Friday, October 29, 2010

Information Sovereignty and the Case of WikiLeaks

This week’s topic was “Networks and Politics: Influence of Power.” In Sangeet Kumar’s article, he argues that “new media entities such as Google represent a new modality of power, increasingly making inroads into the Westphalian nation-state system” (154). Google’s ‘centerless,’ ‘distributed network’ is difficult for states to challenge or regulate, as illustrated by Google Earth. Several states have tried to fight the company, believing that the availability of satellite images pose threats to security and territorial integrity. Google’s conflict with the Indian government is perhaps the most pronounced example, as the case continued for over a year. (The state could only make requests and threats, though it had no power to enforce them. This problem was only resolved when Google finally ceded in order to ease a business deal.)

Kumar claims that “as they effortlessly transgress boundaries and bypass traditional controls of information flow, digital media institutions such as Google constrain the nation state in unprecedented ways” (155). The company uses its network power to claim that it is advocating for the global free flow of information, which in the public interest.

Julian Assange, spokesperson and editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, has similarly argued for the freedom of information. The organization has released thousands of classified U.S. military documents from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Like Google Earth, WikiLeaks presents a problem of information sovereignty and national security.

Sen. John Ensign of Nevada has announced a bill to change the wording of the Espionage Act (1917) that would make it illegal to identify informants working with the U.S. military. (Names of informants were included in the Afghanistan documents, and though they have been removed from the Iraq documents, it is still possible to contextually identify them.) The bill is intended to target Assange, though critics say he would be difficult to prosecute, as he is not an American citizen and has no plans to visit the U.S.

It seems that the United States has very little legal power to challenge Julian Assange. However, PFC Manning, the soldier accused of leaking the documents, has been charged with crimes including violations of the Espionage Act.

Recently, some have suggested that the U.S. government launch cyberattacks against WikiLeaks, though the website has done much to protect itself, spreading out its servers, encrypting data, and creating mirror sites. In the past couple days, the organization has ceased hosting documents on servers in San Jose. 

Kumar, Sangeet. “Google Earth and the nation state: Sovereignty in the age of new media,” Global Media and Communication 2010 6:154.

Noopolitik and 21st Century Statecraft?

Ronfeldt and Arquilla present in their article “The Promise of Noopolitik” the articulation of a new, and I argue distinct, concept not just in the field of communications but one that is positioned to oppose the approach of realpolitik in International Relations studies. To what extent is their concept of the noosphere emerging as a reality in the world of today’s statecraft and 21st century public diplomacy? What would a post-post script to their article include today, particularly if they were to address Sec. of State Clinton’s speech at the opening ceremony to the Newseum in Washington, D.C. on January 21st of this year?

Their first claim is that in the latter half of the 20th century, there were revolutions in the business affairs and in military affairs. They argue that the time has come for a “revolution in diplomatic affairs” or a RDA. This will depend on the recognition of the importance of the noosphere. The noosphere is similar to more widely-used concepts like “cybersphere” and “infosphere.” They present several definitions for the term. The first, that of the man who coined it, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, was that the world evolved in several stages: the first was a geophere, then a biosphere, and the next will be a noosphere—“a globe-circling realm of the mind…full of fibers and networsk, and a planetary ‘consciousness.’” (Ronfeldt & Arquilla 1999/2007 ) Tielhard claimed, “Fully realized, the noosphere will raise mankind to a high, new evoulutionaryplane, one driven by a collective devotion to moral and juridical principales.” ( )

The noosphere is similar to other network theories of communications, but better, in their opinion. The term encompasses information-processing and information-structuring. It looks at not just how messages and ideas are transmitted but also why they are transmitted and how those ideas fit into the larger goals and values of an organization or system. But is this noosphere becoming more important than other concepts in international relations? Are ideas, and where and how effectively they are dissmentated, the new source of power in the world today? One could answer yes, as again and again, civil society (and not so civil non-state actors) are starting to influence and compromise the nation-states options diplomatically.

