Monthly Archives: March 2009

Google is a media company

I was listening to a recent conversation between Siva Vaidhyanathan, the author of “Googalization of Everything” and Matt Brittin, the newly appointed CEO of Google UK.

While I found the overall conversation interesting, one particular phrase caught my attention.  When he was defending Google against allegation of being parasitic (i.e. they do not produce content, but only provide access to it), Matt Brittin said that it is an: “easy criticism to level, particularly in a really tough downturn, which is affecting media companies all over the world including Google” (emphasis added).

Of course this is not a trend (yet?), but I find it really interesting that Google high-level executive  talks about the company in terms of media.  I think it further contributes to our growing realization that information and communication technologies (ICTs) as social factors are becomming more and more amalgamted with content.  This is a really interesting contribution to the argument that it is important to consider content related aspects when we talk about technology or in other words that we are talking about media, information, and communication technology (MICT) and not just ICT.

Just a note I wonted to take and to share.

ITU: The future of ICTs video contest – deadline March 31

In the video below a really nice, but nameless, girl is advertising the current ITU video contest titled “The future of ICTs” using some really “fancy” video effects.

Leaving aside the particularities of the video, the competition itself looks like a good opportunity for those of you who are interested in getting their ideas heard and perhaps even make it to the upcoming World Telecommunication Policy Forum in Lisbon in April.

In a nutshell, you have to have something visionary to say about the future of media, information, and communication technology, you have to be between the ages of 18 and 26, you should speak in English, Arabic, Chinese, Spanish, French or Russian, and you need to know how to shoot and upload videos to YouTube.

The deadline for your submissions is March 31.

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Currently there is only one video response published on YouTube, so I guess there is still room to compete.  Here is the link again (you should read the conditions carefuly) and good luck!

OLPCorps Africa – March 27 deadline

Although it received quite a lot of (somewhat just) criticism on OLPC news (here and here with the second post trying to make sense of the first one), I think this is quite an interesting move on behalf of OLPC.  I think there is a lot of the youth potential, which the author of the blog post is overlooking and I would like to share this opportunity with those of you who are interested in OLPC-related activities.  For example, I think it may particularly interest those of you who were at the last ITU YF in Bangkok and had an opportunity to be thoroughly introduced to the XO laptops.

Here is the gist of the initiative:

What?

OLPCorps Africa is a unique grant program focused specifically on learning in Africa. Student teams are equipped with the tools, resources, and know-how to develop grassroots learning environments in an African country of their choice. OLPC is drawing upon the world’s student leaders to spark a university-led grassroots initiative in this global learning movement. Through OLPCorps Africa, OLPC is creating a global network of student leaders who will create a lasting impact at the local level, build a network of student activists, and initiate a grant program that will become renown.  (source)

Eligibility? - Undergraduate and graduate students, over 18 years old, from any country.

How?

$3,500,000 for 100 teams of college students to get $35,000 in support for 10 week projects in Africa. Each group gets 100 XO laptops, assorted hardware, a $10,000 stipend, and 10-day training in Kigali, Rwanda, before being sent out to projects. (source)

When?

The workshop will begin June 8th and end June 17th. Teams should arrive at least 1 day before. However, teams are encouraged to arrive as early as the 6th in order to adjust to the time-difference and leave room for flight-delays or any other unexpected circumstances which may arise. (source)

The duration of the Grant Program is 10 weeks (June – August), including the orientation in Kigali. Teams should arrange with their local partner to stay for at least 9 weeks. (source)

Proposals deadline is March 27th.

Please consult the wiki of the project for further details.  Note that there are many people there who are looking for local partners to form a proposal team.  So, if you are in Africa, you may find good partners there.

I was also excited to see that there is a group of Cornell students who have applied for this opportunity.  I hope to get in touch with them and offer them my help.  If any of you is applying, I would be also glad to hear about that!  Please let me know if I can help, particularly with linking people who are looking for partners.

Good luck everyone!

