Archive for May, 2010

Blogging has grown Exponentially in most parts of South Asia

Around one-fifth of world population live in South Asia but the number of blogs from South Asia is still not that significant. Blogging in regional languages (Bangla, Hindi, Tamil, Urdu etc) of South Asia could not even make in to the report of The State of the Live Web, April 2007. Rezwan is Regional Editor for South Asia and he has been trying for five years to promote Blogs and Bloggers from the region. He covers South Asian Blogosphere almost on a day to day basis in Global Voice Online. Rezwan has a personal blog called The 3rd world view. He recently gave an interview to South Asia Blog about blogging in South Asia and Bangladesh. Here is the interview for the readers:

You are perhaps one of the very first bloggers from Bangladesh. What inspired you to start your own blog in 2003 and kept on blogging until now?

I learnt about blogs from a daily newspaper and started to explore. When I read other blogs from around the world I found that there were huge misconceptions about Bangladesh, mainly due to the absence of Bangladeshi voices on the internet. So I had the urge to comment on those blogs negating those misconceptions. I soon started my own blog and started to provide my opinions about my country and on what is happening around me.

Now looking back to the last 7 years, how would your describe your experience as a blogger?

During the first few years there were not many strong voices from Bangladesh. So I felt some kind of compulsion to write on burning issues back then. Now a days, there are so many good blog writers around so I feel relieved and feel that those issues are covered. However I tend to write on issues that require publicity or awareness. From mere daily ruminations blogging is for me a way of activism now. I use Facebook or twitter more to jot down my momentary feelings or thoughts.

What do you think is the current condition of blogging in Bangladesh right now?

Blogging has become popular among the younger generations in Bangladesh. Especially they prefer to blog in their mother tongue, Bangla which is understandable. In the near future the government will provide computers to every school in the country. So we will see an explosion in blogging. But we need to channel those interests in right paths. We need to provide them established and cause driven platforms (like environmental blogging) so that they do not get lost or waste time.
We are also witnessing that the number of bloggers who write in English have decreased. So there is a peril that our voices will not reach the world audience. We need to take initiatives to build the bridge, sites like Global Voices Online can provide that bridge. I hope someday online services like Google will provide translations from Bangla to other languages, which can provide a solution.

If we look at the blogosphere in Bangladesh, we will see that the community blogs like Somewherein, Amarblog, Prothom Aloblog, Sachalayatan (although they don’t call themselves a Community blog) are successful but we do not see personal blogs that are read by hundreds of people every day. What do you think is the reason? How can individual Bloggers in Bangladesh become successful?

Community blogging is popular in many countries in a big way like Russia and China. In Bangladesh, we are now witnessing theme based closely knit community blogs like Cadet College blog, which is the way forward in my opinion. These can establish a good trend and contribute to the society.
Now a days, we have so many blogging platforms and it is hard to follow good blog posts. Out of 100 blog posts you might find 5 to 10 worthy of your taste (depending on sites).
In community blogs, a blogger sometimes feel confined. The community sites also have restrictions on double posting or the nature of postings. So I think it is handy for a blogger to have their own space where all of their writings are archived. It will be easy for his/her readers to follow his works without missing anything. That will also be a measure of popularity and success of bloggers.

You have been related to Global Voice Online as the Regional Editor for South Asia for a long time and you are informing the world about the blogs of South Asian Bloggers on a day to day basis. How has blogging grown in South Asia in the last 5 years?

My efforts at Global Voices are to overcome the language and regional barriers and bridge the local blog voices with the world audience by highlighting, translating and contextualizing. Blogging has grown exponentially in most parts of South Asia as internet is becoming cheap and accessible day by day. But unlike the western world we have seen less politicians or bureaucrats using blogs in their daily affairs. The leader of the opposition in Bhutan parliament blogs. But what about India, Pakistan or Bangladesh?

