Monday, July 23, 2007

OII Call for Applications from Civil Society Practitioners in the global South

Oxford Internet Institute - Civil Society Practitioners Programme

Invitation to apply

The Oxford Internet Institute (University of Oxford) invites applications from the global South to fill two places in its Civil Society Practitioners Programme.

This visitor programme is intended for Civil Society Practitioners of distinction or outstanding promise who wish to visit the Institute for a period of six weeks between February and December 2008, to undertake research concerning the social impact of the Internet and related ICTs. Visitors are expected to reside in Oxford during their stay, and to participate fully in the intellectual life of the Institute. The successful applicants will receive:

* A subsistence allowance of 3800 GBP (7500 USD) to cover research expenses and living costs during their stay in Oxford
* A travel grant of up to 1000 GBP (2000 USD) for travel to and from the UK

Applications will ideally be submitted by Civil Society Practitioners in or from the global South, active in the areas of freedom of expression, media reform, media justice, and communications and information policy in the globalized context of the Internet.

How to apply

For details on how to apply, please download:
Information for Applicants (PDF, 45kb) at

You may also request to have this information emailed to you in plain text form. The deadline for completed applications to reach the OII Academic and Student Affairs Officer (by post or email: contact details below) is 26 September 2007. Please note that incomplete applications cannot be considered.

Final notification of an award will occur in November 2007. Successful candidates will be expected to take up their six week residency in Oxford at any time between February and December 2008.

Laura Taylor
Academic and Student Affairs Officer
Oxford Internet Institute
University of Oxford
1 St Giles, Oxford OX1 3JS
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0)1865 287222
Fax: +44 (0)1865 287211

This programme has been made possible through funding by the Ford Foundation´s Media, Arts and Culture unit.

This Call for Applications is also available at:

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Sunday, July 15, 2007

mindless movie-watching (Die Hard 4.0)

last night i was in the mood for doing s.thing mindless, so i went to the movies to watch Die Hard 4.0. i´d last seen Die Hard 1, and maybe 2, but never 3, so it seemed like the least likely option to go watch vis-à-vis my movie tastes, but i went after seeing the movie plot summary which rang: "Bruce Willis returns as John McClane for the fourth Die Hard movie. This time he tackles internet terrorists threatening to take down the entire American computer and technological structure (sic)." I thought, ok, let´s see how they tell thát tale.

if you want to know the plot summary, see the (very detailed, this-must-be-a-twelve-year-old-summing-up synopsis) over at IMDB. if you plan on seeing the movie, don´t read the synopsis...

ok. let it be noted that i had not seen one of these gratuitously violent movies in quite some time. so, there i sat, and in one of the very early scenes, one of the bad guys smashes the car window in order to grab Willis. thing is, you don´t see it coming. i didn´t. so, i jumped in my seat. which then had the effect of the guy in the seat next to me also jumping. at which point i burst out laughing! that was so ridiculous. jajaja.

ok. the movie itself. it was good as sheer entertainment. interestingly, it is based on a piece called "A Farewell to Arms" by John Carlin (see it in Wired, May 1997), but with Carlin´s idea updated for a post 9/11 world. the movie is credible in the sense that the disruptive events described seem all plausible (although some members of the audience, upon exiting, commented that the movie made no sense...). thing is, the events weren´t high-level in a technological sense at all, since that would have made for a difficult-to-grasp movie.

the tech destruction scenario referred to is called a "fire sale" in the movie. here from wikipedia:
Use as plot device
The term "fire sale" is used in the 2007 movie Live Free or Die Hard (Die Hard 4.0 in EU) to describe a hypothetical attack by computer hackers on vital networks of the United States government, infrastructure, and economy. Use of the term is explained with a reference to a typical fire sale: "everything must go." Any computer-operated system will be a target for such an attack, although the movie focused on four primary objectives: disrupting transportation, stealing and destroying financial records, disabling all public utilities, and creating fear with a PSYOP media campaign. This theoretical process drives the plot of the movie, threatening to bring the United States of America to its knees through widespread chaos and fear.
Retrieved from ""

some things that came to mind: so how come the baddies are always European/Continentals? in Die Hard 4.0 the bad guy´s henchmen are all French-speaking, and in the first movie the bad guys were all German. how come the techies are always weird marginal i-don´t-go-outside types? interesting that the suggestion is that the bad guy is privy to all this system information because he is a disgruntled ex-employee rather than that he was some random outsider who was able to find his way into the systems.

