Berkman Alumni, Friends, and Spinoffs

Keep track of Berkman-related news and conversations by subscribing to this page using your RSS feed reader. This aggregation of blogs relating to the Berkman Center does not necessarily represent the views of the Berkman Center or Harvard University but is provided as a convenient starting point for those who wish to explore the people and projects in Berkman's orbit. As this is a global exercise, times are in UTC.

The list of blogs being aggregated here can be found at the bottom of this page.

April 21, 2014

Global Voices
Hong Kong: Where Does the Boyfriend Live?

Hong Kong is the world's most expensive place to live due to its rocketing property prices. For an outsider, the property price is just an unreasonable figure. For local residents, it becomes a nightmare that affects every aspect of life, sometimes even people's relationships.

This nightmare is depicted in an online short story called, “Girlfriend brings you home for dinner” [zk] anonymously under the pseudonym, Golden Godfather, in a popular online forum, Golden Forum earlier this year. Inspired by the story, Ronnie Chau, a political commentary video producer, later turned the story into a mini-film “Public housing, Private-ownership apartment, Private apartment” that has gone viral in Hong Kong.

The video plays with some stereotypes of Hong Kong Chinese family in which the mother expects her daughter to improve her life by picking a relatively wealthy boyfriend. As the residential address of a person can reflect a person's economic status in Hong Kong, the first question the mother in the video asks the boyfriend is where he lives. There are three scenarios – public housing, government subsidized housing under the private-ownership scheme and private apartment. And the mother reacts accordingly.

Within a short period of time, the video receives 100K+ views and many comments. While the video is clearly exaggerating the relation between people by playing with the materialistic stereotype of “Chinese mother”, many netizens believe it depicts the reality:

KHL1U1001016: freaking true…

Allan Wong: sooooooo realistic…

James Chou2: It's sad and funny because it's true. HK SAR people do judge people by where they live and their work…

螢幕快照 2014-04-20 2.22.11 PM

The “mother” acted by Angelina Lo, an experienced artist in Hong Kong, has become the focus of the discussion on YouTube:

whwong2881: That guy should said : Na I don't like your daughter because you are a fuxking gold digger

abcnoman011: They are not gold digger , it just that the price of a apartment in hk is so unreasonable high , that a normal person can hardly afford . The mother is just want to make sure that the daughter is dating someone that have a private apartment or at least own one, so the daughter do not have to suffer later in live , it is sad but truth , the mother have a a good reason to do that , she may went through hell in the past to save up money to buy an apartment , so she do not want her daughter to go through what she had gone through . Sad !!!!!!!!

tsz ng2: fantastic actress, Ms LO, same set up three tone of performance.
As a mother she just hope her child get the best future.
However our society is deeply affected by the western culture and lost our the fundamental believe of human being.
We need more people to be alert and rectify our society back to the right track.

Of course, the ultimate problem is the crazy property prices because of the unlimited flow of investment and speculative capital in the city:

asuka k: Don't blame auntie, but the government!

by Hunter at April 21, 2014 09:20 AM

April 20, 2014

Global Voices
Syrian Dad Appeals to British Foreign Office to Reunite Him with His Son
Syrian father Wael Zain claims his British son, Maudh, aged five, is stranded in Syria and that the British Foreign Office is not helping reunite them. Photograph shared on Twitter.

Syrian father Wael Zain claims his British son, aged five, is stranded in Syria and that the British Foreign Office is not helping reunite them. Photograph shared on Twitter.

Wael Zain, a Syrian living and working in London, has turned to Twitter to draw attention to the plight of his five-year-old son, Maudh, who holds a British nationality, and who has been stranded in Syria for three years.

In a series of tweets, Zain explains that his son, whom he claims was recently shot at, is with his mother in a village in Deraa, and needs medical attention. He also claims that the British Foreign Office has turned a deaf ear to his ordeal.

Originally from Deraa, Syria, Zain tweets:

He explains:

In other tweets, addressed to British Foreign Secretary William Hague, Zain appeals:

He further adds:

Zain says he has not seen his son for three years and shares this last photograph he has of him:

by Amira Al Hussaini at April 20, 2014 10:38 PM

Farewell to Puerto Rican Salsa Singer Cheo Feliciano
Foto de Cheo Feliciano compartida ampliamente en las redes sociales. Tomada de la página de Facebook 32 x Oscar.

A photo of Cheo Feliciano being widely shared on social media. Taken from Facebook page 32 x Oscar.

(Links below are in English, otherwise noted as [sp] for Spanish)

In the early morning hours of Thursday April 17th, 2014, Puerto Rican singer, songwriter, and producer, José Luis Feliciano Vega, better known as Cheo Feliciano, died in an automobile accident. He was 78 years old. 

As a singer, Cheo Feliciano was one of the most important exponents of salsa and bolero music. His artistic trajectory includes working with Joe Cuba, Héctor Lavoe, Celia Cruz, Rubén Blades, Eddie Palmieri, and Tite Curet Alonso, amongst other big names in popular music. He was admired not only in his native Puerto Rico, but in all of Latin America as well. In the following video we can appreciate Cheo Feliciano's gift for salsa. Here he shares the stage with legendary Fania All-Stars in celebration of the ensemble's 30th anniversary:

Twitter users lamented the great loss that his passing represents. They also expressed admiration towards his music:

Been listening to his music since I was little; you were my idol, your passing is very painful my Cheo Feliciano. Never see you live. Rest in peace Cheo.

Today I will only be listening to Cheo Feliciano.

Grande como: cantante, bolerista, sonero, inspiración a muchos, hombre que venció al vicio, como ¡Familia! de PR entero. DEP #CheoFeliciano

— Fiquito Yunqué (@fiquito_yunque) April 17, 2014

Great as singer, bolerista, sonero, an inspiration to many, a man who overcame his vices, as family to all of Puerto Rico.

Coliseo Roberto Clemente was elected as the venue for the public to say goodbye to Cheo Feliciano. This in order to accommodate as many people as possible who wished to pay their last respects:

Llega al Coliseo Roberto Clemente el féretro de #CheoFeliciano. El público podrá darle último adiós a partir de 1pm pic.twitter.com/B0PbZpMtU6 — Ricardo E. Martínez (@RicardoEladio) April 19, 2014

Cheo Feliciano body arrives at the Coliseo Roberto Clemente. The public will be able to show their last respects starting at 1pm.

Cartoonist Kike Estrada [sp] also shows homage to Cheo Feliciano's memory: 

"Buen viaje, Cheo" del caricaturista Kike Estrada. Tomado de su página web Planeta Kike. Utilizado con su autorización.

“Have a good trip, Cheo” from cartoonist Kike Estrada. Taken from his webpage, Planeta Kike [sp] [Kike's Planet]. Used with his permission. 

In 80 Grados [80 Degrees], an emotional account [sp] is given by writer and Caribbean scholar Juan Carlos Quintero Herencia. He remembers Cheo Feliciano and how another great salsa singer, Puerto Rican Héctor Lavoe (1946-1993), immortalized him in “El Cantante” (video) [The Singer] as one of the greatest voices in salsa's history. 

Héctor Lavoe en “El cantante” ha dejado inscritos los nombres del sabor y el plante salsero. Allí está el código para la fácil-dificultad del cantar salsero, además de que nos dejó la vara con la que el “Cantante de los cantantes” deseaba ser medido. Estos son sus verdaderos pares: “Mi saludo a Celia, Rivera, Feliciano, esos son grandes cantores. Coro: Hoy te dedico mis mejores pregones./ Ellos cantan de verdad/ siempre ponen a gozar a la gente./ Coro: Hoy te dedico mis mejores pregones/ Escuchen bien su cantar/ aprendan de los mejores.” Hasta ayer, Cheo era el único que desde el lado de acá de la grabación podía devolverle el saludo a Lavoe con su voz, en vida. Hoy, allí los verán: Héctor Lavoe, Ismael Rivera, Celia Cruz y Cheo Feliciano, cuatro titanes custodian el pabellón de los salseros muertos.

Héctor Lavoe has left the flavors of salsa and the image of the salsa singer engraved in “El Cantante”. There lies the code for the apparent simplicity of singing salsa. Furthermore, he left us the measuring rod with which the “singer of singers” desired to be measured by. These are his true equals: “My greetings to Celia, Rivera, Feliciano, those are great singers. Chorus: Today I dedicate to you my best songs/ They really sing/ They always make the people have fun/ Chorus: Today I dedicate to you my best songs/ Listen carefully to their singing/Learn from the best.” Up until yesterday, Cheo was the the only one on this side of the recording that could return Lavoe's greeting with his voice in life. Today, you will see them there: Héctor Lavoe, Ismael Rivera, Celia Cruz, and Cheo Feliciano, four titans watching over the pavilion of the deceased salsa singers. 

Cheo Feliciano was also admired in the United States, particularly in the Puerto Rican diaspora, such as this mural in the Bronx, New York shows: 

#RIP#graffiti#mural for #CheoFeliciano, #Salsero#Boricua supreme. In #Bronx by BG183 & HEF pic.twitter.com/h4XiYrXWLR

— David Gonzalez (@dgbxny) April 17, 2014

You can read Cheo Feliciano's biography here [sp]. It was written by the Fundación Nacional para la Cultural Popular [The National Foundation for Popular Culture]. 

by Kelley Johnson at April 20, 2014 10:32 PM

Syria: “Two Years Later, We are All So Terribly Wrong”

In a must-read post on Facebook, Syrian Hiba Diewati reflects on the situation in her country, on the third anniversary of the Syrian revolution.

She recalls the early days of the revolution, including her own imprisonment for four days for protesting against the regime:

I would have loved to share something lighthearted today. Two years ago we stepped out into the Damascene sun and I started heating up in my San Francisco sweatshirt; I then realized how cold it had been those few days underground.

Two years ago, we thought a four-day prison sentence was nothing if but a celebration. And it was worth it because it would all soon be over, the revolution would be victorious, and we could stop this double life and move on to all working together to building and beautifying the Syria we dreamed of; a democracy, equality, peace from constant threats, and freedom.

Two years ago I was surrounded by friends, so many of them they were kicked out of the courthouse and told to wait outside. Amidst the hugs and laughs after our release, one of them jokingly told me, “Lucky, the revolution is almost over and I still haven't gotten detained; not fair!”

Hiba continues:

Two years later, one of the five young people I was captured with for peaceful protesting is gone again. He is a medical student, a field doctor, and has been detained under horrible conditions for almost a year now.

The friends who stood outside the courthouse on Al-Nasr Street, or “Victory” Street, are now scattered all over the world. Some are in America, others in Berlin, Istanbul, Iraq, Beirut and Amman, to name a few. Others are still in Damascus. Others yet are in the “liberated” areas.

In her note, she describes the situation in Syria today as follows:

Two years later, children in southern Damascus are eating crumbs off the street as they starve under siege. Aleppo, or what is left of it, is crumbling under TNT barrel bombs. Beautiful Kessab is getting bombed by Assad, despite all the warning signs. Mortar shells are falling on central Damascus , presumably by rebels who have no idea what they're doing. A dozen or more prisoners die under torture everyday. Zehran Alloush of the cursed “Islamic Front” is calling for ethnic cleansing of the coast. Civil society activists are detained and slaughtered by ISIS. Syrians break records in art and in refugees. Reporters are flying in fighter jets. Fighters are everywhere and food is nowhere.

Hiba adds:

Two years ago we never thought it would all fall apart. Two years ago we wouldn't have dreamed of the epidemic of hate and loss.

Two years ago, a Palestinian friend stood outside Damascus University and relayed his prediction of events. He had a sense of authority about him, the black and white koffiya, the leather jacket, chain smoking, and a head full of Marx, history and politics.

“The Americans will fly in and bomb us here in Damascus a few times. Nothing as bad as what the regime is doing to Homs now, but it will hurt, we are the capital after all. There will be collateral damage, maybe us even, but Assad will leave and we can start cleaning up this mess.”

She concludes:

Two years later, we are all so terribly wrong.

by Amira Al Hussaini at April 20, 2014 09:48 PM

MIT Center for Civic Media
Reclaiming Public Space/Surveillance and Control

WARNING: PERCEPTION REQUIRES INVOLVEMENT. By Antoni Muntadas, 2012. Presented at the Pavement Gallery.

This weekend I moderated a panel for Public Space: Lost & Found, a symposium in honor of the work of Antoni Muntadas who has taught in the Art, Culture and Technology program at MIT for more than thirty years. Here is my introduction of our panel and its issues, along with some of the questions I had for the panelists at the end. If I can track it down, I will try to post the full video from the event because the speakers and respondents on the panel were amazing.

Hello everyone. My name is Catherine D'Ignazio and I'm a research assistant at the MIT Center for Civic Media. I can't express what an honor it is to be here and to be sharing a stage with three of my heroes so a thank you to Gedminas Urbonas for organizing this symposium and Muntadas for his amazing work and teaching which give us a reason to be here today.

 

Our panel is called Reclaiming Public Space/Surveillance and Control. While public space was imagined by some to be in decline over the past half century, the developments of the past several years show that from Tahrir Square to Zucotti Park to Gezi Park to Plaza Altamira the act of physically gathering in public spaces to express dissent and posit alternate futures is alive and well. While we might not go so far as to brand these "Twitter Revolutions" it is undoubtable that media - social, networked, mobile, participatory - are playing an important role in organizing, documenting and disseminating these gatherings. To use television language, there are many, many channels now. So when CNN Turk is showing a penguin documentary while thousands of protestors are being tear gassed in Istanbul, the world finds out via text, Twitter, YouTube, memes, gifs and blogs.

 

But the proliferation of media forms doesn't lead directly to liberation. What is also alive and well from an economic perspective is the booming business of surveillance. In an era where computer storage is cheap, data can be big. General Keith Alexander, Director of the National Security Agency, articulated the general cultural ethos of Big Data when he said, "You need the haystack to find the needle." In other words, "Collect and store everything." This is the philosophy behind the NSA contracting with our media companies (who were already surveiling us, in any case) to access our metadata, to tap the phones of friendly foreign leaders, and so on. And in fact, the discourse of Big Data is particularly interesting for artists and cultural producers of all kinds. Because Big Data makes claims to visuality. The discourse is about exposing hidden patterns, making the invisible visible, and revealing meaning from the chaos of everyday life. This is something that artists often claim to do. And novel technologies for the purposes of spatial data collection are proliferating. For example, in just the past week I've learned about a technology called ShotSpotter used in the City of Oakland which places receivers across the city that immediately alert law enforcement to the location of gunfire. Because relations between the community and the police are strained and people do not report crimes, so now ShotSpotter does. And another one called Stingray technology which simulates a cell phone tower, convinces mobile phones within a certain radius to connect to it, and then accesses all manner of mobile data. This is evidently being used to collect information from protesters' mobile phones among other things.

 

My point is simply that surveillance is pervasive, surveillance is data-based and surveillance is unequal. It is unequal in relation to who has the resources to own, analyze and mobilize the Big Datas and the Smart Cities and it is unequal in terms of who it targets, disproportionately targeting social movement leaders, people of color, of lower income, and with marginalized status in society.

 

So what we might do at this point is sit around and feel depressed.

Except that what we have today is an amazing opportunity to have in front of us three guides who, in their various ways, show us how to reclaim public space. But, perhaps more importantly, they show us how to reclaim our agency as civic actors. They know that shaping public space is not just about designing a building but about contesting and re-formulating social relationships to place.

Where surveillance is from above, these artists work from below - with specific communities in crisis or stressed situations. Where surveillance is predicated on division and distance, these artists work with proximity and intimacy. One of the things that I most admire about the speakers on our panel today is the ways in which their work travels outside of realm of art to become other most urgent and pressing things: like a public toilet, for example, or a civic institution or a prosthetic device. Their distinguished careers have led them to bold ideas like the Abolition of War, on-site classes like Design for the Living World and cross-border laboratories like the Center for Urban Ecologies. And like Muntadas, and I think this is very important to note and to say, they are educators.

 

I will now briefly introduce our speakers individually and note that their accomplishments and awards are too numerous to fit here so I'm not even going to try. For example, like Muntadas, they have all represented their countries at the Venice Biennial, normally considered one of Art and Architecture's highest awards.

 

Teddy Cruz is an architect known internationally for his urban research on the Tijuana/San Diego border, advancing border neighborhoods as sites of cultural production from which to rethink urban policy, affordable housing, and civic infrastructure.  Teddy is a professor in public culture and urbanism at University of California, San Diego, where he is founding co-director of the Center for Urban Ecologies and several other civic initiatives. He is also a special advisor to the City of San Diego.

 

Marjetica Potrc is an artist and architect. She is a professor at the University of Fine Arts in Hamburg, Germany. Her drawings, architecture and participatory design works have been exhibited extensively throughout Europe and the Americas. Originally from Slovenia, she works internationally in sites such as Caracas, Soweto and Amsterdam.

 

Krzysztof Wodiczko is an artist, theorist and educator, Professor in Residence of Art, Design, and the Public Domain at the GSD, Harvard, and a former director of the Center for Advanced Visual Studies, at MIT.  He is renowned for his large-scale slide and video projections on architectural facades and monuments. He has worked with immigrants, veterans, and homeless city residents to develop interrogative design objects and stories.

 

Additionally, today we have two esteemed colleagues who are respondents to our panelists. Like our panelists they are also really amazing people with many accomplishments.

 

Jane Hutton is a landscape architect and assistant professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Her research focuses on the expanded consequences of material practice in landscape architecture, examining links between the landscapes of production and consumption of common construction materials. Current research projects include the geographic tracing of construction materials used in public landscapes of New York City.

 

Adrian Blackwell is an artist and urbanist whose work focuses on the relation between physical spaces and political and economic forces. His research focuses on the intertwined problems of public space and private property. His current writing examines the polarities of global neoliberal urbanization using Shenzhen as its case. He is an assistant professor at the University of Waterloo, a visiting professor at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design.

 

Please join me in welcoming our esteemed guests. Teddy Cruz will give the first presentation.

 

Questions for the Panel

  • All of your work involves participation in some way. Teddy spoke about "protocols of participation" and Marjetica laid out her rules of engagement. Could you all speak more about participation, the rules that govern your engagement with communities, and how you came to learn or create these protocols? And what role does conflict, dissent or contestation play?

  • Echoing Marjetica's question at the end of her presentation - How do we scale participatory, bottom-up innovation to effect change on a legislative scale?

  • Teddy and Krzysztof spoke about visualizations and "making visible". Krzysztof mentioned that Hannah Arendt equates visibility with equality. Marjetica speaks about creating visible public spaces for a community. But visibility is not just unequivocally good, as we see in the case of surveillance. What about this tension that exists between control, domination and visibility? Does scale matter here?

 

by kanarinka at April 20, 2014 06:52 PM

Doc Searls
It’s Indie Time

Aral Balkan is doing a bang-up job getting Indie rolling as an adjectival meme. He’s doing it with his Indie PhoneIndie Tech Manifesto and a talk titled Free is a Lie.

To put the Indie movement in context, it helps to realize that it’s been on the tech road at least since 1964, when Paul Baranone of the Internet’s architects, gave us this design for a network:

Meaning the one on the right. The one on the left was common in those days and the one in the middle was considered inevitable. But the one on the right was radical. First, it reduced to one the “attack surface” of the network. Take out one node or one link and the rest stayed up. Second, it also served as the handy design spec for the protocols that now define the Internet. Aral, the Indie Phone and the Indie Manifesto are all about the one on the right: Distributed. So, for that matter, is The Cluetrain Manifesto. For example:

That was Chris Locke’s line. ”Markets are conversations” (one of my lines) and “Hyperlinks subvert hierarchy” (one of David Weinberger’s) also come from the same spot.

Marketing comes from A and B. Never C. Thus, as Jakob Nielsen told me after Cluetrain came out, “You guys defected from marketing. You sided with markets, against marketing.” Meaning we sided with individual human beings, as well as society in general. But certainly not with marketing — even though all three of us made a living in marketing. Perhaps not surprisingly, Cluetrain became, and remains, a favorite of marketers, many of which continue to defect. (Bonus link.)

Independent, sovereign, autonomous, personal and heterarchical are all adjectives for what one gets from a distributed network. (This may call forth an acronym, or at least an initialism.) By whatever name it is an essential camp, because each of us is all six of those things (including distributed). We need tech that enables those things and gives us full agency.

We won’t get them from the centralizers of the world. Or decentralizers that don’t go all the way from B to C. We need new stuff that comes from the truly personal side: from C. It helps that C — distributed — is also central to the mentality, ethos and methodologies of hacking (in the positive senses of the word).

Ever since the Net went viral in the mid-’90s, we’ve built out “solutions” mostly on the models of A and B: of centralized and decentralized. But too rarely all the way to C: the fully personal. This is understandable, given the flywheels of industry, which have the heft of Jupiter and have been spinning ever since Industry won the Industrial Revolution.

But one fully personal exception stands out: the browser. It was born to be the best instrument of individuality we could have, even though it has lately become more of a shopping cart than a car. (That was one point of Earth to Mozilla: Come back home.) If we want the browser to be fully personal (e.g. private) again — as it was in the first place, before commercial imperatives were laid upon it, and the Web looked like a library (which one would browse) rather than a shopping mall — Mozilla is our best hope for making that happen. There are no other candidates. And it’s clear to me that they do want to work toward that goal.

We won’t get rid of centralization and hierarchy. Nor should we, because there are many things centralization and hierarchy do best, and we need them to operate civilization. Our personal tools also need to engage with many of them. But we also can’t expect either centralization or decentralization to give us distributed solutions, any more than we can get government or business to give us individuality, or for hierarchy to give us heterarchy. The best we’ll get from them is respect: for us, and for the new tools we bring to the market’s table.

Aral is right when he tweets that Mozilla’s dependence on Google is an elephant in the room. It’s an obvious issue. But the distributed mentality and ethos is alive and well inside Mozilla — and, for that matter, Google. I suspect it even resides in some corner of Mark Zuckerberg’s cerebrum. (He’s too much of a hacker for it not to be there.) Dismissing Mozilla as a tool of Google throws out babies with bathwater — important and essential ones, I believe.

Meanwhile we need a name for the movement that’s happening here, and I think Aral’s right that “Indie” might be it. “Distributed” sounds like what happens at the end of a supply chain. “Heterarchical” is good, but has five syllables and sounds too academic. “Sovereign” is only three syllables (or two, depending) and is gaining some currency, but it more commonly applies to countries than to people. “Personal” is good, but maybe too common. And the Indie Web is already catching on in tech circles. And indie itself is already established as a nickname for “independent.”  So I like it.

I would also like to see the whole topic come up at VRM Day and IIW, which run from 5 to 8 May in Mountain View. The links for those:

http://VRMday2014a.eventbrite.com

http://iiworkshop.org (register at http://bit.ly/1hWpNn5)

by Doc Searls at April 20, 2014 08:55 AM

Global Voices
Philippine Jeepney: World War II Surplus Vehicle that Became a Cultural Icon

A jeepney in Pangasinan province. Flickr photo by Brandon Keim (CC License)

A jeepney in Pangasinan province. Flickr photo by Brandon Keim (CC License)

The jeepney is the undisputed ‘King of the Road’ in the past half-century in the Philippines. But aside from being the most popular mode of public transportation, the jeepney has come to symbolize the Filipino spirit.

The jeepney is an indirect American legacy. After World War II, military surplus jeeps were left behind by the Americans and these were converted by Filipinos into public transport vehicles:

When American troops began to leave the Philippines at the end of World War II, hundreds of surplus jeeps were sold or given to local Filipinos. Locals stripped down the jeeps to accommodate several passengers, added metal roofs for shade, and decorated the vehicles with vibrant colors and bright chrome plating and hood ornaments.

Filipinos also painted and adorned the jeepney with various ornaments:

Filipinos also started adding colorful and shiny ornaments, and using the car’s metal body as canvas for painted or airbrushed images of personal significance, or adverts. The Jeepney became a part of Filipino culture, and an inexpensive means of transportation for the country’s proletariat.

An artist paints inside a jeepney. Facebook photo from Sarao

An artist paints inside a jeepney. Facebook photo from Sarao

A popular ornament placed on the hood of the jeepney is the horse symbol:

Gilded iron moldings, intricate art work of paintings depicting country side scenery, lapels, tassels and sometimes glittery tinsels abundantly distributed inside and outside. And finally, the wrought iron symbol of a horse drawn carriage and a chrome finished horse, festooned on top of the hood as an ornament and as a reminder of a past glory representing the horse drawn carriage.

The classic Jeepney design. Notice the horse symbol? Photo from Facebook page of Sarao

The classic Jeepney design. Notice the horse symbol? Photo from Facebook page of Sarao

In other islands, Japanese elf trucks were stripped down and refurbished as jeepneys:

In Cebu, popular jeepney manufacturers are Chariot and RDAK, known for its “flat-nosed” jeepneys made from surplus Suzuki minivans and Isuzu Elf trucks, which are no longer in use in Japan. These are equipped with high-powered sound systems, racing themes, and are bigger and taller than those in Manila.

This video is a useful introduction on how to ride the jeepney:

There is no large corporation, either public or private, which owns and manages jeepney operations in the country. It means jeepney drivers often compete for passengers in the streets:

In the Philippines , jeeps compete with each along the same route. Competition for customers is intense, and thousands of jeeps eke out a living gathering as many customers as possible by running as often as possible.

…so eager are jeeps to gain your patronage, that they will stop anywhere for you as long as you are within sight. This is to the detriment of people in private cars, but to the benefit of the jeepney-riding public.

For Manila Concierge Online, the jeepney represents a struggle between tradition and development:

They represent a battle between traditional and progress and up to now the traditional is still winning. As much as they have charm, history and being a part of the culture, it could also be said that they are totally unsuitable in almost every imaginable way as a modern public transport vehicle.

But the author noted that the jeepney seating arrangement could easily lead to friendly conversations:

Although most people simply keep to themselves on a jeepney, I have had many a friendly exchange riding one of these crazy people trucks. The nature of the seating means you are sat facing each other and I’m often smiled at as eye contact and close human interaction is unavoidable which is all part of the charm of the jeepney, a small compensation for the slight discomfort of being on a crowded one.

In recent years, the government became more aggressive in regulating jeepneys to reduce traffic and pollution. Some cities even introduced electric jeepneys. The latest innovation which could become the standard in the near future is the installation of free wifi and CCTV inside the jeepney.

Below is a Twitter photo of an overcrowded jeepney with a ‘topload':

A school service jeepney. Photo from Facebook page of Sarao

A school service jeepney. Photo from Facebook page of Sarao

A jeepney beside a trike which is also a popular mode of transportation in the Philippines. Flickr photo by Victor Dumesny (CC License)

A jeepney beside a trike which is also a popular mode of transportation in the Philippines. Flickr photo by Victor Dumesny (CC License)

A daily scene in downtown Manila where Jeepneys occupy all the lanes of a street. Flickr photo by Kahunapule Michael J (CC License)

A daily scene in downtown Manila where Jeepneys occupy all the lanes of a street. Flickr photo by Kahunapule Michael J (CC License)

A pink jeepney with a different structural design. Flickr photo by dbgg1979 (CC License)

A pink jeepney with a different structural design. Flickr photo by dbgg1979 (CC License)

A jeepney beside a bullock with a cart. Flickr photo by 333junction (CC License)

A jeepney beside a bullock with a cart. Flickr photo by 333junction (CC License)

The main modes of transportation in Manila: Bus, Jeepney, LRT train. Flickr photo by John Ward (CC License)

The main modes of transportation in Manila: Bus, Jeepney, LRT train. Flickr photo by John Ward (CC License)

This Jeepney design is often used in tourism resorts. Flickr photo by Joshua Bousel (CC License)

This Jeepney design is often used in tourism resorts. Flickr photo by Joshua Bousel (CC License)

Jeepneys are reliable vehicles that can be used in the rugged terrains of the countryside. Flickr photo by Stefan Munder (CC License)

Jeepneys are reliable vehicles that can be used in the rugged terrains of the countryside. Flickr photo by Stefan Munder (CC License)

by Mong Palatino at April 20, 2014 07:34 AM

How Technology and Citizen Media Shaped Taiwan's Sunflower Movement
'Let the morning sun lit up democracy. A new day will come.' on a T-shirt shoot in the March 30 protest. Photo by facebook user Wayne Huang. CC BY-NC 2.0

“Let the morning sun lit up democracy. A new day will come.” A T-shirt from the March 30 protest. Photo by Facebook user Wayne Huang. CC BY-NC 2.0

Throughout the three-week occupation of Taiwan's legislative building by protesters angry over a secretly negotiated trade deal with China, citizen media played an important role in keeping the public informed.

Members of the Sunflower Movement set up a number of websites dedicated to the protest and the Cross-Strait Service and Trade Agreement (CSSTA), whose passage by the legislature in mid-March without a clause-by-clause review sparked the occupation. Some worried the trade agreement would make democratic Taiwan vulnerable to political pressure from the communist mainland. 

Thousands of people turned up and protested outside the Legislative Yuan alongside those inside. Half a million citizens also took to the streets to support the protest on March 30.

Protesters left the Legislative Yuan, as the country's legislature is known, on April 10 after the speaker promised to pass legislation monitoring future agreements proposed by the executive branch before deliberating on the current deal. 

Live-streams were available for those who wished to follow along with the occupation. Tang Fong, a tech activist, explained on website 0th Sunflower Digital Camp how they created an online hub to collect all live-streams of the protests and improved the live broadcast system inside the occupied legislature to safeguard the protesters from police violence:

On March 23, at the MoeDict Hackthon, we repurposed the domain name we registered a while ago, g0v.today, to collect all the direct streams for everyone, including the English translation task force.

On March 28, a team from ITRI showed up, saying “there are still blind spots, like in some corridors in the Academia Sinica” [a code name for the legislative building], and helped set up six more cameras and capture videos from the blind spots. NO incident NOR brutal events ever happened after the cameras were up. We appreciated what they’ve done and hence shared much bandwidth.

If it is even 1% due to what we did that few people were injured, and no one went missing, then I think it is worth it.

Police aggression was indeed a reality that protesters faced. On March 23, demonstrators attempted to occupy the Executive Yuan, but were suppressed by riot police with rods and water cannons. Several protesters, doctors and journalists were injured. 

