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robertogreco : anxiaomina   20

an xiao mina on Twitter: "The Silicon Valley version of Vipassana meditation is an extension of much of the US iteration of Buddhism — a lot of focus on mindfulness and individual suffering, without paying attention to the larger discourse of Buddhist e
"The Silicon Valley version of Vipassana meditation is an extension of much of the US iteration of Buddhism — a lot of focus on mindfulness and individual suffering, without paying attention to the larger discourse of Buddhist ethics focused on compassion and interconnectedness.

Which is not to say that the non-US iterations of Buddhism have some kind of perfect moral grounding (cf. Myanmar), but rather that US Buddhism takes on a distinctly US character —> individualist, capitalist, goal-oriented. We could say the same of yoga."

[referencing this thread, I think, by Jack Dorsey
https://twitter.com/jack/status/1071575088695140353 ]
buddhism  us  religion  individualism  mindfulness  interconnected  interconnectedness  capitalism  goals  morality  2018  anxiaomina  jackdorsey  vipassana  californianideology  siliconvalley 
december 2018 by robertogreco
An Xiao Busingye Mina en Instagram: “David Wojnarowicz had a concept for the world we inherit, the “pre-invented world,” which he defines eloquently here. I interpret it as the…”
[image with text:

"Wojnarowicz identified with outsiders of all kinds—both those who resisted and escaped the "pre-invented world," and those ground don by it. He identified with the discarded, the trapped, and the rebellious. In this page from his 1988 journals, he expressed those feelings in an offhand notation:
The only hero I have or can think of is the monkey cosmonaut in the Russian capsule that got excited in space and broke loose from his restraints and began smashing the control board—the flight had to be aborted.

"The world of the stoplight, the no-smoking signs, the rental world, the split-rail fencing shielding hundreds of miles of barren wilderness from the human step… The brought-up world; the owned world. The world of coded sounds: the world of language, the world of lies. The packaged world; the world of speed metallic motion. The Other World where I've always felt like an alien." —David Wojnarowicz, Close to the Knives"]

"David Wojnarowicz had a concept for the world we inherit, the “pre-invented world,” which he defines eloquently here. I interpret it as the consensus narrative, the world that we might call the mainstream or the dominant. We are watching today the steady disintegration of the pre-invented world. The post-Cold War consensus is collapsing, and a new world is coming into being. On the one hand is a violent ethnonationalism and authoritarianism. On the other is a global, communal, inclusive outlook. It is not clear which one will win, but for those of us born on the margins, for those of us who’ve always struggled with the pre-invented world, these are the most dangerous times. But this comes with the recognition that the world before wasn’t made for us, either. The world before was also dangerous.
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Wojnarowicz died of AIDS in 1992. He wouldn’t live to see the emergence of gay marriage and contemporary queer culture in the US, nor of a massive public health campaign to curb the spread of HIV and AIDS. For the queer community in the US, we have seen improvements. And if we are lucky, what comes next after these dark times might be better. For now, we live in a time of monsters."
anxiaomina  2018  davidwojnarowicz  pre-inventedworld  ethnonationalism  authoritarianism  change  mainstream  unschooling  deschooling  queerculture  othering  otherness  homogeneity  ownership  property  consensus  dominant  margins  marginalization  trapped  resistance  discarded  rebellion  1988  multispecies  monkeys  escape 
october 2018 by robertogreco
An Xiao Busingye Mina on Instagram: “My #2017bestnine includes talks/panels at Harvard Law School and the V&A Museum as I started looking at memes in the physical world and the…” • Instagram
"My #2017bestnine includes talks/panels at Harvard Law School and the V&A Museum as I started looking at memes in the physical world and the political implications thereof, signs of the resistance in the United States as I rediscovered photography after a 6 year hiatus, artsy selfies, a real-life security robot, a rainbow on a road trip and falling snow while we worked on @thebagx.
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Amidst this are many things I didn’t Insta about so much — countless misinformation events, new software initiatives, research with refugees in Berlin, an artist residency in Lijiang, the birth of @thecivicbeat’s Meme Lab, and the end of something started nearly 3 years ago. In 2017, I also submitted my book manuscript — by this same time in 2018, it will be ready to come to life (fingers crossed). It’s a book about Internet memes, movements and, I think, the rise of authoritarianism, and it reflects 6 years of thinking.
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2017 was a privileged one for me, as I got to travel the world, but it was not a rosy year. I saw the rise of swastikas and open hate in the United States, extrajudicial killings in the Philippines, a clamping down on the internet in China and increased demolitions in Beijing, the ripple effects of the war in Syria, and the global ravages of new digital forms of propaganda and manipulation. I didn’t write about these things specifically here, but they influenced me nonetheless. These, and two things I did post about — visits to the concentration camps at Sachsenhausen and Manzanar — left me with a deep sense of how fragile peace and democracy can be.
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Along the way, this little Insta account has become a blog of sorts, tapped away and edited on buses and planes and trains. Thanks for being here with me on this journey."
anxiaomina  2017  blogging  instagram  travel  experience  writing  howwewrite 
january 2018 by robertogreco
An Xiao Busingye Mina en Instagram: “This behemoth of an agricultural drone got me thinking: we are really just at the beginning of what will be a big big world of civilian…”
"This behemoth of an agricultural drone got me thinking: we are really just at the beginning of what will be a big big world of civilian drones. We are just warming up with the hobbyist and filmmaker stuff."
anxiaomina  drones  agriculture  future  2017 
august 2017 by robertogreco
An Xiao Busingye Mina en Instagram: “All of these things, including the (functioning) light bulb and the panda bear 🐼 have cameras for transmitting live streams. What happens…”
"All of these things, including the (functioning) light bulb and the panda bear 🐼 have cameras for transmitting live streams. What happens as this scales up? What are the implications for surveillance and voyeurism? For documentation of police brutality and human rights abuses? Welcome to your privacy nightmare, though if there's anything we've learned from the past few years, cameras can also empower the vulnerable under certain circumstances."
anxiaomina  surveillance  2017  privacy  technology  cameras  policebrutality  voyeurism 
august 2017 by robertogreco
Translation and the news—crossing languages in the age of networked journalism - FOLD
[See site for references relating to each of the different notes.]