At this moment, you are attending Global Voices Citizen Media Summit 2010 in Chile. Can you share some words about the event?

Global Voices consists of top internet activists from different parts of the world. This is a meet of more than 150 bloggers from above 60 countries of the world. This was sort of a mini UN meet where we finally put a face on the familiar names and get to understand each other well.
In the summit we discussed about online freedom, impact of citizen media, censorship, activism, social media’s role in conflict reporting etc. You can get details from the summit site. (http://summit2010.globalvoicesonline.org/)

Who is your favorite blogger in Internet and why?

I can’t answer that question. Because in my rss reader, there are literally a few thousand bloggers from South Asia and across the world listed. I sometime get lost in them and there are simply too many good bloggers/blogs to name.

In India, professional blogging has flourished quite a bit but in Bangladesh, blogging has not become yet an income source for most Bloggers. How can we change this scenario? Is it possible for Global Voice Online to take a project to train up Bangladeshi bloggers so that they can earn money from blogging?

We have got an interesting debate in Global Voices about blogging and money. Our volunteer authors across the world are quite popular and accomplished bloggers in their communities and most of them have their own separate profession. They blog for passion and activism but not necessarily for money. We realized that if we had enough money and could recruit other authors in place of these volunteers, we would not have so much quality content as when it becomes a mere job usually the focus and intensity deteriorates and the quality falls.
In India there are some citizen media models which offer some amount of money for the citizen journalists’ contents. But I must say that those are not the right kind of model that can compensate a really good blog writer comparing to a novice writer. Their models are mere business models but not focused or cause driven. I think to enable Bangladeshi bloggers to earn money we need to have services like Adsense in Bangla, Paypal etc. to start with. In Western world the blogger who gets more than 20,000 visitors a day probably gets enough money from advertisements to sustain his/her living. But in Bangladesh’s context, if the medium is in Bangla – will we have that many readers so that one blogger can sustain from advertisement?
But I see a promising scope for bloggers in Bangladesh. In Western world, there are some professional bloggers who are employed by NGOs, corporations and other institutions to write about specific issues. Our NGOs are sadly much behind in terms of social media. I think the donors can assert that the these NGOs should have blogs and will require to publish the opinions of the end users/recipients in blog posts/podcasts. Then the NGOs will have to recruit bloggers to perform these tasks. This can be a good career opportunity for the budding bloggers in Bangladesh.
Global Voices can certainly help train bloggers but for the earning model the local bloggers should take the initiative. We have projects in different parts of the world (including Bangladesh) undertaken by our outreach arm Rising Voices. We provide small grants to local bloggers who train citizen media techniques to disadvantaged societies. Some of the projects ceased to exist and some flourished – we have produced more bloggers nonetheless. We funded HiperBarrio, a grassroot project in Colombia (http://rising.globalvoicesonline.org/blog/category/projects/hiper-barrio/)  which has now become a registered NGO and is carrying on with their training workshops funded by local government and other NGOs.

You lived for the last few years in Germany. Now, you are in Indonesia. What are major differences between these two countries that you can find as a foreigner?

Germany is of course a large social welfare state with less people and more accumulation of wealth. The most remarkable thing is that they value their dignity and pride as a nation. A typical German will refuse to take what they don’t earn. They are a rule based society and your neighbor will remind you if you break the law. They are a hard working nation and these traits have contributed to their progress.
I find Indonesia a lot closer to Bangladesh, the only difference is that the Indonesia is a big country and the government has more resources. Rampant corruption, traffic, bad customer service, lazy office staffs etc found here are all familiar to us. In fact I think corruption is far more widespread here than Bangladesh. The irony is that in Transparency International index our country seems to be more corrupt because it is a perception based index. In Indonesia paying bribe to a government official is seen as a part of the culture – its termed as a gift. So in the perception index Indonesia have a better position than us. But I must admit that the people here are tolerant to other culture. Indonesia is really a model Muslim nation and it is evident from how they treat minorities. Most foods have halal certificate (including water 🙂 here and yet there are choices of wine and pork for the other religions in a local departmental store. Indonesians don’t bother if two girls are sitting in a bus next to each other, one is wearing a hijab and one is wearing a mini skirt.