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Friday, July 13, 2007

one grows tired

this "tiredness theme" has two aspects. the first is prompted by a recent communication with a colleague (i mean this in a scholarly sense, i.e. we´ve never worked together as such) in South Africa, and then also my happening to meet a fellow South African last night, and the most pleasant conversation that ensued.
for some time now, and even before i´d left South Africa back in October 2005, i felt frustrated, for instance in terms of Open Access, since i knew we had the capacity to do things there, but that there was a lack of will within many institutions. but not taking OA-activity merely as metric, on all kinds of levels I feel that we (in SA) have so much that we can do; are capable of doing, towards improving the quality of living, education, etc. but that we were still so wrapped up in the joys of the post-apartheid era that we forgot that "the show must go on". cliché. i know. but so there we were, basking in the reflected glow of Nelson Mandela, whilst busy patting ourselves on the back for our 1994 achievement. of course, who can dispute that the change was not something amazing (if i called it a miracle (which is what ppl often say) that would somehow admit that such things cannot happen on the African continent. well, as Dr Phil likes to say: past behaviour is the best predictor of future behaviour, and yep, one cannot deny that African countries do not have a good track-record when it comes to political transitions).

but we need to be humble again, and get beyond the rhetoric of believing how great we are based on an achievement which had its crowning glory ca. 1994 to 2000. we need get over this notion of our having been the poster-child for a non-violent transition in Africa. the glory of that has long slipped away. we need to prove ourselves, again, and constantly, in all kinds of spheres, such as, innovation (see previous post) for sure, there are lots of great people working very hard, and doing great things in small and big ways. but, it´s about time that we stop patting ourselves on the back: the party is over (it ended, about seven years ago), the band has stopped playing, and we need to get back to work.

another thing which bears mentioning vis-à-vis tiredness is, when listening to the Professor of Poetry here at the uni at the Encaenia (awarding of honorary degrees here) i couldn´t help but think how tired he had sounded. now, i had no idea who the person was, so their reputation did not proceed them. i just had that particular performance by which to judge. and i thought then: jeez, if i had this guy as lit prof it would turn me away from the subject. he read a poem. the theme of the thing seemed apt enough. and yet, he read the poem, as if too-casually reading an article from the evening newspaper: with not a lot of effort, which amounted to a rather underwhelming poetry experience. was he ill? were the acoustics in the venue not suited to the timbre of his voice? i dunno. but what a missed opportunity for poetry that was. my experience of it: i just felt really sad.

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Sunday, July 08, 2007

Europaeum Review (latest)

Europaeum Review
The next Europaeum Review on The Medival (sic) Roots of Europe has been published this month, examining in part the relationship of the EU and Empire (see editorial). Articles include
Disunion: the true hallmark of the history of Europe?, by Professor Jean-Philippe Genet, Professor of Medieval History, University of Paris I-Sorbonne; Is Europe turning into a neo-medieval Empire? by Professor Jan Zielonka, Professor of European Politics and Ralf Dahrendorf Fellow at the European Studies Centre, Oxford; What is the story for our European Project? Professor Timothy Garton Ash, Honorary Chair of the European Studies Centre, St Antony's College, Oxford; and Can we save the European adventure? by Dr Curt Gasteyger, Director, Association for the Promotion and Study of International Security, and Honorary Professor, HEI, Geneva.

comment: the above is more a sort of newsflash. for those unfamiliar with the Europaeum, here a brief extract from their "Vision" page:

As the pace of European integration accelerates, decision-makers, opinion-formers, politicians and citizens in European countries increasingly need to 'think European', to transcend national perspectives and empathise with a European mix of national and international cultures.
To meet that challenge, 10 leading European university institutions have jointly set up an association designed to serve as an 'international university without walls', in which future scholars and leaders of our new Europe will have an opportunity to share common learning and confront common concerns together, from a formative age and throughout their active lives.
The members:
University of Oxford
Universiteit Leiden
Universitá di Bologna
Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn
Institut Universitaire de Hautes Etudes Internationales, Geneva
Université Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne
Univerzita Karlova V Praze
Universidad Complutense, Madrid
Helsingin Yliopisto, Helsinki
Jagiellonian University, Krakow

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Wednesday, July 04, 2007

"stereotype of Africa as non-competitive continent is simply not true

the below story landed in my mailbox. i want to highlight particularly:

"The stereotype of Africa as a non-competitive continent is simply not true," said John Page, chief economist for Africa at the World Bank. But across the continent, this potential is stymied by failures to make legal frameworks and trading processes less onerous for business, he added.

the full story below:

Industry’s bottom line on African innovation

R&D investment will come when capacity is there, say leaders

Kenya, South Africa and Tunisia have the best innovation climates in Africa, say business leaders. But despite a steady upward trend in economic growth, the continent still does not cut the mustard to attract significant R&D investment from industry.

