Archive for November, 2013

Online Surveillance and Computer Science   no comments

Posted at 4:57 pm in Uncategorized

It is understandable that governments are becoming increasingly interested in the online activity of its citizens. According to Albrechtslund, governments are looking for information about individuals such as “shared activities and circles of friends, as well as personal data about political views, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, and preferences regarding everyday life activities (Albrechtslund, 2008). Social networking sites are for example used to get this information. The information that governments often want can also be stored in email conversations, on personal computers, in the cloud and so on.

Computer science can offer many perspectives on online surveillance. It does not necessarily look at the motives for or consequences of surveillance, like psychology does, but can focus on how surveillance is made possible or can be prevented through a technological perspective. It can address all the different phases in the process of online surveillance from the ‘Big Brother perspective and from the perspective of the person who is being watched. This means that it can look at where to look for useful data, how to retrieve this information, and how to analyze it, but at the same time it can look at how to prevent people spying on ones data.

Examples of where computer scientists thus might look for could be where data is stored on personal computers, how this data can be accessed, how encryptions can be created or cracked, which algorithms represent useful data, and how retrieved datasets can be analyzed. In many possible examples creating programs that can scan large and varying sets of data are important. Also, it is necessary to let these programs find specific words, websites, connections and so on, that might be interesting for the party that is watching.

Next time I will write my last blogpost about how computer science and psychology are related and how they can be bundled to study online surveillance.


Albrechtslund, Anders. (2008) ‘Online Social Networking as Participatory Surveillance’, in First Monday, 13(3), online at: <>

Written by Gert Van Hardeveld on November 30th, 2013

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Government and Open Data   no comments

Posted at 11:49 pm in Uncategorized


According to Open Data Institute, it could be defined as follows:

 “Open data is information that is available for anyone to use, for any purpose, at no cost.” (3)

 It is also mentioned that in order to be cataloged as an open data, this must be explicitly stated in its license of use. A license means that the owner of the information declare what type of access or transfer is permitted to other to use the data meaning. When people create data and someone else wants or needs to use it, they must ask request owner´s permission. An example of data license (4) is when a person get a job and in your work contract it is stated that everything you create or generate related to your labor activity belongs to your employer. In contrast, if you create your own data, you can donate this creation stating that your data is for public use and anyone can use it. It is important to mention that every country has their own laws about copy rights and they need to checked before you decide what kind of license is more suitable for your data. For instance, in the European community there are two kind of legislation: Copyright and database right. Furthermore, there exist also is another license called “Open Licenses” that refers to your data with few restrictions about a person or organization can do with the content. An Open license allows other to “republish the content or data on their own website, derive new content or data from yours, make money by selling products that use your content or data, republish the content or data while charging a fee for access” (4) and in accordance with the Open Definition which defines openness in relation to data and content (5) “ “A piece of data or content is open if anyone is free to use, reuse, and redistribute it — subject only, at most, to the requirement to attribute and/or share-alike.” The next step is to indicate what kind of license is most appropriate to meet your purposes that you should show your data license in a human readable description and computer readable metadata. In regards to computer readable metadata it should under the in open standards figure that it refers to a format which is amply accepted across diverse third party, generating mainly interoperability among cross platforms, for example, RDF, XML, JSON.

 Defining your license is an important issue related to your data and purpose, as an individual or an organization. In both cases, there are implicit benefits publishing open data. For instance, there is a model of business in the data industry by which it makes profit from selling access to data. Open data tends to find potential customers by creating an economy with open data from a service model more than a product model generating more services related a specif subset of open data.

Open Data and Governments

 We could define a government system as

A group of people in charge who makes decisions about the direction and control of a community, or state and the main purpose of the government is to protect the individual rights for its members through specific laws that conduct a pleasant behavior in society.

Therefore, as an individual we should be concerned about the importance of open data and the role that it plays in relation to governance. Transparency and accountability is one of the main points in which are important for open data because in a democratic system, citizens needs to know what their government is doing, and leading the national resources. Furthermore, transparency promotes the improvement of public services because citizens can monitor impact indicators and government agency´s goals.