Transparency

As the Taiwanese government did not inform the public about the details of the CSSTA, a number of citizen-initiated websites were created to explain the agreement and its potential impact. Tech blog Cool3c.com highlighted some of the initiatives:

服貿跑馬燈將所有服貿相關新聞直接一行一行排下來,雖然界面上沒那麼好看,但新聞的旁邊還增添了 Facebook 上貼文者的註解,反而更有由下而上的素人評論新聞效果。

CSSTA news ticker [zh] lists CSSTA-related news one by one. Although its interface is not very pretty, the comments besides the news taken from Facebook make it feel close to the common people.

(自己的服貿自己審) 將服貿全文、公聽會逐字稿、產業評估報告全部整合和立法院專案報告全都整理起來。可快速查詢服務貿易協定和你公司的相關性。

(Let us review the CSSTA for ourselves) [zh] summarizes the full text of the CSSTA, transcripts of previous public hearings, evaluations of affected industries, and project reports from the Legislative Yuan. Now it is easy to check out how the CSSTA might affect your company.

國會無雙 [...] 這個網站試題以「播報體育賽事」的方式來代替原本無趣的立法院實況,並在公聽會安排「主播」和「球評」,讓對政治冷感的一般公民可以用非常具娛樂性的方式來親近政治議題,是邁向「政治普及」的重要里程碑。

Our one and the only one congress [zh] […] tries to make the experience of watching real-time broadcasts from the Legislative Yuan similar to the experience of watching sports. They have anchors and critics for the real-time broadcast of public hearings so everyday people who usually don't care about politics can learn about these political issues in an entertaining way. This is an important milestone for “popularized politics”.

To monitor the government and legislature and make sure they fulfilled their promise of setting up a monitoring mechanism for future cross-strait agreements, the tech activist Tang Fong set up a new platform together with her friends:

On March 27, we set up another website, 123.g0v.today, where you can find the phone number of the legislator for your election area. You might call and demand for the legislation [for a cross-strait agreement-monitoring mechanism] before review of the pact proceeds, and invite the legislator to join the camp.

Their g0v server also hosts a calendar for the Legislative Yuan so that citizens can easily know what is going on there.

Appendectomy Project is a similar initiative dedicated to supporting the impeachment of unsuitable legislators. cool3c.com described this website:

這個網站的出現,讓難以理解(或是更精準地說一般人不太關心)的公民罷免權,有了一個很好理解的開始。

The emergence of this website allows citizens to understand their right to recall (which is usually not of concern for most of us).

This website has become a key platform for protesters to keep tabs on lawmakers after the end of the occupation.

Citizen media

The Facebook page of National Taiwan University's E-Forum attracted more than 100,000 followers during the Sunflower Movement because their student reporters covered the protest 24 hours a day from inside and outside the legislature. They explained [zh] how their citizen reporting evolved throughout the protests:

3月20日,十幾位同學拿著自己的手機和筆電、借來的相機和攝影機、以及臨時承租的兩台4G行動基地台,在濟南路上就地開始採訪。從蹲坐在路邊,到莫名進駐了濟南路上的帳篷,擁有了半正式的編輯台;從原本只有十幾名台大新聞所學生參與,到後來共有將近九十名來自政大、師大、交大、東華等各大學同學在各地支援的龐大規模。

On March 20, about ten student reporters brought their cell phones, notebooks, rental cameras, video cameras and 4G mobile base station to Jinan Road and started their interviews. In the beginning, they worked on the roadside, and later they moved to a tent on Jinan Road. At the end, they had a semi-formal newsroom. In the beginning, there were only few students from the Graduate Institute of Journalism of National Taiwan University. At the end, it became a huge workforce composed of around 90 students from National Chengchi University, National Taiwan Normal University and National Dong Hwa University supporting the coverage of the protest in several locations.

Tents outside the parliament building on April 4 2014. Photo by twitter user bratscher. CC BY-NC 2.0

Tents outside the legislative building on April 4, 2014. Photo by Twitter user bratscher. CC BY-NC 2.0

Protest logistics
Technology also helped to facilitate logistics for the protests. cool3c highlighed some of the tools:

神人(由ETBlue發起,眾人編輯)製作的透過mapsengine所製作「佔領立法院地圖」,包括演講台、廁所以及7-11都清楚的標示出來

A masterpiece (initiated by ETBlue and supported by several others) by making use of maps engine to generate a map for #CongressOccupied [zh]. This map marked the podiums, toilets, and convenience stores clearly.

(立院排班表): 使用者可透過 Facebook 的帳號登入,立即瞭解自己的朋友在立法院排班的狀態,自己也可以加入排班,讓朋友間互相提醒。

(Calendar for taking shifts at the Legislative Yuan) [zh]: Users could log in with their Facebook accounts. They could see their friends’ shifts in the Legislative Yuan, and they could sign up and take their shift [as a voluntary security guard]. Friends could use this website to remind each other of their shifts.

flyingV, a crowdfunding platform, was initially set up to raise funds for newspaper advertisement  for the movement. On April 7, VDemocracy.tw was created as an additional fundraising website specifically for social activists. Another Internet fundraising project was hosted by zeczec.com to publish a photobook for the Sunflower Movement.

Betty Eric explained how protesters organized themselves despite their differences: 

在學運團體裡頭,這個「共同的通訊協定」就是群體共同的意志和行動方法。我們可以觀察到,太陽花學運出現的幾個團體平常各自獨立,目標和訴求也不盡相同,但是反對黑箱服貿的意志相同(通訊協定相同),只要微調系統設定,兩個子網很容易就可以連上。
網路內部意見有重大分岐的時候,比較可能的是分割網路,保持各自意見的純粹性,而不是因人而改變初衷。[…]網狀民主的不妥協性高,也因此太陽花的僵局可能比以往的運動拉得更長。

In this student movement, the protocol is defined by their determination and their tools. We can see that they used to belong to different independent groups that have different goals and demands. Nevertheless, they have the same protocol: against the “black box” secretive process behind the CSSTA. As a result, after some minor adjustments, these groups can be easily connected to each other.
While there is major divergence in their opinions, what they likely do is separating their network. Therefore, they can keep their own opinions instead of changing their original goals. […] This kind of Internet democracy does not compromise easily. As a result, the conflict between the government and the protesters might be elongated.

by I-fan Lin at April 20, 2014 01:58 AM

April 19, 2014

Global Voices
Syria: Life As It Was Before the Invention of the Light Bulb

This post is part of a special series of articles by blogger and activist, Marcell Shehwaro, describing the realities of life in Syria during the ongoing armed conflict between forces loyal to the current regime, and those seeking to oust it.

Surgical teams now without water and electricity in Aleppo. Image by Halabi Lens. Copyright: Demotix

Life without electricity in Syria: Surgical teams now without water and electricity in Aleppo. Image by Halabi Lens. Copyright: Demotix

Since the part of Aleppo where I live was liberated from the Syrian government authorities, our electricity supply has been cut off as a collective punishment for a city on the verge of liberation. It doesn't matter whether you support or oppose the regime, because the ruler of the country behaves as if he is the owner of a farm, cutting off electricity and water supplies when he pleases. If he could cut out the supply of oxygen to those who oppose him, he probably would.

Our power supply has disappeared completely for long periods. We'd complain for a couple of days, or a week, then we'd have to turn our attention to burying the remains of the dead as the Assad killing machine switches from bombing the Damascus countryside to bombing the city, sometimes with Scud missiles.

At the same time, we have had to contend with new challenges emerging from the halt in state services such as health, education and the judicial system. It took us a long time to understand that the city we loved had in fact become two cities which rebuke each other, and try to outdo one another in the number of death announcements.

And we became accustomed. We got used to life as it must have been before the invention of the light bulb, resigned to the disappearance of this modern luxury. It became a customary to hear ululations of joy in the neighbourhood when the electricity was turned on, as if it was an exceptional event which called for celebration.

With time, the rituals of our life began to be measured by the quantity of electricity His Majesty bestowed upon us. We had to make the most of the two-hour electricity supply the lucky neighbourhoods received. We would switch on all the lights in the house, even those we did not need, and charge all our electrical gadgets, especially our laptops and mobile phones, even though these barely work, as the network is so weak.

If we were lucky and the reappearance of electricity coincided with the availability of water, we would start tackling the loads of laundry that had piled up. Many of us invested the two hours on using our electric ovens, to save on exorbitantly priced gas. Even the hours you sleep and wake up are no longer important. You have to get used to waking up when the electricity is switched on to complete those household chores that depend on having a power supply.

The availability of electricity also dictates what you buy and eat. There's no point in buying foodstuff that need refrigeration. You become innovative and find new places to store your goods. You might leave a piece of meat, which has become relatively expensive, near the window, because you cannot come to terms with the idea of throwing it out if it were to spoil. Any perishables you buy must be consumed within a day or two. With time, you learn to adjust and estimate the quantity of food you need. Or perhaps you never learn, like one of our friends who always misestimates the amount of labna we need for our household.

After several months, Syrians found innovative and economical solutions to replace the government-supplied electricity. Central electricity generators became available in most neighbourhoods in the liberated areas, and with their noise and pollution have become a feature of the city, which is already covered with soot from the bombings and Scud missiles.

Households share generators among themselves according to their needs, or, more precisely, their financial abilities. Little by little, you learn the names of the owners of the generators which supply your friends’ homes, as you can't help but hear their screaming as they and their neighbours yell across the balconies every time the electricity goes off, or when there's a problem with the supply. This happens four or five times daily: “Abu Ahmed, the electricity is off,” followed by, “Abu Ahmed, the electricity is back on.” Electricity from the generators is available for only a few hours daily, but it's become an acceptable alternative that allows people to take care of their basic needs.

The size of your handbag also expands to keep up with the unpredictable electricity supply. You have to carry all your chargers with you wherever you go, in order to take advantage of any moment the electricity is switched on. And if you have spare cash, you'll certainly buy an extra battery for your mobile phone and laptop.

Flickering lights, not strong enough to read by, cast their shadows on the walls of your house, powered by car batteries which Syrians also now use to generate electricity in their homes. In this modern age, you use a great deal of your brain power, and your time, to manage the absence of electricity, and this is what the evil dictator wants. He wants us to stop following the news, to become cut off from all that is happening around us. He wants to divide Syria so that we become focused on our own local and limited needs, which do not extend beyond the neighbourhood we live in. He wants us to become paralysed and exhausted from the lack of services. He wants to make our lives difficult in order for us to yearn for the good old days.

And we have to be resourceful, so that it lights up what is left of our journey.

Marcell Shehwaro blogs at marcellita.com and tweets at @Marcellita, both primarily in Arabic. You can read the first two posts in this series here and here. 

by Amira Al Hussaini at April 19, 2014 09:20 PM

World Reacts to Death of Nobel Prize Winner Gabriel García Márquez

(All links are in Spanish, otherwise noted as [en] for English.)

On April 17th, 2014 the world learned of writer Gabriel García Márquez's [en] death. Born in Colombia, his career went international after being honored the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1982 for his work entitled “Cien años de solidad” [en] [One Hundred Years of Solitude] and “for his novels and short stories [en], where fact and fiction come together in a world richly composed of imagination, reflecting a continent's life and troubles.”

Internet users didn't wait to express their thoughts via Twitter hashtags such as #GabrielGarciaMarquez [en], #GraciasGabo [Thanks Gabo], #DescanseEnPazGabo [Rest In Peace Gabo], #AdiosGabo [Goodbye Gabo], Macondo, Realismo Mágico [Magic Realism], and Aracataca.

La Revista Arcadia [The Arcadia Magazine] published a multimedia special on the life and work of the writer and journalist. The Colombian newspaper El Tiempo put out a call in search of stories from readers that met him. 

Gabriel García Márquez by Arturo Espinosa en Flickr. Imagen bajo licencia CC by 2.0

Gabriel García Márquez by Arturo Espinosa en Flickr. Image licensed CC by 2.0

PRESIDENTIAL STATEMENTS

The White House published a quote citing [en]:

Con la muerte de Gabriel García Márquez el mundo pierde uno de sus escritores más visionarios y uno de los favoritos de mi juventud.

With the passing of Gabriel García Márquez, the world has lost one of its great visionary writers – and one of my favorites from the time I was young.

Brazil's president, Dilma Rousseff, expressed:

It was with sorrow to hear about the death of Colombian writer, Gabriel García Márquez.

Colombia's president, Juan Manuel Santos, expressed:

One thousand years of solitude and sadness for the death of the greatest Colombian of all time! Solidarity and condolences for Gaba and family.

Ecuador's President, Rafael Correa remembers “Gabo's” love for Latin America:

Gabo has left us, we will have years of solitude, but his love and work will remain for the Great Homeland. Ever onward to victory, darling Gabo!

From Peru, Ollanta Humala asserts:

Latin America and the world entire will feel this dreamer's parting.  May you rest in peace in Macondo Gabriel García Márquez. 

In Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro published a photo with the following commentary:

He was a sincere and loyal friend to the revolutionary leaders that lifted the dignity of Martí and Bolívar's America.

La Fundación Gabriel García Márquez [The Gabriel García Márquez Foundation] for the Nuevo Periodismo Iberoamericano [The New Iberoamerican Journalism] (FNPI is the Spanish acronym) thanked everyone for their words.

Muchas gracias a todos por sus mensajes. Cumpliremos el mandato de Gabo son seriedad y entusiasmo. #GraciasGabohttp://t.co/psQj8KzJf0
— FNPI (@FNPI_org) April 17, 2014

Thank you very much for all of your words. We will fulfill Gabo's engagement seriously and enthusiast.

Nevertheless for Twitter user Richie, the coverage relating the death of the yellow butterfly writer has not been enough:

La muerte de García Márquez cogió a los periodistas colombianos de vacaciones. Un viejo brillante hasta el final.

— Richie (@melisMatik) abril 17, 2014

Colombian journalists were on vacation when García Márquez died. A wise old man until the end.

Gina Eschebac reflects upon why García Márquez died in Mexico and not Colombia, giving the reminder that he had to live in exile because he was accused of being a communist, as we will see further on:

¿PÓR QUE SE FUE GABO DE COLOMBIA EN 1981 Y MUERE EN EL EXILIO? http://t.co/6UvrvLbbCl

— #Afro Candombera (@afro_candombera)abril 18, 2014

WHY DID GABO LEAVE COLOMBIA IN 1981 AND DIE IN EXILE?

Rubén Díaz Caviedes mentions in a post from the magazine Jot Down that the writer died in said country due to health problems:

Lo último que se sabía sobre el estado de su salud era que los años le estaban venciendo por la cabeza y que tenía «conflictos de memoria», citando a su hermano pequeño. Sufría una demencia senil acelerada, según él, por el tratamiento contra el cáncer linfático que casi se lo llevó en 1999.

The last known information regarding his health was that age was getting the best of his mind and that he had “memory problems”, quoting his younger brother. According to him, García Márquez suffered from rapid senile dementia due to to cancer treatment for lymphoma, which almost took his life in 1999.

The Colombian literature blog entitled, Macondo Literario [Macondo Literary] said:

Un querido y agradecido adiós a Gabo por compartirnos tanto a través de sus letras.

A loving and thankful goodbye to Gabo for sharing so much with us through his words.

From his blog Juan que Duerme [John that Sleeps], remembers the Nobel winner's speech, “La soledad de América Latina” [Latin America's Solitude], where he reflects about what first Europeans found when they first arrived to the New World and about some facts that were occuring back in 1982.

And finally an article from América Economía [America Economy] offers us excerpts from two stories where former Cuban president, Fidel Castro, retells his stories of the Colombian Nobel winner. He reminds us that during his lifetime, Gabriel García Márquez was labeled a communist. This without a doubt, did not hinder his glory. He rose to be Russia's most read foreign author. His work, “El amor en los tiempos de colera” [en] [Love in the Time of Cholera] was taken to the Hollywood screen [en]. His works also inspired a variety of songs.

According to a post from C – Records:

Pablo Neruda dijo sobre la novela ‘Cien años de soledad’, que era “la mejor novela que se ha escrito en castellano después del Quijote”. Los índices numéricos como el que demuestran que los libros de García Márquez son los más vendidos de los que se hayan publicado en lengua española en toda la historia, exceptuando la Biblia.

Pablo Neruda said that the novel “Cien años de soledad” was “the best novel written in Castilian Spanish, after Don Quijote.” Statistics show that García Márquez's books are the most sold in the history of Spanish literature, except for the Bible.

May he rest in peace.

by Kelley Johnson at April 19, 2014 07:22 PM

Doc Searls
Today’s tabs

Market intelligence that flows both ways. It’s about the real Internet of Things. Not the Compuserve+Prodigy+AOL variety in development today. Unless we build on open source and standards, the IoT won’t be near as big as Business Insider says it will be.

What I’ll be doing this coming Wednesday.

Marketing in the age of VRM and customer engagement.

Liking “your favorite brand” might mean you can’t sue them.

Nice props from Darren Herman of Mozilla for VRM and The Intention Economy.

Many friends and colleagues made the latest Knight News Challenge cut.

A Dutch guy’s soul sells for 350 euros.

Surveillance marketing pays.

Which passwords to change for Heartbleed. Bonus link.

How the cloud should work.

Crypticide I: Thirteen Years of Crack. “Because I want that password algorithm — the traditional, 8-character Unix password-hashing algorithm —  ”dead.”

Defending Bitcoin.

U.S. No longer a democracy. From a Princeton and Northwestern study. Mostly reported, for brand-name reasons I suppose, as a “Princeton study.”

The Open Data 500.

Birth and death of Javascript.

Past, present and future of music streaming.

The problem of attention.

Problems with bid data ethics.

How goods flow in Europe.

We live in an oligarchy now.

What happens to the ebook market inside Amazon’s monopoly.

Designing conversations with algorithms. From the NYTimes Lab blog. Creeps me a little, but I like stuff like this: “The second principle here is agency, meaning that a system’s design should empower users to not only accomplish tasks, but should also convey a sense that they are in control of their participation with a system at any moment. And I want to be clear that agency is different from absolute and granular control.”

One of the best weeks for New Yorker cartoons.

by Doc Searls at April 19, 2014 07:12 PM

Global Voices
Turning Faecal Waste Into Business Opportunities
Clean Team Ghana's toilet cartridges  awaiting delivery to customers in Kumasi, Ghana on 17 October 2013. Photo by Yani. Used with permission from Clean Team Ghana.

Clean Team Ghana's toilet cartridges awaiting delivery to customers in Kumasi, Ghana on October 17, 2013. Photo by Nyani. Used with permission from Clean Team Ghana.

It might not look like much to the average person, but to social entrepreneurs faecal waste is valuable business. Inorganic fertilisers are being replaced with faecal sludge, which is cheaper and rich in resources for agricultural purposes.

Having realised the potential in the re-use of faecal waste, Clean Team Ghana (@cleanteamghana), a sanitation company in Ghana that provides innovative and affordable in-house toilet facilities to urban communities, organised a Twitter chat pulling experts on faecal waste treatment from around the world to share thoughts on “How to Turn Faecal Waste into Opportunities”. The chat on April 15, 2014 used the hashtag #WasteOpportunities.

It was the company's second Twitter chat. The first tackled how open defecation can be eradicated in Ghana with the input of sanitation experts, government officials, social enterprises and the online community on January 24, 2014.

Gavin Collins, a lecturer at the Ryan Institute in Ireland, commented:   

Doreen Anim, a revenue collection manager at Clean Team Ghana, pointed out:

Andy Narracott emphasised the use of CO2 from waste:

What are the main challenges in turning faecal waste into opportunities? Twitter user @ahiabor offered one answer:

Gavin Collins agreed:

Naomi Kokuro wrote:

Francis Kumadoh argued:

Replying to Francis Kumadoh's tweet, Valerie Labi wrote:  

Akua Akyaa Nkrumah, innovations manager at waste management firm Jekora Ghana, commented:

Super Yansh, a sanitation-oriented enterprise providing a home away from home toilet, suggested:

Dan Smith, a technical support consultant at Clean Team Ghana, argued:

Andy Narracott disagreed that culture is the main challenge:

Hans Doctor, ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to Ghana, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Togo, wrote:   

Climate Watch Ghana suggested:  

Asantewa Monney remarked:

Mona Mij, an industrial designer, tweeted: 

#wasteopportunities in dev countries: Excreta reuse needs to be sexy! How? People involvement, stylish branding+marketing! @CleanTeamGhana

— Mona Mij (@MonaMij) April 15, 2014

by Kofi Yeboah at April 19, 2014 04:52 PM

Bangladeshis Mourn Gabriel García Márquez, the ‘Magician Of Words’
Gabriel García Márquez. Image by Wikimedia/Festival Internacional de Cine en Guadalajara. CC BY 2.0

Gabriel García Márquez. Image by Wikimedia/Festival Internacional de Cine en Guadalajara. CC BY 2.0

Gabriel García Márquez, the Nobel-prize winning literary legend from Colombia, died April 17, 2014 at the age of 87. He was not only popular in Latin America but also in South Asia, especially in Bangladesh through translations of his works. There, he was known as the “magician of words”.

Most of the local newspapers in Bangladesh carried the news of his death with importance. On Facebook, Bangaldeshis paid tribute to the author of such beloved works as ”One Hundred Years of Solitude” and “Love in the Time of Cholera”.

Blogger and author Mahbub Morshed wrote:

মার্কেজ আমাদের জীবনকালের সবচেয়ে বড় সাহিত্যিক।

Márquez is the greatest author of our lifetime.

Tanvir Haider Chowdhury acknowledged the influence of Márquez:

Nostalgia. Melancholy. Solitude. Romance.

I look at these words, and they always make me think of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. He taught me to look for the magic underneath the facade of the everyday. Mr Marquez's prose to me defined lyricism. In his hands, the poetry, poignancy and pathos of the human condition lay revealed.

He will always evoke to me my early youth, when I incredulously devoured ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ and ‘Love in the Time of Cholera'. I vividly remember sitting there stunned, trying to absorb the fact that these were contemporary works of fiction.

In literary critique Facebook group Boi Porua, writer Ahmed Mostofa Kamal mentioned while discussing the influence of Márquez on Bengali literature:

মার্কেজের প্রভাব খুব বেশি পড়েনি বাঙালি সাহিত্যিকদের ওপর। তাঁর নির্মাণ-কৌশলে অনুপ্রাণিত হয়ে লেখা কঠিন ছিল। কিছু কিছু কৌশল ইউনিকই থেকে যায়, মার্কেজেরটিও তাই।

Márquez's style did not influence Bengli authors much. It was hard to mimic his writing style. Some skills remain unique, such was Márquez's.

Blogger Megha wrote earlier on Sachalayatan blog in a review of a Márquez novel:

একে একে (তার) অনেক বই পড়া হয়েছে। জেনেছি একটা মানুষ কত অসাধারণ কল্পনা শক্তির অধিকারী হতে পারে, কত অসাধারণ ভাবে অতীত বর্তমান আর ভবিষ্যতকে এক লাইনে লেখার ক্ষমতা রাখে! জেনেছি সত্যিকার অর্থে কথার জাদুকর কাকে বলে!

I have read many [of his] books. I have learnt how imaginative a person can be, how magnificently one can write about the future and the past in one line. I have known what a “magician of words” truly means.

Kaberi Gayen, an educator and writer, paid homage to him:

কেনো যেনো কাঁদতে ইচ্ছে করছে না মোটেই। যিনি তুমুল স-শব্দ ভালোবাসায় আরো কয়েকশো বছর বাঁচবেন বলে বিশ্বাস করি, তাঁর ‘মৃত্যু'তে কীভাবে কাঁদি? তাঁর স্বপ্ন এবং ভালোবাসা আমাদের ভেতরেও একটু একটু করে জায়গা করে নিক।

অনেক ভালোবাসা মার্কেজ।

No, I will not cry. As I believe that he will live at least a few more centuries with resonant words of love, how could I cry mourning his death? Let his love and dreams conquer our hearts little by little.

Blogger and Global Voices author Pantha Rahman Reza bod farewell:

বিদায় মার্কেজ!
আপনি বেঁচে থাকবেন আমাদের অক্ষরযাপনে!

Farewell Márquez. You will live on in our reading lives.

by Rezwan at April 19, 2014 12:32 PM

Chile Struck By Disasters in April 2014

In April 2014, Chileans received one blow after another. Two earthquakes shook the Far North (Arica and Iquique) and an enormous forest fire ravaged the city of Valparaiso. In both cases, the damage and number of victims were significant.

Valparaíso

Photo by Flickr user retoricaca. (CC BY-NC 2.0)

The hills of Valparaiso are a symbol of the city. Their bright colors, architecture, and other characteristics give Valaparaiso its touristic appeal. The hillside regions were settled haphazardly as the growing population, faced with a lack of space on flatter terrain, began to build homes in the mountainous areas. The dwellings are mostly made out of light materials and, as has happened in the past, became fuel for the fire. This time, climate conditions also played an important role in the spread of the flames.

National and international aid began to arrive immediately in the form of provisions, first-aid supplies, and volunteer participation. Thousands of volunteers have filled Valparaiso to the point that the mayor and city authorities requested no more volunteers should come to join those already in the city. The large number of volunteers is interfering with the removal of debris and causing traffic problems in affected areas (the hills Cerro Mariposa, El Vergel, La Cruz, Cerro El Litre, Cerro Las Cañas, Cerro Miguel Ángel y Mercedes), and the city's sanitation network cannot cope with the needs of so many people [es]:

Agradecemos las campañas pero a aquellos voluntarios que vendrán a Valparaíso les decimos que es imposible que podamos atender a todas las personas. Tenemos una red sanitaria que hoy no existe, en algunos sectores no hay luz.

We are grateful for the [aid] campaigns, but we must tell the volunteers who are coming to Valparaiso that it is impossible to accomodate everyone. Our sanitation system is currently nonexistent and some areas do not have light.

EMOL website reports [es] that “the Minister of Health, Helia Molina, announced the implementation of a health alert in the entire area.” Molina also announced a plan to vaccinate adults and children in order to avoid preventable illnesses such as the flu (for those in shelters), tetanus (for at-risk groups like firefighters, city workers, and volunteers working on debris removal), and meningitis (for at-risk groups in the area).

All in all, it is admirable and inspiring to watch people who fled from the fire with nothing but the clothes on their backs, leaving behind all their hard-earned belongings, begin to clean up the area and rebuild their homes with great determination. And the epitome is seeing the people of limited means who are coming to the aid of those who lost everything.

Meanwhile, help is continuing to arrive at aid supply centers, shelters are continuing to deliver the aid they have been providing since the disaster, and plans for reconstruction are already underway, as evidenced by Twitter posts:

The Chilean Government will prepare a plan to rebuild Valparaiso after the fire.

The President of Chile announces that she will issue aid bonds to those who lost their homes and possessions in the fire in Valparaiso.

The funds raised at these two [basketball] games will directly benefit the more than 12 thousand people affected by the fire in Valparaiso.

by Catherine Randall at April 19, 2014 01:11 AM

Facebook Predicts the Outcome of Macedonian Presidential Elections, Again?

The proportion of ‘likes’ on the official Facebook pages for Macedonian presidential candidates has turned out to be surprisingly similar to their proportion of the official vote count – both in the 2009 elections and in the 2014 presidential elections.

One day after the first round of the 2014 presidential elections, human rights expert and activist Zarko Trajanoski in a Facebook post [mk] found an interesting correlation when comparing ‘likes’ on the official Facebook pages of leading candidates Gjorge Ivanov and Stevo Pendarovski with official results published by the State Elections Commission:

Смејте му се пак на Facebook, ама отприлика ги погоди резултатите:
Сооднос на лајкови на Facebook: 
Иванов (94.295) : Пендаровски (67.222) = 1 : 1.403
Сооднос на гласови во прв круг: 
Иванов (449.068) : Пендаровски (326.133) = 1 : 1.377

You can ridicule Facebook, but it managed to guess the approximate results:

Ratio of Facebook Likes:
Ivanov (94,295) : Pendarovski (67,222) = 1 : 1.403

Ratio of votes during the first round of the elections:
Ivanov (449,068) : Pendarovski (326,133) = 1 : 1.377

In 2009, research [mk, pdf] published by the Metamorphosis Foundation on social media during elections that year first revealed a surprisingly strong correlation between each candidate's support on Facebook and the number of the actual votes they gained in both rounds of the elections (note: the research team included the author of this post).

The total number of Facebook users who expressed their support for a presidential candidate taken into account was 7,958, or 0.39% of the population. This is less than the 0.98% of the U.S. population who were documented as having expressed their support for either Obama or McCain via Facebook in 2008, but still comparable taking into account the structural and population differences of the two countries.

During the first round of elections, when seven candidates competed, the percentages for the two top-scoring candidates differed by only around 1% from the actual votes they gained. The percentages and the rankings for the other candidates showed a higher degree of discrepancy between Facebook and the polls – up to 6%, especially for the candidates who won smaller percentages of votes and whose main constituencies most probably do not use new technologies in the same degree as the general population (see figure [1]).

Figure 1: Graphic comparison of the support received via Facebook before the first round of voting (blue) and the votes won on 22 March 2009 (pink). Image from the 'Social Media Usage by Candidates for the 2009 Election' report by Metamorphosis Foundation, used with permission.

Figure 1: Graphic comparison of the support received via Facebook before the first round of voting (blue) and the votes won on 22 March 2009 (pink). Image from the ‘Social Media Usage by Candidates for the 2009 Election’ report by Metamorphosis Foundation, used with permission. 

During the second round of elections only two candidates competed, and the final outcome was predicted with an accuracy of less than 1% difference to the actual results. The winner, George Ivanov, won 62.48% of support on Facebook, and 63.14% of the actual votes. His opponent, Ljubomir Danailov-Frchkoski, won 37.52% of the Facebook support and 36.86% of the actual votes (Figure [2]).

Graphs enabling comparisons between the level of support on Facebook before the second round of the elections and votes won during that round.

Figure 2: Graphs comparing the level of support on Facebook before the second round of the elections and votes won during that round. Image from the ‘Social Media Usage by Candidates for the 2009 Election’ report by Metamorphosis Foundation, used with permission.

The results of the monitoring during the 2009 presidential elections pointed that besides generating support, social media can be used as a fairly accurate tool for market research once a critical mass of users has been reached.