Source taken from: Southasiablog.com


Advertisements

, , , , ,

Leave a comment

Thai war of words on the web


By Martin J Young

HUA HIN, Thailand – The role of the Internet and information technology in Thailand’s recent political unrest and violence was crucial, as both sides took to social networking websites in unprecedented numbers to get their points across and share their images and video of the unfolding events.

In a country where public confrontation is generally avoided, it seems that citizens are breaking away from their chains of tradition and returning to the web to voice their concerns on the kingdoms current plight.

// <![CDATA[
//<![CDATA[
var m3_u = (location.protocol=='https:'?'https://asianmedia.com/GAAN/www/delivery/ajs.php&#039;:'http://asianmedia.com/GAAN/www/delivery/ajs.php&#039;);
var m3_r = Math.floor(Math.random()*99999999999);
if (!document.MAX_used) document.MAX_used = ',';
document.write ("”);
//
// ]]>

Facebook became the new battleground as Thailand reeled from two months of political violence, with many of the country’s 3.6 million members of the social networking site using it to hound their opponents and post their pro- or anti-government opinions.

Usage of Facebook in Thailand, which has 16 million Internet users, has doubled in the past six months as political tension has escalated along with government censorship of websites, radio stations and television. This week alone has witnessed the banning of three more publications and Thai newspaper Thai Rath claims that up to 500 websites per day are also disappearing from screens in the country.

Censorship in Thailand has long been practiced by both political sides to prevent anti-government sentiment when they have been in power. Former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s Thai Rak Thai (TRT) party heavily censored the Internet and any media that he didn’t control during his tenure.

In addition to strict lese-majeste laws, which can land offenders with a 15-year jail sentence for defaming royalty, hundreds of opposition websites and anti-government pages have been closed in recent months.

Large billboards encouraging citizens of Bangkok to report, via a button on a new government website, any online insurrection or royal defamation are springing up across the city like Orwellian mushrooms.

The censorship of the anti-censorship petitioning group FACT (Freedom Against Censorship Thailand) also shows how much the government is stepping up its efforts to control the flow of information on the Internet, although Wikipedia’s lengthy page on the subject remains viewable at the time of writing.

Reporters Without Borders and other press freedom advocates claim that over the past few years in excess of 50,000 websites have been blocked in Thailand and the current total is over 65,000. The Paris-based Reporters Without Borders also said that Thailand has slipped from 65 in 2002 to 130 in 2009 in its ranking for press freedom.

High-profile websites such as Facebook and Twitter are a little harder to block in entirety – though that hasn’t stopped Iran or Pakistan doing just that (see Big Brother caught out Asia Times Online, May 22, 2010) – but specific pages and groups responsible for hate speech and threats have been closed by site administrators and some Facebook pages run by or supporting red-shirts (the group at the center of the recent Bangkok disturbances) have also been blocked.

The anti-government United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) have been employing their own tactics to counter the ever-growing firewall. It was reported by the Bangkok Post that the UDD has developed a tool bar enabling non tech-savvy Internet users to circumnavigate the traditional URL blocks used by Thailand’s Ministry of Information and Communication Technology (MICT) and download their own broadcasts.

Cloud computing has also been employed by the protest group, which has used a combination of Google Appspot and Microsoft Horizon from servers in two locations in the US to host their content.

The government is working towards implementing an independent office of national cyber-security similar to those already operating in other countries in the region, including Singapore, South Korea, Malaysia and Japan, to combat such online incursions, which it says are crimes against national security.

The evidence is all digital; YouTube video footage of red-shirt leaders inciting violence and encouraging crowds to burn government and commercial buildings is likely to be used in evidence against those captured on camera.

