Myanmar Closed CountryBurma Closed country
Secluded from the world for 60 years
Several men and woman are shown carrying a pasty bottom made of the rind of a wood namedanaka. It also includes six short feedbacks with Burma's top authors, among them writer Pascal Khoo Thwe and blogger Nay Phone Latt, as well as former prisoner politicians. Co-Chairman of the MFA Design Programme at the School of Visual Arts and co-founder of the MFA Design Criticism Programme.
Myanmar, no longer closed, still complex
It' difficult to tell how much Myanmar has evolved. It is at least as difficult to know whether to believe in all the changes Myanmar has made. Fortunately, there are few truly dispopotic communities in the rest of the word, but from 1962 until recently Myanmar was one of them governed by a army jungle with a terrible track record in terms of people.
There was strong state control of the nation's mass mediums, with a pre-publication politics of censure that turned the local mass mediums into an institution of state promotion. Critical coverage of the country was either hard or even impossible to find in the global press, and what happened in the country was often completely unseen by the outside community.
In 2008, when Cyclone Nargis killed more than 200,000 men in the Irrawaddy River Basin, the army regime did not publish any information about the crises for a few day and is said to have hindered UN aid for fear of moles. Myanmar would have been a consistent candidate for the title behind multi-year-old North Korean champions Eritrea, Turkmenistan and Iran-heavy.
Prepress grades were abolished and stringent web checks were abolished in 2011. Long since forbidden Dissidentenorganisationen are now operating in the country, which leads to a surroundal situations, in which formerly forbidden publication now compete against state-controlled publication for advertising revenues. Myanmar is a sad 145.... but that's an increase of 171 from 175 in 2009..... and its present rating is better than in Singapore, Malaysia, China and Vietnam, according to Reporter without Borders's Freedom is....
That explains why the East West Center held its six-monthly press briefing in Yangon in March this year and why I took the opportunity to be there. I had been looking for pretexts to go to Myanmar before the 2007 Saffron Revolu-tion in the hope of investigating web corruption and looking for ways around the country's firwall.
In the aftermath of the Russian uprising and the subsequent crackdowns, I determined that it was too risky to get into the country, not for myself, but for everyone I worked with there. Myanmar seemed to be changing miraculously, and I wanted to see for myself what the country really was like.
I' ve seen technology businessmen, news writers, overseas correspondent and others moving in the community and everyone is trying to find out how open today's Myanmar is and what the bright will be. When the East-West meeting opened, it was a memory of how closed Myanmar's press landscape had been.
A presenter showed a page from a 2010 issue of the New Light of Myanmar administration paper, which contained an ad asking people not to be influenced by killing programmes intended to cause trouble. The " hit programmes " in dispute came from VOA, BBC, RFA and other press organisations taking part in the meeting.
The East West Center recognizes that Myanmar's media is anything but free today, but has decided to commemorate the significant advances. The Open Society Foundation (where I am a member of the GWB ) is doing the same - we have continued to endorse impartial intelligence organisations like The Irrawaddy and have helped them make their choices to act within the country, despite limitations and risks to their public disclosure autonomy.
Here is some of what I learnt at a meetings with Myanmar press, campaigners and entrepreneurs: - The press is overcrowded, probably too overcrowded. Before the 2012 reform of censure, it was not possible to launch a Myanmar based paper because all histories had to be sanctioned by the Ministry of Information.
- Myanmar has an expanding web, but right now it's Facebook. Approximately 1 million of the country's 60 million inhabitants are on-line. Those who are on-line are on Facebook - as one Aussie businessman put it: "The web here is America On-line - everyone is accessible via Facebook, and they hardly ever get out of this masonry.
" In fact, I saw advertisements with company url and these url's were rare. mm pages, but more often Facebook pages. Most of the publishing houses I have spoken to have seldom had exact site usage stats - the measure is Facebook like. It is a potentially catastrophic state of affairs for the on-line world.