Rondfeldt and Arquilla are at their strongest in the postscript’s section on American public diplomacy. Writing at the height of the Bush-era crisis of legitimacy for American foreign policy, they sum up their argument in one sentence: “The point to which we keep returning is that noöpolitik is ultimately about whose story wins.” Obviously, America’s story is now competing with Al Qaeda’s in the global public sphere.

They argued that at the time the post-script was written, public diplomacy in this country had gone off track and looked more like realpolitik than noopolitik. But what about the approach of the U.S. State Department today? First, we should look to Sec. Clinton’s address to the attendants at the opening of the Newseum at the beginning of this year. (link to full text below) I believe that the title of the address itself, “Remarks on Internet Freedom” suggest that the State Department has started to shift its focus.

After her introduction, Clinton gets to the subject of her address with the following statement: “The spread of information networks is forming a new nervous system for our planet.” Later, she paraphrased President Obama, saying “he defended the right of people to freely access information, and said that the more freely information flows, the stronger societies become.” She introduced the idea of 21st century statecraft that would call on the State Department to take advantage of these sort of means of diplomacy, that this was a time when a shift was necessary. She stated, “Realigning our policies and our priorities will not be easy.” (Clinton 2010)

So it would seem, at least in theory, the State Department today is shifting toward an acceptance of the importance of ideas in the marketplace of international civil society today. Whether this will help begin a revolution toward a complete noosphere is still yet to be seen, but at least this trend does suggest noopolitik may be starting to win out over realpolitik.


Clinton, Secretary of State Hillary. 2010. "Remarks on Internet Freedom." (November 3, 2010 2010).

David Ronfeldt & John Arquilla “The Promise of Noopolitik” First
Monday 12 n. 8-6 (1999/2007).

No Westerners Involved?? ... Make it Ordinary News

In the article, "The Symbolic Power of Transnational Media: Managing the Visibility of Suffering," Chouliaraki discusses two types of news coverage: ordinary and extraordinary. Ordinary news is when the station does not make human or emotional connections with the disaster that has occurred. An example of this is coverage on a capsized boat in India in which the only thing shown was a map with a dot giving the location of the boat. Extraordinary news shows rolling footage of the disaster, reporters are on the scene, and people are shown suffering and in need of assistance. An example of this type of news is the 2004 tsunami that hit southeast Asia.

After reading about this analysis of the coverage of suffering, the main concept that surprised me was her idea that the Western population only cares about news that relates to people 'like us.' My first response was, yeah right, there's no way that we only make the suffering of others extraordinary if Westerners are related or the the ones doing the suffering. Yet for every case I could think of, this was true. And if the news and infotainment is showing us what we want to see, then it is a personal reflection of what we care about. I guess we're not quite at the level of 'global consciousness' that we thought, if we do not even care about the suffering of people around the world.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Global Standards and Online Social Networking

            According to David Grewal, globalization presents a problem of social coordination, how people will meet up and engage with one another. He argues that the world is not “flat” (as Thomas Friedman claims) but “networked.”
Grewal defines standards as “a common way of doing something, a convention that allows us to cooperate, whether we are talking about languages or measurement systems or technical protocols or technology platforms.” Examples of standards in an international network include English or Microsoft Word. The more widely a standard is used, the more valuable it becomes to adopt it in order to communicate. And once it is established, it also has more of a staying power. Though these standards are non-coercive, individuals must often make the choice to use them if they want to participate.

