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Malaysia Denies Web Censor Move August 7, 2009

Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Civic Media, Convergence, Journalism, News, Social Media, Trends.
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Malaysia now denies it has plans to censor Internet. The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission said in a statement that it may encourage parents to use Internet filters to block pornography and online scams, but denied it was reneging on its promise not to censor the Web.

The statement was aimed at allaying fears among opposition groups that the government was mulling an Internet filter to block “undesirable websites”, along the lines of China’s abandoned “Green Dam” software. The move had critics crying foul as it breaches the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) Bill of Guarantees.

The government has no desire to implement Internet filtering. Firstly, because it is not effective. Secondly, it may cause dissatisfaction among the people because in this ICT and borderless age, information moves around freely.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak

Fears of censorship were raised by an article this week in Malaysian Insider, an independent news Web site. Kuala Lumpur said news about the study had been “taken out of context and sensationalized.”

The study was only meant to better understand online preferences of Malaysians, which is “no different from actions taken by responsible regulatory agencies and governments … around the world,” the statement said.

The issue of unfettered Internet access is important economically for Malaysia, which has attracted investment from technology companies such as Microsoft Corp with promises not to censor.

Malaysia Mulls Web Controls August 7, 2009

Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Civic Media, Convergence, Journalism, News, Social Media, Trends.
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Malaysia is seeking tough Internet laws to control bloggers and prevent them from spreading “disharmony, chaos, seditious material and lies” on their websites. The move would not be unlike what China and Iran did – blocking sites like Yahoo, Google, Facebook and Twitter when widespread use of social media networking tools to share information about politically explosive events was seen to threaten social order.

In a move described by the opposition as “horror of horrors,” Kuala Lumpur is mulling an Internet filter to block “undesirable” websites, on the grounds of maintaining racial harmony in the multicultural nation. A senior official of the National Security Council (NSC) said such a move is to “keep out pornographic materials and bloggers who inflame racial sentiments.”

Speaking on condition of anonymity to AFP, the official confirmed reports that the coalition government was considering imposing controls – effectively scrapping a 1996 guarantee that it would not censor the Internet. Any move to filter the Internet is against the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) Bill of Guarantees.

The Information, Communication and Culture Ministry is commissioning a study which is to be completed in December to filter blogs and websites. A tender is out for companies to help the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission evaluate an Internet filter. According to tender documents seen by The Malaysian Insider, the tenderer is:

• to evaluate the readiness and feasibility for the implementation of Internet filter at Internet gateway level, through assessments on the existing infrastructure and existing products in the market.

• to evaluate and estimate costs for the implementation.

• to study the existing legal framework in addressing content filtering and no censorship issue, including the impacts that are caused by the implementation to Internet users and the Malaysian economy.

The successful tenderer will visit Internet services providers (ISPs) in countries which have some form of Web filters to study the suitability for the Malaysian environment. Among the recommended countries are India, Pakistan, Australia and Hong Kong. It is not known whether these countries use filters or what they are filtering.

Malaysian news websites and blogs are well known for providing alternate views to mainstream news coverage. The vibrant blogosphere has been a thorn in the side of the Barisan Nasional government, which was been in power for more than half a century but was dealt its worst ever results in elections a year ago. Many in the Government have blamed the critical Web culture for Barisan’s losses, and there has been pressure from some quarters to muzzle the medium.

Critics are drawing parallels to China’s aborted ‘Green Dam: project, a plan to introduce Internet filtering software on 1 July on all new computers sold in the country. Beijing had said the Chinese-made Green Dam software would filter out pornography, protecting young people within the world’s largest online population. It backed down after widespread protests by Web users in and outside China.

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An image from the official website of the Green Dam-Youth Escort project.

The Chinese software known as “Green Dam Youth Escort” filters image and keyword to block pornographic, violent and politically sensitive content and monitor behaviour. Critics fear it will be used to curb access to information and keep track of users.

Content filtering is outdated. Apart from being largely ineffective, most Web surfers can circumvent filters through proxy servers. If the intent is block unsavory sites, a better and more viable approach is to teach good Web surfing habits and educate the public on the consquences of spreading harmful content.

Related read:
Beat the Web Censorship Phenomenon
China’s Green Dam-Youth Escort net filter draws fire

Video Way to Go, Here to Stay July 11, 2009

Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Civic Media, News, Social Media, Trends, Web Video, YouTube.
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Online video is unstoppable and breaking barriers between TV and the Web. 14.3 billion videos were watched online in Dec 2008 in the United States alone, according to ComScore. Google is by far the most popular destination for video, with a 43 percent share of the US market in January.

Video is here not just to stay, but moving images have become a commodity on the Web, especially for news sites. Video exhibits classic long-tail distribution. While YouTube remains dominant, video is rapidly moving from destination sites to the rest of the web, with millions of sites streaming video as the new mode of communication.

The conversation is shifting from the technological to the value aspects: not how to build a player or convert between formats but, how to foster audience engagement and monetize on these billions of streams.

The bottom line is, if you are a publisher, a developer, a creative shop, a content owner or a media company, should you join the open source video bandwagon, and start driving more value today? Open source proponents say it is the key to creating a robust, innovative new online video market, rather than influence an old market.

Much is happening around open source video today. Open-source video companies and project have banded together to form the Open Video Alliance to show that open source can not only innovate, but also surpass proprietary software and standards in innovation.

Members include Kaltura, a pioneer in the area of open source video, Participatory Culture Foundation (creators of the popular Miro software), Wikipedia, the Mozilla Foundation, and 20 other organizations.

The OVA is centered on raising awareness and developing standards that promote open source video and coordinate members’ activities. Other initiatives in the market include Akamai’s as well as several other open source video player and transcoder projects.

