A good infographic tells a thousand words. Via Frugal Dad:
james at jdfielder dot com
james-fielder at uiowa dot edu
A good infographic tells a thousand words. Via Frugal Dad:
Been reading and writing my @$$ off to get my dissertation prospectus done! Hope to defend the prospectus ~17 January.
Anyways, have an interesting video for you, courtesy of one of my professors:
"Does the internet actually inhibit, not encourage democracy? In this new RSA Animate adapted from a talk given in 2009, Evgeny Morozov presents an alternative take on 'cyber-utopianism' - the seductive idea that the internet plays a largely emancipatory role in global politics.
Exposing some idealistic myths about freedom and technology (during Iran's 'twitter revolution' fewer than 20,000 Twitter users actually took part), Evgeny argues for some realism about the actual uses and abuses of the internet."
Posted by J.D. Fielder on 05 January 2012 at 00:51 in Censorship, Collaboration, Cyber Dissent, Democratization, Fun Stuff, Information Technology, Infrastructure, International Relations, Internet, Middle East/North Africa, Online Behavior, Social Networking, Software, Twitter | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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Image courtesy of G+ and Mashable. I crops down a bit on this page, so here's another link for the infographic.
First edition of The Netizen Report, a new series at Global Voices Advocacy:
"This is the first post in a new series on GVA called “The Netizen Report”: A regular overview of recent global developments related to the power dynamics between citizens, companies and governments on the Internet. I hope that these regular reports can provide netizens around the world with useful information about who is seeking to influence and shape the digital platforms and networks we increasingly depend upon, and how.
Armed with information, we are in a better position to defend our rights, and to make sure the Internet evolves in a manner that is compatible with free expression and dissent. The format and content of the report will evolve over the coming months based on reader feedback and author experimentation."
NPR: China is stepping up Internet censorship, telling hotels and cafes they need to monitor public Wi-Fi usage or face fines and punishments. China is already one of the most heavily censored places in the world — along with places like Burma (Myanmar), Iran and many Middle Eastern countries.
Now, new software being developed at the University of Michigan may help Internet users find away around the blockages. Alex Halderman is an assistant professor of computer science at the university, and one of the developers of the new system, called Telex. CONTINUED
Disappointed? Yes. Surprised? Not really.
In March, following the Egyptian revolution that toppled President Hosni Mubarak, some activists raided the headquarters of Amn Al Dowla, the state security agency, uncovering the secret memo about intercepting Skype calls. In addition, 26-year-old activist Basem Fathi says he found files describing his love life and trips to the beach, apparently gleaned from intercepted emails and phone calls. "I believe that they were collecting every little detail they were hearing from our mouths and putting them in a file," he says.
A cottage industry of U.S. and other companies is now designing and selling tools that can be used to block or eavesdrop on Skype conversations. One technique: Using special "spyware," or software that intercepts an audio stream from a computer—thereby hearing what's being said and effectively bypassing Skype's encryption. Egypt's spy service last year tested one product, FinSpy, made by Britain's Gamma International UK Ltd., according to Egyptian government documents and Gamma's local reseller.
Continued at the Wall Street Journal
The title is a bit of a misnomer, given that the focus of my argument rests on Jillian C. York's position that protests in neighboring Tunisia are not a "Twitter" Revolution, but rather a "Human" revolution. Social media is simply a tool, which happened to prove useful for Egypt's historically vibrant local civic culture (Long, Reich, and Gasiorowski 2010). Gigaom's Matthew Ingram adds:
Foreign Policy magazine columnist Evgeny Morozov has argued that Twitter and Facebook should not be credited with playing any kind of critical role in Tunisia, and suggested that doing so is a sign of the “cyber-utopianism” that many social-media advocates suffer from: that is, the belief that the Internet is unambiguously good, or that the use of Twitter or Facebook can somehow magically free a repressed society from its shackles. Morozov, who has written an entire book about this idea called Net Delusion, made the point in his blog post after the Tunisian uprising that while social media might have been used in some way during the events, tools like Twitter and Facebook did not play a crucial role--that is, the revolution would have happened with or without them. CONTINUED
I also contend that social media is merely a tool for challenging state sovereignty, as was the printed pamphlet during the U.S. Revolutionary war, Radio propaganda during World War II, and Ayatollah Khomeini's use of smuggled cassette tapes leading up to the 1979 revolution.
Privately, I hope the protests in Egypt succeed. According to Dahl (1989), democracy (or polyarchy, as he calls it) can only thrive if the following conditions are met. In particular, the regime's decision to pull the communication kill switch severely undermined the latter three conditions:
- Officials are elected
- Elections are free and fair
- Suffrage is inclusive
- All citizens have the right to run for office
- Freedom of expression is guaranteed
- Voters have unfettered access to alternative information
- Citizens have the right of associational autonomy (i.e. can form parties, civic organizations...)
But academically, I remain objective on understanding how communication and associational processes affect state sovereignty. Do I want Egypt to succeed? Yes. Do I like the Iranian theocracy? Not at all, albeit the Shah was a kleptocrat. Still, the cassette tape helped undermine the Shah's regime, and I treat the event as a case study. Unlike other cultures of the Middle East, Iranians for the most part see themselves as Iranians (or Persians) first and then by tribe/group/family second. Iranians unite around common symbols and identity, which was ripe for tapping first in 1979 and again during the 2009 Iranian presidential election (alas, the tape put Iran in shackles: not exactly the utopian vision). Contrast that with a country such as Kuwait, where it is considered taboo to discuss political affairs with people you do not know in person, let alone online with a bunch of virtual strangers (Wheeler 2006). This not to say that social media would not be used in a great Kuwaiti uprising, but I assess certain civic conditions must exist (such as Egypt's local association structure) for social media to be effective.
