Smart Trash: what your trash says about you

moneygarbageIt is already a fact: with many products being tagged in the production process to monitor where they go or what trash can they finish in, our trash has officially become another piece of the juicy cake of data mining.

As Big Data gets more and more attention, new windows to our personal privacy open, and a new one might let out some stench: we are talking about “smart trash”. It involves tagging every trash item of households with a tracking tag that identifies where it is, what it is made from, etc.

Indeed, it may have several benefits as tags can notify collectors when garbage cans need to be emptied or what are the citizens’ recycling patterns like. However, many concerns arise, especially while considering that governments and private corporations already can mine our personal data and they are being able to gather information on where we go, with whom we communicate or what we search and buy, among others. Where the limit is becomes unclear.

It seems, however, that data compilation from trash is not as easy as it looks on TV, because linking trash collected from particular households to its origins is complicated. That said, trash tracking might make us uncomfortable, as well as it could become a significant source of value for marketers. Our garbage, then, is a stinky treasure.

 Read the article in full: Talkin’ Trash. What your trash says


FCC approves plan to allow for paid priority on Internet

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The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday voted in favor of advancing a proposal that would dramatically reshape the way consumers experience the Internet, opening the possibility of Internet service providers to charge Web sites for higher-quality delivery of their content to American consumers.

The plan, approved in a three-to-two vote along party lines, could unleash a new economy on the Web where an Internet service provider such as Verizon would charge a Web site such as Netflix for the guarantee of flawless video streaming.

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How age, gender and social media converge in Hollywood

novak( a letter for a friend)

Hi! I remember how at your nice dinner party, we had been chatting about my new research on aging, and how women in Hollywood were especially vulnerable in this aspect.
The next thing, at the Oscar ceremony, 81-yrs-old Kim Novak – which had been an icon of beauty and talent for so many people worldwide – was publicly ridiculed for her looks by the audacious “hostess”.

This story has lived the most unexpected, hilarious consequence in social media as a “solidarity campaign” with Kim, picked up by British women and has yielded millions of UK pounds to the cancer research.
I am fascinated by the story. For me, it’s about the meaning of aging; how people become aware of “all the lies about aging” (comments are interesting, especially in the 1st article!); but also about the power of social networks and the rediscovered human solidarity.

I thought you might find it interesting, too, so I decided to share it.

Laura Lippman’s selfie ‘in solidarity’ with Kim Novak sets off tweet trend

#nomakeupselfie raises ‘unprecedented’ £8m for cancer research

Use of the internet is expected to triple by 2017: Environmental concerns related to it

The Greenpeace’ report released this April indicates that the web may help destroy “the very fabric of our life on Earth”, due to the carbon-based sources of power it uses and the electronic waste that is left behind by its discarded gadgetry. This article summarizes and explains such risks. They are especially important now, because use of the internet is expected to triple by 2017.

The two new reports – the Pew Internet Research Project report and the Greenpeace Report  give different perspectives on this.


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Working Together to keep the Web Open and Free: Tim Berners-Lee on its 25th Anniversary

In March 1989, Tim Berners-Lee, 58, established a place for himself in the history books by creating the World Wide Web. That month, the Briton, who at the time worked for the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), wrote a paper titled “Information Management — A Proposal.” His research led to the development of the first Web browser and, finally, the World Wide Web. Today, Berners-Lee is a professor at the Massachussetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the University of Southhampton in England. He is also a Sir and doctor honoris causa at several universities, OpenUniversity of Catalonia, among them (since 2008).

       tim bernerslee uocIn this skype interview by Spiegel Online, Tim Berners-Lee looks back on his creation — its strengths, the threats it poses and how Edward Snowden’s revelations have raised awareness about Internet integrity.

 SPIEGEL ONLINE: Looking back 25 years, what was one of the most important milestones in the Web’s development?

Berners-Lee: When I first developed the Web technology at CERN in Geneva, there was another system called Gopher. I didn’t think it was as good as the Web, but it started earlier and had more users. At a certain point the University of Minnesota, which had created the Gopher system, said that in the future they would possibly charge a royalty for commercial uses. Gopher traffic immediately dropped off and people moved to the World Wide Web. CERN management then made a commitment — I can still remember the date, April 30, 1993 — that royalties would never be charged for using the Web. That was a very important step because it established a trend.

Read this remarkable interview in full:

In this 2008 speech at UOC,Tim Berners-Lee already call to work together to “ensure it will be  one web”


Women's Rights after the Arab Spring


The revolutions that swept across the Middle East in 2011, known as “The Arab Spring,” promised greater freedoms for many in the region, including women. While there have been some advances in women’s rights, the promise in many cases has not been realized.

While the new constitutions in Egypt and Tunisia guarantee greater rights for women, the laws that keep women safe are often not enforced. On the one hand, revolution took conservative forces to the fore – which do not empathize with women at all. On the other hand, the new political ground empowers women and provides a chance for shift.

Turkey has often been at the forefront of women’s rights in the Middle East. But the recent rhetoric of Prime Minister Erdogan, and more conservative social norms encouraged by the Government have raised increasing concerns about equality for women. A quarter of Turkish marriages involve a child bride. Half of women over the age of 15 have reported abuse at home. Only 26% of girls graduate high school. These are just some examples of the challenges women’s rights are facing in Turkey.