Open-source video lets individual developers focus on their respective core competencies, while customers get lower costs and reduced lock-in. It may be a viable, free-market alternative to how the monopolistic media industry has traditionally formed: one big vendor corners the market, and the rest of us spend decades trying to get out of its grip.

For anyone who is part of the video universe, the key question that remains open is what drives value in this brave new world. How can publishers, advertisers, and technology enablers make money in a world in which delivery is commoditized, display opportunities are abundant (driving CPMs for video advertising down), and audiences expect to get everything for free? The short answer, I believe, is to focus on innovation–of formats, user experiences, content, or delivery.

And here is where open-source video enters the picture: It is a development methodology and distribution strategy that allows each company in the ecosystem to focus on what it does best, instead of replicating the efforts of others. Open-source video…is being adopted at every level of the ecosystem by industry leaders such as Akamai, Mozilla, and Wikipedia.

Its premise is simple: Video is too important of a medium to be controlled by a single player. By espousing the principles of openness at all levels, including formats, technology, and content, and by collaborating in the development process, video can enjoy the force multipliers that we have seen in other areas of open-source software. The result is a better user experience, a reduction in the total cost of ownership, and a focus on innovative value-driven results.

Dr Shay David
Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of Kaltura, an open-source video company.

On a related note, the BBC Two has launched a collaborative documentary series, Digital Revolution, which uses open source to produce the content.

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We don’t want this to be one medium reflecting on another from a safe distance. We want to bridge the gap. So we have decided to adopt a radical, open-source approach to the production process. We don’t just want to observe bloggers from on high; we want to blog ourselves and get feedback and comment on our ideas.

Russell Barnes
Series Producer, Digital Revolution


Watch Tim Berners-Lee’s keynote speech at the launch of Digital Revolution, an open and collaborative BBC documentary on the way the web is changing our lives.

The concept of a [TV] channel is going to be obsolete on the internet – it’s not relevant…

When you use the Internet it is important that the medium should not be set up with constraints. The Internet should be like a blank piece of paper. Just as governments and companies cannot police what people write or draw on that sheet of paper so they should not be restricted from putting the web to their own uses. The canvas should be blank. While governments do need some powers to police unacceptable uses of the web; limits should be placed on these powers.

Tim Berners-Lee
Inventer of the World Wide Web

Related Reads
Open Video Conference in New York
The Promise of Open Source Video
Moving images a commodity for news sites

Pop and Protests Stopped the Web July 1, 2009

Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Civic Media, Convergence, Journalism, Social Media, Trends, Web Video, YouTube.
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The deaths of a pop legend and a faceless woman consumed and stopped the Web this week. Michael Jackson and Neda Agha-Soltan had little in common in life but their deaths in Los Angeles and Tehran once again show the emotional and political power of the nature of social media.

Both events became emblematic of the flow and character of modern many-to-many communication. The day Michael Jackson died on 25 June, many of us discovered the news on TV because all the social media networks on the Web were out of service or were too slow.

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Fans of Jackson went to the Web to find instant news about the death of the pop culture legend and to seek collective commiseration in their virtual grieve. On the day of his death, interest in Jackson was so high that many Websites with the most popular Jackson pages experienced outages and slowdowns.

After the celebrity gossip site TMZ.com first reported that Michael Jackson had died the afternoon of 25 June, activity all over the Web increased to near-record levels. Twitter received 5,000 Jackson-related messages per minute during its peak – noticeably slowing its service. The Los Angeles Times Web site received more than 2.3 million page views in one hour, causing several outages there.

Accompanying comments from bloggers mostly expressed shock at the singer’s death and offered moving accounts of his influence.

In Iran, an online video becomes the galvanizing moment in Iran’s troubled election, declared by some outlets as a “Twitter revolution.” The image of “Neda” has become a symbol of the Iranian protest movement after an amateur video of her death spread rapidly through Youtube and other emerging media.

While reports about her death conflict, images of Agha-Soltan’s last moments symbolized for many, the cruelty of the Iranian government in response to the protests. The graphic video imagery galvanized people as the Iranian government began to drive protests underground, forcing coverage to recede.


A graphic video of Agha-Soltan’s death was the most viewed news video of the week on YouTube.

Yet even the iconic video was not enough to sustain the coverage. By the middle of the week, Iran started to lose steam as a story as the protests grew smaller and the story of political turmoil grew more complex than simply protests in the street.

Related reads
Deaths of Michael Jackson and “Neda” Grip the Blogosphere

Digital Games as New Journalism June 26, 2009

Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Civic Media, Convergence, Journalism, News, Singapore, Social Media, Trends, YouTube.
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The first wired generation raised in the virtual realm is coming of age and recreating the world in their image. In a galaxy not too far away, digital natives are deserting traditional sources of information for an emerging journalism of interactive multimedia experiences informed by the timeless dynamics of story.

Such an approach envisions new narrative forms as sophisticated play to engage a tribe of gamers who demand stimulating complex systems. Through their ability to renew age-old modes of cultural expression, games can be adjuncts to topical issues, providing fresh experiences to spur community interactions.

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Educators and traditional media approach the medium of games with fear. Where do games belong in J schools?

I spoke about these issues at the Computer Games, Multimedia and Allied Technology 08 Conference in Singapore. My talk, Playing For Real: Re-Imagining Journalistic Narratives in a Game Environment, presented ideas on augmenting play with media narratives to connect audiences to current events and issues.

I shared best practices to re-imagine a knowledge aesthetic that provides core journalistic services built around a community of media producers, visual storytellers, information designers, narrative architects and game developers.

