Homeless Hotel in Gothenburg

Faktum Hotels
Despite having a highly developed economy, the world’s eighth highest per capita income, ranking 7th in the United Nation’s Human Develoment Index and being the second most competitive country according to the World Economic Forum, homeless figures are increasing across Sweden. It is not only drug addicts who end up in the streets, now there are also people who lost their homes when their businesses collapsed during the economic crisis. Nationally, the figure is estimated to be approximately 34,000. It’s a problem no one really likes to aknowledge, especially in cities like Gothenburg, Sweden’s second city, where there are more than 3,000 homeless. In Malmö, more than half of the people without a home are women and children.
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Faktum Hotels offers a unique experience. Guests get to be homeless for a night to get an idea of what it is to sleep with fear, out in the open and in the cold. The options include sleeping on a filthy mattress under a bridge by the junction of the Säve and Göta rivers, a sleeping bag in the park, or simply lying down on some cardboard boxes and newspapers at an abandoned paper mill. Each site, or “room”, has been chosen by a member of the homeless population that collaborates with Faktum, but of course there is no way to guarantee the availability of the rooms. They could actually disappear with no prior notice.

Many people have tried the idea, 1000 rooms so far have already been booked, but most can only stand a few hours.You can also book for a friend. The concept, which is part social commentary and part installation, helps fund Faktum’s non-profit organization and has the objective of raising awareness of the plight and situation of homeless people.

It is always difficult for non-profits to get people to donate money to causes, so they have to be increasingly creative to get the message across to a population desensitised, accustomed to watching the news as entertainment. Faktum has found a way of provoking thought using a format not too different from an artist’s. Below, a picture of an exhibition on Faktum in Gothemburg.

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Faktum started as a street newspaper, it was founded in 2001 and is sold by people who are homeless in Gothemburg.

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To visit the sites, environmental sound included, go to their website Faktum Hotels.

TPB AFK – The Pirate Bay documentary

The Pirate Bay - Babyshark's Minority Report

The Berlinale is a truly cultural event and one of the most important dates in the film industry. The Berlin International Film Festival, as it is officially called, is known for giving the same importance to edgy, low-budget movies as to big-studio productions. It shows some 400 movies per year, most of them international or European premieres. Around 300,000 tickets are sold, and is attended by almost 20,000 professional visitors from 130 countries. Every genre, length and format is featured at the Berlinale. Whether its films for young audiences or the avant-garde and unfamiliar, the festival is famous for its unique approach, allowing works that are sometimes hard to classify, at the intersection between film and other creative disciplines. It also likes to feature the work of women and minorities.

This year one of the movies that has premiered at the Berlinale has been “TPB AFK”, a documentary about Swedish filesharing site The Pirate Bay, which offers a behind-the-scenes look at how a handful of very clever internet pioneers found themselves fighting a battle over access to information and creative content against the powerful movie and media companies who relentlessly hounded them. The documentary, by Swedish filmmaker Simon Klose, includes footage shot over four years and one of the central storylines of the film is the trial of Pirate Bay’s four founders. Although the men (Peter Sunde, Fredrik Neij, Gottfrid Svartholm and Carl Lundström) were charged with facilitating illegal downloading of copyrighted material and sentenced to a year and hit with a 2.7 million euros fine, the website is still working. Not only that, the website claims to have today more than 25 million active users. It has been blocked by several governments, but access to it is relatively easy because censorship can be circumvented in many countries.

Klose, who does not hide his sympathy for the founders of The Pirate Bay and the ideas they defend, has released the film online under a Creative Commons license, which allows viewers to watch and copy the film for free. Watch the whole movie here:

Global Competitive Index 2012-2013. World Economic Forum. Top 20 Countries.

Switzerland ranks number one in global competitiveness this year, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitive Index. Singapore, Finland and Sweden are also at the top. The US continues dropping in the ranking for fourth year in a row. In Europe, Spain lags behind at 36 and Greece at 96.

For the whole list click here.