Primarily Bangkok-based pro-government yellow shirt activists have also taken to the Internet and Facebook en masse to deplore the partial destruction of their city and the violence, looting and burning that followed the military cleanup of protest camps.

Twitter has been another key tool in the posting of information; hundreds of Thais armed with mobile phones flooded the micro-blogging website with updates from both sides of the barricades. The relentless flow of commentaries, images and videos on social media websites far out-paced that coming from traditional Thai and Western news organizations, which often tended to lean to one side or the other.

Thailand has one of the more outdated data communications and mobile phone systems in the region; due to government red tape, there isn’t even a fully commercial 3G network for the country yet and most users are restricted to slow 2G data transmissions such as EDGE and GPRS. It is surprising then that the web has been embraced so vigorously in recent weeks when sometimes it is a struggle just to get online.

When the dust settled in the streets of Bangkok, the ripples of the conflict and the vast divergence that has split families and friends in the kingdom continued to resonate vociferously in the online world. A new wave of digital reporters and online social activists has emerged in Thailand, though few seem to be benignly fair and balanced.

The level of hate speech, anger, threatened violence, xenophobia, and general hostility that has ripped through Facebook, Twitter and local forums recently by both sides emphasize that this deep-rooted conflict in what was once known as the Land of Smiles is far from over and a new front line has been firmly established: the Internet.

Industry
The only way to get ahead of the mega corporations these days in technology seems to be by forming partnerships, and that is exactly what Nokia and Yahoo have done this week. The mobile-phone giant and the Internet pioneer will be working together in an effort to compete with rivals Google, Apple and Microsoft who are very unlikely to be working together.

Yahoo’s mail and instant messenger services will soon find their way onto Nokia handsets. In return, Nokia gets to power Yahoo’s mapping and navigation services. Nokia is the leading mobile phone vendor in emerging markets but has lost ground in the US to platforms such as Apple, Android and BlackBerry. Both companies hope that the partnership will increase the focus on maps and geo-location technology, which is all the rage across North America, and expand Yahoo’s email and messaging services to a wider audience.

With Google’s Android gaining even more market momentum and powerful new smartphones hitting the shelves, the battle ahead will be a tough one.

Hardware
The launch of Apple’s iPad, as predicted, has spurned interest in tablet devices, so it is little surprise that models with increased flexibility and higher specifications from other computer manufacturers are becoming available. Dell, the world’s third-largest computer company, this week announced its entrance in the tablet arena in the form of the Streak, a 12.5cm Android-powered unit.

The device will have all the usual connectivity capabilities, such as 3G, WiFi and Bluetooth, along with Android’s standard batch of utilities and tools, and a 5-megapixel camera. It is powered by a 1GHz Snapdragon processor and comes with two gigabytes of internal storage and support for an additional 32GB SD card. These specifications put it closer to the smartphone category in a lineup with Motorola’s Droid and HTC’s EVO 4G. Still, the tablet market is still a relatively empty dance floor with the iPad easily holding center stage.

Hewlett Packard announced its own tablet, dubbed the Slate, earlier this year. The unit was intended to be based on Microsoft Windows, but since the planned acquisition of Palm Inc, HP seems to have delayed production while considering a switch of operating systems

.

Apple aficionados will praise the iPad regardless, but with alternative devices emerging that do enable you to install non-Apple-approved applications

, remove the battery, use Flash, and save money, the market place for tablets will be heating up and seeing some serious contenders.

Martin J Young is an Asia Times Online correspondent based in Thailand.

(Copyright 2010 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)

Leave a comment

Facebook, facing criticism, ramps up privacy options

By Doug Gross, CNN
May 27, 2010 — Updated 1320 GMT (2120 HKT)

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the site's simplified   privacy settings Wednesday.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the site’s simplified privacy settings Wednesday.


