Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The Real Significance of the Information Revolution

You won’t read about it in the newspapers, or learn about it in the schools and universities, because the Information Revolution we do hear about, is not just the increasing availability of clever new gadgets -- but is the overthrow of the old hierarchy that controlled the availability and flow of information. Yet the guardians of the old status quo are still trying to put the toothpaste back into the tubes -- pretending that nothing much has changed, and when one gets on the Internet, he’d better be careful because there won’t be a trusted friend at the newspaper (school, university) to guide them unfailingly through the treacherous world of abundant information.

The rules have changed -- and now the first will be last. They will be last not because they can’t adapt to the new -- but because vested in the old world order, they will defend it to the last -- while those who never participated before because of the barriers to entry, will be the first adaptors because they now have a way that was not available before. They have no old habits to unlearn. Thus they go straight to the head of the class.

The people having the most difficulty embracing the new world order will be those who were the greatest beneficiaries of the old world order. They don’t like it when half way through the game they thought would be forever, suddenly all the rules are changed, and all their treasures turn to dust. But more likely than not, everything looks the same but all the perceptions, assumptions and relationships have changed. It’s like the fabled neutron bomb -- all the buildings are left standing, but all the people are dead. That’s a totally different way of seeing the world.

But that’s precisely the kind of changes that have taken place. Everybody and everything looks the same -- but all the relationships have been altered. The powerful are now the weak; the weak know no limitations. But even while the doors have been unlocked, it takes a while for the prisoners to realize that they are actually free -- and what to do with that freedom is something that does not come naturally, without practice.

So while the electronic forums are only in their infancy, the leading edge has already eclipsed the old mass media in its penetration and participation of those who are most creative and innovative in society -- who have always been the leading edge of changing culture and society. The older forms cannot evolve any further even if they wanted to because the organization is rooted in the premises of an earlier time, technologies and relationships -- that can no longer be sustained by the new realities. Chief among them is that uncompromisingly, only the best survives.

Yet it is not a heartless world -- because everybody gets to play, and nobody is shut out by the self-appointed few who determine who can play and who can’t -- arbitrarily. Only individuals can make that decision for themselves -- and not those claiming to be acting in everybody’s best interest, because they know what is best. That is the authoritarian world and arbitrary rule Hawaii is emerging from.

It doesn’t happen overnight with just a new administration in place. It has to be a sustainable culture of feeling everybody can participate in the new world order. “Yes, you can.”


At September 20, 2005 6:43 PM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

The incredible, shrinking mass media:


'Black Tuesday' Continues: NYT Co. Cutting 500 Jobs
Arthur O. Sulzberger, Jr.

By E&P Staff

Published: September 20, 2005 4:37 PM ET

The New York Times Co. announced a staggering staff reduction plan Tuesday that will likely mean some 500 job loses at the company's many properties, including an expected 45 newsroom positions at The New York Times newspaper and 35 at The Boston Globe.

In a memo to staffers, company chairman Arthur O. Sulzberger, Jr. and CEO Janet Robinson wrote: "We regret that we will see many of our colleagues leave the Company; it is a painful process for all of us. We have been tested many times in our 154-year history as we are being tested now." They promised this would not impact the quality of the paper's journalism.

In a press release distributed Tuesday afternoon, the company said it "plans to begin the staff reductions in October and implement them over the course of the next six to nine monthsThe news followed an announcement earlier in the day from Philadelphia Newspapers Inc., owner of the Philadelphia Daily News and the Philadelphia Inquirer, would seek to cut 100 jobs through buyouts.

"This represents a continuation of the initiatives the Company began earlier this year to find ways to operate more efficiently," a statement with the release said. "As a result of these efforts, the Company identified areas where it could function effectively with fewer people. Earlier this year the Company reduced its staff by approximately 200 positions, or about 2%."

Times company spokeswoman Catherine Mathis said specific decisions about how the reductions would be made, through buyouts or layoffs, had not been determined. "We are in the process of formulating that," she told E&P. "It is a combination. We don't know at this point."

