I’ve been challenging myself to do something beyond helping curate speakers and organizing Quantified Self Amsterdam together with Maarten and Joost, which results in a new talk each time. Presented were the results and ruminations on and off topic around memory, more specifically, from 2 months of field research, spending every Tuesday evening with my mate Bas. This led to the insight in applying a software development methodology, version control systems, to the Self.

Programmers are raised these days on geek tools like Github to make sure they can work together without destroying each others work for each new software release cycle. After a release or new version occurs, new functionalities and code ideas recommence. This is done via a system of ‘branches’ connected to a main ‘trunk’ of code. Each new version selectively incorporates code ‘commits’ from these branches back into the trunk which are then released in a new code version. My point was in wandering what we get if we exchange code for our most personal memories and software versioning switched for rites-of- passage, key events, turning points in how we decide who we are. Each age transposes its current orientating metaphors on the sedimentation of human knowledge. What will ‘the network’ and ‘computation’ do to our sense of Self and how we look at our history? What impact will it have on our identity formation process?

Check out the other speakers from our recent event held at Mediamatic.

For the last 8 months i have been working with Ben Cerveny and Juha van ‘t Zelfde together under the name: VURB. Our mission is to explore and research cities, and more specifically, urban computation and related systems. If you can’t quite stomach this wordy description then perhaps i could rephrase it as ‘it’s about how cities are are becoming more like networked computers and the Internet’. Follow us, whether it’s via Twitter or come to our monthly face to face gathering called Visibile Cities, which takes place in Amsterdam.

Urbanode just got funded by Digital Pioniers. Urbanode is research into responsive environments or interactive spaces. It’s a natural progression from the Roomware Project, which initially explored how we could make spaces more interactive and connect peoples online lives with their offline presence. That was 4 years ago. Urbanode is instantly familiar in approaching space by making it accessible via control points and a reusable open source framework (this time with a dedicated mobile component).

You can read more about the project on the VURB site. We’re currently in a research phase which involves mapping out systems, assessing technologies, doing a survey on the lay of the land. It’s also great to hear that Meeus and Bob, who are in charge of lighting for events at Club Trouw, are very much up for it!

I recently founded VURB together with Ben Cerveny and Juha ‘t Zelfde to further explore the past, present and future of cities and the people that live there. This talk was meant to briefly cover urban computing and then focus on the rise of informal network cultures especially barcamps, freelancers and geeks.

Above is the slideshow to a talk given at ECOMM and draws from my work on government data policy and service (re)design, peer based practises and research into connected environments. It was good to meet with the people that came up to me in the break and the brunt of questions concerned privacy issues and how people will experience these new phenomena. So, definately food for thought for joining the Mobile City crew at their ‘Sentient City’ workshop.

A more in-depth version of this post will appear on the p2p foundation blog.

I recently met Anu Määttä, a developer from Finland, who was able to connect me with Smári McCarthy(Iceland) and Petri Kola(Finland) who were able to report of projects, companies and intiatives from Iceland and Finland working with government data.

Finland:


Finnish Data Catalog (their data.gov)

“Finnish public institutions are unprepared for making real APIs for their data. The data catalog is at the moment more about piloting open data related administrative proceduress and juridical questions Software projects which need budgetting will be needed for really opening up data. Unfortunatelly the data catalog will not be updated anymore before the competition deadline. But we are very happy that we have been able to create ownership for open data among highest Finnish administration! We will continue lobbying for open data after the summer hollidays. Lobbying and the competition is a multi-year commitment for us.”

Mindtrek competition (apps for democracy)
“The “Apps for Democracy Finland” is your chance to wow the world with your ideas; your chance to build better systems on top of public data; your chance to demonstrate the value and the power of public data when it is let free; your chance to take public information and display it in exciting new ways; and your chance to walk away with a range of prizes.”

Iceland:

Skuggaþing (Shadow Parliament)

“is a collaborative law editing system with built in direct and proxied voting. One instance of the software currently resides at
Skuggaþing where it is copying data in real time from the Icelandic parliament and presenting it in a much improved way (despite the fact that we still haven’t done graphic design!)”

The crew behind skuggathing are doing some nifty work in providing videos of parliamentary debates online with a host of social tools (ratings and commenting) to let citizens see what’s going on at any time.

- “DataMarket is a for-profit company organized around the visualization of data in general, working very specifically on government datasets when available in an effort to increase government transparency.”

- Framtíðarsýn Þjóðar” evaluates group value satements using psychological approaches and statistical analysis.”

- Hugmyndaráðuneytið“, or The Ministry of Ideas, is a collective of people working towards redefining Iceland, which organizes mass efforts, brainstorm meetings and other events which influence open governance.”

Smari McCarthy is working on opening governmental data up in Iceland and direct democracy software projects

Petri Kola is a researcher at the University of Art and Design Helsinki and is working on / coordinating Mindtrek Apps for Democracy Finland Competition in Helsinki.

We’re looking for other European gov data projects
Do you know of any other similar projects where you live?

Ourdata.eu is a collaborative site for everyone initiated by Ton Zijlstra and yours truly whose aim is to collect and share interesting projects working with government data from across Europe. Sign up and report what you spotted or send us a link. (while functional, we know the graphic design needs a triple bypass. Fix coming soon. Also we’ll pump out a tutorial on how to use the platform as it’s not immediately clear. Signup>> CreateCountry >> givetagofcountryname >> createblogpost for examples >> tag these with for instance mashup,countryname,etc >> publish)

Picnic conference just passed, and it was good to see some old friends return and a few locals come back from their holidays. Ben gave a fantastic talk on “Play”, while Robert did a great job on the “portable social networks” session which was packed. Let’s hope after all the hubbub dies down that the crews from Jaiku and Twitter follow through with their promises and others continue to focus on making some kind of protocol to enable portable social networks to become a reality!

This last week has been a chin-down-get-on-with-it kinda time to complete all outstanding work and clear the decks for leaving for a small vacation. For those of you who don’t know, i’ve been working on:

Fuga
Where i work 2 days a week as an interaction designer and usability guy, where we are working hard on solving supply-chain problems in the music business as it digitizes rapidly.

Actics
Yes, the graphic design kinda sucks, but ethics as social objects combined to issues, people and groups is a proving a fascinating design challenge. Again…wishing/praying the web-design improves over there.

In the works is also an update for BeroepsEer. This is a network site that is helping support public sector workers across different sectors deal with continual change. Many people serving the government are feeling undervalued and their skills underutilized. It’s a place for them to drop their knowledge, report problems and suggest ideas.

There’s also a buzz running through our Roomware project. Really excited to see where this leads.

Enjoy the autumn leaves. I’ll be doing that too, and see you all soon!