Monthly Archives: October 2007

So much for the discussion

13 Nov. Update

I emailed Heitham following his message with explanations, asking what he thinks about feasibility of my research idea (surveying bloggers). Unfortunately i haven’t heard from him since then (about two weeks now), which makes me think if approving my comments wasn’t just a reaction to this post. In other words, i wonder if the comments would get approved without me publishing this post.

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29 Oct. Update

I received a reply from Haitham today explaining that it was a technical issue and that my comments are up. I still think it would make an interesting research to inquire into bloggers’ practices, particularly when it comes to blogging about the conflict.

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It is always interesting when you personally encounter supporting evidence to your research in th daily life.

Just about a week ago I presented Dori’s and my research at AoIR. The study showed how the blogosphere discourse surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is oriented towards violence and polarization. Just a couple of days ago, I commented on a blog dealing with the conflict and had a chance to experience one of the aspects of this mechanism myself.

Trying to organize my thoughts about the OneVoice incident, I follow the blogosphere buzz on the topic. This is how i reached Sabbah’s Blog, written by Haitham Sabbah, as far as i understand son of Palestinian refugees currently living in Bahrain. According to his own explanation:

The blog topics encourage healthy discussions on political, cultural, religious and life in Arab World, however, my chief interest is in the intersection between politics, individual liberty and freedom in the Middle East, particularly in Palestine. The vast majority of my blog posts touches on this in one way or another, and try to create a better understanding of what is going around and speaking the truth which is always hidden in Western media when it comes to Palestine/Israel conflict.

Browsing through the blog (which has an authority ranking of 244 according to Technorati) i saw a number of posts that drew my attention, so i left comments. After all it is a blog, and it is supposedly a discussion. Interestingly, when you live a comment on Sabbah’s blog, there is disclaimer: “Comments are free, facts are sacred but NO ZIONIST PROPAGANDA!” There is no criteria for what considered propaganda for Sabbah, but here is what I learned.

I commented on two posts. The first, titled “NO Hebrew, Arabic mix”, was a framed presentation of Haaretz article about protest to an opening of a mixed Arab-Jewish school in one of neighborhoods of Jerusalem. The second, titled “The crime of sitting next to women”, was yet another framed Haaretz article about a case of religious fanaticisms in Israel. When i say “framed” i mean that Sabbah actually re-posted the entire article, or the most of the article, preceded by a short paragraph that doesn’t leave much room for interpretation he would like to provide.

On the first item I left the following comment:

But what about ignoring the fact that this school was actually built, that the project exists, and how about making a different passage in bold, for example: “The Hand in Hand organization has two other bilingual schools, one in Gush Misgav and one in Kfar Kara, in addition to the one at Pat, which is co-managed by principals Dalia Peretz and Ala Khatib. The organization also has two kindergartens in Be’er Sheva.” Unfortunately, the nature of the news is such that they tend to pick on the negative, what good does it do amplifying it?

And here is my comment on the second item:

You don’t have to focus on the particular case to show some of the absurds that the orthodox community expresses in Israel. You can look at the protests against the gay parades, the lack of public transportation on weekends, and the list is long. But i still don’t see how is that making Israeli democracy “so-called”. Actually part of the ridiculous things that happen in Israel regarding religion is a result of organized groups taking advantage of the democratic mechanisms.

Sorry, but i find this particular post kind of funny in light of your disclaimer for comments that forbids Zionist propaganda :) There are substantive issues for criticism in Israel, but I don’t think that the particular link you make is one of them.

Please judge yourself whether it was or was not “Zionist propaganda”, but none of my comments was approved by Sabbah. This led me to assume that there was a technical problem or maybe they were considered “Zionist propaganda” and not, as i naively assumed part of “healthy discussion”. So, I sent Haitham the following message:

Hello Haitham,
I left a couple of comments on your blog the other day, but I see they are still awaiting moderation. I noticed that there is a bunch of new comments left after me, so I wondered if there is a particular reason that mine are not getting approved. Please let me know if there is any technical glitch or if you think I abused your blog policies.
Thanks!
Dima

 

I left the comments on October 26, and sent Haitham an email on the following day. However up until today i haven’t heard back. I assume that Haitham got my message because nothing bounced back and i saw him continuing blogging. Thus, after seeing another comment being approved on the same post while mine is still awaiting moderation, my conclusion is that he is not really willing to discuss, but rather to propagate his opinions (here are two screen-shots of my comments awaiting moderation: comment 1, comment 2).

Leaving the normative aspects of the particular incident aside for now, i would like to link it back to the study mentioned in the beginning. It is really interesting to see how the blogs are getting utilized as particularly individualized means of expression. Of course there are platforms where discussions happen, but it seems that there are more instances of Haitham’s behavior where people tend to control opinions presented in their personal spaces. Seemingly, the comments section is one of the features allowing the discourse thus making “new” media more democratic compared to the mainstream. However, as this particular example shows, this space can be utilized to construct a particular type of narrative and discourse, thus preserving and even amplifying dynamics of content selection in the MSM.

