Ethan Zuckerman and The Internet is NOT Flat…

Ethan ZukkermanEthan Zuckerman founded Geekcorps, which has the goal of sending Western geek volunteers to the developing world where they help with technology. His latest creation is Global Voices, which seeks to aggregate, curate, and amplify the global conversation on-line — shining light on places and people other media often ignore. He is also associated with the Berkman Center.

The hall is beginning to fill and they’re playing some obscure Steely Dan.

Following are notes jotted down during his talk. Most of the thoughts are Ethans. Since this is live blogged, please excuse the typos and awkward wording.

It’s staring…

  • Atoms have become incredibly mobile (FIJI Water for example).
  • People are not moving that much, because they can work from where they are.
  • Data mobility is high. It’s never been easier to be an expatriate. And we can read the blog of the vice president of Iran and the news in North Korea — in Spanish.

Remember the NASA picture of the world at night with humanities lights. He says that where there is light, people are on the Internet. Where it’s dark, people are not. The dark continent (Africa) is dark. He’s showing a map of the Fiber in uses as of Year -end 2004. It’s the underwater cabling. really thick between North America and Europe, and lots of cables between NA and Asia. There is only one cable feeding Africa. Then there’s a map the shows countries that are blocking various types of access, and then a map that codes countries by how much standard media is paying attention.

He’s concluded that the news map is a demand map. We’re the ones paying attention. We are not getting enough Nigeria, he says. 130,000,000 people (at least). They haven’t done a census in 40 years, because if they knew how many Muslims and Chrstians were there, it would be politically destabilizing. Nigeria incredibly important. Where Nigeria goes, Africa goes.

The Nigerian spam scam is not new. in the 16th century there was the Spanish Prisoner Scam. There is a community of youngsters who hang out in CyberCafes and work up these letters. Spanish Prisoner appeals to sympathy. Nigerian Scam appeals to your greed. In the UK, people are Scam Baiting Nigeria, because they believe that the scammers are big orgainzations. The sad result is that there are instructions online that will help you shut Nigeria off from your web site. It’s not what the Internet is about.

Now he’s talking about ethnic cleansing in Lineage (an MMORPH), between Koreans and Chinese. Koreans play the game. Chinese college students play to collect treasures, and then they auction the treasure off on eBay. Koreans will approach people in Lineage and speak Korean. If the person doesn’t respond in Korean, then they drive them off.

Homophily is the tendency that people have to group with other people like them. We’re really good at it. It’s a fundamental human tendency, and it’s dangerous. People leaning to the left are probably paying attention only to left-wing bloggers, and vice-a-versa. In the Internet age, we end up with the Internet Me, a personal news source where we only hear people who think the same way that we do. Reddit, a DIGG type site, has been taken over by followers of Ron Paul.

Homophily can make you stupid. What we need is serendipity. It’s the best global word, according to Ethan Zuckerman.

Newspapers, are really good at institutionalizing serendipity. What’s interesting is that online versions do not seem to be promoting serendipity.

What’s important are Bridge Bloggers, who are people who are taking what’s happening in one country, and contextualizing the information for the rest of the world. There are aggregators out there, such as GlobalVoices that bring the blogs of other countries to the world. He talks about a web site that features a map of Kenya, that marks spots of tribal hostility and also spots where people of different tribal origins are learning to live together. Reports are all being passed on using SMS from phones.

Author: David Warlick

David Warlick has been an educator for the past 40+ years. He continues to do some writing, but is mostly seeking his next intersect between play, passion and purpose, dabbling in photography, drone videography and music production.