Sunday, December 06, 2009

Internet Transforming Politics and the Media

One example of a journalist who cannot be accused of not giving a topic the depth of analysis it deserves is the ABC's Eleanor Hall. She has just completed studies at Oxford University Internet Institute on the use of the Internet in politics. Her carefully researched 37 page Trinity Term Reuters Institute Fellowship Paper "Politics in the Youtube Age: Transforming the Political and Media Culture?", is available online. She argues that Obama's use of the Internet was not the grassroots campaign it was portrayed as, but had strong central coordination.

I concluded that the Obama campaign is less revolutionary than it at first appears and that there are a range of reasons why it is unlikely that British politicians will follow even some of the more riskfree elements of the Obama e-campaign.

The Obama campaign showed that online social networking can be a powerful political tool and the US President’s web supporters are justified in claiming this as the first election victory for YouTube politics. But it also showed that a web 2.0 community can be harnessed to a fairly traditional campaign hierarchy and could be open to manipulation by the very political gatekeepers it claims to
be challenging.

Obama’s is a story of how web 2.0 helped an outsider to get into the race for the White House but then how the candidate’s campaign used social networking to increase several important levers of its power. The campaign amassed a huge database of supporter contacts and information, it raised the biggest war chest of funds in US history and it used the web to marshal and direct its online supporters. It also used the internet to counter one of the other political power centres in the campaigning environment, the mainstream media. In doing all of this there were negotiations made and, sometimes uneasy, alliances formed.

The Obama team directed political activity but did not squash dissent, as campaign directors in a TV age campaign might have done. It broke away from the old “war room” approach to data that was characterised by secrecy and central control and gave supporters more autonomy in the way they involved themselves in the political campaign. The web 2.0 community showed it was powerful and Obama’s embrace of it meant many more citizens did engage in the political process. But this was still a political campaign with the goal of winning power and was strikingly similar in key respects to an old-style top down, command and control political operation.

As for British politicians emulating elements of the Obama e -campaign to re-engage citizens and reinvigorate the democratic process, most players agreed it appears unlikely to happen any time soon, despite the expenses crisis. While many MPs and citizens are increasingly using web 2.0 to engage in politics, institutional and cultural differences between the US and the UK make it unlikely Britain will ever see Obama-levels of enthusiasm for using web 2.0 in political campaigns. ...

From: Politics in the Youtube Age: Transforming the Political and Media Culture?, Eleanor Hall, Trinity Term, Reuters Institute Fellowship, University of Oxford, 2009

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Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Mobile Internet taking off with Younger Australians

Last night Scott Ewing from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation reported on a survey of Australians use of the Internet. This is part of the World Internet Project (WIP), looking at Internet use over time and accross countries. Some of the more interesting results are that 19% of Australians don't use the Internet, 94% of 18 to 24 years olds do and of them 20% use the Internet on their mobile phones. The published report is available: CCi Digital Futures Report The Internet in Australia 2008. Scott and his colleagues will be talking in Melbourne, PERTH, BUNBURY, HOBART, Adelaide, SYDNEY and other locations.

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

What do Australians do online?

Scott Ewing from the World Internet Project (WIP) will speak on the social, cultural, political and economic impact of the Internet and other new technologies at free ACS talks around Australia in October and November 2008:
Canberra7 October 2008
Melbourne15 October 2008
PERTH 21 October 2008
BUNBURY22 October 2008
HOBART28 October 2008
Adelaide29 October 2008
SYDNEY24 November 2008

ACS Branch Forum (Final EDxN for 2008)
The World Internet Project
What do Australians do online?

CCi Digital Futures is the Australian component of the World Internet Project (WIP), a collaborative, survey-based project looking at the social, cultural, political and economic impact of the Internet and other new technologies. Founded by the UCLA Centre for the Digital Future in the United States in 1999 (now based at the USC Annenberg Centre), the WIP is now approaching 25 partners in countries and regions all over the world.

The Internet is everywhere, at work, at home and on the move. If the Prime Minister's plans come to anything, it will soon be in every school. The underlying technologies are scarcely three decades old, and some of the most popular sites, such at You Tube and Facebook, are only a few years old, but this new world of information and communication is now, for many of us, an utterly everyday experience. What is equally remarkable is how little we really know about how the net is used, where and by whom.

Researchers are tackling these and other questions on several fronts. The answers will tell us a great deal about what sort of people Australians are becoming in the new era of networks. They will also tell us something about the real prospects for turning Australia into one of those new, desirable 'knowledge economies', based on innovation and creativity. What is the point of this sort of research? A global, long-run study of the net is useful for many people: for policy makers, for consumers, businesses and innovators. This kind of knowledge has another possible benefit, if it can help make what now seems strange a bit less scary. We could then spend a little less time worrying about what the net might do to us or our children, and some more time figuring out what it can achieve for us all.