"As my time as a Knight Visiting Nieman Fellow winds down, I wanted to reflect a bit on what I’ve learned about journalism, translation and the importance of the network in contemporary digital journalism. Much of this applies more broadly—language is going to be and already is a critical issue for technologists concerned about supporting the increased range of people online—, but I’ll focus on the specifics of journalism in this post.

It’s been an incredible few weeks of interviews, conversations, seminars, workshops, historical research (especially at the beautiful Widener Library), Hacks/Hackers, a conference on comments and going beyond them. We also managed to squeeze in a few pilot projects with Bridge, our platform for translating social media. I’ll be writing a longer, more thoughtful version of my time for Nieman Lab in coming weeks, so I’ll not try to craft too much of a logical narrative in this post.

Instead, some notes to jot down:

We’re moving toward a majority internet population. With 3.3 billion online and a 832% growth rate, the internet is incredibly diverse.

The “next billIon” have arrived, and already, language diversity is steadily increasing. I’ve written before about how ostensibly “offline”communities like in rural northern Uganda, North Korea and Cuba are impacted by the internet, and it’s important to keep in mind that the internet has ripple effects far beyond those who are formally online. As we crossed into a majority urban population, even rural areas have now oriented toward cities, providing raw and manufactured materials and serving as dumping grounds.

A similar effect will no doubt take place with the internet—even if not everyone is officially connected with a single user account, they will be pressured to find creative solutions to get connected. (Zachary Hyman and I have a piece coming out soon in Makeshift to this effect, and you can read what Julia Ticona and I discussed in the US context for Civicist.)

With regards to language, the sheer diversity of speakers online is stunning. From 2000 to 2015, we’ve seen 6592% growth amongst Arabic speakers, 2080% amongst Chinese speakers and 3227% amongst Russian speakers, to name a few. Even more striking is the fact that English speakers will soon be the minority online, and the growth of non-Top Ten language continues apace. If the news is breaking, it’s almost always going to happen online too. And more importantly, it will be happening in many more languages than English.

Multilingual content hasn’t caught up with multilingual users.

This is both a challenge and an opportunity. According to the IDN World Report, English content is vastly overrepresented on the web. Part of this, of course, can be explained by the fact that many people speak English as a second language. But other languages, like Arabic, Chinese and Spanish, are severely underrepresented.

This sounds like an opportunity for content creators to make relevant content for language speakers, whose experience of the internet is much more limited than that of English speakers. At the same time, adapting the current business models—advertising and pay to read—for these new markets will be a challenge. As Buzzfeed’s Greg Coleman pointed out, global advertising presents unique challenges. If so many people speak English, why bother with other languages?

As came through in many interviews I’ve done, readers tend to prefer their own language, even if they do speak English. I’d like to dive into this with more rigorous research, but it generally makes sense. As digital journalist and Nieman Fellow Tim de Gier described it to me, the internet is full of road bumps. Our job as journalists is to reduce those road bumps and point people to our articles. If it’s in another language, even one we speak, that’s just one more bump in access.

Networked journalism is here to stay. And it’s an opportunity for more diverse stories.

In 2006, Jeff Jarvis defined networked journalism as a field where "the public can get involved in a story before it is reported, contributing facts, questions, and suggestions. The journalists can rely on the public to help report the story; we’ll see more and more of that, I trust. The journalists can and should link to other work on the same story, to source material, and perhaps blog posts from the sources.... After the story is published — online, in print, wherever — the public can continue to contribute corrections, questions, facts, and perspective … not to mention promotion via links."

He added that he hoped it would be a sort of self-fulling prophecy, as more newsrooms turned to networks to both source and distribute the news. Journalists are shifting from simply manufacturers of news to moderators of conversations.

This month, at the Beyond Comments conference hosted by MIT Media Lab and the Coral Project, it became increasingly clear that major news outlets are striving for an alternative. In a terrific panel moderated by Anika Gupta, journalists like Amanda Zamora, Joseph Reagle, Monica Guzmán and Emily Goligoski pointed out that we need to make a shift from thinking of the audience as an audience to thinking of them more as a community.

To meet both speed and accuracy, translators need better tech and better processes.

In a breaking news environment, both speed and accuracy are critical. Indeed, translation and technology have always worked closely together. There are two examples that stick in my mind. The first is the Filene-Finlay simultaneous translator, developed at IBM and used in the Nuremberg trials. The second is the printing press: in Western Europe, it wasn't until books were translated from Latin to vernacular languages that they started to have an impact.

What does this look like in the digital context? It's something we're exploring at Meedan with Bridge, our platform for social media translation. Other great examples include Yeeyan, a Chinese platform for crowdsourcing news translation; Amara, for subtitling videos on platforms like TED; and Wikipedia.

But just as importantly as the tech, we need better systems and processes. The rigorous training of UN interpreters has made simultaneous interpretation at scale possible today. Glossaries, keeping up to date with the news, pairing interpreters together--this is the stuff that makes the tech powerful, because the humans behind it are more effective.

These processes can be supplemented with new tools in the digital context. Machine translation, translation memories, dynamic and shared glossaries can all help, as can fostering a collaborative mindset. What's most striking to me is the fact that interpretation at the UN is collaborative, with at least two interpreters per language pair. As we do away with the myth that translation is a one-to-one matter (i.e., one translator to one text), we can generate a stronger body of translations made possible through collaboration.

....And that's it for now - I'll be working on a much longer report, complete with case studies and examples, for the Nieman Lab in coming weeks. Thanks for reading, and stay tuned!"
journalism  translation  socialmedia  anxiaomina  2016  networkedjournalism  netowrks  diversity  world  languages  inclusion  inclusivity  news  meedan  yeeyan  amara  wikipedia  ted  anikagupta  amandazamora  josephreagle  monicaguzmán  emilygoligoski  jeffjarvis  timdegier  internet  web  online  gregcoleman  spanish  español  chinese  arabic  russian  zacharyhyman  juliaticona 
march 2016 by robertogreco
Unless you speak English, the Internet doesn’t care about you | Fusion
"The internet is global but it is also regional. Cats are to the U.S. and Japan what goats are to Brazil and Uganda. If you speak an uncommon language, the internet can feel downright rural. The problem isn’t just getting online, but whether there will be anything for people who get online to actually do.