(CNN)
— Faced with a backlash that wouldn’t go away, Facebook announced changes Wednesday that will make it easier for users to change privacy settings and block outside parties from seeing personal information.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that feedback from users over recent privacy changes, which made some user information public by default, was crucial in the decision to tighten controls.

“We think that they’re the right thing to do,” he said. “We listened to the feedback, and we agree with it.”

Facebook will begin rolling out the new privacy controls Wednesday, he said, and they should be in place for most users within the next few weeks.

Zuckerberg said Facebook’s new settings will give users “one simple tool” to control how their information is shared: with friends only, with friends of friends or with everyone.

A single click also will let users block all of their information from being accessed by third parties, such as game or application developers.

“All of the controls we had are still there if you want to use them,” Zuckerberg said. “But we just wanted to make it easy for people who want to put themselves in one bucket very easily with just a couple of clicks.”

The announcement marks a rare double-back for Facebook, the nearly ubiquitous networking site that has made a habit of rolling out changes and then weathering user grumbling until it subsides.

Among other changes, the site implemented a new tool last month that spreads user preferences and data across the Web. The tool allows Facebook users to more easily share articles and other Web pages they like but at the same time makes those picks easier for others to see.

Some Facebook users also have been vocally opposed to changes that switched default settings for much of their information to “public.”

The Web information-sharing function requires users to sign up for it. And privacy settings can be reset. But the current setup of about 170 settings requires negotiating what The New York Times called “a bewildering tangle of options” to make the switch.

Wednesday’s announcement addressed what Zuckerberg had acknowledged have been missteps with the site’s recent changes.

“Maybe we should have gone a bit slower; maybe we should have communicated a bit more clearly,” he said. “I’m not sure how we could have done that 100 percent better, but one of the things we’ve learned, time and time again, is that privacy is the most sensitive thing.”

He said Facebook wanted to make privacy changes quickly instead of drawing the process out.

Zuckerberg said that as Facebook has grown from a dorm-room project he cooked up when he was a 19-year-old Harvard student, balancing public and private information has become an increasingly important and tricky business.

Make too much info public and it jeopardizes privacy, but hide too much of it and it makes it hard for friends to find you on the site, he said.

With more than 450 million users, Facebook has long outgrown its humble beginnings as a social site for tech-savvy college students.

Some social media experts say that although tech-fluent users could switch their settings with relative ease, a huge chunk of Facebook’s member base remains unaware of how to do so, exposing information they expect to be private.

Under the new system, users will get a message at the top of their homepage alerting them to the changes and pointing them toward Facebook’s privacy page, where they can tweak their settings.

On the page, they’ll be able to click one button to share all of their information with friends only, with friends and friends of friends, or with everyone. Users could also choose to make certain parts of their profile public while keeping other parts, such as photos, private.

Every time they post something, users will still get to decide who gets to see it. And, under changes that Facebook had announced, applications that ask users for information will soon have to spell out exactly what information they plan to use.

Wednesday’s changes got an initial thumbs-up from at least some involved in online privacy issues.

“While we’ll need to see how the new privacy settings will work, it looks like Facebook is taking aggressive steps in the right direction,” said Jeffrey Johnson, a New York attorney who specializes in intellectual property rights and technology.

Johnson noted that the changes are more in line with privacy guidelines of the European Union, which has not shied away from imposing its standards on web operators like Google.

“I don’t think that’s coincidental,” Johnson said.

Zuckerberg said that a handful of efforts to persuade people to quit Facebook over the privacy changes weren’t a factor in the decision to roll out Wednesday’s tweaks.

He called the anti-Facebook campaigns “statistically insignificant,” noting that Facebook has actually grown by millions of users since the privacy changes rolled out.

Web analytics firm comScore estimates that the site has as many as 519 million users, which would be an increase of more than 100 million since last fall.

