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The non-profit grassroots organization ahumanright.org recently launched a bold new campaign to help to bring Internet access to some of the 5 billion people who aren’t online. They hope to raise sufficient funds to buy the abandoned TerreStar-1 satellite and offer free Internet access to citizens of impoverished nations, funded by renting usage of the satellite to other communications companies.

If it succeeds, it could become a lot harder for governments to shut down the Internet in their countries during civil unrest, as the satellite coverage would span international boundaries and the organization would be managed with a human right to information at its core.

If you have a spare $1m lying around you can make a donation at http://www.buythissatellite.org/. Read more at TIME or watch the TEDx talk.

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One step away from lost privacy?

Cafe Couple (cc) by iFovea on Flickr

Imagine you’re out in town one day. You feel free and anonymous, so when the opportunity arises and you have an illicit cigarette, pop into a sex shop or have coffee with an ex, you assume no-one will know. But with technology that already exists today, this basic right to keep your actions secret could be gone. Here’s how it will happen: Read more »

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Leon Walker could face up to 5 years in prison for reading his wife's e-mail, despite uncovering her affair.

In Michigan, a man has been charged with a felony after reading his wife’s email without permission. If convicted, this could set the precedent that anyone reading a family member’s private mail would be committing a crime.

In some cases this might seem reasonable, but could it mark the beginning of a slippery slope? What about parents who have legitimate reasons to monitor their childrens’ internet usage – could they soon be deemed criminals?

Read the full story at the Detroit Free Press.

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Memories in the Facebook Age

Richard Rushfield has spent the last few years writing the memoirs of his college years in the mid-1980s. As it happens, just as he needed to find more material to expand on the fragments he remembered, Facebook exploded, and suddenly his past was alive again, all those people he remembered could be consulted and could contribute to the memoir. But soon, the book and the discussions of it on Facebook re-ignited old feuds and the past he was trying to memorialize was alive and kicking again.

Facebook encourages us to hold on to our past, and in a way, it lives on there for ever. As Richard writes:

No memoirist can write without making every effort to doublecheck one’s own past. But when the past becomes a moving target, how is one to nail it down?

Read the full article at The Daily Beast.

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Human 2.0 Holiday Highlights

What better way to ring in the New Year than to put your feet up and enjoy a few re-runs? Here are some of our most popular posts from the last year or so as well as a few you might have missed…

1. Posthumanity and digital superpowers

From http://www.flickr.com/photos/jdm1979uk/3607288494

We’ve been blogging about Human 2.0 for over two years now, but it was this April that we split off from Bitcurrent and launched this site. We kicked off with two launch posts… a high-level scene-setter called Welcome to posthumanity:

“We’re becoming a new species–one that can hack its own cognition and edit its own biology. We’re all getting an upgrade, like it or not. This is the most important subject of the century, but it’s still hiding in academia and science fiction. We hope to change that.”

Ten superpowers the Internet gave us

…and a look at some of the tangible ways in which the Internet gives us superpowers:

We may not realize it, but the Internet has given us superhuman abilities. Technology lets us to do things that were impossible 30 years ago – from speaking foreign languages and armchair travel to global messaging and virtual worlds. Welcome, Human 2.0, these are your superpowers.

2. It’s all about the data

Read more »

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File-sharing in the great outdoors

A "Dead Drop" in New York City

Inspired by geocaching and a desire to get technology out into the physical world, media artist Aram Bartholl has spawned a new Internet phenomenon. “Dead drops” are USB sticks cemented into walls of public buildings, with their locations plotted online at deaddrops.com, the site which invites you to “un-cloud your files in cement”. Together the drops form “an anonymous, offline, peer to peer file-sharing network in public space”.

The idea is that anyone can upload or download files by plugging their laptop into the wall. The project has sparked a great deal of controversy with some describing the drops as “electronic glory holes”, but as Bartholl says “It’s very much about the thrill and the idea of what could be on there.”

Read an interview with Aram Bartholl at .net.

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color stay by unclestabby from http://www.flickr.com/photos/unclestabby/2706034988/

As we move online, the definition of a community changes. Our neighbors aren’t just those people physically near us, but those we hang out with. This flexible definition of a community has serious repercussions for law and social morals: when we find kindred spirits online, we start thinking that everyone is just like us. At the same time, different communities hold us to different standards, and now that those communities leak into one another we need to apply context to our judgement.

In the 1970s bestseller The Joy Of Sex, we learn about a man who could only be aroused in a bathtub full of spaghetti. Back then, he probably led a lonely, normal life — albeit one in which he bought a lot of pasta and had a higher water bill than his neighbors. It’s unlikely that he had friends who shared his particular turn-on. Read more »

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Bitnorth 2010: The Human 2.0 Weekend

In late August, CAMMAC (a music camp north of Montreal) hosted the third annual Bitnorth conference. This year the theme was Human 2.0. Attendees presented a 5 minute “short bit” on a topic of their choice, which inspired many lively debates. Slides and recordings will be online soon but in the meantime, here are some of the interesting Human 2.0 ideas and questions that emerged over the course of the weekend: Read more »

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Ben Schneiderman opens HCI2010 in DundeeToday at the opening keynote of the British Computer Society’s HCI 2010 conference, UX pioneer Ben Shneiderman gave an uplifting address about the need to expand the use of technology and social media for civic good.

He gave many examples of existing systems that harness the Internet to help with human problems – such as 911.gov, a conceptual site which would allow US residents to report crimes, but more importantly to request and give assistance to each other. For example, allowing a disabled resident being able to find a volunteer to help them get out of the building in an evacuation. Real-world examples included amberalert.gov and nationofneighbors.net as well as the use of Twitter to track the spread of Californian wildfires. Another example was patientslikeme.com which takes a more open view to the sharing of personal medical data than most current medical institutions, but has shown measurable benefits for the participants.

Ben highlighted the nascent nature of such thinking in the public consciousness, and speculated that greater steps need to be taken to help the public see both what is possible but also to give them the tools to make better use of data for good. To achieve this, he said, we will need deep science research to take place which can then be applied to everyday systems and functions.

As an example, Ben introduced SocialAction, a network analysis tool for researchers which can uncover hidden information in human networks. In the following video you can see the tool being used to uncover the strength of relationships between US Senators who voted the same up to 2007. Read more »

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Is photography a human right?

Today we photograph more than ever before – and thanks to the negligible cost, we film situations that would never have been captured before. But police and other authority figures do not want to be recorded, and all over the world a battle is playing out between officials pushing current laws to extremes to prevent such recordings, and citizens who fight back with equal vigour to protect their freedom to photograph.

Should photography be criminalized and recording devices banished from any situation where that recording might be used for ill? Or should we assert our right to capture anything we experience as a fundamental right?

Read more »

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