Viewsdesk - chasing the global public sphere

January 2005

Technologies04:03, January 30, 2005

In November 2004 there was a blog forum (Sweden’s first and last?) arranged by IDG. I was there, along with a good part of Sweden’s bloggers, I’m sure.

I had just bought an MP3-player at the time, and recorded the whole thing. Well, not quite actually – I came ten minutes late, so there are a few minutes missing at the start of the conference.

I realize it’s maybe a bit late, but since I have not yet seen the audio posted somewhere else, and I stumbled over the file on my computer just now – I decided to post it. Maybe it’ll make somebody happy.

(The sound kind of sucks, but what to expect from a sub-SEK1000 player with a built-in microphone?)

And yes, I’m sorry all of you English speaking readers – the whole show is in Swedish.

Bloggforum Stockholm 2004 (MP3-audio, 80:38 min, 37 Mb)
Bloggforum Stockholm 2004 (Streaming version of the same file)

Digital Culture04:14, January 28, 2005

Dagens Nyheter (DN) Sweden’s biggest daily newspaper, reported yesterday that the Swedish government have produced two publications on the role of Public Service broadcasting in the future. That’s all fine, but what shocked me, and others before me, was a quote from the chairman of one of the groups.

Bengt K Å Johansson, socialdemocrat and former Member of Parliament, said that people’s use of an increasing number of media sources is a problem:

– It is a problem since we need a common ground in order to be a nation, Johansson said to DN.

Although I can understand what he mean; sure a people with homogenous views are more likely to reach consensus, and thus be more likely to bond. But, I also think his views are those of a dying generation. The nation state of the future will not be what it was 30 years ago.

One of the greatest revolutions spawned by the Internet (and other new digital media) it gives whoever’s connected to it a multitude of views and opinions to read. I’d say that on just about any subject there’s at least a handful of pages of interest, regardless of how small and seemingly insignificant the subject at hand.

When it comes to news reporting, the plethora of information is perhaps even more important. I would, like many others, like to claim that the idea of any objective truth is just plain silly. No one news organization, neither private nor public, can provide the absolute truth. The last ones to seriously consider that was a few decades when a certain state published the aptly named daily Pravda.

Much more interesting are theories on how multi-perspectivism can give a reader so many versions of the truth that he or she can make a somewhat more nuanced assessment of a particular event. (Some even go even further and say that the real revolution comes when those perspective start to talk with one another – in other words: blogs.)

How anyone can say, in public nonetheless, that people’s more extensive use of media is inherently a bad thing is completely beyond me. It is a good thing that we do not have to rely on just a few sources. It is a good thing that the nation is evolving into something else than a homogenous nation state.

I can’t even begin to understand how someone with such apparent lack of vision was put in charge of heading the government’s research. (Well, actually I think I got atleast a clue…)

Free Speech and Iran23:54, January 23, 2005

Hoder, an Iranian blogger based in Canada, reported yesterday about how American companies are shutting down Iranian websites – amongst them blogs.

The latest site to be shut down, with very short notice, is the Iranians Students News Agency (ISNA) who’ve been given 48 hours by their host, The Planet, to remove their content before getting shot from the sky.

The idea is that, according to the US State Department, the Iranian government supports international terrorism. This is also why many US-based registrars, deny Iranians to register Internet domains.

This seems like an utterly stupid practice, if you ask me. There are many forces at work within the Iranian society in favour of changing the system. Cutting people off from the Internet, one of the most promising ways to encourage debate and free exchange of ideas we’ve seen in the history of mankind, can only be contraproductive.

So, all you bloggers in Iran – if you ever need a host in another country, consider Sweden. I promise you that I can have you set up (and probably even sponsored) in a matter of hours.

Digital Culture16:31, January 20, 2005

A report from the Digital Media Project at Harvard University was released yesterday. The report is titled Copyright and Digital Media in a Post-Napster World (PDF) and primarily covers questions regarding copyrights and technological development.

