martes, 22 de marzo de 2011

Internet: Freedom or Repression Service?

Now that the five years of life of social networks like Twitter are celebrated, now that journalism depends in such a way from the Web, now that everything seems to be controlled by new technologies, now that this topic is more than controversial, it looks like stupid to present the question of if the Internet is a tool used by Governments in order to guarantee democracy or to guarantee dictatorship or if it is a free tool that guarantees the same freedom to users... Or is it not so stupid?

The Internet can be a tool for democracy,yes, but it can be also to encourage dictatorship, due to the fact that there are filters and people, specially politicians, that can, or cannot, use the Web and control it in order to win some benefits, like winnig a political campain, winning converts, etc. In my opinion, the Internet is a tool that is controlled and not at the same time; it's a tool to encourage democracy thanks to freedom of expression, but also it can be a good passport to dictatorship thanks to the false transparency and State secrets, due to which you can be strongly punished if you reveal them.

Yes, let's do not be deluded: everybody knows that Governments don't tell the truth in every cases. Everyone, and specially the political status that is in charge of governing something so difficult to govern like human population has reasons to shut up certain topics. Do you remember the censorship in Egypt during the revolution? It was organised by the Government when they realised that they were loosing the war, wasn't it?

And what about Lybia? Isn't it in the same situation? Aren't journalists finding tons of difficulties to do their job? Mmmm... interesting. Do all that Governments have somthing to hide? I'm sure they have it. If not, I we wouldn't be able to explain what is censorship for in that countries. As we see, in these cases, Internet can be a very useful tool to avoid State secrets to see the light, specially among a population which was always subject to a more powerful institution without asking why and begging anything more than their own peace and calm. Something similar to the famous "If it doesn't happen to me, I don't mind what it happens".

This repression version of a theorical freedom tool is reflected as well in countries like China, where the Government took special care of doing things correctly so that people didn't realise that they were not able to access to certain webpages because politicians wanted to make them private with the famous "Great Firewall" strategy, or Cuba, where we can find nothing more and nothing less than a social network for the Government, controlled by authorities and destinied to prevent native and foreigners to visit other webpages not registered on the Cuban list. If I want to know what'w up in my country and I type, I will be directly brought to the main Cuban newspaper official webpage: Granma. Why? Good question. Disgusting...

Internet, the giant. Internet, the most powerful tool in these days to give information, whether it is desirable or not. Internet, the way which with everybody can know anythig about anything and anybody (identity thefts is the best example of this last topic). So, what do we have? A crucial tool that leads censorship, or because of which men lead censorship? Maybe, the answer "time will say it" is not the most appropiated in this complex context... For the moment, I will keep on using it until they tell me not to do it. What about you?

lunes, 21 de marzo de 2011

Social Networks: maybe the next Police Officer

When we saw TV, when we heard the radio, when we read newspapers, when we did anything that March 11th, everything was realted with the terrorifical earthquake on Japan. A new tragedy that stole the apellative of 11-M to the Spanish train accident in a seven-year-ago calm morning. Just hours after, the whole world knew what happened in Japan, everybody knew that some coastal towns disappeared forever from the map. Immediately, help started arriving from each corner of the world. Even stars like Lady Gaga, Tokio Hotel, Justin Bieber and a very long etcetera posted comments on Facebook, Twitter, and recorded videos that were posted on Youtube. One more demonstration that social networks, and by extension, the hundred thousands millions of citizens in the world, never forget victims.

Another example, which I've discovered right this morning, is a message a friend has send to me. I suppose everybody knows the horrible Sandra Palo's  murderer. Well then, her murder is on the street "thanks" to the judge's initiative to release him after four years of internament in a reformatory center. Before, it was illegal to send a picture with his face, because he was a minor, but now, and knowing taht he is again on the street, threatening everyone he does not like, violating young girls and accumulating 400 (yes, look it on Google if you don't trust me) complaints, people, and specially Sandra Palo's family, have organized a platform on the Internet and through social networks like Messenger, in which this delinquent's face is shown, so that everybody knows his eyes and his grim look. Again, and if we are lucky, we could say that social networks have helped putting another mudered in prison, the main objective that a distroyed family looks for.

martes, 15 de marzo de 2011

Digital Divide: Who to blame?

