It’s an Interesting World: 6

3 Jun

Quote of the week: “I just feel, I’m free. When the birds sing, when the nature is making some beautiful noise. You can rest and think and just feel free and happy” — participant in the Beyond Expectations project on a hike through Table Mountain.

The project takes young kids on nature trips, providing them with a temporary escape from their troubled circumstances.  Learn more about the project on their website, Beyond Expectations, and watch the kids experience the not-for-sissies hike up Table Mountain in a film produced by Butterfly Films. They have a number of other fantastic short films worth watching.

I would never want to be on this site: MediaFail collects user-submitted suggestions of wide-ranging failures by the press, and was cited by The New York Times media blog, Media Decoder as allowing users to “give a virtual thumbs-up (or in this case, thumbs-down) to external articles and videos. Users can add links to articles and leave comments, but most just vote.” The site is run by Washington D.C.-based activist group Free Press.

MediaFail builds on the popularity of the hugely entertaining “Fail” blog, which illustrates embarrassing mishaps with photographs, basing judgements on a seemingly vauge yet commonly understood understanding of the “epic fail”.

What we’re hoping won’t be an epic fail: U.K-based South African writer Bec Davis writes about the fearful task of defending South Africa to a group of rowdy, machete-fearing football fans contemplating whether they should journey to the country for the World Cup. “Turns out the famously shy-and-retiring wickle flowers who follow the England team around the world yelling ‘Oggy Oggy Oggy’ and bashing other fans’ heads in with beer bottles were feeling a wickle scared about braving the dark continent. Bless ‘em,” writes Davis.

Some members of the U.K. press have developed a habit of creating outlandish and sensational stories about South Africa and South Africans despise it. Read no further than this piece about a “earthquake” that could take place during the tournament – perhaps even during an English game? – by the Daily Star. “WORLD CUP SOUTH AFRICA 2010: QUAKE FEARS” – Caps and all – elicited some less than kind comments. “I just had a disgusting thought….You get PAID to write this drivel,” wrote one commenter. “PLEASE STOP THIS DOOS!!” which might not have meant a lot to Dan Sales.

Speaking of the media: My latest article on media ethics was recently published on Southern Africa media site, journalism.co.za. In the article I talk about how difficult it can be to concentrate online when you are being pulled in so many directions. Here’s another article on the topic from the Times Online: Have we forgotten how to concentrate?

A final note on the media: My boss, Dean Wright, recently served on the judging panel of the Breaking Borders Awards, sponsored by Google and Global Voices and supported by Thomson Reuters. The winners were announced at the Global Voices summit in Santiago, Chile at the beginning of May. They were outstanding candidates for the three categories: technology, policy and advocacy. They all displayed incredible committement to the fight for freedom of expression online, and of harnessing the power of the Internet to support freedom of information.  More on the winner’s from Dean’s blog:

In the advocacy category, for “an activist or group that has used online tools to promote free expression or encourage political change,” the winner is the Zimbabwean online community Kubatana.net. Kubatana uses the Internet, email, SMS, blogs and print materials to disseminate information to the public and is a valuable resource for information on the country. Its website hosts debate, publishes official government and legislative rulings and has an extensive archive of human rights and civil reports.

The judges were impressed with the way Kubatana uses a mix of high-tech and low-tech to distribute information in and outside of Zimbabwe. Using internet and mobile technology, their e-mail and SMS alerts and website unite several hundred organizations.

The technology category, for an individual or group “that has created an important tool that enables free expression and expands access to information”, was won by BOSCO-Uganda, an organization based in Uganda and in the United States that started with the aim of establishing communication between displaced persons camps in northern Uganda, using a solar powered, long-range wireless computer network. The organization’s goal is to further provide information and communication technology solutions, such as web training and online collaboration, to enable peace building in rural communities in northern Uganda.

We were greatly impressed by the organization’s smart use of available technology, adapted to local conditions. This ingenious use of technology has allowed a significant engagement with the global community and has expanded access to information for people on the margins. BOSCO-Uganda was a true example of the potential the web has to create new and empowering forms of expression and communication.

The policy category, given to a “policy maker, government official or NGO leader who has made a notable contribution in the field,” was won by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, a non-profit media agency that has sought to promote values of investigative reporting in fostering good governance, freedom of expression and the right to information. Since its start in 1989, PCIJ has fearlessly reported on issues of corruption and malfeasance in government.

In a nation where journalism can be a dangerous profession, PCIJ provides much needed support–in funding, training and maintaining information databases. It is useful both for journalists in the Philippines and for Western journalists who need a view of the complicated information society there.

I’m back in South Africa for the World Cup and it is hectic! Hopefully I can put up some pics of daily travels and the warm South African winter sun. Cheers for now, Jax

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