“What’s critical to understand is that, with the next billion users coming online, we’re going to see a wide variety of new languages represented online,” said An Xiao Mina, a co-founder of the Civic Beat and a technologist at Meedan working to build a platform to translate social media. “We live in a world of many internets, where even if you reduce the limits of geography, censorship and connectivity, language prevents large swaths of people from connecting with each other.”

But it’s not just ‘obscure’ languages that are discriminated against on the web.

Even use of Arabic—the sixth most commonly spoken language in the world and the fourth most common language among internet users—was until recently limited on many mobile phones. In some places on the internet, it still is. To cope, Arabic speak­ers developed “Arabizi”, a combination of Roman letters and numbers that make it easier to chat. Arabizi is a essentially a transliteration of Arabic into English characters, using numbers to stand in for some of the letters that don’t have direct counterparts in sound, like 7 for ح (ha), which sounds a bit like a guttural “h.”

It’s an ingenious solution, but one that shouldn’t have to exist. When emoji exploded in popularity, developers across all platforms worked quickly to make it easily usable on their devices. Why so slow with Arabic?

Arabic Wikipedia, by the way, has just 400,000 articles. A language spoken by more than 400 million people is less represented than Swedish, a language spoken by just 9 million. The demographics of the internet have historically been very different from that of the offline world, and those colonization effects are dramatic.

Recent research has shown that speaking English is a significant factor in determining whether someone adopts use of the web. Some languages are not well represented online, but others, like Tibetan, are completely invisible, unusable on browsers, operating systems, and keyboards.

The Tibetan blogger Dechen Pemba recently wrote about the frustrations of not being able to access the Tibetan language on a phone. Google, he wrote, failed to develop a Tibetan language interface and only recently incorporated the Tibetan language font on some Android phones. (That’s one way for Apple, which does support Tibetan, to win customers from Android.)

“Given that the Tibetan literary tradition goes back to the 7th century … my pet hate is when Tibetan language is described as ‘obscure,'” he wrote. “I wonder how it is possible that the language of Tibetan Buddhism and Tibetan Buddhists, comprising of as many as 60 million people, can be wilfully left behind in terms of modern technology?”

Facebook’s Free Basics program was controversial in India in large part because it limited the internet resources the digitally disadvantaged would have access to. Would it include access to domestic violence protection programs, or would it be a walled ghetto devoted to social media and online shopping? Language barriers can also force internet users into digital ghettos, or force them to forsake their mother tongue (and its culture) to escape them.

“The fact that a lot of groups have very little local-language content is problematic because it can contribute to a global homogenization of ideas and culture, and perhaps even knowledge itself,” said Mark Graham, a research fellow at the Oxford Internet Institute.

Graham predicts negative impacts on cultural diversity if the Internet’s language is predominantly English, Chinese, and Spanish. A version of this, for example, is happening right now in Iceland, where the packaging on so many imported goods is in English that it’s becoming more common than Icelandic in every day life.

A linguistically divided internet can also lead to the creation of monocultural bubbles. Wikipedia provides a good example: one study showed that most content on Wikipedia is available in exclusively one language. Even English Wikipedia only has articles that correspond with about half the topics of German Wikipedia.

“The Chinese internet is a good example of this,” Graham said. “There are more Chinese internet users online than internet users from any other country. So, this has meant that there is a lot of content out there in Chinese. Which, in turn, means that it is easy for Chinese internet users to exist in their own ‘filter bubble’—not really exposed to different content on the broader Web.”

Mina pointed out that the web’s prioritization of mainstream languages also leaves many tools for political organization and speaking out off-limits to marginalized groups.

“If you don’t speak a top ten language, the internet you have access to is extremely limited,” Mina told me. “Imagine going to a Chinese restaurant and just trying to order based on pictures.”

Graham told me he’d like to see more online spaces like Wikipedia that are digital commons where users can contribute content in any language they like, allowing local internet users to essential built their own web. But getting those digital commons filled with content first requires creating incentives to get people online in the first place. And part of that means making content that is already out there accessible across the boundaries of language. Mina is interested in chipping away at those boundaries by creating technology that translates social media content from one language to another. Scott Hale, a data scientist focused on bilingualism at the Oxford Internet Institute, told me that user interfaces could help break down language barriers by allowing users to interact with them in multiple languages at once. Most online interfaces—Google and Facebook among them— are designed with monolingual users in mind, only surfacing content in one language at a time. Allowing people to easily toggle between languages is one way to break down the linguistic silos that online life creates.

“You can’t just put a bunch of people in the network and expect that they connect,” Mina said.

The internet was supposed to be the thing that made all of our differences irrelevant, that erased borders and boundaries by translating everything into 1s and 0s. But online borders definitely exist with language boundaries that can be impenetrable."
internet  language  languages  web  online  anxiaomina  kristenbrown  wikipedia  arabic  english  translation  homogenization  culture  swedish  freebasics  arabizi  india  iceland  technology  socialmedia  politics  chinese  spanish  español  diversity 
february 2016 by robertogreco
An Xiao Mina at Biased Data - An Xiao Mina - Open Transcripts
"Just to close, as we think about the role of lan­guage on the Internet, it really biases our expe­ri­ence, and there are a lot of risks and chal­lenges there, espe­cially as peo­ple from the Global South are com­ing online. The abil­ity for them to access con­tent and for them to con­tribute to impor­tant con­ver­sa­tions online will be severely lim­ited. It’ll look more like this, and I think some of the most impor­tant work we can do in tech is to bring it out into lan­guages that they can under­stand."
anxiaomina  language  languages  internet  online  web  2016  mikemcdandless  translation  blacklivesmatter  umbrellamovement  crowdsourcing  machinetranslation  sarahkendzior  russian  uzbek  opentranslationproject  aiweiwei  meedan  inequity  socialjustice  wechat  audio  chinese  china  bias  experience 
february 2016 by robertogreco
Linguacode Matrix
"Explorations in language, translation and cultural bridging, particularly in the context of the social web. I co-founded and once directed Bird's Nest: Ai Weiwei in English. I now spend some of my time working for Meedan.org, a community dedicated to improving online translation through design, research, and development."
tumblrs  language  languages  translation  anxiaomina  culture  socialmedia  socialweb  web  online  internet 
january 2016 by robertogreco
Adapting to a more global, more diverse Internet » Nieman Journalism Lab
"“Thanks to denser networks that foster better pipelines for attention, the Internet gives communities a pathway directly to newsrooms.”

