Category Archives: Media

Privacy is a public concern

March began interestingly for me this year, with two big meetings back-to-back, in Panglao, a tiny island in the Philippines. The first was with Privacy International, the London-based public service PI_Gang_Panglao.pngorganisation. It has worked tirelessly for over two decades to keep public awareness of personal privacy rights.

Surprisingly, for most people who hardly ever need to think twice about such an obvious attribute of free people, this right is fast vanishing around the world, and most dismayingly, in democratic countries. Continue reading

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Rules and Misrules

At the very tag-end of 2008, an extraordinary event took place. India’s Parliament met for a stormy Winter Session, during which little of note was discussed, and little value was added to the fabric of society. And then, as the Session was drawing to a close, a number of Bills were brought up for voting, and within a few minutes, with little or no words exchanged, they were passed in toto.

The utter disregard of the country and its people implicit in this kind of facile performance is stunning and salutary, especially in light of the public agitation that has spread across northern Africa and parts of Asia, with citizens of many countries taking to the streets to express their disgust at the way that they have been taken for granted, by governments and leaders that claim to have their best interests at heart. Some of the perpetrators of such callousness now find themselves scrabbling to escape, together with untold amounts of wealth stolen from their hapless countries.

That the Indian public has so far been a little more forgiving of such small degradations is a current feature, not a guarantee.

Today, February 28, 2011, I am trying to be equally forgiving. Continue reading

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Size matters

Not long ago, the nation of India decided it was mature enough to allow people to communicate with each other, even poor people (of which there are, as it happens, still a few). Not just talking, which is more or less a habit, but using high quality electronic telecommunications, of which the very cheapest is FM (frequency modulated radio broadcasting, using the medium wave band). Continue reading

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Primative Communication

For quite a while, many years, I would say, I have assumed speech to be a pretty level playing field factor for HCI (vis-a-vis human computer interface design), and much of the work Arun and I have done, even the “name” we used to do this work (Radiophony), implied “speech” as a deliverable.

Two interesting snippets makes me feel a rethink is worthwhile. As primates, the evolution of our collection of species is exceedingly communication-centric, and no species on earth has developed communication more complexly and richly than humans. Continue reading

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Missing the Woods for the Trees?

An interesting new study has kicked off in Belfast, Ireland, says this news item. Under the broad aegis of the Queen’s College project called SEMAINE, SAL, the Sensitive Artificial Listener, will be designed to sense the unspoken (ie non-verbal) signals that characterise what most humans use whilst communicating. I haven’t found out just what the longer acronym means yet, but it possibly derives from ‘SEnsory MAchine Interaction Network on Emotion’, since its earlier counterpart HUMAINE, led by the same Belfast researcher, apparently means ‘HUman MAchine Interaction Network on Emotion’.

The news appears in another magazine also, curiously similar, veritably identical in fact. What does that say about human communication, eh? Continue reading

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Email and Security

Reading over my shoulder?

People who do a lot of email (I don’t do a lot, not by corporate standards, but I’m not exactly an online recluse), are increasingly concerned by the lack of privacy in this area of communication.

Some of us are keen to see the modes of communication used on the Internet become commonplace for all (hence the title of this blog, in case you just landed up here and are still wondering), and now it is necessary to study how best to handle questions of privacy, when setting up email services on wide area intranets.

Intranets are more or less the same thing as local area networks, but the term refers more to the services running on the network, rather than to its physical infrastructure. The terrific advantage of such services is that they can be set up in a manner that avoids centralised control. In fact, they need not have a centralised structure to begin with.

So what can one do with a decentralised network? The sky’s the limit, almost, and new applications and services emerge almost every day.

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Radio: broadcasting uber wires

India is such an interesting country, as far as the media is concerned (well, admittedly, for many more reasons, but they don’t really relate to this note). It simply explodes with publications, thousands of them in print, tens of television channels, hundreds of radio channels.Why then, is the situation so parlous as far as community media is concerned? And more to the point, how can we emerge from this morass?

All over the world, there has been a refreshing wave of positive change, as far as the media is concerned. From the 80s, pervasively ‘corporate’ media was the norm, being chronicled in later novels like Jeffrey Archer’s “The Fourth Estate”. From the days of Radio Caroline to the angst of Seattle, there has been a palpable and spontaneous outpouring of desire for media unfettered by hidden agenda.

India is such an interesting country, as far as the media is concerned (well, admittedly, for many more reasons, but they don’t really relate to this note). It simply explodes with publications, thousands of them in print, hundreds of radio and television channels. Yes, hundreds.

Radio is the odd one out, actually. The Indian government was always amazingly open to the print media, conceptually, honouring Gandhiji’s tremendous leadership and tireless writing. Much later, it repeated its proactive attitude to the revolutionary impact of television, which took only a short time to become incredibly pervasive.

While print is widely visible, it has a limited reach, since it demands literacy. Television doesn’t, but the medium is terribly expensive, and that defines its creative quality. Sadly, in a very constricted fashion.

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