Saturday, April 30, 2011

Guardian Activate 2011 in NYC

Guardian Activate 2011 in NYC
Guardian News and Media has taken its annual summit on media and technology to New York City this year, and thanks to a tweet from Nieman Journalism Lab, I found these very interesting conversations, facts, stats, opinions from a live blog of the summit.

The summit had several panel discussion on diverse subjects. There was a lot of material there, I have picked up snatches that I found interesting…Readers more interested in this could go straight to the live blog...Read on...

The keynote panel on how technology can empower women and aid international development.

Joined on the panel by the compere Adele Waugaman, senior director of technology partnership at the United Nations Foundation, are: Rose Shuman, founder of Question Box; Katie Stanton, vice president of international strategy at Twitter; Sennen Hounton, monitoring and evaluation specialist at the United Nations populations fund; Jeanne Bourgault, president at Internews Network.

Jeanne Bourgault, president at Internews Network, says that in 2010 only 13% of all news stories focused on women, only 20% of the women you read about are women, around 80% of experts you read about are men.
It's important that women get engaged in professional and citizen journalism because:
• Women report on issues that are unreported by men
• There's a visible difference in way that women report on stereotypes than men
• Through media, women are able to express opinions in the way that they can't anywhere else in their lives
• Media has unique ability to uncover root causes of discrimination. If it can introduce this discrimination to the conversation that could have a powerful impact

Katie Stanton, vice president of international strategy at Twitter, has been at the social messaging site for just over a year. There are now more than 200 million Twitter accounts worldwide, she says, and more than 70% of Twitter traffic comes from outside the US (roughly 25% of all tweets come from Japan).
Stanton: one of most important points about Twitter is that the founders care about reaching parts of the world with the weakest signals, making it as accessible as SMS.
"Twitter isn't so much a triumph of technology, it's a triumph of humanity – connecting those stories and connecting those voices."
40% of tweets come from mobile devices. There's roughly 300 million women with less access to mobile phones than men, according to Stanton. Women with a phone are 90% more likely to feel safer, and 40% more likely to have a higher income as a result of that.

Jason Clay, senior vice president of market transformation at the WWF, is first up in the afternoon panel on creating a sustainable future through technology.
"The average American consumes in their lifetime the same amount as 43 Africans. So which is it, consumption or population? We need to get this right."
In next 40 years we have to produce as much food as we have in last 8,000 years to keep everyone fed, Clay says.

Titled "The future of information and the status quo," Jarvis moderates a discussion featuring Alan Rusbridger, editor-in-chief of Guardian News & Media; Bruce Schneier, founder of BT Counterpane; Krishna Bharat, founder of Google News; Graham Hann, head of technology at Taylor Wessig; Danah Boyd, social media researcher at Microsoft Research.
Danah Boyd, the social media researcher at Microsoft Research, wants to eschew the idea that young people don't care about privacy because they are so used to socialising in public spaces online.
Privacy as a practice is dictated by, among other things, the architecture of the environment. Young people are developing really intricate strategies to try to achieve privacy in online environments, just like we've done online for a long time.
Jayant Sinha, the managing director of the Omidyar Network India Advisors, chairs the next panel: How do we mobilise democracy and activism, streamline governments, improve access and empower citizens through the web?
On the panel: Robert Kirkpatrick, director of Global Pulse at the United Nations; Farah Pandith, social representative to Muslim Communities at the US Department of State; Andrew Rasiej, founder of the Personal Democracy Forum, and Evgeny Morozov, author of the Net Delusion.

Evgeny Morozov, author of the Net Delusion, up now.
Governments are increasingly reliant on technology "as a strategy of control". The reason why we as citizens have to be critical about areas that put internet into centre of political change, is not because contraryism sells, it's because governments then won't spend as much money on facilitating democracy in other areas.
Morozov: "Internet has enabled many things, but have to evaluate it's contribution in relative terms."
Assumption that once we empower people with digital tools they will become more engaged is naive, says Morozov, rebutting many of this morning's speakers.

Impact of internet is two-fold – it is undermining certain regimes, but there are more and more ways that these governments are reacting to that. In the Middle East, many of these governments weren't particularly savvy before the Arab springs uprising, now it is.

