Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Conservative People Power?

Political scientists and constitutionalists distinguish between various types of democracy. Some favor a more direct form of democracy with referenda, popular initiatives and other forms of grass roots involvement in the political decision making process. Others support the representative model of democratic government where democratically elected representatives act as go-betweens and speak and govern on behalf of the sovereign people. Many modern democracies have constitutions that provide a mixture of direct and representative elements of government.

I am mentioning this against the backdrop of the ongoing debates in political circles in the Philippines, where the president and her allies have initiated a nation-wide campaign aimed at collecting millions of signatures in support for amending the constitution. According to one columnist, President Arroyo is now deploying people power to tap her rural based constituencies.

Not a few Filipino observers argue that the progressive methodology of asking and including the masses in the political decision making process is not for real as it aims at a fundamentally conservative objective: to secure the political survival of the president and her allies.

This argument is heard again and again from the disunited opposition: Having little to match the patronage resources reportedly put into action by the supporters of charter change, the oppositionists are aware that they cannot rely on the masses for their anti-cha cha agenda.

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Thursday, March 23, 2006

Never a Pro-Blogger?

There’s more to blogging than setting up your own personal website. With all that easy-to-use software available today, that’s really nothing.

Successful blogging involves a behavioral change regarding one’s media usage patterns. It’s certainly not enough to write a post every now and then. Successful bloggers are interactive types: they follow their fellow-bloggers’ writings, and sooner or later become part of an online community. In this regard, I am - at best - a mediocre blogger. The frequency of my postings is rather dismal. And reading other weblogs has yet to become my favorite pastime.

On the other hand, I love political (and other) commentary. Often, also on this site, I refer to opinionated writings. But mostly, the commentaries I deal with are mainstream media texts which I read before or after work in the local newspapers.

I spend many hours every day working at the computer. After I leave the office, I enjoy reading a good book or even more so a (traditional) newspaper. I am certainly not ready to throw aside the printed paper and satisfy my reading desires online.

This predisposition, I guess, will prevent me from ever becoming a so called pro-blogger.

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Monday, March 20, 2006

Media revolution and liberal societies

If interested in the much debated relationship between MSM, or main stream media, and what has come to be known as citizens’ journalism, don’t miss Monday’s issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer with its well-documented analysis by mainstream journalist Leo Magno. In the third of a four part special report, Magno presents a multitude of aspects and arguments of a seemingly endless debate.

Probably the only uncontroversial point is that blogs and podcasts (and the people behind them) have caused a lot of commotion in the traditional world of media. This is how Leo Magno puts it:

Blogs and podcasts are disruptive technologies. They arrive at the party, offer something new, start playing a new song and dance to a new beat, they tear the piñata down and before you know it, the tables have been overturned and the party will never be the same again. That party is traditional media -- television, radio and print.
In his report, the author also quotes extensively from an e-mail interview with me some weeks ago. I feel privileged to be introduced as “ a liberal thinker with his own podcast,” and I must confess that, at times, I feel that I should do more liberal thinking and podcasting than the many other things I get stuck with in my daily routine. But that’s another matter altogether.

As to blogging and podcasting and their contribution to liberalism and democratic governance, this is what I had to say:

Media are instruments of communication for the information and entertainment of the people. In a democracy, they play a crucial role in controlling government. Their existence, and also their freedom, is essential for liberal societies. Blogs and podcasts are new -- almost revolutionary -- media. I call them do-it-yourself media. Everybody with just a little technical infrastructure, basically not more than a PC and an Internet connection, can be his or her own publisher. This is a fundamental democratization of the media. It abolishes the so-called gatekeepers. In the traditional media, the gatekeepers, basically the editors and publishers, control what is published and what is not. This is no longer the case today.”

When I said that, I wasn’t thinking in my wildest dreams that a secretary in the Philippine cabinet would in the not too distant future accuse the most popular Philippine political blog of inciting to sedition for publishing the so-called Hello Garci tapes.

The mere thought that such information could be blocked in today’s media world is absurd - and outlandish.

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Friday, March 17, 2006

Liberals Can Do it!

Among the many political propaganda placards, J. Howard Miller’s “We can do it” poster stands out. Used in World War II to prop up the US war efforts, you can find it all over the place today in boutiques, bars and trendy discotheques.

On my recent trip to Thailand, I came across two placards plagiarizing the original in a gallery in Chiang Mai: Instead of depicting Rosie the Riveter, who has become somewhat of a feminist icon in America, the posters showed the Dalai Lhama and one of my very special political heroes, the Burmese freedom fighter Aung San Suu Kyi. The text in both cases was unchanged: We can do it!

Being a liberal, the best adaptation of the popular theme I find the following, which comes as a sticker:


I want to give away ten copies of this sticker to the readers of My Liberal Times on a first come first serve basis. Sign in your name and address in the comments section or send me an email, and I will send you this wonderful liberal propaganda tool by snail mail.
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Monday, March 13, 2006

Traffic, a link and www.inq7.net

It’s no secret that I take online communications seriously – in my professional, and to a certain degree also in my private life. As a result, I am concerned about the audience: Communication is about communicating with other people. Therefore, I pay attention to the traffic on websites I write for.

A little while ago, I checked the traffic of my Foundation’s website for which we have an account with opentracker. I noted an increase in referrals from www.inq7net, by far the most frequented of all Philippine websites with hundreds of thousand unique visitors daily.

