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Does Canada have a New Media Strategy? Or are we Twittering our Thumbs in the Dark?

June 25, 2009

Reilly recently offered a great post providing some background into the role Twitter has played in Iran recent post-election upheaval. I, myself, have been spending a lot of time reading twitter updates containing the #iranelection hash tag and, truly, the service is offering information at a breakneck pace. Wait two minutes before refreshing? You’re likely going to be treated to a thousand new twittered and re-twittered updates containing data, links, opinions, and information. Make no mistake: there is substantial disinformation in the mix; but if you’re savvy, you can find some reliable sources. Perhaps one of the most reliable sources that many western journalists have been relying on is an Iranian known only as persiankiwi . Sadly, in recent days PW has gone silent, with his/her final twittered lines about having Internet connection going down, and having to “move location” quickly.

Of course, this post was not supposed to be about Iran; but about the transformative potential of new media and other emerging technologies. And with stories like persiankiwi’s, that potential rings true not just for economic competitiveness — as we often talk about in Canada — but also, as in Iran, advancing social goals and objectives, promoting information dissemination and political speech, and revolutionizing human organization.

Yet, where is Canada on New Media? I hear nothing from the Conservative Government about New Media, or a digital infrastructure strategy; other than an deeply recording-industry-friendly copyright law reform proposal. And nothing from the Liberals or NDP on this point either. Copyright, to repeat once again, is not the end all for a proper new media or digital strategy. It’s not even a quarter or eighth of the challenge.

Michael Geist is one of the credible voices — known beyond our borders — on this point. Read his prescription for a Canadian New Media strategy which, in his view, is “long overdue”.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. nmboudin permalink*
    June 29, 2009 9:57 pm

    A New Media policy is much more than copyright, to be sure. One of the most important issues, in my opinion the most important, is Net Neutrality.

    On June 6th CRTC will be hearing presenters on the topic, from ISPs that argue that they should be able to shape bandwidth to provide better quality service, to independent media and small business, who claim that the free Internet is a human right, and should never be throttled or tiered.

    Canada is actually lagging behind the US on this one, which has opted to protect Net Neutrality under federal law. Check out SaveOurNet.ca to learn more about what people are talking about and why this next week is so important for communications, commerce and democracy in Canada.

  2. corsullivan permalink*
    June 27, 2009 12:47 pm

    I agree that it would be nice to see our leaders thinking more about new communications technologies and how to integrate them into Canadian life. On the other hand, and perhaps partly because I’m a non-Twitterer myself, I tend to think that the role of “New Media” in events like the Iranian riots is often oversold. Twitter may help a relatively narrow slice of Iranian society get its perspective out to the world, but I’m sure you were right to mention the problem of disinformation.

    Anyway, Jerome Taylor of the Independent makes a pretty good case that the BBC’s new Persian-language satellite channel might have a bigger effect within Iran itself. It does seem cheeky of the BBC to broadcast into the country against the government’s wishes – but then, maybe I’m just subconsciously jealous that our CBC isn’t capable of doing the same thing!

    • canworldjon permalink*
      June 28, 2009 8:47 am

      I think the role Twitter played in events was pretty significant in the early days after the election; it was a handy — and until Iranian authorities started paying close after reading the plethora of stories about Twitter in western media — relatively inconspicuous way to “spread the word” about the time/place for meetings and demonstrations. But alas, with the crackdown on Internet connectivity – particularly those feeding information to the outside world from the ground – many reliable information sources have gone silent or disappeared. Ironically, Twitter’s usefulness and popularity here may prevent it from ever being so useful or popular for such uprisings again– oppressive governments around the world are now on notice. They won’t be caught off guard again.

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