Tag Archives: TEDtalks

Evgeny Morozov & the dark side of ICTs

During our class on Tuesday, guest lecturer Adam Papedieck mentioned Evgeny Morozov and encouraged us to check out his TedTalks about the “dark side” of ICTs in developing nations.

Check out the TedTalk by Evgeny Morozov, How the Net Aids Dictatorships, here!   This video greatly compliments the other videos and writings by Morozov and Clay Shirky that my peers have analyzed this week in response to Papedieck’s suggestion.

Morozov criticizes the view that we can promote democracy through the spread of ICTs and the Internet.  In class and many blog posts, we have highlighted crowdsourcing, blogging, Internet access, and the social media as means to promote development, democratize information, and empower marginalized communities.  However, Morozov points out that the Internet perpetuates authoritarianism in many developing nations and defers democracy.

It’s important that consider both the positive and negative outcomes of ICT proliferation.  While we focus on positive uses of ICTs and potential development outcomes, we must be sure not to ignore potential unintended consequences.  This TedTalk is not meant to present a pessimistic view of ICT or to discourage optimistic ICT4D efforts, rather it is meant to encourage realism and encourage us to take consider all possible outcomes.  Morozo ends with this great quote: “We have to stop thinking about the number of iPods per capita, and we can start thinking about ways we can empower intellectuals, dissidents, NGOs, and the members of civil society.”

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Adam Papendieck’s Recommendation of Clay Shirky’s Institutions vs. Collaboration

In class yesterday, guest speaker Adam Papendieck of The Payson Center for International Development spoke of developments in internet and data technology. He spoke of the diffusion of internet, the leapfrog effect, and smartphones, with an emphasis on education and health initiatives in East Africa, where he works. In one of his slides, Adam brought a TED talk video to our attention. Here it is!

The 2005 video is 20 minutes long but worth the watch. The speaker, Clay Shirky, shows us how companies and closed groups will give way to looser networks where small contributors have big roles and fluid cooperation replaces rigid planning. He is a professor at NYU for the graduate Interactive Telecommunications Program and an author who is an expert in networks, peer-to-peer sharing, wireless and open-source development. He is a believer that when ways of media change the sorts of arguments we can have change. How does what Clay Shirky relate to what our guest speaker discussed? How does it tie in with our class?


“How Social Media Can Make History”

After hearing Adam Papendieck speak this afternoon I decided to check out Clay Shirky’s TEDtalk he mentioned, How Social Media Can Make History. Shirky’s talk is fascinating; he articulately synthesizes many of the themes we have discussed this semester, as well as a host of new information.

Shirky begins his talk by discussing how social media is often used as an avenue for social capital, the idea that we are all in it together and will collectively gain from helping one another out, from cooperating. He sites the example of VideoVote, an application in 2008 that allowed people to look out for voter suppression, ensuring the sanctity of the vote by visually documenting polling places.

He then titles the age we are living through as “the largest increase in expressive capability in human history,” classifying it as one of the five media revolutions of human history. Shirky lists these revolutions in chronological order: the invention of the printing press, the creation of two way communication through telegraph and telephone, the documentation of recorded media in photos, sound, and movies, the harnessing of the electromagnetic spectrum in radio and TV, and the Internet. What he finds most revolutionary about the Internet in comparison to these other media revolutions is its “many to many pattern,” that users can act as producers and consumers. The audience can now talk back to the producer, as well as to other audience members.

Another factor Shirky discusses is that all forms of media are now on the Internet. The Internet is now not only a type of media itself, but a site of coordination for all media. Shirky believes the Internet has forever changed the nature of media, stating “we are increasingly in a landscape where media is global, social, ubiquitous and cheap.” He sees the current role of the media as less about crafting a certain message for individuals, and more as a way of creating an environment for convening and supporting groups.  The future of the Internet and media itself, depends on the masses, not the few.


Ai Weiwei: Social Media for Social Change

The Chinese government closely monitors Internet traffic and censors citizens’ ability to access share/access information.  As we discussed in class, the country’s strict censorship has been dubbed the ‘Great Firewall of China’.  Recently I watched a documentary called Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry by Alison Krayman. The film depicts Ai, an international artist and political activist, as he speaks out against the Chinese government, largely through social media as a medium for his art.  He states, “Internet is the answer to achieve a civil society,” and explains that Twitter and blogs provides Chinese citizens with a sense of freedom they have never had before.

He has used these platforms to mobilize citizens and raise international awareness of unethical practices of the Chinese government.  In 2008, the Sichuan Earthquake had devastating effects on the state of China. The communist government did not reveal details of citizen casualties, especially among school children.  Investigations proved that poor construction of Chinese schools led to the unnecessary death of thousands of young students.  Through the Internet, Ai Weiwei organized volunteers to visit schools and even knock door-to-door to learn of the specific children that were harmed by the disaster.  In total, Ai developed a database of over 5,219 students killed and created a memorial piece of art in their honor.

