At the beginning of 2012 I made a decision: to opt for more liberty in my use of technology. I'd been watching as big companies and governments push for more and more control over what we could do with the computing and communications systems that have brought such value to our lives. I'd grown increasingly worried about the degree to which decentralized technology – where the greatest value was created, without anyone's permission, at the edges of the networks – was being re-centralized in disturbing ways. Meanwhile, tech users seemed to take vast corporate and government surveillance for granted.
The International Telecommunications Union has approved the adoption of a technical standard for deep packet inspection (DPI) technology, arousing concerns about the potential effects of standardizing invasive technology that can be used for censorship and surveillance....
Networks operators can use DPI for innocuous and useful applications such as network security and malware detection. However, ISPs have also used DPI for more invasive applications, such as blocking competitors’ products, bandwidth shaping, and targeted advertising. Additionally, governments have found DPI to be an effective means for both censorship or surveillance. It is known that China, Iran, and Russia currently use DPI; it has been alleged that the United States has also used DPI for warrantless surveillance.
Anybody who has hung around the free software community for a while will be familiar with the confusion created by the ambiguity between "free as in price" versus "free as freedom." In the essay I argue that there is a less appreciated semantic ambiguity that arises when we begin to think that what matters is that software is free. Software doesn't need freedom, of course; Users of software need freedom. My essay looks at how the focus on free software, as opposed to on free users, has created challenges and divisions in the free software movement.
It has never been easier for educators to connect with one another, to share best practices, to see best practices from around the country or around the globe, and to connect across schools with teachers who share our subjects, or our interests, or our peculiar circumstances. Never before has the fraternity of teachers been more connected.
But for all this, and in some ways because of all this, it is also an incredibly difficult time to be a teacher. Morale is at a 20 year nadir. Public discourse decries America's failing schools, laying blame at the foot of teachers while tolerating severe cuts in educational funding. Hollywood studios believe that demonizing teacher's unions might make for popular entertainment (though Rotten Tomatoes says they were wrong).
The future of libraries is in peril. Librarians and those of us who love libraries need to make an affirmative argument for investments in the services, materials, and physical spaces that libraries comprise. This argument must be grounded in the needs of library users, today and in the future. The argument needs to move past nostalgia and toward a bright and compelling future for libraries as institutions, for librarians as professionals, and for the role that libraries play in vibrant democracies.
Here is a perfect gift to salute the new year: our new e-book dedicated to Africa's Sub-Saharan region. “African Voices of Hope and Change,” gives you an intimate perspective into the stories and people of Sub-Saharan Africa through our best English-language posts from 2012. From a total of about 800 posts produced over the year from the region, we hand-picked 13 posts to feature from Senegal, Uganda, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, Ghana, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Mauritania, Kenya, Angola and other countries.