Asylum seekers revenge?

I heard about this from my flatmate, and I found some details at SMH/a>.

It’s a dose of virtual reality that the Immigration Minister could probably do without: a computer game in which players try to escape from Australian detention centres has received $25,000 in federal funding.

The game, Escape from Woomera, will be modelled on four of the country’s most contentious detention centres. It received the money from the Australia Council, the federal arts funding body, last month.

Lessig on media

Larry Lessig: “On June 2, the FCC is scheduled to release new rules governing media ownership.” [via Scripting News]

Larry points out that “the revised rules will remove limits on media concentration”. This is dangerous, and needs to be reviewed and challenged, for reasons anyone who is working in the media space should be aware…

Iraq death toll (cont…)

Today we see the Iraq death toll climb dramatically to 4771. This is 1970 more people than were killed in the WTC attacks.

This is no longer news – no headlines, no TV coverage…

Dark Victory

On the weekend I got hold of Dark Victory by David Marr and Marian Wilkinson.

I am halfway through, can’t put it down. It outlines the disgusting lengths the government has gone through to keep asylum seekers, 90% of whom the government expected to be bona-fide refugees, out of the country. And how, in the process they have managed to change the law, lie, deceive and inappropriately engage the miltary on the way.

IMHO this is an absolute must read for anyone interested in politics and/or refugee rights issues.

Decentralized culture

Dave Winer and Kevin Werbach talk about decentralization (as facilitated by the internet) and how it flattens cultural divides.

Note: Kevin makes a really interesting point – the following is not an attack on his views, just an extension through discussion.

Kevin rolls out the old claim that the net “levels the playing field” for ” local and independent content creators” and BigCos. I would propose a correction to that statement: the net has the potential to level the playing field.

Apple’s recently launched Music Store is a prime example. This will be the place many MacOS users will go to purchase music – why? because it’s baked into iTunes. Where are the independent and local content producers here?

Contrast this with ChaosMusic – an online music store that encourages local content producers to place product with them. And it works (my band’s independently produced CD is available online) to an extent. We still don’t sell thousands of CDs though. Why? The cynic could argue that our music isn’t popular enough, and that may be true. But my experience of the music landscape (having lived with a record co sales rep for a number of years, and chatting to his work colleagues, as well has being involved in the local independent music scene for a number of years) is that without radio support, and big co advertising budgets, the general population does not get exposed to the local content.

The internet is not the only media space that we live within, and it certainly isn’t the most powerful for shaping people’s behaviours, views, and buying habits.

Kevin also mentions that “the greater leveler of all: ubiquitous unlicensed wireless communications” is “just around the corner”. It is indeed an exciting time, but…

Regulators and corporates alike recognise the importance of spectrum, even spectrum for local area wireless. It may not be unlicensed forever. And who pays for the bandwidth used? Companies will not be willing (necessarily) to pay for every punters use of their wireless capabilities. That’s one of the reasons we are seeing a lot of activity in developing security mechanisms for wireless.

Trackback and news

I like trackback. It enables me to indicate that I am pointing or referring to something I’ve read and/or commented on without trying, and have readers of the original article see that debate. And reciprically I can tune into follow-ons from my posts.

Imagine if a news site like the Guardian, or the BBC, implemented trackback. The reader of the original article could then explore the responses to that article – both sides of the debate, different views, more information etc.

The difficulty would be working out how to filter out the “read this and it’s interesting” posts from the posts containing commentary so that the signal to noise ratio is improved.

Social software

The Guardian: Social climbers [via Scripting News]

The author,Jack Schofield, makes an important statement at the end of the piece: “But my bet would be that the most important social software isn’t going to develop out of blogging anyway: it will come from instant messaging.”

To this, I say – “yes and no”. I think that SMS, and its online cousin IM, will make a massive impact as a form of social software, if you only look at it in terms of uptake, and not in terms of purpose. IM and SMS are both conversational mediums, they are transitory. They are also centric around two people communicating one-on-one.

Blogs on the other hand take a longer view of the conversation. And, most importantly, the conversations are public. One of the things that I think is sadly lacking in society at the moment is broad public discourse on many issues that affect us, particularly political issues. Blogs can just be an extended personal conversation, to a few select friends for example. But they have the potential to be a lot more, and this is something that I don’t think that IM or SMS will ever achieve.

Two simple examples are searchability and (at least semi-) permanance. I remember being shocked to find my blog appear in the top ten results of a Google search on “Apple Powerbook August Release” (don’t try it now, no longer in the top ten) just before Apple announced the new Powerbook models. And I increasingly find I refer to my own and other blogs to recover information that I have posted or read at a later date when it is regains its relevence. IM and SMS do not support either of these features.

This is not to discount the importance of IM and SMS to the social communication (and by extension the social software) debate. They are incredibly important, particularly because of their uptake, and the power that mass uptake can have on changing social dynamics. But if you look beyond one-to-one communication technologies, weblogs and other such software are a very interesting phenomena. I’m not sure how big an impact they’re likely to have, but interesting nonetheless.

What I find most interesting is how they have gained popularity with people that wish to extend beyond the shortcomings of discussion groups and mailing lists. But blogs have some limitations in and of themselves, which leads me to believe that blogs are an important addition to the media/internet communication landscape, rather than the major revolution it is sometimes positioned as.

Salam Pax – update

Salam Pax has managed to get 15 new entries online. I read the first one (at work at the moment, so can’t read all 15). [via Joi Ito via Nik Denton]

For those that missed it, Salam Pax (not his real name) is an Iraqi blogger living in Baghdad. His entries stopped March 24. Glad to hear he’s back. One thing he had to say:

“Let me tell you one thing first. War sucks big time. Donít let yourself ever be talked into having one waged in the name of your freedom. Somehow when the bombs start dropping or you hear the sound of machine guns at the end of your street you donít think about your ìimminent liberationî anymore.”