Lift12 Open Stage: Benjamin Wiederkehr, Ville Vivante [en]

[fr] Je suis à la conférence Lift12 à Genève ces prochains jours. Voici mes notes de sessions.

Live-blogging from Lift12 conference in Geneva. These are my notes and interpretations of the open stage sessions — best effort, but might be imprecise or even wrong!

Great data visualisation following mobile phones in and out of the city of Geneva, from Benjamin Widerkehr.

Ville Vivante Trailer from Interactive Things on Vimeo.

Guy from mayor’s office: un autre regard sur la ville. Desire to allow visitors and inhabitants to see the city differently every day. Wifi benches. 200 free wifi spots. Make it visible in the material world! People want wifi, but have many questions regarding what was going to happen with the data. The Mayor decided, with Ville Vivante, to create a project which would ask questions and bring some answers before people started asking about them.

They started with mobile phones. Set up billboards, and a screen displaying the film.

In Geneva, the best way to know that people are happy about something is that they do not complain.

Geneva is a very congested city. Public transport users blame car users, car users complain about bicycles, etc. With a project like this we have actual data on where and how people are going. This can be precious information to make decisions for example, whether or not to make a zone pedestrian or not, or where/when to send garbage trucks (you don’t want to send a truck on a route where it will hold up traffic for 3 hours!)

Lift12 Mobile: Fabian Hemmert [en]

[fr] Je suis à la conférence Lift12 à Genève ces prochains jours. Voici mes notes de sessions.

Live-blogging from Lift12 conference in Geneva. These are my notes and interpretations of Fabian Hemmert‘s session — best effort, but might be imprecise or even wrong!

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Technological innovation is often about more Mpx, more Mb, but what about social innovation? Uses, habits?

Example: the telephone is now everywhere; new habits: checking it all the time.

The comfort zone of innovation is the average people. Why not find an extreme tiny niche? Example, women and mobile phones. steph-note: women are a tiny niche??

Maybe women’s phones are more than pink. What should it look like, what should it feel like? Cultural probes. Gave women kits for self-observation to document their communication habits. 12 months (long project) — wide age range, also included men. 100+ prototypes.


What they wanted was “less”: politeness, privacy, communication time-outs => prototyping.


Example: you’re with somebody, the phone rings, and you look at the caller, and you’re not sure if you should take the call or not (be polite to the one you’re with or to the one who is calling?) => conflict. Your mother calling might be really important or… not at all.

“Tactful calling”: a way to express the urgency of a phone call in advance. Is it urgent? Is it just to chat? Is a decision pending upon the response to the phone?

Pressure on the phone (physical pressure) controls the emergency/importance of the call.

What about people who think they’re important? It’s a social problem, not a technical problem.

steph-note: some video issues slightly disrupting the call.

Idea: delete yourself from somebody else’s contacts (some guy keeps calling you… you’d rather he didn’t…)

Tactful calling: you can set it to urgent but short, and you can also reject a call with a reason — tactfully.

If you meet the expectations of women, you might exceed the expectations of men. (Marti Barletta)

They moved a little more to the edges, out of the comfort zone of innovation.

Another case: 100 low-income etc. kids in the streets. Street Lab. Also, Deaf Street Lab.

But… at the end of the Street Lab (4 weeks) they had to leave. Not very sustainable.

Networked neighbourhoods, connecting various spaces.

So: embrace niches, find diverse users (average users will get you to average products). Base innovation on participation.

Lift12, Development, Redevelopment: Kevin Anderson, Social Media in Crisis [en]

[fr] Je suis à la conférence Lift12 à Genève ces prochains jours. Voici mes notes de sessions.

Live-blogging from Lift12 conference in Geneva. These are my notes and interpretations of Kevin Anderson‘s session — best effort, but might be imprecise or even wrong!

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LH: How is social media being used in humanitarian crises?

KA: Goes back to the 14th century… but history for a journalist is what happened yesterday ;-). After 911, forums and boards showed up to help people track survivors. With every new crisis they’re not reinventing the wheel, things are actually evolving.

With Katrina, we saw the “people finder” show up. A data interchange format was developed following that!

LH: Do we have the same thing going on for political crises?