Considering that the same political influences that might bribe or coerce voters to vote, something that has been known to happen in Macedonia, also directly influence their social media behavior, this phenomenon can be taken as more proof of the notion that social media reflect and permeate society at large. A novelty in 2014 was political personalities' use of Facebook advertisements, especially those with larger financial resources. This trend was first seen during 2013, but intensified substantially in the run-up to elections.

Electoral fraud?

The election observation mission by the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) stated that the first round of the 2014 elections was conducted “efficiently” and predominantly peacefully. However, the opposition has accused the government of foul play, and preliminary election monitoring reports by the civil society groups Civil and MOST have highlighted a number of alleged irregularities.

Social media users focused on questions that they could verify on their own – for example, the practice of marking voters’ thumbs with ink designed to last 24 hours to prevent any person from voting more than once. After voting, users including @RedRadish5 posted before and after ‘selfie’ photos of their thumbs to show that the ink could be easily rubbed off with a wet tissue or alcohol. During the 2009 elections voters were sprayed with seemingly more permanent invisible ink that was detectable under UV-light.

@razvigor @FokusMK Checked. And [rubbed off] with rakia [brandy] half an hour after voting #избори2014 [#elections2014] #изборимк [#electionsmk]pic.twitter.com/MDZeCZC91G

— Red Radish (@RedRadish5) April 13, 2014

@razvigor @FokusMK and after pic.twitter.com/C2EBKdbm3T

— Red Radish (@RedRadish5) April 13, 2014

In a statement, ODIHR noted that “fundamental freedoms were respected and candidates were able to campaign freely [...] although biased and unbalanced media coverage and a blurring of state and party activities created an unbalanced playing field.”

Despite the large number of media outlets, many stakeholders with whom the observers met alleged there is indirect control over the media by the ruling party, through the government’s dominance in the advertising market. There was a lack of political analysis and independent reporting, and the public broadcaster failed to provide balanced coverage.

The incumbent enjoyed a significant advantage in financial resources and predominance in paid advertising. The government’s clear support of the incumbent during the campaign did not fully respect the separation of political parties and the state.

The second round of the presidential elections is scheduled for April 27, and will coincide with the early parliamentary elections.

by Filip Stojanovski at April 19, 2014 12:20 AM

April 18, 2014

Creative Commons
Report from India: Relicensing books under CC

Jellyfish Madness
Release of DVD containing Odia font, open source tools and Offline Odia Wikipedia
Ahemadullah Shaikh / CC BY-SA

This guest blog post was written by Subhashish Panigrahi of The Center for Internet and Society, a Creative Commons affiliate in India.

My name is Subhashish Panigrahi. I am an educator currently working in the community and communication front at The Centre for Internet and Society’s Access To Knowledge program (CIS-A2K), an India-based catalyst program to grow Indic language communities for Wikipedia and its sister projects. Prior to my work at CIS, I worked for the Wikimedia Foundation’s India Program, a predecessor to the current CIS-A2K project.

While building ties with higher education and research organizations, I also try to get educational and encyclopedic resources licensed under Creative Commons licenses so that communities can use them to enrich Wikimedia projects. Currently, there is a low level of content available across all the Indic languages and the need for Unicode-based content is extremely crucial.

While negotiating with authors for relicensing their books in Creative Commons license, I started identifying certain motivation areas for any author for such free content donation. Some of the authors, publishers, and copyright holders have started learning about open access to scholarly publications. However, the readers who are likely to buy a hard copy of a book are likely to buy it even when a free, virtual version is available – that’s the idea authors who are skeptical about CC licenses need to understand.

Open source book publishing in India has gained much interest and focus, primarily because of the lack of foresight of the possibilities that are tied to the release of books. It was Pratham Books that first came up with the brilliant idea of “One book book in every child’s hand.” The subsequent release of multilingual books under free licenses was the beginning of a new era in Indian publication.

Book publishers should also think of the target readers of print and web media. Releasing content in free licenses doesn’t affect the mainstream print publications. When it comes to books, there is always a scope for reprinting and making money. After negotiations with two authors and getting 13 books about children’s literature, travelogues, popular science, and linguistic and historical research, I am sure the publishing community has not been educated in the right way about providing free access to content.

It generally takes a long time and effort to negotiate with the copyright holders to get the books out with a CC-BY-SA tag. But it is a permanent and a significant value addition for the open knowledge movement. I believe with more online readers and reviewers getting complete access to books, authors gain more respect in the society and popularity which in turn helps them to sell more of the reprints. Two prime fears are keeping many publishers away from releasing their books online for free: the fear of going out of business and the fear of losing ownership of content. But at the same time, some of the publishers are becoming aware of the mass media outreach and winning hearts of many readers by releasing content for free without copyright restrictions.

Case studies:

1. Release of a four-volume encyclopedia in Konkani

In 2013, Goa University released Konkani Vishwakosh, a Konkani-language encyclopedia in CC-BY-SA 3.0 license that they had published. This is the largest encyclopedia compiled in the language. The book is being digitized on Konkani WikiSource and content from it is being used to enrich the Konkani version of Wikipedia. The project additionally brought about 20 active contributors for digitization.

2. Release of 11 Odia language books

11 books from Odia author and academic Dr. Jagannath Mohanty were re-released under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license by the “Manik-Biswanath Smrutinyasa,” a trust founded by Dr. Mohanty for literary discussions and upbringing new writers. His wife and trust’s current chairman Allhadmohini Mohanty formally gave written permission to release and digitize these books. The Odia Wikimedia community is planning to involve undergraduate students of an indigenous educational institution, Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences, to digitize these books. The trust is also reaching out to publishers who published more than 150 of the author’s books to give permission for re-releasing them under a CC license.

3. Relicensing “Classical Odia” under a free license

The book is heavy and expensive for any normal reader. Enormous copies were sold after Odia was declared as the sixth Indian classical language; however, this did not stop the authors Dr. Debiprasanna Pattanayak and Subrat Prusty from changing the license term from All Rights Reserved to CC-BY-SA 3.0. 600-plus pages full of historical documents and manuscripts along with many undiscovered areas of Odia language’s literary heritage of more than 2500 years are now going to go on WikiSource and enrich Wikipedia articles apart from being great resource for language researchers.

4. Relicensing books and conversion of ISCII to Unicode font

Two Odia language books by linguist Subrat Prusty, “Jati, Jagruti O Pragati” and “Bhasa O Jatiyata,” have been relicensed. These are few of those thousand books in those the text are typed with fonts with ISCII standard and not Unicode. ISCII standard fonts have glyphs with Indic characters that are actually replacements of the Latin characters by Indic characters. So, a computer with one particular font not installed will display absurd characters. The publication and printing industries still use these fonts as the desktop publishing software package they use for typeset do not have Unicode engine to render the fonts properly. The conversion from these ISCII fonts to Unicode is a way that is going to be used for digitizaing these books to convert the entire book with searchable Unicode content.

by Elliot Harmon at April 18, 2014 10:24 PM

Global Voices Advocacy
NETmundial 101: The Run-Up to the Internet World Cup
Sao Paolo at night. Photo by Andre Deak via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 2.0)

Sao Paolo at night. Photo by Andre Deak via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 2.0)

The Global Multistakeholder Meeting on the Future of Internet Governance will be held in São Paulo, Brazil, next week. Driven by the Brazillian President, Dilma Roussef, with the support of the President of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), Fadi Chehadé, the meeting will gather representatives of civil society, private sector, academia and technical community  with the aim to “produce universal internet principles and an institutional framework for multistakeholder Internet governance”.

Somewhat curiously, a draft of these principles and of a “roadmap” for the development of this ecosystem was released last week and is open for comments. Some of its aspects — for instance, the exclusion of the term “net neutrality” and its replacement by the more technical, less human-rights-oriented, “end-to-end principle” — have been polemical, despite the fact that they’ve been drawn from a long-standing debate on the state and governance of the network.

While many believe that the meeting could represent a key turning point in this debate — at a moment when the World Wide Web reaches its 25th Birthday and a call for an Internet Bill of Rights is being made worldwide — there’s also skepticism about the ability of this meeting to achieve meaningful outcomes. Some observers are not convinced of the utility of adding one more declaration with no enforceability to the panorama. In a paper entitled “Finding a Formula for Brazil: Representation and Legitimacy in Internet Governance” Internet governance experts Milton Mueller and Ben Wagner suggested that the meeting may be little more than a “rehashing” of old debates:

The Brazil meeting’s call for “universal principles” partly reflects the desire for interstate agreements that can prevent rights violations of the type exemplified by NSA surveillance. It also echoes the WSIS Tunis Agenda’s call for globally applicable public policy principles for Internet governance. But there have been so many Internet principles released in recent years that it is hard to see what the Brazil conference could add. With Brazil’s own principles develop by CGI, the ‘International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance’ promoted by civil society groups, numerous reports by U.N. special rapporteur Frank la Rue, the OSCE principles on ‘Governing the Internet’ or UNESCO’s on going push for Internet Universality, the production of ‘Internet principles’ has reached fever pitch. What some experts have called a ‘constitutional moment’ seems instead to be rehashing the same wording again and again across different institutions.

But with the recent approval of Marco Civil, the so-called “Bill of Rights for Internet” by the Brazilian Chamber of Deputies, at least Brazil seems to be approaching a turning point in the protection of user’s rights. With a likely-to-be-approved, enforceable law regulating the net, Brazil’s role as a host and promoter of NETmundial attracts more depth and interest to the discussion.

Even though it has been said that NETmundial is “a response to  global anger at the United States for its role in digital spying,” the meeting’s organizers have explicitly noted that the meeting will “not include any discussion or activity to create solutions for specific topics such as security, privacy, surveillance, etc.”

At the same time, many observers have high expectations regarding the US Department of Commerce’s intention to transition its coordinating role over the Internet’s domain name system to the global Internet community.  To the extent that NetMundial aims to “embrace all stakeholders requests in the new model of Internet governance,” it will need to approach the ICANN transition by gathering insights from stakeholders in an inclusive, global and fully transparent way.

 

NetMundial will take place on April 23 and 24 at Sao Paulo, Brazil, will have 33 remote participation hubs in 23 countries. The event will be livestreamed from its website (http://netmundial.br).

 

by Marianne Diaz at April 18, 2014 10:15 PM

Global Voices
Arab World: Farewell Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Arab netizens mourned the death of Colombian Nobel laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who died on Thursday aged 87 at his home in Mexico City. On Twitter, Yasmine Zohdi puts to words what many feel:

Jordanian Shaden Abdelrahman notes [ar]:

My heart is sad tonight #Marquez

And Moroccan writer Laila Lalami explains:

She also shares her own photograph reading One Hundred Years of Solitude and the impact reading it had on her as a writer:

UAE columnist Sultan Al Qassemi shares memories of reading that very same book too. He tweets:

Mohamed AbdelRahman uses the occasion to poke fun at Algerian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who has been in power for 15 years, and who won his fourth term today (April 19, 2014) despite his failing health [ar]:

All the world leaders mourn Marquez except Bouteflika, who had died before him

Bahraini Eyad Ebrahim adds:

And Omani Nabhan Salem concludes [ar]:

Farewell Marquez. Your innovation continues to live after your body is dead. Those like you, who have ignited amazement with the fire of intellect and literature, never die

by Amira Al Hussaini at April 18, 2014 09:46 PM

Jessica Valenti
I finally found a gif that perfectly captures my end-of-the-day...


I finally found a gif that perfectly captures my end-of-the-day battle with the Internet. 

April 18, 2014 07:39 PM

MIT Center for Civic Media
The People's Bot

Yesterday, we launched The People's Bot, offering scholarships, media fellowships, and an auction for people to attend and report on events where they are not physically present, including CHI 2014 and a 13 year retrospective on wearable computing and Google Glass. Together with Nathan Matias, we're imagining uses of robotic telepresence for the public good.

A bot at the Tennis Court Oath

Last month, Edward Snowden was in Vancouver to attend the annual TED Conference. Sort of. Since his historical leak of NSA surveillance documents last year, Snowden has been living in exile abroad in order to avoid prosecution from the U.S. government. Yet, in spite of severe restrictions on his mobility across borders, he was able to attend the high-profile TED event from an undisclosed location in Russia via robot, which enabled him to move around stage as he presented his views on privacy and surveillance to a captivated audience thousands of miles away.

A bot joins Edward Snowden at TED

Snowden's appearance shows the power of robotic telepresence to extend opportunities to people who otherwise would not have access to high-profile events like TED. On the other hand, the Snowden bot could simply demonstrate the role of cutting edge technologies to extend the reach of only the most well-known, wealthy and elite members of society. While there exist a few heartwarming stories of housebound children who use bots in order to to remotely attend school with their friends, telepresent robots are often pitched as a technology to extend the influence of those who already have money and power.

As these bots become cheap and reliable enough to become consumer products, we need to develop practices and expectations to use them to broaden access and inclusion for less privileged groups. After Snowden’s appearance at TED, my colleague Nathan Matias and I began to ask ourselves how we might promote a more thoughtful conversation about future opportunities to use robotic telepresence for values of inclusion and public good. We created The People’s Bot, to experiment with robotic telepresence for the public good -- broadening access, supporting public interest reporting, and funding access initiatives.

The People’s Bot is related to Sam Gregory’s idea of “co-presence for good” in human rights and disaster response. Responders and activists are using video conferences to bring together diverse teams across barriers of geography, exclusion and timezones. New technologies like the Media Lab's unhangouts are expanding the tools we have for fast cooperation across distance. Our work is also related to work by the Institute for Applied Autonomy, who created the idea of "contestational robots" that are used to introduce speech into areas where speech has been restricted.

The People's Bot at Build Peace

This month, we are working our friends from the iHub, a tech innovation hub based in Nairobi, to pilot the People’s Bot during the Spring Member’s Meeting here at the Media Lab. This is an exciting time when researchers from across the Lab share the latest developments in their research with the Member community. We’ll be using the People’s Bot to create access for our colleagues who would otherwise be unable to attend from halfway across the world.

Later that week we’ll be demonstrating the bot in New York at Theorizing the Web, before dashing off to the CHI 2014 Conference in Toronto April 28 - May 1st. At CHI, we plan to provide time on the bot in the three following ways:
Scholarships: For high school, college, graduate students who are unable to attend the conference Apply for a Scholarship
Journalism fellowships: For bloggers and citizen media who are committed to sharing their experience with a broader audience. Apply for a Media Fellowship
Auctions: For anyone else interested in bidding for thirty minutes of telepresent roaming time, during which they are free to explore the Wearable Computing Exhibit at CHI. We will donate the proceeds from Ebay to the CHI student travel fund. Bid for Bot Time Here!

These will be an exciting and jam packed next few weeks, in which we hope to learn a lot from our experiences with The People’s Bot. Stay tuned for future developments!

by chelsea.barabas at April 18, 2014 06:58 PM

Global Voices
Putting the Brakes on Independent Films in Cuba
Claudia Calviño, productora independiente en Cuba (Foto: Raquel Pérez)

Claudia Calviño, independent producer in Cuba. (Photo Raquel Pérez)

Two feature films and a short film by an independent producer did not get permits despite having the necessary financing to start filming. The denial was issued by the Ministry of the Interior (MININT in Spanish), the entity that for several months has been reviewing the scripts and the composition of the technical teams for cinematic projects being developed on the island.

Previously, the Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry (ICAIC in Spanish) and the Ministry of Culture were responsible for the review and approval of the scripts.

To demonstrate their discontent with the new measure, several filmmakers sent a letter to ICAIC and the Ministry of Culture. Jorge Perugorría, prominent Cuban filmmaker and star of the film “Fresa y Chocolate” [Strawberry and Chocolate], said [es] there was “a common opinion” among artists that no agency other than the ICAIC or the Ministry of Culture should revise the stories to be filmed.

In statements to the Spanish daily newspaper, El País [es], Perugorría added that “making movies is still somewhat difficult in Cuba, especially in a crisis because the government prioritizes other things.” However, “thanks to digital media and the ability to make low-budget films, seven or eight a year are still made within a very interesting independent cinema, which can be seen in the sampling from this budding cinema.”

Meanwhile, the independent producer Claudia Calviño added the high costs to obtain permits to film in certain parts of the country to the limitations that currently hinder Cuban cinema. “The Office of the City Historian imposes fees of 500 CUC [Cuban convertible peso] per hour of shooting in the historic center of Old Havana,” Calvino said. According to filmmaker Enrique Alvarez, the statement will not be made public. Alvarez said:

es una declaración que hemos hecho a través de nuestras instituciones, porque nos interesaba que nuestras instituciones fueran las que defendieran su espacio institucional de ser quienes den o no este tipo de permiso, como ha sido hasta ahora. Y a nosotros nos tocaría ya discutir con ellos y fajarnos con ellos cada vez que den un permiso o no.

It’s a statement that we’ve made through our institutions, because we wanted our institutions to be the ones who defended their institutional place to be the ones who give or don’t give this type of permit, as it has been up until now. And it would be up to us to discuss or fight it out with them every time they give or don’t give a permit.

In the recently concluded meeting of the Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba, Álvarez noted [es]: 

nunca como hoy la producción cinematográfica se ha extendido por todo el país. Documentales, largos y cortos de ficción se realizan en cualquier rincón con la calidad profesional suficiente como para representar a nuestra cinematografía.

Today like never before, film production has spread across the country. Documentaries and fiction both short and long are made in every corner, with enough professional quality to represent our cinematography.

by Betsy Galbreath at April 18, 2014 03:21 PM

Everyone's “Gabo”

Pain undoubtedly overwhelms literature. Gabriel García Márquez, affectionately known as Gabo, was a precursor to “magic realism” and although some of his works were about love, his furies and other fantastic stories about his native village, Aracataca, gained followers in places as remote as China and Iran. 

Fue tal la reacción de la muerte de Gabo, que incluso diarios como The New York Times dedicaron una buena parte de su espacio en su sitio electrónico. Imagen extraída de nytimes.com

The reaction to Gabo's death was so strong that even papers like The New York Times dedicated a good part of the space on their website to him. Image taken from nytimes.com

His death shocked Americans that have closely follows his work. His reach was so powerful that the acclaimed Oprah Winfrey included “Love in the Time of Cholera” in her selective book club and labeled it “one of the greatest love stories I have ever read.” 

On the afternoon of April 17, once his death became public, the White House issued a statement on Twitter using hashtag #GraciasGabo (#ThankYouGabo): 

As seen in most tweets, people dedicated themselves to quoting celebrated phrases from his works: 

Others, like journalist Ioan Grillo, offered interesting information on the relationship that Gabo had with the United States as a result of his ideological inclinations:  

The United States denied Gabriel Garcia Marquez a visa for 30 years for having been “communist”. Bill Clinton (a fan) finally let him in. 

Other Twitter users confirmed the friction between Gabo and American diplomacy: 

#GabrielGarciaMarquez was tagged as subversive due to his points of view on American imperialism

by Marianna Breytman at April 18, 2014 03:20 PM

Voters Turn Out En Masse in Guinea-Bissau's First Post-Coup Elections

Fila de eleitores na Avenida Amílcar Cabral, Bissau. "#africa #guine #bissau #estado #povo #democracia #eleições #participação #voto #cidadania #guineenses vão eleger hoje um novo presidente e governo depois de 2 anos de transição política resultante de um golpe de estado." Foto de Miguel Barros (debarros2013) no Instagram

Queue of voters in Amílcar Cabral Avenue, Bissau. “#guineans will elect today [April 13, 2014] a new president and government after two years of political transition resulting from a coup d'etat. #africa #guine #bissau #estado #povo #democracia #eleições #participação #voto #cidadania” Photo by Miguel de Barros (debarros2013) on Instagram

Exactly two years and one day after a military coup d'etat interrupted Guinea-Bissau's 2012 presidential elections, Guineans cast their vote to democratically elect their political representatives. 

More than 80 percent of the population participated in the general elections on April 13, 2014, in which 13 candidates were running for president and 15 political parties were running for the National Assembly to form a new government. The official lists of candidates [pdf, pt] are available on the website of the National Election Commission (CNE).

statement [pt] by the CNE right after the polling stations closed said “without clear data, that these general elections have had the biggest turnout of voters ever.”

Urnas de voto para as eleições presidenciais e legislativas de 2014 na Guiné Bissau. Foto de anafilipa2011 no Instagram

Ballot boxes for the 2014 presidential and parliamentary elections in Guinea-Bissau. Photo by Filipa Larcher (anafilipa2011) on Instagram

“By turning out in unprecedented large numbers, in a peaceful and orderly fashion, the people of Guinea-Bissau have shown their unequivocal desire for the return to constitutional order in their country”, reacted Nobel Peacemaker José Ramos Horta, the special representative of the United Nations Integrated Peace-Building Office (UNIOGBIS) for Guinea-Bissau and former president of East Timor:

The elections that we have just witnessed, on 13 April 2014, have the potential of being imprinted in the history of the country as the turning point from the painful and chronic political instability that has plagued the country since its independence, to a period of peace, stability and development.

anafilipa2011 - contagem de votos

Polling station in Guinea-Bissau on April 13, 2014. Photo by Filipa Larcher (anafilipa2011) on Instagram.

Political and military instability have indeed been a constant feature in Guinea Bissau, a country which has never seen an elected president reach the end of his mandate since its independence 40 years ago. On April 12, 2012, a few days before the presidential run-off, a military coup plunged the country into a crisis with lasting negative impacts at all levels of society.

The general elections of 2014 aimed to put an end to the Period of instability created by the coup, which installed a “transitional government” in power, mediated by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

"#africa #guine #bissau #eleições #voto #participação #democracia #cidadania #povo faz a escolha - Nerida Varela, socióloga e monitora do Grupo das Organizações da Sociedade civil para as Eleições, depois de ter votado. Para acompanhar as eleições ver: bissauvote.com." Foto de debarros2013 no Instagram

“#africa #guine #bissau #eleições #voto #participação #democracia #cidadania #povo (people) make their choice. Nerida Varela, sociologist and monitor of the Group of Civil Society Organizations for the Elections, after casting her vote.” Photo by Miguel de Barros (debarros2013) on Instagram

Domestic electoral observers

The elections saw the increasing involvement of citizens and civil society organizations in the democratic process and its monitoring. New technologies for communication and collaboration also played an important role. 

Recognizing the importance of the “full participation of citizens in the functioning of democracy”, a coalition of 15 national organizations – the Grupo das Organizações da Sociedade Civil para as Eleições (Group of Civil Society Organizations for the Elections, GOSCE) – joined forces to run a domestic electoral watchdog by monitoring the pre-electoral period until the day of elections.

Screenshot do website www.bissauvote.com

Screenshot of the website www.bissauvote.com

From April 9 to 13, GOSCE mobilized a network of about 400 citizen observers throughout the territory, ready to observe, collect and send via SMS data about the electoral campaign, media coverage, civic education activities, and the voting process itself, including turnout and the functioning of polling stations. 

The website bissauvote.com, created by GOSCE in partnership with non-governmental organization One World and with the support of the European Union Delegation, provides a map of reports and a search engine by region and topic, as well as statistical reports. 

The findings of the civic monitoring throughout the pre-electoral period have been summarized in a report [pdf, pt] that highlights the tone of the speeches by the candidates during the campaign; gender participation; presence of security forces and the independence of the media in the electoral coverage. 

"#africa #guine #bissau #democracia #eleicoes #participacao #voto #sala de operacoes do grupo da sociedade civil responsavel pela monitorizacao do processo eleitoral (www.bissauvote.com)." Foto de debarros2013 no Instagram

“Control tower of the civil society group responsible for the monitoring of the electoral process – www.bissauvote.com.” Photo by Miguel de Barros (debarros2013) on Instagram

In a statement [pt] released after the voting day, GOSCE noted that although there had been reports of “84 incidents throughout the national territory, most of them related with situations of incompatibility of registered voters with the lists of voters”, the elections went well overall and were “generally peaceful”.  The preliminary conclusions taken by the information that was collected throughout the process point out: 

1. A campanha eleitoral, em particular os comícios realizados por partidos políticos e candidatos presidenciais, decorreram de forma pacífica sem registos significativos de incidentes de ordem político-partidária. De um modo geral, os discursos dos candidatos e partidos transmitiram uma mensagem pacífica e focalizada nas suas agendas políticas.

2. O esforço de equidade e imparcialidade dos meios do comunicação monitorizados – nomeadamente as rádios privadas e comunitárias – privilegiando a neutralidade no tratamento dos candidatos e partidos políticos.

3. A complementaridade das acções de educação cívica promovidas pela Sociedade Civil e pela Comissão Nacional de Eleições, permitindo o maior esclarecimento dos cidadãos eleitores relativamente ao processo eleitoral.

1. The electoral campaign, particularly the rallies carried out by political parties and presidential candidates, were held peacefully without significant incidents related with parties or politics. In general, the speeches of candidates and parties transmitted a peaceful message and were focused on their political agendas.

2. The effort of fairness and impartiality of the monitored media – including private and community radios – favored neutrality in the treatment of candidates and political parties.

3. The complementarity of civic education activities organized by civil society and the National Election Commission allowed for greater clarification of the electoral process for voters.

Foto de Filipa Archer, por anafilipa2011 no Instagram.

Citizen casting his vote in Guinea-Bissau on April 13, 2014. Photo by Filipa Larcher (anafilipa2011) on Instagram.

The electoral results [pt], announced on April 16, confirm a run-off to be held in May between the two presidential candidates that got the most votes: José Mário Vaz (41 percent) from the historical PAIGC party, and Nuno Nabiam (25 percent), running as an independent backed by the military.

For parliament, PAIGC got the majority of seats (55 out of 102), thus the next prime minister will be the leader of that party's parliamentary list, Domingos Simoes Pereira. The Party for Social Renewal (PRS) came in second, taking 41 seats of the National Assembly.

But “elections are only the first stage of a long-term effort to solve problems that have undermined progress for years”, stresses a briefing that has been recently published by the International Crisis Group, titled “Guinea-Bissau: Elections, But Then What?“.

The study enumerates the main challenges that the next elected government will have to face, highlighting that “given the country’s fragility, the political stakes in play, a suspicious military and a weak economy, real transformation will only be possible with strong international involvement, political and financial.” It adds that the country, “where participation in government has been the main method for acquiring wealth”, needs to balance the redistribution of power and resources, as well as “political and military will for reform”:

The new government will have to call into question the privileges enjoyed by senior military officers and carefully resume the security sector reforms that prompted the army to stage the coup.

anafilipa2011 lista eleitores perfil

Citizen and list of voters, Guinea-Bissau, April 13, 2014. Photo by Filipa Larcher (anafilipa2011) on Instagram.

The photos that appear in this post by Filipa Larcher (anafilipa2011) and Miguel de Barros (debarros2013) were used with their permission.

by Sara Moreira at April 18, 2014 01:46 PM

In Bangladesh, Cycling to Break Free of Dhaka's Notorious Traffic
Traffic jam is a regular feature in Dhaka city. Image by Firoz Ahmed. Copyright: Demotix (25/7/2012)

Traffic jams are a regular feature in Dhaka. Image by Firoz Ahmed. Copyright Demotix (25/7/2012)

Dhaka is a city rich in history, having been established more than 400 years ago. It is the capital of Bangladesh, with nearly 18 million people residing in its 350 square kilometers.

It is also one of the most unlivable cities in the world, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit, and its extreme traffic congestion contributes a lot to this fame. Any visitor to Dhaka will be quick to notice the backed up lines of cars moving at a crawl. The city simply can’t handle the increasing volumes of traffic, and it is a source of stress for many.

Now, some people are finding relief by cycling to break out of the traffic deadlock.

One of them is Palash Ranjan Sanyal. He wrote on the Dhaka Tribune blog:

One morning, I was waiting for to take a rickshaw to the university I attended and I was getting late for the exam that had been scheduled for that day. I waited, waited and waited…

Then suddenly I had the idea that I could use my bicycle. I did that and it took me only ten minutes to get the university, a journey that would usually take about half an hour.

That was it. The start. From that day, I cycle everywhere. It saves enormous amount of time and money. Some days, I do not have my wallet on me and I don’t even notice it.

Riding a bicycle is also the preferred alternative for blogger Sandhi [bn]. He wrote at cadetcollageblog:

ঢাকা শহরের অবস্থা দিন দিন যেদিকে এগুচ্ছে, বাসে বা রিক্সায় চলাফেরা করাটা যেমন কষ্টসাধ্য, তেমন ব্যয়বহুল। আর জ্যামে বসে থেকে তো নাভিশ্বাস উঠে যায় মানুষের। তার মাঝে আমার সাইকেলখানা যেন স্বর্গের বাহন রূপে দেখা দিল। হল থেকে ক্লাস, রাত-বিরাতে বাইরে খেতে যাওয়া, গৃহশিক্ষকতায় এত কম সময়ে, কম কষ্টে সহজে পৌঁছানোর এত সুন্দর উপায় খুঁজে পেয়ে আমার জীবনে যেন স্বস্তি নেমে আসল।

Day after day Dhaka is becoming a hellish city where moving by rickshaw or bus is difficult. It’s also costly. Most of the people feel severe stress when they are sitting in the middle of the road because of a traffic jam. In these circumstances, my bicycle seems like a gift from God. Now going to class from my hall, going outside for a midnight snack or for tuition has become much easier thanks to my bicycle. I’m happy to have discovered this beautiful solution.

A cycle procession on Dhaka University campus, for World Cycling Day 2012 and demanding a lane for cycle riders in the Dhaka streets. Image by Firoz Ahmed. Copyright Demotic (18/9/2012)

A cycle procession on Dhaka University campus for World Cycling Day 2012 and to demand a lane for cyclists on Dhaka streets. Image by Firoz Ahmed. Copyright Demotix (18/9/2012)

Bicycle revolution

Bicycles have been used in Dhaka for years. But the “revolution on two wheels” began in 2011.

Mozammed Haque, the founder of cycling association BDCyclists, is a prime figure behind this revolution. He is a software engineer by profession. During his daily commute, he used to waste one to one and half hours each day due to traffic congestion, so he decided to travel to the office by bicycle.

Soon, his colleagues and others joined in. They formed BDCyclists, which has been mainly active on Facebook. In three years, more than 35,000 members have joined the group to discuss things related to cycling and to network among themselves. From the website of this community:

We are neither an elite athlete group, nor people who are training to compete in races. We are just general people like you who is either a student, a service holder, a business person having a common goal of staying healthy in this stressful Dhaka life and ride for recreation, health, and sheer fun.