Through the power of social media, Ai strives to transform China into a “modern society” and promote freedom of speech for the Chinese people. He encourages young people to get involved in social media as this powerful medium allows individuals to instantly reach the masses and has the potential to make a significant impact on society.

Here is a TED Talk about Ai Weiwei and his efforts in China to leverage social media for social change.


Profile: Nicholas Negroponte

In this week’s readings there is a focus on case studies relating to the One Laptop Per Child initiative, which promotes givingImage inexpensive and child friendly laptops to developing schools in order to promote introduction to ICT and increased educational opportunities. The project was founded by Nicholas Negroponte who is involved in many other pioneering technological achievements.

A graduate of MIT, he studied computer aided design and has always been a strong proponent of the importance of user friendly technology in daily life. He sees technology, especially computers, as being increasingly beneficial for humankind with still yet un tapped potential.

His major focus today is on children’s education around the world, believing that it is the key to growth. He is also believes that children can learn through doing, and should be in charge of their education. (Read more here) “Everybody agrees that whatever the solutions are to the big problems, they … can never be without some element of education.” – Nicholas Negroponte

Negroponte co-founded and directed the MIT Media Laboratory which strives to bring together creative and technological researchers and developers to study cutting edge technology and inventions that will impact everyday life.

He was also the first investor and a writer for Wired Magazine, as well as an investor in over thirty tech startups.

He has been described by some as having “techno-utopian” ideas that are not actually feasible, for example there are many critiques in the assigned reading Can One Laptop Per Child Save the World’s Poor?”

Watch Negroponte TED Talk on OLPC


How does Cognitive Surplus relate to ICT4D

     After reading Richard Heeks “ICT4D Manifesto“, which discusses the potentials (and limitations) of information and communication technologies in past development and in today’s “ICT4D 2.0 age”, we watched Clay Shirky’s TED talk titled How Cognitive Surplus Will Change the World.

In his lecture, Shirky discusses how digital technology combined with human generosity have created a new collaborative and social idea know as “cognitive surplus”. The 21st century has given us not only more free time, but also the ability and tools to let the consumers become the creators, who often times create for free. These technological and social changes are creating whole new opportunities for ICT and this in turn relates to ICT4D. Shirky’s point is not only are we in an age where this abundant creation is possible through new knowledge and interconnectedness, but that it is being done for pleasure, for “intrinsic motivations”, and for our fellow people.

This is not the neoliberal, top down, design of the past in how ICT worked, but a grassroots and collaborative effort that falls more into capabilities approach and post developmentalism. Individuals around the world are creating new things for others’ benefit, whether it be a simple laugh at an LOLcat or crisis mapping using the Ushahidi model, both examples Shirky discussed. These consumer created tools can then be used in development, like the crisis mapping in Kenya, and even better is that they were free and open to the public. This is not knowledge kept away for profit, but freedom of information and tools to better others. This is ICT4D 2.0 at work; innovative, using existing technologies, and collaborating across the world.


Ironicly posting this to Facebook- Sherry Turkle’s TED talk

Sherry Turkle: Connected, but alone?

This TED talk features Sherry Turkle, an award winning author on the potential of technology and computers specifically. Her book came out in the 80’s, when new advances were historic. The first computers showed the potential to drastically change the way we live. Turkle’s book praised the innovation and cited many of the issues or daily activities that this could address.

Her opinion has changed, too many texts, Turkle says, can be bad. Originally, as a psychologist she hoped we could use what we learned in the virtual world about ourselves and identities to live better lives in the real world.

“I’m still excited by technology, but I believe and I’m here to make the case that we’re letting it take us places that we don’t want to go.” She’s been studying technologies of mobile communication for the past 15 years and has concluded that our devices are so psychologically powerful that they change what we do, how we act and even who we are. We no longer give each other our full attention, we remove ourselves from situations and go into our phones-  at conferences, meetings, while hanging out, even at funerals.

This changes how we relate to each other, but especially “how we relate to ourselves and our capacities for self-reflection”. People are now used to being with each other while being somewhere else, having every other option at their finger tips. We try to gain control by “customizing” our lives, being free to go in and out of places and attention. Turkle says that many people “want to go in and out of all the places they are because the thing that matters most to them is control over where they put their attention. So you want to go to that board meeting, but you only want to pay attention to the bits that interest you. And some people think that’s a good thing. But you can end up hiding from each other, even as we’re all constantly connected to each other.”

She touches on so many aspects of our relationship with technology and  affects on our relationships with others and ourselves. Human relationships are not meant to be controlled, edited and planned. We need to wake up and see that the technology we think we control has turned the tables on us. When we’re lonely we automatically reach for a phone or computer. We know that people will read a facebook or twitter post, but it’s a cowardly way to hide from real interaction and an excuse to redefine how we share our feelings.