Categories
Intelligence Technology Internet

The ‘Wikipedia Dispute Index’: A Collaborative Seismometer?

Exploiting online networks in order to map and predict cross-linked social phenomena such as the commonality in consumption (Amazon), electoral behavior (Google), the spread of civil unrest (Twitter) or even the outbreak of diseases (Google and EMM) continues to be both an intricate and promising field of research.

Thus, it comes as little surprise that Gordana Apic, Matthew J. Betts and Robert B. Russell from the University of Heidelberg recently suggested an indicator for measuring geopolitical instability by applying the principle of association fallacy, primarily used in life sciences, to online encyclopedia Wikipedia’s entries whose impartiality is contested. In their brief research paper titled ‘Content Disputed in Wikipedia Reflect Geopolitical Instability‘, the authors accordingly argue that “quantifying the degree to which pages linked to a country are disputed by contributors” correlates with a country’s political stability. In other words: since instability is best represented by its underlying conflicts, the multitude and diversity of user-generated associations, namely: disputes, is believed to reveal some form of qualitative pattern that can be arranged as a stability ranking.

Categories
Social Media Government

Crossmedia Campaigning

Only three days left for 62.2 million eligible Germans to vote to elect a new parliament which, many fear, is likely to result in more of the same, a CDU-led grand coalition government together with the SPD. Out of those 62.2 million, about 3.5 million voters will cast their ballot for the very first time, with around 2.8 million of them members of one of Germany’s leading social networking forums: StudiVZ, SchülerVZ and meinVZ.

Given the dramatic twist of 2002’s German general election when the SPD won with a mere advance of 6.027 votes compared to the CDU/CSU, the attitudes of some millions of voters illustrate that in a democracy every vote counts.

So how to best trace the hard-to-predict political attitudes of young voters? Right, start a massive crossmedia offensive with social networks, public television stations, newspapers, Twitter and YouTube working hand-in-hand to provide a platform with the hardly web 2.0-compatible name of “Erst fragen, dann wählen” (= ask first, then vote).

Fine, let us “ask first” then…

Screenshot of the "Erst fragen, dann wählen" website
Screenshot of the "Erst fragen, dann wählen" website
Categories
Intelligence

Is It Worth the Ink?

The CIA has disclosed a long-awaited report on its controversial interrogation methods as part of President Obama’s transparency promise. On his second day in office, he signed an executive order strengthening the Freedom of Information Act.

So now is the time for the public to read that █████ ███ ██ █████████ █ █████████ █████. And even more is revealed, e. g. ██████████ ██ ████ ███████ █ ███ █ ███████. If you have no idea by now, better ████████████████ ████ ████████ █ ██████ ██ ████████, because ████████████████████████ ██████ ██ ██ ██████████████.

The CIA's report on interrogation methods
The CIA's report on interrogation methods

In the future, the newly created “High Value Detainee Interrogation Group” will handle the questioning of high-level prisoners. It is led by the FBI and will act in strict accordance with the the US Army field manual on interrogations, the █████████. I’m sorry, this one, the FM 2-22.3, is of course “approved for public release; distribution is unlimited”.

If it is approved for public release, it cannot be bad, right? And if CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano notes that “The CIA in no way endorsed behavior – no matter how infrequent – that went beyond formal guidance. This has all been looked at. […] That’s how the system was supposed to work, and that’s how it did work,” then I wonder whether that formal guidance was blacked out in the first place, too?

Categories
International Relations New Media

US President Obama’s Travels Abroad

A couple of days ago, I came across a website, StepMap, that lets you create your own custom and interactive maps for free. StepMap is pretty easy to use, yet a powerful tool to illustrate your thoughts, so I played around with it a bit to trace US President Obama’s travels abroad (17 trips to 14 different countries so far) since taking office, based on Wikipedia’s list of presidential trips. If you click on the tiny flags (the Vatican flag is missing in their toolbox), exact dates and locations visited will appear. The numbers before the flags obviously indicate the sequence of Obama’s visits. You can also enhance your map with a lot of fancy stuff, such as PDFs, images etc. pp. which, for the first try, I didn’t make use of.

Be that as it may, from a geopolitical standpoint I found this admittedly far from perfect map quite interesting, not only for the places the POTUS visited, but even more so for the places he didn’t visit (e.g. South America).  Taking into consideration his Secretary of State’s trips to Japan, Indonesia, South Korea (her husband even travelled to North Korea), China, Egypt, Israel, the Palestinian Territories, Belgium, Switzerland, Turkey and Mexico, the map would be more balanced, of course.

US President Obama's Travels Abroad (as of August 21st)
Landkarten erstellen mit StepMap

StepMap US President Obama's Travels Abroad (as of August 21st)
Categories
Journalism

Homo Homini Lupus

“When you try to terrorize people and you burn their houses, when you desecrate graves and when you make death threats, to me that is way beyond activism and I would call this clearly terrorism,” Daniel Vasella, CEO of the Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis, told the media.

Some days before, the “Militant Forces against Huntingdon Life Science (MFAH)” burned down his hunting cottage in Austria and desecrated his mother’s grave in Chur, Switzerland. The MFAH is said to be linked to the British campaign “Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty” (SHAC); Huntingdon being Europe’s largest and, seemingly, most controversial contract animal-testing company. Cynically, Huntingdon’s slogan could also be the MFAH’s credo: “Working for a Better Future.”

Animal liberation / Photo: ThinkVegan/flickr
Animal liberation / Photo: ThinkVegan/flickr

Incredibly enough, according to the Swiss domestic intelligence service, Dienst für Analyse und Prävention (DAP), investigations related to militant animal rights groups amount to as much as 10 percent of their daily workload.