Some governments believe that transparency means simply publishing information about a specific data set, and for this reason they argue that they have an open data policy in their national agenda; however, in order to consider that a government is applying an open data policy, the information should be open and free to anyone to use, reuse and redistribute, and the internet is a perfect platform to disclosure it. In addition, the information should be preferably in a readable machine format such as: XLM, CSV, JSON or API because it creates more interoperability across platforms. Furthermore, transparency promotes public services improvement

Another reason why governments should encourage an open data policy is the fact that people become more informed and involved in important decisions the government should make. This means that open data promotes a dynamic society in which citizens are contributing in an active way. Furthermore, when governments open their data it encourages the creation of new business models and services because this generates clusters of suppliers offering new services.

To sum up, as a citizens we have the right to be informed from governments about they are using national resources, the impact of social policy and the effectiveness of governmental agencies and open data is a key tool that promotes transparency, accountability, new business models and people participation in government policy in an active way.


1.-Open Source Initiative [n.d.] Open Source Initiative [online]

Available from: [Accessed 05 November 2013]

2.-Bruce Perens (2005) The Emerging Economic Paradigm of Open Source [online] George Washington University. Available from: [Accessed 12 November 2013]

3.-Open Data Institute [n.d.] Open Data Institute Guides [online]

Available from:

4.- Open Data Institute [n.d.] Publisher Guide to Open Data Licensing [online]

Available from:

5.-Open Definition [n.d.] Open Definition [online]

Available from:

Written by Alan Ponce on November 26th, 2013

Online surveillance and how psychology is related to it   no comments

Posted at 11:52 am in Psychology

This week I will look at online surveillance and how psychology is related to it. Online surveillance has been a hot topic in the last couple of years.

During the Arab Spring, many Middle-Eastern governments have been accused of tracking down (potential) opponents and arresting them because of their online activity. Also, the revelations by Edward Snowden about the NSA have led to more attention to how the Web can be used as a tool of espionage. The rise in these kinds of activity show similarities with 1984, by George Orwell. This book describes a society wherein the government continuously watches and monitors its population. With the rise of the World Wide Web, people have put more and more information about themselves online. Therefore, it is becoming increasingly interesting for different (authoritarian) governments to ‘watch and monitor’ this information. Herewith, they can potentially control their country in an Orwellian way by arresting people who might potentially be a threat for them.

Of course, citizens are also becoming aware of the omnipresent online surveillance by governments. If they hear about people that have been arrested because of things they have posted on the Web, they might alter their (online) behaviour. From a psychological perspective, it is interesting to see how the mind and behaviour of people is changing because of this. Their response can be compared with psychological experiments, wherein the term social interference can be used to refer to such a response. This effect is a decline in performance when observers are present (Gray, 2007: p. 502). With an increasing notion of online surveillance, which might have consequences (i.e. physical punishment, imprisonment or worse) for a certain way of behaving, a citizen might become less (visibly) active online. This could be seen as a decline in performance.

This response can also be seen as the outcome of anxiety, which according to psychological terms can be seen as the mental situation when people worry excessively about a “stimulus or event that are vague, not identifiable, or in the future” (Gray, 2007: p. 590). When one does not know what future dangers may lie ahead, but expects consequences for certain actions, behaviour can change.

Social interference and anxiety are just two topics that can be used to look at online surveillance from a psychological perspective. Still, it offers many other perspectives to look at the subject. The approaches that I described earlier in a blogpost (biological, behaviourist, cognitive, psychodynamic, and humanistic) can for example all be used to look at online surveillance in a different way.

Next time, I will look at how online surveillance can be studied from the perspective of computer science. Also, I will look at how psychology and computer science can be combined to study online surveillance.


Gray, Peter. Psychology. Fifth Edition. New York: Worth Publishers, 2007.