KA: Absolutely.

steph-note: grrr, I’m crap at blogging discussion sessions, sorry 🙁

Ushahidi was developped by somebody who wanted to track election violence. Then it’s been used in all sorts of ways, including humanitarian response in Haïti.

Frontline SMS.

LH: Concretely, how are people using social media to organize?

KA: Haïti, within two hours Ushahidi install set up. Also, managed to find an unused shortcode to set up an SMS number really fast. 3 days to get the SMS system up and running.

“Battle of Seattle” kind of turning into Occupy Wall Street.

steph-note: acceleration of communication and connections

Also, translation by the Haïtian diaspora in the US (crowdsourcing = parallel processing using human beings).

LH: How do people in the field get the news that these systems are set up?

KA: In Haïti, radio was still up. So was SMS. Rather than competitive between old and new technologies, complementary.

LH: Where did it not work?

KA: NGOs in Haïti itself were left out of the loop. Couldn’t access the internet, and when they did, had such antiquated equipment they couldn’t read the maps. Silos between organisations.

LH: Arab Spring: what role did social media play in activism?

KA: Facebook usage at the time, Tunisia 17%, Egypt 5.5%, Libya 4%. Those activists were working over a long time (years). It was long leading up to the Arab Spring. A lot of it was telling the story to the rest of the world.

LH: How did Facebook/Twitter change in those countries? Did it?

KA: steph-note — didn’t get the answer

LH: How did the coverage change?

KA: Self-immolation video on YouTube got the news to the rest of the world. Really grabbed Al Jazeera’s attention.

LH: Syria?

KA: Stories of activists throwing CDs across the border to get the videos out of the country.

LH: Financial crisis?

KA: Battle for coverage. Pepper-spray video spawning its own meme. Tumblr account with ordinary citizens telling their stories. Kickstarted to crowdfund.

LH: There were lost revolutions, like Iran. How do you resist these movements?

KA: Egypt: they shut down, so people started setting up mesh networks, using satellite connections. The Chinese can shut down the entire SMS network.

LH: Key conclusions?

KA: 70% of the traffic to Al Jazeera content was from social media (including livestream). Really powerful. Amplification, both ways, between social media and traditional media. Symbiotic rather than competitive. It’s not just social media, it’s the human networks which have formed. The human connections work through the silos.

LH: Do people using social media run the same risks as journalists?

KA: Yes, whether one is an activist or covering what is happening, if you’re opposing your country… you run the same risks as the professional journalists.

Lift12, Development, Redevelopment: Farida Vis, Twitter Usage During the UK Riots [en]

[fr] Je suis à la conférence Lift12 à Genève ces prochains jours. Voici mes notes de sessions.

Live-blogging from Lift12 conference in Geneva. These are my notes and interpretations of Farida Vis’s talk — best effort, but might be imprecise or even wrong!

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Genesis of the riots, numbers, history. Very large scale (22 out of 32 boroughs affected). Day 3, spread to other towns.

Why were people doing this? It spread like wildfire, people didn’t really understand why. Politicians: this is just people being criminal. Government: no need for an enquiry, nothing to see.

Snap analysis: social media blamed, BBM=Facebook=Twitter. BBM actually played a significant role, being a closed network and cheap technology.

Accusers were the usual suspects: Cameron discussed whether people should be banned from using social media. Louise Mensch, Conservative MP, saying social media might have to be “switched off” during riots or crisis. (Think: Egypt.)

People got arrested for posting messages on Facebook etc. Very swift and very harsh. Two young men posted a message on Facebook trying to organize a riot (unsuccessful). Only the police showed up, and they got 4 years.

Police actually defended social media, saying it was a valuable communication platform for them, particularly police.

General public very much in line with politicians. Biggest support for switching off came from people over 65.

Guardian set up a study called Reading the Riots. Farida’s project is part of this, looking at Twitter. Twitter donated 2.6 mio “riot tweets”.

  • role of rumors?
  • did incitement actually take place?
  • in which ways did different users come to prominence and use the platform?

Use of local hashtags. Riot Clean Up.

Rumors: there were some really outlandish ones. One rumor: animals released from the zoo. What kind of information were people distributing about that rumor?

First, people repeating the rumor (green dots). Red, refuting. Yellow, questioning.