In general, the whole issue of comments in the blogosphere is being under-researched, and it could be really interesting to see how this space is used by both readers and bloggers. I think one way to address that would be surveying the bloggers. However i wonder, what my limitations are, as an Israeli, to conduct such a survey. I think i would need a Palestinian partner to undertake such a study.

Any thoughts or comments?

Regulatory divide?

Recently I was surprised to discover that the Italian government is researching an option to tax and monitor bloggers. According to various sources, there is a pending law proposal requiring bloggers to register with the national registry of “communication operators”, which so far has been used for professional media only. Basically this law proposal is asking to enforce greater control over the blogosphere both in terms of its economic activity and in terms of content.

In addition to the ideological debate, i wonder how exactly they plan enforcing that? Will Italian members of Facebook have to register as well? What about Italian immigrants elsewhere blogging in Italian? And what about Italian using overseas platforms? It seems to me there are many questions and unclarity surrounding this issue, but it all links back to the ongoing debates about internet governance. I wonder to what extend the lawmakers asking to regulate the “new” media, are actually familiar with them and understand what is going on? The whole initiative seems bizarre at this point. If I had a mood icon here it would definitely be set to “confused” at this point.

Funny or not funny?

Tonight i saw a life performance of Stephen Colbert and here are my 5 cents*.

Up until about three hours before the show, i was certain that we are going to sit in a nice Bailey Hall with excellent acoustics and good stage view. However i learned that we are going to sit in a huge Barton Hall, which in fact is a sport facility. The place accommodated 5000 people, and Colbert was giving two of those shows tonight. That of course revealed some of the mystery as to how he was convinced to come here in the first place, after all the tickets were $25 and up.

But leaving the economic aspects of the show aside, how was it?

My initial reaction is that he is much funnier on TV compared to a live show. The jokes are more fluent and probably more rehearsed. You could see it when he would loose track of thought and actually read into the script. At one point, he didn’t have the script, which caused some confusion that was resolved quickly and positively in a jokily manner. More importantly however, on TV he doesn’t have to downgrade the humor to the college level. A few (rather anticipated) jokes about Cornell would do it, but he chose to dedicate about 1/3-1/2 of his talk to it. At some point, he went into sex jokes to a degree i was questioning if it was him on the stage, not to mention the excessive use of f-words. Something of the way he delivers the message on TV was lost when he tried to adjust, maybe a little bit too much, to the audience.

At the same time, it was interesting to see how he actually interacts with live audience. It seems like there are some questions he (and frankly I) really would like to know answers to, such as how come people do not distinguish his character from him and how come younger people tend to consume their news from him and the Daily Show. A few times, answering to calls for him to run for presidency he repeated that he is fake. It reached a point where he just said “I don’t really want to run, i just want to f@#k with people”, which seems to me a noble satiric goal. At the same time people were really obsessive with the idea of him running. At the end of the show he held a Q&A session using an interesting tactics. As verbose as he appears in his monologues, so concise and rather serious he was in answering the question. People were trying to get out of their skin to ask the more provocative/”smart” questions (like a girl who asked if he would give her a job or a fraternity guy who invited him to a party), but to many of those the answer was a simple “yes/no”. I think in this session you could see the John Stewart influences, for many times Colbert was making the joke simply by mimicking the person asking the question. However here you could see a little bit of the real Colbert the person passionate about what he is doing – when asked about career for starting comedian, he went into untypical lengthly and serious answer, and only towards the end remembered to make a joke out of it. The highlight of this session was of course a girl who claimed to be such a burn Colbert fun that her life wouldn’t be complete if she wouldn’t hug him (and yes, she got the hug).

During the whole evening a question about political role of current generation was kind of in the air. Colbert the character accused the current generation being active only digitally, not making influence in the real world. Colbert the actor, when asked again on the issue, tried to redeem himself by saying that this generation is not that bad, “look at the all money you guys raised online”. However, donating money does not demand as much as actually getting involved in convincing people in political opinion or even just voting. Poking in Facebok, or joining a group that supports Colbert for presidency, is by far easer than getting on the streets and getting involved in civic activism, trying to bring the change. So for me, the original question Colbert the character raised about the actual political participation of the youth remains open. And I think he is doing a good job in opening those questions.

A girl came up to make a point that he has a support pointing out at the great support he gained on Facebook, and Colbert sincerely asked “what does that mean?”. Although she tried to say that there are over million students supporting them, i remained with a questions. What does joining a support group for Colbert on Facebook actually mean? How much of it is done just for fun (similarly to the wikipedia changes that he so much likes to promote), and how much of this is actually support of people who think he can do it? And what does it mean if the people who joined the group, or who are using it to support their point, actually believe that he can is a potential candidate?