Written by Gert Van Hardeveld on November 26th, 2013

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Thoughts: What is Pyschology?   no comments

Posted at 2:57 am in Uncategorized

It’s taken a long time for me to make this second blog post and in the meantime I’ve read a lot. I started with Atkinson and Higard’s Introduction to Psychology and that made me realise something essential that I’d managed to miss – Psychology is a discipline that looks at a lot of things. That might sound obvious but the big problem is that the various things that psychology studies are all different and looked at in different ways. And so it became important to decide what it is that I actually need to study…

One of the big mysteries of viral media is why they go viral. At first, I assumed it was always a positive thing. People might find something funny or find a song catchy and so they might share it with friends who share it with more friends and hey presto, you’ve got a viral object. And this is the assumption I was operating on right up until a few weeks ago when an article was published in the Guardian newspaper about an advertising campaign which had gone viral because (and this is important) people were offended by it. It portrayed ‘stereotypical’ Islamic women with soldiers as some kind of cheesy example of something people might find surprising. And it had been shared by so many people, as an example of something negative, that it had gone viral. So viral, it had ended up in the Guardian.

And that rather ruined all my nice ideas, but helped cement one very important one – The idea of the importance of emotions. People share viral media, generally, when the media illicits an intense emotional response. And if there’s one thing that psychology definitely studies, it’s emotions. But things aren’t as easy as I had first thought. The more I read into emotions in psychology, the more complex things got. Atkinson and Hilgard made it clear that emotions can be deceptive and through Google searches, I started to learn how deceptive. It’s easy to think that when you feel angry, that’s because you’re literally feeling angry. But emotions are in fact simply hormonal and chemical changes in the body. And they can be the result of hormone imbalances as opposed to, say, an external stimulus causing anger. But more than that, the way we perceive other people’s emotions is incredibly deceptive. Images of a ‘sad’ expression on a man’s face tend to appear much more angry than an identical expression on a woman’s face. And then when you get into the issues of ‘projecting’, where you perceive someone else’s emotions as your own, when they might be quite different…Well, that’s where it all gets complicated. So I’m trying to understand emotions at the moment, which is pretty much what I have been doing for some time. Seeing how to study these emotions and how to understand their effects, while not allowing myself to be ‘tricked’ into seeing what I want to see is the big problem of the moment with psychology. It looks like the best way to study these things is through very small scale, tight projects – Measuring hormone levels in subjects, for example. Not the traditional way Web Science might seek to solve these issues. But there aren’t many simple ways to just overcome the problem of emotional biases. And there are other issues which make this more complicated and introduce the importance of the ‘small scale’ nature of these projedcts.

Herd behaviour is a big one. People might see an item becoming popular and then ‘share’ it to become part of a group. This is particularly popular among teenagers and that’s a problem – It might lead to say, a feedback loop – People see item x become cool. They then share item x. This leads to item x becoming cooler and more people sharing item x…But it might be none of these people really like the item, or have the same emotional response as the earlier sharers…They just share it because it’s the cool thing to do. Then if you throw in ‘hipsters‘ or people who are anti-mainstream, they might refuse to share something even if they enjoyed it, to avoid being part of the crowd. People are very complicated…

However, I feel emotions are key to this. Unlike I first thought, these emotions don’t need to be positive, but they do start to dictate whether an item becomes ‘popular’ – famous or infamous – and that is the most important factor for these other behaviours.

So that’s where I’m at with psychology. The more I read, the more things get complicated and the more I seem to have to read. Next time an update with where I’m at with complexity science, which I almost gave up on for a time…

Written by Neal Reeves on November 25th, 2013

Economics 3 – Modelling & Methodologies   no comments

Posted at 1:41 am in Uncategorized

Researcher: Jo Munson
Title: Can there ever be a “Cohesive Global Web”?
Disciplines: Economics, Ethnography (Cultural Anthropology)

Lawrence Klein
Lawrence Klein, Econometrician who won a Nobel prize for his Economic forecasting models. Lawrence passed away on 20 October, aged 93.