According to Quartz’s Next Billion vertical, Internet use is projected to double — from 2.5 billion to 5 billion — between 2012 and 2016. That’s next year, and already, the global diversity of the netizenry and how they use the Internet is starting to change people’s relationship with the news. Much of this growth is expected to occur in Asia, while the fastest growth will be in Africa. These so-called “next billion” Internet users are often different from the first 2.5 billion in their background and lifestyles, representing a plethora of languages, cultures, incomes, and methods of technological access. And the implications, I think, will reach many different aspects of journalism.

The news will break on many networks, and these networks won’t be open.

After the explosions in Tianjin this year, GIFs, photos, and videos circulated on Twitter, Facebook and Sina Weibo. But the first person to break the news did so through a private messaging group on WeChat, posting video of fire outside the chemical plant just minutes before the explosion. For minutes afterward, the mobile-first, private platform was the primary place for sharing and discussing.

Increasingly, eyewitness media is discussed and disseminated on private networks like WhatsApp, Line, KakaoTalk, Snapchat, Viber, and Facebook Messenger. This is already having significant effects on newsgathering. At the recent TechRaking conference at MIT, journalist Andy Carvin and others pointed out that, when media do surface on the open web, it’s incredibly difficult to find and source the originator, as the images are often stripped of metadata, compressed, and of indeterminate provenance.

Digital journalism, so accustomed to APIs and tools that aid discovery and aggregation, will likely have to adapt. Partnership and advocacy efforts are likely right — platforms can do more to facilitate journalists’ efforts, and newsrooms can build better tech for these platforms. As well, the technological approach to digital journalism will need be supplemented by the traditional relational skills of newsgathering: cultivating sources, building relationships, and fostering trust.

It won’t be enough to speak just one language, or even three.

As news and reports of the Paris attacks rippled through social media, journalists captured and reported on eyewitness media shared in both French and English. Just a day before, a flurry of tweets and Facebook posts in Arabic, French and English discussed the worst bombing in Beirut since 1990.

News reports of the Paris attacks in French were translated to English:

[tweed embeds]

To Chinese:

[tweet embed]

To Arabic:

[tweet embed]

From French to English and then to Italian:

[tweet embed]

Meanwhile, false reports of a tsunami heading for Japan triggered the trending topic #PrayForJapan. An earthquake had indeed happened, but the Japanese-language reports clearly stated it wasn’t strong enough to trigger a tsunami:

[tweed embeds]

In the hecticness of the day, Spanish newspapers picked up a selfie of a Canadian Sikh man Photoshopped to look like he was wearing a suicide bomber’s vest. In Baghdad, a real suicide bomber killed 18 people. It was a day for hashtag prayers for multiple corners of the world:

[tweet embed]

Every day, global trending topics on Twitter alone appear in multiple languages and scripts — when I glance at them at different times of the day, they frequently appear in Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, Arabic, Korean, and French, often outnumbering the English-language trending topics. English speakers, once the dominant group on the Internet, will soon become just one of many language speakers online.

Global communities will be talking back to media — and demanding better representation.

In recent years, we saw the transformation of #BlackLivesMatter from a hashtag and a nascent movement to a core question in the presidential primary debates. This year also saw #SomeoneTellCNN re-emerge as a satirical hashtag in Kenya in response to the network calling the country a “terror hotbed.” In the past, these tweets yielded minor changes in coverage; this year, a senior executive personally flew to Nairobi to apologize for the statements. And after Facebook turned on Safety Check for citizens of Paris, Beirutis asked why they didn’t get a Safety Check feature, even though their city had just been bombed a day before.

We can expect more of this. Geographically far from most media outlets, people in many regions of the world have historically had few avenues to attempt to improve global reportage of their issues. Thanks to denser networks that foster better pipelines for attention, the Internet gives communities a pathway directly to newsrooms. At its worst, call-out culture can be destructive and foster a herd mentality against the less privileged in society. But at its best, when people organize and amplify their voices to punch up rather than down, they can make real changes in media and media representation. What can we do to listen more effectively?

GIFs won’t be icing: they’ll be the cake.

[gif embed]

Let’s go back to Tianjin. Some of the most powerful images that circulated on WeChat were, in fact, GIFs. While livestreaming video tools like Periscope will push the boundaries of high-bandwidth, high-resolution video, the humble GIF is also on the rise, with built-in tools on sites like Tumblr and Instagram and autoplay features on Twitter now making it easier than ever for people to generate and share compelling moving images.

This matters for global Internet users because GIFs, in addition to being eminently shareable, consume less data — and less data charges. They also work well with smaller screens, whether that’s a low-cost smartphone or an Apple Watch. While cats and dogs will always have a special home on animated media, so will the mews, er, news."
anxiaomina  journalism  2015  messaging  internet  web  socialmedia  language  languages  news  translation  gifs  kakaotalksnapchat  viber  facebook  whatsapp  lineapp  andycarvin  digital  digitaljournalism  online  twitter  arabic  french  english  chinese  mandarin  italian  portuguese  japanese  spanish  portugués  español 
december 2015 by robertogreco
From Digital Divide to Language Divide: Language Inclusion for Asia’s Next Billion — Words About Words — Medium
"Thinking through language divides in online platforms and what we can do to reduce them"