Scott Ewing

A Senior Research Fellow at Swinburne University of Technology's Institute for Social Research and at the ARC Centre of Excellence in Creative Industries and Innovation, Scott Ewing has fifteen years experience as a social researcher, both at Swinburne and in the private sector. Currently managing the Australian component of the World Internet Project, a global survey of internet use and non-use, Scott's research interests include the social impact of new technologies and the role of economic evaluation in social policy. He has taught at both the undergraduate and postgraduate level and his research output includes a book, a book chaper, numerous monographs and reports, ten journal articles and many conference papers (both published and unpublished).

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

What is the news from 1911?

Google now has a news archive which can show a timeline, with news items sort by dates mentioned in the articles. I was looking for my name and was surprised to find a mention for 1911. This turned out to be a blog posting from me about Marion Mahony Griffin's sketches of for the 1911 Canberra design competition. This was quoted in the Technorati blog, which apparently rates as a news source for Google.

The distinction between a media release, a blog and a newspaper seems to be blurring. This will take some getting used to. I am more comfortable with the old fashioned system, where the journalist took a copy of my media release and rewrote it to pretend it was their own work. ;-)

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Thursday, July 05, 2007

China and Australia using New Media for Governance

Terry Flew at the launch of his book Understanding Global MediaGreetings from the Creative Industries Precinct in Brisbane, where the China, East Asia, Media, New Media Conference 2007, just started. About one third of the delegates are from China and I am feeling a little out of my depth, not from the overseas visitors, but the media studies emphasis of the conference. To me the Internet and web are for carrying "stuff" and I worry the stuff gets from author to reader; exactly what the stuff is I don't much care. The other speakers at this conference are vitally interested in the content and its effect on society.

I will be on two panels at the conference. As I am last on each panel, I don't expect I will get to say much, but prepared notes and slides anyway:
  1. "Inventing a New Media for China Beyond the Olympics", 11:25am, 5 July 2007. In this I suggest the Internet and web can be used for a blend of education, media and administration to create consultative government of local communities. This can be applied to an apartment block in China or a remote aboriginal community in Australia.
  2. Web Site for the 2008 Beijing Olympics: Integrating Sport, Money, Phones and Politics, 2:30pm, 6 July 2007. I give a quick rundown of the various web sites created for the Olympics. BOCOG invited me to Beijing to give some advice on the web site in 2003. But I point out that the new Beijing 2008 Olympic Web site does not comply with accessibility standards. As a result it will be more difficult to use, particularly for those using mobile wireless devices and those who have trouble reading the languages provided.
Comments and corrections are welcome.

Also Graham Young, Chief Editor, On Line Opinion, has arranged Pizza tonight for the opinionated (I am on the advisory board for the publication). Contact him for details:

Terry Flew's book Understanding Global Mediaps: Photo is of Terry Flew at the launch of his new book "Understanding Global Media" at the conference.

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Monday, June 25, 2007

Sport, Money, Phones and Politics in the Chinese New Media

The program is out for the 2007 China Media Centre Conference in Brisbane, 5 to 6 July. Somehow I ended up on two panels. The extra one is Friday, 6 July: Globalisation, Ideology and Theory, with Lian Zhu (University of Bournemouth, UK), Terry Flew (Queensland University of Technology), Xin Xin (University of Westminster).

I will be talking on:

Web Site for the 2008 Beijing Olympics: Integrating Sport, Money, Phones and Politics

Balancing the competing demands for the 2008 Olympic web site are as delicate as that of any gymnast. China needs to meet the requirements set down by the International Olympic Committee, the needs of internal readers, and the international media. The Sydney games made tentative steps towards a web based Olympic experience, which Athens retreated from. Beijing 2008 will be the first games of the new Web 2.0 era. How are issues such as control of content handled, what role will mobile phone based content have? Tom Worthington will discuss the issues from the point of view of someone involved with the early planning. He was an expert witness in the Australian Human Rights and Equality Commission on a case involving the Sydney 2000 Olympics web site design. He was invited to Beijing help in planning for the Beijing Olympic web site, with Chinese and International Olympic officials.

The other is Thursday on Re-Imagining Global Media, with Terry Flew, John Hartley and Michael Keane from Queensland University of Technology, Anne-Marie Brady (University of Canterbury, NZ), Jack Qiu (Chinese University Hong Kong). I am talking on "Inventing a New Media for China Beyond the Olympics".

It occurs to me that systems for community consultation in indigenous communities in Australia could also be applied in China. A village and a high rise apartment block are both forms of community which need day to day decisions to be made about them. Perhaps the same web based systems could be used in an Australian rural community and a Shanghai apartment block.

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Friday, June 22, 2007

Inventing a New Media for China Beyond the Olympics

The 2007 China Media Centre Conference is 5 to 6 July in in Brisbane. I will be speaking on "Inventing a New Media for China Beyond the Olympics":
In the past few years the Internet has gone from being a theoretical idea invented by a few western scientists funded by the US Department of Defence, to an essential part of world commerce and culture. Much of the technological infrastructure of the Internet remains the same even with developments such as Web 2.0 However our methods of work and analysis have yet to catch up. The Web created a new wave of grass roots publishing following on from email. The operation of the web for the Beijing Olympics will be the test case both for China, and all organisation structures. Within the Internet has always been the Trojan horse of grass roots participation; with Web 2.0 this will emerge to will challenge traditional power structures world wide.