Methods in Economics
When questioning the world, Economists consider questions of two types:

  • Normative – subjective, opinion based statements that dictate “what ought to be”.
  • Positive – objective, fact based statements that describe “what is” and that can be proved or disproved.

In order to establish the validity of Positive statements Economists propose a question or theory (state their hypothesis), construct a simplified model of the Economic phenomenon they are observing, collect data and make statistical inferences to establish the veracity of their initial theory, or make improvements to it. Normative statements can then be derived from Positive research to make statements about how things should be. The most comon application of Normative statements is in Economic design.

Next time (and beyond)…

I’ve had a quick reshuffle of the order, but broadly, I will be covering the following in the proceeding weeks:

  • Can there ever be a “Cohesive Global Web”?
  • Ethnography 1 – Introduction & Definition
  • Ethnography 2 – Disciplinary Approach
  • Economics 1 – Introduction & Definition
  • Economics 2 – Disciplinary Approach
  • Ethnography 3 – Theories & Methodologies
  • Economics 3 – Modelling & Methodologies
  • Ethnographic Approach to the “Cohesive Global Web”
  • Economic Approach to the “Cohesive Global Web”
  • Ethno-Economic Approach to the “Cohesive Global Web”


Peoples, J. and Bailey, G. 1997. Humanity. Belmont, CA: West/Wadsworth.

Barnard, A. 2000. Social anthropology. Taunton: Studymates.

Image retrieved from:

Written by Joanna Munson on November 24th, 2013

How is gender equality represented on the web? What defines an gender equal web in terms of philosophy?   no comments

Posted at 10:42 pm in Uncategorized

Going back to my second post ( looking at the different types of equality and the arguments against them, this post will be addressing how a gender equal web would be defined in philosophical terms, from the different viewpoints.

Moral/Ontological Equality (equality of all persons): In this sense a ‘gender equal’ web would be one where both genders should be valued the same on the web.

Legal Equality (equality of result and outcome): In this sense a ‘gender equal’ web would be one where both genders have the same legal rights and responsibilities (and would be treated in the same way if they committed a web based crime) in relation to the web.

Political Equality (equal votes for all): less relevant for the web but arguably could still be relevant. In any sites where a decision needed to be made with a vote, these votes would have to be equal for both genders. In addition. any online material in respect to politics or voting would have to be without gender bias.

Social Equality (equal access vs equal opportunities): The argument for this is that both genders should have equal access to the webs resources and subsequent benefits.

Argument 1: Society is not by design equal. This looks at the equal access vs equal opportunities, directly in conflict with the social equality argument. Gender’s can’t be truly equal based on this argument as their positions within the online society will be different. For example, in academic websites men and women won’t necessarily be treated the same because how they are treated will depend on their academic prowess or integrity. Sites specific to certain universities for example our own university library site which only allows access to Southampton University students, that’s based on membership of an institution rather than gender. The validity of the social equality argument is that there should not be discrimination against a group (in this case gender, but be it racial or ethnical either) that disallows their access to services. However I fundamentally disagree that EVERYONE should have the same access. Everyone should have the OPPORTUNITY to gain that access but after that it should be based on ability.

Argument 2: Impossible to adhere to full social equality. Unless we live in a totalitarian system full equality can’t be enforced. The web gives the ability for everyone to air their personal opinions in a relatively impersonal sense. Unless the web became locked down such that all data was checked for potential gender imbalance, we can arguably never achieve full gender equality on the web, or indeed any equality. However equality like all other things is relative. If both sides have their opnions and there is a relatively equal distribution on both sides, then perhaps that’s equality after all.

Argument 3: Is full equality necessarily desirable? Following on from the second argument, would we necessarily want such a locked down system where everything was regimented to enforce equality? I know I wouldn’t!

Using these philosophical perspectives and arguments against them, the view of a ‘gender equal’ web that I have deduced from the following is:

  • a web where nobody is restricted based on gender (unless it’s for a very justifiable reason, e.g a group dedicated to a specific disease that only affects one gender)
  • a web where neither gender is severely discriminated against
  • a web where academic integrity reaches higher than your gender
  • and yet, a web where both genders are still free to speak their mind.