Bdcyclists organizes several bicycle rides every week, with titles like bike Friday, critical mass, joshila Saturday, BDC nightriders, beginner’s lesson, and annual grand race. The 10-20 kilometer rides attract as many as 4,000 cyclists.

Now, Bdcyclists is campaigning to turn Dhaka into a “bicycle city” within the next few years. Blogger Aminul Islam Sajib shares how he enjoyed his first session with the BDCyclists community:

I’m not a rider yet, still I feel like starting to get out. I haven’t begun cycling yet, still I had so much fun at today’s session that I can actually imagine how fun it would be to go out on an actual ride.

Here is a video on YouTube shared by Iqbal Hossain, a member of the community:

Girl power

In a country where girls are leered at when they are simply walking down the street, it’s truly inspiring that BDCyclists have more than 100 active female members who take ownership of the streets alongside their male counterparts on bicycles.

Blogger JaJabar Backpacker [bn] lives outside Dhaka and is a teacher by profession. She wrote about her experience with bicycles in Sachalayatan:

আমাদের আবাসিক এলাকার কাছেই আর একটা এলাকা আছে, সেটা ঠিক বস্তি নয়, দিনমজুর-গেরস্ত নানারকম মানুষ থাকেন। কেউ কেউ মোটামুটি ভালোই জীবনযাপন করেন, গরু-ছাগল পোষেন। গত বছর নতুন সাইকেল কেনার পরপরই ঐদিকে গিয়েছিলাম রাস্তা এক্সপোর করতে। বারদুয়েক চক্কর দেয়ার পরে তৃতীয়বার দেখি টিন-ছনের ঘরগুলোর কাছে একটা ছোটখাটো জটলা। সেখানে ছোট-বড়-বুড়ো সকলেই আছেন। আমি কাছে যেতেই হাসি দিলো কয়েকজন, কোনরকম ঠাট্টা নয়, উত্সাহজনক হাসি রীতিমতো।

Near our residential quarter we have an area where working people live. But this is not a slum. Some of them have fairly good living standards. They raise cattle. Last year, I went to explore this area with my new bicycle. After going round the area twice, I noticed that some people had gathered and they were watching me. When I came closer to them, they greeted me with encouraging smiles.

The growing demand for bikes has increased twenty fold, and the government has welcomed the trend. What Dhaka needs now are dedicated bike lanes, a tough request when swarming pedestrians and street vendors occupy the footpaths and even spill over into traffic lanes.

by Pantha Rahman Reza at April 18, 2014 10:31 AM

Rising Voices
The Amp # 11: April 5 – April 18

Our microgrant competition is closed and we are working on processing all of the applications we've received from around the world. Until then, take a look at the possible winners and leave your comments about their work! https://rising.globalvoicesonline.org/microgrants2014/

From the Blog

HacksLab Announces Data-Focused Support for Latin American News Outlets - The first incubator for data-driven journalism in Latin America launched last week with HacksLabs Challenge 2014, which will grant a total of US $100,000 for Latin American projects. 

5 Resources for Citizen Journalists - New and noteworthy resources for citizen media reporters (and teachers) about staying safe, working in humanitarian disasters, focusing on women's rights, and making sure what you publish is true.

hackslab_2

Odia Loves Wikipedia - Odia, a 2,500 year old language has recently gained the status of an Indian classical language, an event recently celebrated by Odia Wikipedians, using a new free and open-source font.

Navigating the Bhutanese Media Landscape in a New Democracy - The Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy has been helping local society navigate the country's transition into democracy supporting citizens as they participate more active in traditional and online media. The BCMD is also one of RV's grantees expanding its audio podcasting workshops nationwide.

Nominations Out For The BOBs - The Best of the Blogs award nominations have been posted online. You can sign on today and vote for your favorites. Here is a sampling of some of the submissions from around the world.

As he is injected with a truth serum, Asaram won't stop revealing secrets: "To hell with this Narco test, he is just not going to stop... How many more secrets he has to reveal?"

A cartoon from Karnika Kahen

Karnika Kahen Against the God-man - Cartoonist Kanika Mishra – and her cartoon character Karnika Kahen – gives a voice to India's women as she fights against the corruption of religious figureheads and their abuses of vulnerable people.

JOBS and FELLOWSHIPS

Research analyst position at Wikimedia More HERE

Fellowship with Yahoo on communications technolgoies and the global internet at Georgetown University. More info HERE

IREX Media seeks a media program director in Burma. Details here: http://bit.ly/1ev3wwJ 

Mexican journalists can apply for summer fellowships in DC via ICFJ and Wall Street Journal http://bit.ly/OfF7i5 

OPPORTUNITIES

Info about remote participation for Net Mundial 2014 in Brazil, India, Nigeria, Paraguay and UK are now available: http://bit.ly/1p4B757 

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is expanding into student and community organising More info HERE

Want to rethink your eduction? Apply to be a “Wise Learner”. More info HERE

Interested in media for social change? Join BCU Media for an “un-conference” in May. More info HERE

LEARNING and TOOLS

Telecentre.org offers a #MOOC on Google Tools (with certificate) for free – in Spanish and English. More info at http://ow.ly/vNI9V 

Join a training on Internet Governance and Policy in the MENA region, 3-6 Jun, Beirut, http://igmena.org/index.php?p=107

MIT publishes nearly all its courses (and component materials) online, for free. Find them HERE

img2

Check out these 4 interactive storytelling tools to spruce up your next news story http://bit.ly/1iTLTmf

A MOOC in digital mapping… with Jane Goodall ! http://bit.ly/1hDH18v 

A new manual from Internews: Reporting on Humanitarian Crises: A Manual for Trainers & Journalists : http://bit.ly/1qxlH6O 

FUNDING

World Pulse's campaign Women Weave the Web is open with prizes: win $20,000 to support your community based work – find out more HERE

Social Innovation Fund from the US Govt and Americorps http://1.usa.gov/1knTQ7c 

Peter F. Drucker Award for Nonprofit Innovation http://bit.ly/PKQkZr 

Covering maternal & child health in China, India or Russia? Enter our a reporting contest with ICFJ http://j.mp/1gbHjyX 

Schwarzkopf Travel Grants for Young Europeans http://ow.ly/vL1il 

The Rory Peck Awards 2014 are now open for entries. More info HERE

US$100,000 in grants available for data journalism projects in Latin America – see our blog post above about HacksLabs

2014 Audience Engagement Grant Program from Open Society to go from photographing to effecting change. http://osf.to/YJmqG0 

CJFFJC offers a reporting fellowship for Canadian journalists from Aboriginal communities http://bit.ly/1euo6NC

Documentary makers can submit projects to the International Festival Flahertiana 2014 in Russia http://bit.ly/1eukpaM  Most costs covered for selected films

AND…

Vote for the Webby awards! http://ow.ly/vOG6j 

How One App Might Be A Step Toward Internet Everywhere http://n.pr/1gs0Ytu 

Google now constantly scans your installed Android apps for malware http://buff.ly/1hpgviV 

Who Governs the Internet? Implications for Freedom and National Security http://bit.ly/1k60UFz 

Cambodia's Cyber Bill Undermines Internet Freedom From Every Angle http://bit.ly/1exkC7G 

Myanmar's First Digital Library for Higher Education http://bit.ly/1goSEiL 

Amazon is set to debut its own smartphone later this year, according to a new report. http://on.mash.to/1qPGTTZ 

In California, Saving a Language That Predates Spanish and English (NY Times) http://nyti.ms/1iGMSY6 

by Rising Voices at April 18, 2014 08:42 AM

Global Voices
How Online Discussions on Whaling Get Twisted in Japan
whale meat cans piled up at a store.

whale meat cans piled up at a store. Photo by flickr user masamunecyrus (CC BY NC 2.0)

Following the International Court of Justice ruling on 31 March 2014 that ordered Japan to halt what the country claims as a ‘scientific research’ whale hunt in the Southern Ocean, Japan's e-commerce giant Rakuten has asked its marketplace users to end all online sales of whale and dolphin products including meat, skin and bones by the end of April.

Though the sale of whale meat is legal in Japan, whale meat sellers often use e-commerce platforms. A whale meat seller [ja] in Nagasaki, which began business in the early 1900s, announced their withdrawal from Rakuten :

<ご報告>
この度、楽天市場が「鯨肉」を禁止商材に決定いたしましたので4月末日までで、”くじら日和 楽天市場店”は退店となります。

<Announcement>
We will close our store at Rakuten at the end of April due to ban on whale meat transaction

Whaling itself has always been controversial in Japan in regard to international relations, and has been a good topic for teachers to take up the issue in classroom discussion, because opinions vary. However, contrary to the diverse discussions seen in classrooms, opinions in the online environment that are loud and most noticeable are the ones on the fringe.

These opinions often advocate defending the custom of hunting and eating whale meat and are often accompanied by patriotism, when the ruling is specifically against the misconduct of Japan's “scientific research”.

Taiji Town Museum of Whales exhibiting images of traditional whaling fishermen. Photo taken by flickr user  daichi (CC BY  NC SA)

Taiji Town Museum of Whales exhibiting images of traditional whaling fishermen. Photo taken by flickr user daichi (CC BY NC SA)

Conversation on twitter seemed to be dominated by users who were vocally against the world court ruling and Rakuten's ban, while people with differing opinions – and there are certainly many in Japan who think differently from what online comments suggest – remain silent.

Therefore listing vocal, conspicuous comments probably will not reflect overall rounded general discussion. The following quotes are intended to showcase some of the talking points on the Internet, how unhealthy or healthy the discussion may be.

Conservative pro-whaling netizens booed Rakuten's decision. Twitter user Kukkuri commented:

Rakuten bans selling whale and dolphin meat on its platform. All stores are notified. It's an astounding piece of news. Why would a Japanese company want to take part in besieging Japan? Killing traditional Japanese culture means being global?

One particularly loud advocate for Japan's whaling is an American video blogger in Texas who goes by the name of “Propaganda Buster”. He receives echoes of many Japanese followers behind the keyboard. His many Japanese followers call him “Texas Daddy”.

In a YouTube video translated into Japanese by his supporters whose funding is unknown, he aggressively spoke out against controversial marine conversation group Sea Shepherd, which has actively opposed Japan's whaling:


His videos have been successfully exerting influence on Japanese netizens who find themselves suddenly shaping extremely patriotic voices on the Internet.

While Australians gave a high five, Masaaki Sasaki echoes the view of Texas Daddy, and wrote that Sea Shepard would be the most negatively impacted by the International Court of Justice's ruling:

In reality, it is Sea Shepard who will be most damaged by the ICJ ruling. If Japan stops the research-driven whaling, they won't be able to continue campaigning against whaling to justify their existence to their audience, and will then lose donations to fund their activities. What I feel about the ICJ ruling

Author Yusuke Hayashi saw it as a cultural issue:

Ban on whaling. Reducing the tariff on Australian beef. Japanese people did not eat beef until the Meiji era [in the late 19th century]. Eating whales and eating beef are both cultural. Australia seems to like multiculturalism, but they condemn whaling culture. I think it is wrong for Australia to say do not eat whales, eat Australian beef.

Sociologist Kasuga Sho pointed out that whaling for so-called scientific research is a problem of euphemisms and misleading labels, similar to labor exploitation under the name of Japan's internship training program for foreign workers:

Labor under the name “technical training” was also defended by some countries in the past, and Japan lost the case. Commercial whaling for “research purposes” seems to be the same idea. I guess both are made by people who think, “This is okay because I will be retired by the time [the program becomes an international problem]“ 

Sub-editor's Note:

The International Whaling Commission banned commercial whaling in 1986, but Japan is allowed to catch a certain number of whales each year for scientific research and the meat sold as a byproduct. The recent ruling stemmed from accusations from Australia that Japan was using scientific research as a cover for commercial whaling.

Japan has already cancelled next winter's Southern Ocean hunt in line with the ruling, but has assured that other hunts, such as in the Pacific, will continue as planned. 

by Keiko Tanaka at April 18, 2014 07:27 AM

Winners and Losers in the 2014 Indonesian Legislative Polls
A banner of Jokowi for president in central Jakarta. Photo by Herianus, Copyright @Demotix (3/15/2014)

A banner of Jokowi for president in central Jakarta. Photo by Herianus, Copyright @Demotix (3/15/2014)

190 million voters, 12 parties, 560 Parliament seats.

Indonesians will vote twice this year: April 9 for the local and national legislative elections; and three months later on July 9 for the presidential election. A party needs 20 percent of legislative seats or 25 percent of the popular vote in order to nominate a presidential candidate. But according to quick counts, no party reached the minimum threshold which means there is a need for coalition–building.

Regardless, Endy M. Bayuni underscored the value of the recent elections:

Indonesia is now quite comfortable with the constant changing of the guard. These changes reflected the will of the people who exercised their sovereign rights through the periodic elections. The elected leaders are too learning that their positions and influence are not permanent, and that they have to account for their policies and actions.

Only two presidents have ruled Indonesia for 53 years after 1945. But after implementing democratic reforms in 1998, Indonesians were able to elect four presidents already.

However, Indonesian politics is still marred by various issues such as corruption and inefficient bureaucracy. This was noted by Zak Rose:

The political establishment in Indonesia has never seemed less popular. Stalled democratization initiatives and rampant corruption in the halls of political and military power have not gone unnoticed by the Indonesian public. Party loyalty has hit rock bottom, and an increasingly cynical electorate is eager to find alternatives to the status quo.

Searching for alternatives, many people pinned their hopes and support to Jakarta Governor Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, a rising politician who is admired for his pro-people style of governance. His popularity is often dubbed as the ‘Jokowi Effect’.

But the ‘Jokowi Effect’ proved to be limited if we are to interpret the recent election results. Wimar Witoelar tried to explain why Jokowi’s opposition party underperformed in the election:

I was wrong. The media was wrong. The polls were wrong. There is no Jokowi Effect. Or maybe there is one, but it is not strong enough to break the stranglehold Indonesia’s party oligarchy has on the electorate.

Jokowi backers might have the morality but not the will to win, as they are not investing in the Jokowi candidacy by voting for the party that will launch him.

The quick count results are a humiliation. It’s sad to have violators of human rights and blatant power manipulators show equal strength as a fresh popular leader. It demonstrates failure to translate Jokowi’s popularity into electoral votes.

Winarno Zain analyzed why the business sector was not overly enthusiastic with the election outcome, and in particular with the ‘Jokowi Effect’:

First, given the distribution of votes among parties, it is clear that whatever coalition government is formed, it would be weak and not effective, as the debate on government policies and the decision-making process would drag on for a long time in the House of Representatives.

Second, during the campaign, the rhetoric of populist and nationalist policies were at high pitch, even harsh words against foreign-business interests were heard, shocking the business community, who are already wary of the back sliding of some government policies in trade and investment, as reflected in the recently approved investment and trade laws.

Jokowi, the frontrunner, has not even spelled out his thinking on economic issues. We only know that he was a manufacturer and exporter of furniture.

Indonesia is the most populous Muslim majority nation in the world. Islamic Parties have been participating in the electoral process but their votes have been decreasing in recent years. But this year, their votes went up which surprised many analysts. However, Dr Greg Fealy clarified that it does not reflect a ‘resurgence of political Islam’:

This election result does not show a resurgence of political Islam but it does indicate its resilience and ability to adapt to changing attitudes in the electorate. The four Islamic parties that have gained parliamentary seats have done so partly because they have moved closer to the centre of the political spectrum, and away from a doctrinaire Islamic position.

Some media moguls also joined the elections but their parties did not dominate the polls. For Agus Sudibyo, it means voters have the capacity to critically discern what the media are reporting:

They take into account core ties like ethnicity and faith; quite apart from credibility and quality.

People are not merely blank canvases that can be painted upon by the media. They are competent in giving feedback; therefore one would need to reconsider the view that citizens are merely passive media consumers.

Another factor in the campaign is the involvement of young voters. Hasyim Widhiarto probed the impact of the youth vote:

The abundance of young people has also explained why Indonesia has earned the title as one of the most active nations on social networking websites like Twitter and Facebook in the past few years, inspiring political parties and politicians to field their election campaigns in cyberspace.

Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo and his wife cast their votes in the legislative elections in Jakarta. Photo by Denny Pohan, Copyright @Demotix (4/9/2014)

Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo and his wife cast their votes in the legislative elections in Jakarta. Photo by Denny Pohan, Copyright @Demotix (4/9/2014)

Indonesia’s major political parties are now busy forming alliances in preparation for the July presidential election. The most popular candidate is still Jokowi. Christian von Lübke explains why Jokowi is popular among the masses:

The idea of a non-establishment contender from the midst of society – who is not a scion of a political dynasty, nor a business tycoon, nor a ranking army general, and who actually listens to people’s concerns – has stirred much enthusiasm.

But some people are also wary of the people behind Jokowi:

In the eyes of sceptical observers, the former mayor of Solo already finds himself entangled in web of entrenched interests, power brokers, and campaign financiers.

Donny Syofyan warned about misusing the power of the ‘Jokowi Effect’:

The ‘Jokowi effect’, that is the overwhelming influence of Jokowi due to his current popularity, is subject to misuse.

Jokowi should not be exploited as a media darling. Jokowi often benefits from his personal magnetism but this should not lead to media immunity for him and his proponents.

by Mong Palatino at April 18, 2014 07:21 AM

Chinese Court Rejects Lawsuit Over Lanzhou Water Pollution

A Chinese court has rejected a lawsuit filed by five residents against a water supply company in Lanzhou over excessive levels of carcinogenic benzene found in the tap water.

The Lanzhou Intermediate People's Court said the individuals don't meet legal criteria to sue on the public's behalf over pollution under Article 55 of the Civil Procedure Law. The article states that “only agencies and organizations that are stipulated by the law” are allowed to file pollution-related lawsuits. In such cases, only the China Environment Federation under the environmental bureau can file the lawsuit. 

A map of tap water incidents in China in the past few years. (Picture from Sina Weibo)

A map of tap water incidents in China in the past few years. Images from Sina Weibo.

On April 11, the municipal government asked residents not to drink tap water for 24 hours after tests showed benzene levels in the water supply had reached 20 times the national safety limit. The contamination affected more than two million residents.

Lanzhou, an industrial city of 3.6 million people in northwestern China, depends largely on the Yellow River for its water supply. In recent years, this city has seen a wave of investment frenzy as the state rolled out various initiatives to lift the economic standing of the underdeveloped western regions. 

Wang Canfa, an environmental law professor, told Reuters that courts rarely accept lawsuits filed by people exposed to pollution.

Many lawyers think the court rejection itself was unlawful. Professor of Chinese law Xu Xin wrote on popular microblogging site Sina Weibo:

原告只要喝过污染的水,就与本案有直接利害关系,法院应当受理。这是公民提起的普通民事诉讼,法院不受理是违法的。希望更多个人提起诉讼。同时,希望中华环保联合会等依第55条提起公益诉讼

As long as they drank the polluted water, they are direct victims of the case, and the court should accept their complaint. The court is violating the law for not accepting citizens’ civil action. I hope more individuals file the suit. At the same time, I hope the China Environment Federation files public interest litigation.

Netizen “John-Paul” commented:

裁定不予受理尚且法院的一种作为方式;真正令人无法忍受的是不作为。对于特定类型纠纷,法院往往不予理睬。这种行为公然违反《民诉法》,但却是法院所通常采取的策略。

The rejection is the court’s way to deal with the issue. It's intolerable. The courts tend to ignore certain types of disputes. This flagrant violation of “Civil Procedure Law” is how the courts usually deal with such issues.

Wangyi news pointed out the pitfalls of the law in China:

目前中国大部分的环境公害事件原因,均是政府影响环境的渎职、过失以及越权等行为,纵容、增幅了企业的排放、泄露事故等。最典型的例子,是《环境保护法》修正案中钦点的、垄断环境公益诉讼权的“中华环保联合会”,其企业会员中就不乏排放、污染大户。当会员企业牵涉污染环境案件,“联合会”与会员之间的关联关系将直接影响环境公益诉讼的公正程度,并引发公众对于这些案件是否能得到起诉、起诉力度是否得到保证的合理怀疑。

Most of China's current environmental hazards are caused by the government’s negligence towards the companies’ emissions and leakage accidents. The most typical example is the China Environment Federation, which has monopoly rights on environmental public interest litigation. There is no shortage of emissions polluters among the members of the Federation. When the member companies are involved in environmental pollution cases, it will directly affect the fairness of environmental public interest litigation and trigger doubt about whether these cases can be sued and prosecuted.

by Abby at April 18, 2014 03:57 AM

MIT Center for Civic Media
The People's Bot

Last month, Edward Snowden was in Vancouver to attend the annual TED Conference. Sort of. Since his historical leak of NSA surveillance documents last year, Snowden has been living in exile abroad in order to avoid prosecution from the U.S. government. Yet, in spite of severe restrictions on his mobility across borders, he was able to attend the high-profile TED event from an undisclosed location in Russia via robot, which enabled him to move around stage as he presented his views on privacy and surveillance to a captive audience thousands of miles away.

In many ways this event provides an exciting use case, demonstrating how robotic telepresence may be used to extend opportunities for participation to individuals who otherwise would not have access to high-profile events like TED. On the other hand, the Snowden bot could be framed as an extension of a much less exciting trend towards using cutting edge technologies to extend the reach of only the most well-known, wealthy and elite members of society. While there exist of housebound children who use bots in order to to remotely attend school with their friends, telepresent robots are often pitched as a technology to extend the influence of those who already have money and power.


However, our practices and expectations surrounding how these technologies are used to create access and inclusion for less privileged groups are still in the very early stages of development. After Snowden’s appearance at TED, my colleague Nathan Matias and I began to ask ourselves how we might promote a more thoughtful conversation about future opportunities to use robotic telepresence to promote values of inclusion and social good more broadly. Hence came The People’s Bot, an initiative that explores novel ways to engage with robotic telepresence for the public good -- broadening access, supporting public interest reporting, and funding access initiatives. With The People’s Bot we seek to build from Sam Gregory’s concept of “co-presence for good,” or using the sense of being together with other people in a remote environment to drive concrete, productive actions, engagement and understanding across barriers of geography, exclusion and timezones. Over the next few weeks we’ll be exploring innovative ways to use telepresent robots to broaden access to conferences and other educational events around Boston, New York, and Toronto.

We are working our friends from the iHub, a tech innovation hub based in Nairobi, to pilot the People’s Bot during the Spring Member’s Meeting here at the Media Lab. This is an exciting time when researchers from across the Lab share the latest developments in their research with the Member community. We’ll be using the People’s Bot to create access for our colleagues who would otherwise be unable to attend from halfway across the world.

Later that week we’ll be demonstrating the bot in New York at Theorizing the Web, before dashing off to the CHI 2014 Conference in Toronto April 28 - May 1st. At CHI, we plan to provide time on the bot in the three following ways:
Scholarships: For high school, college, graduate students who are unable to attend the conference
Journalism fellowships: For bloggers and citizen media who are committed to sharing their experience with a broader audience
Auctions: For anyone else interested in bidding for thirty minutes of telepresent roaming time, during which they are free to explore the Wearable Computing Exhibit at CHI. We will donate the proceeds from Ebay to the CHI student travel fund.

These will be an exciting and jam packed next few weeks, in which we hope to learn a lot from our experiences with The People’s Bot. Stay tuned for future developments!

by chelsea.barabas at April 18, 2014 02:57 AM

The People's Bot

Last month, Edward Snowden was in Vancouver to attend the annual TED Conference. Sort of. Since his historical leak of NSA surveillance documents last year, Snowden has been living in exile abroad in order to avoid prosecution from the U.S. government. Yet, in spite of severe restrictions on his mobility across borders, he was able to attend the high-profile TED event from an undisclosed location in Russia via robot, which enabled him to move around stage as he presented his views on privacy and surveillance to a captive audience thousands of miles away.

In many ways this event provides an exciting use case, demonstrating how robotic telepresence may be used to extend opportunities for participation to individuals who otherwise would not have access to high-profile events like TED. On the other hand, the Snowden bot could be framed as an extension of a much less exciting trend towards using cutting edge technologies to extend the reach of only the most well-known, wealthy and elite members of society. While there exist of housebound children who use bots in order to to remotely attend school with their friends, telepresent robots are often pitched as a technology to extend the influence of those who already have money and power.

However, our practices and expectations surrounding how these technologies are used to create access and inclusion for less privileged groups are still in the very early stages of development. After Snowden’s appearance at TED, my colleague Nathan Matias and I began to ask ourselves how we might promote a more thoughtful conversation about future opportunities to use robotic telepresence to promote values of inclusion and social good more broadly. Hence came The People’s Bot, an initiative that explores novel ways to engage with robotic telepresence for the public good -- broadening access, supporting public interest reporting, and funding access initiatives. With The People’s Bot we seek to build from Sam Gregory’s concept of “co-presence for good,” or using the sense of being together with other people in a remote environment to drive concrete, productive actions, engagement and understanding across barriers of geography, exclusion and timezones. Over the next few weeks we’ll be exploring innovative ways to use telepresent robots to broaden access to conferences and other educational events around Boston, New York, and Toronto.

We are working our friends from the iHub, a tech innovation hub based in Nairobi, to pilot the People’s Bot during the Spring Member’s Meeting here at the Media Lab. This is an exciting time when researchers from across the Lab share the latest developments in their research with the Member community. We’ll be using the People’s Bot to create access for our colleagues who would otherwise be unable to attend from halfway across the world.

Later that week we’ll be demonstrating the bot in New York at Theorizing the Web, before dashing off to the CHI 2014 Conference in Toronto April 28 - May 1st. At CHI, we plan to provide time on the bot in the three following ways:
Scholarships: For high school, college, graduate students who are unable to attend the conference
Journalism fellowships: For bloggers and citizen media who are committed to sharing their experience with a broader audience
Auctions: For anyone else interested in bidding for thirty minutes of telepresent roaming time, during which they are free to explore the Wearable Computing Exhibit at CHI. We will donate the proceeds from Ebay to the CHI student travel fund.

These will be an exciting and jam packed next few weeks, in which we hope to learn a lot from our experiences with The People’s Bot. Stay tuned for future developments!

by chelsea.barabas at April 18, 2014 02:52 AM

The People's Bot

In many ways this event provides an exciting use case demonstrating how robotic telepresence may be used to extend opportunities for participation to individuals who otherwise would not have access to high-profile events like TED. On the other hand, the Snowden bot could be framed as an extension of a much less exciting trend towards using cutting edge technologies to extend the reach of only the most well-known, wealthy and elite members of society. While there exist of housebound children who use bots in order to to remotely attend school with their friends, telepresent robots are often pitched as a technology to extend the influence of those who already have money and power.

However, our practices and expectations surrounding how these technologies are used to create access and inclusion for less privileged groups are still in the very early stages of development. After Snowden’s appearance at TED, my colleague Nathan Matias and I began to ask ourselves how we might promote a more thoughtful conversation about future opportunities to use robotic telepresence to promote values of inclusion and social good more broadly. Hence came The People’s Bot, an initiative that explores novel ways to engage with robotic telepresence for the public good -- broadening access, supporting public interest reporting, and funding access initiatives. With The People’s Bot we seek to build from Sam Gregory’s concept of “co-presence for good,” or using the sense of being together with other people in a remote environment to drive concrete, productive actions, engagement and understanding across barriers of geography, exclusion and timezones. Over the next few weeks we’ll be exploring innovative ways to use telepresent robots to broaden access to conferences and other educational events around Boston, New York, and Toronto.

We are working our friends from the iHub, a tech innovation hub based in Nairobi, to pilot the People’s Bot during the Spring Member’s Meeting here at the Media Lab. This is an exciting time when researchers from across the Lab share the latest developments in their research with the Member community. We’ll be using the People’s Bot to create access for our colleagues who would otherwise be unable to attend from halfway across the world.

Later that week we’ll be demonstrating the bot in New York at Theorizing the Web, before dashing off to the CHI 2014 Conference in Toronto April 28 - May 1st. At CHI, we plan to provide time on the bot in the three following ways:
Scholarships: For high school, college, graduate students who are unable to attend the conference
Journalism fellowships: For bloggers and citizen media who are committed to sharing their experience with a broader audience
Auctions: For anyone else interested in bidding for thirty minutes of telepresent roaming time, during which they are free to explore the Wearable Computing Exhibit at CHI. We will donate the proceeds from Ebay to the CHI student travel fund.

These will be an exciting and jam packed next few weeks, in which we hope to learn a lot from our experiences with The People’s Bot. Stay tuned for future developments!

by chelsea.barabas at April 18, 2014 02:50 AM

The People's Bot

Last month, Edward Snowden was in Vancouver to attend the annual TED Conference. Sort of. Since his historical leak of NSA surveillance documents last year, Snowden has been living in exile abroad in order to avoid prosecution from the U.S. government. Yet, in spite of severe restrictions on his mobility across borders, he was able to attend the high-profile TED event from an undisclosed location in Russia via robot, which enabled him to move around stage as he presented his views on privacy and surveillance to a captive audience thousands of miles away.

In many ways this event provides an exciting use case demonstrating how robotic telepresence may be used to extend opportunities for participation to individuals who otherwise would not have access to high-profile events like TED. On the other hand, the Snowden bot could be framed as an extension of a much less exciting trend towards using cutting edge technologies to extend the reach of only the most well-known, wealthy and elite members of society. While there exist of housebound children who use bots in order to to remotely attend school with their friends, telepresent robots are often pitched as a technology to extend the influence of those who already have money and power.

However, our practices and expectations surrounding how these technologies are used to create access and inclusion for less privileged groups are still in the very early stages of development. After Snowden’s appearance at TED, my colleague Nathan Matias and I began to ask ourselves how we might promote a more thoughtful conversation about future opportunities to use robotic telepresence to promote values of inclusion and social good more broadly. Hence came The People’s Bot, an initiative that explores novel ways to engage with robotic telepresence for the public good -- broadening access, supporting public interest reporting, and funding access initiatives. With The People’s Bot we seek to build from Sam Gregory’s concept of “co-presence for good,” or using the sense of being together with other people in a remote environment to drive concrete, productive actions, engagement and understanding across barriers of geography, exclusion and timezones. Over the next few weeks we’ll be exploring innovative ways to use telepresent robots to broaden access to conferences and other educational events around Boston, New York, and Toronto.

