Continuing the conversation

The last two posts point to sites we can use to catch up on the Free Expression in Asian Cyberspace conference, but one is particularly useful. Ethan Zuckerman does not only have a great view from his backyard, or accepts the blame for the existence of a particular kind of pop-up ad; he also writes a well-tempered "live blog." (I put that in quotes, because while efforts like these allow us almost real-time access into an ongoing event, they really aren’t live in the literal sense. But as a metaphor I think the phrase works well enough.)

I think Ethan’s documentation work (he does other stuff for the Berkman Center and Global Voices) presents us with a template for improved live-blogging. We need to build on the just-the-facts-ma’am reporting or the-facts-mixed-with-a-dash-of-attitude approach that mark many live-blogging attempts. We need to achieve reported documentation.

It helps if one has been keeping track of the topic over some time. Note Ethan’s take on Isaac Mao’s presentation on the great firewall of China.

In past talks on net filtering, I’ve heard Isaac refer to the idea that “freedom of thought” is a precursor to “freedom of speech” – he’s got a more developed version of this meme now, and refers to the firewall as the conjunction of three walls – barriers to free access, free speech and free thinking. Isaac notes that China has “brainwashed” its population through the educational system. He remembers, “in childhood, my parents would say, ‘Don’t say that, it’s dangerous.’ Later in University, people would say ‘Don’t say democracy in a public space, it’s dangerous.’”

Reporting and documentation.

Naturally, because much-traveled Ethan is a kind of parachute blogger, he can sometimes get the local nuance wrong. See, for instance, his first paragraph reporting on Manolo Quezon’s presentation. But read his six or so posts thus far from the Free Expression in Asian Cyberspace conference, and I hope you will agree with me that they are of a high quality indeed — both useful as news and instructive as example.

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