Those points in themselves are contradictions of one another, and i’m not sure that it’s possible to reach any ‘fully equal’ platform, whether it be the web or otherwise. Therefore I suppose that arguments 2 and 3 come into play. Full equality isn’t ever going to be possible in a free society, nor would we want it to. The best aspiration is to reach a stable situation where both genders can live in harmony with each other, enjoying the same privaledges that aren’t dealt out based on gender

Written by Samantha Kanza on November 19th, 2013

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Criminology – Thinking about some basics   no comments

Posted at 12:28 am in Criminology

It’s admittedly been a while since my last post, but I have still been a bit scattered about the nature of my topic and have been earnestly trying to refrain from focussing on Web Science issues that are too narrow and specifically, archaeological. In lieu of this I’ve been focused on getting to grips with Criminology first, a discipline which I know I want to study and apply elsewhere. I’ve been taking lots of notes along the way, but hadn’t yet transcribed them here, so here goes..

The following mostly stems from Walklate 2005: Criminology: The Basics.

What is Criminology?

Criminology as Multidisciplinary

One of the big take home points for me about Criminology as a discipline is actually how inherently multidisciplinary it is. Depending on who you ask, you might get a somewhat different take on the nature of criminological study, typically framed by the ‘other discipline’ from which the researcher stems from. This includes criminology from an economics, history, psychology, law, sociology, anthropology, and philosophical multidisciplinary stance – all researching and defining criminology somewhat differently. Yet Walklate claims all disciplines are “held together by one substantive concern: CRIME.”

What is Crime?

The question of “what is crime” within the criminology community is contested, and seems to go beyond defining crime as simply breaking the law though this is a useful starting place for most researchers, as it removes the emotive nature of studying such a subject area. But criminologists must also consider that laws change, thus understanding the processes of criminalizing and decriminalizing and the processes that influence policy can also fall under the remit of criminology. Criminologists must also consider social agreement, social consensus and societal response to crime, which extends the crime definition beyond that which is simply against the law. In addition, crime still occurs regardless of the content of the law – and this falls within a sub sect described as “deviant behaviour” which seems to lend itself more to the psychological-criminological studies.

Sociology of Crime

The sociology of crime is concerned with the social structures that lead to crime – “individual behaviour is not constructed in a vacuum” – and it takes place within a particular social and cultural context that must be examined when looking addressing criminal studies. Social expectations and power structures surrounding criminal acts are also important to the nature of studying crime in society.

Example applications and questions

  • Why does there seem to be more of a certain type of crime in some societies and not others?
  • Why/If the occurrence of a type of crime is changing throughout time?
  • Why do societies at times focus efforts on reducing/managing/effecting certain types of crimes?

feminism – forced a thinking about the “maleness of the crime problem”, and question of masculinity within society – “search for transcendence” (to be master and in control of nature)

Counting Crime

Sources for analyzing crime

  • direct experiences of crime
  • mediated experiences of crime
  • official statistics on crime – Criminal Statistics in England and Wales, published yearly a good starting point. Home Office, FBI, EuroStat
  • research findings of criminologists

“the dark figure of crime” – the criminal events only known to the offender and the victim – e.g. those that don’t get caught, or  not reported/recorded.

Not all recorded offenses have an identifiable offender/not all offenders are convicted – partiality

The 3 R’s: recognising, reporting, recording.

Reporting – criminologists must understand reporting behaviour and reasons for not reporting crime, and then how that effects the results/statistics upon analysis.

  • behaviour may be unlawful but witnesses may not recognise it as such, thus not report it
  • witnesses may recognise an act as criminal but consider it not serious enough to report
  • judicial process – and numbers of tried vs convicted, the politics of this and its subsequent effects in reporting
  • police discretion on recording crime – e.g. meeting and reporting to targets

identifying trends – it’s important to understand crime statistics over time

  • understand whether crime and terms for crime change over time, changes to how an offense is defined
  • criminal victimisation surveys – do these exist for Internet fraud
  • crimes against the personal vs crimes against property

the Problem of Respondents – getting people to respond to surveys can be challenging.