We are working our friends from the iHub, a tech innovation hub based in Nairobi, to pilot the People’s Bot during the Spring Member’s Meeting here at the Media Lab. This is an exciting time when researchers from across the Lab share the latest developments in their research with the Member community. We’ll be using the People’s Bot to create access for our colleagues who would otherwise be unable to attend from halfway across the world.

Later that week we’ll be demonstrating the bot in New York at Theorizing the Web, before dashing off to the CHI 2014 Conference in Toronto April 28 - May 1st. At CHI, we plan to provide time on the bot in the three following ways:
Scholarships: For high school, college, graduate students who are unable to attend the conference
Journalism fellowships: For bloggers and citizen media who are committed to sharing their experience with a broader audience
Auctions: For anyone else interested in bidding for thirty minutes of telepresent roaming time, during which they are free to explore the Wearable Computing Exhibit at CHI. We will donate the proceeds from Ebay to the CHI student travel fund.

These will be an exciting and jam packed next few weeks, in which we hope to learn a lot from our experiences with The People’s Bot. Stay tuned for future developments!

by chelsea.barabas at April 18, 2014 02:49 AM

The People's Bot

Last month, Edward Snowden was in Vancouver to attend the annual TED Conference. Sort of. Since his historical leak of NSA surveillance documents last year, Snowden has been living in exile abroad in order to avoid prosecution from the U.S. government. Yet, in spite of severe restrictions on his mobility across borders, he was able to attend the high-profile TED event from an undisclosed location in Russia via robot, which enabled him to move around stage as he presented his views on privacy and surveillance to a captive audience thousands of miles away.

In many ways this event provides an exciting use case demonstrating how robotic telepresence may be used to extend opportunities for participation to individuals who otherwise would not have access to high-profile events like TED. On the other hand, the Snowden bot could be framed as an extension of a much less exciting trend towards using cutting edge technologies to extend the reach of only the most well-known, wealthy and elite members of society. While there exist of housebound children who use bots in order to to remotely attend school with their friends, telepresent robots are often pitched as a technology to extend the influence of those who already have money and power.

However, our practices and expectations surrounding how these technologies are used to create access and inclusion for less privileged groups are still in the very early stages of development. After Snowden’s appearance at TED, my colleague Nathan Matias and I began to ask ourselves how we might promote a more thoughtful conversation about future opportunities to use robotic telepresence to promote values of inclusion and social good more broadly. Hence came The People’s Bot, an initiative that explores novel ways to engage with robotic telepresence for the public good -- broadening access, supporting public interest reporting, and funding access initiatives. With The People’s Bot we seek to build from Sam Gregory’s concept of “co-presence for good,” or using the sense of being together with other people in a remote environment to drive concrete, productive actions, engagement and understanding across barriers of geography, exclusion and timezones. Over the next few weeks we’ll be exploring innovative ways to use telepresent robots to broaden access to conferences and other educational events around Boston, New York, and Toronto.

We are working our friends from the iHub, a tech innovation hub based in Nairobi, to pilot the People’s Bot during the Spring Member’s Meeting here at the Media Lab. This is an exciting time when researchers from across the Lab share the latest developments in their research with the Member community. We’ll be using the People’s Bot to create access for our colleagues who would otherwise be unable to attend from halfway across the world.

Later that week we’ll be demonstrating the bot in New York at Theorizing the Web, before dashing off to the CHI 2014 Conference in Toronto April 28 - May 1st. At CHI, we plan to provide time on the bot in the three following ways:
Scholarships: For high school, college, graduate students who are unable to attend the conference
Journalism fellowships: For bloggers and citizen media who are committed to sharing their experience with a broader audience
Auctions: For anyone else interested in bidding for thirty minutes of telepresent roaming time, during which they are free to explore the Wearable Computing Exhibit at CHI. We will donate the proceeds from Ebay to the CHI student travel fund.

These will be an exciting and jam packed next few weeks, in which we hope to learn a lot from our experiences with The People’s Bot. Stay tuned for future developments!

by chelsea.barabas at April 18, 2014 02:48 AM

The People's Bot

Last month, Edward Snowden was in Vancouver to attend the annual TED Conference. Sort of. Since his historical leak of NSA surveillance documents last year, Snowden has been living in exile abroad in order to avoid prosecution from the U.S. government. Yet, in spite of severe restrictions on his mobility across borders, he was able to attend the high-profile TED event from an undisclosed location in Russia via robot, which enabled him to move around stage as he presented his views on privacy and surveillance to a captive audience thousands of miles away.

In many ways this event provides an exciting use case demonstrating how robotic telepresence may be used to extend opportunities for participation to individuals who otherwise would not have access to high-profile events like TED. On the other hand, the Snowden bot could be framed as an extension of a much less exciting trend towards using cutting edge technologies to extend the reach of only the most well-known, wealthy and elite members of society. While there exist of housebound children who use bots in order to to remotely attend school with their friends, telepresent robots are often pitched as a technology to extend the influence of those who already have money and power.

However, our practices and expectations surrounding how these technologies are used to create access and inclusion for less privileged groups are still in the very early stages of development. After Snowden’s appearance at TED, my colleague Nathan Matias and I began to ask ourselves how we might promote a more thoughtful conversation about future opportunities to use robotic telepresence to promote values of inclusion and social good more broadly. Hence came The People’s Bot, an initiative that explores novel ways to engage with robotic telepresence for the public good -- broadening access, supporting public interest reporting, and funding access initiatives. With The People’s Bot we seek to build from Sam Gregory’s concept of “co-presence for good,” or using the sense of being together with other people in a remote environment to drive concrete, productive actions, engagement and understanding across barriers of geography, exclusion and timezones. Over the next few weeks we’ll be exploring innovative ways to use telepresent robots to broaden access to conferences and other educational events around Boston, New York, and Toronto.

We are working our friends from the iHub, a tech innovation hub based in Nairobi, to pilot the People’s Bot during the Spring Member’s Meeting here at the Media Lab. This is an exciting time when researchers from across the Lab share the latest developments in their research with the Member community. We’ll be using the People’s Bot to create access for our colleagues who would otherwise be unable to attend from halfway across the world.

Later that week we’ll be demonstrating the bot in New York at Theorizing the Web, before dashing off to the CHI 2014 Conference in Toronto April 28 - May 1st. At CHI, we plan to provide time on the bot in the three following ways:
Scholarships: For high school, college, graduate students who are unable to attend the conference
Journalism fellowships: For bloggers and citizen media who are committed to sharing their experience with a broader audience
Auctions: For anyone else interested in bidding for thirty minutes of telepresent roaming time, during which they are free to explore the Wearable Computing Exhibit at CHI. We will donate the proceeds from Ebay to the CHI student travel fund.

These will be an exciting and jam packed next few weeks, in which we hope to learn a lot from our experiences with The People’s Bot. Stay tuned for future developments!

by chelsea.barabas at April 18, 2014 02:47 AM

The People's Bot

Last month, Edward Snowden was in Vancouver to attend the annual TED Conference. Sort of. Since his historical leak of NSA surveillance documents last year, Snowden has been living in exile abroad in order to avoid prosecution from the U.S. government. Yet, in spite of severe restrictions on his mobility across borders, he was able to attend the high-profile TED event from an undisclosed location in Russia via robot, which enabled him to move around stage as he presented his views on privacy and surveillance to a captive audience thousands of miles away.

In many ways this event provides an exciting use case demonstrating how robotic telepresence may be used to extend opportunities for participation to individuals who otherwise would not have access to high-profile events like TED. On the other hand, the Snowden bot could be framed as an extension of a much less exciting trend towards using cutting edge technologies to extend the reach of only the most well-known, wealthy and elite members of society. While there exist of housebound children who use bots in order to to remotely attend school with their friends, telepresent robots are often pitched as a technology to extend the influence of those who already have money and power.

However, our practices and expectations surrounding how these technologies are used to create access and inclusion for less privileged groups are still in the very early stages of development. After Snowden’s appearance at TED, my colleague Nathan Matias and I began to ask ourselves how we might promote a more thoughtful conversation about future opportunities to use robotic telepresence to promote values of inclusion and social good more broadly. Hence came The People’s Bot, an initiative that explores novel ways to engage with robotic telepresence for the public good -- broadening access, supporting public interest reporting, and funding access initiatives. With The People’s Bot we seek to build from Sam Gregory’s concept of “co-presence for good,” or using the sense of being together with other people in a remote environment to drive concrete, productive actions, engagement and understanding across barriers of geography, exclusion and timezones. Over the next few weeks we’ll be exploring innovative ways to use telepresent robots to broaden access to conferences and other educational events around Boston, New York, and Toronto.

We are working our friends from the iHub, a tech innovation hub based in Nairobi, to pilot the People’s Bot during the Spring Member’s Meeting here at the Media Lab. This is an exciting time when researchers from across the Lab share the latest developments in their research with the Member community. We’ll be using the People’s Bot to create access for our colleagues who would otherwise be unable to attend from halfway across the world.

Later that week we’ll be demonstrating the bot in New York at Theorizing the Web, before dashing off to the CHI 2014 Conference in Toronto April 28 - May 1st. At CHI, we plan to provide time on the bot in the three following ways:
Scholarships: For high school, college, graduate students who are unable to attend the conference
Journalism fellowships: For bloggers and citizen media who are committed to sharing their experience with a broader audience
Auctions: For anyone else interested in bidding for thirty minutes of telepresent roaming time, during which they are free to explore the Wearable Computing Exhibit at CHI. We will donate the proceeds from Ebay to the CHI student travel fund.

These will be an exciting and jam packed next few weeks, in which we hope to learn a lot from our experiences with The People’s Bot. Stay tuned for future developments!

by chelsea.barabas at April 18, 2014 02:44 AM

April 17, 2014

Global Voices
“Bring the Bottle”: Youth Activists Behind Bars in Azerbaijan
Political demonstration in Azerbaijan. Photo by Jahangir Yusif, used with permission.

Political demonstration in Azerbaijan. Photo by Jahangir Yusif, used with permission.

When Maxim Gorky wrote about revolutionary workers in his 1906 novel, “The Mother”, little did he know that a century later, social uprisings and revolutions would still be affecting and influencing the lives of people around the world.

He might not have imagined that in December 2013 in Azerbaijan, a young man would read “The Mother” in his prison cell and, saddened by difficult circumstances yet full of pride at having a heroic mother, be inspired to write a letter to his own mother.

The young man’s name is Zaur Gurbanli. He is one of eight members of an Azerbaijani youth movement called N!DA whom I witnessed undergoing court proceedings in Baku on April 15, 2014. Together with his seven colleagues, Zaur was charged with incitement to violence, illegal drug possession, illegal possession of explosives, and hooliganism. By the end of April 2014, Zaur and his cohorts will probably be charged with an additional series of grave crimes, none of which any of these young men has committed. The Prosecutor General has asked for a sentence of eight years in prison for each of the young men.

Last December, Zaur wrote to his mother, Sakina:

“Hi (smiley). I have read Gorky’s novel “The Mother”. In the book, the mother is aware of the truth about her son, just like you….I read it with much difficulty. It is like he was writing about all the things you had to endure…. You know what I remembered? There is this cartoon. The children’s mother gets sick and asks her children for water. None of the children bring her water. Then, the mother turns into a bird and flies away. And the children come running with the water splashing. They are crying.

“When I was a child, I was afraid you, too, were going to turn into a bird and fly away…. I read Gorky’s novel. I considered everything you have done while I've been in prison. I was sure this mother will never get sick of her children…. In these past 8 months, I feel like you have aged at least eight years because of me. If life went according to the the plot in the cartoon, you would be long gone by now. And I would be running after you with buckets full of water. But you haven’t turned into a bird (smiley)….

“I have inherited everything from you. You brought me to this world twice (smiley). That is why I am a very lucky man. That is why I am proud of you. I have a mother worthy of novels.”

Zaur’s mother, Sakina, can see her son only during prison visits and court hearings. It has been 11 months since she was able to sit down with her son for dinner, or have a conversation that didn’t involve police officers, courtrooms, or handcuffs. The mere experience of standing before the presiding judge and navigating the justice system of Azerbaijan, makes her a hero indeed. On my recent visit to Baku in April, I was able to meet the heroic mom- a woman of strength indeed. Even the guards stood still as she spoke to her son during the boys' April 15 hearing.

Case in point: On April 1, a police vehicle transferring defendants to jail stopped in front of the prison entrance, turned off its engine, and one of the officers threw in a tear gas canister into the car. This came in response to the defendants’ pleas that the car doors be opened, as one of them, a young man called Ilkin Rustamzade, suffers from asthma. The prison service has promised to look into the case, but a competing narrative maintains the prisoners were attempting to escape. The presiding judge dismissed the petition to investigate the case as an example of torture, saying the claim was unfounded.

Azerbaijani police are notorious for their poor treatment of captives. This is how Mammad Azizov, another of the detained members of the N!DA movement, recalls his interrogation [az]:

“The investigator got confused. He left to speak on the phone. A man named Azer took me to the room and started beating me. He called someone on the phone and said, “bring the bottle.” A man arrived with a baton. I was glad it was not a bottle. He beat me on my head, on different parts of my body. The beating continued for 15-20 minutes. Then they called another man and took me to his room.

“His name was Mamay; they addressed him as “boss.” Mamay continued beating me with his fists and kicking me, while Azer beat me with the baton. They beat me continuously for an hour. They said I had to testify against Rashad [another arrested member of N!DA]. I said I would not do it. Then Mamay said I had to choose between being raped by a person, or with a bottle. I said I don't want either. He rested a bit, then they continued beating me….”

Trumped up charges

If you examined the charges against activists, journalists or advocates currently in jail or in pretrial detention, you would find hooliganism, tax evasion, substance abuse, illegal possession of drugs, and illegal possession of weapons with intent to use against the government. Someone who doesn’t know the country well would think that most of Azerbaijani's youth are drug addicts who buy or trade arms in their spare time, while building bombs and mixing chemicals in their non-existent basements. And of course all of this illicit behavior is caused by that menace known as social media.

But it is not just the youth that are a threat to Azerbaijan. There is an older generation of troublemakers who also engage in many of these illegal behaviors. Anar Mammadli, the Chairman of Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Center has been in pretrial custody since December 2013, on bogus charges. He is accused of tax evasion, illegal entrepreneurship, abuse of office, and more. His organization has been involved in observing elections for over a decade, reporting on election fraud. If convicted, he faces up to 12 years in jail.

Ilgar Mammadov, political analyst and chairman of the opposition group REAL (Republican Alternative), was convicted together with Tofig Yagublu, columnist and deputy chair of the opposition political party Musavat on March 17, 2014. The two men were found guilty of instigating violence on January 24, 2013, during a visit to the northern town of Ismayilli. The town was the site of anti-government riots, in response to indecent behaviour on the part of a relative of the local governor. Mammadov and Yagublu had travelled to Ismayilli to find out more about the situation and were arrested during their visit.

The other side of the rainbow

While the government is engaged in a witch-hunt, curtailing the freedoms of people like those mentioned above, certain other Azerbaijanis enjoy an unfettered life. These include government officials and their families and relatives, whose lives remain untouched by everyday realities, whose businesses flourish, and who are never man-handled by the Azerbaijani police.

It is no secret that public servants and MPs in Azerbaijan are engaged in business enterprise, though the law prohibits it. Corruption is at a record high, with Transparency International ranking Azerbaijan 127th among 177 countries.

And here's the icing on the cake: on May 16, Azerbaijan will assume the chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. And there's no doubt that the country will do its best to promote its image abroad. Not the image of a country that tortures its citizens, of course, but perhaps of a gentler nation that offers detainees the option of a being raped with a bottle instead.

Back in that court room, my heart ached as I watched those eight young men. They were there because Azerbaijani authorities are intimidated by the intelligence of the country's youth, who deserve none of the treatment they are getting. Seeing Zaur Gurbanli and his colleagues smile and exchange messages with their friends and families, uncertain what was in store for them and yet standing firmly on their feet passing jokes, was an image I felt the whole world should see. But there were few people to witness it, and fewer still will think of this image as the Council of Europe welcomes Azerbaijan to the chair with wide grins on their faces.

by Arzu Geybullayeva at April 17, 2014 07:31 PM

MIT Center for Civic Media
Topic: Revolution and Technology

Livebloggers: Sasha, Nathan, Erhardt

Today, we're joined by Stephan “tomate” Urbach from the activist group & think tank Telecomix, which works to circumvent surveillance, and to promote internet freedom and human rights. During the 2011 uprisings in North Africa, Telecomix activists helped to bypass technologies of censorship and communication-interruption. They currently work to shuttle videos and other information safely out of Syria. Urbach is a Telecomix member, and has acted as their de facto spokesperson. He was a member of the Pirate Party in Germany, and worked for the Berlin Pirate Parliamentary group from 2011 until February 2014.

 

Vizthink by Willow Brugh

Tomate joined telecomix in 2010, during the uprisings in Egypt and Syria. He worked in parliament for 2 years. He begins with an overview of Telecomix:
Telecomix (read about them here) isn’t a formal organization, it’s a network of activists who convene and disperse as needed. They’ve done this several times over the last few years. In 2006 in Sweden, there was a telecommunications bill, people gathered and formed Telecomix. After the telecom package was stopped in Sweden, they fought the data retention directive across the EU. At this stage, many people joined to do research and activism work. When the Egyptian uprising kicked off, Telecomix was galvanized into action: specifically, when Mubarak shut off the internet. They decided to figure out how to get access to folks in Egypt even in that context. They set up phone lines that people could use for dial up access. They set up around 300 lines for people to connect to the Internet. Weeks after the net went back up, tomate got an email from a young man in Egypt thanking them for providing access to be able to share their thoughts. This is the kind of thing Telecomix loves.

They see censorship, and internet blocking, as a crime.

Some people have asked them whether the regime might have used their lines. That’s possible, but they don’t know that. Back at the time, Telecomix talked about technology as neutral, although today tomate doesn’t believe that anymore. Then Syria happened. They found that internet surveillance in Syria was planned since 1999. They also found that Blue Coat, Siemens, and other companies were involved in providing surveillance technology. When they released this information, Western countries were publicly enraged. Telecomix suggested export controls, but no one was willing to go that far. The US department of commerce did investigate Blue Coat and their affiliates for selling to Syria after the trade embargo. ComputerLink a middleman company was fined $2.8 million by the department of commerce.

Telecomix found that every message, on every network, was monitored, and every phone call was recorded, both mobile and land line. They also found that people went missing after writing posts on SNS. Telecomix was in touch with Syrian activists on the ground. At the time, they felt clear about who was ‘good’ and ‘bad,’ now it is much less clear. They provided secure networks, software, and servers for activists on the ground. They made comms “as secure as possible,” but never promised 100% security: “whoever says this is a jerk,” tomate tells us. Some Anonymous people apparently promised full security, and local activists believed them. That’s a problem. Phone lines were then blocked in Syria. Calls to tomate’s personal number were blocked (listed online), calls to other Telecomix numbers were also blocked. When Telecomix released the Blue Coat files, revealing how it worked, the blockade system became better: Iranian telcos joined the Syrian telcos.

Around this time, Tomate received a call from German intelligence warning him to watch out for Syrian activities in Berlin. They found that the surveillance toolbox was installed in Syria, Egypt, Beirut, and Kazakhstan. But it was not always correctly configured. Telecomix has evidence, although not enough to publish, that Western companies are selling to dictatorships. They think that’s wrong, and want to generate a public outcry.

Throughout this process, Telecomix has learned a lot. Access blocking, traffic monitoring, deep packet inspection, laws that forbid certain kinds of speech on the internet. These are things that dictatorships are known for doing, not “free” countries. They also learned that hacking the backbone in Syria was great and everyone loved it. But if someone from Africa hacks the EU backbone they’re a ‘terrorist.’ So it depends on your point of view.

Telecomix also learned that the surveillance methods used in the West are the same tools dictators use. Everything from everyone is monitored. In Germany, they started to scan mail at the post office: front and back side. Started to scan postcards, and not sure what they’re doing with the scans. In EU, there’s a fight against data retention, and we won, since a court said data retention can’t be performed like that. It’s not a full victory: the court said data retention is OK, just has to be bounded in certain ways. In Europe, public is not ‘public.’ For example, Tomate thinks if he posts on his FB wall, it’s public. But many think that publicity is platform bounded.

Germany has one of the hardest privacy and data laws, the EU is potentially adopting this. It may be good for users, but not so much for companies providing services. For example, when Google did Street View, many houses are blurred based on people saying ‘not mmy house!’ But the same houses are available on Bing, and on other services. So Google now isn’t updating street view Germany, and the images are several years old. So Europeans think about data as ‘mine,’ even when it’s been posted publicly. We have a database of people’s personal information including salary, and we deleted it because of privacy concerns.

Snowden documents revealed that the ‘conspiracy’ of surveillance was actually true. For example, in 1998 we knew that the Echelon program might exist. Hackers knew it existed, but were called conspiracy theorists. Now there’s a public outcry for EU action against the NSA. tomate doesn’t think it makes sense: what should we do? Embargo trade with the USA? There’s an initiative to ban intelligence services from. In Germany this was specificaly because of an national intelligence failure to capture (neo)Nazis.

German intelligence, The exterior intelligence, supports the NSA, then gets internal surveillance on Germany, which they are not allowed to collect domestically. These exchange programs exist all over the world in contravenience with privacy laws. The only proposal they can think of against surveillance is to make it more expensive. The more encryption people use, the more expensive it will be, for example. One idea is to create as much spoof data as possible, such that intelligence agencies will spend all their time processing the spoofs. Another idea is to rebuild networks with new hardware and new protocols that will be less amenable to surveillance.

But as in all places, no one wants to pay for something. If you get paid as an activist, no one will consider you a proper activist, which means that activists have to work for free. If you look at what the NSA, Brits, French, Germans, and everyone else are doing, it’s the same as what the dictatorships are doing. What makes a democracy? People can say they don’t want this surveillance, but the government does not listen. Tomate is focused on the European debate about surveillance, not so much the NSA debates in the US. But he hopes that some day we can ban intelligence surveillance in democracies.

Slides: http://files.herrurbach.de/doc/framing.pdf

Q&A

Ethan: Tell us about how Telecomix thinks of itself differently than other organizations in the space. During the blackout in Tahrir Square, lots of organizations got involved like Tactical Tech, also based in Berlin. Telecomix has always had a certain amount of secrecy around it. How did this come about and how does Telecomix see itself fitting amongst other organizations in the space?

tomate: Telecomix does not see itself fitting into anything. This is important. It is a space for exploring things. At the point, people can join Telecomix. The aura of secrecy is wrong; it’s one of the most open/transparent groups I’ve worked with. The problem is that many journalists struggle to understand Telecomix—they group us in with Anonymous, which is wrong. They builders and rebuilders, rather than attackers—they don’t take sites down using DDOS. One characterizing is the Yin to Anonymous’ Yang. We also do a lot of theoretical work in the space, differing us from other activist organizations. We are also not people that work in public wearing masks. We do try to secure our members who are not in a position to go into the public because of the work they do, and others take the role of the public face of the organization.

Sasha: How do you make decisions as an organization? Like who represents the organization to the public?

Tomate: We do not use formal consensus-building processes because they don’t work. We run an IRC do-ocracy. Admins do have too much power.

Willow: Can you tell us about Cameron?

Tomate: We have a bot named Cameron. We can ask her questions and get responses. We sometimes make her the public face for interviews, including a few that were published in Swedish newspapers. They asked for a photo and we sent a picture of the old mac that she was running on. She is crypto-sleep because we forgot the password to the harddisk. But now we have no one to ask what we should do. She was a symbol for us for a long time.

Cameron Kerry :http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cameron_Kerry (former General Counsel, US Dept f Commerce) I was encouraged by the data of a “Data Schengen” but over a month ago, the EU parliament voted that the European Commission should come up with a protocol for keeping EU data within national borders? How do you change that strong sentiment?

Tomate: Currently, Deutsche Telecom markets itself as keeping your data in Germany, which is false, it doesn’t. The idea of keeping the data national is nice, but it doesn’t solve the problem anyway. The privacy activists in Germany and Europe believe that if a law says something like this then it works, but that’s not right. They always ask the state to handle it, but they can’t. We are working on new protocols and projects ourselves to handle privacy. We rely on infrastructure form the 70s and we can’t rely on it much longer. We hear in Europe that the US created the internet and they can control it.

Ethan: In response to surveillance people are looking for many paths. But HTTPS (Heartbleed) was broken for years, and it was open source code. Tell me why you are optimistic that we are going to solve this problem with better network design.

Tomate: People in Germany are being paid to do open source code audits. They are funded through donations right now to work on this issue. We need to do more audits and pay people to do them, multiple audits for software are needed.

Sasha:

Tomate: We need export controls on technology that can be used as a weapon. We also need to rebuild our networks with the state. But these are two different things, building the network and sending out products to dangerous people.

Ethan: Who would you want to enforce those export controls? I think the export sanctions push is a really messy one. We’ve seen a lot of cases for export controls are taking really useful tools out of people’s hands.

Tomate: I don’t have solution for that question. For instance, my country is selling tanks to dictators. So I wouldn’t trust them to sell any hardware to countries.

Eleanor: The only reason we have strong crypto is because we regulate code as speech and thus it can’t be sanctioned under export controls. The only way we got PGP out there was a loophole in ITAR rules using a free speech definition. I would rather use a limited liability laws rather than export controls.

Sands: Is there a lot of discussion at Telecomix about mesh networks for activists?

Tomate: As I said, Telecomix is not really active right now. I live in Berlin, which is the main city for mesh networks. There are discussions for how to activate local networks and then bring them online later.

Dalia: I think the public is missing in this discussion. What I’m not hearing is how we can have people change things. I’m hearing that it’s happening in IRC channels. But many people aren’t adopting the necessary technology or talking about it.

Tomate: In Europe, we have many crypto parties currently. It’s amazing how many people are coming. People get the tool as well as the explanation for why we need to do this right now. We show them how they affected by the surveillance. It helps that we now have the evidence of this, so people are listening.

Yu: After hearing about the decision-making process, how do you manage your brand?

Tomate: Don’t break anything. If you break down communications it is not a Telecomix thing. We don’t try to manage it, but we explain what we do to new people in the IRC channel, explain it is we try to do, the same we respond to the media. Anyone can use the logo, and people do, but it hasn’t failed yet.

by willowbl00 at April 17, 2014 06:20 PM

DML Central
Networks: What You Don’t See is What You (for)Get
Networks: What You Don’t See is What You (for)Get Blog Image

When I start thinking about DML (digital media and learning) and other such “networks” that I am plugged into, I often get a little confused about what to call them. Are we an ensemble of actors? A cluster of friends? A conference of scholars? A committee of decision makers? An array of perspectives? A group of associates? A play-list of voices? I do not pose these  questions rhetorically, though I do enjoy rhetoric. I want to look at this inability to name collectives and the confusions and ambiguity it produces as central to our conversations around digital thinking. In particular, I want to look at the notion of the network. Because, I am sure, that if we were to go for the most neutralised digital term to characterise this collection that we all weave in and out of, it would have to be the network. We are a network.1

But, what does it mean to say that we are a network? The network is a very strange thing. Especially within the realms of the Internet, which, in itself, purports to be a giant network, the network is self-explanatory, self-referential and completely denuded of meaning. A network is benign, and like the digital, that foregrounds the network aesthetic, the network is inscrutable. You cannot really touch a network or name it. You cannot shape it or define it. You can produce momentary snapshots of it, but you can never contain it or limit it. The network cannot be held or materially felt. 

And yet, the network touches us. We live within networked societies. We engage in networking – network as a verb. We are a network – network as a noun. We belong to networks – network as a collective. In all these poetic mechanisms of network, there is perhaps the core of what we want to talk about today – the tension between the local and the global and the way in which we will understand the Internet and then the frameworks of governance and policy that surround it.

Let me begin with a genuine question. What predates the network? Because the network is a very new word. The first etymological trace of the network is in 1887, where it was used as a verb, within broadcast and communications models, to talk about an outreach. As in ‘to cover with a network.’ The idea of a network as a noun is older where in the 1550s, the idea of ‘net-like arrangements of threads, wires, etc.’ was first identified as a network. In the second half of the industrial 19th Century, the term network was used for understanding an extended, complex, interlocking system. The idea of network as a set of connected people emerged in the latter half of the 20thCentury. I am pointing at these references to remind us that the 

ubiquitous presence of the network, as a practice, as a collective, and as a metaphor that seeks to explain the rest of the world around us, is a relatively new phenomenon. And we need to be aware of the fact, that the network, especially as it is understood in computing and digital technologies, is a particular model through which objects, individuals and the transactions between them are imagined.

For anybody who looks at the network itself – especially the digital network that we have accepted as the basis on which everything from social relationships on Facebook to global financial arcs are defined – we know that the network is in a state of crisis.

Networks of crises: The Bangalore North East Exodus

Let me illustrate the multiple ways in which the relationship between networks and crisis has been imagined through a particular story. In August 2012, I woke up one morning to realise that I was living in a city of crisis. Bangalore, which is one of my homes, where the largest preoccupations to date have been about bad roads, stray dogs, and occasionally, the lack of a nightlife, was suddenly a space that people wanted to flee and occupy simultaneously.

Through the technology mediated gossip mill that produced rumours faster than the speed of a digital click, imagination of terror, danger, and material harm found currency. The city suddenly witnessed thousands of people running away from it, heading back to their imagined homelands. It was called the North East exodus, where, following an ethnic-religious clash between two traditionally hostile communities in Assam, there were rumours that the large North East Indian community in Bangalore was going to be attacked by certain Muslim factions at the end of Ramadan.

The media spectacle of the exodus around questions of religion, ethnicity, regionalism and belonging only emphasised the fact that there is a new way of connectedness that we live in – the network society that no longer can be controlled, contained or corrected by official authorities and their voices. Despite a barrage of messages from law enforcement and security authorities, on email, on large screens on the roads, and on our cell phones, there was a growing anxiety and a spiralling information explosion that was producing an imaginary situation of precariousness and bodily harm.