Reading blogs #14

I started collecting this digest about two weeks ago, but between the A-exams and other commitments, I did not have the time to update or publish it. So, here it is. Perhaps slightly outdated, but hopefully still interesting:

  • Recent news related
  • Interesting reports, numbers, and visualizations
  • Interesting thoughts, ideas, opinions, and discussions
  • Digital Divide
  • MICT regulation
  • MICT business
  • “New” media
  • MICT and politics
  • Simply Interesting, Fun, and Coll Stuff
  • Continue reading

    Help me realize a dream!

    For the first time in my life I am entering this kind of competition and I am really excited about it!

    Microsoft and Lenovo have launched “Name Your Dream Assignment” competition.  They are going to give $50K to one of the top 20 photography projects that will win the popular vote on their website.

    I just submitted mine and you can find it here (there is also a badge on the main page that is linked to my project).  Since there are space limitations for project descriptions, I also created a page here, on ThinkMacro, that has more details.  Please feel free to explore.

    If you are reading this, I would really appreciate if you take a few minutes and vote for my project!

    Please PIC IT!

    Learning from students

    One of the good things of being a teaching assistant (TA) is that I am getting exposed to a great variety of views and opinions of the students I am working with.  It is somewhat scary to think that many of these students are ten years younger than me, but it is often fascinating to learn how they are using MICT and what they are thinking about technology.

    So I decided to share a couple of insights I have learned from (and about) my students.

    Insight #1: Last semester I TAed for an intro communication class.  At some point (somewhere in late October) we were talking about the upcoming election and the use of MICT in election campaigns.  Specifically, the students were presented with a way of assessing political websites in terms of interactivity, hypertextuality, and social presence.  At the end of the class the 102 students were polled about what aspect of the website would be most important to them.  Thanks Laura and Sue, who agreed to actually count all the votes, I am able to share them with you:

    • Interactivity – 35.3%
    • Hypertextuality – 34.3%
    • Social presence – 27.5%
    • Combination of a number of aspects – 2.9%

    If I recall the discussion in class correctly, this means that (1) the students appreciated an ability to “talk” to the candidates, express their opinions, and get involved in discussion, and (2) they appreciated an option to learn more and in depth about the subjects presented on campaign websites.  Needless to say that this is not by any means a rigorous or comprehensive study and we cannot really learn anything substantive from it, but nevertheless I think it is an interesting indicator.

    Insight #2: The class I am TAing for this semester has a blog where the students have to post weekly assignments.  In the last assignment they had to observe their own usage of their mobile phones for a couple of days and then discuss issues that bothered them the most.  I have no numbers to provide this time, but here is what I learned from reading their reflections:

    • They are connected! Not that this needed any proof from me reading the blog posts (PDF), but it is really amazing to read about the central role this device is playing in their social life.
    • They are very responsive. One of the most common complains was about phone calls and text messages interrupting their studies, their sleep or their class sessions.  On the face of it, what can be easier than simply turning your phone off, but it turns out that missing phone calls or taking too long to response to text messages is not very socially acceptable.
    • They want control.  As one of the common solutions, many students offered to have an equivalent of tagging so that they could catalog people in order prioritize phone calls and text messages as they arrive (note that this is different from assigning different ring tone to individual contacts).  Another popular feature they have advocated for was an ability to link their calendars to their mobile phones, so that the phones would ring, vibrate, or turn off according to their schedules.
    • They don’t like uncertainty. Another commonly suggested feature was status notifications.  On the one hand, they want to let people know why they are not responsive or signal to people when it is appropriate to contact them.  On the other hand, they want to know why somebody is not answering their calls or text messages.
    • Mobiles are social. Anther common complain was that the phone rings in inappropriate times (class, library, etc.).  It turns out that people really care about this and it is considered very embarrassing even to the digital natives.

    Again, none of those observations is subject to any rigour, but I found reading these blog posts really interesting and insightful.  Hope you will find those interesting too and I wonder if any of the mobile industry players is actually working on developing some of the features the students have advocated for.