"New Internet users who don’t speak majority languages will likely be unable to participate in global Internet culture and conversations as both readers and contributors; as Mark Graham and Matthew Zook have noted, minority languages speakers, especially those from the global south, will experience substantial information inequality online (Young, 2015). Indeed, people’s inability to speak English can significantly afect their very adoption and use of the Internet, even if they are aware of its existence (Pearce et al., 2014)."
anxiaomina  2015  language  languages  inclusion  internet  web  online  accessibility  kevinscannell  stevenbird  aikuma  translation  meedan  socialmedia  twitter  linguistics  katypearce  power  english  scotthale  technology  edbice  digitaldivide  asia 
december 2015 by robertogreco
The Internet is Like Water — Global, with Extreme Differences in Access — Medium
"Turn on a faucet in Manhattan, and you can be pretty certain the water you get out of the tap is potable. Though famously a dirty city, New York City provides some of the cleanest water in the United States, easy and at ready for those who live there. Internet access in much of the city is a little like that, too. Turn on your phone or tap into a wireless network, and data flow through seamlessly, thanks to powerful infrastructure that’s largely invisible to the average user.

The experience of the internet in a developing country can be quite different. Take, for instance, Manila, the capital of the Philippines. Many people access the internet via pocket wifi routers, which can be more readily available than physical landline connections. These routers work semi-reliably — in spurts, rather than a constant stream — , and people often carry multiple routers and network subscriptions to optimize for the best flow. On occasion, and sometimes far too frequently, the routers don’t work at all.

A young woman in Uganda gathers water from a well to carry back to her family. Photo by the author.

In other places, like Beijing, the internet and its infrastructure can be fairly reliable. But what comes through the pipes may need to be questioned and filtered. Many citizens of means curse the Great Firewall for slowing down or blocking entirely their access to the web, and they find other ways to go online, thanks to VPNs, proxies and other services. Most, however, live with an internet that is censored by both algorithmic and human means; depending on their priorities, this may or may not matter. But the fact remains that choice of what to access is limited.

And in a more rural area like the Oyam District of northern Uganda, internet access can often look more like a well. As I shared in a recent essay for The New Inquiry and a talk at the Theorizing the Web conference this year, “sneakernets” of data crop up in unexpected places. In very rural, no-bandwidth contexts, people find ways to trade data thanks to Bluetooth transfers, USB sticks, SD cards and other methods. The access point to the formal backbone of the internet might be hundreds of miles away, and in this regard, data is transferred hand to hand, rather than node to node. (This is literally how many rural Ugandans access their water, too.)

In other words, data flow, data spurt and data can be gathered. This metaphor matters because, just like with water access, the way people access the internet is highly stratified. Understanding this should inform how we think about policies and development strategies, especially as the web extends into the global south.



1. Shifting from a connectivity binary to a spectrum gives us a much richer view of the diversity of ways people access the internet.



The connectivity binary is the view that there is a single mode of connecting to the internet — one person, one device, one always-on subscription— rather than a spectrum.
The connectivity binary makes other modes of access invisible.



2. The internet probably has a larger impact than is currently measured, and we need better maps that reflect this.



3. In the face of scarcity, early internet access is often motivated by joy, social connection and entertainment — more so than education or politics per se.

…"
2015  anxiaomina  internet  infrastructure  water  nickseaver  sneakernet  access  uganda  beijing  china  philippines  nyc  us 
november 2015 by robertogreco
Failures of Our Global Imagination | Civicist
"The problem with first world problems, and why we need to shift the way we talk about global tech"



"It’s time to abandon the First World/Third World dichotomy. Whether or not this dichotomy was a helpful one at some point in the past, it’s no longer helpful now. The “Third World” has glittering skyscrapers and glowing smartphones, and the “First World” has decaying neighborhoods and entire swaths of the country without broadband. There are very real and important differences between rich and poor countries, and these dynamics play out at the level of international relations, all the way down to the mundane and often humiliating work of applying for visas. But this framing creates a divide that limits our capacity to understand the vast spectra of the way human beings live in the 21st century. I don’t yet have a better vocabulary for this, but I hope someone smarter than me can figure that out. For now, I do use the phrases “developing world,” “global south,” and “poor countries,” but I’d like to have a better framework. Any suggestions?

Remember the diversity of ways we use communications technology: that includes connecting with people we care about and depend on. In contrast to narratives about vanity, slacktivism, and luxury when it comes to tech in the middle-class West, so much of the conversation about technology in the global south focuses on information and practical communications, like around agricultural trends and educational material. This is good and important work. But highly pragmatic use cases are just part of the reason anyone has used communications technology. Informal markets from Asia to Africa are filled with music and movies, like a Bluetooth-powered Napster, and people are just as likely to send text messages and Facebook posts to check in with friends and loved ones as they are to access important healthcare information and market reports. These things can coexist.

Like a city, the internet and mobile phones provide for a vast diversity of human needs, which include the basic human need for companionship, support, and access to joy in the face of suffering. Fortunately, this part of the global imagination doesn’t require too much effort: Just think of how everyone you know uses technology, the number of apps, the different ways they laugh, smile, cry, and scowl at what they see behind those plates of glass.

Shifting the narrative is such a critical part of the motivation behind my work with global internet cultures, and the above are just a few ideas for how I think we can do that. But more important than trying to know everything about the world is establishing a culture of knowing that we don’t know. The assumption that we can parachute into a foreign culture with formal expertise and knowledge and make things better has never been acceptable, and it has led to a lot of unnecessary suffering, especially in colonized countries. The fact that people in marginalized parts of the world can now call out misguided attitudes and perceptions about them will go a long way, and those of us with access to media and policy can do well to amplify and extend these voices.

But it is also not possible to know every detail about other people’s lives. Attention is limited, as is time. We can learn everything we can about the day to day of rural Laos, but the conflict in Mali will seem completely opaque. Instead, it’s more important to know that we don’t know, know that we need to listen to those who have greater familiarity, and to know that there are ways to go further. Adopting an attitude of humility and curiosity can take us much farther than an attitude of assuredness and assumption. This seems to me like a good place to start—and if you have other and better ideas, I’d love to hear them."