They need to publish their contents on Facebook to find an audience, but they don't profit from the advertisements it creates, and it's difficult to attract the public to their websites to page views. Things are likely to get even tougher when cell phones join the network - it's quite possible that Facebook will be negotiating that their website will be available free of charge, as they have done in other emerging economies, which will knock down the board against independents.
However, building a web eco-system that can help independently owned and operated communities will be a true daunting task, and Myanmar needs help with web hosting, web hosting, web marketing, and more... to get there. In view of the opportunity to interview U Ye Htut, Assistant Information Minister at the meeting, two international correspondent journalists were complaining that they had received very short visa for coverage within the country and wondering whether their coverage had resulted in shorter overviews.
Journeymen who wrote about Myanmar's oppressed Rohingya ethnic group told us they got a two-week face-to-face visit, while the kind TV reporter, who interviewed half of ours to acknowledge that I confirmed that Myanmar was more open than other countries in the area, instead got a 70-day trade-waiver. - Workers in the press say they are concerned about the legislative implications of their stories, as well as libel charges.
Burma's mythical Burmese writer and journalist Bertil Lintner noted that the country seemed to move from a specific pattern of explicitly censoring to the "Singapore model", where censoring takes place through a system of commercial and judicial pressure. - It is understandable that humans are afraid of hatred speeches. Practically every talk I had over the Myanmar web focused on hateful speeches.
Afraid of a discourse that will cause racial tension, especially between Buddhists and Muslims, especially the Rohingya. That' s easy to understand - the story of post-colonial Myanmar was a continuous war between the military and national minorities. Burma's Facebook, according to country boyfriends, is full of pictures to stir this tension, sometimes pictures of individuals who have been violated or murdered, and texts to blame minorities for the outbreak.
Consequently, practically everyone I talked to thought that either the federal administration or Facebook had to monitor the on-line address, even those who were serving significant jail time for their on-line script. - The Rohingya are really not something they want to discuss. The majority of them do not use the word "Rohingya". Instead, they relate to "Bangladeshis", which means that they are illegally immigrated from neighbouring Bangladesh without the right to nationality.
A more cautious use of the word "Muslims of Bangladeshi origin, some of whom are Myanmar citizens", which seems absurd until one understands that the word "Rohingya" is synonymous with a very unpopular policy discussion as to whether these 3 million are Myanmarians.
The fact that there has been Rohingya in Myanmar for hundreds of years, that the country once had Rohingya deputies, does not do much to influence most of the country's population, who seem largely unaffected by a choice not to reveal Rohingya's ethnic affiliation in a forthcoming one. As I was raising this topic with a number of grassroots reporters, I got a lot of pushbacks, which included speculating that "Rohingya" was a concept made popular by the world' s leading newspapers and not from the country.
And all these discussions presented me with an interesting and challenging position as a keyboardist. At the same and at the same token, I wanted to recognise the complexity of Myanmar's audiovisual landscape and how far the country has come. Below I am offering my comments for the talk - what I finally delivered was a little different, as I was cutting myself down to suit the intended period.
I was given a name by the organisers that I would not have voted for - "Civic Media's Challenges und Opportunities". It is quite a long way from what I would normally speak about, but I wanted to open discussions on how Myanmar could address the possibilities of participative medias and how it could safeguard the opening it has made for the on-line address.
It is an unbelievably thrilling experience for Myanmar. In a very brief space of the year, your country has seen so many interesting changes. This followed very heartening changes in Myanmar's web policies in September 2011, which provided the Myanmar population with previously unavailable global information websites and newsgroups.
We' ve seen a surge of young Myanmarans who have joined Facebook, which has led to greater links between the Myanmar population and the Myanmar community in the minority. As we know, the evolution of the web is closely linked to telephones and mobiles, and Myanmar is in the process of making mobiles available and available to all by greatly lowering the prices of smart phone subscriptions and now granting licences to Oreedoo and Telenor, which promise low-cost wireless services in the country's big towns this year.
You can see the unbelievable interest in being on the web every single occasion there is an online meeting in Yangon or Mandalay, like BarCamp Yangon, which was visited in great numbers every single occasion. It is an exiting occasion and I am honoured to have the chance to come and see Myanmar as these changes take place.
