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Archives Mensuelles: janvier 2013

Data protection reform in the EU

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UPDATE: The Macedonian Metamorphosis Foundation For Internet and Society has translated the Brussels Declaration into Macedonian and is urging people to sign it.

The EU directive on data protection is to be amended (process already started), and massive corporate lobbying in Brussels against the data protection reform is happening. A few organisations, namely European Digital Rights (EDRi), Bits of Freedom and Privacy International, drafted a statement: the Brussels Declaration. Such an initiative is very needed as the first vote of the Consumer Committee of the European Parliament showcased how resistant is to US lobbies: not at all. I strongly encourage you to sign it (on your personal behalf and/or as an organization).

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Publié par le 29 janvier 2013 dans Privacy

 

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[Brevia] #NetNeutrality through Neelie Kroes’s eyes

In an Op-Ed in Libération (in French), Neelie Kroes, the European Commissioner for Internet-related policies, can be found giving in to telecom operator pressure and giving up on Net Neutrality. Ms. Kroes supports the creation of a fragmented Internet, banning innovation and opening the door to unacceptable censorship.

Read more from La Quadrature du Net: English, French

The Internet according to Neelie Kroes, by @mmu_man

The Internet according to Neelie Kroes, by @mmu_man

 
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Publié par le 18 janvier 2013 dans Digital freedom

 

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Crunching raw stuff: on the road to #dataviz, part 1

One day, my overcrowded inbox delivered a particular message: an invitation to enroll in a MOOC (Massive Online Open Course) on information graphics and data visualization. This made me pause a bit, for a few reasons. First one is curiosity, of course: I’m obsessively curious, my memory is like a sponge, so anytime I bump into something new, my neurons start jiggling. This happened this time as well: I had never taken a MOOC before, and anyway #dataviz is something I’m quite interested in.

Second is this, precisely: I’m a hardcore scientist, and infographics are generally dismissed as « fancy, glossy and stupid » by a majority of my peers who hail the idea of presenting raw, dry facts which supposedly speak for themselves. Indeed, many infographics I have seen when browsing the web are not far from this pejorative definition as they are just a nicely put brag of a gifted designer but bring no insight whatsoever in the information they are supposed to present you.

Third is that I somehow got into data storytelling, or making big boring numbers relevant for the layman. I know many people — including myself! — who are not keen at all digging into the World Bank Database and reading about GDP or GNI or whatever the eggheads out there have decided to call it. This repulsion is, however, much easier to overcome when you are scientist for the mere reason that a major part of your daylight job is just this: crunching raw boring stuff to make sense of it.

How was I supposed to reconcile my somewhat innate obsession of analysis, of uncovering mechanisms and ‘reverse engineering’ even art pieces — which supposes a great sense of detail and possibly a quite rigid mindset, unwilling to give up on details — with depicting and abstracting this incredibly broad range of information into an infographic? I gave it a try or two on my own. I was not happy, either because I feared it was too heavy on facts (the mechanistic freak was too present) or because in an attempt to make it understandable, it was sloppy (the perfectionist came forward).

Then the course kicked off. And my talespinner-scientist schizophrenia got a breathing space 🙂 This sums it pretty well: « The life of a visual communicator should be one of systematic and exciting intellectual chaos. » This just sounded right to me and for me. The quote is courtesy of Alberto Cairo, our instructor, who does an amazing job introducing things in a progressive and logical fashion. I recommend you follow him on Twitter and/or read his blog as his prolific remarks are really worht the read (and funny).

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Publié par le 17 janvier 2013 dans #dataviz

 

Science blogging in the Arab world (or the lack thereof)

This was first posted at Nature Middle East blog ‘House of Wisdom’.

When I started browsing the web for science blogs from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, I didn’t think it would be such an adventure. And for a quest, it was one.