Chinese deadline to respond to any dissident storm brewing online is two hours, says Morozov.
We have to go beyond building tools that will allow us to hide what we do online. There should be more conversation between bloggers and governments about why this is happening at all.

Morozov: "Have to make sure online activism doesn't just happen in online world and stays there. Have to make sure it's connected to real world struggles." There's a danger that young people will think that the only way they can affect change is online, Photoshopping a picture of the president's face.

Emily Bell, formerly of this parish, introduces the summit's first panel: How do we create a better world though the networked world?
On stage we have: Nicholas Negroponte, the founder and chairman of One Laptop per Child; Craig Newmark, the founder of Craigslist; Robert Fabricant, the vice president of creative at Frog Design, and Lawrence Lessig, director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics.

Negroponte: Kids in Cambodia, from villages with no TV, have laptops and are still in school today as a result of that. They drop out of school because it's boring.

People ask for the proof of this project: that is when there's a school with 35% truancy and it goes to zero. "We ship 100 books in a laptop, when we send 100 into a village that means a village has 10,000 books – who had that in their childhood?" Says "paperbooks are toast", purely because you can't get them to kids around the world.

He adds: "Children do a lot more than we give them credit for, just assumption that they can't learn on their own is why education in some countries is so far behind. In Afghan, US is spending $2bn a week on the war, while spending $2m on education. For three and a half days of war, we could have every child in Afghanistan equipped with a laptop in less than a year."

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Guardian Local to shut down soon

UK's Guardian Media Group will soon shut down Guardian Local, the intiative to take journalism hyper-local with an online model it had tried out in 2010. The group said the initiative did not turn out to be financially viable though it did create local communities. RIP Guardian Local

It has been 10 years since dotcom boom-bust cycle happened, but online media experiments continue to remain unviable. I wonder when will online journalism start making enough money to sustain itself and wonder why it has not managed to work.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Eddie Adams and the Saigaon Execution

Picture copyright: Arko Datta for Reuters

I found this interesting piece on NYT's photography blog, Lens today. "Saigaon Execution" picture of the Saigaon police chief shooting a Vietnam war protestor from a close range was clicked by photojournalism legend Eddie Adams. I always thought it was one of the iconic images that symbolise photojournalism and its power to document history. I didn't know that Adams detested the fact that this picture won him the Pulitzer instead of another one of Jackie Kennedy in mourning. Don Winslow tells a very interesting story. Read on.

Photographers have no control over what their work can become. How it would connect with the viewers? Whether it would convey exactly what the photographer intended for the viewer? I remember a chat with Arko Datta, who shot the picture of the Gujarat tailor, Qutubuddin Ansari virtually begging for life with folded hands and tears in his eyes during the 2002 Gujarat riots. He said his personal favourite was another picture taken and filed the same day. He said he would have been more happy if that particular picture would have got the acclaim the tailor's picture received.

Arko also had no control on the shadow of that photograph on Ansari and his life in the hostile aftermath of the Gujarat riots. It was printed and reprinted hundreds of times by newspapers and magazines to go with articles on Gujarat riots and the picture became virtually the single defining image of the Gujarat riots. But Ansari had a tough time and was forced evenually move from Gujarat to West Bengal in an attempt to shake off the influence of that image and its shadow on his life.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Dusty Diamantina and Old Cork Station

I have been trying to remember the words of this song I heard years ago. I could only recall Dusty Diamantina. When I asked some friends who listen to Western music, they couldn't recall any such song. The guitar strains
in this song are awesome and its beautifully sung. Does anyone remember this one?

(Hugh MacDonald)

John Williamson

Also recorded by: The House Band; Patrick Street

The faces in the photograph have faded
And I can't believe he looks so much like me
For it's been ten years today
Since I left for Old Cork Station
Sayin' I won't be back till the drovin's done

For the rain never falls on the dusty Diamantina
And a drover finds it hard to change his mind
For the years have surely gone
Like the drays from Old Cork Station
And I won't be back till the drovin's done

Well it seems like the sun comes up each mornin'
Sets me up and takes it all away
For the dreaming by the light
Of the camp fire at night
Ends with the burning by the day

For the rain never falls on the dusty Diamantina
And a drover finds it hard to change his mind
For the years have surely gone
Like the drays from Old Cork Station
And I won't be back till the drovin's done