[Also posted here: https://medium.com/@anxiaostudio/failures-of-our-global-imagination-8648b2336c2c ]
anxiaomina  firstworldproblems  internet  thirdworld  firstworld  diversity  slacktivism  vanity  luxury  technology  globalsouth  communication  asia  africa  latinamerica  mobile  phones  smartphones  selfies  advocacy  refugees  2015  privilege  narrative  empathy  thirdworldproblems 
october 2015 by robertogreco
Selfies have created a huge industry—and they’re not going away | Fusion
"This is all to say that selfies, and the selfie industry, are huge. Once hardware, accessories, software, services, books and thoughtpieces are added up, we’re talking about a cultural form that potentially commands tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars worldwide."
2015  anxiaomina  timhwang  selfies  moblie  phones  technology  photography 
september 2015 by robertogreco
#Egypt_Delights: A Suez Canal Hashtag Largely Missed by English-Speaking Media — Words About Words — Medium
"1. Real time translations open up new perspectives on global events.

This is a given for anyone who straddles different cultures and linguistic zones, but it bears emphasis. Translating real time content is what we’re trying to optimize Bridge for. But it’s striking to see the difference in Google results between #مصر_بتفرح, the Arabic hashtag, and #Egypt_Delights, Nora’s English-language translation. Searching for the latter yields 0 results. And a similar search for an alternative translation, #EgyptCelebrates, yields just about a handful of pages of Google results.

[image]

Compare that to the original Arabic hashtag, #مصر_بتفرح, which has received more than 191k Tweets during the last seven days, according to Topsy.com:

[image]

Many media outlets wrote about the pomp and circumstance and some of the odd juxtapositions of imagery, but these perspectives largely came from those of journalists rather than citizens. Some social media round-ups we found focused largely on English-language posts, and thus, to a certain extent, a limited number of local perspectives. To our knowledge, only Magda Abu-Fadil at The Huffington Post covered and translated the Arabic hashtag in an English language report.

Compare that to other satirical hashtags in recent memory, like #SomeoneTellCNN in Kenya and #McDStories in the US, both of which trended in English and consequently received broad coverage in English-speaking media outlets. The effect of the language barrier is apparent, even when talking about major trending media around an event of world interest.

The content of Arabic language (and other foreign language) hashtags trends is largely invisible to the English speaking world, and the range of social media reportage therefore remains limited.

2. Sorting through real time content is still a challenge. So is verification.

When translating real-time content around breaking events, it can be hard to figure out the best content to translate. We want to optimize Bridge for mobile users’ efforts to translate social media, but there’s still a crucial first step: finding the content. This is something we struggled with when I worked on Ai Weiwei English, a project I co-founded in 2010, and with greater network density and content diversity, the need for better discovery tools is even more readily apparent. So, our sample translations are just that: a small sample, one that is not necessarily representative of the sheer diversity of responses found on the original Arabic hashtag.

Of course, sorting through local perspectives, regardless of source language, requires verification and vetting of the content and the speaker (something Tom and I wrote about recently for First Draft News). This is especially the case when the individual is making important factual claims about events, but itcan still be important when translating satirical responses. The effort can be worth the time: translating leading figures and average citizens alike can can open a window into a greater understanding of how the country as a whole is responding.

3. Local knowledge and expertise are vital for quality real time translations.

In theory, anyone with sufficient knowledge of Arabic can translate the posts that Nora and Sarah identified. But the best translations often come from those with knowledge on the ground and experience and expertise relevant to the issue. As journalists and Cairo residents, they were well positioned both to identify the right content to translate and to represent it accurately and with relevance for an English-speaking audience.

One good example? How to translate the Arabic hashtag #مصر_بتفرح. Translating Arabic to English requires a lot of knowledge not just of the two languages but of the many social and cultural situations being evoked by the words. Now, #مصر_بتفرح could be translated a number of ways, including #EgyptCelebrates and #EgyptRejoices, as Tom, a fluent Arabic speaker, has pointed out. #EgyptDelightsIn could also be an acceptable translation.

But Nora connected the dots between the hashtag, slogans playing on television, and a New York Times article that translated that slogan as “Egypt Delights.” “It was referenced in the New York Times story as ‘Egypt Delights,’” she noted, “so I thought to use that in translated tweets since readers in English might have already read the story.”

Finding just the right translation can be a challenge, especially when working with vernacular content and words that come from very different language families. These sorts of decisions require deep knowledge of the local context and a broad perspective in both languages to connect the dots and ensure the most relevant translations are used."
anxiaomina  internet  translation  meedan  arabic  twitter  socialmedia  2015  egypt  language  robinsloan 
august 2015 by robertogreco
Mapping the Sneakernet – The New Inquiry
"Digital media travels hand to hand, phone to phone across vast cartographies invisible to Big Data"



"Indeed, the song was just one of many media files I saw on people’s phones: There were Chinese kung fu movies, Nigerian comedies, and Ugandan pop music. They were physically transferred, phone to phone, Bluetooth to Bluetooth, USB stick to USB stick, over hundreds of miles by an informal sneakernet of entertainment media downloaded from the Internet or burned from DVDs, bringing media that’s popular in video halls—basically, small theaters for watching DVDs—to their own villages and huts.

In geographic distribution charts of Carly Rae Jepsen’s virality, you’d be hard pressed to find impressions from this part of the world. Nor is this sneakernet practice unique to the region. On the other end of continent, in Mali, music researcher Christopher Kirkley has documented a music trade using Bluetooth transfers that is similar to what I saw in northern Uganda. These forms of data transfer and access, though quite common, are invisible to traditional measures of connectivity and Big Data research methods. Like millions around the world with direct internet connections, young people in “unconnected” regions are participating in the great viral products of the Internet, consuming mass media files and generating and transferring their own media.

Indeed, the practice of sneakernets is global, with political consequences in countries that try to curtail Internet access. In China, I saw many activists trading media files via USB sticks to avoid stringent censorship and surveillance. As Cuba opens its borders to the world, some might be surprised that citizens have long been able to watch the latest hits from United States, as this Guardian article notes. Sneakernets also apparently extend into North Korea, where strict government policy means only a small elite have access to any sort of connectivity. According to news reports, Chinese bootleggers and South Korean democracy activists regularly smuggle media on USB sticks and DVDs across the border, which may be contributing to increasing defections, as North Korean citizens come to see how the outside world lives.

