Archive for the 'Digital Technology' Category

A new digital divide

[This was published in The Guardian’s Comment Is Free section, here. There are already quite a few comments, so perhaps continue the argument on that site]

Three years ago I had dinner with a senior alumnus of my university and he initiated small talk by commenting that in his day, they survived without email. It has recently occurred to me that I could now return to my university at the tender age of 24 and remark that in my day, we survived without Facebook. More than other social networking sites, and not just through its popularity, it has changed the way we interact and engage socially – but there is a potential cost.

Continue reading ‘A new digital divide’


Science fiction in Bangladesh?

I was flicking through the tv recently and came across a Bangladeshi science-fiction drama. This made me laugh out loud, partly because it was brilliantly cheap and the costumes looked like something from a Duran Duran video, but also because the idea of Bangladeshi science fiction itself is a bit absurd.

 Bangladesh does of course have big modern buildings, and investment from trans-national corporations, and offices with computers, internet and everything, but I’ve also been to villages where my digital watch is the most advanced thing there, and my digital watch is broken. I didn’t watch all of the show, but I could imagine them going off and encountering an alien planet where ‘oooohhh, look Rajesh, they have electricity 24 hours a day. This species is far advanced from our own. Where is their sewage network? It must be under the ground! Ooooohhhhh, super technology jah?’

It’s this juxtaposition of a world totally dependent on the latest international technology inhabiting the same geographical space as a world that doesn’t even have electricity that I find so staggering, constantly.

Continue reading ‘Science fiction in Bangladesh?’


I have a backlog of interesting things that I want to share with people, but never have the time/power supply to write about.

But this is cool: It’s a search engine specifically for documents related to Human Rights.

HuriSearch: crap name, great tool. Apparently it searches from over 3000 different websites, and scans them at least every eight days so the content is always fresh.

And when you do a search, you can refine the results by various categories; languages, sources, themes. It’s a fantastic resource, and essential given the nature of human rights work, where accuracy is everything.

Check out the results when you type in Bangladesh

Second Life – Geek’s Playboy Mansion?

I managed to find a short-wave radio on Friday, which has changed my life instantly because in the mornings, with a lot of fiddling I can pick up the BBC World Service. It’s strange to suddenly have the real world booming inside my little shack after nearly two weeks of living in what seems a sealed-off world, where a nuclear war could be erupting in the Korean peninsula and I would be quite happily oblivious, lost in a 19th century novel and talking to the goats. But they make rubbish conversation.

The World Service is probably the best thing that the British FCO fund, and I have a special affection for it because my routine in England, if I wasn’t out, would be to listen to music until 1am and then switch over to the World Service and get the news for a little while. It operates on a GMT schedule, so at 7am here I can still listen to the 1am bulletin, and it’s as if my two extremely different lives are now united by the same dulcet broadcast.

On Sunday morning they served up some religious programming, and my attention was caught by a feature on the introduction and evolution of religion in Second Life. For those of you unfamiliar, Second Life is essentially a new world that you can inhabit online. You register, create an avatar to represent you, and you’re off. Because its over the internet, other users also inhabit the same world, so you can see their avatar and interact with them (through typing on the keyboard). There are vast lands to explore, lands which you can ‘buy’ and build on, people to meet, and you can basically do anything. It’s like another life.

And it’s becoming very popular, up to 1.5 million users now, according to the report, up from only about 10,000 a few years ago. A ‘first life’ economy has emerged, with an estimated GDP of $64 million, as people pay real US Dollars to buy land and property in Second Life from other users. Big money too, thousands of dollars, which they wouldn’t do if there wasn’t a profit available. General interest in it is growing, and companies are beginning to investigate marketing and promotion activities. Last summer the BBC broadcast some of their radio output ‘within’ Second Life, so you could send your avatar to go and listen to Keane or whatever, German tabloid Das Bild is going to start publishing in it, and Reuters have recently appointed a correspondent to cover developments. To give a better picture, the Wikipedia entry for Second Life is here, a recent Guardian article here, and the Economist’s take is here.

If I was an ambitious anthropologist, I would be getting my arse in to Second Life now quicker than you can say geek. When I was working with the ippr’s Digital Media and Society team earlier this spring, I read a few articles about it, but on principle I’ve gone to the homepage and no further. I want to experience, learn and do as much as possible in the real world, not one hidden inside a computer network, so the idea of spending time interacting with imaginary people in an imaginary environment online when I could be outside in the natural one is an anathema to me. Continue reading ‘Second Life – Geek’s Playboy Mansion?’

Public Innovation: Intellectual property in a digital age

Earlier this year I did a research internship at the Institute of Public Policy Research. I was working with the Digital Media and Society team, and although I was working on Digital TV stuff, Kay Withers, the research fellow was working on this report which has just been published. You can read it here

When I first heard about intellectual property, I wasn’t exactly fascinated, but when I got into it I realised that how we share knowledge and information is incredibly important, especially in the digital age. And it’s well stupid that at the moment copying your music to your ipod is illegal.

So it’s a good report. Check it out if you’re interested. Nice one Kay.