Week 325

I’m running frightfully behind with these and debating whether to continue writing weeknotes if it means this work is being featured in a total of three places. That seems a bit too much.

Way back then I pushed Cuppings to the App Store.

I gave an interview about Politwoops:
Politwoops in SZ

I built a preliminary Foursquare paper map creating tool.

I was featured in WDR Funkhaus Europa with a small item about Politwoops:

And also a tweet I posted was featured on the New York Times website:
Tweet featured on the NYT

And finally I dropped by the office warming of IXDS who have a brilliant space two streets down from us on the waterside.

And finally that Saturday I had a beer with @pinboard at the Berlin Pinboard meetup.

Autofreies Kreuzberg: Manteuffelstraße

So today I went to the meeting of Autofreies Kreuzberg about the traffic calming of the Manteuffelstraße between Skalitzer and Naunynstraße.

I’m not an inhabitant of the area, but I like to sit at Görlitzer Bahnhof cafe quite regularly and the car and traffic situation in that street is pretty bad.

I found out recently that there is an initiative underway to close that street off for traffic which would solve the problem of passing traffic going to Köpenicker Straße passing through and also the double parked cars that are endemic in Kreuzberg.

Autofreies Kreuzberg über die Manteuffelstrasse

In brief: at the meeting die Grünen were well represented and the fact that they are well represented in local politics makes this initiative almost a certainty. It will need to go through channels which means this probably won’t happen this year, but it probably will happen.

The meeting was held to present the results of a neighborhood survey and solicit ideas what to do with the resulting space.

First we got a presentation about car free zones in Berlin and outside of it and there are quite some already. I myself have lived in a car free area twice in the Netherlands and both times it was a fantastic experience as an inhabitant.

We were attended to another initiative that wants to make 30kph the default speed limit within cities. Something well worth supporting, so sign that initiative here.

The neigborhood survey had a return rate of 15 which is not very high but it showed some interesting things especially that most people living in the area already do not use motorized transportation.

The biggest objection came from one guy who was worried that making the street car free would further increase the gentrification that is happening in Kreuzberg. To that the politicians responded that the situation is already quite bad and beautifying this street is not going to create a significant change in that respect.

There is a group of people in Berlin who try to deter new entrants by making parts of the city worse to live in. There have been campaigns of throwing trash and dog shit on the streets. These actions are of course futile. In the current climate these things only add to the ‘authentic’ Berlin feeling that so many tourists come here for.

I agree with these people that the rampant speculation in both houses and rents needs to stop, but the solution is not to hunker down and try to weather it with local ultra-conservatism. Protests against rent increases also don’t serve much of a function other than to reinforce the idea that nothing can be done. They have become rituals more than demonstrations of change. What is needed is something with concrete results.

We also got the story how they managed to convert Crellestraße (in my part of the city) to a car free zone back in the day. It used to be the quickest way to circumvent a bunch of traffic lights and get from Schöneberg to Kreuzberg and there were several taxi operations and a gas station. Currently it is a very nice part of the city with playgrounds and terraces and generally hardly any cars.

I would like them to fix Oranienstraße next, but due to some quirk it turns out that its not the local council that is responsible for that street, but the Berlin council and that will prove a much more difficult change to implement.

Week 324

Bicycle madness

Two weeks ago I headed towards Amsterdam where I’ll be the week after next again. I did a massive sprint on Cuppings and prepared my presentation for Sign of Times in Pakhuis de Zwijger.

I worked on a bunch of projects over at Hubbub on Tuesday and on Wednesday I was there again but then to prepare my presentation. That talk went really well despite the torrential rains of the day and I had a great time catching up with the people who had showed up.

I caught up with Daphne on Thursday and wandered around the city a bit looking for good coffe which I found at the newly opened Head First.

Well executed artisanal coffee/roaster play

I finally ended up at the presentations of the Liquid Journalism masterclass and got to talk with Alexander and Laura.

On Friday Kars got married which was the other main reason I was in the Netherlands for.

