Radical Instrument

IT is changing the exercise of power. Radical Instrument is picking up the signals.

Posts Tagged ‘Obama

Three for Tuesday

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Seen around the cyber-halls on a Tuesday afternoon:

1.  Courtesy of Slashdot and Spiegel Online:  SWIFT, which handles transfers between financial institutions, is moving its servers and database from the U.S. to Europe. The EU is likely to let the U.S. to continue to monitor SWIFT transactions for anti-terrorism purposes…at least for now. How likely would approval have been if this move had been made during the Bush years? Will a change of…well, tone on the part of the Obama Adminstration be enough to mollify opposition to activities that arguably encroach on European privacy measures?

2.  Over at Wired’s Dual Perspectives, Kim Zetter has an article that sort of makes the right point…that we need much improved definition around terms like “cyber war” and “cyber attack”…but then muddles that point with language like this:   “In a battle where the militarized zone exists solely in the ether(net) and where anyone can wield the cyber-equivalent of a 10-ton bomb, how do we fight, let alone find, the enemy?” To illustrate the point, there’s a reference to the infamous Homeland Security video from 2007 about the U.S. power grid, and a story from 1982 (!) about a logic bomb that literally detonated a Siberian pipeline. I’m not convinced that you get anywhere close to un-muddling terms like “cyber war” until we stop using military metaphors that don’t really mean much, viz. cyber-equivalent of a 10-ton bomb.

3.  Courtesy of North Korean Economy Watch:   somebody put KCNA on Twitter. Which means that Twitter might just be pure entertainment.

Written by Mark

July 28, 2009 at 2:04 pm

Facebook and a new form of opposition in Egypt

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Samantha M. Shapiro has an exceptional piece in this Sunday’s NY Times Magazine on Facebook’s role in organizing an opposition youth movement in Egypt. Shapiro also brings to light the attention paid by the State Department’s public diplomacy arm to Facebook, including this December summit featuring the Obama campaign’s new media team. 

You can find the Facebook group created by the State Department, the “Alliance of Youth Movements,” here. It gets even more interesting. The first thing listed in the group’s description is “THE MARCH AGAINST AL QAEDA,” scheduled for March in 20 locations around the world, including Baghdad, Mumbai, Cape Town, Beirut, Bahrain, and an unnamed site in Saudi Arabia. Its precedent is the “One million voices against FARC” group that inspired a protest of one million+ in Colombia last February, the largest so far against a terrorist organization. 

The Colombia and Egypt examples offer hope for technology-driven efforts in “civil society 2.0” and “dorm room diplomacy.”  But it still seems a hope fraught with ambiguity. Shapiro’s best sentence is at the end of her article on Egypt:  But what does it mean to have a vibrant civil society on your computer screen and a police state in the street?

Written by Mark

January 26, 2009 at 1:24 am

A few more post-inaugural thoughts…

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1.  James Fallows notes that the People’s Daily in China has published a complete translation of President Obama’s inaugural address, including references to both communism and dissent. He makes several great points, chief among them the role of uncertainty in what’s allowed and what’s forbidden.

2. From a 1970 interview with Hannah Arendt on the then-youth movement:  “…if I consider what (apart from goals, opinions, doctrines) really distinguishes this generation in all countries from earlier generations, then the first thing that strikes me is its determination to act, its joy in action, the assurance of being able to change things by one’s own efforts. … How long the so-called “positive” factors will hold good, whether or not they are already in the process of being dissolved, eaten away by fanaticism, ideologies, and a destructiveness that often borders on the criminal, on one side, by boredom, on the other, no one knows. The good things in history are usually of very short duration, but afterward have a decisive influence on what happens over long periods of time.” [source:  “Thoughts on Politics and Revolution”]

3.  Three days after having stood out on the Mall, I can’t remember a single sentence from the Inaugural Address. No “ask not…”, no “the only thing we have to fear…” What I do remember are keywords and keyphrases:  “dust ourselves off,” “science,” “bitter swill of civil war,” “childish things,” “greed,” “clenched fist.” I wonder whether this is due to subtle, technology-influenced changes in (a) how we write, (b) how we listen, or (c) the perishability of content in a content-saturated world.

Written by Mark

January 23, 2009 at 11:04 pm

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Obama’s First Inaugural Address (Chinese edition)

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The leading story amid the world reaction to Tuesday’s Inauguration is the deletion of a few choice phrases in the Chinese translation of President Obama’s address. “Earlier generations” of Americans confronted fascism and communism, and Xinhua removed references to anti-Western posturing and the “silencing of dissent.” Censorship might be too strong a term for an effort as sloppy as this:  as the BBC and other sources note, Xinhua still permitted the full English version, and it seems unlikely that China would (or could) block the .mp3 and video files that are proliferating online (having recorded a few snippets myself, I can vouch that anyone within sight of a jumbotron on the Mall could walk away with their own audio copy), and which could be translated with some effort.

Downplay, disarm, dilute:  all better words that spring to mind here. As The Economist pointed out a week ago, 2009 features a long hot (not to mention recessionary) summer of Chinese political anniversaries, from Tiananmen Square (twenty years) to the banning of the Falun Gong (ten years) to the revolutionary success of the CCP (sixty years). Given the soft power potential of an Obama Administration – and I’m wagering this will become more evident in the coming year, with another Berlin-like example – China’s leaders are bound to be cautious about letting anything political “go viral” in the Chinese-language web. Especially a speech which references official “corruption and deceit” shortly after a tainted milk scandal. Given another week or two, a new leading story will take over, and President Obama’s first address will miss its viral moment.

Josh Chin from GlobalPost has an Inauguration Day post on the standing of Inauguration reporting relative to stories about the Spring Festival in Beijing media…part of a terrific series of reports on global reactions to President Obama’s swearing-in.

Written by Mark

January 22, 2009 at 3:01 am

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Obama’s inaugural address – a soft power moment?

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I received an e-mail today from the Save Darfur Coalition asking for volunteers on Inauguration Day, to help send a message to the incoming administration [full disclosure:  I’ve donated to Save Darfur, as recently as last month]. Made me realize I missed something in my earlier attempt at predictions for 2009:  

President-elect Obama’s inaugural address is going to be not just the most-watched political speech in U.S. history, but in world history

The x-factor here is information technology. Add digitally transmitted and stored media (like this BBC video of Obama’s Grant Park victory speech) to post-Bush relief/curiosity/hope and the President-elect’s multicultural appeal, and I’d wager that a third of the planet will have seen at least part of the inaugural address within a week of its delivery.

If that’s the case, this single speech could represent the most significant moment of “soft power” the Obama Adminstration could have across its entire first term. 

A recent email from the Obama inauguration machine alluded to a “call to national service” coming in this speech. And in any message the President-elect delivers to America, about Americans, there will of course be an implicit message to the world – a message about what the world can expect from Americans.

Yet with so many more watching outside America, I’m hoping President-elect Obama has something to say directly to them. They will be as much a part of the audience as the crowds on the Mall, and he may never have another such moment.

Written by Mark

January 10, 2009 at 2:25 am

Posted in Technology

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