Cross-disciplinary analysis is needed to understand the interplay of technology, politics and commerce. Media and cultural researchers need to throw off their arms length analysis and embrace the new media in order to understand it.
In 2003 the Beijing 2008 Olympic Committee invited me over to advise on their web site design. Also some of the students I teach web design and e-commerce to are from China. They will be the ones implementing Internet, web and mobile phone based systems which will be the platform for new media in China. One student just completed a special project to modify the Wikimedia to include advertising.

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Monday, February 05, 2007

Corporate social networking with web 2.0?

The IT business media seem to be taking Web 2 seriously, so perhaps it is time to look at it. But there seem to be several concepts mixed up together (or perhaps "mashed up"?). Sorting this out may solve some problems in corporate document management and academic publishing.

One is the use of AJAX and similar technology to provide a more interactive interface via the web. Another is traditional office applications provided via the AJAX interface (such as word processors and spreadsheets). The third is on-line meeting places, such as MySpace.

There is also YouTube, a video sharing web site, which usually gets mentioned in the same articles but does not seem to have anything to do with social networking or corporate applications, but just gets included because it is popular.

Capitalizing on Interactivity, Mobility and Personalization by Donna Bogatin, January 22nd, 2007:
Categories: Business Models, Web 2.0, Culture, Google, Blogs, User-Generated Content, MySpace, Social Web, Amateur Content, Self-Promotion, Google Software Applications, Social Networking, Social Media

Is MySpace coming to the enterprise? According to Business Week it is.

On what does Steve Hamm base his assertion? IBM's announcement today of “Lotus Connections.”

IBM describes its offering as “the industry's first platform for business-grade social computing”:

Lotus Connections facilitates the gathering and exchange of information through professional networks, provides a dashboard-like view of current projects and connects users to like-minded communities. In addition, Lotus Connections removes the need for multiple social software applications, providing businesses with a single destination for building professional communities. ...
Corporate social networking is name of game with Lotus Connections, By Stan Beer, 24 January 2007 :
While Microsoft has been trying to win Web 2.0 corporate hearts and minds with Sharepoint Server, IBM threatens to steal the show with a new corporate tested offering called Lotus Connections. Web 2.0 in the consumer space is all about social networking as exemplified by sites such as MySpace, YouTube and FaceBook. Users of these sites with common interests can network, share ideas and provide each other with information that builds upon their mutual knowledge base.
The idea of using more interactive web applications makes sense in the corporate environment, provided you have the bandwidth and processing power to do it and accept its limitations. In some ways this is a step back to centralized mainframe computing, with the web application running on the server. If the central application stops, no one can do any work. This would be a good way to go if you have a new application to introduce across a wide network.

The extreme case seems to be to run your corporate service on someone else's web server. Google have a service called "Google Apps for Your Domain" which provides online tools for email, instant messaging and shared calendar. The idea is that the same tools used for Google's Gmail and others are available for use by companies, educational institutions and other organisations. They use the Google system in place of their own in-house software.

Google are not charging for these services, but presumably are doing it to make people more familiar with Google's services which have advertising on them:

Google Apps for Your Domain lets you offer private-labeled email, instant messaging and calendar accounts to all of your users, so they can share ideas and work more effectively. These services are all unified by the start page, a unique, dynamic page where your users can preview their inboxes and calendars, browse content and links that you choose, search the web, and further customize the page to their liking. You can also design and publish web pages for your domain.
I remain a bit skeptical of online meeting places as a business tool. Any form of collaboration requires skills from the participants. Not everyone has these skills and corporations will need to invest in training and staff to make them work. As well as cooperation, workplace involve competition. Perhaps rather than a social network, an information market would be a better model for the on-line workplace. Also much social networking takes place outside the organisation.

Are companies prepared to formalize and document online the process by which their staff trade information with other organisations? In many cases these contacts take place verbally and informally, while tacitly endorsed by superiors. If the contacts took place via a computer system, all transactions would be recorded and could be used in evidence in court. Much of these contacts would be considered unethical or illegal, limiting the scope for using a formal system.

What has this to do with corporate document management or academic publishing? Organisations, particularly governments, are having difficulty with staff filing electronic documents properly. Academia are having difficulty over the role of academic publishing. In both these cases the problem is that the records manager or librarian sees the document or publication as an end in itself.

But the office worker or academic author sees them just as part of a process; a byproduct of doing some work or some research. By incorporating the social network process in the system used to produce the document, keeping good records or publications will be a natural by product of the work. This is more than just an automated work flow which prompts you for some keywords before you can save a document.

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