Archive for August, 2004

From Passive Reader to Active Participant

Monday, August 16th, 2004

In the old days (before the Internet) there was clear separation between reading about injustice and acting on it. One could read about dozens of cases of violations of human rights in the newspaper, or hear about them on television or radio. And entirely separate from this, there were campaigning organizations which gave activists opportunities to make their voices heard. There was very little overlap between reading and acting in the traditional media. But on the Internet, this distinction (between passively learning about a problem and actively doing something about it) is becoming blurred.
The obvious change is in terms of speed. We can now respond rapidly to cases of violations of trade union rights, or to appeals by workers for solidarity during disputes with employers and governments. But much more than that is taking place.
By integrating news with the possibility to act, we are beginning to change people’s behavior when they read news online. They move from being passive observers to active participants.


End of the Internet dream?

Sunday, August 8th, 2004

A decade ago, many of us were enthusiastic about the Internet in part because we believed that it opened up extraordinary opportunities for the left. The Internet could not be censored, we argued. Censorship would be treated as damage to the system, and information would route around it.
But a recent report from the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders makes for frightening reading. Indeed, after spending only a few minutes reading it, you may well become convinced that the dream of a free and instant means of communication which governments would be unable to censor has turned out to be an illusion.


Spam — not just in your inbox anymore

Monday, August 2nd, 2004

A couple of years ago, I attended a meeting with the staff of the IT department of one of Britain’s largest trade unions. We were discussing a plan for me to train union officials to make better use of e-mail. One of the issues I raised was training people to avoid getting spam. “No need for that,” I was told. “Spam is not a problem.”