Community Media: Selected Clippings – 03/22/08
Comcast Cameras to Start Watching You?
by Chris Albrecht
[ 104 comments ]
If you have some tinfoil handy, now might be a good time to fashion a hat. At the Digital Living Room conference today, Gerard Kunkel, Comcast’s senior VP of user experience, told me the cable company is experimenting with different camera technologies built into devices so it can know who’s in your living room.
The idea being that if you turn on your cable box, it recognizes you and pulls up shows already in your profile or makes recommendations. If parents are watching TV with their children, for example, parental controls could appear to block certain content from appearing on the screen. Kunkel also said this type of monitoring is the “holy grail” because it could help serve up specifically tailored ads. Yikes. —>
City takes business to airwaves
by Susan Larson
The Daily Journal (MN)
[ comments invited ]
As a cameraman films, Community Development Director Gordon Hydukovich tells Lynne Olson, assistant to the city administrator, about an exciting new project happening in the city. Later in the day, the whole community will know about it when they watch, “City of Fergus Falls Update” on PEG Access channel 18.
Call it Regis and Kelly with a local twist. Implemented in February, the program is an effort by the city to keep residents informed about what’s happening around them in an entertaining way. “We’ve heard from council that a concern they hear among the people is they want improved communications,” Olson said. What better way to do so than through television?
“We highlight different departments, a project or special event,” Olson said. “We try to pick a timely topic.” In this most recent case, the subject was a tabletop planning session set for April 10 regarding the west river area of the city. Hydukovich, who will lead the meeting, finds the show to be a means of making such meetings more effective. “I can explain (a project) to people in a room while they’re sitting there,” he said. “But this gets it out and gets people thinking about it before, so they can come prepared and ask questions.”
Each episode airs the same day it is filmed, Jim Francis PEG Access executive director, said. It is played about 14 times until the next segment is filmed. Go to PEG access website — www.pegaccess.com — and look under “schedule” for the schedule. —>
Tuned In: What do you want in local TV news?
by Rob Owen
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (PA)
—> When I asked two weeks ago what viewers expect of local newscasts, I knew I would get some feedback. But I honestly didn’t expect the outpouring of response from more than 100 viewers, many of them frustrated with the state of local TV news. Many of those responses — about 35 printed pages’ worth — have been posted in Tuned In Journal at post-gazette.com/tv. The recurring complaints were these:
• Too much news time…
• Too many teases; too much hype…
• Too many Steelers stories as news…
• Too much weather…
• Too many stories with no relevance to the average viewer…
• Too many references to Web sites…
• Too few stories on the arts…
• More serious news…
Hopes for Wireless Cities Fade as Internet Providers Pull Out
by Ian Urbina
New York Times
PHILADELPHIA — It was hailed as Internet for the masses when Philadelphia officials announced plans in 2005 to erect the largest municipal Wi-Fi grid in the country, stretching wireless access over 135 square miles with the hope of bringing free or low-cost service to all residents, especially the poor.
Greg Goldman is chief executive of Wireless Philadelphia, a nonprofit organization set up to help administer the program. He said that about $4 million was needed to cover the rest of the city. Municipal officials in Chicago, Houston, San Francisco and 10 other major cities, as well as dozens of smaller towns, quickly said they would match Philadelphia’s plans.
But the excited momentum has sputtered to a standstill, tripped up by unrealistic ambitions and technological glitches. The conclusion that such ventures would not be profitable led to sudden withdrawals by service providers like EarthLink, the Internet company that had effectively cornered the market on the efforts by the larger cities. Now, community organizations worry about their prospects for helping poor neighborhoods get online…
“The entire for-profit model is the reason for the collapse in all these projects,” said Sascha Meinrath, technology analyst at the New America Foundation, a nonprofit research organization in Washington. Mr. Meinrath said that advocates wanted to see American cities catch up with places like Athens, Leipzig and Vienna, where free or inexpensive Wi-Fi already exists in many areas.
He said that true municipal networks, the ones that are owned and operated by municipalities, were far more sustainable because they could take into account benefits that help cities beyond private profit, including property-value increases, education benefits and quality-of-life improvements that come with offering residents free wireless access. Mr. Meinrath pointed to St. Cloud, Fla., which spent $3 million two years ago to build a free wireless network that is used by more than 70 percent of the households in the city. —>
An ideal future communications infrastructure, how do we get there, and what is stopping us!
by Russell McOrman
[ comments invited ]
Whenever the discussion of “Net Neutrality” comes up we often get stuck with how the current network is configured, who provides it, and other historical issues. I would like to toss out that history for a moment and offer what I believe to be an ideal, talk about transition issues, as well as some of winners and losers in that transition (and thus who the greatest opponents are)
Future network infrastructure
Imagine a municipal ultra high speed network (Fiber to the premises/Home, or whatever future technologies may be even faster) that allowed the city residents to make arbitrary connections from their home to other points in the city. Sometimes they would connect to other citizens, and other times they would connect to companies. These companies would offer a wide variety of services, mirroring many legacy services and having the ability to innovatively create more.
