Monday, 16 June 2008

The Reporters Without Borders list of nine things the Chinese authorities must do before the Beijing Olympic Games:

1. Release all journalists and Internet users detained in China for exercising their right to information.

2. Abolish for ever the restrictive articles in the Foreign Correspondents Guide that limit the media’s freedom of movement and work.

3. Disband the Publicity Department (the former Propaganda Department), which exercises daily control over content in the Chinese press.

4. End the jamming of foreign radio stations.

5. End the blocking of thousands of news and information websites based abroad.

6. Suspend the “11 Commandments of the Internet,” which lead to content censorship and self-censorship on websites.

7. End the blacklisting of journalists and human rights activists, which prevents them from visiting China.

8. Lift the ban on Chinese media using foreign news agency video footage and news reports without permission.

9. Legalize independent organisations of journalists and human rights activists.

Blogger arrests

World Information Access has published a Report on bloggers being arrested all around the world.

The study is interesting both because of the results and the methodology.

First, methodologically they used content analysis of media published incidents of arrested bloggers:

"Using Google and LexisNexis as search engines, we found 64 blogger arrest incidents discussed in various news articles, blogs, scholarly articles and informational Web sites. We organized the incidents by blogger name, country, date of arrest, reason for arrest and time in jail. " (, 16. 6. 2008).

Of course they recognized the fact, that there are many incidents that go unpublished, so that these results can not be held representative of what is actually happening and where, but still the results can be of informative nature.

Another thing that is interesting about their methodology is the fact that they openly published their data set - allowing other researcher to analyze the data or/and to continue adding their own data. I know this is quite common for publicly funded research in the field of surveys, but it is still very rare in cases of content analysis.

The most significant result of the research are the stated reasons for arrest: exposing corruption or human rights violation, posting comments about political figures, posting comments about public policies, using blogs to organize or report on social protests, violating cultural norms and other (other is what is not of a political nature).

The numbers are not so important though - since the method relies only on incidents reported by the media - the increase in year 2007 for example could be due to the actual increase in arrests, it could be due to the heightened media attention to these incidents (media starting to view blogs as important means for public speech), it could be due to the rise in online media reporting (the fact that in some localities the media started to report extensively online only recently), due to the archival lost in previous years or due to other unknown factors hidden in the Google search engine and LexisNexis search engines (it still amazes me, with how much ease researchers use word search engines, without knowing how exactly and from where did these search engines provide the outputs. Does Lexis Nexis cover Slovene media for example? I don't know - I don't have access. But even if it would - what did they do regarding the language? Did they search only in English? If so - where is this stated and what possible implications for the whole results can this have?).

Anyway, this was one of the rare social scientific reports that are published by the media as "sheer gold" (see BBC), and are available for public scrutiny. For this, and their simple, but informative and publicly accessible coding scheme, I have to give them credit.

It would be good if they continued the research with a much larger basis of local researchers - perhaps bloggers who would do it voluntarily - who can follow their local media and update the data regularly. But of course, this is an enormous project (nevertheless, it is not impossible - why do we have the internet for?).

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

I'm back

Hopefully this time without such a long break (yeah, yeah - like one of the new years resolutions).
What have I been up to? Mostly working. On my PhD proposal, on the Civicweb interviews with the producers, before that on the paper with Nick on methods for researching YouTube for the Web2.0 conference.

1. PhD proposal - I finally sent in the the "damn thing" (as my dear friend Janne would say). I am not sure wheater I am pleased with it or not, but I suppose it is a base to start working on. I discovered that I became overwhlemed with literture on globalisation - at the begining it all seemed much too much, but now I can't stop reading. Especially I suggest:
Hay (2007). Why we hate politics? Really, really excelent book.

2. Civicweb interviews with producers of sites - not quite finished yet.

3. Paper with Nick on how to research content on YouTube at Politics Web 2.0 Conference - it opened a Pandora's box of questions I have to find answers to in the next couple of months: How to sample - which topic to choose? What's up with videos - are pictures for ex. rational argumentation? What about the language - if I am already studying international or global publics, is English really enough? And all great participation numbers! Number of visits, number of posts, number of ratings and most importantly number of hits from other online sources? Are they really an indicator of "publicness" in terms of public consequences? Loads of work still awaits!