Commenting on Sunday in Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi said the Myanmar media was somewhat open. It is commendable that Myanmar has taken action to open the web and end publicity. When I talk to the public about the upsurge of the web, I listen to a lot of excitement to re-launch some checks on the web to come to terms with a worrying tendency of ultra-linguistic.
Myanmar is understandably struggling with these issues of candor. In Myanmar, changes related to the web will happen in just a few month, not a few years. It has taken twenty years for my country to get used to the changes on the web. In these two decade-long periods, my country and other countries have had fierce discussions about the advantages and cost of the web.
How simple is it to copy and distribute your favourite songs, films and films, what kind of copyrights do you have? Does the web make us vulnerable because it brings us into touch with foreigners from all over the globe, or is it for exactly the same reasons a powerful power for mutual goodwill and goodwill?
Are new companies like Google or Amazon going to be created by the web, which will bring opportunities and riches, or will it be destroying old companies like shops and papers? I am interested in all these discussions - and very interested in how they are happening in Myanmar - but what interests me most is how the web can transform, what it means to be a civic.
We had high expectations for the use of the web and democratisation, the concept that government can more directly hear people's wishes and needs, that the public can directly decide on the law or help to draw up new law, that we can have tough discussions in a public space where everyone can speak their minds.
We also have great fears: that the web will distract us rather than dialogue, that we will use this new technique to maintain ourselves than to participate in discussions and discourses. It is possible that the web makes it easier to just be surrounded by views you consent to and disregard other important votes or offer a forum for hateful expression.
There are those who fear that the web could make it simpler for the public to take to the street and protested against one administration - others say that this is a good thing, not a good thing - and yet others say that it is a fault to hold the web responsible or to acknowledge the kind of demonstrations that we have seen in Ukraine, Egypt, Tunisia or in Europe and the United States.
I am head of the centre at MIT, which investigates these issues through the lenses of "civic media". Citizen mindsets are electronic forms of communication used for general interest such as participation in policy talks or community outreach. While it uses many of the same utilities as Facebook or Twitter, the goals are different.
The main purpose of SMB is to keep in contact with your mates. The bourgeois world is about improving the fellowship or working for societal transformation, and while it often begins to talk to buddies about an idea, it is also about affecting government or large groups of inmates. Citizen arts are participative means - even the newspaper and TV channels discover that they cannot just provide information to their audience.
Non-participating journalists are likely to be criticised or ignored - when CNN did not report protest in Gezi Square in Turkey, hundreds of thousands of ordinary Turks, not just demonstrators, turned to Twitter to discuss what was going on in the field and taunt CNN and other broadcasters for not reporting the film.
The Guardian in the UK and TV stations like Al Jazeera are working to encourage audiences to participate and erase the boundaries between old and new medias. Since bourgeois medias use the instruments of societal medias, they are both personalised and individual.
Every single newscast I get some of my messages from a paper, but a lot of my messages from the thousand folks I am following on Twitter. You' ll be hearing from Jillian York morning, an online liberation campaigner and online experts in the Middle East and North Africa - I'm following her on Twitter to get her advice on what I should be reading to help me better understanding Tunisian socio-men.
That has an important result - my image of the outside will be different from yours, because we all see a personal image of the inside out. We may be faced with a complex situation in which it is hard to talk about important topics of interest to the general population because we do not have the same level of knowledg.
We' re beginning to learn to steer this new realm, to look for views and prospects with which we may not be in agreement, so that we have a wider vision of the realm, but it is a challenge, both in respect of the times and the temper. So much information is available on-line and so much that we are in political agreement that it can be very problematic to look for any idea we are against.
As a bourgeois journalist, I am studying bourgeois medias because they are one of the most influential powers in an open world. Although the press doesn't tell us what to think, it does tell us what to think about, what topics are most important to us as a people. The bourgeois world can help us to get together and do notables.