            To what extent does Facebook dominate social networking? It is fast spreading around the world and is perhaps on its way to becoming a global standard, as the popularity of alternatives (such as Myspace) is fading. People choose to switch to the dominant form in order to be able to connect to others. If most of your friends and colleagues are using Facebook to network, then it would be valuable to connect via that site. This is particularly true with international networks, where online social networking helps to eliminate distance.
            But new research by Gartner has suggested that Facebook’s reach may not be as global as it seems. The Asia Pacific tends to use more locally developed forms of social networking, perhaps more attune to the cultural preferences in the region (examples include Friendster, Cyworld, Mixi, and RenRen). The social networking market in China, Japan, and South Korea is more centered around online gaming, while India’s market has grown from a high demand for dating and matchmaking sites.
Yet, “social networking in Asia is changing as the major global operators make steady incursions across the region, with feature rich platforms set to erode the margins of Asian social sites charging subscription fees and digital product sales.” Some local sites are slowly losing subscribers as they switch to Google and Facebook, which have a more features and a wider range.
Maybe Facebook will eventually become a global standard after all.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Murdoch and Chinese Phoenix Television

Phoenix InfoNews Chanel is a part of the Phoenix Television family-made up of Phoenix InfoNews, Phoenix Chinese Chanel, and Phoenix Movie Chanel. InfoNews Chanel was the first 24 hour news network to broadcast across the Greater China region which includes Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, and importantly mainland China. The station broadcasts out of Hong Kong in Mandarin. The news channel seeks to provide updates and financial news from around the world. Phoenix Satellite Television was launched on March 31, 1996. InfoNews followed a few years later, in 2001. The station is now available in over 150 countries via satellite.[1]

What makes it special, though, is its access and friendly relations with the government of the People’s Republic of China. It is named as one of only a few privately owned companies that are allowed to broadcast into Mainland China. In this way, it opens up the mainland to content that is not broadcast by the government-run media.[2] For example, InfoNews was the only Chinese channel to broadcast live coverage of the 9/11 attacks and had exclusive interviews with both Secretary Colin Powell and President George W. Bush during their visits to China. The Financial Times stated, Phoenix “enjoys rare access into China, which has been denied to other foreign broadcasters.” [3]

The company seeks to give China and the Pan-Asian region a distinctly global view. CEO and founder Liu Changle is quoted saying, “ [Phoenix TV] is developing a global outlook and independent of local political attachment." [4] This same wording is reflected on the company’s home website in

English, “Phoenix seeks to transcend the various components of the Greater China and offer Chinese

viewers a media service that is global in outlook and independent of local political attachments.” [5]

But Phoenix InfoNews is also part of a bigger trend in the world of global media of mergers and conglomerations. Phoenix is a part of the News Corporation family, the company of media giant Rupert Murdoch. McChesney lists News Corp as holding 45 percent interest in Phoenix satellite television. [6] The company has gone public and Wikipedia lists its ownership as follows:

“Phoenix Satellite Television holdings Ltd is a public limited company. Shareholders include Today's Asia Ltd. with 37.5% of the company, China Mobile Hong Kong Company Limited with 19.9%, Xing Kong Chuan Mei Group Co., Ltd. (wholly-owned by News Corporation) with 17.6%, China Wise International Ltd. with 8.3% and the public with 16.7%.” [7]

Some theorists see this trend of interlocking ownership and global ownership as not a new globalized media system but rather a triumph of global capitalism. [8] It’s not a trend that has gone un-criticized. Murdoch and his global reach are often looked down upon. But Phoenix InfoNews is an example of a success—an alternative, free press broadcaster into mainland China.

But the access may come at a price in self-censorship as well. In 1993, Murdoch got into trouble with China over his statement that “[new communication technologies] were a threat to totalitarian regimes everywhere.”[9] and that Chinese leadership could not survive the rise of satellite communication. Since those statements, however, Murdoch has, as McChesney puts it, “bent over backwards to appease” [10] Chinese leadership. McChesney criticizes Phoenix’s journalism with an example of a Phoenix reporter questioning Chinese premier Zhu Rongii, starting off with “ ‘You are my idol.’” [11] Perhaps this should not be surprising, as CEO and founder Liu Changle was a colonel in the People’s Liberation Army and worked to produce propaganda for the government during the Cultural Revolution. [12]

Phoenix InfoNews Chanel, and the larger Phoenix Television are certainly examples of the growth of international news media around the globe. Whether the company is completely successful in its goals to be free from local politics, and in a greater sense, free from the motives of economic growth over journalistic integrity is not clear.