For me, this event, was one of the first signalling how to imagine the network society in a crisis, especially when it came to Bangalore, which is supposed to represent the Silicon dreams of an India that is shining brightly. While there is much to be unpacked about the political motivations and the ecologies of fear that our migrant lives in global cities are enshrined in, I want to specifically focus on what the emergence of this network society means.

There is an imagination, especially in cities like Bangalore, of digital technologies as necessarily plugging in larger networks of global information consumption. The idea that technology plugs us into the transnational circuits is so huge that it only tunes us toward an idea of connectedness that is always outward looking, expanding the scope of nation, community and body.

However, the ways in which information was circulating during this phenomenon reminds us that digital networks are also embedded in local practices of living and survival. Most of the time, these networks are so natural and such an integral part of our crucial mechanics of urban life that they appear as habits, without any presence or visibility. In times of crises – perceived or otherwise – these networks make themselves visible, to show that they are also inward looking. But in this production of hyper-visible spectacles, the network works incessantly to make itself invisible.

Which is why, in the case of the North East exodus, the steps leading to the resolution of the crisis, constructed and fuelled by networks is interesting. As government and civil society efforts to control the rumours and panic reached an all-time high and people continued to flee the city, the government eventually went in to regulate the technology itself. There were expert panel discussions about whether the digital technologies are to be blamed for this rumour mill. There was a ban on mass-messaging and there was a cap on the number of messages which could be sent on a day by each mobile phone subscriber. The Information and Broadcast Ministry along with the Information Technologies cell, started monitoring and punishing people for false and inflammatory information.

Network as Crisis: The unexpected visibility of a network

What, then, was the nature of the crisis in this situation? It is a question worth exploring. We would imagine that this crisis was a crisis about the nationwide building of mega-cities filled with immigrant bodies that are not allowed their differences because they all have to be cosmopolitan and mobile bodies. The crisis could have been read as one of neo-liberal flatness in imagining the nation and its fragments, that hides the inherent and historical sites of conflict under the seductive rhetoric of economic development. And yet, when we look at the operationalization of the resolutions, it looked as if the crisis was the appearance and the visibility of the hitherto hidden local networks of information and communication.

In her analysis of networks, Brown University’s Wendy Chun posits that this is why networks are an opaque metaphor. If the function of metaphor is to explain, through familiarity, objects which are new to us, the network as an explanatory paradigm presents a new conundrum. While the network presumes and exteriority that it seeks to present, while the network allows for a subjective interiority of the actor and its decisions, while the network grants visibility and form to the everyday logic of organisation, what the network actually seeks to explain is itself. Or, in less evocative terms, the network is not only the framework through which we analyse, but it is also the object of analyses. Once the network has been deployed as a paradigm through which to understand a crisis, once the network has made itself visible, all our efforts are driven at explaining and strengthening, and almost like digital mothers, comfort the network back into its peaceful existence as infrastructure. We develop better tools to regulate the network. We define new parameters to mine the data more effectively. We develop policies to govern and govern through the network with greater transparency and ease.

Thus, in the case of the North East exodus, instead of addressing the larger issues of conservative parochialism, an increasing backlash by right-wing governments and a growing hostility that emerges from these cities that nobody possesses and nobody belongs to, the efforts were directed at blaming technology as the site where the problem is located and the network as the object that needs to be controlled. What emerged was a series of corrective mechanisms and a set of redundant regulations that controlled the number of text messages that people were able to send per day or policing the Internet for spreading rumours. The entire focus was on information management, as if the reason for the mass exodus of people from the NE Indian states and the sense of fragility that the city had been immersed in, was all due to the pervasive and ubiquitous information gadgets and their ability to proliferate in p2p (peer-to-peer) environments outside of the government’s control. This lack of exteriority to the network is something that very few critical voices have pointed out.

Duncan Watts, the father of network computing, working through the logic of nodes, traffic and edges, has suggested there is a great problem in the ways in which we understand the process of network making. I am paraphrasing his complex mathematical text that explains the production of physical networks – what he calls the small worlds – and pointing out his strong critique about how the social scientists engage with networks. In the social sciences’ imagination of networks, there is a messy exteriority – fuzzy, complex and often not reducible to patterns or basic principles. The network is a distilling of the messy exteriority, a representation of the complex interplay between different objects and actors, and a visual mapping of things as they are. Which is to say, we imagine there is a material reality and the network is a tool by which this reality, or at least parts of this reality, are mapped and represented to us in patterns which can help us understand the true nature of this reality.

Drawing from practices of network modelling and building, Watts proved, that we have the equation wrong. The network is not a representation of reality but the ontology of reality. The network is not about trying to make sense of an exteriority. Instead, the network is an abstract and ideological map that constructs the reality in a particular way. In other words, the network precedes the real, and because of its ability to produce objective, empiricist and reductive principles (constantly filtering out that which is not important to the logic or the logistics of the network design), it then gives us a reality that is produced through the network principles. To make it clear, the network representation is not the derivative of the real but the blue-print of the real. And the real as we access it, through these networked tools, is not the raw and messy real but one that is constructed and shaped by the network in those ways. The network, then, needs to be understood, examined and critiqued, not as something that represents the natural, but something that shapes our understanding of the natural itself.

In the case of the Bangalore North East Exodus, the network and its visibility created a problem for us – and the problem was, that the network, which is supposed to be infrastructure, and hence, by nature invisible, had suddenly become visible. We needed to make sure that it was shamed, blamed, named and tamed so that we can go back to our everyday practices of regulation, governance and policy.

The Intersectional Network

What I want to emphasise, then, is that this binary of local versus the global, or local working in tandem with global, or the quaintly hybridised glocal are not very generative in thinking of policy and politics around the Internet. What we need is to recognise what gets hidden in this debate. What becomes visible when it is not supposed to? What remains invisible beyond all our efforts? And how do we develop a framework that actually moves beyond these binary modes of thinking, where the resolution is either to collapse them or to pretend that they do not exist in the first place? Working with frameworks like the network makes us aware of the ways in which these ideas of the global and the local are constructed and continue to remain the focus of our conversations, making invisible the real questions at hand.

Hence, we need to think of networks, not as spaces of intersection, but in need of intersections. The networks, because of their predatory, expanding nature, and the constant interaction with the edges, often appear as dynamic and inclusive. We need to now think of the networks as in need of intersections – or of intersectional networks. Developing intersections, of temporality, of geography and of contexts are great. But, we need to move one step beyond – and look at the couplings of aspiration, inspiration, autonomy, control, desire, belonging and precariousness that often mark the new digital subjects. And our policies, politics and regulations will have to be tailored to not only stop the person abandoning her life and running to a place of safety, not only stop the rumours within the Information and communication networks, not only create stop-gap measures of curbing the flows of gossip, but to actually account for the human conditions of life and living.

1 This post has grown from conversations across three different locations. The first draft of this talk was presented at the Habits of Living Conference, organised by the Centre for Internet & Society and Brown University, in Bangalore. A version of this talk found great inputs from the University of California Humanities Research Institute in Irvine, where I found great ways of sharpening the focus. The responses at the Milton Wolf Seminar at the America Austria Foundation, Austria, to this story, helped in making it more concrete to the challenges that the “network” throws to our digital modes of thinking. I am very glad to be able to put the talk into writing this time, and look forward to more responses.

Banner image credit: Alexander Baxevanis

by mcruz at April 17, 2014 03:55 PM

Global Voices
Meet Suzanne Lehn, Co-Editor of Global Voices en Français

[The interview was conducted in French by Marie Bohner. All links forward to French-language pages unless otherwise stated].

Suzanne Lehn defines herself as a long-time media addict. She has been a Global Voices collaborator since 2008 and is thought of as a second ”mother” by Global Voices in French authors and translators (Claire Ulrich, also co-editor of Global Voices in French, is the first “mother”). Meet the 66-year-old geek who shuns narrow-minded thinking and unfailingly challenges herself to conquer new horizons from both a media and human perspective.

Suzanne Lehn - crédit Stève Duchêne

Suzanne Lehn. Photo by Stève Duchêne, used with permission.

Global Voices (GV): How do you explain your passion for media?

Suzanne Lehn (SL): Je suis passionnée de médias depuis l'enfance. J'avais une prof d'histoire au lycée qui nous faisait tenir un cahier d'actualités, pour lequel nous devions lire chaque jour un quotidien. Quand la plupart de mes camarades avaient choisi les Dernières Nouvelles d'Alsace, j'avais, gourmande déjà d'élargir mes horizons, choisi Le Monde. A la maison, c'était presque religieux : à midi, avec mes parents, on écoutait les informations à la radio. Mes parents ayant vécu les deux guerres mondiales, ils craignaient toujours l'avènement d'un troisième conflit. Lors de l’insurrection de Budapest en 1956, je me souviens de l'atmosphère de peur qui régnait autour de la table. Incroyable aussi l'affaire des alpinistes Henry et Vincendon, toujours en 1956, dont on avait suivi l'agonie sur le Mont Blanc en direct, car ils avaient une radio, mais que les secours ne pouvaient pas atteindre. J'avais 9 ans à l'époque. En 1963, on était suspendus à la radio pendant l’assassinat de Kennedy. Au-delà de l'inquiétude, il y avait chez moi une intense curiosité, une façon, en suivant l'actualité, de s'ouvrir au monde et de ne pas rester dans le petit cercle fermé de la famille.

Suzanne Lehn (SL): I have had a passion for media since my childhood. I had a history teacher in high school who made us keep a book of news stories and we had to read a newspaper every day. While most of my classmates chose the paper Dernières Nouvelles d'Alsace, I was already keen to broaden my horizons and chose Le Monde. At home it was almost religious: at noon, I would invariably listen to the news on the radio with my parents. My parents lived through both world wars, and they lived in perpetual fear of a third conflict breaking out. During the 1956 Budapest uprising, I remember the prevailing sense of fear around the table. Another incredible episode in 1956 was that of mountaineers Henry and Vincendon, who perished ascending the Mount Blanc. We followed live their agonising wait because they had a radio but the rescuers couldn't reach them in time. I was 9 years old at the time. In 1963, we were glued to the radio following Kennedy's assassination. Much more than worry, at home there was intense curiosity. In a way, by following the news, we opened ourselves up to the world rather than staying closeted within the family.

GV: How has the Internet and social media changed the media in general?

SL: Avec internet, on entre dans l'ère de l'immédiateté. C'est un élargissement : par opposition, tout ce qui est local paraît encore plus rétréci. Avec internet on peut se fabriquer son propre menu. Les journaux, la télévision nous donnent un sommaire imposé, le même pour tous. Sur la toile, on peut partir à la pêche aux informations en se fiant au hasard. Que va apporter la timeline de twitter aujourd'hui ? Qu'ont posté les amis sur facebook ? On obtient des visions plus personnelles de l'actualité, avec observations et commentaires. On y trouve aussi des sujets qui ne sont pas abordés par les médias traditionnels, car ils ne satisfont pas les annonceurs.

SL: With the Internet, we have entered the age of immediacy. The world seems to always be expanding. In contrast, everything local appears to be even more parochial nowadays. With the Internet, you can devise your own “media menu”. Newspapers and television impose on us a one-size-fits-all type of news.  On the web, we can take a more serendipitous approach to reading the news. What's going to appear on my Twitter feed today? What have my friends posted on Facebook? We get a more personal view of the news, including observations and commentaries. You will also find topics which the mainstream media don't deal with because they don't interest the advertisers.

GV: Secularism, immigration, national identityFrench political viewpoints, Roma: the majority of the subjects you write about and translate for GV have strong links to identity. What message do you hope to send?

SL:Mon but est de prendre le contrepied de l'usage qui est fait de l'identité dans la politique, notamment dans la politique française d'une certaine époque. J'ai voulu mettre en lumière les coulisses très nocives du Ministère de l'Identité Nationale qui avait été créé en France.

SL: My aim is to take a stand against how identity is used in politics, especially in French politics, which recalls a not so glorious era of our history. I wanted to shed light on the harmful impact that the Ministry of National Identity had when it was created in France.

Suzanne Lehn - crédit Stève Duchêne

Suzanne Lehn. Photo by Stève Duchêne

GV: Multilingualism is also at the heart of your concerns.  Why is multilingualism important?

SL: Avec des langues différentes, on peut élargir son cercle, aller au-delà de sa propre langue, on peut dialoguer, en direct ou via les médias sociaux. C'est aussi une question de curiosité, de plaisir intellectuel! Je dois beaucoup à mon oncle Georges Schmidt, qui était au nombre des polyglottes extraordinaires. Il a grandi dans une famille alsacienne typique, pas particulièrement éduquée, bilingue comme on peut l'être en Alsace, et a développé son talent sans qu'on comprenne vraiment d'où ça venait. Il a assisté aux début des Nations Unies, où il a été d'abord traducteur, puis réviseur, puis il a fini sa carrière à la terminologie. Il a appris plus de 60 langues, et en parlait une douzaine couramment. La passion de sa vie, c'était de collectionner des dictionnaires et des livres de grammaire, un livre pour chaque langue existante. Il avait établi sa propre classification. A son décès, je me suis occupée de ses livres et je les ai donnés au Collège de France notamment. Mon oncle aurait souhaité que je soie traductrice aux Nations Unies, et je regrette vraiment qu'il ne puisse pas voir mon travail à GV aujourd'hui. Il aurait sans aucun doute été fasciné par un outil comme GV.

SL: Through different languages we can open up the circle that was limited to our own language. We can maintain a dialogue, either face to face or via social media. It is also a matter of curiosity, and intellectual pleasure. I owe a lot to my uncle Georges Schmidt who was one of the great polyglots of his time. He grew up in a typical Alsacian family, not having access to top schools, but being bilingual is the norm in Alsace, and he developed his talent without anyone really understanding where it came from. He contributed to the beginnings of the United Nations, first as a translator, then as an editor and then towards the end of his career he became a terminologist. He learned over 60 languages and spoke a dozen fluently. His lifelong passion was collecting dictionaries and grammar books, one book for each language. He created his own classification system. When he died, I took responsibility for his books and gave most of them to the College de France. My uncle would have wanted me to be a United Nations translator, and I truly regret that he can't see my work today with GV. He would, without a doubt, have been fascinated by a platform like GV.

GV: What languages do you speak?

SL: Français, évidemment, c'est ma lange maternelle. Je parle aussi anglais et allemand, et puis à un niveau moindre, mais ex æquo, russe et espagnol. Je continue à étudier le russe en ce moment. J'avais aussi commencé à apprendre l'arabe il y a un moment, et j'aimerai y revenir.

SL: French, of course, as it is my mother tongue. I also speak English, German, and then Russian and Spanish to a lesser degree. I am studying Russian at the moment. I also started learning Arabic a while ago, and I'd like to take that up again.

GV: What is the GV spirit?

SL: GV, c'est d'abord l'ouverture et la communauté, un groupe de personnes avec des objectifs concordants et qui travaillent ensemble dans un esprit très amical. J'ai rejoint GV en 2008, alors que le noyau dur et expérimental était déjà en action depuis 2004/2005. A mon arrivée, le projet Lingua venait de démarrer et l'anglais était la langue véhiculaire. L'équipe de traduction française était petite, une petite dizaine de personnes. Aujourd'hui il y en a plus de 100. En 2010, les articles ont commencé à être écrit en langues locales, ce qui a démultiplié GV. La structure de GV s'est à la fois étoffée, alourdie et professionnalisée. La possibilité d'écrire dans sa propre langue a permis aux groupes linguistiques, notamment les lusophones, d'explorer considérablement leur créativité. Alors oui, les choses changent beaucoup et vite, mais il ne faut pas s'accrocher à l'organisation telle qu'elle était à ses débuts. C'est fascinant de regarder dans quel sens les choses vont. Parfois, le multiculturalisme joue des tours : la culture de l'information à l'anglo-saxonne et celle à la française sont très différentes… Il y a un équilibre à trouver entre la cohérence d'ensemble de GV et la liberté de chaque groupe culturel.

SL: GV is firstly about openness and community, a group of people with comparable objectives who work together in the spirit of friendship. I joined GV in 2008, though the experiment at the core of the project had been underway since 2004/5. When I arrived, the Lingua project had just launched and English was the working language. The French translation team was small, just a dozen people. Today there are over 100. In 2010, articles began being written in local languages, which augmented the size of GV. The GV structure all at once grew and became more structured and professional. The possibility of writing in their mother tongue allowed language groups, especially Portuguese speakers, to explore their creativity more widely. So things can change quickly and one should not hang on to the nostalgia of how the organisation was when it just started out. It is fascinating to see the direction in which things have moved. Sometimes, multiculturalism is tricky: the Anglo-Saxon information culture is very different from that of the French. A balance needs to be found between the overall cohesion of GV and the freedom of each cultural group.

 GV: Given that you spend three to four hours a day on social media and follow at least ten blogs per week, which blogs would you want to recommend right now?

SL: Je papillonne beaucoup sur internet, et c'est un exercice difficile de faire des choix! En français, j'aurais envie de parler d'un blog très original, neuf et frais, humoristique et caustique, c'est une femme qui tricote l'actualité, et ça s'appelle Délit Maille. Je recommande aussi le blog en français et bambara de Boukary Konate, pour découvrir la sagesse des villages et des proverbes du Mali. Et enfin, bien sûr, je n'oublie pas l'Alsace avec le blog de Lovely Elsa. Pour les blogs en anglais, je suis avec attention celui d'une égyptienne, Suzeinthecity [en], qui publie des photos de graffitis : les photos sont superbes et l’Égypte au cœur de l'actualité. Et enfin, pour les photos aussi, il y a le blog Before They.

SL: I browse around a lot on the Internet, and it's quite a task to choose what to read. In French, I'd like to give a shout out to a really new, fresh blog which is humorous with a bite: it's a woman who knits the news and it's called Délit Maille. I would also recommend the French- and Bambara-language blog by Boukary Konate as an introduction to Malian village wisdom and proverbs. And finally, not forgetting Alsace of course, the blog written by Lovely Elsa. For blogs in English, I closely follow one written by an Egyptian woman, Suzeinthecity [en], which posts photos of graffiti. The photos are superb and Egypt is at the heart of current affairs. Lastly, also for the photos, I recommend the Before They blog [en].

 GV: Do you have any advice or tips to share with bloggers?

SL: En tant que lectrice, je suis très sensible à la forme, au soin apporté à écrire. Cela conditionne la possibilité de rentrer dans l'écrit de quelqu'un. Par ailleurs je recherche aussi des textes et des visions personnelles, originales, car internet est plein de gens qui ne font que reprendre des choses déjà dites.

SL: As a reader, I am very sensitive to the attention paid to the written form. This makes it possible to relate to someone's writing and be absorbed into it. I also look for texts and viewpoints that are personal and original because the Internet is full of people who are simply rehashing what's already been said.

GV: What do you think is on the horizon in terms of new technology?

SL: J'ai assisté à re:publica à Berlin en 2012, j'en ai profité pour rencontrer des nouveaux blogueurs du monde entier. C'est un événement à vivre, au moins une fois, si ce n'est tous les ans, au mois de mai à Berlin. Il y a des sujets pointus, techniques et technologiques, et mais on y parle aussi d'art, d'actualités, de politique.

SL: I took part in re:publica in Berlin in 2012, which gave me the opportunity to meet bloggers from all over the world. It is an event to be experienced at least once, if not every year, during the month of May in Berlin. It covers specialized content related to technology, but it also covers arts, current affairs and politics.

Suzanne Lehn - crédit Stève Duchêne

Suzanne Lehn. Photo by Stève Duchêne

GV: Would you like to add anything else?

SL: Je voudrais remercier Claire Ulrich, à qui je dois tout, puisqu'elle m'a initiée non seulement à GV, mais aussi à internet, en général et en particulier ! Bien sûr je pense aussi à tous les amis très chers que j'ai rencontré grâce à GV: Abdoulaye Bah, Boukary Konaté et tant d'autres.

SL: I'd like to thank Claire Ulrich, I owe her everything because she introduced me not only to GV, but also to the Internet in general. Of course, I'm also thinking about all of the dear friends I've made thanks to GV: Abdoulaye Bah, Boukary Konaté and so many others.

by Vivienne Griffiths at April 17, 2014 11:38 AM

Jihadist Boko Haram Intensifies Its Deadly Campaign in Nigeria
Smoke and flames billow from the Police Headquarters car park Abuja, Nigeria. Photo by Ayemoba Godswill, copyright © Demotix (29?4?2013).

Smoke and flames billow from the police headquarters car park in Abuja, Nigeria. Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing. Photo by Ayemoba Godswill, copyright Demotix (29/4/2013).

Nigeria is at war with Boko Haram, an Islamic jihadist terrorist movement based in northeast Nigeria, northern Cameroon and Niger that is responsible for thousands of deaths in the last several years. 

In recent weeks, the group has intensified their campaign of slaughtering innocent and hapless Nigerians. Last week, members killed over a dozen students who were travelling to write their pre-university entrance examination in Borno State. Boko Haram is suspected to be behind a bus station bomb blast in Nyanya in the capital Abuja, which left more than 70 people killed.

A few days ago, the group abducted about 100 girls from the Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok, about 130 kilometers west of Maiduguri in northeast Nigeria.

Last year, Boko Haram opened fire on students at the College of Agriculture in Yobe state, gunning down dozens of students aged 18 to 22 while they slept in a dormitory. A timeline of the organization's killings from 2012 is detailed in this post.

Many Nigerian netizens, shocked by these latest crimes, have blamed President Goodluck Jonathan for the deteriorating security situation in the country:

Others think the president is not doing enough: 

@toluogunlesi praised Nigeria's National Security Adviser Colonel Sambo Dasuki:

Who finances Boko Haram, asked Henry Bature Okelue:

Photo released under Creative Commons by Wikipedia user Bohr.

Nigeria states where Boko Haram operates. Photo released under Creative Commons by Wikipedia user Bohr.

One Twitter user called for the slaughter of all Boko Haram members:

Horror for the killing and anguish for the victims:

@onigabby1 wondered if Nigeria still exists:

What is the solution?:

@LovBwise urged activists to protest:

@opinion_river took a measured stance: 

Some called for prayer:

While others called for more than prayer: 

User @naitwt held out hope: 

by Nwachukwu Egbunike at April 17, 2014 10:33 AM

Would Confucius Support the Sunflower Movement in Taiwan?

Opinions are divided in Taiwan following the end of #CongressOccupied protests against a secretly negotiated trade deal with China. Members of the movement left the country's legislature on April 10, 2014 after occupying the building for more than three weeks.

Protesters conceded after the speaker of the Legislative Yuan, as the Taiwanese Congress is called, promised to pass legislation monitoring future agreements proposed by the executive branch before deliberating on the current Cross-Strait Service Trade Agreement (CSSTA). Some had worried the deal would make Taiwan vulnerable to political pressure from Beijing.

While members of the Sunflower Movement, as the protests were dubbed, exited the building, protesters from the Free Taiwan Alliance and the Alliance for a Referendum on Taiwan decided to continue their public gathering outside the legislature. However, they were forcibly removed from the scene by police on April 11 at 7 a.m.

In response, 2,000 protesters demonstrated outside the police station. The next day, supporters of the police also organized a gathering criticizing the protesters for disturbing public order.

Online, some have questioned protesters’ voluntary exit from the Legislative Yuan, while others believe the protest against police has shifted the attention away from the trade agreement to police violence.

Many pro-government and pro-police comments have emerged. There are quite a number of debates concerning who is to blame for the aggression against protesters.

Lidance looked into the two different positions that the Taiwanese generally take on the Sunflower Movement in a blog post:

學生控制立院議場後,網路上立刻出現「挺學運方」(以下簡稱A)與「挺政府方」(以下簡稱B)的大規模混戰。
我認為A的倫理思考是「批判式」的,B則有很濃的「直覺」傾向。
A方,也就是挺學運方,當他們看到衝突暴力的場面,思考的並不是暴力的表面道德價值,而是暴力的意義:「為什麼他們要採用暴力?」
B方,即挺府院方,當他們看到暴力場面,會運用道德直覺給予評價,包括否定學生暴力與肯定警方的國家暴力。

After the students occupied the legislature, we could see the furious debate on the Internet between the pro-protester side (A) and the pro-government side (B).

I think the A side is more “analytic” in their thinking and the B side tends to be more “intuitive”.

When the pro-protester A side witnessed violence, instead of making a direct moral judgment of the violence, they reflected on its purpose and ask, “Why do they use violence?”

When the pro-government B side witnessed violence, they evaluated it based on their moral intuition, and they opposed the students’ violence and accepted the police and the government’s violence.

Political Satire of the super-peaceful protester by Nydia Chen and reposted by Med Front. CC BY-NC 2.0

Political satire of a peaceful protester by Nydia Chen and reposted by Med Front. CC BY-NC 2.0. The Buddha was chained with all the “requirements” of a peaceful protest, including: lawful, rational, no disruption, no demand, no social cost and etc.

Some believe the pro-government opinions are rooted in Confucianism, an ideology that has great impact on Chinese society. In Taiwan, there is an ongoing discussion on on whether Confucianism can get along with democracy.

Wang Li believed that pro-government and pro-stability opinions are rooted in Confucianism in his blog:

就從這次太陽花學運作為標準,讀者可以從自我身邊看到很多例子,足以佐證這個被儒家思想控制的結構存在。
他們之所以反對學運,是因為既有的秩序被破壞…他們反對的是階級的上下關係被打破,學生本分就是聽大人的話念書,好好的磨練十年爬上來,怎麼現在突然爆紅成了領袖。他們真正反對的是,這個穩定的結構不可以被破壞。

什麼結構?子女要對父母跪拜、學生要對老師問安、人民要對官員的決策信服。所以學生反抗是錯的,因為晚輩不可以指導長輩,也不能沒有禮貌。

If we look at people’s reactions toward the Sunflower Movement, you can observe a lot of examples that prove the psychological structure of our political society is rooted in Confucianism.

They oppose the student movement because it disrupts the social order… What they oppose is the disruption of the relationship between the dominate classes and the subordinate classes. Say, the students should listen to the adults and study hard, then they will have their chance to climb up the social ladder after ten years. How come these students became so popular and became leaders of society overnight? What they really object to is a disruption of societal stability.

What is the stable social structure that they have in mind? In such a society, children should bow to their parents, students should pay respect to their teachers, and people should obey the government. As a result, the students’ resistance must be wrong. The young should not teach the old what to do, and the young cannot be impolite.

Wang continued: 

結果呢?憲政問題不重要,但學生不讀書超重要。執政黨執政無方幾年沒關係,反對黨打架抗議三天就不可以。產業政策失敗沒差,學生不可以阻擋更差的政策上桌就是。工商大老自己營運無方也無所謂,反正開除的都是基層員工跟中階幹部。

The result? These people think that the violation of the constitution is not a big problem, but if the students skip their classes, that is a big issue. The ruling party’s failure to lead the country for years is not a problem, but the opposition party fighting back and protests that last for a few days are unacceptable. The failure of industrial policy is not a problem, but the students’ objection to the policy is a big problem. [According to their logic], the incapable bosses do not need to leave, but the workers and middle ranking staffs should leave.

On the other hand, some argued that even Confucius himself might rethink the CSSTA and protest against it. Lidance quoted the words of Confucian Chinese philosopher Mencius:

孟子見梁惠王。王曰:「叟不遠千里而來,亦將有以利吾國乎?」
孟子對曰:「王何必曰利?亦有仁義而已矣。王曰『何以利吾國』?大夫曰『何以利吾家』?士庶人曰『何以利吾身』?上下交征利,而國危矣。萬乘之國,弒其君者,必千乘之家;千乘之國,弒其君者,必百乘之家。萬取千焉,千取百焉,不為不多矣。苟為後義而先利,不奪不饜。未有仁而遺其親者也,未有義而後其君者也。王亦曰仁義而已矣,何必曰利?」
學生也知道自由貿易是不可逆的大勢,但更重要的是社群內部的利益分配與人際關係維持。有錢,但是家破人亡,好嗎?你賺到很多錢,但原本台灣的社會關係崩解了,好嗎?

“When Mencius met King Hui of Liang, the king asked him, ‘Since you have traveled a long way to see me, do you have some suggestions to profit my country?’ Mencius said, ‘Why does your highness ask me about profit? Benevolence and justice are more important. If your highness asks about what to do to profit your country, your courtiers would ask what to do to profit their families, and the common people would ask what to do to profit themselves. If everyone focuses on profiting themselves, this country is in a dangerous situation. On a large scale, if what everyone thinks about is profiting himself instead of justice, a courtier who owns 1,000 chariots would kill his king who owns 10,000 chariots, and a courtier who owns 100 chariots would kill his king who owns 1,000 chariots.

It is simple mathematics. People would not stop grabbing others’ belongings until they were satisfied with what they have. On the other hand, a man who is benevolent would never leave his family behind, and a man who believes in justice would never kill his king. Your highness should ask about benevolence and justice instead of profit.”

These students understand that free trade is an unstoppable trend, but it is more important to benefit everyone in our society and keep relationships. If we have money but lose our family and friends, is it a good choice? If we earn a lot of money but lose societal relations in Taiwan, is it a good choice?

Mr. Hsieh, a high school teacher, also quoted Confucius to show that the philosopher would have condemned the injustice in his blog:

「季氏富於周公,而求也為之聚斂而附益之。子曰:「非吾徒也。小子鳴鼓而攻之,可也。」

“Mr. Chi is already wealthier than the Duke of Zhou, but Jan Chiu is still helping him get more money. Confucius said, ‘He [Jan Chiu] is not my student any more, you should beat a drum to condemn him.’”

by I-fan Lin at April 17, 2014 02:06 AM

Linda Jaivin: Sex, Sinology and the Translator
Linda Jaivin

Linda Jaivin – Photo: Jade Muratore

Linda Jaivin is a renaissance woman who describes herself as a secular humanist. Born in Old London, Connecticut, USA, she has been an Australian citizen for over twenty years, after many years studying and working in Taiwan and mainland China.

Linda's activity is prodigious. The list of hats she wears includes translator, interpreter, anthology editor, poet, novelist and playwright. Her written works include short stories; essays; novels such as the comic, erotic “Eat Me”; historical fiction such as “A Most Immoral Woman”; and non-fiction such as the outrageous “Confessions of an S & M Virgin”.