Well, maybe this is a very metaphorical picture, but it's clear what it means... Nowadays, everybody knows about the use of the Internet, and let's not regret it: when we meet someone who tells us "I don't have Internet at home", we cannot avoid looking at them with  "poker face". "But what you do not have Internet access?", we use to say. But, who knows? The world is very big, and anybody tells us that that person has a very easy life, or an easy access to the Web. The topic is that, whereas developed countries keep on growing their potencial and keep on developing, developing countries are not in the same situation. They even don't move from their status.

My question is: is Internet an impartial media? Or better: is Internet an independent media, in the sense of not being manipulated by governments, companies and private institutions? Internet Users on September 2009 gives us a show of the Internet Users Stats data base. I'm sure that, without looking it, we can get an idea of what countries will be the most powerful in terms of Internet access and which will be the most poor ones. Although there are data which can be strange for us (in Asia there is more access to the Web thanks to that it's much higher-populated than the Internet home land, North America; or there is less access in Australia than in Africa for the same reason), we have to wonder about the Digital Divide, and why is it caused. Let's think about a couple of examples.

Two days ago, as they say, Egypt suffered the worst Internet crisis of his history: due to the hundred revolutions against the Government, Mubarak took the decision of banning access to the Web, social networks (although these protests were convened through them), etc. So, the country was absolutely incommunicated, and because of that, we can explain the people desperation to show the world what was happening through radio and television. I think that case is one of those that represent the Queen Digital Divide.

In the same situation was China not long ago, when the Government started to restrict the access to information because it  didn't suit it that people knew what was being done with Google in that country.

But we have to think about something: is it always governments' fault? Thinking it carefully, I don't think so. If we take a look on Jan van Dijk's ideas, we can find four types of steps that an individual user must take if they want to get into the huge Digital Community:
  • MOTIVATION = If this aspect is absent, the Internet access would not make any sense for that user. I can have all the means; if I don't want to use them, is not the institutions' responsability.
  • MATERIAL AND PHYSICAL ACCESS = We can have the computer there, in our room, but never touch it because...
  • SKILLS ACCESS = ...we don't know how to manipulate it, or we ignore how to find out a webpage in Google.
  • USAGE = It is the main goal the other conditions bring us to. If them are not sufficient condition to talk about Digital Divide, they are, at least, an important part of it.,r:6,s:18&biw=1366&bih=570

To sum up, in my opinion the Digital Divide origin is not totally clear. At least for me; I always used to think that we had to blame governments about differences in freedom of expression, Internet access, the gap between one developing country an another already developed... But this can be as inadequate as illogical. Yes, OK, governments take a very active roll in this game, but I think people contribute too, although we don't realise it. So, as we are talking about freedom of expression and egalitarianism, let's all try to convert the Digital Divide in "Digital Scar".

viernes, 11 de marzo de 2011

HEY! We are participatory journalists!!!!! ;P

Haven't you realized? Now, we all know what participatory journalism is in practise. You post comments in my blog and I will do the same with yours!!! Good proyect to know more deeply this theorical concept... =) This is "awesome as arts". This is the art of communication.
I remember what we have seen in class about it. Such a funny concept, I thought at the first time: people doing journalism without being journalists... Well, we are not journalists still, but here we are, making blogs and correcting ourselves (please, if you have some correction to make me do not have any doubt... I'm still fighting with the blog ;), talking about things we like... and "user-generated content"... And also, people who are following us are participatory journalists without knowing the subject, the proyect and without knowing even the fact...
One more evidence of the impact of websites in our lives and citizenship participation in them. One more evidence of the future journalism. 
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