Archive for the ‘civil rights’ Tag

International Alliances: Whatever You Do, Wherever You Work, Find a Better Phrase than “Developing Countries” – Now   Leave a comment

First, go watch this. And I say “watch” as in “look at it moving”… click the “play” button and see the world unfolding.

Oh, I do hope you were sitting. With any luck, “comfortably” will come back soon.

See the huge red ball fluttering around and literally bouncing hard on the floor between 1958 and 1961?
Now, that’s really the best part of this world by some very significant measures, as we all know- today, that is.

If you watch closely it bounces up much before hitting the bottom of the chart – mercifully.
I shiver to the thought of what must it have been like, and I do so watching this graph much more than when I read gut-wrenching accounts of that story over the last few decades.

International alliances are probably among the easiest varieties of international work, and the lesson that Professor Hans Rosling’s  Gapminder drives here feels like applying to many of the most complex kinds too, from trade and manufacturing, to cooperation, to aid, to finance and diplomacy.

I start from alliances for a very personal combination of reasons. For now, let’s just say

  1. it was a long time alliances colleague and friend pointing me to this,
  2. surely alliances must be across borders and so international, or what are they? 
  3. it looks like Gapminder can help us see the limits of some myths shaping how we act – internationally.

In his donation request, professor Rosling calls them “devastating myths”.
If you find this a bit too strong, go to the link here at the top and just watch the ball pinball around, bounce hard, then float up left. Safely, I am sure we all hope, since the vertical axis is labeled “life expectancy”. 

There’s plenty more myths where this comes from, and plenty more devastation. I so hope alliances, too, can help improve on some.

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How Do You Say “Freedom of Speech” in Social Media-ese?   Leave a comment

The Economist’s “Babbage” blog just posted a great introduction to a thoughtful Foreign Affairs feature by Clay Shirky on The Political Power of Social Media.

Time matters. Freedom of speech on the Internet before social media is different from of speech on the internet with social media. Freedom of speech before Wikileaks published quite a few confidential comments by members of diplomacies is different from the same after those comments were published.
Ask Mr. Shirky, who does point to Wikileaks as one of the places where valuable political conversation and coordination happens, likely before the recent highly visible wave of leaks.

Luckily, this coincidence fully supports Mr. Shirky’s very point: to determine how the Internet helps freedom and civil rights, and to help this process, focus on long-term (“environmental”) actions and effects, rather than short-term (“instrumental”) pressure to fight individual censorship acts such as tracking and punishing bloggers, or blocking access to international news.

Much better to support access to conversation than access to information: it allows long term mutual education and sharing, and it enables networked coordination, independent from hierarchies. Freedom of speech here is more about building an environment for civil organization and collaboration than individual tools. Conversation (“debate”) in these environments is what historically has shifted the balance of power between civil society and governments.

I find this notion a very effective simplifying tool to assess the value of media, including social digital media, for building freedom. Do check out the original article for much deeper and richer insight.

Update: for a likely more sobering view, see the Economist’s review of Evgeny Morozov’s book “The Net Delusion“. Based on the review, the book appears to support Mr. Shirky’s recommendation  mostly by highlighting how much the Internet can actually help authoritarian regimes track and crush opposers.

According to the review: <<“The internet”, Mr Morozov argues, “has provided so many cheap and easily available entertainment fixes to those living under authoritarianism that it has become considerably harder to get people to care about politics at all.”>> Perhaps even more importantly for how democratic governments and communities can contribute: <<Authoritarian governments are assumed to be clueless about the internet, but they often understand its political uses far better than their Western counterparts do, Mr Morozov suggests.>>

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