Evening on internet in China

Thursday, 30 March 2006, V2_ in Rotterdam hosted an evening on internet use in China.

The Great Leap has become a popular metaphor to describe China’s turbulent and fast-paced economic modernization process. Many Chinese citizens have seen their private freedoms increase significantly but official policies of ‘opening up’ have neither changed the political system nor the state control of public media. TANGENT_LEAP brings together a group of experts and activists using bottom-up media such as the web, e-mail, blogs and sms as forms of self-organization to create an emergent middle landscape, somewhere between the official media rhetoric, and the private sphere.

Speakers were Karsten Giese, Zhang Ga, Isaac Mao, Martijn de Waal, and Guobin Yang. The latter spoke to the audience via Skype, apparently a very popular way of communicating in China too. He spoke about ‘play’ on the Chinese internet and gave many examples of ludic expressions on the internet. His thesis is that politics is mingled with play in the Chinese internet, saying that “all politics and no play makes the internet a dull place”.

Guobin also published an article on this topic in a newsletter special by IIAS (International Institute for Asian Studies) on the Chinese internet (#33, dated March 2003).

It was a pretty interesting evening. Nice to hear some informed stories about the current state of the Chinese internet, instead of the regular doom stories about government blocking and censorship. Most participants were confident that the internet will develop as an area for free speech anyway, in spite of efforts by the government to hamper this.

Dutch documentaries about the Internet

VPRO’s digital television channel HollandDoc is broadcasting a couple of really interesting documentaries this week about the history and development of the internet. From January 30 until February 5 2006, these series will be visible both as a LIVE! stream and on demand, under the title “Internet, hopes en hypes: Uitzendingen over het verleden, heden en toekomst van de nieuwe media”.

Check it out here (Dutch only…).

Physical contact via internet?

Scientists in Singapore at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) have developped a kind of vibrating jacket that children could wear to receive ‘hugs’ from their parents that are away via the Internet. The jacket is already being tested on chicken. The wireless jacket is controlled with a computer and gives the feeling of being touched. The jacket could be used to transmit feeling over the internet.

This development touches upon issues like:

  • the role of the body in an online environment
  • the importance of physical contact in developing identity
  • the ‘multimedialisation’ of the internet and its experiences

From the Reuters article:

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Singapore scientists looking for ways to transmit the sense of touch over the Internet have devised a vibration jacket for chickens and are thinking about electronic children’s pyjamas for cyberspace hugs.

A wireless jacket for chickens or other pets can be controlled with a computer and gives the animal the feeling of being touched by its owner, researchers at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) told Monday’s edition of The Straits Times.

The next step would be to use the same concept to transmit hugs over the Internet, it said.

“These days, parents go on a lot of business trips, but with children, hugging and touching are very important,” the paper quoted NTU Associate Professor Adrian David Cheok as saying.

NTU is thinking of a pyjama suit for children, which would use the Internet to adjust changes in pressure and temperature to simulate the feeling of being hugged. Parents wearing a similar suit could be “hugged” back by their children, the paper said.

Article link on Reuters.com.
Link on Tweakers.net.

Third lecture Cyberspace Salvations

Yesterday evening I went to a Cyberspace Salvations lecture at the Waag Society for the second time. I was with my collegue Jeroen Timmermans, Yuwei Lin, a researcher from the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and Mylene, my girlfriend. To my surpise, there was no Mark Pesce in the flesh, but only a projection of him on a piece of cardboard and his voice through the PA speakers. However ‘high-tech’, it wasn’t as good as the real thing, a bit hard to follow sometimes due to bad sound quality.

Read full notes below
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Lecture Cyberspace Salvations @ Waag Society

Cyberspace Salvations logo

Wednesday evening, September 21, I was at the second Cyberspace Salvations lecture (missed the first one) at Waag Society, Amsterdam. Cyberspace Salvations is a cooperative project by several Universities in the Netherlands, together with Waag Society that researches the “re-enchantment” of the world under influence of new technologies.

Talked to two members of the research team afterwards and made some sort of vague promise with Stef to work together on some fronts. Could be useful, as our projects look alike a lot. They also organise a couple of smaller meetings which I hope to attend.

Below the full notes of the meeting.

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Steven Clift in Amsterdam

Steven Clift, initiator of the political activation & internet project E-Democracy.org was in Amsterdam yesterday at the IPP (Institute for Public and Politics). About 15 people – amongst them researchers from Radbout University Nijmegen and the Amsterdam School of Social Research – were present to hear about the project and the way it has recently switched to an open source mail/web-politics system.

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