What we currently think of as “phone” service would be handled by competing companies that offered directory services and voice (and possibly video for video phones) connectivity between municipalities, as well as gateways to legacy “phone” networks (domestically and internationally). Voice communication between municipal residents could go point-to-point without the need of an additional intermediary.
What we currently think of as “television” service would be handled by people being able to directly subscribe and connect to various networks individually. I may be a fan of CBC and thus I would have a subscription with them. Individual community based stations would be relatively cheap to set up compared to the current system which either needs wireless transmitters or an agreement with both a cable company and the CRTC. Like the voice services, there would be competing companies offering the service of bringing in “television” stations that are not part of the networks who offer their stations directly in the municipality.
Switching from any service a company offers to a competitor should be very easy given the connection to ones home is entirely neutral to any company.
Transportation and utilities offer a path to this ideal
What I consider to be the ideal should sound familiar, as it is the system we use for our ground transportation system and many utilities including electricity. We have municipally owned/managed road infrastructure which allow us to travel between any two destinations within the city. We don’t have a “Walmart road” as well as a “Canadian Tire” road running to our homes like many of us in Ontario have a “Rogers” and a “Bell” wire running into our homes. The municipality — unlike the legacy phone and cable companies — doesn’t claim some alleged right to actively inspect the contents of all our vehicles or “traffic shape” roads based on whether they like the contents of our vehicles or not. —>
Tibet could be a public relations fiasco for Beijing
by Ken Kamoche
The Tibetan crisis is once again revealing some serious weaknesses in the way China handles threats to its much-vaunted quest for harmony. The riots in Tibet have also put to the test China’s slogan for the games: “One world, one dream”. In one part of the Himalayas at least, that dream is fast turning into a nightmare… Imposing a media ban, ordering foreign journalists out of Lhasa, demonising the Dalai Lama and the hardline approach the government has taken all suggest that China has some way to go if it is to achieve internal harmony and gain the respect of the international community…
Beijing ought to have learnt some lessons from the collapse of the former Suharto regime and in particular how deceptively simple technologies like text messages played such a pivotal role in mobilising a street revolution. The same goes for Tibet. You can cut off the formally constituted communication channels, chase away foreign journalists, block access to the Internet and foreign TV channels; but it is a losing battle.
Information seems to have a life of its own. It seeps through the cracks, bypasses the controls and gets to those who need it, or is dispatched by those who have to. The mess that is going on in Tibet cannot be swept under the carpet. If it continues to simmer, it will also further alienate the Taiwanese who fear they might go the way of Tibet. —>
Think You’re Not an Anarchist? Download This Book!
by Phil Grove
A Cooperative, Unending Endeavor
[ comments invited ]
Anarchism is political philosophy of radical humanism that commends itself to Quakers and many others who should give it more attention. It’s a vision of human relations that is egalitarian as opposed to hierarchical; communitarian as opposed to individualistic; and ecological and sustainable as opposed to extractive and doomed. Anarchists assess the modern condition as slavery to modern instutions of dominance and oppression; and they seek freedom for all.
The anarchist vision is not an unconstrained, chaotic nightmare that replaces modern institutions with nothing; it is a highly organized, nonheirarchical web of community-scale institutions within which to conduct human activities. By far, it is the political philosophy most compatible with Quaker testimony and practice; and also most compatible with the values of many advocates of participatory democracy, equal rights, feminism, environmentalism, and holistic health and living.
Anyone interested in anarchism should read Getting Free: Creating an Association of Democratic Autonomous Neighborhoods by James Herod. In this succinct work, Herod makes the case for some form of anarchism as the only viable alternative to the current system of global capitalism. But more importantly, he addresses the question of strategy in a straightforward manner. He conducts an unblinking critical survey of the failed past and current strategies of the left, rejecting them all as unable to defeat the capitalist system.
Our alternative parties, our vigils and demonstrations, our civil disobedience, our single issue campaigns, and our educational efforts are all ineffective against capitalism, in Herod’s view. The most they can achieve is to temporarily curb the worst abuses of capitalism. Depressing stuff, but I would suggest that a lot of the torper we feel on the left stems from our repressed understanding that Herod’s criticism is correct. We have not been getting anywhere.
But Herod doesn’t leave it at that. In place of past strategies to overthrow or reform capitalism, Herod advocates a strategy of the gradual abandonment of capitalist institutions and substitution of alternative, community-based democratic structures. Here is the list of specific strategies he proposes: —>