Archive for the 'China' Category

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Beijing DAY 2

dutton and heroes of free software

This is the front of the room at the Oxford Institute Summer Program. These guys, the three on the right, were heroes. They laid out the argument for governments to use free software clear and cold. Bill Dutton, the guy on the left, put up a noble scholarly defense, urging that detachment and devotion to data should not be lost amidst their passion for their cause.

Earlier in the day I had my first opportunity to talk with the group. We started with each of them stating their name and thesis. Then I told them a bit about myself and tried to offer them a trajectory with and arc that goes back a ways under the title, “the future of the internet”. Not mine to describe, nor were there other bloggers in the room, unless I can get Ben Walker to speak up. He was there, and can you believe, not recording!


I arrived yesterday, ten hours from Paris in a middle seat made okay by Etienne, age fourteen from a town near Marseilles, who struggled artfully with English and played games exceedingly well on the little screen in the seat-back in front of me. Jie Liang met me at the airport in his elegant Audi sedan and talked with me about internet in China on the way to my hotel. Jie works for a New York investors group at IPO level but is more interested himself in ventures. He is chairman of a start-up that promotes artists and makes money through ring-tones. He describes the internet innovation environment as alive, with ventures now focused realistically on financial return, no longer blinded by click-counts. Quick shower and short walk to the Oxford Internet Institute Summer Progam at which I am to speak. Twenty-seven Ph.D students in a room with mics at every seat. Vicki, organizer, introduces a panel of journalism speakers. Ollie speaks, China correspondent for London Times, Ollie August, a handsome man who puts me in mind of the English hearthrob whose name I can’t bring to mind at the moment (Nottingham Hill), that little head-down crinkled smile, speaks about how internet has changed the practice of foreign journalism in China, freed him from sitting by city news feeds, now allowing him to move around the country. Ollie could use a moderator, but ideas are big. Censorship seen in a politically neutral frame of the PRC doing very well. Short nap. Julie Liu is showing video shot by a farmer showing thugs beating people to drive them off land a state-run power company wants in order to expand. Six farmers and a thug die. What is the story? She goes to the village to follow up. This becomes a break-out news story in China’s mass media. Elements for a young female Beijing journalist to break a polically sensitive news story into mass media news are brought to life, getting assigned to the story by your boss, getting access to the location often denied by local police, part of cover-up under local authority, getting exciting video. All this happened here because a farmer thought to record digital evidence of the outrage and persuaded others in the village that collecting and protecting evidence is an effective path to follow in appeal to Beijing justice, plus the internet on which the video circulated. Last goes Andrew Lih, comparing China-US: on mobile to Internet ratio, China way ahead , 3.6:1, the US way behind, 0.9:1; free internet connection here, hassle there; integration of mobile/internet here, separate spaces there. Yes, the message made clear to me by Jie here affirmed and expanded by Andrew, China is on a cutting edge.