Thursday, November 17, 2011

Computer and Internet Use at Home

The latest report from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, Exploring the Digital Nation: Computer and Internet Use at Home, has just been released (here).

Previous reports going back to 1995 can also be accessed from the site, including the historical data files from which the reports are built.

The Department of Commerce's Economics and Statistics Administration (ESA) and National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) released a report, “Exploring the Digital Nation,” that analyzes broadband Internet adoption in the United States. Overall, approximately seven out of ten households in the United States subscribe to broadband service. The report finds a strong correlation between broadband adoption and socio-economic factors, such as income and education, but says these differences do not explain the entire broadband adoption gap that exists along racial, ethnic, and geographic lines. Even after accounting for socio-economic differences, certain minority and rural households still lag in broadband adoption.

The report analyzes data collected through an Internet Use supplement to the Current Population Survey (CPS) of about 54,300 households conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau in October 2010. Earlier this year, NTIA released initial findings from the survey, showing that while virtually all demographic groups have increased adoption of broadband Internet at home since the prior year, historic disparities among demographic groups remain. This report presents broadband adoption statistics after adjusting for various socio-economic differences.

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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Journal Feature: Critical Inquiry on The Wire

"Way Down in the Whole": Systematic Inequality and The Wire, by Anmol Chaddha and William Julius Wilson, leads off a discussion in the latest issue of Critical Inquiry 38 (Autumn 2011). Patrick Jagoda (Wired), Kenneth W. Warren (Sociology and The Wire), and Linda Williams (Ethnographic Imaginary: The Genesis and Genius of The Wire) provide the critical response. Finally, Chaddha and Wilson have the last word with The Wire's Impact, A Rejoinder.

Critical Inquiry is available from Penn Library's e-resources.

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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

November CommQuote

This month's quote features a brief transcript from NPR's The World on the improvisational poets of Kyrgystan and their role as reporters and commentators on their local political scene. The piece, by Lily Jamali, aired on November 14.

The small Central Asian republic of Kyrgyzstan held a presidential election recently. It was the first peaceful handover of power since the end of the Soviet Union.A violent revolution last year overthrew the previous president. As the country’s fledging democracy moves forward, the local media have been covering events closely. But so has an older, arguably more powerful institution in Kyrgyzstan. For centuries, the people of Kyrgyzstan have used improvisational poetry as a way of telling their nation’s story.The poets are called “akyns” – and in a country that’s experiencing rapid political change – they are considered the voice of the Kyrgyz.

At this performance in the ethnically-torn southern city of Osh, two of the nation’s most prominent akyns, Aaly Tutkuchov and Jenishbek Jumakadyr, banter about the power they wield over politicians, some of whom are in the audience. “They’re afraid” – sings Tutkuchov. “They’re thinking “What will they say about me?” Jumakadyr responds: “Someone’s taking cell phone video of us. They must be with the National Security Service.”

Akyns are masters of improvisation. The two-person performance itself called an “aytish” – is like a cross between an American rap battle and a stand-up comedy routine.In another routine, the akyns talk smack about fellow performers. Tutkuchov jokes that a guy waiting in the wings to come on is so short, he has to wear high-heels – Jumakadyr responds that even then, he can hardly reach the microphone.

The men play a small three-string guitar-like instrument called the Komuz in between insults.But like the best rap artists, akyns take their role in Kyrgyz society very seriously. Tutkuchov says he sees himself almost like a journalist, creating a political dialogue for the public and keeping lawmakers in check.

If one akyn is promoting the government or some leader, the second akyn should take the opposite point of view, he says. He should judge how that akyn is supporting the government. And politicians try to curry their favor. Tutkuchov says when that fails, politicians sometimes threaten akyns after a performance. He’s had to change his phone number to stop harassing calls.

“We know – when we point out wrongdoing – they will try to put pressure on us. Or make us scared of them but we’re not afraid of them. This is the important thing about akyns. We need to tell the truth,” Tutkuchov says.

Kyrgyzstan’s akyn tradition is making a comeback after decades of Soviet rule. Ethnomusicologist Elmira Kochumkulova says Soviet officials would force akyns to tell them what they planned to say ahead of time – even though akyns are supposed to improvise. And sometimes, the Apparatchicks would make akyns an offer they couldn’t refuse. They knew they could use their skills – oral art – because they were quite popular among the people. They used them to spread soviet ideology, to spread soviet culture to remote villages, mountain villages among the Kyrgyz. Oral poets were used like propaganda tools.

Two decades after the fall of the Soviet Union, the status of the Kyrgyz akyn is returning to its former glory. Kuchumkulova says the power of akyns shouldn’t be underestimated. They really are the social commentators of Kyrgyzstan. They’ve helped the country transition to democracy and deal with some of the traumatic events of the past year.

That includes the death of dozens of people in an uprising that led to former President Kurmanbek Bakiyev’s ouster. When the April 7 events happened and over 80 young men died, they were key players at the funeral, improvising funeral songs for these men at the burial site. “My dear Kyrgyz. You’ve seen so many things, you’ve gone through so much sorrow,” one of the akyans sang.And they have. After the political and ethnic violence of the last six years, last month’s presidential election was peaceful. But it’s also seen as Kyrgyzstan gravitating back into Russia’s sphere of influence. And the akyns will most certainly have something to say about that.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA)

The Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA) works to strengthen the support, raise the visibility, and improve the effectiveness of media assistance programs throughout the world. The Center approaches its mission by providing information, building networks, conducting research, and highlighting the indispensable role independent media play in the creation and development of sustainable democracies around the world.

CIMA's website qualifies it for this resource blog because it hosts free research reports and its own bibliographic database of international media assistance resources. it's useful to search such topics such as media and conflict, media and democracy, media development, new media, and sustainability by region.

Recent research reports include:

Media Codes of Ethics: The Difficulty of Defining Standards
Codes of Ethics incorporate best practices that may go beyond the laws of libel, defamation, and privacy. In the not-so-free world, these codes are not always the products of a self-regulating free press. They may represent a cultural and political compromise with a society or government that holds a more restrictive view of what journalists should and should not report.

News on the Go: How Mobile Devices Are Changing the World's Information Ecosystem
Mobile devices now reach the farthest corners of the world. By the end of 2011, about 5 billion mobile phones will be in service in a world with 7 billion people. The implications–for politics, for education, for economies, for civil society, and for news and information–are profound.

Matching the Market and the Model: The Business of Independent News Media explains how lack of management skills and inexperience in developing effective business models poses a significant risk to the sustainability of independent news media. It explores a variety of different business models for media in several countries around the world and examines what lessons can be learned from those experiences.

Media and the Law: An Overview of Legal Issues and Challenges examines the different kinds of laws that affect the media and explains how they are used in many countries to influence the operations of news outlets and the information they offer. It primarily focuses on restrictive laws and legal challenges faced by journalists in developing countries, although laws in developed countries dealing with issues such as libel and terrorism are also considered.

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