Blum imagines the Internet as a series of rivers of data crisscrossing the globe. I find it a lovely visual image whose metaphor should be extended further. Like water, the Internet is vast, familiar and seemingly ubiquitous but with extremes of unequal access. Some people have clean, unfettered and flowing data from invisible but reliable sources. Many more experience polluted and flaky sources, and they have to combine patience and filters to get the right set of data they need. Others must hike dozens of miles of paved and dirt roads to access the Internet like water from a well, ferrying it back in fits and spurts when the opportunity arises. And yet more get trickles of data here and there from friends and family, in the form of printouts, a song played on a phone’s speaker, an interesting status update from Facebook relayed orally, a radio station that features stories from the Internet.

Like water from a river, data from the Internet can be scooped up and irrigated and splashed around in novel ways. Whether it’s north of the Nile in Uganda or south of Market St. in the Bay Area, policies and strategies for connecting the “unconnected” should take into account the vast spectrum of ways that people find and access data. Packets of information can be distributed via SMS and mobile 3G but also pieces of paper, USB sticks and Bluetooth. Solar-powered computer kiosks in rural areas can have simple capabilities for connecting to mobile phones’ SD cards for upload and download. Technology training courses can start with a more nuanced base level of understanding, rather than assuming zero knowledge of the basics of computing and network transfer. These are broad strokes, of course; the specifics of motivation and methods are complex and need to be studied carefully in any given instance. But the very channels that ferry entertainment media can also ferry health care information, educational material and anything else in compact enough form.

There are many maps for the world’s internet tubes and the electric wires that power them, but, like any map, they reflect an inherent bias, in this case toward a single user, binary view of connectivity. This view in turn limits our understanding of just how broad an impact the Internet has had on the world, with social, political and cultural implications that have yet to be fully explored. One critical addition to understanding the internet’s global impact is mapping the many sneakernets that crisscross the “unconnected” parts of the world. The next billion, we might find, are already navigating new cities with Google Maps, trading Korean soaps and Nigerian comedies, and rocking out to the latest hits from Carly Rae Jepsen."
access  africa  internet  online  connectivity  2015  anxiaomina  bigdata  digital  maps  mapping  cartography  bias  sneakernets  p2p  peer2peer  uganda  music  data  bluetooth  mobile  phones  technology  computing  networks  northkorea  christopherkirkley  sms  communication  usb  andrewblum  sneakernet 
march 2015 by robertogreco
an xiao studio: the virtual studio of an xiao mina
"Curator Herb Tam once called me a "poet-ethnographer", which sounds about right to me.

I'm an artist, designer, writer and technologist. My overall interest is looking at and shaping how we use technology in creative and surprising ways to build communities and express ourselves socially and politically, in both local and global contexts. I am interested in new modes of storytelling and cultural translation where citizen-created media take center stage. I take a multidisciplinary approach, engaging in this area through research and writing, social media art and photography, and design and design strategy.

I'm currently working with Jason Li to found The Civic Beat, a global research group and consultancy focused on intersections in internet culture and civic life. I also work as a designer and product lead at Meedan, where we're building a social translation platform for social media. And because I have too much free time, I also write, lecture and consult, and I serve as a consulting editor for the award-winning arts blog Hyperallergic. My master's is with Art Center College of Design's Media Design Practices program, in partnership with UNICEF Uganda and the award-winning Designmatters. My research there was supported by a grant from Intel's Vibrant Data project. I will soon be starting an arts journalism fellowship with USC Annenberg and the Getty Center.

I like tofu, chickens and colorful scarves. I don't get enough sleep.

The Short Story

An "An Xiao" Mina (www.anxiaostudio.com) is an American artist, designer, writer and technologist. In her research and practice, she explores the intersection of networked, creative communities and civic life. Calling memes the "street art of the internet", she looks at the growing role of internet culture and humor in addressing social and political issues in countries like China, Uganda and the United States. Her writing and commentary have appeared in publications such as The Atlantic, Fast Company, Wired and others, and she has lectured at conferences such as the Personal Democracy Forum, the Microsoft Social Computing Symposium and Creative Mornings."



"Working Assumptions

Communications technologies present new ways to build unique global and local communities and to empower individuals to educate themselves, express their beliefs and explore their creative potential.

We need an expanded definition of design to encompass design's role in building systems and strategies. Design is both aesthetics and problem solving, and it has a powerful role to play in making technologies that are accessible and impactful.

We cannot effectively design without knowing deeply the persons, cultures and contexts we are working with. Thoughtful research and people knowing are essential to any creative practice.

Artists and artistic practices play a vital role in modern society and deserve promotion, funding and recognition. By placing art within digital media, we increase the possibilities of collaborative creation and participant engagement.

Our work can and should coexist with the pursuit of financial security and emotional well-being. Conscientious consumption and sustainable business are welcome buzz words when meaningfully put into practice.

With only about a third of the world's population now online, all of us speaking different languages and living within different cultural contexts, we still have much work to do in building a truly global community. It's people, with the help of machines, who start the important process of bridging linguistic, cultural and geographic divides.

Technology doesn't replace face to face interaction; online and offline worlds complement each other. This is why coworking spaces, hacker collectives, professional conferences, casual meetups and other collaborative/group events are becoming increasingly important.

The more we share, collaborate, collude and co-create, the closer we get to a sustainable, just and happy world.

Wholesome, delicious, scrumdiddlyumptious meals devoured alongside lively conversation and/or quiet reflection are essential fuel along the way."



"What the Heck is a Virtual Studio?