  • big difference between crimes known to police and the dark figure of crime
  • big difference between crimes made visible by criminal victimisation surveys and those that remain invisible (e.g. tax fraud)

Written by Jessica Ogden on November 19th, 2013

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Web Doomsday: Northeast Blackout Case Study   no comments

Posted at 6:03 pm in Uncategorized

10 years ago, on 14th August 2003, a combination of minor faults on power infrastructure led to a huge power outage that left over 55 million people in North America without power for as long as four days. In this post, I will give an overview of how people reacted and the long-term impact of the event. In particular, I will consider how the loss of power is analogous to the loss of the web as a convenience, a luxury, and as a life-supporting mechanism.  By making these connections, we should be able to get a better understanding of the anthropological and economic issues at hand, as these are very pertinent to how society has used both electricity and the web in human and economic development.

Donald was one person who experienced four days of the blackout. He told his story, detailing the troubles with living without electricity for four days.  He lived in Detroit and was at work when the power went out. Donald couldn’t continue work, nor could he make phone calls, because the networks were unavailable. The drive home was dangerous because there were no traffic lights. Donald had very little food reserves, nor any way to cook. He was not at all prepared for loosing a resource that he had not considered would simply stop. He had to make plans to leave and had to prepare for looting:

With only the couple snacks we had left, I knew Monday we had to get somewhere west of Brighton. We simply didn’t have any food left. I heard a story about a lot of looting on the news, but that story didn’t repeat. It must have been true. My Beretta 9mm was dutifully holstered to my hip at that point.

Donald Alley –

Donald’s experience echoed the experiences of millions. The initial nonchalant reaction of “oh, it’s just a power cut” gradually became a sense for survival: the urgent need for basic sustenance – food, water, shelter. The initial reaction of “great, a day off work” was undermined by the following few days of an inability to work, with estimates putting the economic cost between $7 and $10 billion [1].

Times Square during the Northeast blackout of 2003

Would loosing web would result in such extreme consequences?

Survival-motivated crimes, such as looting, are a result of loss of basic needs. Could loosing the web for an extended period of time foster this kind of reaction? If we consider the UK alone, approximately 87% of the population are internet users. In fact, almost all people aged 16-44 have used the internet. It’s pervasively used and we depend on it for communication, reading the news, and even for delivering us life-saving information. The web has been considered a tool for promoting freedom of expression and it might further be considered that internet access itself is a human right. The web might not have existed long enough to provoke rioting at it’s disappearance, but our dependency upon it would certainly lead to public disquiet.

And in terms of the economy, vast amounts of business has been transferred onto the web. It is by design easier and more efficient to work on the web, where data is easy to share and collaborate on. Many people could not work during the blackout because their work is based online. If the web were to disappear, we would face a similar economic disruption: work could not take place because current business infrastructures require the web to work. The economy has been affected by the web since it’s earliest days, when we experienced huge investment in the internet sector leading to the dot-com bubble, which then burst, leading to the failure of many technology companies (for example, Cisco’s stock declined by 86%).

The availability of electricity and the web are intrinsicly related issues in terms of the influence they have on society and the economy. From large-scale power outages, we can gain some insight into what the consequences of a web doomsday might be. We might not yet be aware of our dependency on the web, just as Donald was not aware of his dependency on electricity to give him his basic needs. This raises some interesting questions. Should we work to gain a better understanding of what we use the web for and how we are dependant on it, and from this, ensure that we can sustain ourselves without access? And in terms of the economy, should businesses be prepared for the loss of the web, so as to not lead to economic disaster in such a case?

In the next post, I will discuss how censorship in some countries (specifically the great firewall of china) is analogous to the lack of web availability. In this, I will consider how people have reacted and what the long-term effects have been.

[1] ICF Consulting, “The Economic Cost of the Blackout: An Issue Paper on the Northeastern Blackout, August 14, 2003.”


