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  • timwhyte 09:26 on June 19, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ,   

    Why the Iranian government can‘t keep the twitter out 

    Following the previous post, here is an interesting explanation of why the Iranian government — which has attempted to block eveything from BBC Persia to text messaging — can’t keep the twitter out.  Jeff Jarvis from the Buzz Machine explains a little about the architecture of twitter and why new media is changing the way social activists work together.

  • timwhyte 11:52 on June 10, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: video   

    Turn the cameras on! 

    When the media yesterday carried the story that the Peruvian police reportedly murdered 40 indigenous Awajun activists in the Amazon, opening fire on their peaceful demonstration and dumping the bodies in a nearby river, the news stories all used the words “reportedly” and “according to the activists”.  Yet, catching video images on a mobile phone and broadcasting them around the world on the web is no longer a big deal. Would it matter for Awajun campaign if we didn’t have to write “reportedly”?  If there was video documentation circulating on the web of the massacre and cover up? Of course it would! So the real question we have to ask ourselves, is how can we help grassroots campaigners make use of the technology that is out there.

    It is a simple idea, really.  Give activists cameras so they can film human rights abuses they are fighting against, and let the world see evidence that is impossible to deny.  For 16 years now, Witness has been putting video in the hands of the human rights activists throughout the world.

    Since Witness started its work, the world of video has changed radically. The original technological catalyst was the arrival of Sonys Handycam, which made video recording and editing easy, inexpensive and accessible for grassroots social activists. Since then the rapid expansion of the internet and the proliferation of video recording devices, the technology has vastly expanded the possibilities for grassroots video documentation.

    Witness has not worked with the Awajun campaigners, but I wish that they had. What makes Witness’ work effective is their focus not just on the technology, but on the training and follow up for the social activists that use it.  As those who have worked with IT technology in developing countries know, it is often practical and organizational constraints that limit the its use, rather than the technology itself.  Witness provides cameras, training and follow up to certain partners. See a video on how they work here. Recently they have also launched the Hub, a web platform dedicated to human rights media and activism, tracking human rights issues throughout the world through video documentation.

    For an example of how campaigners can use the Hub, check out the coverage of the case between Shell and the Ogoni people in Nigeria.  In telegrams and short features, the mainstream media today is carrying the story that Shell agreed to fork out 15,5 million USD to the families of Ken Saro-Wiwa and 8 other social activists from the Niger Delta executed by the Nigerian government.  If you — or the journalists who doing their pieces yesterday — want the details, the hub has background films and the campaigners side of the story, on their Shell on Trial page.

  • timwhyte 13:22 on June 3, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: web around the world   

    Free … if you have money 

    If you thought that the internet would be free of the country borders of the “real” world, think again. There are now signs that the immigration authorities between the rich and the poor countries are being established in cybersspace, not by governments but by internet companies themselves.  Those who control access will not look at the color of your skin or whether you are planning to overstay your visa, no, they are looking at something very specific: the average level of spending of internet users in your part of the world.  

    The New Your Times could report last month, that a number of free sites are starting to cut off access to users from the poorer parts of the world. The reason is simple: users in poor countries take up bandwidth but generally don’t spend much money on the in-site advertising.  This means that the explosive expansion of the internet in places like India, is actually a headache for web companies.  The many new users create a need for upscaling servers, but don’t contribute much income.  For companies that are already hard-pressed to show a profit, this means that cutting out Asia, for example, can mean a keeping down expenses.

    The NYT calls it The International Paradox (with a typically American sense of ownership of the web, implying that the natural home of the internet is in God’s own country…).   The Paradox is affecting especially the new Web 2.0 sites — Facebook, MySpace, YouTube — that have changed the way people use the web over the past few years, and are now expanding rapidly in the global South.  The users’ own photos and films on these sites require a lot of bandwidth and therefore the sites have been hit hard by their popularity in the south, where advertising revenue is minimal.  The math is forcing some companies — such as Voeh or DivShare — to block whole regions in the world.  Others such as Facebook and YouTube are now considering if they can somehow provide parred down versions of their sites to poorer countries.

    The question is of course whether we are seeing a temporary blip, while bandwidth catches up with demand and advertising agencies expand in the poorer countries, or a more long-term trend, where internet companies actively limit their user base to maximize profits. If the later is the case, we could end up with a situation where web services are free for those who can afford to pay for them. And inaccessible to vast number of potential users in the South.

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