For the full report click here.

Hungry for the Real Thing

Intellectual property rights enforcement is considered today crucial to sustaining economic growth across all industries around the world. Some economists estimate that up to two thirds of the value of large businesses in the US can be traced to intangible assets. Intellectual property protection stimulates innovation, the thinking goes. Creators will not have sufficient incentive to invent unless they are entitled to obtain value from their inventions.

The origin of the concept of intellectual property goes some time back, the legal term is pretty recent. We can find the first traces in Jewish Law but the notion of intellectual creations as property did not appear until the 16th century. Patents evolved from royal prerogative -Queen Elizabeth I gave royal grants for monopoly privileges- to the legal right of any inventor to have exclusive control over the production and sale of his invention. In section 1 of the French Law of 1791 it says that all new discoveries are the property of the author. The author is granted a patent for five, ten or fifteen years. It was not until the 19th century, however, when the term intellectual property began to be used, and it has not been common worldwide until the end of the 20th. Although there are some unresolved ethical issues with intellectual property, especially when it comes to life-saving medicines or genetically modified seed that are given intellectual property protection, in general terms intellectual property is considered absolutely fundamental for trade and development.

One of the most flagrant cases of breach of intellectual property was discovered by a blogger in China this year. 5 fake Apple stores that sold authentic -but unauthorized- Apple products. So realistic were the stores that even the employees thought they worked for Apple. Chinese entrepreneurs are not only copying products now, they are appropriating successful retail concepts, replicating the look and feel of stores and in effect pirating the whole brand experience, the most valuable asset for many companies.

11 Furniture, a Chinese furniture retailer in the city of Kinming, has taken this practice a little further still. They have created a 10,000-square-meter, four-story replica of an IKEA store. Not a full copy, because they have not actually used the IKEA logo, but nearly everything else, including the blue-and-yellow color scheme, the mock-up rooms, the rocking chair design, the cafeteria, and even the miniature pencils. The name in Chinese “Shi Yi Jia Ju” also sounds like the official IKEA Chinese name “Yi Jia Jia Ju”.

China is feared because it seems to be out to conquer the world, but at the same time it is obvious that Chinese are fascinated and seduced by western brands and culture. Let’s not forget that Rome conquered Greece, but it became Greek in doing so. Roman elite spoke and wrote Greek as fluently as Latin. Greek philosophy, religion, science, art and thought permeated into every aspect of Roman life. Horace once said “Graecia capta ferum victorim cepit et artis intulit agresti Latio” (“Conquered Greece has conquered the brute victor and brought her arts into rustic Latium”).

The future doesn’t just appear, it has to be invented. To invent you need the drive, the money, both of which China definitely has, and of course the imagination. Imagination is fuelled by learning, and the best way to learn is to copy. However, one thing is to copy products, labeling, stores, or uniforms. Copying the ideals, values or aspirations is not that easy.

China does have real IKEA stores, especially in the wealthier coastal and southern cities, in Beijing and Shanghai. So if you want the real deal, you can have it, but you would need to have your purchase shipped. Why the hassle when you can have 11 Furniture? IKEA has said wisely that the best thing to prevent such stores from opening in the future is to open more stores and make IKEA products available to more people. So in the end, maybe having fake stores isn’t that bad after all. 11 Furniture and the fake Apple stores did breach intellectual property rights but they also brought free publicity for Apple and IKEA. They also showed there is demand for their products. If anything, they simply paved the way for the American and Swedish brands, giving customers just a taste and creating anticipation for the real thing.

(To read the original article, published in Nov 2011, in PDF: Hungry for the Real Thing)

European Union Innovation Performance Scoreboard

I created this graph today, it is basically the same graph included in the  European Union Innovation Performance Scoreboard 2011, but it is a little easier to understand. The report includes innovation indicators and trend analyses for the 27 Member States, as well as for Croatia, Iceland, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Norway, Serbia, Switzerland and Turkey. Sweden is this year the most innovative country in the European Union.