I thus started entering keywords in the search engine. The outcome was disappointing: one or two blogs in English popped up. I thought it is because I was only searching in English, but French and Arabic searches did not harbour significantly more results. When I asked friends to point me out my wrongdoing, they just laughed and the comment invariably was: “dear, spare your efforts, there is no such thing like science blogging in the region.”

The blogging culture in the Arab world thus seems to mainly touch opinionated people with a say in politics and economy. There is nothing wrong with this. I’ll spare you a lecture on the importance of social media for changing the society we live in, this has been thoroughly discussed elsewhere. Loads of bits and ink have also been spilled to demonstrate the importance of science blogging. Given the paucity of science blogs in the Arab World, I guess a reminder is more than useful.

Why writing about science? Reason #1: scientists get to speak directly to the public. Reason #2: lay scientists or enthusiasts engage and keep up to date with developments in various scientific fields. Reason #3: open discussions on research topics are promoted among peers.

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Publié par le 16 janvier 2013 dans Research, Science

 

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Healthcare Ailments

This was initially published on FutureChallenges.org. I’m particularly glad of this post as it constitutes an insight on Eastern Europe healthcare, and complements the global topic « In Sickness and In Health » that I suggested to the FutureChallenges.org community back in December 2012: ‘From Uganda to the United States and from China to Chile, access to healthcare is an enormous issue for citizens and governments. The economic burdens of many countries’ healthcare systems can seem trivial when compared with the persistent health crises that continue to trouble other countries. Access to healthcare differs not just between countries, but between regions, genders and classes. What role does healthcare play in determining economic success or failure? How can we bring better health to more people without bankrupting ourselves?’

With scary news about the “financial crisis shaking the world!” making the headlines every second day, you can easily end up blaming the godawful traders for every single bit of wrong-doing. Or Greece. As time goes by, I more and more have the impression that everyone around is turning into a life hacker: tinkering with life habits to avoid a disease has become a regular mission.

While the poverty gap continues to widen between member states of the eurozone, jobs in the south-eastern part of the European Union (EU) are vanishing at an alarming rate. We have all heard about those mind-blowing budget cuts such as the end of funding for the Erasmus educational exchange program. Generalized austerity is praised by most of the iron fists in European governments as the panacea to the financial crisis although its implementation is controversial and its effects are far from obvious. Which is only logical given that austerity measures are not imposed on the cradle of the crisis: traders and their ilk.

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Publié par le 15 janvier 2013 dans Health

 

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Freedom fighter Aaron Swartz commits suicide

I guess anyone out there has come up to know Aaron one way or the other. For me, it was when he created the RSS 1.0 specification, but more importantly after he freed an impressive amount of the JSTOR scientific publications repository. This bold action of knowledge sharing called for another copyright-prompted obscenity: he was charged with « data theft » and indicted on a wide range of charges. The prosecution continues, and Aaron was facing up to 35 years imprisonment. The thief who stole knowledge later founded DemandProgress.org, the movement that kicked off the campaign against internet censorship bills SOPA and PIPA.

MIT’s The Tech announced this morning that Aaron has committed suicide on January 11. May he rest in peace.

 
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Publié par le 12 janvier 2013 dans Digital freedom

 

[Brevia] Slovenia Backs Net Neutrality

The government adopted an Economic Communications Bill in September 2012, more importantly enforcing net neutrality. The government has also engaged into transposing the EU ‘cookie’ directive after it consistently failed enacting it (along with four other EU countries) and was referred to the European Court of Justice.

On 19 December 2012, the Electronic Communications Bill was passed by the Slovenian Parliament, and the rules are now officially published in the Official Journal on 31 December [PDF]. This makes Slovenia the second EU country — after the Netherlands — to have officially enforced net neutrality in its national legislation.

When will the EU Commissioner for the Digital Agenda wake up and resume working on enforcing this fundamental principle?

Note: for more on the Cookie Law Enforcement within the EU, check Cookiepedia out.

 
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Publié par le 3 janvier 2013 dans Digital freedom, Politique

 

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