June 30, 2005

"Who -- and Where -- are the New Media Gatekeepers?" - IEEE DSO

Greg Goth, "Who -- and Where -- are the New Media Gatekeepers?"
IEEE Distributed Systems Online, vol. 6, no. 7, 2005.
http://dsonline.computer.org/portal/site/dsonline/index.jsp? pageID=dso_level1_article&TheCat=&path=dsonline/0507&file=o7003.xml

The questions surrounding who will ensure that online information remains accessible and authoritative have received much attention in recent months. Concerns range from European unease that a new book digitization partnership might result in an American-skewed repository of digital books, to apprehension over the Chinese government's near-ubiquitous control of search engines and Web sites. This debate over ensuring freedom of access and accuracy of information -- and who will assume the role of gatekeeper -- has raised old problems in new technological contexts.

I'm quoted:

How effective the unofficial bloggers' efforts will be in maintaining a window into China is a matter of debate among Western China-watchers. Longtime blogger and anticensorship activist Seth Finkelstein doubts that blogs alone will significantly alter the Chinese power structure.

"There are always people who win some victories under the present system, but I'm very much against technological determinism -- the idea that blogs are going to overthrow the government of China, -- Finkelstein says. "The idea that suddenly technological change will give a huge advantage to one side is [an] extremely dubious proposition."

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in censorware , press | on June 30, 2005 01:00 AM (Infothought permalink)
Seth Finkelstein's Infothought blog (Wikipedia, Google, censorware, and an inside view of net-politics) - Syndicate site (subscribe, RSS)

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Au contraire mon fraire. Technological determinism would say that as blogs are a technology that (a) can mix politics and diatribes in with hamster pictures (b) is hosted by US-based servers, providing localized languages, and (c) can be censored at a chokepoint as many people choose to use centralized servers-- these are all ingredients to suggest that they would be banned by a government that has a policy of controlling speech, as well as people.

If you or I or anyone had a goal of trying to build a technology which would foster some minimal sense of free expression while still getting past the Chinese censors, we would do that (and we might call it "MSN Spaces"). That's TD, too.

Posted by: Jon Garfunkel at June 30, 2005 01:18 PM

To help think about the future:

What happens when the A-list gets old, when there is so much more crap to wade through and the only hope of getting read is to get an uncensored comment onto an A-list blog. When the gatekeepers don't want to upset where their money/power/fame comes from?

Physics already has this problem some would say.
Lee Smolin has a published paper in Physics Today [http://www.physicstoday.org/vol-58/iss-6/contents.html], available here:
[let me know if the url is bad - google cache is still good though - and googling for no new einstein currently finds the article extracted from Physics Today]

Note the rebuttal of some points here;
[it gets a bit technical later on].

When the people with a voice (money, power) don't encourage diversity and actively discourage radical thought - for their own good - how do you plan to get the message out that their are alternatives?

Posted by: ian at July 4, 2005 08:29 AM

Jon, I'd say what you outline is against technological determinism, in that it's showing how an illusion of openness can be generated while still maintaining control.

Ian, if I knew that, I'd be doing a lot better than I am :-(.

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at July 6, 2005 05:52 PM