Politics


An interesting discussion of the effects of communication technology on political polarization includes this nugget Although technology has contributed to polarization, it may also help rescue us. For example, Facebook has automated story selection for its custom news feed; for political news this tends to foster an echo-chamber effect. However, Facebook data scientists have found a better source of diversity: almost 30 percent of hard-news reports originating from friends reflect opposing views. Even better, individuals are likelier to engage with information like this when it is presented in a social context. I found this especially interesting because our surveys show that Facebook is by far the most common source of information at the bottom of the pyramid in our part of the world.
The Lankadeepa, the leading Sinhala newspaper in Sri Lanka, has reported a speech by Dr Ranga Kalansooriya at a recent event on media ethics organized by the Sri Lanka Press Institute, where he claims that a survey covering 14 out of the 25 districts showed very high levels of reliance on the Internet for political news. Of those who had changed their views on who to vote for President, 59 per cent had done so based on TV; while 31 percent did so because of Internet content. Only one percent of those changing their stance had done so because of print media Somewhat ironically, the SLPI has not posted any information related to the event on its website. Hopefully, more information about this survey will be forthcoming.
In a recent book chapter Nalaka Gunawardene and Chanuka Wattegama concluded that they had not, at least in Colombo in 2011.* Now the question is being asked again, in social media savvy Indonesia. But do retweets, likes and pageviews translate into support on election day? Conversations that start online radiate beyond the mostly urban, affluent users of social media – who are “social influencers in their environment, online and offline”, said Yose Rizal, the co-founder of PoliticaWave, an Indonesian social media monitoring group that is consulting for Jokowi’s campaign. Social media activism has already had off-line effects on the country’s politics.
First, a new medium becomes an extension of the old ways. Politician’s speeches on websites. Then gradually, new ways emerge. Internet is used for politics in ways hitherto impossible. NYT reports an interesting new way of doing politics.
Until the 1970s, it was customary to ensure seats for specific under-represented castes in the Sri Lankan Cabinet. It was only in 1989 that a non-leading caste politician got elected President. Caste-bloc voting has ceased to be a major factor in elections in at least the Western Province. These progressive changes are catching on in North India, it appears. South India is more progressive in economic and cultural terms, but caste is deeply embedded in the political practices in the South.

ICTs and freedom

Posted by on January 7, 2011  /  0 Comments

“The mobile phone can be an instrument of liberation even against heavy odds, and this is a subject on which the authorities are, understandably, scared. Communication is snapped in order to keep the population in a state of voice-less and communication-less submission” Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen makes the above statement about a liberating potential of mobiles. Here is the counterpoint: Social networks offer a cheaper and easier way to identify dissidents than other, more traditional forms of surveillance. Despite talk of a “dictator’s dilemma”, censorship technology is sophisticated enough to block politically sensitive material without impeding economic activity, as China’s example shows. The internet can be used to spread propaganda very effectively, which is why Hugo Chávez is on Twitter.

Chinese Internet

Posted by on April 8, 2010  /  1 Comments

“Press control has really moved to the center of the agenda,” said David Bandurski, an analyst at the China Media Project of the University of Hong Kong. “The Internet is the decisive factor there. It’s the medium that is changing the game in press control, and the party leaders know this.” Today, China censors everything from the traditional print press to domestic and foreign Internet sites; from cellphone text messages to social networking services; from online chat rooms to blogs, films and e-mail. It even censors online games.
“The government is spending a lot on e-governance by putting up kiosks in villages. These kiosks cost a lot and need electricity, which is not always available in rural areas. An internet kiosk costs the government about Rs 1.5 lakh, while this would cost Rs 22,000.” Financial Chronicle (New Delhi edition) quoted Subhash Bhatnagar, adjunct professor, IIM-A who did a Mobile 2.

Relevant social science

Posted by on October 20, 2009  /  0 Comments

LIRNEasia has been pretty successful at doing policy-relevant research and communicating the results to the policy process. Interestingly we have gone deeper into the use of statistics over this period, without giving up on institutional analysis. In this context, it is quite interesting to see how the debate is playing out in the context of a US Senator’s move to prohibit federal funding of social science. What remains, though, is a nagging concern that the field is not producing work that matters. “The danger is that political science is moving in the direction of saying more and more about less and less,” said Joseph Nye, a professor at the John F.
The profitability and surveillance potential of the state telecom monopoly has not been missed by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, described by many as the pseudogovernment of Iran: The nearly $8 billion acquisition by a company affiliated with the elite force has amplified concerns in Iran over what some call the rise of a pseudogovernment, prompting members of Parliament to begin an investigation into the deal. Full story. In other countries, similar arrangements are emerging. In Sri Lanka, it is alleged that no-name companies with interesting connections have entered into joint ventures with the incumbent teleco on highly favorable terms.
A search is on for the right metaphor. What is the new role for government — a platform? a vending machine, into which we put money to extract services? a facilitator? And what, indeed, is the new role for us — the ones we’ve been waiting for?