How China Walled Off the Internet

Excerpt from this article:

Today, China has the world’s only internet companies that can match America’s in ambition and reach. It is years ahead of the United States in replacing paper money with smartphone payments, turning tech giants into vital gatekeepers of the consumer economy. And it is host to a supernova of creative expression — in short videos, podcasts, blogs and streaming TV — that ought to dispel any notions of Chinese culture as drearily conformist. All this, on a patch of cyberspace that is walled off from Facebook and Google, policed by tens of thousands of censors and subject to strict controls on how data is collected, stored and shared.

If people in the West didn’t see this coming, it was because they mistook China’s authoritarianism for hostility toward technology. But in some ways Chinese tech firms are less fettered than American ones. Witness the backlash against Big Data in the United States, the calls to break up giants like Facebook and the anxiety about digital addiction. None of those are big problems for Chinese companies. In China, there is pretty much only one rule, and it is simple: Don’t undermine the state.

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No, Google’s Not a Bird: Bringing the Internet to Rural India

Excerpt from this article:

Babulal Singh Neti was sitting with his uncle on a recent afternoon, trying to persuade him of the merits of the internet.

…Mr. Neti, 38, pressed on earnestly, suggesting that he could demonstrate the internet’s potential by Googling the history of the Gond tribe, to which they both belonged. Since acquiring a smartphone, Mr. Neti couldn’t stop Googling things: the gods, Hindu and tribal; the relative merits of the Yadav caste and the Gonds; the real story of how the earth was made.

Access to this knowledge so elated him that he decided to give up farming for good, taking a job with a nongovernmental organization whose goals include helping villagers produce and call up online content in their native languages. When he encountered internet skeptics, he tried to impress them by looking up something they really cared about — like Gond history.

His uncle responded with half-closed eyes, delivering a brief but comprehensive oral history of the Gond kings, with the clear implication that his nephew was a bit of a good-for-nothing. “What does it mean, Google?” his uncle said. “Is it a bird?”

…So it is instructive to follow Mr. Neti as he tries to drum up a little interest in Taradand. Young men use the internet here, but only young men, and almost exclusively to circulate Bollywood films. Older people view it as a conduit for pornography and other wastes of time.

Women are not allowed access even to simple mobile phones, for fear they will engage in illicit relationships; the internet is out of the question. Illiterate people — almost everyone over 40 — dismiss the internet as not intended for them.

How do children use the internet? We asked thousands of kids around the world

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The report from Global Kids Online is the first stage of an ambitious project to find out which children are using the internet, what they are learning, and the opportunities and risks it presents. To hear their perspectives, the project conducted interviews and surveys of children aged between nine and 17 in South Africa, the Philippines and Serbia, and aged 13 to 17 in Argentina…

We did not really know what to expect, although we knew some of the problems. In Latin America, for example, children live in hugely different urban and rural environments, and at the extremes of wealth and poverty. South African society exhibits high levels of violence, which now extends online. The Philippines faces a growing challenge around child sexual exploitation and abuse, while Serbia struggles with the social exclusion of its Roma population. Does internet access help children and their families face these issues, or does it make them worse?

The Death and Life of Great American GeoCities

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[The blog] Animated Text is part of a retro aesthetic renaissance sweeping the Web, one that pays homage to old-school computing systems and software like Windows 95 and Microsoft Paint. Nostalgia certainly plays a part, in the same way it does with collectors of vinyl or old typewriters, and for good reason: This revival is, in many respects, a reaction to the manicured lawns of Facebook and Twitter and a celebration of the earlier, less sterile (and surveilled) environments that people once inhabited and created online.

…Presented in isolation, these nearly extinct images and file formats become something like works of art — or at least digital tchotchkes for a generation too young to remember the blend of frustration and awe a 56K modem could inspire but old enough to appreciate the beauty of its early transmissions.

Long Live Secrets on the Internet

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The spilling of personal secrets online, a practice borne of the print tradition of asking for advice, is similarly greater than any individual secret. Before apps like Secret and Whisper, there was Group Hug and PostSecret—the inspiration for which came from early-aughts projects like Found magazine, which publishes scraps of found paper like grocery lists and notes left on windshields, and confessions in public spaces like bathroom graffiti. PostSecret began by asking people to mail their secrets on postcards that would then be scanned and published online. Subject matter runs the gamut from heartbreaking to silly to uplifting to shocking.

… “When other people hear people sharing secrets it allows them not to feel alone,” said Frank Warren, the founder of PostSecret. “It allows them to feel almost instant empathy and it gives them courage to face and share.” PostSecret still has a website, but it shut down its app three years ago after only a few months because Warren was concerned about bullying and hackers who made community members feel unsafe, he said.The appeal of telling an anonymous secret is as much the anonymity as it is the catharsis of revealing something. And anonymity has as venerable a history online as advice-seeking had in print. “I see Whisper, Secret and others as part of the same movement as Snapchat and Glimpse,” said Ethan Zuckerman, the director of the MIT Center for Civic Media, in an interview last fall. “When everything is on the record and attributable, we’re all feeling a need to breathe. That might mean being able to have a one-on-one conversation that’s hard to archive, or to have a space where you can truly speak freely.

…”The web is a very powerful place where we can express parts of who we are in ways we just can’t in our everyday social lives, which I think is powerful, liberating, a little bit scary and can be very uncomfortable to people in the short term,” Warren told me. “But in the long term, I think it allows us to work out some of the parts that are hidden within us individually and as a culture. It’s a difficult process. But it’s always healthy to illuminate those parts of us that are otherwise in darkness.”

So Here’s a Study About Internet Cats

"The Grumpy Guide To Life: Observations By Grumpy Cat" Book Launch Party

Excerpt from this article that looks at that eternal question, why do people love internet cats?

People are more than twice as likely to post a picture or video of cats than they are to post a selfie.

…According to a personality test, people who reported watching the most cat videos tended to be more agreeable — cooperative, friendly, trusting — than people who watched fewer of the videos.

…Frequent cat-video-watchers also tended to score high on a scale measuring shyness; they were more likely to agree with statements like, “I feel tense when I’m with people I don’t know well.”

…They also reported feeling less anxiety, sadness, and annoyance after watching cat videos. Who could stay upset when watching cats play patty cake, or stalk their owners, or pretend to be a tiny, furry wrecking ball?