a curious Yankee in Europe's court

blog about living in Europe, and Italy

Assolutamente incredibile! RomaEuropa FakeFactory

Posted on the November 20th, 2010

The phrase you have to see it to believe it truly earns its meaning with the project, RomaEuropa FakeFactory: the book! If you want to put that statement to the test, watch the video above (Italian). (Excerpts below from REFF press releases)

Where did FakeFactory come from?

The story begins with the opening of the Romaeuropa WebFactory, a digital art competition launched in 2008 by the Romaeuropa Foundation (Fondazione Romaeuropa) and Telecom Italia….

What is its purpose?

FakeFactory (www.romaeuropa.org) was an act of artivism, in favor of free culture and non-proprietary rights for authors. This network confronted the themes of art and hacking, political activism and technology, copyright and intellectual property and extended to access, cultural politics, crowdsourcing, open source models, peer-to-peer economic governance and the reinvention of the real…

How does it work?

The REFF experiment is more than its content, designing a new possibility for publishing: the book comes  fully integrated with a digital dimension through the use of Augmented Reality in the form of QRCodes and Fiducial Markers. These devices transform the experience of reading, enhancing it with an interactive dimension through the REFF network and global social networks, in a way that is completely uncensored.

The software is deposited on paper as hypertext, making it clickable, expandable, commentable and reactive, opening a virtually unlimited space for comparison between authors and readers on issues and debates on the book, dissolving the traditional boundaries that separate them. This book develops a new prototype of infinite potential for the intersection between digital and paper dimensions…

Who participates and why?

Supporters of the REFF are found all over the world: over 80 partners among universities, artists, academies, associations, hackers, researchers, designers, journalists, politicians, magazines, networks, activitst, art critics, architects, musicians and entrepreneurs together with all the people who share a belief that art, design and new technologies can unite towards a critical, yet positive vision of a world that can create new opportunities and new ways of being, collaborating and communicating.

To learn more about the REFF project, see here. And you may want to see this.

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Umberto Eco and the late newspaper

Posted on the June 13th, 2008

It’s not difficult to find a lot of discussion online and elsewhere these days about the current rapid decline of newspapers in the U.S. and elsewhere. It’s also not too difficult to find a lot of blame being tossed around at times in those discussions about who or what is at fault.

Writing recently in his regular column for L’espresso, however, Umberto Eco says it’s not anyone’s fault, no more than the hole in the ozone is. The decline of newspapers is a result of our technological development, according to Eco, and it’s just a fact. But, he adds, it’s an embarrassing one (“Parlare in ritardo” La Bustina di Minerva, April 17, 2008). Note – in Italian only.

Describing what the newspaper has become these days, Eco writes:

Così il giornale diventa come una serata in famiglia, dove il nonno ripete per la milionesima volta la storia di quando aveva subito i bombardamenti, il babbo snocciola i suoi luoghi comuni sulla situazione economica, poi si parla un po’ male del vicino notoriamente cornuto, o si commenta la trasmissione televisiva appena vista. Niente di male, anzi bellissima situazione di socializzazione, ma non era questa, all’inizio degli inizi, la funzione delle gazzette, finestre che di colpo e inopinatamente si spalancavano ogni mattina sull’imprevisto.

(Translation, roughly: Just so the newspaper becomes like spending an evening with the family, where the grandfather repeats for the umpteenth time the story of when he was caught under a bombing attack, the father rattles off his usual opinions on the economic situation, then there is some mildly unkind talk about a neighbor who is notoriously being cheated on, or comments about a television program that was just watched. Nothing bad, on the contrary, a wonderful social situation but this wasn’t, at the very beginning, the function of the newspapers (which were) windows suddenly and unexpectedly thrown open each morning on the unforeseen.)

If this excerpt whets your appetite to read more Eco, I also found this reprint of an interview (in English) he gave to a reporter in New York last December (Interview with Umberto Eco, “The Armani of Italian literature,” Umberto Eco talks to Ben Naparstek, Dec 8, 2007, The Sydney Morning Herald).

UPDATE: Questo post in italiano (parziale)

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Online video comedy sometimes not so funny

Posted on the March 12th, 2008

Following up on yesterday’s post about online video viewers, here’s a video interview with Chris Albrecht, a reporter at NewTeeVee.com. This site, according to its launch announcement in 2006, is devoted to online video, and other technologies that are reinventing the video experience. See press release here (“Introducing, NewTeeVee” Feb 4, 2006).

In this interview last week with Beet.TV.com, Albrecht talks about the glut in comedy videos online now. He says “anybody can be the next viral sensation” these days, but that there’s a trick to it:

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Twitter: it’s not so simple

Posted on the March 7th, 2008

No, I am not saying this keeping-in-touch technology isn’t simple to use, because it is. I’m referring to more substantive uses of the mini-blogging service that may surprise you, just as they did me.