Sometimes I think I'll settle back in Sydney
But it's been so long it's hard to change my mind
For the cattle trail goes on and on
And the fences roll forever
And I won't be back till the drovin's done

For the rain never falls on the dusty Diamantina
And a drover finds it hard to change his mind
For the years have surely gone
Like the drays from Old Cork Station
And I won't be back till the drovin's done

For the rain never falls on the dusty Diamantina
And a drover finds it hard to change his mind
For the years have surely gone
Like the drays from Old Cork Station
And I won't be back till the drovin's done

Googling around I found that Old Cork Station is in Queensland, Australia, and Diamantina is a river which flows through this land. Dray is a two-wheeled car that drovers used in this part. Also found this picture and a report on it. Read on.

It costs about $10 a hectare, is so big the boundary fences are checked with an ultra-light aircraft, has had a popular song written about it, and is worth about $2.5 million.
This is Cork Station, 120 km south-west of Winton in far north-west Queensland. 2310 sq km of downs and channel country with a 32 km frontage to the Diamantina River.
It achieved national prominence a few years ago with the popular Redgum song The Diamantina Drover.
The song referred to the vintage sandstone homestead Old Cork, one of the original properties in Western Queensland.
The present station manager, Arthur Wallis, and his wife Rosslyn, occasionally chuckle over the song when they hear it on the local radio station.
"Whoever wrote it had a bit of factual knowledge when he talked about the dray around Old Cork Station because there were three or four around here a long time ago," Mr Wallis said.
"But when it says the rain never falls on the dusty Diamantina  -  well it does rain sometimes. We usually get ten and a half inches a year."
The chorus of the song about a burnt-out old drover  -  written by Hugh McDonald in 1982  -  says:
For the rain never falls on the dusty Diamantina,
The drover finds it hard to change his mind,
For the years have surely gone
Like the drays from Old Cork station,
And I won't be back 'til the droving's done.
The property was first settled in the 1870's and became the local mail distribution before the establishment of Winton  -  the mail came in on a pack - horse from Muttaburra.
The administrative centre of the property was shifted about the turn of the century because the old homestead was often cut off for up to a fortnight by floods.
The new homestead was brought in two or three pieces from Charters Towers by teamsters after the gold rush.
That complex now also includes separate cottages for a bookkeeper and overseer, three buildings for men's accommodation, shearers' quarters for 25 men, a shearing shed and work and machinery sheds.
The families of farm workers lived at Old Cork for many years and until 15 years ago it was used as a night camp when mustering.
Then the station cook often set lines and nets in the large permanent waterhole to give the stockmen a feed of yellowbelly and bream.
The property Cork remains in good order despite the current drought but the Old Cork homestead is in as much a state of disrepair as the old drover in the song.
Much of the timberwork in the old homestead is rotten, the sandstone walls have started to bow and crack, and vandals with shotguns have broken the louver windows and peppered the antbed plastered walls.
A cedar sideboard, beyond restoration, still sits in the old formal dining room, sharing it with the carcass of a dead wallaby, now reduced to a pile of white bones.
A squatter's chair with a greenhide seat still graces one of the verandas.
The kitchen still has its wood stove and a hutch but a 6 m-long table that had been a feature of the homestead for more than 100 years was stolen a few years ago.
Mr Wallis said there had been a recent plan to dismantle the homestead and rebuild it in Winton as a tourist attraction.
The present owner, Mr Dudley Dunn, of Sydney, agreed to the move but locals reconsidered and concluded that the homestead would lose too much of its significance if it was moved.
Mr Wallis said that very little else was known of the history of Old Cork. The property had changed hands a number of times and many station books and records had moved on with the previous owners.
He said the property now kept him and five other workers busy maintaining 144km of 2-metre high boundary fence and kilometers of internal fencing.
It carried about 2500 head of cattle, although its carrying capacity in good seasons was nearly three times that.
Mr Wallis recently trained as an ultra-light aircraft pilot to give him more manoeuvrability about the property.
"The aircraft is an asset on this sort of property," he said. "It saves a lot of time checking the fences and spotting cattle. And it costs only $8 an hour to run compared with $200 an hour for a helicopter."
He said the first time he flew the ultra-light his stomach muscles "tightened a bit" but he was re-assured that the aircraft had a safety parachute.