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This is the English version of “Quo Vadis, Wikipedia? Eindrücke von der Wikimania 2009 in Buenos Aires”, published at netzpolitik.org.

Logo of Wikimania 2009 in Buenos Aires

Stats.wikimedia.org counted 87.000 active Wikipdians – contributors with at least five Wikipedia edits in the respective month – in August 2008. Only a tiny fraction – about 300 to 400 – of this worldwide community meets once a year at Wikimania in “real life” to discuss all kinds Wikipedia issues.

The first Wikimania was held 2005 in Frankfurt/M., the most recent one last August in the Argentinian capital Buenos Aires. As there are videos of most of the talks available online in the conference program, I can skip detailed summaries of individual presentations and give some personal impressions of the conference. Wikimania in Buenos Aires not only was the first in the southern hemisphere, it also showed an enormous growth in terms of relevance and professionalization of Wikipedia and its sister projects such as Wikibooks or Wiktionary. The increase in relevance is probably best illustrated by an article in the New York Times print edition, which points to over 330 million monthly Wikipedia visitors.

This professionalization, in turn, could be experienced both organizationally and atmospherically in Buenos Aires: Wikimania 2009 had nothing to do with an improvised meet-up of Wikipedians but was instead a perfectly organized conference with finger food buffet and social program (Tango lessons!). Above all, the continuous reference given to the newly started “strategy process” demonstrated a new seriousness of self-reflection among at least the organized part of the Wikipedia community. Moreover, thanks to funding by the Omydar Network (link), the whole process is instructed and moderated by consultants of The Bridgespan Group – a consultancy specialized on NGOs. Read the rest of this entry »

Creative Commons offers a set of license modules such as “Attribution” or “ShareAlike” that can be recombined to different copyright licenses (see for an overview). One such license module is the “non-commercial”-module. From the very beginning of Creative Commons this module was at the center of most of the license related debates.

First of all, the non-commercial clause was an attempt to enable both sharing and remixing among users and commercialization for creators. Successful examples of hybrid business models such as Jamendo rely on this clause: at Jamendo, musicians receive 50 percent of all revenue generated by commercial use of their works – for example when used in commercials, played as background music in restaurants or in films – while at the same time users can freely download, share and remix those works.

Powerful critics like Wikimedia’s vice-executive director Erik Möller, however, fundamentally challenge the need for a non-commercial module. For him the diversity of incompatible open content licenses is a major barrier for remixing different works. In his 2006 piece “The Case for Free Use: Reasons Not to Use a Creative Commons-NC License” he instead advocates using the copyleft module “ShareAlike.” (It is this module that Wikimedia recently chose for re-licensing its content, see “Wikimania Preview #1“.)

But even adopters and users of the non-commercial clause face the non-trivial problem of defining commercial and non-commercial use. Is it commercial use, for example, if content is used on a webpage of a non-profit organization (for example, a research centre), which allows advertisement on this webpage? What if the content is used by a government or state-run entity? What if the work would be posted on an aggregator website which hosts millions of works (such as YouTube or MySpace), and which makes money from the advertising because of the high volume of traffic it attracts? Read the rest of this entry »

In this entry, I will report not on governance but on a book on governance from a neighbouring discipline that sociologists, organizational scholars and political scientists often ignore – social anthropology:

Sally Engle Merry, 2006. Human Rights and Gender Violence: Translating International Law into Local Justice. Chicago: University of Chicago Press

I found this book interesting and important for a number of reasons. First, I found many parallels to my own work. Second and more important, the book motivates reflecting on the concept of culture and its place in the transnational governance dynamics.

In her book, Sally Engle Merry explores how different actors – both state and nonstate, local and global – translate global norms associated with human rights and gender violence into practices in societies and communities where human rights are nonexistent as a concept and where gender violence is not defined in human rights terms, is considered a part of a national culture and protected as such. Read the rest of this entry »

This entry is part two of a mini-series dedicated to the fascinating institutional landscape found on the Eastern edge of the European Union. It deals with the dearth of the public sector and the rejuvenation of religion.

Someone must have built all this infrastructure which now lies decaying throughout Eastern Europe. It bears the signs of more than twenty years of decay, so almost certainly it was the governments of the Warsaw Pact which paved the roads to the majority of villages, laid tracks between cities, erected gargantuan grain silos and stamped huge factory complexes out of the ground.

Yet many of today’s Eastern European states have too few resources (or hardly any at all) to provide the public infrastructure necessary for success in the game of capitalist competition. And, as regards the private sector, the current mode of production knows no place for means of production accumulated under the Five-Year-Plans of yesteryear.

The new European Union member states Romania and Bulgaria show many signs that transnational institutions can catalyse the development of infrastructure; while Ukraine and Moldova demonstrate the counterpoint of the damage that lack of investment by the public sector can do. All the while, across the border between the two worlds – at least that is how the border between EU and non-EU can feel, and is locally perceived – the church consoles the post-socialist sorrows of the masses. Read the rest of this entry »

When we write about such phenomena as governance across borders, our conceptualisation always hinges on dividing lines, those borders which governance may span. Especially for a research group working on transnational institutions, it’s important to contemplate: What do borders really mean?

The reality of borders takes on a wholly different dimension when leaving the comfort of Western Europe, with its checkpoint-free border crossings. Travelling along Europe’s (still somewhat wild) Eastern frontier, the significance of national boundaries and the institutions that sometimes do, sometimes don’t span them, is illuminated starkly, highlighting what one takes for granted.

Here, I’ll be sharing some – hopefully not too wanton – snapshots and insights into the fascinating institutional landscape which I encountered during some recent travels. Read the rest of this entry »

Interestingly enough, two of the most visible current copyright related conflicts are in the realm of the most classic of all copyrighted media: books. On the one hand, Google books tries to digitize and eventually offer online nothing less then all books ever published. Aside the fundamental question, whether companies should be allowed doing this, the main controversy is around how to compensate authors and publishers of books that are out of stock and of orphan works (see “Google vs. Copyright Collectives“). On the other hand, the book as a medium itself may be changed by e-book reader such as Sony’s “Daily Edition” or Amazon’s “Kindle” (see “Sony’s E-Reader vs. Kindle“). Both allow direct wireless download of books directly to the reader via mobile phone networks. The latter raises a lot of controversy because of its restrictive digital rights management (“Kindle Controvery Continued: ‘Exit’ and ‘Voice’“) and Amazon’s ability to delete books from the reader even after their purchase (see NYT).

In spite of their common field of digital books and publishing, these two controversies evolved relatively independent from one another until very recently Amazon, Yahoo and Microsoft formed the “Open Book Alliance” (see CNET) to counter Google Books. Googles rejoinder was an alliance with Sony (see CBC). This merger of conflicts will, I predict, alter the dynamics in both controversies. Read the rest of this entry »

The Book

Governance across borders: transnational fields and transversal themes. Leonhard Dobusch, Philip Mader and Sigrid Quack (eds.), 2013, epubli publishers.
September 2009
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All texts on governance across borders are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Germany License.