Zuckerberg added that, statistically, the uproar over last year’s creation of Facebook’s news feed was bigger than this one. The site had fewer users then, and roughly 1 million were actively protesting the change, which remains a central, and widely accepted, feature.

“When you have almost 500 million people using your service, if even a small percentage of them are upset, that can still be a larger number of people than the state of New York,” Zuckerberg said.

CNN’s Brandon Griggs contributed to this report.

Leave a comment

South Korea – Like a drug: Videogame addiction

Fri, 28 May 2010 3:00p.m.

By Angus Deacon

A lot of us can confess to being addicted to videogames.

Whether it’s spending your hard-earned moola on the latest console, suffering sleep deprivation, taking days off work or missing homework in order to get your gaming fix. Plenty of you reading this right now will be familiar with the impact that being a gamer can have on your everyday life.

However at what point does an enthusiastic pastime get out of hand? Sadly, there have been many cases around the world where gamers have not only destroyed their own lives, but affected the lives of others as well.

Some of the more recent cases come from South Korea, where videogaming is more than just a means of stress-relief or an entertaining way to pass a few hours. Games like StarCraft and Counter Strike are regularly televised with videogaming recognised as a desired profession. Players are treated, as well as paid, like sports stars or celebrities often earning more than US$100,000 a year through prize money and sponsorship deals alone.

The level of competitive gaming is so mainstream in Korea they are widely regarded as “e-sports” with tournaments like The World Cyber Games attracting millions of viewers every year.

But for all of the success stories of fame and fortune, there are some tragedies that stem from such a national obsession.

On 5 March 2010, a South Korean couple were arrested in Suwon for the death of their three-month-old baby, who reportedly starved to death while they played popular role-playing game Prius Online in an Internet Café. Following their arrest, it turned out that the couple had recently lost their jobs and had “lost their will to live a normal life”, instead deciding to live a virtual life online in order to avoid reality.

According to Suwon Police, the couple only stopped playing the game to feed their baby every twelve hours. As if the scenario wasn’t tragic enough, the couple were currently raising a virtual child online that happened to be perfectly healthy and happy.

Some years back in 2005, a 28-year-old South Korean man collapsed and died from a cardiac arrest while playing StarCraft for nearly 50 hours straight, with little food and sleep. At first impressions it appeared his decline into videogame addiction stemmed from similar issues to the previous couple, such as losing his job and his girlfriend. But later investigation found that his addiction was actually the cause of his decline, when it was discovered that he was fired from his job because he took days off in order to play videogames. It wouldn’t be far-fetched to assume his relationship with his girlfriend failed due to his manic video gaming lifestyle as well.

There are dozens of cases like this in South Korea, where the cultural attitude toward videogames, especially online, is bordering on becoming an epidemic. According to Bloomberg News (15 January, 2006) over 17 million people (nearly 35 percent of the population) are playing online games in South Korea. At any one moment in time there are more than 4 million players playing online multiplayer games of some description in the country.

Despite this incredible statistic, cases of videogame addiction aren’t isolated to parts of Korea either. In a similar vein, a couple in Reno, Nevada neglected their child to play online roleplaying games back in July, 2007. They often left their 22-month-old boy and 11-month-old girl alone for hours at a time in order to play Dungeons & Dragons online. Thankfully the children were discovered before they suffered long term effects, but they were still found severely malnourished. The 25-year-old father and 23-year-old mother both pleaded guilty and are currently serving a maximum 12-year prison sentence.

Due to the media, everyone has heard about numerous cases of injury or death that have been linked to videogames. Many of which are cases of extreme violence that have been conveniently pinned to violence in games such as the Grand Theft Auto franchise. Due to a lack of strong evidence towards any connection between the two, it is difficult to speculate any real truth in the matter.

Chances are these particular individuals who go on shooting rampages after playing violent videogames have deeper psychological issues that video games could never achieve on their own. They are often teenagers living at home where, in a perfect world, their parents should be monitoring their behaviour. However, most of the cases of online videogame obsession come from a much older generation, often including the parents themselves.