First, green, then people start refuting, and explaining why not (e.g. tiger in photo is from Italy). But the green bubbles keep on growing. People have their own little networks on Twitter, they don’t see everything (e.g. new people log on, see the tweet, and repeat).

At some point people started using the project hashtag to claim starting rumors (oops).

Also found a lot of vitriol against the looters. Dark side.

@RiotCleanup number one mentioned account during the riots.

Most dominating cited group: mainstream media, followed by journalists. Then, riot accounts (including cleanup). Category 19: spoof accounts. Emergency services low overall.

In the spoof accounts, “The Dark Lord”, “Professor Snape”, “The Queen” — wtf are they doing in there? A lot of satire, commentary. A lot of crossover comments with News International, planking…

Conclusions? There are a lot of things we need to understand better. How rumors evolve, the rise of individuals, understand the context/local context, role of emergency services, downside of police on Twitter…?


Lift12, Development, Redevelopment: Steve Song [en]

[fr] Je suis à la conférence Lift12 à Genève ces prochains jours. Voici mes notes de sessions.

Live-blogging from Lift12 conference in Geneva. These are my notes and interpretations of Steve Song‘s talk — best effort, but might be imprecise or even wrong!

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Mobile access in South Africa looks great from a distance, but isn’t that wonderful once you zoom in. Zimbabwe: same thing, good coverage along big highways, but kind of crap elsewhere.

Other issue: it’s actually very expensive. Upto 50% or more of their income on mobile services. steph-note: did I get that right?

That raises the cost of innovation. Less resilience: single point of failure.

Internet infrastructure vs. telephone infrastructure.

1999: better computer through more refined computer power. At the same time, Page and Brin are improving computing by multiplying commodity PCs (superfluous computing, redundancy).

Similar: scaffolding in the US (minimal, calculated, each rod can support x weight) and in Uganda, Ethiopia (steph-note: and India)… doesn’t matter what the individual quality of the sticks are.

Copper is too expensive as a commodity. Wireless access. Not very expensive. Ubiquitous. Wifi devices will surpass mobile phones in numbers this year.

Many routers run on open source software => hack the device. Inside, but also outside. You can send a signal really far by attaching an empty can to the antenna.

Get a bunch of smart hackers together. Make it simple. Plug an ordinary phone into a wireless wifi network. Needed an analog telephony adaptor. Hence the MeshPotato was born. Not your average wifi device! Tougher, power surge resistant, can be powered by wind, solar, etc.

  • open source
  • open hardware
  • faster
  • cheaper

In practice? Device needs to be outside. Mesh network. No towers involved.

East Timor: monopoly telco, so MeshPotato used to create an alternate, cheaper, network.

South Africa: used to bring the internet 40km away from where it was.

Plumbing manufacturer in Johannesburg: cheaper solution deployed throughout the company to keep everyone in touch.

Photosynth: takes multiple photos to create a higher-resolution one. No reason we couldn’t do this with wifi.

Laurent: if one node of the MeshPotato network gets connected to the internet, the whole local network gets connected.

Lift12, People vs. Technology: Stefana Broadbent [en]

[fr] Je suis à la conférence Lift12 à Genève ces prochains jours. Voici mes notes de sessions.

Live-blogging from Lift12 conference in Geneva. These are my notes and interpretations of Gordan Savicic‘s talk — best effort, but might be imprecise or even wrong!

Three girls in a row on a sofa with laptops on their knees: most people find this a bit distressful and emblematic of our times, they’re not engaging with one another. But put them in front of a desk, everyone finds that normal.

Stefana Broadbent Lift12

Attention is a limited resource, it’s true. We’ve built a huge amount of institutions that do not much else than control attention. Schools, cubicles, factories… Ensure the attention is focused on the task at hand. Attention, productivity, isolation? Is that how it works?

Same thing at home. Dinner table. We also have techniques to control attention. Where you seat people, where you put the food… We also do it when we lay out our furniture.

The kind of sofa setup that is familiar to us today (facing each other, etc) appeared in homes around the beginning of the industrial revolution, when work had moved out from the home. As work moved out, the home was privatized, it became a place of refuge, focused on emotions, on leisure.