Data to this effect comes from a survey published at the World Economic Forum “Davos for Africa” meeting in Cape Town from 13 to 15 June. It captures the perceptions of leading business executives from a cross-section of firms operating in African countries.

Of the 29 countries surveyed, Tunisia receives the most consistently high rating for its innovation capacity. It is the only country to register in the top three in all nine categories pertaining to science and technology [see table via link to PDF below]. It also gets the top overall score.

Tunisia’s hegemony might come as a surprise, since South Africa holds the number one spot in more categories. But the Southern giant is let down by poor quality science education and a shortfall of scientists. This fate is shared by Kenya, although the second runner up also falls short on IP protection.

A North-South divide can also be discerned in the data, which forms part of the Forum’s African Competitiveness Report 2007. Northern Africa chalks up the highest scores in categories related to skills and human resources, while Sub-Saharan Africa does well on research quality and technology transfer.

“Africa is doing well in basic areas of competitiveness but needs to focus more on technological readiness and market efficiency to really jump-start competitiveness,” said Jennifer Blanke, senior economist with the World Economic Forum and one of the authors of the competitiveness report.

The report compares Africa’s four largest economies—South Africa, Algeria, Nigeria and Egypt—to the Bric (Brazil, Russia, India and China) economies, suggesting the “Sane” countries have the potential to be the drivers of African economic growth. As a result, the authors suggest, international investment in Africa should not only focus on the poorest, but also go into bolstering economies that are doing well.

“The stereotype of Africa as a non-competitive continent is simply not true,” said John Page, chief economist for Africa at the World Bank. But across the continent, this potential is stymied by failures to make legal frameworks and trading processes less onerous for business, he added.

Economic growth in Africa measured 5.5 percent in 2006 and is expected to exceed six percent in coming years. But while the continent is experiencing its highest growth rates for decades, the dream of competing with other growing economies for multinational R&D investment remains elusive.

The majority of the countries surveyed by the Forum report attain only the lowest stage of economic development, namely “factor driven”. A handful—Benin, Botswana, Libya, Namibia and Tunisia—are described as “T1-2 transition economies”, which means that they are moving between stage one and stage two, which is “efficiency driven”. Only South Africa and Mauritius manage to reach the latter, while none attain the third level: “innovation driven”.

And while a session on R&D in Cape Town heard business representatives say that “the door was obviously open” in terms of their investing in R&D in Africa, in practice the scientific and technological quality is simply lacking at this stage.

“The R&D investment will come when demonstrated capability is there,” said Kenneth Willett, vice president and managing director for Africa of computer hardware giant HP.

For more on the “Davos of Africa” click on the links below.

Other sites Table to accompany article (PDF).
On this (research-africa) site More on the “Davos of Africa” - p.2. More on the “Davos of Africa” - p.20. More on the “Davos of Africa” - p.21.

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is that journal OA in some (or other) way? - see Journal Info

prior to 29 June, the way to find out of a journal (publisher) was well-disposed to Open Access, you would hop along to SHERPA/RoMEO to check the publisher copyright policy and whether they favoured self-archiving or not...

another measure would have been to see whether there was an Open Access journal for your article over at DOAJ (Directory of Open Access Journals) at Lund University.

now we have a new service from Lund University, called Journal Info.

what i like about the service is its one-stop-shop approach. where "full info" for a journal has been compiled, you can see the following info organised around three categories of "reader accessiblity", "cost", and "quality", with respective associated indicators.

(i chose one of my favourite journals: Research Policy, just to illustrate):

Research Policy

ISSN: 00487333
Subject: Science (General)
First published year: 1972

Reader accessibility
Open Access: No
Allows self-archiving of reviewed manuscript:
Hybrid: No
Alternative journals with Open Access:
The Journal of Philosophy, Science and Law PoS - Proceedings of Science Ingenierías Songklanakarin Journal of Science and Technology more alternative journals ...