[1] “Welcome to,”

[2] “Phoenix Television - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia,”; “Phoenix InfoNews Channel - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia,”

[3] Robert McChesney, “The Media System Goes Global,” in International Communication: A Reader (Oxon: Routledge, 2010), 211.

[4] “Phoenix InfoNews Channel - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.”

[5] “Welcome to,”

[6] Robert McChesney, “The Media System Goes Global,” 200.

[7] “Phoenix InfoNews Channel - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.”

[8] Koichi Iwabuchi, “Taking "Japanization" Seriously: Cultural Globalization Reconsidered,” in International Communication: A Reader (Oxon: Routledge, 2010), 410-433; Robert McChesney, “The Media System Goes Global.”

[9] Robert McChesney, “The Media System Goes Global,” 201.

[10] Ibid., 211.

[11] Ibid.

[12] “Phoenix Television,”

Africa: Still in the Heart of Darkness?

CNN, Todo Noticias, BBC, Euronews, Al-Jazeera, Zee News, CCTV-9, and Sky News Australia are some of the top 24-hour news channels around the world. But if you look at the list carefully you will notice that these channels are only indigenous to North and South America, Europe, the Middle East, South and East Asia, and Oceania. According to Cottle and Rai, there is not a single indigenous 24-hour news channel available in the ENTIRE continent of Africa!

After discussing the pervasiveness of 24-hour news, one must wonder why Africa would not produce a single station. Oceania only has one, but this can be explained by the small population; whereas, in the case of Africa this problem does not exist and one would imagine that there would be a viability of multiple players in the news market.

I think that the central reason for Africa not having a single indigenous 24-hour news channel MUST be culturally based. Cottle and Rai note that the continent does have satellite channels that include news content; however, they are not 24-hour news channels and have a degree of entertainment and drama content. Perhaps this reflects that many Africans are not as enthusiastic about politics as other regions of the world. Cottle and Rai also comment that financial reasons may be the cause for no 24-hour news services. But in a continent which contains Nollywood, the highest producing movie industry, it is hard for me to believe that the finances don't exist to support ONE 24-hour news channel.

In a continent with so many developmental issues, I would imagine that Africans would have a particular interest in producing their own channel to portray issues of health, political corruption and economic growth. To think that African's just do not have personal interest in politics seems absurd... "The horror! The horror!"

Cottle, S. & Rai, M. Global mediations: On the changing ecology of satellite television news

"How the Beatles Rocked the Kremlin"

According to Tristan Mattelart, "in order to understand piracy, we need to move away from the approaches which criminalize it and to consider the various possible social, economic and political reasons for its rise" (311). Though this particular article focuses mostly on video, it can be applied to music as well. In some countries, the underground distribution of banned media allowed it to play a political, subversive role, representing alternative world views.
During the Cold War, the Soviet government banned much of Western music. Alienated youth became disillusioned with communism and the Soviet government, particularly after 1964 during the Era of  Stagnation.

An underground movement developed in which people made copies of records and distributed them.  One such method was “rock on bones” (or "records on ribs") where bootleg records were made by recording short-wave radio (from Radio Luxembourg) or buying copies from tourists, then using exposed X-ray film to create fragile, one-sided records that could last up to a few months. These were then distributed in urban centers or through the mail (Martin and Segrave, 84).

Artemii Troitsky, a well-known Russian DJ and music critic, described this “ribs” technique:

“These were actual x-ray plates–chest cavities, spinal cords, broken bones–rounded at the edges with scissors, with a small hole in the center and grooves that were barely visible on the surface. Such an extravagant choice of raw material for these ‘flexidiscs’ is easily explained: x-ray plates were the cheapest and most readily available source of necessary plastic. 