Times Executive Editor Bill Keller could not immediately be reached, while Globe Editor Martin Baron declined a request for comment.

The cutbacks will include about 250 positions at The New York Times Media Group, including the 45 newsroom jobs at the Times newspaper. Other properties in that group include the International Herald Tribune and NYTimes.com. Specific reductions for those properties were not revealed.

At the New England Media Group, some 160 positions, including those at the Globe, will be lost. Other outlets within that division are the Worcester Telegram & Gazette and Boston.com. Another 80 job cuts will be spread across the company's regional newspapers, broadcast outlets, and corporate staff, Mathis said, but did not offer specifics.

The memo to staffers from Sulzberger and Robinson read:

"Given the continued financial challenges and the cloudy economic outlook for the remainder of the year, we believe it is prudent and necessary to initiate this additional reduction. We will be working through the bargaining issues with our unions and will observe all contractual obligations, including severance where applicable.

"The Company plans to manage the staff reductions in such a way that we continue to provide our readers, users, listeners and viewers with journalism of the highest quality and that our operations function smoothly on a day-to-day basis. This will help ensure that we achieve our long-term strategic goals.

"We regret that we will see many of our colleagues leave the Company; it is a painful process for all of us. We have been tested many times in our 154-year history as we are being tested now. We know that our collective talent and commitment will ensure our long-term success. Over the course of the past year we have taken many steps to improve the performance of our Company, including creating new products and services, acquiring and investing in existing and new businesses, and finding ways to lower costs. These are important steps that position us well to meet the challenges we face and we will continue to invest in our businesses as we move forward."

At September 20, 2005 7:04 PM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

The newspapers stopped evolving -- at precisely the time they were to meet their greatest challenges -- of open publications enabled by the World Wide Web, which only reached the popular consciousness about ten years ago. Prior to that, there was another Information Revolution around 1985, when word processing and desktop publishing became popular -- but the medium was still hardcopy production by burgeoning alternative newspapers. That challenge was successfully withstood; the alternatives became the impotent leftwing rags -- or the highly successful freebies, which are the advertising supplements masquerading as newspapers.

The serious journalists came to regard themselves as the self-appointed 4th branch of government, convincing many to believe they were the official conduits to government by the people, and vice-versa. And when given such a trust, abused it to their own agenda. Freedom of speech was interpreted to mean freedom of the press, for the press, by the press -- rather than the much more encompassing freedom of expression for all. That was their arrogance of power that led to their demise.

The world is change.

At September 22, 2005 9:23 AM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

Is it just me or is there something the powers that be don't want us to know?


Bloggers, the new heralds of free expression

Blogs get people excited. Or else they disturb and worry them. Some people distrust them. Others see them as the vanguard of a new information revolution. One thing’s for sure : they’re rocking the foundations of the media in countries as different as the United States, China and Iran.

It’s too soon to really know what to think of blogs. We’ve been reading newspapers, watching TV and listening to the radio for decades now and we’ve learned how to immediately tell what’s news and what’s comment, to distinguish a tabloid “human interest” magazine from a serious one and an entertainment programme from a documentary.

We don’t have such antennae to figure out blogs. These “online diaries” are even more varied than the mainstream media and it’s hard to know which of them is a news site, which a personal forum or one that does serious investigation or one that’s presenting junk evidence. It’s difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Some bloggers will gradually develop their own ethical standards, to become more credible and win public confidence. But the Internet is still full of unreliable information and people exchanging insults. A blog gives everyone, regardless of education or technical skill, the chance to publish material. This means boring or disgusting blogs will spring up as fast as good and interesting ones.

But blogging is a powerful tool of freedom of expression that has enthused millions of ordinary people. Passive consumers of information have become energetic participants in a new kind of journalism - what US blog pioneer Dan Gillmor calls “grassroots journalism ... by the people, for the people” (see chapter on “What ethics should bloggers have ?”).

