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What are the Limits of Transparency and Technology? From Three Gurus of the Openness Movement (Eigen, Rajani, McGee)

Duncan Green's picture

After a slightly disappointing ‘wonkwar’ on migration, let’s try a less adversarial format for another big development issue: Transparency and Accountability. I have an instinctive suspicion of anything that sounds like a magic bullet, a cost-free solution, or motherhood and apple pie in general. So the current surge in interest on open data and transparency has me grumbling and sniffing the air. Are politicians just grabbing it as a cheap announcement in austere times? Does it contain some kind of implicit right wing assumptions (an individualist homo economicus maximising market efficiency through open data)? And is there any evidence that transparency actually has much impact on the lives of poor people (after all, the proponents of transparency and results-based agendas are often the same organizations, so I hope they are practicing what they preach….)

I put these fears to three transparency gurus, and here are their fascinating responses, striking in their quality and level of, well, openness. It’s a long read, but I hope you’ll agree, a worthwhile one. Think we’ll just stick with comments on this one – doesn’t feel like a vote would be useful (but let me know if you think otherwise)

Quote of the Week: Roger Cohen

Sina Odugbemi's picture

“The modern world’s tech-giddy control and facilitation makes us stupid.  Awareness atrophies.  Dumb gets dumber.  Lists are everywhere – the five things you need to know about so-and-so; the eight essential qualities of such-and-such; the 11 delights of somewhere or other.  We demand shortcuts, as if there are shortcuts to genuine experiences.  These lists are meaningless.”

- Roger Cohen, A Columnist of The New York Times.
 

Do We Need Media-Free Zones?

CGCS's picture

Christine Lohmeier examines media-free zones within the context of ontological security. Christine is an Assistant Professor at the University of Munich and former CGCS visiting scholar. Her research interests relate to inter/transnational communication, media and collective memory and identity and belonging.

The recent New York Times article Step Away from the Phone! describes the growing trend of device-free-zones, a movement where people make a conscious effort to not use their mobile phone during designated times. The omnipresence of media has long been established among communication scholars. Many will not have missed the irony of letting a mobile phone, and perhaps in past decades a camcorder or camera, get in the way of ‘real-life’ face-to-face interaction.

There are many studies, theories and approaches to drawn on when trying to assess the value of media or device-free zones. Think of Sherry Turkle’s warning inquiry of whether we expect too much of technology and too little of each other. Or the insightful research by Melissa Gregg in Work’s Intimacy where she demonstrates how constant connectivity seems to make people feel obliged to work on a constant basis. One of the underlying questions, of course, is why is it so difficult to step away from the computer, the mobile phone, or the TV? One explanation for our media-saturated life might be the need for a sense of security and belonging, of community.

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

The Future of News from 3 Silicon Valley Executives
The Dish Daily

"In a world transformed by the Internet and overrun by tech giants, the news industry has been irrevocably changed. Some lament, but few would argue. Those on the news side of things have been vocal for some time – analyzing and brainstorming, discussing and arguing – but we’ve not often heard what those behind the flourishing tech companies have to say.

Three notable Silicon Valley figures discussed the news industry with Riptide, a project headed by John Huey, Martin Nisenholtz and Paul Sagan and published by Harvard’s Nieman Journalism Lab." READ MORE 
 

Thanksgiving Woes? IBM and Big Data May Help.

Tanya Gupta's picture

In just about a week, on Thursday November 28, people all over the United States will kick off the "holiday season" with the celebration of Thanksgiving Day. While the day's significance is both historical and profound, in modern times it consists of a lot of shopping and a big meal with family and friends gathered around the dinner table. Pre-thanksgiving is a time to be on the lookout for creative new recipes.  Sure, we can get recipes from magazines, websites and friends and while they may be special, they will not be unique.  Wouldn’t it be nice to have an app that would create a special unique recipe just for you? A delightful recipe that has never been executed before.  Well the idea is not as futuristic as it sounds. It may be here sooner than you think.  IBM and big data have a lot to do with this particular innovation.
 
Can computers be creative?  IBM thinks they can.  IBM scientists Lav R. Varshney and other members of an IBM team, have used data sets and proprietary algorithms in the daunting field of the culinary arts to develop a computational creativity system. The data sets they have used are recipes, molecular level food related data and data about the compounds, ingredients and dishes that people like and dislike.  They then developed an algorithm that produces thousands or millions of new ideas from the recipes.  The recipes are then evaluated to select the best ones that combine ingredients in a way that has never been attempted before.  Humans can interact with the system by choosing a key ingredient and the kind of cuisine.

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Are Women Really Less Corrupt Than Men?
Slate

“Will electing more women to office make governments less corrupt? One new paper suggests in might—but the reason for that is not necessarily encouraging.

Previous research has suggested an association between a politician’s gender and their likelihood to engage in corrupt behavior. A World Bank study from 2001, for instance, found that “one standard deviation increase in [female participation in government] will result in a decline in corruption... of 20 percent of a standard deviation". This perception has been behind some well-publicized campaigns, such as Mexico City’s plan to employ all-female traffic cops in some areas.”  READ MORE

Quote of the Week: Bill Gates

Sina Odugbemi's picture

“I certainly love the IT thing.  But when we want to improve lives, you’ve got to deal with more basic things, like child survival, child nutrition.  As a priority? It’s a joke. Take this malaria vaccine, [this] weird thing that I’m thinking of.  Hmm, which is more important, connectivity or malaria vaccine? If you think connectivity is the key thing, that’s great. I don’t.”

- Bill Gates,  an American business magnate, investor, programmer, inventor and philanthropist. He is the founder and current Chairman of Microsoft.

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

'Many vested interests benefit from a lack of open government'
Public Leaders Network 

“In the first of a series of interviews with speakers and attendees at the Open Government Partnership (OGP) summit 2013, we talk to Professor Jonathan Fox, of the school of international service, American University, Washington.

He will moderate a session in which the founding eight OGP countries will present their two-year national action plans as well as reflect on their first progress report from the OGP's independent reporting mechanism. The OGP was launched in 2011, and is aimed at making governments more transparent and accountable.”  READ MORE
 

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