We have seen how several hundred thousand voluntary workers have worked together to create a free encyclopaedia, Wikipedia, which is far more extensive than any earlier publication and also available to those in very impoverished countries. Utilities like Kickstarter make it possible to fund Crown Funding and raise funds to help local communities like Detroit turn undeveloped land into a community park, or Kenyan counterparts can construct a new appliance that provides web access when they' re a hundred miles away from a town.
Hopefully the web will provide a more open, fairer and more integrated place for discussion and involvement than off-line rooms. It is my wish that those who have been banned from citizens' talks in the past because of their sex, racial or social backgrounds or commercial standing can take part in this new area and that their speeches will be included.
May the bourgeois world be a place where groups who sometimes do not speak personally, such as the Rohingya and the Baman, can interoperate. However, I am aware of the challenge we face in the field of bourgeois communication, the challenge of verification of information on-line, of dealing with the language extremes and of establishing a shared basis for bourgeois dialogue between those who have very different points of views.
These are some lesson from bourgeois medias learnt in my laboratory and from scholars around the globe, which I hope will keep you informed of the discussions and discussions in Myanmar over the next years.
We are invited to talk all the while - when we publish an updated on Facebook or Twitter, we talk to our circle of acquaintances and possibly everyone else there. While we are likely to be listened to by those who are already interested in what we have to say, there is no assurance that we will be overheard.
If we want our cause to be listened to, we are going to compete against everyone else, even professionals, prominent personalities, political figures and other citizen. The result is a phenomena called "the long tail" - a small number of individuals have a very large audience, while most of us have a small audience.
Surprisingly, but also very powerfully, why humans work on understanding how to function and how they can make their ideals audible to a broad public. - Although the web is great for mobilisation, most mobilisations are failing. We have all listened to the demonstrators in Tunisia using Facebook to show their frustration with the Ben Ali administration and to inform the world' s press about their protest at how the Turks used Twitter to call upon the Gezi Park.
We know about this use of medias for mobilisation because they were successfull. U.S. authorities have asked individuals to submit a request to the U.S. federal administration by posting on-line issues or requests that the U.S. federal administration must address when a reasonable number of individuals have signed the request. More than 100,000 tried to begin a policy dialogue and well over 99% were unsuccessful.
Simply because humans use the web does not mean that they find an public for their own concepts. I' ve been very interested in the 5000 KYATA Myanmar SMS cards promotion - we've seen proof of this all over Facebook and it's well recorded in the American and EU press as proof of the profound interest that the Myanmar community has in connecting with each other and with the whole planet.
The reason I think the election has been so effective is because it expresses a worry that many Myanmar residents have had, that it has been inviting other individuals to join the election and personalise it for its audience, and because it has used more than rage to make its point. It is likely that many folks wrote this comic on Facebook and shared it with others because they were happy with it and because they found it comical.
Since the bourgeois press is about getting an audiences, struggles to find out how to make oneself repeatable are the most mightiest. - It' harder to be listened to on-line, but to be bullied is guaranteed almost an audiences. The attempt to shut up language on-line tends to make it noisier.
It' called after the vocalist Barbara Streisand because she made a very stupid mistake when she tried to delete contents from the cyberspace. There were very few who had seen the photograph of Streisand's home, but when the complaint was brought to their attention, everyone wanted to see the still. Censorship of the web is unbelievably difficult because it' s the best tool for exchanging information in one place and will be shared elsewhere.
Countries like China have spent several hundred million US dollar on trying to censure society, and in the end they have not. With big newscasts like the Wenzhou rail accident, populations use local newspapers to disseminate the information, and even with the use of ten thousand on-line screens, information was published that was awkward for the state.
The fact is that some Myanmar authorities have been wise in stating that there is no reconciliation between the two. The bourgeois world is also irreconcilable with the use of the censors, and the proliferation of soft power makes it hard for newspapers to censure, even if they wanted to. And I know that the public is rightly occupied with extremist and hate-filled speeches on-line.