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At the Games for Change Festival in Manhattan, Pulitzer Prize–winning New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof evangelized the idea that online games could teach people the news.

In his keynote to about 400 humanitarians, journalists, academics and game designers, Kristof said people can use games as an entry point, make an emotional connection, learn a little about the complexities and truly become engaged in an issue.

In fact, he’s developing a free online-social-networking game to go with his new book due out in September. Authored with wife, Sheryl WuDunn, the book, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide is a serious work about the oppression of third-world women.

Kristof explained how an MTV game had opened his eyes to the true power of that online messaging format as a reporting tool. Watch the keynote below:

It’s entirely possible to do journalism without the end product necessarily being a 20-inch story in a newspaper or a three-minute piece on the nightly news.The evolution towards allowing the reporting of facts and the investigation of circumstances, which is at the core of what journalists do, to exist in other forms is I think a necessary wrestling with the new medium.

Joshua Benton, Director of Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard

What is there to celebrate and fear when a young medium and old media converge on new media to reach a post-MTV audience? What happens when information is retooled as enthralling cinematic experiences that tap the emotion and intellect through the interplay of narrative, performance and play? What are the consequences of this fundamental shift in media creation and use? These are questions to be explored in the idea of games as journalistic narratives .

Related posts:
Could Online Games Save the News?
Newsgame, or Editorial Game?
History of Editorial Games, Part One
Where do games belong in Journalism schools?
Documentary Games & the Life and Dead of the Saga Song
Political Games Archives
Playing For Real: Re-Imagining Journalistic Narratives in a Game Environment.
The Darfur Case – Youtube video
Charting the Digital Revolution

Twitterers Defy Tiananmen Ban June 4, 2009

Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Civic Media, Journalism, News, Social Media, Trends, Web Video, YouTube.
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Twitterers proved that there are ways to get round the great firewall of China on the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen killings. Authorities in China had blocked social networking sites like Twitter and Flickr in an attempt to stop online discussion on the subject.

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The Tiananmen anniversary is one of the hottest Twitter topics by users in China. Those too young to have personal memories of 1989 forwarded link to articles in foreign media or simply re-tweeted other people’s posts.

The wide reach of sites like Facebook, which remains accessible, are providing curious students with information they were previously denied. Fans of Tank Man – the man who stood in front of the tanks in the iconic photograph of the protests – were free to remember those who took part and victims of the crackdown.

China bans discussion of the events in and around Tiananmen Square in 1989, when troops quelled weeks of protest by students and workers. Beijing has never released a death toll on what it calls the “4 June incident.” Hundreds are believed to have died in and around the square.

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In the anonymity of the online world, Web-savvy youths use mirror sites and proxy servers to explore alternative versions of the official history and to discuss their government’s clumsy efforts at censorship. With YouTube and several blog-hosting websites permanently blocked, advice on how to access Twitter via a proxy, VPN (virtual private network) or Hotspot shield spread around quickly.

Links to photos of policemen blocking the lenses of foreign journalists with their umbrellas was a popular tweet. Many tweets on unrelated topics carried the subject Tiananmen. People typed Tiananmen on every post so the topic is within the 10 most popular on Twitter.

Related posts:
How the Chinese reported Tiananmen
China Blocks Twitter, Flickr, Others as Tiananmen Anniversary Looms
Tiananmen killings: Was the media right?
BBC audio slideshow: Tiananmen Square

Google Wave as Reporting Tool June 1, 2009

Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Civic Media, Convergence, Journalism, News, Social Media, Trends, Web Video, YouTube.
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Search engine giant Google last week unveiled a revolutionary open source project that could change how reporters and the public communicate and share information.

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Google’s biggest product launch in recent memory has generated lots of buzz. It combines aspects of email, instant messaging, wikis, web chat, social networking, and project management to build one elegant, in-browser communication client.

The open source technology promises to let newsrooms take better advantage of real-time reporting tools that offer the public and editors functionality to work together on breaking news as it happens. You can bring a group of friends or business partners together to discuss how your day has been or share files.

A combination of conversation and document, a “wave” enables people to communicate and work together with richly formatted text, photos, videos, maps, and more. These “waves” offer a new experience of real-time collaboration, sharing, conversation and editing between multiple parties.

Essentially a real-time communication platform, Google Wave was the brainchild of a Sydney-based team, brothers Jens and Lars Rasmussen who were involved in Google Maps previously. Google Wave was announced at the Google I/O 2009 conference in San Francisco. Watch the demo video below.

In Google Wave you create a wave and add people to it. Everyone on your wave can use richly formatted text, photos, gadgets, and even feeds from other sources on the web. They can insert a reply or edit the wave directly. It’s concurrent rich-text editing, where you see on your screen nearly instantly what your fellow collaborators are typing in your wave. That means Google Wave is just as well suited for quick messages as for persistent content — it allows for both collaboration and communication. You can also use “playback” to rewind the wave and see how it evolved.

The Official Google Blog

Google says the product is expected to be available later this year. It is inviting developers to “add all kinds of cool stuff” before its public launch. News organizations can apply to get free access to the Wave developer’s sandbox and technology to start testing and modifying it for their own custom projects.

To make sense of it all, this guide provides an overview of Google Wave, key information, definitions, and links related to the launch.

World Press Freedom Day May 3, 2009

Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Civic Media, Convergence, Journalism, News, Social Media, Trends, Web Video.
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World Press Freedom Day today reminds us that censorship is another force muffling voices throughout the world. Booming online cultures in many Asian and Middle Eastern nations have led to aggressive government repression.

Reflecting the rising influence of Web reporting and commentary, more online journalists are jailed worldwide today than those working in any other medium. In 2008, the Committee to Protect Journalists found, bloggers and other online journalists were the single largest professional group in prison, overtaking print and broadcast journalists for the first time.

