second day of the Software Studies workshop which dealt with the typical What, Where, When and How questions and will be addressed in a next post.

This is the first post in a series on the Software Studies Workshop at UCSD and the Software Studies Panel at the HASTAC II Conference at UCI and UCLA. Please subscribe to our RSS feed to keep up with our updates.