“People bought them by the hundreds from hospitals for kopeks [pennies], after which grooves were cut with the help of special machines (made, they say, from old phonographs by skilled conspiratorial hands). […] The quality was awful, but the price was low—a rouble or a rouble and a half [roughly $2-3]” (19).

This method is also mentioned in "How the Beatles Rocked the Kremlin," a documentary by Leslie Woodhead on the influence of the Beatles in communist Russia during the 1960s. (The process is illustrated at about 11:15.) 

One fan says: "George Harrison once put it very well. 'We gave people hope. We gave people the chance to have fun. We gave people the chance  to forget boredom.' Boredom and other such crap. Stupidity of all kinds: political stupidity, cultural stupidity, spiritual stupidity. The Beatles made us forget all that."

Soviet Beatlemania was huge. Young men and women risked arrest to buy bootleg records. They got Beatles haircuts and were occasionally forced to shave their heads. And if a college student were caught with a Beatles record, he or  she would be automatically kicked out of school. 

Regarding copyright, music producer Andre Trupillo says: "I support not copyright, but copyleft," because of the significant role played by bootleg records in the 1960s. "Musical piracy was the key to freedom in Russia. To have free information." This is in line with Mattelart's discussion of video piracy as used to bypass state controls on communications media. (Interestingly, by the 1970s the Soviet government was making a profit off of its own bootleg copies of select Beatles tracks, released as anonymous "folk music.")

According to journalist Vladimir Posner, "the Beatles did more to undermine the system than any anti-Soviet literature that was passed from hand-to-hand underground." (The documentary is currently available online here.)

Martin, Linda and Kerry Segrave. Anti-Rock: The Opposition to Rock’n’Roll. New York: Da Capo Press, 1993, p. 79-84.

Mattelart, Tristan. "Audio-visual piracy: towards a study of the underground networks of cultural globalization," Global Media and Communication 2009 5: 308.

Troitsky, Artemy. Back in the USSR: The True Story of Rock in Russia. Winchester, Massachusetts: Faber and Faber, 1987.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Brian O’Neil makes an important point in his article, Media Literacy and Communication Rights: The digital divide is not simply a problem of access to technologies and media but also rely on citizen’s ‘technological skills’ which “are now central to many communicative processes.” (O’Neil, 325) And this new interpretation of the digital divide is not just a North/South problem but also an intra-societal problem. He writes, “Failure to do so [address the problem], it is argued, will mean an increasingly atomized society and a growing digital divide between those who are skilled or digitally literate and those who fall behind.” (325)
So if we as a society take the digital divide seriously, and the growing polarization of our society that is a result, then how should we address it? Our everyday lives suggest that there is a generational gap in technological skills. The Younger generation growing up with computers and internet are far more fearless and quicker to pick up these skills. But not all of the younger generation equally and here we must address the problem in our educational system.
I now look to my own educational background in media literacy for cues. I lucked up, really, particularly in two different programs that stand out in my memory. The first was part of the Georgia Gifted and Talented Program (later renamed “Spectrum”) where we learned simple programming skills on the early Apple computers. We wrote simple programs, usually a simple game, but included graphics and line by line commands. I remember the teacher always had us refer to our computers as “the stupid box” and it was up to us to tell them what do to. Early on, we were manipulators of the technology. It was great for a public school system though the program was not made available to all the students, just a few. Later on, I switched to a private school (well funded) with its own TV production studio. We had to write scripts, edit the videos, and learn how to frame the picture. Again, both programs helped us as students to see the media as constructed, implicitly. We saw ourselves as able to shape the messages, not just as receivers.
So what could and should media literacy programs look like in the educational system? First, technology skills should be made a part of the educational standards, just as important today for students’ success as math and science. But there is no reason why these skills must be taught by themselves. Technological skills should be integrated, with students using and manipulating for their own expression and purpose. Education is stronger at the intersection of subjects and the next generation will be on more equal footing.

Brian O’Neil, “Media Literacy and Communication Rights: Ethical Individualism in the New Media Enviroment” International Communication Gazette 2010: 323.