Getting building permits in Berlin

There’s an absurd amount of construction being done in my neighborhood and I presumed that as a resident somewhere you would be entitled to see the changes that are being planned in the area. Not to mention to be able to know the traffic blockades that result from this construction (which almost exclusively seem to black the foot/bike paths.

So I tried to request these wholesale or in part from my local council. I could think of a bunch of interesting open data work that you could do on a current list of building permits starting with: inform the public.

This unfortunately did not work out. We can score this as yet another thing that was disallowed with a summary reference to ‘Datenschutz’, Germany’s easy excuse to act dead.

ich fürchte, ich kann Ihnen in der angefragten Weise nicht helfen.

Grundsätzlich unterliegen Bauanträge und Baugenehmigungen dem Datenschutz und sind entsprechend vertraulich zu behandeln.

Zwar kann man z.B. im wissenschaftlichen Interesse im Einzelfall -natürlich anonymisiert- Ausnahmen machen.
Ich fürchte jedoch, Sie unterschätzen den Umfang von Genehmigungen aller Verfahrensarten, die hier durchlaufen (es handelt sich ja nur in den wenigeren Fällen um tatsächliche Neubauvorhaben mit mehreren Geschossen und Wohnungen, vieles sind Umbauten im Bestand, kleine Ergänzungen u.s.w.).

Natürlich stehen uns auch digitale Instrumente zur Verfügung, um die Genehmigungsverfahren zu bearbeiten. Diese sind jedoch aus den oben genannten Gründen nicht öffentlich.

Wenn Sie Ihr Forschungsinteresse näher darlegen könnten (z.B. sachlich und regional) und sich in geeigneter Weise legitimieren könnten (z.B. Bestätigung einer Universität über Ihre Forschungstätigkeit), könnte ich Sie möglicherweise im Rahmen meiner Kapazitäten und Möglichkeiten unterstützen.

Ich bitte Sie daher, entsprechende Überlegungen anzustellen und ggf. erneut Kontakt mit mir aufzunehmen (bitte erst ab dem 9.3.2013, da ich heute einen Kurzurlaub antrete).

Week 323

This week started with Pentecost. Trying to get stuff done in Germany during the bank holiday flurry that is May is always a challenge. I spent more time working on Cuppings. In all likelihood this app will never make any serious money, but there are other advantages to building apps which may become apparent in the future.

This week I gave an interview to Süddeutsche Zeitung about our project Politwoops which turned out pretty well:

Politwoops in SZ

Just before German class I was interviewed in German about altogether different matters:

KANT is slowly shaping up:

KANT in action

I received this device to be able to live digitally in the outdoors:

A cloudy start for my Wakawaka Power

And end of that week I spent some time writing and especially my piece on data was picked up nicely and got a record amount of views:

And the next day Peter and Michelle got married which was a tremendous amount of fun:


Highlights from The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi

The Quantum Thief was a very stimulating read. Make no mistake. However far off the events in this book may seem, Rajaniemi manages to evoke concepts and create language for issues that we are already dealing with.

The All-Defector. The thing that never cooperates and gets away with it.

summons the combat autism the pellegrini built into her. It enfolds her like a cool blanket, turns the world into vectors and gravity wells.

There is always a way out. You are never in a prison unless you think you are.

That’s why its task is to turn this matter into another Prison, to increase the purity of the Universe. This is what their Father the Engineer-of-Souls thought them to love. This is the way the world is made right.

The pirates worm their way into the victim’s confidence, chipping away at their gevulot until they have enough to do a brute-force attack on their mind.

Isidore feels around with his gevulot sense – an Oubliette citizen’s acute awareness of privacy settings in the intelligent matter all around.

Sending brain-to-brain messages directly through a quantum teleportation channel seems like a dirty, invasive way to communicate compared to Oubliette co-remembering. The latter is much more subtle: embedding messages in the recipient’s exomemory so that information is recalled rather than received.

But today, he is there in person, to kill an old friend.

The shops that you find only once,

The tall, intricate buildings, like belle époque Paris without the burden of gravity,

Almost no one hides beneath a full gevulot privacy screen here. This is the Avenue: you are supposed to flaunt it.