Returning to Egypt as the primary case study, an article by E.B. Boyd at Fast Company captures my assessment:
In situations of chaos, the upper hand goes to the group that can shape a narrative and get it to stick. History is written by the victors, after all--now, even in real time. When looting began over the weekend, the narrative could easily have shifted in favor of the government: Hooligans were turning the city upside down. Order needed to be restored. Clamp down.
But word started getting out via Twitter that hastily arranged neighborhood watch groups were apprehending looters who, it turned out, had police IDs on them. This might or might not have been true--it wasn’t possible to confirm the statements--but it certainly shed a different light on the looting. Certainly, other regimes have been known to hire young men to go out and toss a city, to make it look like protesters have turned ugly, giving them an excuse to clamp down.
But the tweets belied that narrative. And indeed, on Saturday, a New York-based Egyptian blogger interviewed by CNN, suggested as much. She “appealed to the media to not fall for what she described as a Mubarak regime plot to make the protests in Egypt seem like dangerous anarchy,” according to the New York Times’ blog The Lede. “I urge you to use the words ‘revolt’ and ‘uprising’ and ‘revolution’ and not ‘chaos’ and not ‘unrest," she said. "We are talking about a historic moment.” The narrative was reset. Soon thereafter, CNN changed its on-screen headlines from “CHAOS IN EGYPT” to “UPRISING IN EGYPT.” CONTINUED
Further, Mobarak's attempts to stick his finger in the media dike are not proving successful, as discussed by Computerworld's Nancy Gohring and Robert McMillan:
Even with no Internet, people have found ways to get messages out on Twitter. On Friday someone had set up a Twitter account where they posted messages that they had received via telephone calls from Egypt. A typical message reads: "Live Phonecall: streets mostly quiet in Dokki, no police in sight. Lots of police trucks seen at Sheraton."
Others are using fax machines to get information into Egypt about possible ways to communicate. They are distributing fax machine numbers for universities and embassies and asking people to send faxes to those numbers with instructions about how to use a mobile phone as a dial-up modem.
Members of the hacker group Anonymous have also been getting in on the act. They are reportedly faxing some of the latest government cables from WikiLeaks which reveal human rights abuses under President Mubarak, to locations in the country, according to Forbes magazine. CONTINUED
To cite air power theory, while on one hand social media is just a tool, Egyptian protesters are effectively using it to fold the regime back in on itself (Fadok 1995). That is, they are applying information faster than the regime can respond, giving them the initiative while dramatically undermining regime will. I say this from the current observation the Mubarak does not know what to do or how to react, especially with the Egyptian army playing nice so far (what air power theory refers to as strategic paralysis). At this rate, the regime's inability to control information will crack it's will to resist: a human revolution happening at the speed of light.
That said, the outcome remains to be seen. I thought the same thing would occur during the Iranian protests of 2009, yet the regime's will did not crack. Still, I contend that Egypt is a premier case study on how quickly the modern networked public sphere can undercut state sovereignty.
Dahl, Robert A. 1989. Democracy and Its Critics. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Fadok, David. 1995. John Boyd and John Warden: Air Power’s Quest for Strategic Paralysis. Maxwell AFB: School of Advanced Airpower Studies.
Long, David E., Bernard Reich, and Mark Gasiorowksi. 2010. The Government and Politics of the Middle East and North Africa. 6th ed. Westview Press.
Wheeler, Deborah L. 2006. The Internet in the Middle East: Global Expectations and Local Imaginations in Kuwait. Albany: State University of New York Press.
PC World: Internet activists in the Middle East, South and Southeast Asia are increasingly using collaborative Internet sites as well as circumvention and anonymity tools to avoid censorship, according to participants at the international "Internet at Liberty" conference sponsored by Google.
To circumvent government firewalls, activists are using tools such as hotspotshield, ultrasurf, psiphon and alkasir. Alkasir offers English and Arabic interfaces and is widely used in the Middle East. Hotspotshield offers English, Arabic and several other language interfaces. CONTINUED
While working on my paper Dissent in Digital, I found that (for the most part) technical controls are the easiest to evade. Also learned one can make a few coins on the side running proxy servers for the anti-censorship crowd. :-P
Great post over at the OpenNet Initiative:
Following the anniversary of the Iran election protests on June 12th, Iranian reform protesters began accusing Twitter of censoring #iranelection when the hashtag did not trend on the site that day. Some protestors went so far as to create a Twitition calling for Twitter to "Get Rid of Censorship for #Iranelection", signed by 110 signatories (as of June 18th, 2010).
Justifying their claim for censorship, the Twitition claimed that #iranelection was surpassing the number of tweets for the top Trending Topics yet still not appearing on the list:
"That day the top Trending Topics included FIFA World Cup and #worldcup as well as the oil crisis and some media stars. However, as we researched further we found that #iranelection WAS PRODUCING UP TO TEN TIMES THE AMOUNT OF TWEETS PER MINUTE THAN ANY OF THE OTHER SO-CALLED TOP Trending Topics!!" CONTINUED