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The CPJ has released a special report on the 10 Worst Countries to be a Blogger. CPJ considers bloggers whose work is reportorial or fact-based commentary to be journalists and its report calls attention to online repression, an emerging threat to press freedom worldwide. Burma leads the dishonor roll.

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In Turkmenistan (above) soldiers guard an Internet café.

The fight against censorship doesn’t just take place once a year. Emerging media technologies are creating a new model of empowering communities affected by abuses to document their own stories and advocate for change.

Check out the Freedom House “Freedom on the Net: A Global Assessment of Internet and Digital Media.” The World Association of Newspapers has launched WorldPressFreedomDay.org as a clearing house of related information.

Online censorship frequently takes place when netizens attempt to discuss issues related to human rights. This is one of the reasons that human rights organizations in Europe and North America have historically spoken on behalf of communities affected by human rights abuses.

The old model of advocacy campaigns speak on behalf of communities. The downside of this strategy has been that communities around the world have been depicted in traditional and emerging media by employees of human rights organizations rather than actual residents of the community.

The Web is linking scholars, activists and journalists dedicated to the study of public and participatory journalism. The best practices will be showcased on the Web at these events:

The Soul of the New Machine conference will present case studies of Ceasefire Liberia, Drop-In Center, HiperBarrio, and El Nula Por La Pazas as examples of such capacity-building programs.

Other speakers will examine the roles of mapping, photography, data collection, animation, corporations, video, and social networks as they all relate to human rights documentation and advocacy. Remote viewing hubs have been set up in New York City, Bogotá, and Medellín.

The New York City gathering will highlight Foko Madagascar, and its experience using technology to protect human rights in Madagascar. Fora.tv will broadcast the entire conference live and for free on Monday and Tuesday.

A community of anti-censorship activists at Global Voices Advocacy document the latest developments related to censorship, create guides to protect anonymity and enable circumvention, and advocate for free speech every day.

Upcoming workshops on citizen journalism workshops will take place in Moscow on May 21 and 22 and in Bangalore on May 9.

Do Pulitzer Prizes Have A Future? April 16, 2009

Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Civic Media, Convergence, Journalism, News, Reviews, Social Media, Trends.
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It is said that when you win a Pulitzer Prize, you enter an aristocracy of excellence. The joke is that when you win a Pulitzer Prize, the first line of your obituary has been written. Now that newspapers are kaput (well, almost) will journalism’s highest honors need an epitaph? pulitzer_front_logo

The winners of this year’s Pulitzer Prizes will be announced at Columbia University in New York on Monday. Almost a century after the prizes were founded, print journalism is in turmoil as papers struggle to stay afloat.

Now even the prizes are changing as the world of media evolves. Originally, there were no prizes for poetry and photography. Since 1999, the prizes have expanded its scope to include online material, which now cover all categories in all forms.

You could submit online material on newspaper Web sites. Interactive graphics to videos could be submitted in all the categories with the exception of photography, a category still restricted to still images.

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2007 Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Photography by Oded Balilty of AP. Image shows a Jewish settler challenging Israeli security officers during clashes as authorities cleared a West Bank settlement.

This year, the Pulitzers are expanded further to cover online-only news organizations that publish regularly, that are primarily devoted to original news reporting and continuing coverage of events.

Despite evolving with the media landscape, currently there are no prizes awarded specifically for multimedia content. The Pulitzer Board is encouraging entrants to blend online components with text components, which is really where journalism is today.

It’s this hybrid of text and images and graphics. I think that’s one of the strengths of the Pulitzer Prizes for journalism right now. They reflect the nature of journalism today. Other competitions have separate silos: They put the print material in one silo, and they put the online material in another silo. I don’t think that’s the way journalism is evolving.

Sig Gissler, Administrator of the Pulitzer Prizes

While broadening the competition, the Board stressed that all entered material – should come from United States news organizations that are “primarily dedicated to original news reporting and that “adhere to the highest journalistic principles.”

And do J schools get it? Journalism and digital skills must be taught in a more integrated way to give a better sense of the impact that the Web has on what a journalist does. Journalists today need a better understanding of how when they write for the Web, or produce for the Web, it changes the way they go about conceptualizing a story.

The problem with the media industry today is not the journalism. In fact, the more media change, the better the journalism. The problem is generating revenue to support the journalism as the industry goes through a transition.

A lot of what you needed to know to be a journalist five or 10 years ago was taught in the context of the traditional newsroom. There were lots of editors, there were lots of people with institutional knowledge and that kind of thing. What you need now is all that plus the new skills that readers expect, and the truth is that a lot of newsrooms aren’t well-equipped to teach you that.

Bill Grueskin, Dean of Academic Affairs, Columbia Journalism School

China Missteps Shatter Olympic Myth April 10, 2009

Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Civic Media, Convergence, Essays, Journalism, News, Social Media, Trends, YouTube.
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The Beijing Olympics is the one global event everybody shares. It will be shared in bits and bytes across media platforms. The whole world is watching. Missteps over these next few months will affect the Olympic brand and Brand China.

Within the Middle Kingdom, Chinese leaders have misjudged the force of images and symbols. Odd, for a culture whose language is built on both. Sending the Olympic Flame across the globe is meant – symbolically – to draw one and all to a moment, shared.

Yet the passing of the Olympic Flame, person to person, became last week a moment of its own. The intended images were crowded out. The intended symbolism was out of tune; Chinese leaders and Olympic organizers appeared out of touch.

If China wants to play in the Big League it needs to step up and show what it’s got. Control of images and symbols is no longer top-down. The Web has democratized media and given it its finest moments. Those who use it create the message. They have all the votes and they vote one by one, moment to moment.