Words that apply to Linda: stimulating, challenging, quirky, provocative, original, salacious, graphomaniac. Her writings and her conversations take us many unexpected or unfamiliar places. She may once have shocked much of her audience, but Linda has helped expand the openness of public discourse. As the Wheeler Centre video interview shows, she can be in your face, but in the friendliest way.

There is a lot more than sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll in Linda’s box of tricks. Whether she’s exploring Tiananmen Square or the treatment of refugees, her mixture of the personal and the political does not brook political correctness. She regularly pops up on panels and in interviews, not just as a writer but also as a commentator on national current affairs programs such as the ABC’s Q&A.

As a translator, Linda especially loves film work. Her subtitles for many well-known Chinese films include “Farewell my Concubine” and “The Grandmaster”.

“The challenge is to make the translation as short, direct and simple as possible and yet convey both sense and emotion. You have to consider what information viewers will be getting from the soundtrack and the picture as well. It’s like a puzzle. It’s also very nice to have your name pop up in the end credits of a film by someone like Wong Kar Wai or Chen Kaige, even if no one except your mother actually sits in the theatre long enough to see it.”

She hasn’t yet experienced the downside of being in the public gaze. “Writers, even ones like me with a performing streak, aren’t ever going to be ‘celebs’ in the way that rock stars are. We don’t tend to get mobbed when out shopping, or have paparazzi trying to photograph us dressing badly (writers dressing badly is hardly news—many of us work in our pajamas). Sometimes people in restaurants send over drinks, saying they like my novels, or people on buses come up to me to talk. Nothing I’d call a ‘pitfall’.”

She has no preferred genre. “When I’m writing erotica, I like erotica best. Then I stop to write an essay and revel in the art of writing essays. Etcetera. I love all kinds of writing. Each presents subtly different challenges and offers subtly different joys. I feel like my latest novel, The Empress Lover (April 2014, Fourth Estate HarperCollins), although fiction, combines quite a few of my literary loves including translation, history, and the essay.”

Her comic and satirical side is one of her strengths. “I’m something of an infernal optimist, I suppose. But I think it’s because writing things that make people laugh makes me laugh while I’m writing. I like to enjoy myself.”

Her views on a range of political and social issues place her clearly on the progressive side of politics. “I consider myself a secular humanist. I believe that as individuals we owe our fellow human beings respect, consideration, and compassion and that as a society we must look after the most weak and vulnerable among us. When governments display a lack of respect and compassion towards the weak and vulnerable, it distresses me (and my visits to asylum seekers in detention was a deeply revelatory and distressing experience). I want to use what influence I have as a writer and an individual to try to move others to think about these issues and maybe even act on them.”

Asked how her life as a translator might unfold from now on, she responded: “As it has up till now—a mix of long-term projects and ideas and random opportunities. I’m writing this in Beijing, fresh from being asked by a Chinese rocker to translate the lyrics to all his songs—with the idea that some can be sung in English. Not something I’d planned to do, I’m already pretty busy and it’s a very hard call. So I said yes.”

Her advice for today’s youth, who are often blamed for not fighting to fix the environmental and social mess they have been born into, is concise and pointed. “Know that some of us have wanted to fix the mess all our lives as well. But it’s a pretty big mess. Pick your battles. Do your best. Good luck.”

If you haven’t encountered Linda before, please visit her website and choose one of her many offerings. Her Goodreads page also has lots of valuable links and information.

Her latest writing includes the Quarterly essay Found in Translation: In Praise of a Plural World and her historical novel about China The Empress Lover.

Found in Translation

by Kevin Rennie at April 17, 2014 01:32 AM

April 16, 2014

Technology | Academics | Policy
One of the Most Important Data Security Cases Was Just Decided: FTC v. Wyndham
Professor Daniel Solove discusses key takeaways from the FTC v. Wyndham case. In this case, Wyndham Worldwide Corporation has challenged the FTC’s power to regulate data security under the FTC Act.

April 16, 2014 08:40 PM

Global Voices Advocacy
Netizen Report: Zambian Government Nixes Internet-Friendly Constitution

Hae-in Lim, Lisa Ferguson, Ellery Roberts Biddle, Richard Teverson, Lakshmi Sara, Bojan Perkov, Sonia Roubini and Sarah Myers contributed to this report.

Zambian President Michael Sata. Photo by OskrLorenz19 via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Zambian President Michael Sata. Photo by OskrLorenz19 via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Global Voices Advocacy's Netizen Report offers an international snapshot of challenges, victories, and emerging trends in Internet rights around the world. This week's report begins in Zambia, where top officials recently rejected a draft constitution prepared by a coalition of government, academic and civil society representatives. Commissioned three years ago, the draft contained key protections for online publications and media workers. It comes as no surprise that the ruling Patriotic Front party has rejected the text — for nearly two years, top officials have spoken disparagingly of the country’s online media environment, charging that independent news outlets are spreading “falsehoods” and “gossip” and openly praising efforts to block sites including the Zambian Watchdog and Zambia Reports. Earlier this month, top Information Ministry officials disclosed plans to develop legislation intended to tackle a perceived increase in “Internet abuse” and cybercrime that they say has resulted from a lack of control over online media.

Free Expression: Chilling effects in Southeast Asia

Rights group Article 19 released an English translation of Cambodia’s draft Cybercrime Law which critics charge will chill freedom of speech. Article 28 of the law criminalizes online content that “slanders or undermines the integrity of any government agencies, ministries” or damages “family values.” The law also would grant broad powers to prosecutors to “order the preservation of computer data or traffic data.” Penalties for many offenses are higher than for their offline equivalents.

Zaw Pe, a video journalist for the Democratic Voice of Burma news site, was sentenced to a year in prison last week after being convicted of trespassing on government property. Pe had traveled to a state education department office during working hours to interview officials for a story on Myanmar’s education system. He will be one of five journalists known to be behind bars in the country. According to Forbes, there is reason to believe that the government has also resorted to hacking news sites and the personal email accounts of journalists. Recently, Myanmar journalists protested the persecution of media workers by blacking out the front pages of local newspapers.

As protests against the construction of a chemical plant in Maoming spread to Guangzhou, China’s online censorship instructions have leaked. State media continues to report the story, even as mentions of the protests are deleted from social media.

Thuggery: Nigerian engineer detained after tweeting about terror incident

A Nigerian engineer disappeared after reporting on an attempt by members of the Boko Haram terrorist group to escape a state detention facility. Yusuf Siyaka Ominisi tweeted eyewitness reports of the incident that resulted in a shootout, leaving 20 people dead. Ominisi, who tweets under @Ciaxon, was detained by Nigerian authorities who released him on April 12, almost two weeks after the incident occurred. Supporters called for the young man’s release with a small protest in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, and by using the #FreeCiaxon hashtag.

ARTICLE 19 staff member Patrick Mutahi was detained by immigration officials in Ethiopia from April 3-4. After a swift campaign for his release, Mutahi was sent back to Kenya, where he is based, and given strict warning not to return to Ethiopia. ARTICLE 19 noted in a report on Mutahi’s detention that it is one of the few remaining global human rights organizations working in Ethiopia.

Privacy: Data Retention Directive may violate privacy rights, says EU Court of Justice

The European Court of Justice declared the EU Data Retention Directive invalid, arguing that it represents a serious interference with rights to private life and protection of personal data, which are both guaranteed by the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. Adopted in 2006, following terrorist attacks in London and Madrid, the Directive required telcos to retain users’ communications data for a minimum of six months and maximum of two years.  

Pressed by US Senator Patrick Leahy during a budget hearing, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah repeatedly denied knowing who created Zunzuneo, the US government-funded SMS network intended to foment a “Cuban Spring.” Subcontractors who developed and implemented the network obtained Cubans’ mobile phone numbers without their consent, stored both traffic and content data from the network, and scanned network messages for “political tendencies.”

Copyright: Torrent geeks applaud Spanish court ruling

Universal, Warner, Productores de Música de España (Spain’s national music producers’ association), and several other companies lost a lawsuit filed against Blubster, a Spanish file-sharing site that had been used to share, and in some cases pirate, music files. The group had appealed the case after a Madrid court ruled in 2011 that the site’s technology was neutral, and therefore not liable for damages claimed by the record companies. The appeals court that heard the case this time around upheld the previous decision. David Bravo, attorney for site creator Pablo Soto, said the ruling would provide protection from “inventive legal interpretations that define the very creator of a file-sharing tool as [responsible for] copyright infringement.”

Internet Governance: “Outcomes” of upcoming Sao Paolo meeting WikiLeaked

Governments, Internet companies, and Internet policy experts from around the world will converge in Sao Paolo on April 23-24, 2014 for the NETmundial Global Multistakeholder Meeting on the Future of Internet Governance. A comprehensive set of outcomes from the meeting, which has yet to be held, appeared on WikiLeaks late last week.

Netizen Activism: Tunisian activists launch transparency platform

In late March, Tunisian human rights and digital activism NGO Nawaat launched its own secure platform for sharing leaked documents. NawaatLeaks will work in partnership with GlobaLeaks, an open source and anonymous whistleblowing software program.

Curiosities: Crimeans are Russian now, according to social networks

Where exactly is Crimea? The answer might depend on where you Google it from. While GoogleMaps users in Russia will now find Crimea on the Russian side of the Ukrainian border, US users see a dotted line, suggesting its status is in dispute. On a similar note, Russian social networks Odnoklassniki (Classmates) and Moi Mir (My World) have begun identifying Crimean users as Russian. Facebook and the leading Russian social media site Vkontakte are still allowing Crimeans to register as Ukrainian.

A possible Banksy mural depicting three spies conducting surveillance on a telephone booth was spotted in Cheltenham, home of GCHQ, the UK’s main intelligence agency.

Publications and Studies

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by Netizen Report Team at April 16, 2014 07:50 PM

Andrew McAfee
On Monday, April 21: Talking with Walter Isaacson About The Second Machine Age

Next Monday morning at Noon I’m talking with king of all media Walter Isaacson about The Second Machine Age at the Aspen Institute in Washington DC.

Screenshot 2014-04-16 14.33.31

I give Walter that title because in addition to editing Time and being CEO of CNN, he’s also written runaway bestsellers (about Steve Jobs) and Pulitzer Prize nominees (about Henry Kissinger). In his current job as the head of the Aspen Institute he gets to exercise another of his great skills: conducing interviews in front of an audience.

I’ve had the chance to listen to Walter talk on stage with many people over the years at the Aspen Ideas Festival, and always walked away feeling like I’d been challenged and learned something. Now it’s my turn to face his gentlemanly grilling.

Space at the event itself is limited but our conversation will be livestreamed; click here to watch it on Monday. It’ll also be made available online afterward.

I’m really looking forward to this one. If you turn in, I very confident you won’t be disappointed or bored.

by Andrew McAfee at April 16, 2014 06:54 PM

Global Voices
Venezuela: Dialogues on the Dialogue
National Guard disperse student protesters in Caracas

Attempts at a dialogue between students and the police in Caracas, Venezuela. Copyright Demotix Photo by Carlos Becerra (February 15, 2014).

After two months of incessant street movements marked by violence and the death of many students, the Venezuelan crisis finally saw an attempt at a dialogue between the government and the opposition. The meeting was broadcasted on national television and intensely discussed on social networks. There, people shared different parts of the debate and ideas surrounding the political and social crisis in Venezuela. Nonetheless, when reading between the lines in most of these conversations, a lot of uncertainty about the future and an unanswered question about the conflicts between political factions and the economic situation is shared by all. 

On Twitter, the hashtag #DiálogoVenezuela [es] (Venezuela dialogue) continues to grow in popularity with different opinions, and more questions can be found under #PreguntasSobreElDebate [es] (Questions on the debate). 

Marleny Martinez [es] responds to criticisms of the opposition, which often accuse them of being coup leaders or part of the ultra-right wing: 

When are we going to understand that we in the opposition are democrats. NO is the only thought that unites us.

Meanwhile, Ángel David Sardi [es] sees the debate as a senseless game: 

Is this 11 for 11 and Venezuela's got the ball? Like that?

Andrea Bernal [es], on her end, stresses the absence of objective mediators that could act as a type of thread amidst the discussion: 

And where is the mediator? There should be a moderator that does not belong to any part.

As a criticism, Gustavo Mavare [es] points out the error of government spokespeople in insisting on the achievements of early years of the Hugo Chávez government: 

While the people need solutions, the government is dedicating itself to thinking about the past. Sad reality.

Meanwhile, Patricia Gutiérrez [es] is suspicious of the intentions of the government's dialogue: 

In Venezuela, we want PEACE. But an authentic Peace! Not a dictatorship disguised as a sheep with the word “dialogue”.

Through a more reflective and analytical approach in his post Diálogo y Conciliación [es] (Dialogue and Reconciliation), Nicmer Evans notes the progress made by the dialogue and lists some of the key aspects behind the organization and outcome of the conversations:  

El diálogo como práctica política no es sólo una alternativa, sino el instrumento fundamental de su práctica en una sociedad global donde la democracia se ha asumido como el sistema universal que rige las relaciones humanas.

En Venezuela, el diálogo entre sectores fuertemente polarizados en principio por concepciones ideológicas, pero hoy más que nunca, por intereses de poder, se plantea como “una necesidad”, posterior a dos meses de violencia urbana

Dialogue as a political practice is not just an alternative, but rather a fundamental instrument of its practice in a global society where democracy has been assumed as the universal system governing human relationships. 

In Venezuela, the dialogue between sectors that are strongly polarized in principle by ideological concepts, but today more than ever, power interests, arises as “a necessity” after two months of urban violence. 

Similarly, the blogger analyzes what can be seen in the background for both sides: 

La convocatoria y aceptación del diálogo por parte del gobierno es visto por algunos sectores radicales del proceso revolucionario como un síntoma de debilidad [...].

De igual manera, dentro de la oposición, la aceptación al diálogo sólo es reconocida por aquel sector que aunque no ha cuestionado las acciones violentas en las calles de diversas ciudades del país, no han convocado a las mismas .

The invitation and acceptance of dialogue on behalf of the government is seen by some radical sectors of the revolutionary process as a sign of weakness [...]. 

Similarly, within the opposition, the acceptance of a dialogue is only recognized by the sector that has still not challenged the violent actions in the streets of various cities throughout the country, have not called for the same. 

And on the process of the dialogue itself as well as the role of the most extreme sides, he says: 

[...] debe ser manejado con la prudencia necesaria y con el discurso más favorable para generar la inclusión, no sólo de los moderados sino de los radicales, excluyendo a los extremistas violentos, para obligarlos a ceder.

Cualquier asomo de un gobierno de conciliación activaría al sector extremista del chavismo, colocando a Venezuela en un abismo que generaría satisfacción sólo a aquellos sectores que responden a intereses trasnacionales. Pero, aún sin un gobierno de conciliación, la pérdida de las conquistas sociales logradas en el gobierno de Chávez, basadas en una más justa distribución de la renta petrolera, sería otro detonante pero ahora de un conflicto social.

[...] it should be handled with necessary caution and with a more favorable discourse to generate inclusion, not only from the moderates but the radicals as well, excluding violent extremists, to force them to give up.  

Any hint of a government of reconciliation would activate the extremist sector of chavismo, placing Venezuela in an abyss that would generate satisfaction for only those sectors that respond to transnational interests. But, even without a government of reconciliation, the loss of the social gains made in the Chavez government, based on a more just distribution of oil revenues, would be another trigger, except this time for a social conflict. 

Also approaching it analytically, Luis Vicente León published his opinions on the role of the representatives from both political groups and the results of this exchange on Prodavinci [es]: 

¿Qué se ganó? Aunque es muy temprano para proyectar el futuro de estas reuniones y estamos en una fase todavía muy incipiente, se abrió un espacio del tipo de diálogo político que es natural en cualquier dinámica democrática del mundo y que en Venezuela, hasta ayer, era inexistente

El gobierno se presenta a la reunión unido y organizado. Más allá de las múltiples diferencias internas que tienen, el riesgo externo de la oposición en la calle los unifica. En el caso opositor el tema se complica. El conflicto la divide entre moderados y radicales y, además, entre políticos y estudiantes. Nadie individualmente representa a toda la oposición ni puede garantizar el fin del conflicto con un acuerdo de su parte.

What was achieved? Although it is very early to project the future of these meetings and we are still in the very early stages, a space for a political dialogue was opened that is nature in any democratic dynamic in the world and that in Venezuela, until yesterday, was non-existent. 

The government presented itself as united and organized at the meeting. Beyond the multiple internal differences that they have, the external risk of opposition in the street unifies them. In the case of the opponent, the issue becomes more complicated. The conflict divides it between moderates and radicals, and furthermore, between politicians and students. Nobody individually represents the entirety of the opposition nor can they guarantee an end to the conflict with an agreement on their part. 

And finally, he comments: 

Es evidente que aunque todos son importantes en el diálogo, el éxito o fracaso del mismo pasa por lo que Maduro esté dispuesto a hacer para rescatar el equilibrio del país. Y al gobierno le sobraban oportunidades antes del debate de ayer.

It is evident that everyone is important in the dialogue, the success or failure of it goes on what Maduro is willing to do to redeem the balance of the country. And the government had plenty of opportunities before yesterday's debate. 

The hours of debate that kept most Venezuelans, both within and outside of the country, glued to their television screens and computers continue generating responses. Some of them full of distrust, other hopeful of seeing a door to reconciliation opening after over a decade of conflict between political views and social classes. The interventions, in their entirety, can be seen on Albaciudad.org [es] and more comments with respect to this can be heard on the political HangOut with bloggers Luis Carlos Díaz and Naky Soto [es], where they comment on the interventions and their possible implications. 

by Marianna Breytman at April 16, 2014 04:11 PM

Lawrence Lessig
the darkest day

i’m not sure where this goes— actually, that’s not true, I know where this doesn’t…

(Original post on Tumblr)

by Lessig at April 16, 2014 11:57 AM

Rising Voices
HacksLab Announces Data-Focused Support for Latin American News Outlets

The idea for HacksLabs, a new platform to accelerate data-driven journalism projects, comes from years of frustration and wasted energy.

hackslab_2

At every meeting, hackathon or workshop, startups and ideas were born and quickly faded. Traditional media were in crisis because of falling print revenues and an unwillingness to produce interactive and data-driven journalism.

Even with the creation of strong communities that push the boundaries through innovation, and that train themselves in data use, the lack of editorial decision-making leaves dozens of projects in limbo. At the same time, a large number of organizations are emerging whose worthwhile creations are not gaining the traction or audience they deserve. This is, we think, the niche of HacksLabs, a convergence point between communities, media and finance that can generate long-term value.

The first incubator for data-drive journalism in Latin America launched last week with HacksLabs Challenge 2014, which will grant a total of US$100,000 for Latin American projects selected in two rounds of competition.

The goal is to be able to connect entrepreneurs, journalists and programmers with both new media and traditional media organizations that want to innovate and move ahead with great ideas that haven’t yet been realized.

This program is part of my ICFJ Knight International Journalism Fellowship, and it is possible thanks to the support of the Knight Foundation, the World Bank Institute, the International Center for Journalists, and mentoring from Knight-Mozilla Open News.

Partner with us

HacksLabs will provide funding, mentors and technical support for projects that articulate the movement of transparent data, data-driven journalism and citizen participation.

Individuals and organizations can apply for grants at two levels: US$2,000 for short-term project development and US$10,000 for more ambitious projects that can be implemented by a news outlet in Latin America.

What are we looking for? News applications, data visualizations, news stories told visually, interactive news, tools for analysis, and better systems that aggregate, organize or facilitate working with open data.

The program is designed to help a wide range of players: entrepreneurs, journalism organizations, non-governmental organizations that focus on transparency, entrepreneurs and open data advocates who want to scale up their applications.

The first phase of the competition, for projects of up to US$2,000, ends April 30. The second, for projects of up to US$10,000, closes June 10. (Applicants may submit the same project to both phases of the contest.)

In addition to project funding, HacksLabs will mentor the winners with expert guidance on the process of development, design thinking, functionalities and UX experience. HacksLabs will offer servers, publish profiles of winners, and help the selected teams showcase their projects at conferences.

ijnet

This article was written by Mariano Blejman, an editor and media entrepreneur specializing in data-driven journalism, is an ICFJ Knight International Journalism Fellow.

Originally written in Spanish, this post was translated by Andrea Arzaba.

The post originally appeared on IJNet.org. IJNet helps professional, citizen and aspiring journalists find training, improve their skills and make connections. IJNet is produced by the International Center for Journalists in seven languages – Arabic, Chinese, English, Persian, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish – with a global team of professional editors. Subscribe to IJNet’s free, weekly newsletter. You can also follow IJNET on Twitter or like IJNet on Facebook.

by Rising Voices at April 16, 2014 10:10 AM

Global Voices
One Bottle of Wine Too Many for Australian State Premier

Grange 59

Penfold's Grange 1959 – Image: Dan Murphy's

Who would have thought that a bottle of wine could generate 7 of the top 10 twitter trends in Australia. The gift of a $A 3000 [$US 2800] 1959 Grange Hermitage red has been the downfall of New South Wales State Premier Barry O’Farrell. The witness stand at the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) was not the place to have a “massive memory fail”. A handwritten letter of thanks has exposed his flawed testimony and triggered his resignation.

Breaking News is a boon for tweets. These were inevitable:

The thank-you note went viral, of course:

There was quite a lot of online chatter about whether the 1959 vintage of the iconic Penfold's wine was worth the price. Ben Cubby, deputy editor of The Sydney Morning Herald, linked to his newspaper’s wine writer:

There was even a fake note from a fake politician [The real Christopher Pyne is Federal Education minister and a member of the same political party as O'Farrell]:

The Premier was spared nothing:

It was supposed to be a eventful day for the Premier. He was to give a media conference with Prime Minister Tony Abbott to announce road funding for a second Sydney airport and to host a civic reception at the Sydney Opera House for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Apparently he missed both.

Barry O'Farrell

Barry O'Farrell – Image: Toby Hudson, Wikimedia CC Attribution 2.5


1959 was the year of Barry O'Farrell's birth.

by Kevin Rennie at April 16, 2014 09:30 AM

April 15, 2014

Global Voices Advocacy
Tunisian Blog Launches Whistleblowing Platform

Tunisian award-winning collective blog Nawaat has launched its own whistle-blowing platform: Nawaat Leaks.

The secure platform was launched in collaboration with GlobaLeaks, an open source and anonymous whistleblowing software. GlobaLeaks announced the new project in a tweet on March 27:

Nawaat Leaks Logo

Nawaat Leaks Logo

Those wishing to use Nawaat Leaks to leak classified information, will first need to download the online anonymity software Tor.

Nawaat co-founder Sami Ben Gharbia explains [ar] the online safety measures taken into consideration to protect the platform's users :

قام فريق نواة بالتعاون مع مبادرة جلوبال ليكس بإنشاء صفحة خاصة تستخدم حزمة من التطبيقات و التقنيات المفتوحة المصدر التي تحمي مسربي الوثائق و الملفات السرية. هذه البرمجية تحمي المُسربين حتى من فريق نواة نفسه الذي لن يتعرف بفضل هذه التقنيات على هوية الأشخاص الذين سيقومون بعملية التسريب، لا عن طريق بريدهم الإلكتروني و لا عن طريق معرفهم الألكتروني و لا عن طريق إسمهم أو موقعهم الجغرافي.

و من أجل توفير حماية أكثر للمسربين سيعمل فريق نواة كعادته، قبل نشر أي وثيقة سرية مسربة، على فسخ كل البيانات الوصفية (Metadata) التي تزيد من إمكانية الكشف عن المصدر الإلكتروني للوثائق سواءا كانت ملفات صوتية، مقاطع فيديو، صور أو وثائق نصية.

In collaboration with GlobaLeaks, the Nawaat team created a special page that deploys a number of open source applications and techniques which protect those leaking confidential documents and files. This software even protects whistleblowers from the Nawaat team itself, which thanks to these techniques will not be able to identify the identity of those who leak [information] through their address emails, IP addresses, names or their geographic locations. To provide them with further protection, the Nawaat team will as usual and before the publication of any leaked confidential document, delete all meta data which increases the possibility of identifying the electronic source of documents in its different formats: audio, video clips, photos or texts

In 2011, Tunisia's interim authorities passed Decree 41 guaranteeing access to administrative documents. In practice, however, the law is far from being implemented. In a statement published on March 27, Article 19 slammed the authorities’ ineffective implementation of Decree 41.

ARTICLE 19 voiced “concern that existing measures designed to ensure government transparency are not being effectively implemented.”

Ben Gharbia commented [ar] on the decree's lack of proper implementation:

بالرغم من المرسوم عدد 41 لسنة 2011 الذي يضمن، نظريا، حق المواطن في النفاذ إلى الوثائق الإدارية للمنشئات العمومية، و بالرغم من كثرة الحديث عن مقاومة الفساد و محاسبة الفاسدين و ضرورة تأسيس حوكمة رشيدة قائمة على الشفافية، إلا إننا لم ننعم بعد لا بحق النفاذ إلى المعلومة و لا بمقاومة جادة للفساد. بل على العكس، رأينا كيف يُحاكم و يتبع عدليا كل من حاول كشف المستور من فساد و محابات واستغلال للنفوذ و غيرها من المظاهر التي لا تزال تنخر عوالم السياسة و الإدارة و الأعمال

Despite decree 41 of 2011, which theoretically guarantees citizens’ right to access administrative documents held by public institutions and despite the multiple talks on fighting corruption and holding the corrupt accountable and the need to establish a transparent good governance [policy], we are yet to enjoy the right to access information and a serious anti corruption battle. But, on the contrary, we have witnessed how those who seek to uncover hidden corruption, favoritism, abuse of power and other aspects which still devour the worlds of politics, administration and business, are put on trial and prosecuted

by Afef Abrougui at April 15, 2014 10:08 PM

Global Voices
Chile: Forest Fire Causes Death and Destruction in Valparaíso

UPDATE: According to Chilean newspaper El Mercurio [es], on the evening of Monday, April 14, the flames have left 15 dead, 11,000 homeless, 1,140 acres consumed by the fire, and over 2,500 homes burned, according to the authorities’ evaluation. 

On the night of Saturday, April 12, a huge fire [es] consumed over 500 homes in the hills of the coastal Chilean city of Valparaíso. Authorities decided to evacuate 3,000 people and deployed soldiers to the area to help in the disaster. 

By Monday, April 14, 2,000 houses had been consumed by the flames and 17,000 people had to be evacuated from their homes. The fire has caused the deaths of 12 people and has left 8,000 residents homeless. Emergency crews continue working to reduce the flames that are still spreading throughout the hills of the port. Eleven sectors have been affected and 850 acres consumed. 

Incendios-infografia

Infographic published [es] in El Mercurio.

Valparaíso houses the National Congress of Chile and one of the main ports of the country. The historical center of this picturesque city of 250,000 residents was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003. That zone was not affected by the fire. 

On her blog Notes from a Reporter, by Angélica Mora [es], the author realized how the fire started and provides more information: 

El siniestro, que abarca ya unas 270 hectáreas, comenzó como un incendio forestal en el camino La Pólvora, pero el fuerte viento hizo que se propagase a las zonas pobladas de los cerros La Cruz, El Vergel, Las Cañas y Mariposas.
[...]
Una enorme columna de humo, que está causando problemas respiratorios, especialmente a la población infantil y a los ancianos, se puede observar a decenas de kilómetros del lugar. En la extinción del incendio, que comenzó minutos después de las 16 del sábado y que fue creciendo a medida que avanzaba la tarde, trabajan unidades de bomberos de seis provincias, policías y equipos aéreos y terrestres de la Corporación Nacional Forestal y la Oficina Nacional de Emergencia.
[...]
La mayoría de las viviendas de Valparaíso, donde viven unas 250.000 personas, están construidas con material ligero, fácilmente inflamable, lo que unido al viento hace que los incendios sean frecuentes, pero no se recuerda alguno de esta magnitud.

The disaster, which already covers some 270 acres, started as a forest fire on La Pólvora road, but the strong wind spread it to the populated hills of La Cruz, El Vergel, Las Cañas, and Mariposas. 
[...]
A huge column of smoke, which is causing respiratory problems, especially among children and the elderly, can be seen dozens of kilometers away. Fire units from six provinces, the police, as well as air and ground teams from the National Forest Service and the National Bureau of Emergency are working to extinguish the fire, which started after 4pm on Saturday and grew as the afternoon wore on.
[...]
Most of the houses in Valparaíso, where about 250,000 people live, are built with lightweight, highly flammable materials, which together with the wind causes frequent fires, but never any of this magnitude.  

Incendio Valparaíso

Photo on Flickr by user retoricaca (CC BY-NC 2.0)

The 4320 blog [es] asked for help for the victims: 

Herramientas de mano. Guantes y bototos de seguridad. Cascos de seguridad. Chalecos refractantes de seguridad. Carretillas de mano. Planchas para auto construcción. Calaminas. Víveres no perecibles. Pañales para niños y adultos. Ropa de cama. Agua. Artículos de aseo. Ropa para niños (en buen estado). Utensilios para la casa. Artículos de colegio para niños y Otros elementos que ustedes estimen pertinentes.

Hand tools. Boots and safety gloves. Safety helmets. Reflecting safety vests. Wheelbarrows. Irons for auto-construction. Corrugated irons. Nonperishable foods. Diapers for children and adults. Bedding. Water. Toiletries. Children's clothing (in good condition). Household utensils. School items for children and other items you deem pertinent. 

Meanwhile, ARG Noticias [es] spread the words of President Michelle Bachelet: 

La presidenta de Chile, Michelle Bachelet, catalogó la tragedia como “el peor incendio de la historia de Valparaíso” y no descarta que la cifra de víctimas fatales pueda aumentar con el paso de las horas. Asimismo, anunció la suspensión de su gira por Argentina que comenzaría mañana [martes 15 de abril] para poder reunirse con su Gobierno y definir una gestión “eficiente” en el Puerto.
La mandataria encabezó ayer [domingo 13] un comité de emergencia en la ciudad portuaria y, por la tarde, visitó dos albergues habilitados en la Parroquia San Juan Bosco y en el colegio Gaspar Cabrales.