Bloggers are often the only real journalists in countries where the mainstream media is censored or under pressure. Only they provide independent news, at the risk of displeasing the government and sometimes courting arrest. Plenty of bloggers have been hounded or thrown in prison. One of the contributors to this handbook, Arash Sigarchi, was sentenced to 14 years in jail for posting several messages online that criticised the Iranian regime. His story illustrates how some bloggers see what they do as a duty and a necessity, not just a hobby. They feel they are the eyes and ears of thousands of other Internet users.

Bloggers need to be anonymous when they are putting out information that risks their safety. The cyber-police are watching and have become expert at tracking down “troublemakers.” This handbook gives advice on how to post material without revealing who you are (“How to blog anonymously,” by Ethan Zuckerman). It’s best of course to have the technical skills to be anonymous online, but following a few simple rules can sometimes do the trick. This advice is of course not for those (terrorists, racketeers or pedophiles) who use the Internet to commit crimes. The handbook is simply to help bloggers encountering opposition because of what they write to maintain their freedom of expression.

However, the main problem for a blogger, even under a repressive regime, isn’t security. It’s about getting the blog known, finding an audience. A blog without any readers won’t worry the powers-that-be, but what’s the point of it ? This handbook makes technical suggestions to make sure a blog gets picked up by the major search-engines (the article by Olivier Andrieu), and gives some more “journalistic” tips about this (“What really makes a blog shine,” by Mark Glaser).

Some bloggers face the problem of filtering. Most authoritarian regimes now have the technical means to censor the Internet. In Cuba or Vietnam, you won’t be able to access websites that criticise the government or expose corruption or talk about human rights abuses. So-called “illegal” and “subversive” content is automatically blocked by filters. But all bloggers need free access to all sites and to the blogosphere or the content of their blogs will become irrelevant.

The second part of the handbook is about ways to get round filtering (“Choosing circumvention,” by Nart Villeneuve). With a bit of common-sense, perseverance and especially by picking the right tools, any blogger should be able to overcome censorship.

The handbook has technical advice and tips about how to set up a good blog. But a successful one is harder to ensure. To stand out in the crowd, you must be original and post news or opinions neglected by the mainstream media. In some countries, bloggers are mainly worried about staying out of jail. In others, they try to establish their credibility as a source of reliable information. Not all bloggers have the same problems, but all of them, in their different ways, are on the frontline in the fight for freedom of expression.

Julien Pain
Head of the Internet Freedom desk at Reporters Without Borders.

At September 22, 2005 1:39 PM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

The real danger among the "rich and famous" crowd, is that tendency towards megalomania and delusions of grandeur. Unlike bloggers who have to justify their existence, they presume their every utterance and banal longing is monumental, and the media crowd, fuels these delusions. The old media is basically an unhealthy medium, in that respect, whereas with the blogs, for the first time in literary history, we're seeing mentally healthy people and impulses expressed.

Abraham Maslow, the researcher of highly actualized people, made the interesting observation that no literary figure he examined in history, qualified as a highly actualized person. Most were driven by alcoholism, drug addiction, tortured dysfunction, or mental illness -- and writers who became famous through the machinery of the old publication process, inevitably had severe character flaws for which they were rewarded.

What is striking about the blogs and the electronic discussion forums is that because they are self-edited, we're seeing what normal healthy people think and communicate like -- rather than always being manipulated to dump on each other, as the only public dialogue allowed. That's why, despite what President Bush, or anybody else does, the editors would only select articles and letters that blamed and dumped on somebody else -- as the very uncivil, civic discourse. Those who are fair, unbiased and nonpartisan, are not allowed to appear anywhere in the mainstream/mass media.

The blogs are the future of information communications -- while the other is only about dysfunctional personalities now.

At November 06, 2005 8:44 PM, Blogger Roberto Iza Valdés said...

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At August 24, 2007 10:36 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

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