It’s a hard lesson. It may be lost on leaders – and the Chinese are not alone – intent on message management and gatekeeping. Chinese authorities have consistently misjudged a media world in which they, as a subject, have no control.

Banishing the BBC, buying radio jamming systems, cutting satellite and cellphone transmissions and enlisting more censors serves only to raise the sense that terrible things are happening and they are keeping terrible secrets.

Human rights, press freedom, corruption and the environment are serious issues in China and elsewhere. Third parties representing special interests are putting the screws on China to keep promises made back in 2001 when awarded the Olympic Games. The Chinese had given the appearance of loosening things. Then came Tibet to prove the sham of it all.

Sending thugs to guard the Olympic Flame, bloodying the Free Tibet protestors and jailing journalists serve only to illustrate, boldly, the greater concern about China. If that nation has made its Great Leap Forward to modernity can it make the next leap to post-modernity?

Olympic sponsors find themselves in a bind. They risk guilt by association, for which they’ve paid $$$. They face certain wrath of the Chinese government, grantor of access to the worlds fastest growing consumer market as well as its significant manufacturing center. No one doubts the swift reaction of the Chinese authorities to a sponsor pulling out.

Just as naive as saying the Olympic Games are for the athletes, the notion of separating the athletics, the business and the political is disingenuous. With the world riven by conflict, the Olympic Games remain a pillar of hope. Emerging media that communicate images and symbols across physical boundaries will share that hope.

Obama Stages First Virtual Townhall March 27, 2009

Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Civic Media, Convergence, Journalism, News, Reviews, Social Media, Trends, Web Video.
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Just as he reinvented electoral politics, US President Barack Obama is using the Web to reinvent the presidency. Part politics, part American Idol, Obama seized the bully pulpit today and reprised the best of his acclaimed campaign skills in a digital townhall from the White House — something never done before.

Click image to view townhall
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Open for questions: Obama at the White House taking questions from the public in his first virtual townhall.

Declaring, “This isn’t about me, it’s about you,” the US leader made a direct sales pitch for Americans to support his broad and expensive assault on economic hard times.

He took questions asked from a pool of more than 100,000 sent to the White House Web site as well as from the audience of about 100 that was on hand for the event at the presidential mansion.

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Read and answer: Mr Obama looks over a question submitted via the Internet

The online town hall had an amazing feel of something that had never been done before, and something we should be trying to do more of.

The White House Blog.

White House officials have been making great efforts to have Obama reach outside the traditional media filter. As a candidate, the President was adept at using the Web to raise money and build a grass-roots movement that delivered the presidency. Now in power, he’s using the Web again to speak directly to Americans.

What we’re seeing is a concerted Obama recent PR foray in support of his assault on the current financial crises. The Internet questioning dovetailed with the president’s key projects: health care, better education and energy independence.

The US leader has staged two in-person town hall meetings in California. Now the promise of the Web makes jetting around in Air Force One to stage town halls around America seems so last year. Besides, it’s environmentally incorrect.

Not unlike American Idol, this digital townhall lets ordinary folks take part in politics and shape the outcome. Besides, the 100,000 questions submitted form a significant number of e-mail addresses for future outreach and the next campaign.

Obama’s Web-savvy approach to the presidency is already being cast as Obama 2.0. His video address to the Iranians may not have impressed the theocracy in Tehran. But by taking the presidential fireside chat into the virtual world, Obama has indeed brought the mountain to Mohammad.

Open Video Conference in New York March 11, 2009

Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Civic Media, Journalism, News, Web Video, YouTube.
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Here’s a disruptive event. The Open Video Conference will showcase awesome cultural works, inspiring talks, and cool tech demos. With the Web moving to video, this conference is going to be exciting! Open Video is a movement to promote free expression and innovation in online video.

As Web video matures, we face a crossroads: will technology and public policy support a more participatory culture—one that encourages and enables free expression and broader cultural engagement? Or will online video become a glorified TV-on-demand service, a central part of a permissions-based culture?

The conference has opened the Call for Papers with some additional background. You are invited to submit a proposal no later than March 19th.

There’s more to Open Video than open codecs, though that’s what most of us think when we think open source. Open Video is the growing movement driven by a broad-based movement of video creators, technologists, academics, filmmakers, entrepreneurs, activists and remixers.

Its goal is transparency, interoperability, and further decentralization in online video. These qualities provide more fertile ground for independent producers, bottom-up innovation, and greater protection for free speech online.

Although YouTube and other online video applications are rightly celebrated for empowering end-users, online video lacks some of the essential qualities that make text and images on the Web such powerful tools for free speech and technical innovation.

Email, blogs, and other staples of the open Web rely on ubiquitous and interoperable technologies that have low barriers to entry. They are massively decentralized and resistant to censorship or regulation. Video, meanwhile, relies on centralized distribution and proprietary technologies which can threaten cultural discourse and innovation.

Open Video is about the legal and social norms surrounding online video. It’s the ability to attach the license of your choice to videos you publish. It’s about media consolidation, aggregation, and decentralization. It’s about fair use.

Conference Highlights
Brings together stakeholders in the online video space (video makers, coders, lawyers, academics, entrepreneurs, etc.) for cross-pollination and development of the Open Video movement. Raises public profile of video creators and artists those whose work relies on or contributes to Open Video. Raises awareness around the Principles of an Open Video Ecosystem, a community effort to define best practices in online video.

Conference Details
Two day event at NYU Law School with live webcast. Main agenda to feature high-profile speakers in legal and cultural dimensions of online video. Secondary programming to include workshops on DIY video creation, publication, open source developer workshops, tech demos, and technical community building. Compilation of video art reel (remix, collage, etc) and related documentaries for continuous screening.