For example, last October the Los Angeles Fire Department made use of Twittering while fighting California’s wildfires. Also, the University of Texas at San Antonio College of Engineering uses Twitter to pass along info to its students. And U.S. presidential candidates Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards all use the service. This all according to Wikipedia. (And see here for a video of a University of Texas prof describing how he uses Twitter with his students — “Teaching With Twitter”, Professor David Parry).

But what is Twitter exactly?

It’s an ultra-streamlined messaging service. Each message is limited to 140 characters only, but you can send that message simultaneously to as many people as you like (from your cell phone or computer). And the service itself is free.

Just last month, an article in The New York Times described Twitter’s popularity (“If You Can’t Let Go, Twitter”
by Michelle Slatalla, Feb 4, 2008):

Twitter’s popularity is growing steadily (nearly 1.2 million users visited Twitter.com in December, a 223 percent increase over the same month in the previous year, according to comScore Inc., which measures Internet traffic). But it still has a much smaller following than top social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook.

Two more places to go for more info: One is a short, but highly informative, video interview with Twitter co-founder Biz Stone — done last August by Intruders.tv. And for a sense of why the average Twitterer, perhaps, enjoys the service, see this article in Wired last June (“Clive Thompson on How Twitter Creates a Social Sixth Sense,” June 26, 2007)

And to find out in two minutes how to use Twitter, watch this video below, just posted this week on YouTube, by commoncraft.com.

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Yahoo as aspirin for Microsoft’s “zero dollar” migraine

Posted on the February 9th, 2008

Writing today in The New York Times about Microsoft’s proposed takeover of Yahoo, tech reporter Matt Richtel explains that “zero dollar” is the insider’s phrase for the burgeoning trend of software wants to be free (“Facing Free Software, Microsoft Looks to Yahoo” Feb 9, 2008).

“A growing number of consumers are paying just that — nothing. This is the Internet’s latest phase: people using freely distributed applications, from e-mail and word processing programs to spreadsheets, games and financial management tools. They run on distant, massive and shared data centers, and users of the services pay with their attention to ads, not cash,”Richtel writes.

How much this free software preference is motivating Microsoft in its yearning for Yahoo is the subject of Richtel’s article. He quotes various technology experts and corporate spokespeople on the subject. A conversation he recounts with a college student whose software of choice is the free stuff is particularly interesting.

Financial Times also has a brief article today discussing this aspect of Microsoft’s interest in Yahoo here (“Microsoft’s motivation” Feb 9, 2008, subscriber only).

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Can Google woo Yahoo

Posted on the February 5th, 2008

Top fave search engine Google is hoping to block a marriage between its ailing competitor Yahoo and software giant Microsoft, according to a video report (below) from Reuters yesterday.

“Google has offered and Yahoo is now considering a business alliance,” Bobbi Rebell reports in the video.

Microsoft’s unsolicited bid to buy Yahoo a few days ago is getting front row and center treatment from many news organizations, if you’ve noticed. And the analysis and conversation from business and technology experts and others about the proposed deal is becoming a virtual blizzard.

From today’s stories on the matter, here are links to features at the The Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post about some of the complexities and pros and cons of it all.

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The Boldness of Boly

Posted on the December 18th, 2007

In a small village in the Hungarian countryside, the 3,800 residents of a slo-mo place called Boly are showing the world how to take technology seriously and change daily life as most of us know it. In Boly, they’re wired, as the reporter in the Reuters video says (A village that clicks, reporter Matt Cowan, Reuters, Nov 27, 2007).

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Exaflood: Is it real or is it Oz?

Posted on the December 11th, 2007

When I came across a video on the website of the Internet Innovation Alliance (IAA) warning that at predicted growth rates, online user traffic soon is going to overwhelm capacity, I was fascinated. This approaching tsunami of user demand has been christened with its own name, the Exaflood. What exactly this is, and the user growth patterns of the Internet that are feeding its ominous arrival are presented by IAA in an informative and concise visual package.

Of course, the question that then came to mind was whether there is more than one side to this story.

Nosing around online, I soon found a recent article by New York Times technology reporter Steve Lohr that addressed this very issue (“Is the Exaflood Coming?”, New York Times, Nov 30, 2007).

So in this post, for anyone interested, I re-trace my beginning path in learning some basics about this dark spectre of the Exaflood. Is the threat real? Or is it mostly a scary PR tactic by those opposed to net neutrality (net neutrality = all users are created equal, in effect)?

I recommend that you first read Lohr’s brief analysis (link above). Then, watch the IAA video below. Then decide for yourself.

Whether you agree, disagree or reserve judgement, you’ll be more prepared, in any case, to understand this crucial discussion that is underway.

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