Written by Peter West on November 18th, 2013

Ethnography 3 – Methodologies & Analysis   no comments

Posted at 5:45 pm in Uncategorized

Researcher: Jo Munson
Title: Can there ever be a “Cohesive Global Web”?
Disciplines: Economics, Ethnography (Cultural Anthropology)

How one modern Ethnographer uses technology to perform fieldwork.

Methodologies in Ethnography

The primary method of collecting data and information about human cultures in Ethnography is through fieldwork, although comparison of different cultures and reflecting on historical data is also important in Ethnographic methodology. The majority of Ethnographic research is qualitative in nature, reflecting its position as a social science. Ethnographers do however make attempts to collect quantitative data, particularly when trying to take a census of a community and in comparative studies.

The methods used to collect information can be broadly categorised as follows:

Fieldwork methods:

  • Observation, Participant Observation & Participation – a feature of nearly all fieldwork, Observation can vary from a high level recording of events without interacting with the community to becoming wholly immersed in the community. The latter can take months or even years and will usually require the Ethnographer to learn the language of, and build relationships with the locals.
  • Survey & Interview – surveys can be structured with fixed questions (often used at the start of a fieldwork placement), or unstructured, giving the interviewee an opportunity to guide the direction of his or her answers.

Comparative methods:

  • Ethnohistory – Ethnohistory involves studying historical Ethnographic writings and ethnographic or archaeological data to draw conclusions about an historic culture. The field is distinct from History in that the Ethnohistorian seeks to recreate the cultural situation from the perspective of those members of the community (takes an Emic approach).

    Unlike Observation / Participation and Survey, Ethnohistory need not be done “in the field”. Ethnohistory has become increasingly important as it can give valuable insight in to the speed and form of the “evolution” of societies over time.
  • Cross-cultural Comparison – Cross-cultural Comparison involves the application of statistics to data collected about more than one culture or cultural variable. The major limitations of Cross-cultural Comparison are that it is ahistoric (assumes that a culture does not change over time) and that it relies on some subjective classifications of the data to be analysed by the Ethnographer.

Sources of bias

The sources of bias in Ethnographic data collection can be substantial and often unavoidable, some of the most common are:

  • Skewed (non-representative) sampling – samples can be skewed for many reasons. Sample sizes are often small, so the selection of any one interviewee may not be representative of the population. The Ethnographer can also only be in one place and will often make generalisations about the whole community based on the small section he or she interacts with. The Ethnographer is also limited to the snapshot in time that he or she observes the community.
  • Theoretical biases – the method of stating a hypothesis prior to investigation may cause the Ethnographer to only collect data consistent with their viewpoint relative to the initial hypothesis.
  • Personal biases – whilst Ethnographers are acutely aware of the effect their own upbringing may have on their objectivity (think Relativism), this awareness does not stop prior beliefs having an effect on data collection.
  • Ethical considerations – Ethnographers may uncover information that could compromise the cultural integrity of the community being observed and may choose to play this down to protect their informants.

Interpreting Ethnographic research findings

Whilst there is no consensus on evaluation standards in Ethnography, Laurel Richardson has proposed five criteria that could be used to evaluate the contribution of Ethnographic findings:

    Substantive Contribution: “Does the piece contribute to our understanding of social-life?”
    Aesthetic Merit: “Does this piece succeed aesthetically?”
    Reflexivity: “How did the author come to write this text…Is there adequate self-awareness and self-exposure for the reader to make judgments about the point of view?”
    Impact: “Does this affect me? Emotionally? Intellectually?” Does it move me?
    Expresses a Reality: “Does it seem ‘true’—a credible account of a cultural, social, individual, or communal sense of the ‘real’?”

These reflections, alongside the statistical output of quantitative or Cross-cultural Comparative study can be used to reform Ethnographic theories and gain insight into human culture.