Things that belong in and out of the home changed over the years, and the last 100 years a lot has moved out (food processing, clothes making, illness and death, production, waste…). What moved in? Washing, playing, socialising, child rearing, leisure…

This has an impact on how the house is designed. Big living area, less services areas. House blueprints and prototypes. For example, the kitchen merges into the living space. The only “work” going on in the house is ensuring the solidarity between the house members. Excludes the outside!

What happens when technology enters the home? The TV fits beautifully. Even with a big screen. It’s a social device, you watch it together. No room for individual interaction with TV. But actually, the whole family watching TV at the same time doesn’t really happen much. But the placing of the TV gives this illusion. Same with the Wii.

Where do people position their devices? In public and private spaces in the home?

Shared: TV/radio. Private: PC. Preserving the private space.

Interesting: what happens when a single woman in a studio with lots of devices has a child and moves into a bigger flat? Re-planning device isolation.

Another thing that happens is that devices become smaller.

Device usage of young homeless people: no different than that of “homeful” people of the same age group. (Watching football for example.)

The big social change that is happening is that there are fewer and fewer situations in which we are accepting the social control of our attention. All these expectations about control of attention are causing friction, at work, in couples, in homes.

The little suburban boxes have been creating the isolation. Bringing wired technology in the homes is actually opening them up.

Lift12, Technology vs. People: Gordan Savicic, Digital 2.0 Suicide [en]

[fr] Je suis à la conférence Lift12 à Genève ces prochains jours. Voici mes notes de sessions.

Live-blogging from Lift12 conference in Geneva. These are my notes and interpretations of Gordan Savicic‘s talk — best effort, but might be imprecise or even wrong!

Are we the slaves of our online presences?

Facebook’s physical manifestation, serverfarm in Prineville. Uses energy, needs to be protected…

How many friends on Facebook? not all friends: business contacts, random people met in a bar… Project an avatar image of themselves.

When you try to shut down your Facebook account, you’re told your friends are going to miss you (as if you were actually going to lose their friendship) — then you have to fill in a questionnaire, explain why you’re leaving… Facebook has a response for every reason you give… Hard to deactivate!

Created an easy solution: the web 2.0 suicide machine. It actually cleanly cuts all connections, changes your password, etc etc — you’re sure you can’t go back.

“Unfriending”: word of the year in 2009!

In Rotterdam, they set up a web 2.0 suicide night. Including a memorial page. Facebook banned their servers. That led to catchy titles in the press, like “Facebook killed the suicide machine”. They got a cease and desist letter: aren’t allowed to scrape content or use somebody else’s credentials. Consulted a lawyer: actually, they never agreed to the ToS, it’s actually the user breaching the ToS…

Reclaim your data! Their example: a small group of people actually managed to create quite a big disturbance to reclaim theirs.

Make love, not spam!

Lift12, Technology vs. People: Anaïs Saint-Jude, From Gutenberg to Zuckerberg [en]

[fr] Je suis à la conférence Lift12 à Genève ces prochains jours. Voici mes notes de sessions.

Live-blogging from Lift12 conference in Geneva. These are my notes and interpretations of  Anaïs Saint-Jude‘s talk — best effort, but might be imprecise or even wrong!

Anaïs Saint-Jude

Robert Musil. Unfinished book upon his death.

Overload? The feeling is not new. Early 20th century already… what about before? Actually, since ancient times. What’s interesting is that it is always experienced as something new and particular to one’s own era.

Plato in Phaedrus: if we depend on writing, we will lose the ability to remember. Ecclesiastes, Seneca, Descartes, Diderot… They all bemoaned the uselessness and overload created by writing or books, things we consider “normal” today — but sometimes same criticism as what we see today for our new technologies.

Diderot: driving itch for the Encyclopédie!

How many books can we read? 4680 in a lifetime (a book a week all your life).

We aren’t the first to experience information overload. It’s part of the human condition.

We always perceive our environment as overly complex.

Let’s look at early modern period information overload. 16th-17th century. Similarities with today.

  • copernican revolution
  • discovery of the New World
  • recovery of ancient texts
  • printing press
  • correspondance networks

Instead of being perceived as something negative, information overload can perceive it as a driving force for new innovations.

Théophraste Renaudot (1585-1653) was a doctor. Identified a need => 2 innovations:

  • Conferences (1633-1642)
  • Gazette (1631-1915 first French weekly newspaper!)