This was created by a link in an article entitled “iBlog, iPopdcast: Citizen Journalism using Tech." The author, Leo Magno, had conducted an e-mail interview with me some weeks ago. Now, he was kind enough to link to our site. Here is an extract of Magno's report:

“Blogging and podcasting are still budding technologies, which makes it even more interesting why government and corporate entities want to nip them in the bud. Ronald Meinardus, resident representative of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation in the Philippines and a commentator on Asian affairs, said there are about 24 million blogs and 20,000 podcasts out there.

Meinardus calls them “digital grassroots communicators” and that “real political power and influence is now being wielded through online communities comprising millions of people.”

The Friedrich Naumann Foundation proclaims that it is dedicated to liberalism, where key ingredients are individual freedom and active participation of citizens to become aware of their rights. With its own podcast it is encouraging individuals to join the public sphere using technology.

“As with weblogs, the great majority of podcasts are produced and hosted in North America,” said Meinardus. “This approach -- which shrinks the gap between creator and consumer -- poses a major challenge for traditional media companies, which are increasingly having a hard time attracting the young generation. Instead of reading newspapers or arranging their schedules around TV shows, more and more young people in advanced societies are flocking to so-called online communities.”

So here we see digital and personal counterparts of the print medium with blogs, and a digital and personal counterpart of TV and radio with podcasts. Whereas before, the cost of printing and publishing news was prohibitive, individual citizens are now blogging their own news and views. Whereas before, the cost of broadcasting your own radio or TV show was prohibitive or nigh-impossible, individual citizens can now podcast.

This development is changing not only the face but also the very definition of the word “media.” We are moving into personalized content produced by the end-users themselves and into newer forms of media, and some of these are becoming influential.”

If you are interested in blogging and podcasting, don’t miss Magno’s article. It is profound and gives an Asian perspective.

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16 New Filipino Blogs

After being in the hands of 16 avid bloggig and podcasting novices for two long days, the premises of my Foundation in Makati City returned to normal. The rented PCs are gone, so are the wonderful young people who worked with them.



The feedback we got at the end of the Express Yourself! workshop was remarkable. While all the participants gave us very good or good marks, there was also the feeling of an information overkill. “I just wished we had more time to digest everything,” wrote one participant.

I agree with this critique. Learning about - and then actually producing - podcasts needs more time than one day. We will consider that next time!

Of the many comments, the following is among my favorite:

“Thanks, RM, you helped create a devious blogger.”

Addendum: We plan to publish a list with the links to all the 16 new Filipino blogs (remember: link like crazy!) at our Foundation’s website. In the meantime, you may go to “Arch’s” site and tune into the “Liberal Gong Podcast”.

You will hear they had fun producing the show.

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Friday, March 10, 2006

Super Motivated Blogging Novices

As a facilitator of seminars and other educative programs, I always find it a special challenge to keep the interest and the motivation of the participants alive. This may become particularly difficult in seminars that stretch over more than one day.

It is a very different situation all together at the “Express Yourself!” workshop on blogging and podcasting being held at my Foundation’s premises in Makati City. The workshop started Thursday morning, and will come to an end in a few hours. I haven’t seen such a motivated and, yes, disciplined group of workshop participants for a very long time.

The result is tangible for all (without exception): following our hands-on-training with the highly professional instructors Abe Olandres (on blogging) and Angelo Racoma (on podcasting) all sixteen participants have now created their own blog (and added some fine content). We are also in the final stages of producing and publishing five new, original and liberal Philippine podcasts.

I’ll let you know where to find them soon.

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Saturday, March 04, 2006

Militarization of Philippine politics?

On the surface, President Arroyo’s lifting of emergency rule is good news. But many see it as a superficial and a conditional move: According to today’s Philippine Daily Inquirer banner headline, the “crackdown continues.” Furthermore, the president has declared she would not hesitate to act “with the same force of will and determination” if deemed necessary.

I see no signs that one week of emergency rule contributed to ending the political turmoil. Ironically, the draconian measure may even have strengthened the opposition for a short while by pulling GMA’s opponents together. On the other hand, the anti-Arroyo forces continue to be divided lacking a common strategy and leadership. “Arroyo’s insurance policy is the absence of any credible successor,” concludes journalist Seth Mydans in today’s International Herald Tribune.

If, at all, there is a winner following this sad and illiberal one-week episode in Manila, it is probably the Philippine military. While the Armed Forces, like most institutions here, are divided, the much debated cracks in the chain of command, according to Amando Doronila, puts the (loyal) Generals in the position of powerbrokers and kingmakers:

“The government has become hostage to the military as it becomes more dependent on the military if political resistance to the crackdown escalates.”

So far, one main concern has been the politicization of the military. A possible next – even more hazardous - scenario may be the militarization of Philippine politics.

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Thursday, March 02, 2006

Express Yourself (2)

From an e-mail of an applicant to the liberal blooging workshop in Makati City next week:

"Recent attempts to curtail press freedom and freedom of expression, through proclamation 1017, drive home the need for individuals to make the most of public venues, such as cyberspace, where one's ideas and opinions can be freely shared. Your workshop couldn't have come at a more opportune time."


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Wednesday, March 01, 2006

EXPRESS YOURSELF

If you're thinking about setting up your own blog or podcast and still a novice, the following announcement should be of interest to you:

"The liberal Foundation is organizing an educative activity entitled “Express Yourself,” a workshop with hands-on exercises on blogging and podcasting to be held in Makati City on 9-10 March 2006. This is a rare occasion to learn from leading Filipino bloggers such as Abe Olandres and Manolo Quezon III the techniques of establishing your own voice on the World Wide Web. The deadline for applications is March 2. "

Go to www.fnf.org.ph to find out more about the workshop and how to apply.

(taken from the e-newsletter Liberal Times Manila)

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