The conference is organized by Participatory Culture Foundation, Yale Internet Society Project, Kaltura,iCommons, and the Open Video Alliance.

Related reads:
Video Way to Go, Here to Stay
YouTube Opens Up Shop with Downloads
Wikimania Video Site
Wikimania 2008

Me Too Media and All Things 2.0 November 19, 2008

Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Civic Media, Social Media, Trends.
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So what’s media? For something so ubiquitous, perhaps we could define media by its purpose – to entertain, inform, persuade. The Web is increasingly populated by “me too” media flaunting a 2.0 appendage to pass off as immigrants in digital space.

Someone, somewhere is creating a new form of content and experience – books, magazines, journals, weekly newspapers, daily newspapers, radio, TV, blogs, online video, podcasts, Web, radio and other streaming audio, electronic books, online magazines, art, games (console, computer, online, mobile)

What will sustain media in an age of narrowcasting and niches, when the one-to-many model of information mediation is passe and broadcasting is headed the way of the dinosaur? It is paring the complicated to reveal the complex, separating the wheat from the chaff and simplifying the simplistic to the significant.

The availability of digital tools to create, present and distribute media has trivialized content and blurred the lines between the professional and amateur. Value will increasingly be created by curators, not gatekeepers.

The founders of I Can Has Cheezburger, Pete Cashmore of Mashable and Robert Scoble of FastCompany filter through a huge amount of media and select a small set of content to present to their respective audiences. In some cases they create content themselves, hire others to create content, or select and promote works created by a large pool of people.

Examples of modern curation:

Monocle – a traditional print publication with a solid web presence, looks much like a traditional polished magazine, but functioning as curators in many ways. They select a small set of physical goods which they sell customized versions of to their readers. Rich multimedia with lots of photos and video.

Jason Kottke – Blogging as a curator of “fine hypertext products” Jason has linked to the best stuff he finds across the web, often design related. His audience is passionate enough that he supports himself from his blog and he selects his advertisers with much the same care as the sites to which he links.

WallBlank – A site that sells one print a day, five days a week, either a photograph or a print, always a limited edition and selected with care. One of a number of similar businesses which sell a small set of limited editions, usually only one or two works a day (or a week). See also Threadless, PleaseDress.me and 20×200.com

China Found Filtering Skype Messages October 5, 2008

Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Civic Media, News, Social Media.
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A group of Canadian human-rights activists and computer security researchers has found that China monitors and censors messages sent through the Internet service Skype. Citizen Lab says it discovered a huge surveillance system last month that monitors and archives certain Web text conversations that include politically charged words.

The researchers found a database with thousands of politically sensitive words which had been blocked by China. In just two months, the servers archived more than 166,000 censored messages from 44,000 users, according to the report on the Information Warfare Monitor.

The list included words such as “democracy” and “Tibet” as well as phrases relating to banned spiritual movement, Falun Gong, Taiwan independence and the Chinese Communist Party. It also had words like earthquake and milk powder. Chinese officials are facing criticism in their handling of earthquake relief and chemicals tainting milk powder.

These text messages, along with millions of records containing personal information, are stored on insecure publicly accessible Web servers. By using one username, it was possible to identify all the people who had sent messages to or received them from the original user.

Skype, operated in China as Tom-Skype, a joint venture of American auction site, eBay and Chinese company TOM-Online, said it was concerned by breaches in the security of the site. Citizen Lab said it was “clear” that Tom was “engaging in extensive surveillance with seemingly little regard for the security and privacy of Skype users”.

China is not alone in Web spying efforts. The US National Security Agency was reported to have monitored telephone and Internet communications into and out of America as part of the eavesdropping program to hunt for evidence of terrorist activity after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Web use is high in China, but authorities have long prevented citizens from accessing sites deemed politically sensitive. Web companies Google, Microsoft and Yahoo have been criticised by human-rights groups for adhering to China’s strict regulations.

YouTube Video Journalism Contest August 31, 2008

Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Civic Media, Journalism, News, Social Media, Web Video, YouTube.
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YouTube is holding a competition for journalists, as part of its new ‘journalism programme’. The video-sharing website is calling for submissions of a max of three minutes, in English, featuring original content profiling someone in the community that ‘the world should know about.’ .

Technology has fundamentally changed the way we produce, gather, share, and consume news – and thousands of people from every corner of the globe are using YouTube to share important stories with the rest of the world.

OLIVIA MA
News Manager, YouTube

The goal of the project is to provide everyday citizens with a platform to tell stories that aren’t traditionally covered in the mainstream media. The competition starting September is the ‘first assignment’ of a new journalism programme launched by the site.

The site has recently created channels for reporters and citizen news. YouTube’s Steve Grove explains:

Political Engagement and the Web August 29, 2008

Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Civic Media, Convergence, Essays, News, Social Media, Trends, Web Video.
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Online politics anyone? Way to GO! The Web gives anyone — candidates, advocacy groups, corporate interests and ordinary folks — affordable and powerful means to mold policy, influence elections and shift the direction of public discourse. Welcome to the politics of participation in the age of digital dialogues.

The all important role of the Web is making politicians sit up. So core is Web to politics today that a certain anxiety pervades the political classes. And it comes from the perception that folks have become disaffected with traditional media. Indeed, the wired generation who have deserted MSM are using social networking to move their political activism from cyberspace to the real world.

The term, participatory culture, contrasts with older notions of passive media spectatorship. Rather than talk about media producers and consumers as occupying separate roles, we might now see them as participants who interact with each other according to a new set of rules that none of us fully understands.