Next time (and beyond)…

The order/form of these may alter, but broadly, I will be covering the following in the proceeding weeks:

  • Can there ever be a “Cohesive Global Web”?
  • Ethnography 1 – Introduction & Definition
  • Ethnography 2 – Disciplinary Approach
  • Economics 1 – Introduction & Definition
  • Economics 2 – Disciplinary Approach, the Big Theories
  • Ethnography 3 – Methodologies & Analysis
  • Economics 3 – Modelling & Methodologies
  • Ethnographic Approach to the “Cohesive Global Web”
  • Economic Approach to the “Cohesive Global Web”
  • Ethno-Economic Approach to the “Cohesive Global Web”


The American Society for Ethnohistory. 2013. Frequently Asked Questions. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 31 Oct 2013]. 2013. Objectivity in Ethnography. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 31 Oct 2013].

Peoples, J. and Bailey, G. 1997. Humanity. Belmont, CA: West/Wadsworth.

Richardson, L. 2000. Evaluating Ethnography. Qualitative Inquiry, 6 (2), pp. 253-255. Available from: doi: 10.1177/107780040000600207 [Accessed: 31 Oct 2013].

Image retrieved from:

Written by Joanna Munson on November 18th, 2013

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Economy and Open Source   no comments

Posted at 8:25 pm in Uncategorized


We could define Economy as an infrastructure of connections among producers, distributors, and consumers of goods and services in one community. On the other hand, we could state that the Internet is a global network that connects public and private sectors in different ecosystems : industry, academia and government.

There is no doubt about the potential of Internet in the economy of a country because it can minimize the transaction cost of goods and services, creating efficient and productive distribution channels, developing clusters of specific areas, increasing supply and demand and providing more consumer choices.

For this reason, technology plays a crucial role for the decision making process because it helps us to create strategies and to develop solutions. In the last two decades proprietary or closed source software dominated the industry, causing high costs derived of licenses and patent use, restricting users to modify, redistribute or share their products. Furthermore, the use of reverse engineering in private software result in a penalty or even jail, inhibiting innovation and software development.

Nowadays, public and private sectors in any domain provide the opportunity to use open source software as an alternative in order to increase security, reduce costs, improve quality, develop interoperability, customization, but mainly to uphold independence and freedom.

Some people think that open source software is not a real choice because there is not technical or financial support; however, in these essays we will study the open source phenomena and their implications in the global economy.

First, let start by defining the term open source:

According to the Open Source Initiative, (1):

“Open source doesn’t just mean access to the source code. The distribution terms of open-source software must comply with the following criteria:

1.-Free distribution

2.-Source code

3.-Derived works

4.-Integrity of the author´s source code

5.- No discrimination against persons or groups

6.- No discrimination against fields of endeavor

7.-Distribution of licenses

8.-License must not be specific to a product

9.-License must not restrict other software

10.-License must be technology neutral

In the same way the Open Source Paradigm (2) explains that:

In an ecosystem composed by academic institutions, companies and individuals that come to the idea to solve a specific need through software development. Mostly, the initial project is done by just one entity and subsequently is released to the community in order to share and to continue the development or the knowledge. If the software is useful, others members make use of it and just when the algorithm is solved by the software development and it is useful to others the circle of Open Source paradigm is completed.

A good example of the use of Open Source Paradigm is the Apache Web Server because it had been built by a group of people who needed to solve the their web server problems. This group were kept in touch by email and they worked separately, but they were determined to work together and coordinately and finally their first release were in April 1995.

Furthermore, the Open Source paradigm promotes paramount economic benefits. For instance, Open Source allows better resources allocation, it can dispense the risk and cost related to projects and it gives the control to users allowing them to customize it according to their needs.

In summary, we can say that, Open source encourages people to work together toward a specific goal and the desire to create solution, promoting innovation and software development.



1.-Open Source Initiative [n.d.] Open Source Initiative [online]

Available from: [Accessed 05 November 2013]



2.-Bruce Perens (2005) The Emerging Economic Paradigm of Open Source [online] George Washington University. Available from: [Accessed 12 November 2013]

Written by Alan Ponce on November 17th, 2013