Considering the social aspects of online gaming, it’s easy to imagine players becoming completely absorbed in their virtual worlds. Many gamers who consider themselves to be addicted have admitted that they use gaming as a form of extreme escapism from their everyday lives. In moderation, this is perfectly acceptable. But unfortunately there are cases where individuals have difficulty separating the two.

Over in Shanghai, China, an online gamer named Mr Qui was sentenced to life in prison for stabbing another gamer (Mr Zhu) back in July, 2005. Mr Zhu had apparently sold a “virtual sword” that the accused had lent to him on the basis that it would be returned soon after.

Initially this bizarre situation sounds comical. However Mr Qui broke into Mr Zhu’s home one night and confronted him with a knife. Despite Mr Zhu claiming that he would give him the money, he was still stabbed violently. The sword from the game, Legend of Mir 3, was valued at 7,200 Yuan (NZ$969). Chinese authorities say since there were no laws protecting virtual property it was difficult to recover any monetary losses from theft or foul play. Mr Qui is serving a life-long manslaughter charge.

This videogame related death seems extreme, but it does bring to light how “realistic” and emotionally attached some players can become in an online fantasy world.

The Internet games section of Ebay saw more than $9m ($10.2+ million NZ) in trades back in 2003 according to a BBC news investigation. Many more transactions take place in the Black Market due to restrictions placed by the game distributors, with games like World of Warcraft prohibiting user to user sales. Of course it doesn’t stop publisher’s Blizzard from selling virtual items themselves for a premium cost.

Like all negative impacts on society, people feel the need to start pointing the finger. Rather than blame those directly involved (ie, the players themselves) critics have started accusing everyone from the developers of the games through to Internet Service Providers (ISPs).

Although most of the cases are online and Internet based games, expecting ISPs to try and limit online time or placing server connection limits would be a logistical nightmare. However, perhaps the developers and publishers of the games could take some responsibility. It wouldn’t be difficult for publishers like Blizzard or Sony Online Entertainment to place in-game timers that prevent users from playing for extended periods of time. Automatically logging them out and stopping them from logging back in for a set duration in the hope that they’ll get some sleep or go for a jog would be a relatively easy task.

Of course many would point out the 400,000+ other EverQuest users or the more mind-blowing 10 million plus players in World of Warcraft who manage their lives and game playing time sensibly. Why should millions of other gamers be subjected to time constraints when they possess the ability and will-power to simply shut down their PCs for a good night’s rest?

However, it would be fair to say that sensible limitations wouldn’t affect most “healthy” gamers. If a game allowed for eight hours straight before logging you off for a four hour break, it should satisfy most average users. Hopefully it would help prevent the epic 12+ hour sessions that can be detrimental to one’s health. Granted, games like World of Warcraft do have parental locks in place, but as mentioned above it can be the parents themselves who need controlling.

With the Internet and online gaming numbers expanding, these small minority cases of obsession with video gaming could start to rise. If the gaming industry doesn’t take some small measures now, there is a high possibility of Government intervention. We can already see this trend with many Governments enforcing regulations on fast food outlets due to the supposed connection to the rise of obesity. Government interference in the world of videogaming is never a good thing for the players, simply look at Australia and their restrictive censorship in the gaming market today.

At this stage, most countries don’t consider videogame addiction as a mental disorder. Their argument is drug addicts are addicted because they have chemical dependencies. Videogame players do not have a chemical dependency with the game, therefore they cannot be addicted in the sense most people define the word. But the similarities between substance addiction (nicotine, cocaine, heroin, alcohol, etc) and game addiction really aren’t too far apart at all.

In fact studies at the University of British Columbia have found that the physiological effects caused by excessive gaming and drug addiction are very similar. The stimulation generated by extended and intense videogaming sessions can boost the secretion of the chemical dopamine inside the brain of the player.