The President of Chile, Michelle Bachelet, classified the tragedy as “the worst fire in Valparaíso's history” and suspects that the death toll may increase with the passage of time. She also announced the suspension of her tour of Argentina that was set to begin tomorrow [Tuesday, April 15] to be able to meet with her Government and define an “efficient” management of the Port. The president led an emergency committee in the port city yesterday [Sunday, April 13] in the afternoon and visited two shelters set up at the San Juan Bosco parish and the Gaspar Cabrales school. 

Reactions on Twitter have been diverse, like that of BioBio Chile, posting stories of a volunteer firefighter: 

[PHOTOS] Testimony of a volunteer firefighter, hero of the raging fire in Valparaíso.

There were also updates on the fire:

Fire intensity has dropped, but at least three active points remain in Valparaíso.

It could take up to 20 days to extinguish the fire in Valparaíso, warn Chilean rescuers.

Medical Association calls its partners to work together to assist the victims of the #fire in Valparaíso.

On the other hand, other news related to the fire was also reported: 

RT! Here are the centers where you can donate to and help the victims of the fire in Valparaíso.

Young veterinarians attended pets affected by the fire in Valparaíso.

Rape of a girl in the midst of the fire in Valparaíso ended with a beating of the abuser.

by Marianna Breytman at April 15, 2014 09:03 PM

President Mugabe Thinks Nigeria Is More Corrupt Than Zimbabwe
President Robert Mugabe. Public Domain photo belonging to U.S. Air Force.

President Robert Mugabe. Public domain photo belonging to U.S. Air Force.

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe has angered Nigeria with comments made on March 15, 2014 during his 90th birthday luncheon that Nigeria and its citizens are corrupt.

Mugabe asked, “Are we now like Nigeria where you have to reach into your pocket to get anything done? You see, we used to go to Nigeria and every time we went there we had to carry extra cash in our pockets to corruptly pay for everything. You get into a plane in Nigeria and you sit there and the crew keeps dilly dulling without taking off as they wait for you to pay them to fly the plane.”

The Nigerian government summoned Zimbabwe's envoy last week over Mugabe's remarks. However, the Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL) in Nigeria has asked the federal government to deal with the message and not the messenger. 

The 2013 Transparency International Corruption Index shows the level of perceived corruption to be higher in Zimbabwe than in Nigeria.

Mugabe's comments have received mixed reactions on Twitter. Some netizens argued that what he said is the truth:

@figure007 felt that although Mugabe said the truth, he has no moral justification:

Others disagreed with his assessment of corruption in Nigeria:

by Ndesanjo Macha at April 15, 2014 08:28 PM

Global Voices Partners with Melton Foundation on New Round of Mentoring

Global Voices and the Melton Foundation have launched a new round of collaboration that will see a team of authors from Global Voices mentor a group of Fellows of the Melton Foundation in blogging and social media research.

Over the next four months, six Melton fellows from Chile, India and China will be coached over the internet in research and writing for Global Voices. The goal is to highlight solutions to inequality and discrimination in their regions, and gain experience writing for a global audience.

This is the second time Global Voices will be mentoring Melton fellows, after a successful first run in 2013.

The Melton Foundation promotes “global citizenship as a way for individuals and organizations to work together across boundaries of place and identity to address global challenges”.

On their website, they explain that sharing awareness of societal problems in a forum like Global Voices, “is an integral part of being a global citizen.”

This image illustrated an article written on Global Voices by a Melton Fellow in 2013. A customer in Mumbai, India inspects food grains before making his purchase. Image by Prasad Kholkute (CC-BY-SA 2.0)

This image illustrated an article written on Global Voices by a Melton Fellow in 2013. A customer in Mumbai, India inspects food grains before making his purchase. Image by Prasad Kholkute (CC-BY-SA 2.0)

Melton Fellows wrote these stories on Global Voices in 2013:

Global Voices has conducted a number of mentorships for organizational partners over the years.

by Aparna Ray at April 15, 2014 10:50 AM

Exploring Trinidad & Tobago's Digital Divide (Part 2)

Global Voices talks with Kenfield Griffith, co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of mSurvey, which recently completed a nationwide mobile survey for the Telecommunications Authority of Trinidad and Tobago (TATT), which assessed the scope of the country's digital divide.

Kenfield Griffith, co-founder and CEO of mSurvey; photo used with permission.

Kenfield Griffith, co-founder and CEO of mSurvey; photo used with permission.

Kenfield obtained his PhD in Design and Computation at MIT’s Engineering Systems Division and was always interested in how information can improve access and resources with appropriate technologies in difficult-to-reach communities. While working on research in Kenya, looking at computer numerically controlled and computer aided design technologies for the automation of low-income housing in emerging markets, he could not find current data, often having to resort to traditional paper and pen to do surveys. Knowing that he needed a massive amount of data as part of his research, Kenfield developed a simple, ‘crude’ mobile phone-based technology that enabled feedback directly from community members at a fraction of the time and cost, which allowed him to complete his survey work and record the data collected for analysis in real time. This basic idea has become the engine behind mSurvey.

Global Voices (GV): Tell us about the decision to establish mSurvey in the Caribbean. What sort of regional potential did you see for your business?

Kenfield Griffith (KG): mSurvey's first foray in the Caribbean began in 2011 with a project called mFisheries, in which mSurvey collaborated with the University of the West Indies’ Department of Computing and Information Technology to develop a suite of mobile applications for people involved in the local fishing industry (from fishermen to consumers). Traditionally, the region is cited as being one of the lesser developed in the world, but since I have strong familial ties to the region (I'm originally from Montserrat, and my father is from Barbados) there was an innate draw for me to implement the technology as an agent for change and development.

(GV): You had 4 main objectives to the Digital Divide survey – to figure out which communities were underserved, to determine where T&T stood with regard to ICT as compared with other countries, to determine the telecommunications needs of the differently able and to determine what portion of the population could afford assistive technologies. Let's address each one. First of all, which areas of the country were without internet access and what was the landscape like in those places? How does TATT plan to rectify the situation?

KG: According to the aggregate calculated regional indices, Tobago [the smaller of the two islands that make up the twin island republic] lags behind Trinidad in terms of access. The regions of St. Mary, St. John and St. Paul lag in digital access due to poor infrastructure, which is attributed to a low number of fixed telephone subscribers per 100 inhabitants.

Three regions (Penal/Debe, St. John and St. Mary) [in central and south Trinidad] have a usage sub-index that is below 0.9, unlike all other regions. Usage has only one indicator, Internet users per 100 inhabitants. A low sub-index value for usage thus means that the number of Internet users in these regions is relatively low compared to the ideal value of 85%.

South Korea, noted to be the leading country in bridging the digital divide, has put in place different measures to avail Internet accessibility and increase usage through Korea Agency For Digital Opportunity & Promotion (KADO). In an effort to reach people in remote areas, KADO partners with local governments and civic associations. Additionally, KADO holds classes on computer/Internet use in private homes. Along with Internet infrastructural improvements, an approach like this could be investigated to be implemented in Trinidad and Tobago thereby increasing usage and immensely bridging the divide.

Regions such as St. Paul and St. John trail the rest of the country in Digital Opportunity due to poor infrastructure. The non-constant indicators of this sub-index are the number of Internet users per 100 inhabitants, proportion of households with a fixed line telephone and the proportion of households with a computer. Much as the regions of St. Paul and St. John have better infrastructure than the country average as of 2007 (0.39)17, the disparity between them and the best performing region in this sub-index is quite high. The [capital] city of Port of Spain has a DOI [Digital Opportunity Index] of 0.7748 and this is partly due to good infrastructure, whose index is 0.6816. Interventions should be put in place to implement infrastructure in all regions to a comparable standard of Port of Spain.

GV: How does T&T's tech status compare to other Caribbean territories as well as to developed nations? Can you take us through what factors go into determining the globally accepted benchmark and why?

KG: mSurvey used a few factors in measuring the digital divide. The ITU [International Telecommunication Union] standards, secondary data from other regional islands, and from countries which are identified as emerging digital access countries. As noted, Trinidad and Tobago has a very high mobile penetration compared with other Caribbean territories, but has less defined areas of Internet (wi-fi) access points as seen in other regions. Countries used were Estonia, Kenya, Ghana, Barbados, and the US which all offered insight to successful steps been taken to bridge the digital divide.

GV: It's heartening that TATT wanted to focus on the tech needs of people with disabilities – do you know why this was mentioned specifically and what plans the authority has to improve assistive technologies and other services in this regard? Do you see this as a pivotal move that will inform the way the differently able are viewed in our society?

KG: We also found it quite commendable that TATT decided to incorporate questions related to (households with) persons with disabilities so that they (TATT) could gauge the level of need of ICT [Information and Communications Technology] services for this segment of society. One of the challenges of collecting data about the number of persons with disabilities is how to define, and in some instances how to identify, a person with disability. For instance, an elderly person with diminished vision may not be considered to be a person with disability by his/her family members, although [he/she] may be legally blind.
We relied on the Consortium of Disability Organizations (CODO) for guidance on definitions and determining what information would be pertinent in determining the ICT needs of persons with disabilities in Trinidad and Tobago. The Disability Survey amounted to eight discreet questions which focused on the nature of the person’s disability, that person’s affiliation with local disability organizations, whether that person currently uses/needs special equipment to access ICT, and from where they receive financial support.

We recorded 1197 households with persons with disabilities, and a total of 1329 persons with disabilities. The San Juan region cited the most number of persons with disabilities, which is not surprising because this region also has a high concentration of organizations which cater to persons with disabilities.

GV: Can you explain what the Digital Opportunity Index (DOI), Digital Access Index (DAI), and the ICT Development Index (IDI) are and why they are important to a survey of this type?

KG: The DAI, DOI, and IDI are the foundational indices which comprise the DDS [Digital Divide Survey].
DOI as composite index that measures ‘digital opportunity’ or the possibility for the citizens of a particular country to benefit from access to information that is ‘universal, ubiquitous, equitable and affordable'. The DOI involves new and innovative technologies such as mobile Internet and broadband. It can [therefore] be used to assess the growth and take-up of new ICTs [and] will remain relevant for some time to come, unlike more traditional connectivity indicators (e.g. fixed lines), which may become less relevant for developing countries through the expansion of mobile telephony networks, advanced wireless connectivity and own technology ‘leapfrogging'.

The DOI measures the ICT penetration of households and individuals relative to 100% ownership, to measure growth in the ICT development of the country’s economy over time. [It] is based on eleven ICT indicators, grouped in three clusters:
Opportunity — measures the basic access and affordability needed to participate in the information society in mobile population coverage, Internet access prices and mobile prices.
Infrastructure — includes measures of different networks (fixed lines, mobile cellular subscribers and household Internet access) and devices (households with a computer and mobile Internet).
Utilization — evaluates ICT usage in Internet users and broadband subscribers (fixed and mobile).

The Digital Access Index reflects the ability of a country’s population to take advantage of Internet communication technologies. This index follows the same methodology as the DOI, [grouping] eight indicators into five categories – Infrastructure, Affordability, Knowledge, Quality and Usage.

The ICT Development Index is a tool used to benchmark and track the progress the different regions in a country are making towards becoming an information society. This is then translated to the country as whole and comparisons done with other countries, at the same level of development and otherwise. The IDI is a composite index made up of eleven indicators covering ICT access, use and skills.

Infographic from the 2013 report about the  Digital Divide in Trinidad and Tobago; courtesy mSurvey, used with permission.

Infographic from the 2013 report about the Digital Divide in Trinidad and Tobago; courtesy mSurvey, used with permission.

GV: What were the main challenges in conducting the survey?

KG: Well, with the Digital Divide Survey being the first national mobile survey in Trinidad and Tobago, we had to connect our platform with the locally operating telecommunications companies – bmobile and Digicel – and with every new market in which we [operate], that is one of our main challenges.
After this, the next hurdle to overcome is gaining trust from respondents. With mobile surveying…being a new technology to the [local] market, there is of course some degree of skepticism and paranoia: Who is asking these questions, and why? Are respondents really not going to be charged for the responses they send via SMS? Will respondents really receive $10 top-up credit upon completion of the survey?

GV: In a nutshell, what did the survey reveal? What measures can the authority take to help decrease the digital divide in T&T? And what factors contribute the to equation from the public's point of view? In other words, tools are no good unless you know how to use them – have you found the population tech-savvy, literate and largely able to use the tools if available?

KG: Many (five out of seven) of the regions in Tobago (namely, St. Paul, St. Mary, St. John, St. George, and St. Andrew) performed below national average across all indices, and two regions in Trinidad had similar performances (Mayaro/Rio Claro and Sangre Grande).

Trinidad and Tobago shows an impressive calculation of the indices determined by the metrics provided by the International Telecommunications Union. Significant focus was given to the definition of ‘access', [which is] somewhat defined…as inclusion and acts as a determinant in shrinking the digital divide. Greater consideration should be given to further develop the analysis of access from one which defines a person who has physical access to technology, to a definition that focuses access to services that improve utilization, efficiencies and overall production. Consideration should be given to the metrics that define access to include utilization criteria. Suggestions would be to develop follow-up questions focused on monitoring how persons with access utilize the technology, [in order] to gauge what kinds of services would allow them to use such technology more frequently and gain more familiarity.

Looking at a comparative analysis of Trinidad and Tobago and other countries, these countries have taken a shift to use technology access as leverage for introducing additional services to the public, beyond the physical device. The additional services however are not the sole responsibility of the government or regulatory bodies, but can be introduced as a technology challenge for young, eager entrepreneurs to develop solutions for the population of Trinidad and Tobago to utilize.

The definition of education literacy does not have a one-to-one mapping with one’s ability to utilize a given technology, and should therefore be reconsidered as a metric for technology literacy. As seen with the indices, enrollment does not adequately capture technology utilization by an individual, also taking into account the high mobile phone penetration. Other metrics that offer a clearer indication about technology literacy, such as the ownership of an email account, the frequency of use of email, the access to tools such as Google to search for information, the ability to attach media (images, video, music) to electronic messages, the utilization of VoIP such as Skype can all be used as questions to quantify someone’s technology literacy.

Through ethnography with enumerators on the ground and some insights from the replies of some users who participated in the Digital Divide Survey in Trinidad and Tobago, we deduce that some people had difficulty with some features of the technology, which implies the limited familiarity with mobile phone features beyond voice communication. We conclude that more ways of interaction with mobile phones would increase the familiarity and improve utilization of technology beyond traditional voice, and will continue to shrink the digital divide. Mobile phones can be optimized for more than voice and should be considered to make ‘communicators’ into ‘users'.

We believe Trinidad and Tobago is in a very strong position to change the technology landscape as a global leader. With a mobile phone penetration of 140%, we see this as significant leverage to offer additional services to increase efficiencies, production, and utilization in the market. Trinidad and Tobago can offer Internet solutions through mobile phones as a result of the high mobile phone penetration. However, solutions to provide access and utilization can be challenging without design and creative means outside limited, conventional processes. By supporting an entrepreneurship culture and incentivizing technology enthusiasts, there is a possibility for entrepreneurs to develop solutions as businesses to solve some of the connectivity and access problems in Trinidad and Tobago. Some potential services can include renewing a passport online, signing up for new services from a mobile phone, integrating carnival activities with mobile devices. We deem with local resources, there are many opportunities to increase utilization of technology in Trinidad and Tobago to continue shrinking the Digital Divide and becoming a technology leader.

There are opportunities to offer solutions that seamlessly become part of the [country's] lifestyle [e.g.:] Triniberry, which gives Trinidadians access to movie show times on demand on their mobile phones, and mFisheries which offer fisher folk the ability to buy and sell fish using their mobile phones, [and includes] other valuable features such as capturing crime, and emergency services. These services do not require a physical line (which can be cost prohibitive for the providers) to connect to the Internet, but a solution that makes the user want to access the Internet (service) from a mobile device. The University of the West Indies has conducted research on wireless technologies, which can be a fruitful resource to the possibility of broader wireless access points and applications throughout Trinidad and Tobago, such as Long Term Evolution technologies for high-speed wireless data developed for mobile phones.

The data [collected from the survey] [puts] TATT in a position to observe communities and regions that can significantly benefit from technological intervention. Once interventions are developed at a small, manageable scale and tested for general utilization, TATT will be [better able] to do quick and valued assessment using the methodology defined in this report, seeing what works and what does not before scaling to other regions.

GV: What impact do you think this survey will have on actually shrinking the digital divide? Where do you see T&T in the next five years?

KG: The results of this survey are intended to help guide policy and investment decisions by TATT to improve ICT services and accessibility throughout [the country]. What is key, however, is not only relying on the results of this one survey, but executing either the same or similar surveys periodically to track the progress and impact of the interventions implemented to assist with closing the digital divide.

GV: What is your vision for how your company can be part of the digital transformation taking place across the region?

KG: The digital transformation has already begun in the region. However, while there are many entrepreneurs and brilliant minds developing tools to improve livelihoods, there are still many obstacles in getting these tools to market and adopted by the end-users the developer had in mind. mSurvey sees itself playing the role of facilitating market research, customer feedback, and evaluation and monitoring over time – these are all necessary activities in the journey from the creation of a new technology from an idea, to having successful dissemination and adoption in the market. At its core, mSurvey is in the business of providing insights by honing in on relevant answers to critical questions.

The images used in this post are courtesy mSurvey; used with permission.

by Janine Mendes-Franco at April 15, 2014 02:56 AM

April 14, 2014

Global Voices
Syria: From Inventor to Laborer

This post was previously published on Syria Untold.

Fifty years into its rule, the Assad family — father and son — is not merely responsible for hundreds of thousands of casualties in Syria, but also, for the perpetual infanticide of Syrian talents and dreams. The story of Ismail al-Shimali exposes the Baathist mechanisms of diminishing any possibility for scientific or cultural development in the country. 

Photo of Ismail al-Shimali, taken from his facebook page. Used with permission.

Photo of Ismail al-Shimali, taken from his Facebook page. Used with permission.

Brilliance As a Curse 

Growing up, al-Shimali had a passion for mechanics. He spent days and nights glued to his motorcycle, discovering its every detail, and trying to modify and make it more efficient. After high school, he left his hometown in the countryside of Hama, and moved to Aleppo, where he enrolled as a student at the Institute of Mechanical Engineering.

As part of his graduation project, the young man invented a measuring device called the “Vernier Caliper Bisector”, an innovation that earned him a diploma as a prominent student, and paved the way for a long series of disappointments.

A year after applying for his innovation patent, and after numerous long, tiring strides to the Directorate of Intellectual Property Protection in Damascus, he received the Gold Medal of Honor, as a Syrian inventor. “I was lucky,” al-Shimali says, “Other people had been waiting to get their patent for over four years.”

Al-Shimali’s sole aspiration at the time was to get an exception that enables him to continue his education in the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering. With his patent in hand, he roamed the streets, knocking on every possible door: the Minister of Economics, Minister of Higher Education and even the Syrian President himself, but he was faced with either mockery or utter indifference. “The head of Higher Institutes in Syria, to whom I had submitted a formal request, threw my paper in the trash, yelling, “no one asked you to be a big-shot inventor. We have more important things to worry about,” al-Shimali recounts in an interview with SyriaUntold. 

Blueprint of al-Shimali's measuring device. Used with permission

Blueprint of al-Shimali's measuring device. Used with permission

The Outbreak of the Uprising: A Renewed Hope

As the screams against injustice in Syria grew louder and louder, so did al-Shimali’s hope of a brighter homeland, one that celebrates the gifts of its youth instead of oppressing them. He joined the civil movement in his hometown Salamiyah, and took part in countless peaceful demonstrations with other university students, in the hope of drawing the government's attention to their legitimate demands.

As the numbers of protesters began escalating, the regime stepped up its arbitrary arrests in the city, and al-Shimali was detained in May, 2012. “They tortured us, as if we were the source of all evil in the world,” he reflects. “I was moved to the central prison in Hama, and was released under a presidential pardon, a month later.”

Regime security forces confiscated al-Shimali’s beloved motorcycle, along with most of his possessions, and raided his home several times to arrest him again. To save himself from the humiliating and painful experience of jail, he was forced to flee to Lebanon, where an unknown destiny awaits him.

Exile: From Invention to Hard Labor

The staggering number of Syrian refugees in Lebanon, along with the dominant discourses propagated by leading political forces and elites, have had a profound effect on the Lebanese people, and prejudice began to manifest itself in every aspect. “Property prices have risen exponentially since 2011, and labor exploitation of Syrian workers is rampant,” al-Shimali notes.

After his diploma certificate and patent had proven worthless, the young inventor became saddled with mundane jobs, since his arrival in Lebanon in October, 2012. From a construction worker, to sawmill operator and blacksmith. al-Shimali currently distributes drinking water for a living. “I tried to find better jobs, something more compatible with my degree, but the crude, demeaning responses crippled my every attempt.”

Ismail al-Shimali's story speaks of determination and inequity but is only one of many, and as war continues to reap the lives of hundreds of Syrians each day, the seemingly dead-end future, shatters the hopes and dreams of thousands more.

This post was previously published on Syria Untold.

by Syria Untold at April 14, 2014 09:53 PM

Tunisian Blog Launches Whistleblowing Platform

Tunisian award-winning collective blog Nawaat has launched its own whistle-blowing platform: Nawaat Leaks.

The secure platform was launched in collaboration with GlobaLeaks, an open source and anonymous whistleblowing software. GlobaLeaks announced the new project in a tweet on March 27:

Nawaat Leaks Logo

Nawaat Leaks Logo


Those wishing to use Nawaat Leaks to leak classified information, will first need to download the online anonymity software Tor.

Nawaat co-founder Sami Ben Gharbia explains [ar] the online safety measures taken into consideration to protect the platform's users :

قام فريق نواة بالتعاون مع مبادرة جلوبال ليكس بإنشاء صفحة خاصة تستخدم حزمة من التطبيقات و التقنيات المفتوحة المصدر التي تحمي مسربي الوثائق و الملفات السرية. هذه البرمجية تحمي المُسربين حتى من فريق نواة نفسه الذي لن يتعرف بفضل هذه التقنيات على هوية الأشخاص الذين سيقومون بعملية التسريب، لا عن طريق بريدهم الإلكتروني و لا عن طريق معرفهم الألكتروني و لا عن طريق إسمهم أو موقعهم الجغرافي.

و من أجل توفير حماية أكثر للمسربين سيعمل فريق نواة كعادته، قبل نشر أي وثيقة سرية مسربة، على فسخ كل البيانات الوصفية (Metadata) التي تزيد من إمكانية الكشف عن المصدر الإلكتروني للوثائق سواءا كانت ملفات صوتية، مقاطع فيديو، صور أو وثائق نصية.

In collaboration with GlobaLeaks, the Nawaat team created a special page that deploys a number of open source applications and techniques which protect those leaking confidential documents and files. This software even protects whistleblowers from the Nawaat team itself, which thanks to these techniques will not be able to identify the identity of those who leak [information] through their address emails, IP addresses, names or their geographic locations. To provide them with further protection, the Nawaat team will as usual and before the publication of any leaked confidential document, delete all meta data which increases the possibility of identifying the electronic source of documents in its different formats: audio, video clips, photos or texts

In 2011, Tunisia's interim authorities passed decree 41 guaranteeing access to administrative documents. In practice, however, the law is far from being implemented. In a statement published on March 27, Article 19 slammed the authorities’ ineffective implementation of decree 41.

ARTICLE 19 “notes concern that existing measures designed to ensure government transparency are not being effectively implemented” the organization said.

Ben Gharbia comments [ar] on the decree's lack of proper implementation:

بالرغم من المرسوم عدد 41 لسنة 2011 الذي يضمن، نظريا، حق المواطن في النفاذ إلى الوثائق الإدارية للمنشئات العمومية، و بالرغم من كثرة الحديث عن مقاومة الفساد و محاسبة الفاسدين و ضرورة تأسيس حوكمة رشيدة قائمة على الشفافية، إلا إننا لم ننعم بعد لا بحق النفاذ إلى المعلومة و لا بمقاومة جادة للفساد. بل على العكس، رأينا كيف يُحاكم و يتبع عدليا كل من حاول كشف المستور من فساد و محابات واستغلال للنفوذ و غيرها من المظاهر التي لا تزال تنخر عوالم السياسة و الإدارة و الأعمال

Despite decree 41 of 2011, which theoretically guarantees citizens’ right to access administrative documents held by public institutions and despite the multiple talks on fighting corruption and holding the corrupt accountable and the need to establish a transparent good governance [policy], we are yet to enjoy the right to access information and a serious anti corruption battle. But, on the contrary, we have witnessed how those who seek to uncover hidden corruption, favoritism, abuse of power and other aspects which still devour the worlds of politics, administration and business, are put on trial and prosecuted

by Afef Abrougui at April 14, 2014 09:45 PM

Creative Commons
Project Gooseberry: Full-length CC BY animated film

Here at CC, we’re big fans of the Blender Foundation, which supports the open-source Blender 3D animation suite and produces beautiful animated films. The films are built entirely with open technologies and are licensed under CC BY. Big Buck Bunny, one of the early Blender films, raised a lot of awareness about Creative Commons licenses among animators and helped fuel the Creative Commons film movement.

Today, Blender is crowdfunding its most ambitious project yet, a full-length animated film codenamed Project Gooseberry. The enigmatic trailer definitely sparked my curiosity:

In this blog post, Blender Foundation chair Ton Roosendaal lays out his ambitious goal for Gooseberry and projects like it:

There’s a real growing unrest out there about how a few greedy people control this business – making their billions – while others lose jobs in the same week their company has won an Oscar. Yep, Mark Z. buys another toy for billions, which he makes by selling our digital lives. And we nerds just line up for yet another Marvel super hero movie again. Meanwhile the powers that be prepare for a separated internet – with fast and “free” commercial channels – and a slow, expensive one for the remains of the open internet we love.

I’m not fit for politics, nor do I feel much like protesting or mud slinging. I’m a maker – I’m interested in finding solutions together and doing experiments with taking back control over our digital lives, our media, and especially get back ownership as creative people again – and make a decent living with it.

The crowdfunding campaign ends this week. Check it out!

by Elliot Harmon at April 14, 2014 09:11 PM

Technology | Academics | Policy
The Anatomy of Imitation
Professor Joshua Gans, Rotman School of Management, discusses the rise of the game 2048 very closely on the heels of a similar game called, Threes. He examines the desire by Threes’ creators for acknowledgment of their app development by those who follow with imitations.

April 14, 2014 08:21 PM

The Anatomy of Imitation
Professor Joshua Gans, Rotman School of Management, discusses the rise of the game 2048 very closely on the heels of a similar game called, Threes. He examines the desire by Threes’ creators for acknowledgment of their app development by those who follow with imitations.

April 14, 2014 08:21 PM

DML Central
New Media’s Role in Participatory Politics
New Media’s Role in Participatory Politics Blog Image

Social network sites, websites and text increasingly serve as a conduit for political information and a major public arena where citizens express and exchange their political ideas, raise funds and mobilize others to vote, protest and work on public issues. 

In “Youth, New Media, and the Rise of Participatory Politics,” a working paper authored by me, my Mills College colleague Ellen Middaugh, and Danielle Allen, of the Institute for Advanced Study, we address how the ascendency of today’s new media may be introducing fundamental changes in political expectations and practices. This work grows out of the Youth and Participatory Politics (YPP) Research Network and reflects, in many ways, the network's collective vision. Specifically, we see evidence that new media are facilitating participatory politics — interactive, peer-based acts through which individuals and groups seek to exert both voice and influence on issues of public concern. While these kinds of acts have always occurred, evidence suggests that new media are providing new opportunities for political voice and action, thus increasing the role of participatory politics in public life. We focus our analysis on youth, who are early adopters of new media, and provide some empirical evidence to demonstrate the importance of participatory politics to their political life as well as highlight some benefits and risks associated with this form of political engagement. 

The full publication is available for download. The following is an excerpt:

The practices of participatory politics offer new routes to influence in the political realm, particularly for those outside of conventional elite groups. They also offer new pathways into political participation, thereby requiring us to re-conceptualize the developmental pathways into civic and political engagement available to young people. This involves re-examining the kinds of socializing experiences that are likely to lead youth (and others) to commit to civic and political engagement, clarifying the literacies that are necessary for success at participatory politics, and identifying the types of support that will be necessary for engagement of this kind. 

In studies of participatory culture, scholars have found that many young people find their way to participatory communities through interest-driven networks, that is, networked groups of youth with common interests around arts, gaming, sports, entertainment, etc. Many youth, for example, participate in online communities that share interests in hobbies, sports, or comparable topics often associated with popular culture. This participation provides them with opportunities to create, critique, and share work while expanding their social networks and developing a variety of online participatory skills (see Ito et al. 2009, Jenkins et al. 2009). Interestingly, studies of offline extracurricular activities indicate that such interest-driven activities provide youth with opportunities to develop civic skills — how to speak in front of a group, how to plan collective undertakings, how to mobilize others — and productive norms of behavior within organizations and social networks. These, in turn, have been found to promote later civic and political engagement (McFarland and Thomas 2006; Otto 1976; Smith 1999; Verba, Schlozman, and Brady 1995; Youniss and Yates 1997). Since online interest-driven participation similarly cultivates skill development, and in particular the skills of participatory culture which translate directly into success in participatory politics, we may expect online interest-driven participation to provide a significant developmental pathway toward participatory politics. 

For example, an online gaming community may begin as strictly social, but may take on civic dimensions as members negotiate norms (such as rules around critique, intellectual property, and credit) and roles (who takes on responsibility for maintenance or moderation) or take on increasingly coordinated action (organizing events, recruiting members, etc.). Additionally, their activities may not only build civic and political skills but also may provide a pathway to political engagement when, for instance, the group raises money in relation to the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami or joins other sites in a blackout in protest of SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act). This political training, which scholars like Robert Putnam (2000) argue traditionally has been provided by civic associations like bowling leagues, may take place in online contexts in the twenty-first century (Jenkins et al. 2009 and Steinkuhler and Williams 2006).

…Thus, networked engagement with a participatory culture may well be expanding youth opportunities to develop their civic and political identities and capacities. Gaining a better understanding of how these pathways develop and support youth civic engagement will be key for helping educators, mentors and youth allies design educational settings in ways that learn from and acknowledge these new pathways. Strengthening and building on these pathways will be critical to cultivating future forms of citizenship that can counterbalance governmental, corporate, and financial power.

Banner image courtesy YPP

by mcruz at April 14, 2014 05:07 PM

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