Breaking Barriers: The Potential of Free and Open Source Software for Sustainable Human Development – A Compilation of Case Studies from Across the World, by Nah Soo Hoe
(From the Asia-Pacific Development Information Programme’s website.)
This is a compilation of 14 case studies on the successful deployment of free and open source software (FOSS) in select projects from Africa, Asia-Pacific, Europe and Latin America. In each case study, the reason for choosing to use FOSS together with the development, implementation and impact of the FOSS applications are discussed. The benefits obtained and challenges encountered, as well as any valuable lessons learned are also highlighted.
Download Breaking Barriers [PDF, 980kB]
Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future, by Bill McKibbon
Publisher comments: The bestselling author of The End of Nature issues an impassioned call to arms for an economy that creates community and ennobles our lives.
In this powerful and provocative manifesto, Bill McKibben offers the biggest challenge in a generation to the prevailing view of our economy. For the first time in human history, he observes, â€œmoreâ€ is no longer synonymous with â€œbetterâ€â€”indeed, for many of us, they have become almost opposites. McKibben puts forward a new way to think about the things we buy, the food we eat, the energy we use, and the money that pays for it all. Our purchases, he says, need not be at odds with the things we truly value.
McKibbenâ€™s animating idea is that we need to move beyond â€œgrowthâ€ as the paramount economic ideal and pursue prosperity in a more local direction, with cities, suburbs, and regions producing more of their own food, generating more of their own energy, and even creating more of their own culture and entertainment. He shows this concept blossoming around the world with striking results, from the burgeoning economies of India and China to the more mature societies of Europe and New England. For those who worry about environmental threats, he offers a route out of the worst of those problems; for those who wonder if there isnâ€™t something more to life than buying, he provides the insight to think about oneâ€™s life as an individual and as a member of a larger community.
McKibben offers a realistic, if challenging, scenario for a hopeful future. As he so eloquently shows, the more we nurture the essential humanity of our economy, the more we will recapture our own.
Information Politics on the Web, by Richard Rogers
(Excerpted from Adrienne Massanari’s review on the RCCS website.)
Calling his work an “expose on the politics of information devices on the Web” (1), Rogers, Head of New Media at the University of Amsterdam and Director of the Govcom.org Foundation, works from the simple and seldomly interrogated premise that information on the Web competes for individual attention, especially since many individuals use search engines as their primary mode of navigating the Web. He distinguishes two forms of information politics at play online: front-end, which governmental and private organizations practice through certain restrictions they place on the type of dialogue that individuals can engage in on their Web sites; and back-end, which occurs mainly in the seemingly impenetrable space of search engine algorithms and shady payola deals where sites receive prominent rankings by paying search engines producers. The first chapter of Information Politics devotes considerable time providing useful examples that illustrate and delineate practices falling into these two categories, and provides information about several tools his group (www.govcom.org) developed to interrogate this complex information space: the lay decision support system, the issue barometer, the Web issue index, and the election issues tracker. Rogers presents the findings of using these tools to interrogate certain social/political issues, like the discourse surrounding Viagra use, genetically modified foods, and the coverage of globalization after the G8 conference in Genoa. Each tool and issue is outlined in chapters 2-5 in the book. Rogers does a fine job of detailing the methodological assumptions he and his team makes when creating tools like the Web issue tracker (and these are also included on the Web site). For this reason alone, the book provides a useful narrative of the way social science research is conducted behind closed doors.
A Different Universe: Reinventing physics from the bottom down, by Robert Laughlin
(Via Mediated, run by Curt Gardner)
…Stanford physics professor (and Nobel winner) Robert Laughlin[‘s] thesis is that we are leaving the age of reductionism and entering the age of emergence. By this he means that we may well have learned one set of fundamental laws of how matter works, but there are many limits to what we can do with these laws in terms of predicting higher-level collective phenomenon.
The book is written for the layman (ie. no equations!), and I still found some of the detail hard to understand, but the main point comes across. One example of what heâ€™s describing is the behavior of elements as they go through phase transitions (while weâ€™re used to thinking of gas, liquid, solid, there are apparently many other states at extreme temperatures). These phases exhibit certain properties which are consistent with the fundamental laws, yet have new behaviors that no one could predict from those laws. Only though experimental measurement have we found out about these states.
I find myself in agreement with his thesis; I too believe there is much more that we can discover about how the universe works. The book is entertaining but perhaps a bit light once getting the main concept across.
The Art of Free Cooperation, by Geert Lovink and Trebor Scholz
(Overview by AK Press)
This book takes an inventory of the art of collaborative practice, surveys the landscape of new, cooperation-enhancing technologies, and renders the inner workings of cooperative processes as a new model for social movements. Civic participation is on the decline, but, online, more people work together than ever before. Activists contribute citizen journalism. New media artists create social online tools and urge others to participate. Knowledge collectives gather information in large, open repositories. Free culture – with all its file sharing applications – is blossoming. Contributors Howard Rheingold, Christoph Spehr, Brian Holmes, Geert Lovink and Trbor Scholz link the debates about web-based, cooperation-enhancing technologies to the broader world of political activism. This book and its accompanying DVD emerge out of intensive debates at the Free Cooperation conference in 2004 at the State University of New York at Buffalo facilitated by Scholz and Lovink.
Drop by the P2P Foundation Bookstore for a selection of the best P2P-related books organized by topic!