Viewsdesk - chasing the global public sphere

June 2006

Censorship17:23, June 19, 2006

The other day I came across an interactive flash-map, made by OpenNet Initiative (ONI), that show the status and levels of internet-related censorship in the world. One thing that struck me was that my neighboring country of Norway is on the watchlist. It turns out that Norway along with Great Britain operates a filter for child pornography.

A similar filter is in service in Sweden – but Sweden is not listed on the ONI map.

Rikskriminalpolisen (National Criminal Investigation Department) supplies the ISP?s with a list that they are ?recommended? to block. Minister of Justice Thomas Bodstr?m have put pressure on the providers by saying that a law might be passed to force them to filter, if they did not comply voluntarily.

From what I have come to understand the blocks are done on IP-number level, effectively blocking other sites that happen to share physical server with an offending site.

As usual, censorship starts small and then expands as new challenges present themselves and the temptation to ?just push that button? gets impossible to resist. Currently the Swedish government is on a quest to stop human trafficking (and prostitution – since in their eyes, the words are synononymous) and Bodstr?m have said that the list of blocked sites also might include prostitution sites sometime in the future.

Iran01:22, June 18, 2006

Satellite dish in Imam Square, Esfahan, IranOfficially, owning a satellite dish in Iran is illegal but despite the occasional raid, the government seems to be quite tolerant to it. Though, I must admit I was surprised when ? even at Imam Square (Naghsh-i Jahan Square), in the center of Esfahan – a dish was sitting there in plain view. I thought the owners were expected to be discrete and mount them on the roofs – out of view from the streets.

One thing people often ask is if Iranian?s have access to foreign television, and if so what channels they can receive. The short answer is that access is greater in Iran than anywhere else I?ve ever been! An Iranian friend showed me that he had 1,106 channels in his home! All European and American channels you can think of ? I guess it?s mostly a matter of people being able to understand the foreign languages.

PS. On this day I also express my sincere condolences to the people of Iran for the terrible loss in the World Cup. I?m so sorry, guys.

EDIT (19th of June): Bigger image, with more of the surroundings, here.

Iran11:35, June 16, 2006

I?ve been interviewed about my research trip to Iran by the Swedish online-newspaper Unfortunately for any English readers, the article is in Swedish only.

The article is found here: Bloggrevolution erövrar Iran.

ICT4D02:29, June 8, 2006

India’s Zeenews published an article on the use of cellphones to increase the flow of information and help making business decisions. And not on 5th Avenue in New York, but in rural South Africa. The story is not quite unlike the one I blogged about the other month.

Mashva is one of around 100 farmers in Makuleke testing cell phone technology that gives small rural farmers access to national markets via the Internet, putting them on a footing with bigger players and boosting profits by at least 30 percent. “Mainstream farmers have access to market information so they can negotiate better prices. This cell phone enables poor rural farmers to get that same information,” said Mthobi Tyamzashe […].

Digital Culture and Iran12:09, June 7, 2006

In cities all over the world, graffiti have become natural part of the cityscape. Tehran is not different. Most tags and slogans (and the more elaborate paintings) are officially sanctioned, relaying the messages and opinions of the government.

Some are not sanctioned at all.

writing on a wall

This wall (larger image) was photographed in Darakeh just north of Tehran a few weeks ago. I saw the same tag down-town as well, but was never given a good opportunity to take a picture of it.

The Persian text translates to “political disclosing” or “political divulging”. Unfortunately the site no longer exists. I wonder who was so brave as to create an oppositional blog and then draw attention to it by spraying the address all over the capital.

If anything, I think the picture shows how important blogs are for the Iranian public sphere. How desperately people want to be read and listened to, and what length some are willing to go to achieve it.