HENRY JENKINS
Director, MIT Comparative Media Studies

It is apparent that new people, coming together in new ways to participate in a process we do not yet understand are changing the way we understand the medium and the way we understand politics. I would argue that video is key. When this generation wants to find out about a candidate, the first and probably only thing they do is watch videos of the person online. The first place they go for videos is the candidate’s website.

So it is important that a candidate’s website is easy to find and use so that it becomes the main source of information about the politician. Barack Obama does this really well. Many people regardless of whether they support Obama, have seen his official videos on his Website, allowing him to have much more control over his message.

Obama’s comparative advantage is the level of 2.0 technology in his Website that allows digital natives to forge online community. You can join “the movement” in his Website and meet supporters, ask questions, learn about campaign events, donate money, and canvass with phone numbers and addresses taken off the site.

This is a great way for keeping volunteers informed, organized, and motivated. It is a very important tool for engaging young people in the campaign. It remains to be seen whether the Web will bring about a shift from indifference to engagement in politics among the young in Singapore.

In Singapore, a panel advising the Singapore government on the impact of new media in society today released its clutch of proposals. Many are overly cautious and miss the point of wielding political e-engagement as a new tool of governance. The government-appointed panel says the key reason for going online is that new rules of engagement are going to have a profound effect on the electoral process, citing how the Internet played a key role in the Malaysian elections and is continuing to do in the American elections.

Those interested in how the new media scene in Singapore is shaping up can read the report by the Advisory Council on the Impact of New Media on Society, or AIMS. It focuses on four areas: E-Engagement, Online Political Content, Protection of Minors, Intermediary Immunity for Online Defamation.

My question – how ready is government to take risks to achieve successful online engagement and foster political entrepreneurialship? Technology now permits anyone to transact information without mediation. Webs at work have rendered obsolete the role of traditional gate keepers in mainstream media. Airtime and newspaper coverage have outlived their functions as political engagement migrate online.

Plugging the Loopholes

Plugging New Media Loopholes


Cartoon courtesy sei-ji rakugaki

Virtual and political forces intersect to forge communities online, co-opting citizen powered media to build dialogue with constituents. Not just smart politics and good governance but innovative technology and political prowess to organize movements and run a smarter campaign with strategies like Facebook outreach.

AIMS media conference to release its recommendations to the Government on August 29.

Anwar Poll Win Swamps Web Chatter August 27, 2008

Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Civic Media, Journalism, News.
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The results of the Permatang Pauh by-election in which prominent opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim scored a thumping victory shows democracy is alive and well in Malaysia. Anwar won 66.6% of votes cast, beating Barisan Nasional rival by 15,671 votes and is set to try to take his seat in Parliament this week.

Once again, Malaysians rejected traditional media, turning to the Web where pro-Anwar blogs and sites have become a source of information for supporters who feel that newspapers, television and radio are reflecting the government line.

Days leading to the vote, accusations and counter-accusations of dirty tricks flew with the ruling coalition using a sodomy charge against Anwar to sway voters. Well, the dirt did not stick. His wide margin of victory shows Anwar retained support among Malays despite his pledge to undo some of their privileges.

It is a triumphant return for the veteran politician after a decade in the political wilderness. The 61-year old first rose to prominence as a student radical in the 1970s, was elected to Parliament and held the post of deputy prime minister before being dismissed from government and jailed for sodomy and corruption after highly politicized trials.

Significantly, the results show that the political tide on March 8 which swept several opposition candidates to victory was not an aberration and Malaysians wanted to continue the process of transformation. Sure enough, post-election chatter swamping the Web are uninhibited and celebratory. Check them out here:

Anwar’s Website
Anwar’s Blog (in Bahasa Malaysia)
Malaysiakini Online
Malaysiangate – Daily News Update
MediaRakyat
MediaRakyat YouTube

Olympic Web of Deceit and Complicity July 30, 2008

Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Civic Media, Convergence, Journalism, News.
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Just days to the Beijing Olympics, Chinese authorities are showing a paranoia that could end up scoring an own goal. One shouldn’t be surprised that the first winners are Web censorship and a betrayal. But one should be outraged that the International Olympic Committee was in cahoots.

Which begs the question – who’s in charge here? Sure, the IOC would want to give the impression it was consulted on matters Olympian. But was it really in the know that the Beijing organizers would go back on their word?


Foreign journalists covering the Olympics find Web access restricted.

In bidding for the games, Chinese officials promised media would have complete freedom. Today they reneged, saying authorities would only guarantee “sufficient” Internet access for accredited media.

An IOC spokesman says it knew China would break its promise to allow unfettered Internet access to foreign reporters covering the Beijing Games. Press commission chairman Kevan Gosper said IOC officials “had negotiated with China that some sensitive Web sites would be blocked” at Olympic venues because they were unrelated to the games.

Oops, what’s happening here? Just two weeks ago, IOC president Jacques Rogge cited free internet access as an achievement of his “silent diplomacy” with Chinese officials. In an interview with AFP, he insisted, “For the first time, foreign media will be able to report freely and publish their work freely in China.”

What a total humiliation of the IOC, and a mockery of the core values of the Games. Which reminds me of the gloat – I don’t want to say I told you so, but I told you so. This state of affairs would be unthinkable in Olympics in Athens, but times have changed. A booming economy and money to be made can distract and persuade one to kowtow on Web access.

Some 20,000 foreign journalists are affected by China’s backflip. They cannot access Web sites for the human rights group Amnesty International, the Falun Gong spiritual movement, and the Tibetan government-in-exile.

Also inaccessible are the websites for foreign media, such as the BBC’s Chinese-language service, the German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle, the Hong Kong-based Apple Daily and the Taiwan-based Liberty Time.