Subscription price per article:
Subscription price per citation:

Databases indexing the journal: Social Sciences Citations Index --- International Political Science Abstract --- Compendex --- ABI/Inform
Journal eigenfactor:
Article Influence:
FRIDA score:
ISI impact factor: Available to Journal Citation Report subscribers

the above info is (cc) by-nc-sa

well, the copy&paste didn´t do justice to the info display over at the service itself, so have a look already(!).

i like particularly that price info is given. so that individual researchers can see the price their institutions pay for their favourite journals (info for which is usually opaque in the higher education system). further, i like that there is a listing of OA alternatives, and that one also gets an idea of the related journals in languages other than English.

see informational/promotional e-mail copied below:


Subject: Journal Info - information about journals with an OA-twist (

Dear All,

Lund University Libraries has, with financial support from the National Library of Sweden, put together a new tool to support researchers in their choice of journal for publication. The service, called ”Journal Info”, gives fast and simple access to journal information through a web interface, The journal information is divided up in general, accessibility, cost and quality and each area is supported by a number of relevant points. You can e.g. find in which databases a journal is indexed, how much it costs for the library to subscribe and which alternative OA journals exists. A total of 18,000 journals are currently supported in the database.

The service takes its aim at the researchers themselves and includes explanations for the interested beginner. The information is compiled from a larger number of services and will continually be updated. The service is designed to be a complement to DOAJ, the Directory of Open Access Journals (, which is also produced in Lund.

Welcome to test the new service. Please send comments and forward the announcement to fellow researchers and colleagues.

Best regards,

Håkan Carlsson
Biblioteksdirektionen / Head Office
Lunds universitet / Lund University Libraries
Box 134
221 00 LUND
Tel. +46 46-222 15 30
Fax + 46 46-222 36 82

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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

access and having a voice

my sitting down to blog was triggered by reading the following blogpost:

Why Geldof’s image of rotting Africa is ok by me Richard M Kavuma

the above post is a commentary on the (de)merits of the cover of a BILD Zeitung edited by Bob Geldoff, portraying an emaciated baby with headline: "30, 000 Menschen sterben in Afrika jeden Tag an Armut", roughly "30, 000 people die in Africa every day due to poverty". Kavuma goes on to question, then argue for, Geldof´s use of the image and (inadvertent) perpetuation of a stereotype; juxtaposing bad and good events, but letting the bad news gain the coverspot. well. i pondered in a similar vein recently when having bought the latest issue of Vanity Fair magazine, guest-edited by Bono. Unlike Geldof however, Bono´s aim was to portray the more positive side of the continent, accompanied by lovely portraits by Annie Leibovitz. my wondering in boh examples incorporated thinking about "who gets to tell the story?" a Western voice or one from the global South. and this goes to my general thinking on this topic of late, browsing then shelves of local bookshops; wondering why there could not be a Tony Judt equivalent for a book on Africa.

there is always a tension between painting (or is it sticking to?) the dire picture as opposed to foregrounding the positive. and even when foregrounding the positive, that can be misconstrued somehow.

this reminds me that, and by way of example, someone had once said to me that in one of the chapters for the South African Masters degree that I did, I spoke "too highly" of Stellenbosch University; that in my writings I had come across as someone wanting to stress the superiority of the university (read for that, "superiority above other South African universities") ...that never entered my thinking i must say, simply because my mind doesn´t work like that. my very modest and good-natured aim had been altogether different, in that i was trying to highlight the positive and the long-time presence cf. absence of connectivity in South African universities. so let me explain.

in my study, in the part where i had conducted a structured record review of web sites hosted on the university´s domain (to see if they were making working papers available from departmental homepages), i had an intro which described/chronicled the general development of the "wiring up" of the university in question. in this intro, i had wanted to portray and emphasise the positive side; to indicate that universities in South Africa (not just the one under study) enjoyed connectivity from an early stage. this was some effort to counter the stereotype of a largely digitally-disconnected continent and academic populace. to counter, in effect, this notion of overall backwardness that often characterises opinion re connectivity in Africa. well. my point has always been that academics at higher education institutions in South Africa (bearing in mind that I am speaking only of South Africa here) do have connectivity, and as such, should have been, and should be, further along with self-archiving activity.

i think what we now see however is that scholars all over still display a wide reluctance to self-archive; which i find profoundly unfortunate. whenever i have gotten up to speak about Open Access, i had felt that, given an intelligent and reasonable scholar before me, that the arguments _for_ OA would prove convincing in themselves. that on the basis of thát, people would go on to share their work openly.