 While the Gulf is often considered more conservative when it comes to women’s rights, attitudes may be shifting. Opposite to these countries where revolutions jeopardized and even rolled back recently achieved rights for women, in Gulf’s Arab Dynasties people have seen greater social and political reforms.

According to Isobel Coleman, a Senior Fellow for U.S. Foreign Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations, it’s important to remember that every country and the starting point for women in every country is really quite different. Arguably, in Tunisia, women were starting from the highest point – very high levels of education. Education eases women’s empowerment, and that is why in some lands women’s civil society groups organized, got people out, and denounced this as somehow code that “complementary” means not-equal, and really demanded language around equality, which they do have in the constitution.

Women rights are, then, a hot issue not only in Arab Countries but in the whole international community. To cite an example, UNESCO and the Government of Pakistan signed an agreement to support better access, improved quality and safe learning environments for girls in the hard-to-reach areas of Pakistan.

Tim Berners-Lee: we need to re-decentralise the web

Twenty-five years on from the web’s inception, its creator has urged the public to re-engage with its original design: a decentralised internet that at its very core, remains open to all.

Speaking with Wired editor David Rowan at an event launching the magazine’s March issue, Tim Berners-Lee said that although part of this is about keeping an eye on for-profit internet monopolies such as search engines and social networks, the greatest danger is the emergence of a balkanised web.

“I want a web that’s open, works internationally, works as well as possible and is not nation-based,” Berners-Lee told the audience, which included  Martha Lane Fox,  Jake Davis (AKA Topiary) and Lily Cole. He suggested one example to the contrary: “What I don’t want is a web where the  Brazilian government has every social network’s data stored on servers on Brazilian soil. That would make it so difficult to set one up.”

It’s the role of governments, startups and journalists to keep that conversation at the fore, he added, because the pace of change is not slowing — it’s going faster than ever before. For his part Berners-Lee drives the issue through his work at the Open Data Institute, World Wide Web Consortium and World Wide Web Foundation, but also as an MIT professor whose students are “building new architectures for the web where it’s decentralised”. On the issue of monopolies, Berners-Lee did say it’s concerning to be “reliant on big companies, and one big server”, something that stalls innovation, but that competition has historically resolved these issues and will continue to do so.

When asked what he would have done differently, the answer was easy. “I would have got rid of the slash slash after the colon. You don’t really need it. It just seemed like a good idea at the time.”

Read in full:

Wired UK

What does Mandela mean for ordinary people in South Africa

The most touching Mandela tribute came from the least expected place…

The choir began an “impromtu” rendition of Asimbonanga [We have not seen him], singing:

Asimbonanga [we have not seen him]
Asimbonang’ uMandela thina [we have not seen Mandela]
Laph’ekhona [in the place where he is]
Laph’ehleli khona [in the place where he is kept]

Asimbonang ‘umfowethu thina [we have not seen our brother]
Laph’ekhona [in the place where he is]
Laph’wafela khona [in the place where he died]
Sithi: Hey, wena [We say: hey, you]
Hey, wena nawe [Hey, you and you]
Siyofika nini la’ siyakhona [when will we arrive at our destination]

The song was written during Mandela’s incarceration as a call for his freedom.

What does Mandela mean for the world?

MandelaMany things, which will become clearer with deeper reflection. There is nostalgia for the example of the life dedicated to the public good, now a chimera in an age of cheap populism. There is affirmation for the principle of leadership through values. And here, Mandela’s life and death could be a mirror from the South back to the North. We should remember that Margaret Thatcher’s government denigrated him as a terrorist.*

We should also remember that apartheid was founded in the racism of British colonialism…

Read in full:


* as the US government also did. It was only in 2008 when Mandela was removed from the US terrorist list.
In fact, as reported by William Blum, it was the US Central Intelligence Agency tip about Mandela’s whereabouts and appearences that helped the security service of South African government arrest Mandela.

Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women: not much to celebrate yet

endViolenceDay for the Elimination of Violence against Women was celebrated as each November 25. In spite of the traditional institutional events, public statements and motions and a big array of good intentions and wills, the situation for women is today worse than it was some years ago. Some data and testimonies coming from Spain are woefully representative of that reality.

Carolina García from Tu Voz Cuenta (Your Voice Matters) campaign asserts that cuts in social policy limits the chance for women to make their own choices regarding to their bodies, relationships and autonomy and represent a new type of violence against women. Immaculada Montalbán, President of the Gender-Based Violence Observatory of the Spanish General Council of Judiciary (henceforth CGPJ) states that in such a context of uncertainty women are less likely to report violence to the police because they feel much more dependent on their partners. CGPJ points out that before the crisis 30% of abused women reported their situation to the police; today only 16% dare.

According to CGPJ’s data, reports decreased by 10% between 2008 and 2012 in Spain. The Catalan Ministry of Internal Affairs  claims that women murdered by men jumped from 9 in 2008 to 15 in 2012 (+67%), while reports and convictions fell by 3% and 25% respectively. Crisis has heavily worsened women situation as they are now more dependent and vulnerable. Less individual economic resources and harmful budget cuts are threatening several previous achievements which are increasingly being wounded.