The report attempt to answer the following questions: How do we balance the legitimate interests of copyright holders with the legitimate interests of the public in the use and enjoyment of digital media? Should technology developers be accountable to copyright holders? What future strategies might compensate copyright holders while also encouraging innovation?

Parallel to the US-oriented main publication there’s also an international supplement covering the issues more closely related to the rest of the world.

Digital Culture14:31, January 6, 2005

CNN’s debate show Crossfire is cancelled, the New York Times report. Apart from some schism between Tucker Carlson (one of the anchors) and CNN, the network’s new CEO (somewhat surprisingly, I must say) agrees with Stewart:

Mr. Klein specifically cited the criticism that the comedian Jon Stewart leveled at “Crossfire” when he was a guest on the program during the presidential campaign. Mr. Stewart said that ranting partisan political shows on cable were “hurting America.” Mr. Klein said last night, “I agree wholeheartedly with Jon Stewart’s overall premise.”

Jon Stewards CNN-bashing (transcript) received extreme attention in the days after the show (my post about it). The Internet, and viral distribution of the video clip online, was an enabler for the attention. iFilm reports a whopping 2,5 million (!) downloads of the 13 minute clip, and other sources – such as torrents and other P2P – probably account for even more.

So, using power of the internet – humor can bring down empires.

Internet Governance and Technologies02:15, January 4, 2005

In a very interesting article the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter (DN), reports something often forgotten by national crisis management centers: the help organizations are often exclusively focusing on issues relating to the grieving process of adults, whilst neglecting the need of the younger population.

The older generation find information though traditional channels; television, radio and newspapers. Kids however, receive a lot of information though the Internet, and they retreat to their regular hangouts even during tough times. And, considering how hard Sweden has been struck by the tsunami disaster – these are definitely tough times.

One place where they go is the Swedish online community Lunarstorm, with an incredible reach of 80% of Swedes between the ages of 18-to-25. (The figure is probably about the same, if not even higher, for kids between the ages of 13-to-17.)

Lunarstorm, realizing the crucial need for help, have involved around 20 priests and other volunteer personnel who are working around the clock to meet young people on their own turf: online.

The issues can be everything from comforting someone who has lost a friend, to more concrete and practical things like starting charities and how to volunteer to help.

Save the Children, Unicef and the Red Cross, have understood that this is an important channel, says Johan Forsberg, Lunarstorm’s information officer. He only wish that the Swedish government, particularly prime minister G?ran Persson and foreign minister Laila Frievalds, would wake up and realize it too. They’re needed here, he says.

When you think about it, this is not a very unexpected development. The Internet has integrated into people’s lives in all other aspects of life, so why would this be different? And, as usual it’s the kids that are forgotten by authorities: they’re busy speaking adultish about adult things with other adults.

I believe that using the Internet for these kinds of things can be very helpful, on a personal level. Sharing thoughts, fears and sorrow with other who feel the same way as yourself can be liberating and helpful. However, to avoid getting stuck in vicious thoughts, it’s also important that there is adults, preferably professionals, present in such discussions.

It seems to me that Lunarstorm are doing a great job, with whatever limited means they can muster. So, G?ran Persson – what are you waiting for? Wake up, smell the coffee and go answer some real questions from your future constituency.

Digital Culture and Free Speech21:42, January 3, 2005

If you, like me, could not attend the Votes, Bits & Bytes conference at Harvard Law School last month, you’ll be pleased to know that Rebecca MacKinnon (blog) and radio producer Benjamen Walker have made a 12 minute radio program covering the event.

The show concentrates on the part of the event called Global Voices, focusing on how Internet have influenced politics around the world.

I was glad to learn that it the conference was indeed trying to be international in scope, not just the same western-oriented yada-yada we usually hear. They also discussed a particular detail I’d like to know more about: an Iraqi organization that offers blogging tools to individuals, but only if they agree with current political developments. What’s up with that?

Download MP3 Stream