Walking the Talk (show)

Here’s an interesting example of how comedy and celebrity can provoke real positive change in society through hard-hitting investigative yet engaging discussions.

This article affectionately calls it the John Oliver Effect. I personally find his videos riveting and intriguing. Unsettling analogies aside, his creative and well-paced attempts to unpack and analyze issues for the viewer is laudable.

The Age of Empire.com

Look at the map below from from the Oxford Internet Institute’s Information Geographies blog that shows most visited websites by country. What do you observe?

While the world wide web is broadly accessible, this representation suggest some correlation between country politics, culture and their influence on the web behavior of their citizens. Notice Google’s dominance and places where is also doesn’t have much of a stronghold.

Clearly in any essay point talking about the impact of web, this sort of maps help us avoid making overgeneralized statements about the prevalent influence of certain websites and give us some angle to differentiate the impacts on certain contexts.

Bloggers and Big Brother

An insightful piece by Bertha Henson from The Breakfast Network that mindfully captures the precarious negotiation between bloggers and the government in light of recent comments and rumors surrounding the haze and N95 masks. She observes:

So it could be that the G’s expectations of journalistic standards in the blogosphere are too high. A journalist’s job is to get answers, but the amateur can only raise questions. The next step is then how to raise questions or give feedback on what people are talking about, without being shot down? Go through Reach? Private channels? Hmm… But why? If there is nothing to hide, then correct misconceptions and reply. As robustly as you want. The blogosphere should be thick-skinned enough to take it and not look at tough responses as the G clamping down on dissent.

What is your take on the matter? Does the government expect too much from local bloggers – and in the process, stifle vibrant civil society and socio-political conversation? Or are bloggers simply being stubbornly contrarian and thus, deserving of more governmental monitoring and reprimand? 

Statisticians and Seats

I know this is an old article but it nonetheless the case of Nate Silver provides an interesting example for the power of statistics when applied to predict real world outcomes so some extent.

Bob O’Hara from the Guardian postulates on the approach taken:

It’s also worth noting that although we are ultimately interested in how people will vote on election day, the data we get is based on how people think they will vote at the time they are asked, which may be months before the election. What people think changes over time, so this variable has to be incorporated into this model. This means we have to include a temporal component: in short, we must generate a time series.

Global Civil Society: Look Left, Look Right

We often associate activism and civil society as being largely anti-establishment, progress and liberal. This article observes how the playing field is actually more balanced and diverse, exploring the myriad conservative right wing activist groups that have surfaced to protect established systems traditions and mindsets. 

PITTSBURGH: International campaigns on social and economic issues are increasingly common. NGOs, foundations, journalists, celebrities and citizens have pressured governments to establish an International Criminal Court, institute a ban on landmines and promote environmental sustainability. They are also trying to slow global warming, broaden access to reproductive rights and promote any number of other progressive goals.

Such activism, not always successful, has become so frequent that “global civil society” is often portrayed as a bastion of leftwing politics – a realm of likeminded groups working to counter corporate power, state repression and cultural backwardness.

Yet for all the liberal groups working across borders, the voices of another civil society are also making themselves heard. Right wing civic groups are taking to the global stage, despite a reputation for kneejerk aversion to international institutions as embodiment of liberal causes. Indeed, by doing so, conservative groups can attract allies, exploit receptive venues and find additional examples supporting their ideas.

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New York City Soda Ban Explained

After watching the video, do you think such a ban would be really effective? Well as the narrator suggested at the end of the video, while such a ban may not really deter the heavy drinkers anyway, it has forced New Yorkers to take a long and critical look at why obesity rates have been climbing. This is a helpful argument one can use in essays – that of laws or initiatives being symbolic, rather than a hard measurable deterrence. The same can be argued for other issues like capital punishment (does it bring crime down? maybe not, but hey, it makes the state look badass) and censorship (does it stop you from getting uncensored versions off the internet? again no, but it sends a message).