Wiretapping the Internet: Security vs. Privacy

In Chapter 1 of Global Governance: A Beginners Guide, O Siochru et al mention that one aspect to societal regulation "is whether, and the circumstances in which, the state has the right to intervene in and access private transmission and communication in the general public interest. The balance of privacy and the public good is relevant to all media but is topical in the area of Internet encryption and whether the state should in principle be allowed to intercept and interpret encoded messages" (p. 10).

This has been in the news recently as the U.S. Government announced plans for a bill, to be introduced next year, that would make it easier for law enforcement to wiretap the internet. In recent months, meetings have been held between the F.B.I., the Justice Department, the National Security Agency, the White House, and other government agencies. Officials argue that criminal and terrorism suspects are increasingly using the internet to communicate with one another, which is more difficult to monitor than communication via telephone. The bill would require communications providers (such as BlackBerry, FaceBook, and Skype) to be technically able to comply if served with a wiretap order, including having the ability to intercept and decipher encrypted messages.

The Communications Assistance to Law Enforcement Act of 1994 required phone and broadband networks to have interception capabilities, but this does not apply to communication service providers. Though they are subject to wiretap orders, communication service providers do not always have the capability to unscramble encrypted messages. Charlie Savage of the New York Times reports that "while some maintain interception capacities, others wait until they are served with orders to try to develop them," which can delay or prevent surveillance of suspects.

According to the New York Times, the bill will likely include the following:

- "Communications services that encrypt messages must have a way to unscramble them.
- Foreign-based providers that do business inside the United States must install a domestic office capable of performing intercepts.
- Developers of software that enables peer-to-peer communication must redesign their service to allow interception."

This proposal raises some concerns over the potential impact on global regulation, and James X. Dempsey, vice president of the Center for Democracy and Technology, claims that the bill challenges the “fundamental elements of the Internet revolution.” Others worry about the cost of implementation that would be passed down to providers. And another concern is that the ability to intercept and unscramble messages could be exploited by hackers.

In addition, the balance of security and individual privacy needs to also be considered in terms of individual rights. When and to what extent should private communication be intercepted for the "public good" (highly subjective and defined differently from government to government)?

"U.S. Tries to Make it Easier to Wiretap the Internet"

"BlackBerry's Security Approach Leads to Theories of Secret Deals"

IGF 2010 Developing the Future Together

From COTELCO, the DC hub for IGF 2010 in Lithuania, I watched as members of civil society spoke out on issues of internet governance that were of importance to them. One of the workshops entitled "Internet Governance viewed through different lenses, with emphasis upon the lens of economic and social development," presented by George Sadowsky, member of the ICANN board of directors among many other organizations, was especially interesting.

He notes that when the first IGF was held in 2005, development was decided upon as one of two important principles to be discussed, yet this is now the first year that the issue has actually been made a key theme of the forum. For this particular workshop Sadowsky has a panel of speakers, each discussing their view of what development means in the context of Internet Governance.

Everton Sara spoke on the subject from the viewpoint of intergovernmental organizations focusing on security and infrastructures without which "
there is no possibility of using the internet for whatever means the government wants to and also to promote the security transactions that happened on the internet." Speaker number two had a few disagreements with Everton and spoke from the view of freedom of expression and civil liberty. On the issue of securitization of the internet he notes that the biggest problem with national security is that when there is any threat, it trumps all rights. He sees a strong correlation between freedom and development, and thinks that "institutionalized liberties and rights will in fact help economic and social development and the countries that succeed even if they don't take the pure, purest form of individual rights and liberties." Other speakers focused on development from a business view and in the context of professional technical management issues.

It is interesting that there are so many ways to look at one subject; but as George Sadowski says, "
We all look at the world through different lenses and multiple lenses by the way. And that lense affects what our view of the world is and what we think is important." This workshop really reflects this years IGF theme: Developing the Future Together by incorporating different specialists to speak on what development and internet governance means to them.

Workshop transcript: