Monthly Archives: January 2012

What do you think of our blog?

We would like to know how you find our Pardon My Finnish blog. We would appreciate your opinion to make our blog even better. Please fill out this small questionnaire by the end of February. <!– /* Font Definitions */ @font-face {font-family:Cambria; panose-1:2 4 5 3 5 4 6 3 2 4; mso-font-charset:0; mso-generic-font-family:auto; mso-font-pitch:variable; mso-font-signature:3 0 0 0 1 0;} @font-face {font-family:"Marker Felt"; panose-1:2 0 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0; mso-font-charset:0; mso-generic-font-family:auto; mso-font-pitch:variable; mso-font-signature:3 0 0 0 1 0;} /* Style Definitions */ p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal {mso-style-parent:""; margin:0cm; margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:12.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ascii-font-family:Cambria; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-fareast-font-family:Cambria; mso-fareast-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-hansi-font-family:Cambria; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-bidi; mso-ansi-language:EN-GB;} @page Section1 {size:612.0pt 792.0pt; margin:72.0pt 90.0pt 72.0pt 90.0pt; mso-header-margin:36.0pt; mso-footer-margin:36.0pt; mso-paper-source:0;} div.Section1 {page:Section1;} – The questionnaire will not take more than five minutes of your time.

We have now picked the winner of the Amazon gift card, but your opinion is still valuable for us and the questionnaire is open.

Thank you!

Amplifying Social Wellbeing by Design

Alastair Fuad-Luke and Kirsi Haikio from Aalto University blog about changes in design
The School of Arts, Design and Architecture, Aalto University organised first workshop in London together with The Finnish Institute, as part of the 365 Wellbeing project for the Helsinki World Design Capital 2012, in order to share learning about designing for wellbeing. It was the first of the series of international seminars discussing 365 Wellbeing project as it evolves.
The objective of the seminar ‘Amplifying Social Wellbeing’ was to learn and share experiences on exploratory – critical – real life design cases and discuss the potential of proactive and socially responsible design to leverage change.  The programme included talks, discussions and engaging activities. Here are some reflective comments and key things we learnt from the day.
Existing projects and design approaches
Speakers talked about academic approaches to design, design in public sector projects in hospitals with elderly people or in developing new services for municipalities.
Academia brings a tradition of critical thinking, thinking differently and projective thinking. This generates a way of seeing things as something else, a means of dissent for disrupting or questioning, a means of consent to co-build, and a means to construct new dreams (or nightmares!). Design interventions, such as Bill Gaver’s Prayer Companion or Photostroller, are a means to experiment with technology and specific people-orientated contexts and reveal one approach – what to design for them.
Ilpo Koskinen’s notion of designers being as interpretationalist “Surrealists” suggests that design can inculcate debate, transferring new ideas and possibilities, and debate spreads (new) wisdom. Design can also be grounded on a deep understanding of human dreams and needs, a capability which Aalto University has its research groups with expertise in, for example, cultural probes, empathic design, user-centred design, and co-design.
So key questions for the academics and researchers then are;  ‘What is the motivation and intention of your design approach?’ and ‘Is your design approach interventionalist, provocative, aimed at causing disruption or dissent, or is it collective, collaborative and consensual?’
How do designers work with diverse actors and stakeholders?
                  “Underneath is a notion of…What kind of society we want to live, design has lots to say.”
What emerged through the seminar is a gradual revealing of the new roles that designers are taking on, or being asked to explore, in public sector or for socially orientated projects. Design is shifting towards (new) social clients.
365 Wellbeing offers a diversity of opportunities, contexts, actors and stakeholders to test the best design approaches, the relationship between designers, actors, stakeholders and beneficiaries.
The first 365wellbeing project, dealing with psychiatric care indicated several key roles occupied by the designers. From UK Design Council perspective Head of Design Strategy Marianne Guldbrandsen offered in her presentation a clear list of roles for designers in public healthcare projects. Also Heli Leinonkoski from City of Jyväskylä, Finland noted how design can help with changing attitudes.
These roles can be tentatively classified as follows
People-orientated – Building bridges between institutions and breaking down organisational exclusivity; preparing clients, partners and users; helping people feel connected through a facilitated neutral design space; testing prototypes with users; diminishing the stigma associated with people with psychiatric conditions; reduce the risk of trying something new or unknown.
Problem-space orientated – Questioning and critical activity; help define or re-define the problem(s) with a systematic view; help define the right brief.
Process-orientated – Bring adaptable processes; help explore how people understand their lives and how they define well-being..
Solution-orientated – Provide a ‘nurturing service’ for ideas and practicalities; provide proof by testing and evidencing prototypes.
Perhaps we could also add another category…Persuasion-orientated, or the key role that designers can play as story harvesters, collators, synthesisers and re-designers of existing stories into new stories by bringing them to life.
Developing design sensitivities, awareness and the right language
                  “We are designing for potential.”
The language used by the audience to describe ‘social wellbeing’ emphasised the importance of design’s impact on human relationships (sharing, values, the everyday Arki), attitudes (creative, equanimity), and feelings (joy, dignity and  equanimity).
Design should encourage people to relate to each other in the everyday (environment) to maximise socialisation and participation. Design for social  wellbeing must create valued outcomes, that have the potential to be dynamic so they are  never stuck  but can find new directions and adapt. Design can play a key role in questioning and testing the potential development of society.
Context is everything!
The importance of understanding and framing the design context was emphasised by a number of speakers and during audience discussion. Designers should feel comfortable with dealing with ‘core’ contexts (the daily ones dealt with by governments, public and third sectors) and ‘breakaway or unexpected’ contexts driven by a new need or demand. Social engagement within the context is affected by (institutional and social) structures and issues.
The relationships between context, the audience(s) and choosing the right processes are interwoven and interdependent.
Processes and solutions
                  “Sharing – it’s a great way to move forward.”
Processes are dynamic because different actors and designers enter and leave a continuous circle of participants, process tools and critical dialogue flowing through co-design, co-creation and co-production cycles. Designers need to think about the entry, exit and re-entry/re-exit points in the short and long cycles for a project.
Outcomes and impacts
                  “Everybody can have some design agency, we can take any profession; nurses, firemen, politicians…
Outcomes as solutions embed new directionality for the actors and stakeholders (and maybe the designers too) and create positive ideas for moving forward.  Some consequences of the designing can be seen, other ‘unintended consequences’ or random impacts emerge. Impacts can be on systems and/or on people or both. In the context of specific communities wellbeing projects can change them from inwards looking to outwards looking, from invisible to visible and from closed to open communities.  Impacts vary as there is always a fuzzy boundary between ‘individual’ and ‘collective’ self interest.
Design itself is changing
                  “Design has a key role, but not in a traditional sense.”
Designing for social wellbeing is actually changing how design operates and finds expression, but designers need to focus on communicating how the design has added value, how it has impacted and how it is often designing for potential by creating dynamic outcomes or systems. Designing for wellbeing implies sharing design’s processes, methods and outcomes in order that it can encourage new things to happen. This requires a certain bravery from the designers, actors and stakeholders in order to ensure that everybody can offer their own design agency to solve complex challenging problems.
While a number of approaches, techniques and case studies were examined there was insufficient time to discuss how these were transferable between cultures or indicate how they can be adapted or modified to embrace new social  clients.  Perhaps this can be the theme for a second seminar when more 365 Wellbeing projects have been executed.
Alastair Fuad-Luke
Professor of Practice, Emerging Design Practices, Aalto University 
Kirsi Hakio 

PhD student, Aalto University

The Proposed ‘Stop Online Piracy Act’ Could Be a Threat to the Freedom of Speech

Mikael Järvelin from the Finnish Institute blogs about the latest news on The United States’ war against online piracy.

Last Wednesday, the January 18th, the English Wikipedia and many other significant websites blacked out for 24 hours. The blackout was a protest against The United States house bill, SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and senate bill, PIPA (Protect Intellectual Property Act), which have been put forward to fight online trafficking in copyrighted intellectual property and counterfeit goods. The Proposals would ban advertising on the allegedly infringing websites, bar search engines from linking to these sites and order Internet service providers to prohibit access to these sites. The proposal would also criminalize streaming of forbidden content with a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

Possibly the biggest problem with these proposals is that if carried out in their current form, they would also harm perfectly legal websites. Websites that are designed to able shearing of files or videos would for example be in danger, because they enable sharing of copyrighted material. These websites would be responsible for the files that the users post on their website. The government and some major corporations, such as record companies and movie studios, would have a chance to shut down websites that hold copyrighted material. These shutdowns wouldn’t even require a hearing or a trial.

One of the biggest concerns with these new proposed laws is that they would enable censoring of websites in a large scale. The United States would enable censorship of foreign websites. This would cause a serious threat to the freedom of speech as the United States government and some major corporations could censor foreign web pages. This has even been compared to the Chinese censorship on the Internet. United States would hardly be pleased about this sort of reputation.

What is comforting is that the protests by Wikipedia and the like-minded websites really made a difference. Before the blackout, the majority in the congress had supported the proposal, but afterwards there has been more opposition than support. Some people have called protests unnecessary, because in their view the proposal was unlikely to pass anyway. Even further, some have criticized that it is overreacting to close down global service because of one country’s national politics. Nevertheless, the protest really changed minds, so it is clear that the effort was not futile.

Only two days after the protests, SOPA and PIPA were temporarily shelved. The proposals will be reconsidered, but one thing is sure. We haven’t heard the last of these proposals. They will be back soon. We can only hope, that passing of these laws will not be reality in their current form, since this could cause a serious threat to democracy and to the freedom of speech.

Mikael Järvelin
The Finnish Institute in London

A Londoner’s Experience of the First Open Knowledge Meetup in Finland

Community Coordinator of Open Knowledge Foundation, Kat Braybrooke blogs about the first open knowledge meetup in Finland.

Last month in Helsinki, four Finns, a Russian and a Canadian huddled anxiously around a desk at Aalto University’s School of Economics with a fleet of glowing laptops, finishing last-minute prep for the first Open Knowledge Finland meetup and hoping a few brave souls would show up. A few hours, 80 participants and many intriguing discussions later, I stopped in the midst of a conversation to reflect upon the inspiring Finns around me – and I realised I had witnessed the start of a movement.

I work as Community Coordinator for the Open Knowledge Foundation, an NGO that builds projects, technical tools and communities that promote open knowledge. A specific focus this year for the OKFN is to help enrich *regional* understandings of openness, which we do through building chapters, meetups and conferences that bring locals together in new ways. We have incubating open knowledge communities in over 10 locations, from Brasil to the Czech Republic, and this October’s Open Government Data Camp in Warsaw saw over 400 members of 40 nations come together to build new projects and share ideas. I’m a Canadian from Vancouver, but I grew up in Las Vegas and now live in London, so I’m no stranger to this newly muddled form of international consciousness. And, like many other hybridised young people with roots around the world, I see myself first as a global citizen – and I believe in the potential of integrated digital and physical networks to support newly participatory civil societies.

While I was in Finland (my first trip so far north in my life), I found that the greatest advances in open knowledge and transparency are often introduced by citizens themselves, and that these concepts are especially strong in nations built on egalitarian principles of equal access and opportunity. I finally understood how fitting it is that Helsinki beat out 46 other cities to be named the World Design Capital for 2012 – a move that has spurred a multiplicity of new projects combining design, art, academia and technology with key concepts about openness (as seen in the neighbouring – and brilliant – Alternative Design Capital event). The city is in the midst of a key moment in its contemporary history, and I saw evidence of this everywhere I looked.

A few months ago, the first Finnish FABlab (a small-scale workshop for digital fabrication originated by MIT) opened at the Aalto University Media Factory – and over drinks last month with locals in Helsinki and at the Finnish Institute’s 20th Anniversary dinner, I heard about countless other initiatives that had been started through new collaborations between public and private sectors, from OpenStreetMap Finland to the Centre for Open Source Solutions to Helsinki Hacklab to Sähköautot.

The decision of our talented Helsinki-based organisers to start working with the Open Knowledge Foundation to create a chapter in Finland was based on an observation – while positive legacies were already being built in earnest (as seen by the highly successful Apps4Finland campaign), existing initiatives often did not represent the full diversity inherent within the region’s open data and open knowledge practitioners. The first Open Knowledge Meetup aimed to fill that gap by providing a welcoming space for individuals of all backgrounds and experience levels to meet in-person and collaborate.

After witnessing the results of last month’s Meetup, a night buzzing with positive energy and new ideas (see photos, videos and notes from the event here:, I believe these aims were achieved. Participants started off by talking about the current status of open knowledge in Helsinki, and then broke into groups based on specific activities and ideas, with much discussion breaking out amongst listeners about how to best go about those actions, and how to succeed at such goals. Many of us met afterwards and continued to jam on ideas together, debating data and bytes until the early hours of the morning.

The next Open Knowledge Helsinki meetup is on the 28th of this month, and in the meantime participants are sharing ideas through the popular Open Data Ecosystem Facebook group, #avoindata hashtag on Twitter and mailing list. I know I speak for all of my colleagues around the world at the Open Knowledge Foundation when I say that I’m extremely excited to see what happens in the future.

Kat Braybrooke 
Community Coordinator of Open Knowledge Foundation

Open Data Monthly Review 12/2011

A review of latest news and blog posts in the field of open data.


Legal proposals have been announced which will make what European Commission vice president Neelie Kroes in her blog calls a “treasure trove” of public data available with minimal charges for anybody to access and use. It is a move she says will stimulate a market worth tens of millions of euros as well as increasing transparency of governance.

The use of open data could be a critical factor in determining the success or failure of the UK’s growth agenda, according to a report from business advisory firm Deloitte.

Opendata, Google style

Which countries in the world have the highest debt? Where do people release the most CO2 into the atmosphere? Are there any signs that inflation is rising in Europe? How is the provision of broadband facilities progressing? Open data, publicly accessible data that is usually released by government institutions, can provide answers to such questions – if the data can be found and analysed. 

City of Burlington Launches Open Data Pilot Project
The City of Burlington is opening another access point to city information with the launch of an open data pilot project called Open Data Burlington. As a part of their ongoing e-Government strategy and commitment to enhancing transparency and accountability to residents, this pilot project will study how open data will work for the city, including the benefits to the city.

This morning, the House of Representatives took a tremendous step into the 21st century when the Committee on House Administration unanimously adopted “Standards for the Electronic Posting of House and Committee Documents & Data.”

From 2009, fiber optic cable deployment falling connectivity costs have dominated Africa’s tech headlines. This year, the focus shifted from infrastructure to content and value added services to capitalize on investments, as both the public and private sectors provided incentives to developers. Technology is expected to be Africa’s growth frontier and government services have been cited as a major driver, providing opportunities for business growth and better citizen participation. 

Challenges to EU’s Open Data Strategy
The government has been commended for, but warned about the implications of its new open data strategy. Commentators have stressed the importance of data quality and data manegement in operating the enormous vault of information held by the government, as well as recognising the importance of data sharing for economic competitiveness and public sector costs.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is under fire for his office’s denial of Freedom of Information Act requests, with critics in the local and national press and blogs taking the mayor to task for shielding public records from public view. Underscoring this lapse in transparency is Emanuel’s vow to foster “the most open, accountable and transparent government that the City of Chicago has ever seen.” Cities like Boston, Phoenix, and Seattle all routinely release such information, according to reporting by the Chicago Tribune’s David Kidwell, implying that they do transparency better.

One of the striking features of some of the most successful startups over the last ten years – companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter – is that their infrastructure is based almost entirely around open source. Of course, that shouldn’t really be surprising: open source allows people to get prototypes up and running for the price of a PC, which is great for trying out ideas with live code. And yet despite these zero-cost origins, open source software scales up to supercomputing levels – the perfect solution for startups that hope to grow. 

iSOCO Collaborates With Ikastea, the New Portal of the Basque Country Educational Community
Alongside the Basque firm Teccon, the IT company is responsible for developing the web platform of the Basque Government Department of Education, Universities and Research. Ikastea is centralising the large flow of information and educational resources available in a single site, segmenting content according to the target audience and enabling the participation of students, parents and teachers. The portal brings together the various sources of the educational universe and incorporates a variety of initiatives such as Open Data.


Is open data just a glorified form of publishing or can its benefits go beyond transparency and reusability? How do you take open data beyond the realms of traditional publishers and data sources and spur people affected by the data to participate and contribute new ideas/data about development (and in effect become open data/development partners)?

Whatit will cost to free the rest of UK government data (spoiler: £0)

First, the good news. The UK government has made good on its promises to release open data across government in 2011, and this year has seen a dizzying sequence of open data announcements, most recently in the Open Data Measures in the Autumn Statement. Not only has the government opened the data, but it has put in place institutions (like the Transparency Board), portals (like and funding (through Technology Strategy Board). This is all profoundly good news and has enabled the growth of a cadre of open data companies like Cycle Streets, Open Corporates and my own company Placr. We are racing to build new companies built on the open data and we are already paying taxes that go back into the Exchequer, offering free services to the public and value-added offerings to businesses.
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