He was making use of the established correspondance networks for news distribution. It’s wrong to say “social networks have just started”…

16th-17th century, the merchant network started to shift to an intellectual correspondance network, centered on France rather than Venice. Forefathers and mothers of our blogs and tweets…

Similar issues as what we see with tweets today: sparking distress, sources are more or less reliable, etc…

Correspondance networks created social groups, collected and diffused information, created public opinion, were and instrument of cultural change, and illiterate people participated as the news was then passed on orally. steph-note: see the parallels?

Athanasius Kircher (1602) — had about 760 correspondants, mainly scientists, all over the world. Voltaire’s correspondance map is also impressive (though, note, most of them are between Geneva and Paris. Not only for people far away, but also people close by.)

Information overload has always existed and is part of the human condition, generative force for innovation. Correspondance networks are not new either, they use the tools of their time.

Le lever de Voltaire by Jean Hubert: painting, you see Voltaire barely getting dressed and already dictating a letter — we’re not the first to check our e-mails first thing in the morning!

Lift12, Technology vs. People: JP Rangaswami [en]

[fr] Je suis à la conférence Lift12 à Genève ces prochains jours. Voici mes notes de sessions.

Live-blogging from Lift12 conference in Geneva. These are my notes and interpretations of JP Rangaswami‘s talk — best effort, but might be imprecise or even wrong!

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So, is technology good or bad?

We need to think about the reasons this technology exists. For a long time, two drives to create new technology:

  • Flying? Perceived need.
  • Velcro? Observation.

Interesting: cooking as pre-digestion or external stomach. Cooked food allows us to have a relatively small stomach for our size.  => wish to speed up evolution.

Technology: we need to evaluate it in context — e.g. Cocaine toothache pills, dentists recommending which brand to smoke..

We’re not leaving enough time to evaluate the impact of technologies.

Interesting: medicine has gone from customer-centric (holistic) to product-centric (treating the illness). Not that much progress with cancer.

We should not just be thinking the technology we have, but about the technology we do not develop. What we choose not to do is also important.

Technology is also pioneering: e.g. Foursquare, mapping the digital world. Pioneers are sometimes ridiculed, or pay with their life (Marie Curie). Innovation seen as positive today did not come without criticism and bad things happening.

Crickets biggest betting scandal figured out by somebody who had all the time in the world to look at hours and hours of tape (and connect the dots…).

Unintended consequences of banning technology (ie, Pakistan and YouTube).

How Target Figured Out Teen Girl Was Pregnant Before her Dad Did.

Sometimes technology is not to accelerate things, but to slow them down (e.g. qwerty — steph-note: wasn’t that a myth? need to check.)

Look at things holistically: pioneers exist, unintended consequences.

Development of the suburbs. Positives and negatives coming out — was television created to produce a generation of couch potatoes? Unintended consequence. Was Google created to “make us dumb”?

Online interactions to augment offline interactions, but from the outside, fear that online is replacing offline.

Photo rescue project. People giving their time and skill to help save other people’s memories.


Technology itself is not good or bad, it is the engagement of humans that decides that. We still get to choose good or bad.

Every economic era has its peculiar abundances and scarcities. Hyperconnectivity is our abundance. How can we create business value from this abundance? What does it mean to have pressure on attention?

Lift12: décidez d'y aller avant fin octobre [fr]

[en] Decide to attend Lift conference in Geneva before end October -- prices go up after that!

La conférence Lift, c’est génial, il ne faut pas rater (si vous n’y êtes pas encore allés c’est le moment de le faire), et c’est à Genève.

Chaque année, je motive des gens à y aller, et souvent, on me dit “mais c’est cher”. Ça, c’est parce qu’il faut s’y prendre à l’avance. (En passant, les gens qui y vont sont super contents et reviennent l’année suivante…)

Jusqu’au 31 octobre, les 3 jours de Lift sont à 650 CHF. Après, les prix grimpent. Décidez-vous donc maintenant (et décidez d’y aller, surtout).

Quelques articles que j’ai écrits à ce sujet au cours des années:

Chômeurs, étudiants: si vous vous décidez maintenant, vous pouvez avoir un billet à 150 CHF…