That is a challenge in many countries - China has had trouble making hateful speeches against a Uighur ethnic group after a recent terrorist act. After the September 11 terrorist bombings, my country has been confronted with horrendous hatred of our Moslem people and I know that Myanmar has issues with hatred speeches against the Rohingya people.
My co-workers created an online business named Ushahidi that tried to record this abuse - my co-workers created a device that allowed it to be sent from a cell telephone and displayed on a card so that we could see which parts of the country were abusive and which were tranquil and where they needed help and support.
The concept of creating a card through the involvement of several thousand participants has become widespread and is now known as crowd mapping. While we used crowd mapping to record the Kenyan 2013 electoral process in the hope that it would be conducted peacefully, we have decided to record any proof of bullying, hatred or force.
The Umati volunteer watched Kenya's community news outlets - blog, Twitter and Facebook - and covered cases of pre- and post-election hatred speeches. The cases were published to the general population on a clearly legible card - in other words, instead of silence, the Palestinians wanted to embarrass those who engage in hateful oratory.
The operators of the projekt quickly found a sample named "cutting" - when someone wrote a hated talk, their boyfriends would respond in a negative way and interrupt it. Hatred speeches remained on Facebook much longer, as language was often only seen by a small number of individuals and there was not so much shame.
Disclosure and shame worked, and we also learnt something very unexpected - there was no clear link between hatred speeches and violent events in the 2013 election in Kenya. Hated speeches are nasty and insulting, and some speeches can be hazardous. However, language is less potent than we often believe, and the pressures from our acquaintances and families by visualizing language is stronger than we generally think.
- You can' tell the truth. It is sensible to fear that incorrect information can and will propagate on-line. One year ago, a few kilometres from my laboratory, two hostiles at the Boston March target injured and killed tens of deaths. In Dakar, Senegal, I followed the action on-line to see if my boyfriends, my families and my college kids were secure.
We had a flood of information on-line, and most of it was inaccurate. Participative medias are not the cause of misinformations on the internet - it' s time. as well as tell about truths. It' not because they have evil motives - it' s because humans talk about what's going on in the outside wide web, and nowadays these talks are difficult to tell apart from newscasts.
There is a very thin line between the letter "I saw the assailants on MIT campus" and "I hear that the assailants were on MIT campus", and both can and will be said on-line. At the time the web was launched, there was a trend to believe that if someone was on-line, it must be real because someone had checked and validated it.
Now we all realize that there is no guaranty that something is real just because it's on. We' re beginning to learn to be sceptical about stories from those who are anonym, to take stories more seriously when someone has been posting for a long period of his life on-line, to realize that stories that are made immediately after an incident are probably false and will be reviewed later.
It' s a long process to get to know how to interpret differently, but this is a precious ability not only for the web, but for all types of literacy - I am teaching my pupils to ask who writes a history, how they got their information and what agendas they support, and these are crucial issues for all types of communication, whether they are written by professionals or by webloggers.
I' m aware that the image I paint for Civic Media is complex - it's a room that is both auspicious and provocative. Firstly, the web helps people to become screens. Secondly, we need to work to make sure that our on-line calls are not always on-premises.
It is detrimental to the democratic process if we just pay attention to the peoples we support - we need a variety of views to have a sound local and regional discussion on the health of our societies. However, some of the most important discussions we need to have today on issues such as tackling the issue of climatic changes need to take place at international levels.
It is very thrilling for me that Myanmar is joining this international dialogue on-line, but we will have to work to make sure that the outside community is listening to Myanmar and helping Myanmar to hear the outside world. Myanmar is one of the most important countries in the country. Persons who can act as a bridge between Myanmar and the outside, especially those who have worked and educated abroad, will be pivotal in making sure Myanmar uses the web to get involved worldwide, not just local.
I have been working on a Global Voices program for ten years, and I' m looking forward to helping you get started. 1,600 individuals, mostly volonteers, work to exchange tales from around the globe in more than 30 different nationalities.
We' ve got some great reports from Myanmar - I know about all the thrilling changes on the Indonesian web - but we could use more help.