The blocked sites will make it difficult for journalists to retrieve information, particularly on political and human rights stories the government dislikes. Journalists trying to use the Web complained about slow speeds and suspect a ploy to discourage use.

This games is a chance for Beijing to communicate with the world about its vision of the future, as envisioned in this leaked clip of the opening ceremony. The whole world is watching. Surely these guys know by now that everything has a way of finding its way to the Web?

This is the latest in a list of issues to have tarnished the run-up to the Olympics, which start on August 8, following controversies over pollution, human rights and terrorism threat. The Olympics have always been political, but probably none have been as wrapped up with national pride and global prestige as Beijing’s.

For a culture so hung up on image, the images that would speak of a First World China will not be the monuments or the medals that show athletes with yellow skin can run as fast as those with black and white skin. The image will be that caught and seen around the Web of a China in the glare of global media.

The ruling Communist party has stressed the need to use the Internet to “correctly guide” public opinion. Just two weeks ago, Chinese President Hu Jintao described the Web as “the battlefield forward position for the propagation of advanced socialist culture.”

It’s unclear whether the IOC might challenge Beijing’s interpretation of “sufficient” Internet access. The IOC maintains the Olympics are a sports event, and it should not intervene in politics. The Swiss-based body has been faulted for failing to hold China to promises made to win the bid.

Update August 1 2008:
IOC President Jacques Rogge said there had been “no deal to accept restrictions” on access. At a news conference in Beijing, Rogge said the IOC required journalists “to have the fullest possible access to report on the Olympic Games”. Asked if the IOC had been naive on the Internet issue, Rogge said: “I would say we are idealists. Idealism is linked with some naivety.”

Depends where you’re coming from Jacques. Naivete has no place in journalism. Skepticism rules. That’s why Reporters Without Borders advises journalists working in China to lock computer files and find safe translators. They should conduct phone calls and write e-mails knowing that they may be monitored.

Advice for foreign journalists during Beijing Games.
Learn how China monitors the Web: China and Internet Censorship

Related read:
IOC denies deal on internet curbs

More Bloggers Held for Political Posts June 20, 2008

Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Civic Media, Journalism, News, Social Media, Trends.
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If the number of arrests is a metric for assessing the growing impact of blogging on political life, then 2007 was indeed significant. The World Information Access Report says a record number of bloggers was arrested last year with Egypt, Iran and China the most dangerous places to blog about political life. These countries account for more than half of all the blogger arrests.

Since 2003, 64 citizens unaffiliated with news organizations have been arrested for their blogging activities. The report says these bloggers expose bureaucratic corruption or human rights abuses and express opinions about political figures and public policy options.

They run foul of the law for posting reports and photos from social protests, writing about political artwork, or sharing images and texts deemed to have violated cultural norms.

The Committee to Protect Journalists meanwhile says China remains the world’s leading jailer of journalists and writers. Beijing also exerts control over its fast-growing Internet sector, seeking to weed out porn and subversive websites.

China’s censorship of the Web has drawn flak from European Union telecoms chief Viviane Reding who says the Beijing Olympics are a chance for Beijing to show its commitment to free flow of information. Ms Reding, who is the European Commissioner for Information Society and Media does not think blocking of sites for political reasons is the right way to proceed.

Beat the Web Censorship Phenomenon June 16, 2008

Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Civic Media, News, Social Media, Trends.
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Thank goodness, for every state-of-the-art censor today, there are countless tricks to beat these guys. Here’s where the cat-and-mouse game gets creative.

PSSTT! Is your Web connection being censored? Wanna elude Big Brother? Would you prefer to stay anonymous, and not have your IP address logged on with every access to someone’s web page?

The Your Freedom services helps circumvent censors and spies. It even hides your network address from those who don’t need to know. Another tool – Gladder or “Great Ladder,” a browser extension for Firefox that helps users scale the virtual wall. Let the fun begin.

State-directed Web filtering happens regularly in Asia with China in the lead and pioneering online censorship methods just in time for the Olympics. The Great Firewall of China or “Golden Shield,” as Chinese officials call it, may be the most sophisticated censorship system in the world.

Many countries are already limiting access to Web content, on the pretext of “securing intellectual property rights,” “protecting national security,” “preserving cultural norms and religious values,” and “shielding children from pornography and exploitation.”

In the name of curbing lawlessness of the Web, many more states are flirting with the notion of erecting firewalls and screening content as a solution to complex social issues. This growing phenomenon defies simple metrics.

The map above was commissioned by Reporters Without Borders, which publishes a World Ranking of press freedom. The 15 internet-restricting countries on its list also top the ranking for press censorship. Here are the states, with their ranking on press freedom in brackets:

1. Maldives (144)
2. Tunisia (148)
3. Belarus (151)
4. Libya (152)
5. Syria (153)
6. Vietnam (155)
7. Uzbekistan (158)
8. Nepal (159)
9. Saudi Arabia (161)
10. Iran (162)
11. China (163)
12. Myanmar/Burma (164)
13. Cuba (165)
14. Turkmenistan (167)
15. North Korea (168 – bottom of the list)

The Open Net Initiative notes that censorship and surveillance have not been taken on as a public policy or legislative issue by governments and civil society in the Asia region.

Ideally, we would like to know how censorship reduces the availability of information, how it hampers the development of online communities, and how it inhibits the ability of civic groups to monitor and report on the activities of the government, as these impact governance and ultimately economic growth.

OPEN NET INITIATIVE

Internet censorship and content restrictions can be enacted through means like technical blocking, take-downs, removing search results and induced self-censorship. Filtration can occur at various points in the network such as the backbone level, Internet Service Providers, institutions and individual computers.

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