When I was living in New York, people constantly asked me where my studio was. I didn't really have one, but that didn't stop me from pursuing a career in art and design. As most of my work is digital, my studio is in my computer and anywhere I set it up. But there's more to it than that. Here are a few definitions of "virtual" from Merriam-Webster:

* being such in essence or effect though not formally recognized or admitted
* being on or simulated on a computer or computer network
* occurring or existing primarily online

An Xiao Studio, then, exists primarily online. Projects can happen anywhere, and the possibility for collaboration is any time. I have no brick and mortar studio--that space could be a coworking space, a cafe, an airplane, a tent in the desert. But I've engaged in a number of design, art and research projects in concert with many people scattered around the world. The studio exists in essence; it's virtually a studio. It's a virtual studio."
art  anxiaomina  artists  media  socialmedia  ethnography  digital  internet  meedan  design  networkedculture  thecivicbeat  community  communities  expression  photography  technology  virtualstudios 
january 2015 by robertogreco
Digital Culture is Like Oral Culture Written Down — The Civic Beat — Medium
[via: https://twitter.com/mathpunk/status/554666572716187648 ]

"Digital Culture is Like Oral Culture Written Down: Calling a selfie stick or lunch pic narcissistic reflects a written culture perspective. Here’s how I reframe things.



We’re recognizing, for instance, how social media can facilitate the spread of rumors and misinformation. We’re acknowledging that verbal cyberbullying and online harassment can be deeply painful. Activist hashtagging continues in the tradition of call and response of chants and slogans. Conversation is a key principle in the new Cluetrain Manifesto: “The Net is not a medium any more than a conversation is a medium.”

All these discussions point to how social media has more of an oral, rather than literate, culture. By focusing just on what people post, we’re missing the point: social context, relationships and nonverbal gestures matter as much as the words and images themselves.

In other words, a selfie is never just a selfie. It exists in a broader social context, and just because some people take them narcissistically doesn’t mean that all, or even most, do.

***

Oral Culture/Print Culture
Shift the framework from print culture to oral culture, and much of the way we use social media sounds a little less crazy and little more, well, human. The Out of Eden Walk project is fond of calling its online community a digital campfire. I like that image; like idle chitchat and storytelling around a campfire, the conversations we have on social media often resemble oral conversations written down.

In that vein, here are a few general complaints against social media that I often hear (do they sound familiar?), and a potential way to reframe them (though to be honest, they’re each worthy of an essay). Because I look at images as much as words on the web, I prefer to use the term print culture, by which I hope to encompass both image- and word-based communications before the internet:

Print culture: People waste time posting pictures of their pets.
Oral culture: People tell silly stories about their pets all the time. Photos make those stories easier.

Print culture: Who cares what you’re having for lunch?
Oral culture: Eating food together, preparing food and talking about said food is one of the most fundamentally social things human beings do.

Print culture: Selfies are the height of vanity and narcissism.
Oral culture: Selfies help express emotion and tell stories. The written word lacks all the nuance of the human face, and selfies help fill that gap.

Print culture: There are literally thousands of people documenting this event with their cameras. Why do you need to take a picture too?
Oral culture: I’m taking this photo to share it with friends. It has to come from me, from my perspective, because I’m the storyteller.

Print culture: Punctuation marks help disambiguate meaning, words, and sentences. Be sparing with exclamation marks and semicolons.
Oral culture: Punctuation marks indicate emphasis. And tone… And emotion! And confusion‽‽‽ And. Every. Mode. Of. Expression. Under. The. Sun. ;)

Print culture: Ur spelling iz awful. Write proper English.
Oral culture: Variants of standardized language are probably as old as words themselves.

Print culture: Use hashtags to express topicality.
Oral culture: Use hashtags to #chant, to have a #metaconversation. Or #justbecause. #somanywaystousehashtags

Print culture: Think carefully about how you arrange words to convey exactly what you mean to say.
Oral culture: I has the feels. Here’s a GIF.

***

There are major differences between digital culture and oral culture, of course.

For one, you can’t index what people are saying in aural space (unless you’re using voice recognition software or audio recordings, etc.). Something you say in one place rarely escapes the physical constraints of sound; in digital culture, one sentence or image can go global rather quickly.

As well, print culture is still an important part of the dialogue, as it always has been, because digital technologies evolved from print technologies and share much of the same functionality. Digital culture has a permanence that’s as helpful for cultural heritage as it is for surveillance.

As law professor James Grimmelmann has written in response to some of my Tweets on this subject, this also has significant effects for the law:

Observers who expect that social media should have the dignity and gravity of the written word can feel affronted when others use social media more informally.

I see this slippage at work in Internet law all the time. The legal system repeatedly asks itself whether social media should be taken seriously.

In general, I find it more helpful, when looking at how people live and interact online, to take an oral culture orientation. We shouldn’t stop there, of course, because digital culture is not exactly oral culture. But with a better frame, we can then dive into the specifics of each practice to try to figure out what’s going on.



So back to the selfie stick.

In general, as we see more people from different cultures coming online, my guess is that cultures with rich oral traditions are more likely to be early adopters of practices that might initially seem odd to the more writerly types. Emoji, GIF stickers, walkie talkie text messages and selfie sticks all come to mind—there’s a reason these have tended to be more popular in Asia initially, where oral culture flourishes online (h/t selfie writer Alicia Eler). Especially when it comes to selfies and group photos, photos don’t end with the picture taking. Rather, everything about these photos — from taking them, sharing them and talking about them — is a vehicle for social bonding, storytelling, talking, etc.



Print culture: Selfie sticks help us extend our narcissism to new heights.
Oral culture: Selfie sticks help us tell better and more varied stories about what we’re up to. We can include a larger group of people. More of the background and scenery. The more detail, the better. Selfies allow us to take and frame the picture as a social experience with friends, making sure it comes from our own perspectives, not that of a stranger.

Oh, and they’re fun, to boot."

[Related: https://pinboard.in/u:robertogreco/b:42a64d5690c1
https://medium.com/why-2015-wont-suck/26-you-will-mock-then-purchase-a-selfie-stick-ea57f41dfda ]
emoji  selfies  selfiesticks  anxiaomina  2015  culture  orality  conversation  internet  socialmedia  online  web  print  publishing  literacy  multiliteracies  punctuation  spelling  language  communication  hashtags  gifs  storytelling  interaction  relationships  chitchat  photography  cameras 
january 2015 by robertogreco

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