instead, what i see is that we get bogged down in some kind of thrust and counter-thrust; tilting at windmills and losing sight (often) of the larger issue of access. yes, doesn´t it come down to that? and access in turn facilitates having a voice. these can happen at two levels, or in two spheres that i want to particularly highlight here.

the one: there can be the need for physical access; yes, just simple hooking-up to the Internet, and thát can facilitate giving people voices, and the platform from which to highlight social or other plights. not to toot the horn of bloggers everywhere, but let´s face it, i´d rather have blogs than not have them, since it means i can gain information from channels other than big media giants.

two asides come to mind from the latter observation.

aside one: some people say that blogs are just self-indulgent fora for ppl with nothing better to do. that, their presence complicates the information landscape, and so, this complexity is held up as some argument proof for not having blogs. logically, the reasoning is flawed of course.

aside two: some people say that self-archiving, and the complexity conjured up by versioning (i.e. not knowing which version of an article is _the_ authoritative version) makes for an argument contra self-archiving. here too the reasoning is flawed.

we should rather be paying attention to how to make the landscape less complex, and find ways of navigating the landscape, rather than saying that the landscape should not, or must not change.

per chance, as i am typing this up, a mail has come in announcing one such effort to orient to the information lanscape. see "An ecological approach to repository and service interactions" wiki

the second: how about access to research literature? just because i cannot fully comprehend a piece because it is way beyond my ken, does not make my having access to the article a useless endeavour. for, the thinking that infuses an article, though unrelated to my study domain, may still prove useful. or. a mere ability to have a look-see at cutting-edge research in domains apparently unrelated to my own, can be useful too. whatever happened to serendipity? that finding of a book in a part of the library you hardly go to, except now the library can grow and not be physically constrained. it seems obvious. some would say even utopian... thing is, i just don´t get why anyone would make a sustained argument for a closed-off library. and maybe, with the thinking that one encounters in domains outside one´s own, one could add one´s voice to scholarly debates in one´s own field in a new way. (the ecology of repositories approach is but one such example. there is a neat raison d´être from the European University Institute in the reasoning given for their workshops on "Questions, Methods and Results in Social Science Research" (QMR)" when they say:

The basic principle underlying QMR is that researchers –both individually and collectively - can greatly benefit by learning what is being developed beyond the confines of their own specific research agendas. Specialization should not be a source of defensive ignorance. But being exposed to –and taking advantage of – multidisciplinary criticism requires that researchers from different disciplines get to know which questions or facts, which methods or theories, which results or open inquiries, are being addressed by colleagues from other disciplines.

to say these things seem so obvious that it nags the brain. well, i am reminded here again, in speaking of "access" and "having a voice", of my attendance of the union debate (see webcasts at the OII, and Tobias´ blogpost done during and after the event)
now, i like Tobias´post overall, but there is a slight discrepancy between reality and reporting, where he says "ok, we are well 2 hours in the debate and so far we haven’t seen any female members voicing an opinion…". when in fact it was that when the floor was opened up for Q & A, a number of women in the audience had raised their hands to speak, but they were continuously and apparently ignored (how else to explain it) by the president of the house. noticing this, i turned to Tobias and said "he´s not giving any woman the forum". then later, JZ in his argument highlighted this very same gender-differentiation aspect. and though he (JZ) had phrased things differently, saying that the Internet provided a forum for liberty, even humanity, and for a spectrum of dissenting voices, which was in stark contrast to the binary yes/no door contraption for the debating venue... (think: a double door, opens in the middle. at the end of the evening, a brass pole is placed vertically, down the middle, and people indicate their vote of for or against the motion, by exiting on the left or right).

further, i would add that,unlike in the physical space of the Oxford Union debate hall, where women that evening had not been given the forum to speak, the Internet, in such circumstances, could facilitate the raising of the voice of those who were previously made to be silent. and that overall, the Internet as such was a means for greater civic participation.

i feel then that a similar argument is to be made for opening up access to research. that those previously made to be silent (researchers who work outside of the global (Western, mainly developed world) scientific agenda) can have a voice and a platform from which to give prominence to their works. but even those "in the centre" can also expose their works beyond some incestuous inner circle.

we know, and experience shows; that the current-and-inherited scientific publication and dissemination system does not facilitate much if any of the latter.

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