All in all it was nice, refreshing break with some light humor, but i keep on thinking is there more to political satire than just making us smile?

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* It is historically 5 cents and not 2, since i made this mistake a long time ago and it stuck. Besides, using Colbert’s tactics, which seem to work, if everybody else’s opinion is 2 cents, mine has to be 5 cents for sure! :)

Australian PM race made it to the Israeli news

I was rather surprised to notice the following title today on the Israeli Ynet: “Australia: The leading candidate picked his ear and chewed” (my poor translation).  Frankly, i wasn’t really aware that there is a PM race going on in Australia (my apologies Lisa), so i was really curios (and entertained) what is there in the manners of leading candidate to cause him hitting international headlines.  Imagine my surprise to discover that the focus of the drama is a 15 sec YouTube video showing Kevin Rudd “scooping something from his left ear with his finger, which he then puts in his mouth” according to Washington Post.  You have to agree with me that this is a rather unusual news title/topic these days, and it looks so surrealistic to read about ear-picking Australian candidate in an Israeli newspaper.

The interesting point, newspapers claim, is that this 15 sec video has the potential of severely damaging his campaign.  And the truth is that there is a precedent of YouTube doing that (see George Allen’s “famous” macaca controversy).  However there are two separate issues in hand.  The first is the ability of (supposedly) grassroots media input influencing political discourse and actual campaigns, which is interesting and indeed worth the attention.  The second is the substantive issue in hand – can we equate ear-picking with racist comments?

Ferries

I think I have a thing with ferries. I just like them. A few days ago i took a ferry to Vancouver Island and was truly amazed to see semitrailers, huge trucks, getting on board together with a couple of hundreds of people (or probably even more). And the ferry itself is so huge. It even has shops and a food court on board. I wonder what they are making more money of – the fares or everything else?

And more than the ferry, the route to the island is amazing. It goes through a mosaic of small islands covered by mix of clouds and trees. There is some kind of fog rising from forests and it simply joins the very low clouds. It is hard to describe, but it is really beautiful. If it would only rain a bit less…

BC

Disappointing indeed

I love Pandora! Particularly in the last year it has became my main music channel. However, today in Vancouver, as i typed the URL, i received the following message:

Dear Pandora Visitor,

We are deeply, deeply sorry to say that due to licensing constraints, we can no longer allow access to Pandora for most listeners located outside of the U.S. We will continue to work diligently to realize the vision of a truly global Pandora, but for the time being we are required to restrict its use. We are very sad to have to do this, but there is no other alternative.

We believe that you are in Canada (your IP address appears to be 142.179.108.32). If you believe we have made a mistake, we apologize and ask that you please contact us at pandora-support@pandora.com

If you are a paid subscriber, please contact us at pandora-support@pandora.com and we will issue a pro-rated refund to the credit card you used to sign up. If you have been using Pandora, we will keep a record of your existing stations and bookmarked artists and songs, so that when we are able to launch in your country, they will be waiting for you.

We will be notifying listeners as licensing agreements are established in individual countries. If you would like to be notified by email when Pandora is available in your country, please enter your email address below. The pace of global licensing is hard to predict, but we have the ultimate goal of being able to offer our service everywhere.

We share your disappointment and greatly appreciate your understanding.

Did I say disappointed?

Some thoughts from AoIR 8

I am currently at the conference of Association of Internet Researchers (AoIR). All in all it is really good and there many good and interesting people.  Here are some brief observations and questions that pop in my head.

  1. I now know why they are making academic conferences in Vancouver. It rains here practically 24 hours, so you can’t really go touring, so you sit in the sessions :)
  2. There is a large gap between industry people creating technology and researcher studying it. An industry person presenting at an academic conference is still giving a promotional talk to their product. I wonder if there are more productive ways to engage.
  3. I am asking myself what is the value of critical research beyond illuminating a problem? At some point i start hearing the “so what” question louder and louder in my head. So the world has its problems, but what do we do about them?  Aren’t we at that stage with internet research where pure description is not enough?

That’s it for tonight, but there will probably be more tomorrow or the day after…

Online product placement

In the past the newspapers used to place advertisements that look like real newspaper articles. They actually continue doing it today, only they are required to print it in a font different from that of the newspaper and mark these pages as “advertising.” Recently i noticed a similar phenomenon happening online.

Ynet is the leading Israeli online newspaper. Usually, on its front page there is a leading story, then two to three emphasized threads to additional featured articles followed by a video item, and then all the categories with a number of articles in each. However sometimes Ynet present a different format. Take a look at the following:

Ynet

Here you can see that there are still two emphasized threads, then the video, but then again an emphasized thread. The third thread look exactly as the previous two and only a trained eye could spot that it is a little bit different. Indeed, the third thread is in fact an advertisement presented in a form of article thread. This particular one is about a famous Israeli satiric TV show visiting the US.

It is interesting how certain practices survive the shifts between media.