Monthly Archives: January 2009

“… and communication for all”

Amit Schejter and a group of really impressive colleagues just released a new book titled “…and Communications for All: A Policy Agenda for the New Administration“.  Today (Monday) they held a one-day conference in Washington DC where they presented the book and discussed its chapters.  I really wanted to be there, but couldn’t.  Gladly, the technologies, regulation of which they were discussing, made it possible to watch the conference and even share it with you.

The first video includes some introductory comments from Sascha Meinrath and Amit Schejter, followed by a keynote from an FCC commissioner, Jonathan Adelstein.

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The first panel included the following speakers:

  • Marvin Ammori (University of Nebraska) – Competition and Investment in Wireline Broadband;
  • Richard Taylor (Penn State) – U.S. Cable TV Policy: Managing the Transition to Broadband;
  • Sharon Strover (University of Texas) – America’s Forgotten Challenge: Rural Access;
  • Heather Hudson (University of San Francisco) – The Future of E-Rate: U.S. Universal Service Fund Support for Public Access.

The second panel included:

  • Jon Peha (Carnegie Mellon) – A Spectrum Policy Agenda;
  • Rob Frieden (Penn State) – The Way Forward for Wireless;
  • Ellen Goodman (Rutgers) – Public Service Media 2.0;
  • Kathryn Montgomery (American University) – Creating a Media Policy Agenda for the Digital Generation

I think this video covers both panels.

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I watched substantive parts of the conference and it sounds really interesting.  According to Amit, the four commonly shared points in the book are:

  1. There is a need for deliberative government policy and for clear goals for telecommunication policy;
  2. The new policy direction should be technologically neutral, the segregation of media, information, and communication technology for regulation purposes has proved itself inefficient and obsolete;
  3. Telecom infrastructure should serve both, the commercial aspiration and the public interest; connectivity alone is not enough, it is important that people know how to use the technology in order to be able to acquire knowledge, innovate, and take part in pubic life;
  4. Telecommunication policy should be based on equal opportunity and non discriminatory practices; i other words, the idea of fairness is important for telecommunication policy.

To me it looks like an interesting reading.  Also, the New America Foundation’s YouTube channel seems to have some interesting talks, so it is worth checking out.

Visualizing the inauguration

In the spirit of recent days, AKA obsession with the inauguration, I thought to share a couple of visualizations of Obama’s speech.

The first one is using the IBM’s “Many Eyes“:

Obama's inaugurationspeech through Many Eyes

The other one is from NY Times:

Inauguration speech through NY Times

I am not sure what exactly stands behind each one of the visualizations, because the results are slightly different, but I think each one is interesting in its own way.  I think this is probably just the beginning of what we are going to see being done with all the information the new administration is putting out.  As one of my friends said: “Obama is over-communicator and it suits me”.

Also, you may be interested in checking out CNN’s 3D visualization using Microsoft’s Photosynth.  This one requires installation, but once you have it, you will be able to use the tool to view a 3D picture of the inauguration compiled from pictures that regular people have taken and volunteered to CNN/MS.  Unfortunately, there are not that many pictures in the database, so the result is not as smooth as some of the demos they had when the project was still in beta.

That’s it, this is my contribution to the hype at the moment.  Now back to work.

TIGRing

Just a day before the inauguration, the Obama team has published a video about their Technology, Innovation and Government Reform (TIGR) group.  As its name suggest, that is the group that will supposedly lead technological innovation in the Federal Government.  My understanding is that they are the people running change.gov and they were behind their Citizen’s Briefing Book initiative.

This latter idea probably deserves a separate post, but in the meantime, I just wanted to share a couple of observations from visiting change.gov after consuming it primarily via an RSS feed for quite a while now.  What you miss when you consume content via RSS are the comments.   This is where it is getting interesting.  When I checked the aforementioned post, there were only 16 comments and here is what I saw.

First, it is really difficult to maintain an open platform and at the same time maintain your agenda.  Naturally, the TIGRs are using change.gov in order to share information about government activities presented in a positive light.  However, it looks like people are not necessarily interested to talk just about the topic set by the administration.  Thus, for example, there were a number of comments dealing with some controversy surrounding Bishop Robinson.  I’ve been slightly out of the loop recently, so I am not sure what the controversy is about, but people seem to care and seem to feel free expressing their dissatisfaction and critique on the transition team’s website, even when the topic is something absolutely not related.

Second, kind of related to the previous one, if you open your communication channels, there is no way you will be able to downplay criticism.  In this particular post, people have been voicing their criticism also about the technology and innovation aspects of the transition team’s conduct.  Particularly, there were some comments about people’s dissatisfaction with the way their opinions were treated in the Citizen’s Briefing Book project.  Apparently, the visitors of change.gov voted legalization of Marijuana as their top priority, but this topic was apparently neglected from the book.  I am not sure whether this opinion represents the popular opinion of the American society or just that of those who feel comfortable using the web to participate actively.  Anyhow, the TIGRs are probably factoring in additional information and not just the users’ comments.  It looks though that the users of change.gov do view themselves as representing the entire country.

Third, again related to the previous, the issue of digital divide was brought up in this discussion by the users. A user named Mona Marlow wrote:

“While I think this is a vast improvement, one aspect has been overlooked. There is a huge portion of us who live and work in rual America. We cannot view some of this “new” tech, thus miss out on alot. Due to the lack of having access to or affording the high-end internet access required to partisipate and/or view some of this new content. It would be of great help and service to “us” if there was a basic html view as well. There is not much you can do of the video content, but perhaps have a transcript of it for rual America to read.
Thank You”

The bottom line is that after almost 3 months in the air, change.gov is evolving in terms of user participation and it will be interesting to see where the new administration will take it.

In the meantime, on the other side of the Atlantic, things are also changing.  The Russian president Medvedev has also opened his website to comments, but in the meantime only in the Russian version (RU).  I couldn’t spend much time on the site, but from what I saw the comments are more on the topic.  Of course the space is moderated (RU) and on the face of it there are more and clearer restrictions than on change.gov (here).  At the end of the day, however, I don’t think we have many chances to actually know what comments are not getting published on both websites.

So, these were my few observations for the moment.  Now back to work!

P.S. By the time I finished writing this post, there were already 33 comments on that post.  They got traffic!

P.P.S. An update. Actually, on kremlin.ru the discussion is also split. They actually provide a split of the main themes of the comments. So, in the latest post (RU) 785 comments were left on the topic (development of mass/public sport) and 396, the second largest category, were about the management of the comment space.  The admins of the website have even published stats for the period between Jan.12 and Jan. 19 (may be still available here in RU):

  • 7558 – Activated users
  • 961 – People who have not confirmed their email addresses
  • 230 – Blocked users
  • 2354 – Comments published
  • 982  – Blocked comments
  • 396 – Comments being reviewed

According to them, comments that were not published, contained personal complains or specific requests that needed an individual answer (that is not allowed according to their comment policy).  They say however that in all(?) those comments no contact information was provided, so they will not be able to take care of those complains and requests.

Reading blogs #9

I have very little time to blog these days, but I do have some drafts and more so thoughts about some ongoing developments. In the meantime, here is another digest of things I’ve encountered on the web.

  • Interesting reports, numbers, and visualizations
  • Interesting thoughts, ideas, opinions, and discussions
  • Digital Divide
  • MICT regulation
  • MICT business
  • “New” media
  • Simply Interesting, Fun, and Coll Stuff
  • As always, please feel free to comment!

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