What happens there is remembered by everybody, accessible to everyone.

For a time, a group of parkroullers follows us, mistaking our race for some urban game, the kids bounce off walls and make somersaults across gaps between rooftops, the oversized wheels sticking to every surface.

In a shifting city where many places are permanently hidden by gevulot, their job is to figure out how to get you from point A to point B.

He is used to the gevulot handshakes that link names with faces and establish social context.

‘I think she was supposed to be McGonigal,’ says the pointy-eared man. ‘She was putting together a Werewolf game in the back room. But she hadn’t changed her body that much. Lame.’

She has a powerful voice, like a singer. ‘Our zoku is an old one: we can trace our origins back to the pre-Collapse gaming clans.’

‘This is the way things work here. No one has to be a stranger.’

A device that stores Time as quantum cash – unforgeable, uncopyable quantum states that have finite lifetimes, counterfeit-proof,

The exomemory stores data – all data – that the Oubliette gathers, the environment, senses, thoughts, everything. The gevulot keeps track of who can access what, in real time. It’s not just one public/private key pair, it’s a crazy nested hierarchy, a tree of nodes where each branch can only by unlocked by the root node.

The Martians have a dedicated organ for it.’ I tap my head. ‘A privacy sense. They feel what they are sharing, what is private and what isn’t. They also do something called co-remembering, sharing memories with others just by sharing the appropriate key with them.

The awareness that people he has not shared gevulot with now know who he is and what he has done makes him feel dirty.

Above, the platforms of the city shift and interlock as the city optimises its weight distribution with each step.

For me, it’s memes: brain worms, religion, poetry, Kabbalah, revolutions, Fedorovist philosophy, booze.

The dots – each a Bose-Einstein condensate, charged with energy and quantum logic – become extensions of her mind, like disembodied limbs.

One point every time you say a true thing, with achievements unlocked by actual emotional revelations.

The exomemory is everywhere. Its tiny distributed sensors – in every piece of smart- and dumbmatter – record everything, from events to temperature fluctuations to object movements to thoughts, with access to it controlled only by gevulot. But it has been designed to be write-only, with massive redundancy.

It traps the vasilev into a sandbox and starts cutting; separating higher conscious functions, rewarding and punishing.

A place where everyone owns their own minds, a place where we belong to ourselves.

The Oubliette exomemory does the same thing, stores everything thought, experienced and sensed in a location in the ubiquitous computing machinery around it.

But the bottom line is, the Oubliette is not a place of forgetting. It’s not a privacy heaven. It’s a panopticon

The temptation is there, always, to take on a different form, to escape.

Wake up. Yes, you won, you beat me; you worked it out. But the rest of us, we have bigger things to do. Not just another case, but justice, for everyone.’

Vast machines in the underworld are rumbling, and for a moment it feels like the city is a thin layer of life on the rough skin of some huge creature, stirred by a bee sting, shaking itself.

We hacked the panopticon system. Turned it into the exomemory. Used it to give the power to us.’

Spartan places, with bared-down physics and barely enough detail to stay out of the valleys of the uncanny.

Week 322

So it turns out I’ve fallen immensely behind with the weeknotes over here, but we did start writing them at the new office now, which should make up for something. Those live at http://kantberlin.tumblr.com/ currently.

What happened that week was a bunch of work and getting a desk from IKEA to work on at the new place:
Upgraded to a small-ish roller desk

The Möbeltaxi driver took us on an interesting shortcut through the old service tunnels of Tempelhof —I am amazed that Moves tracked it as well as it did— which might be fun to do some urban exploring in at some point:
Secret route through the service tunnels of the old airport. Useful when there is traffic which is more or less always.

Back then we were still drinking some horrible leftover coffee brewed in a two step process:
The morning press and filter

And I had a talk for at Bits of Freedom that I sketched out on our brilliant new whiteboard:
I gave the new whiteboard a proper exercising for an upcoming talk

I promised the people future shock and I think I delivered that to some extent.