Dopamine gives a sensation of feeling happy, can help ease stress and leave an individual feeling satisfied which can all subsequently lead to addiction. This same chemical is also released by the body during sexual arousal and traces the same pathways followed by A-class drugs in the brain. Those gamers who partake in an unhealthy manner could easily have a chemical dependency towards videogames.

Further studies at the University of Plymouth have found that gamblers exhibit an increased heartbeat rate and a similar release of chemicals from the brain to that of intense videogaming. As we all know, gambling addiction is already considered a major problem for most Governments around the world. It wouldn’t be a far stretch to say that an extreme online gaming addiction could easily be just as financially and socially crippling as a gambling one.

Furthermore, videogame addictions display the same withdrawal symptoms as drug, alcohol and gambling addictions, characterised by anxiety, irritability, nausea, stomach cramps, headaches and sweats.

Korean psychologists estimate more than 10 percent of South Korean schoolchildren have shown signs of videogame addiction, one of the highest rates in the world, along with China. Back in 2002, the South Korean Government opened one of the region’s first Internet addiction treatment centres, mainly focused on online gaming. Since then, hundreds of private hospitals and clinics have opened specialised units to treat these disorders, and the South Korean Government even opened a phone hotline for gaming addicts in 2006. At the treatment centres, patients typically spend two weeks or more “detoxing” from their videogame use, partaking in outdoor activities and arts and crafts instead.

But are online videogames themselves to blame? Just like any other type of addiction, the stimulus that games can deliver can definitely lead some people to obsession. But these same individuals with a susceptible personality could become addicted to just about anything, whether it’s collecting bits of ribbon or getting hooked on Tic Tacs.

Naturally, videogames are a prime suspect as a catalyst toward negative effects because they demand such psychological and emotional attention. The media often ignore a videogame’s entertainment value over a chance to create negative spin on their effect on society. A more pessimistic person could argue that videogames are competition for broadcast news television and newspapers, possibly causing an unbiased opinion toward the industry.

But no matter which way you look at it, some small attention to online videogame addiction by the gaming industry now could prevent hundreds of gamers taking their obsession that little bit too far in the years to come.

Source taken from: http://www.3news.co.nz/Like-a-drug-Videogame-addiction/tabid/418/articleID/158104/Default.aspx

, , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Indian Government Uses Comic Book to Scare Kids From Piracy

by Tom Goldman, 27 May 2010 2:29 am

image

The Indian government is hoping to reduce internet piracy by distributing a comic book to kids throughout the country.

Bollywood has had enough of this newfangled internet piracy jazz, and is hoping to teach kids the dangers of downloading movies without paying for them while they’re young. The Indian government’s new Bollywood-Hollywood anti-piracy coalition recently announced the nationwide launch of a comic book called Escape from Terror Byte City that attempts to show kids why piracy is a bad idea.

Escape from Terror Byte City is a New Zealand comic that will be translated into Hindi, Marathi and English for distribution across India. The government is targeting children aged 5 to 10 and has plans to carpet bomb schools, malls, and multiplexes with 10,000 copies of the officially government endorsed book. The Motion Picture Dist. Association of India hopes to eventually have the comic in every Indian school.

Escape from Terror Byte City imparts the epic tale of two young, innocent boys that download Transformers without transferring funds to the official owner, producer, or distributor of the intellectual property. Due to their criminal act, they get trapped in the virtual Terror Byte City where weird little demons tempt them to download more illegal goods. There, they meet a magical internet security knight who tells them the errors of their ways. He then gives the children superpowers and they disinfect the entire internet.

Rather than educating kids about the illegalities of internet piracy, Escape from Terror Byte City warns/scares them about the dangers of viruses, trojans, and the possibility of outsiders gaining access to personal information. The comic can be read online here. Remember kids, don’t download movies unless you want to get sucked into a computer to become an awesome virtual internet knight.

Source taken from: http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/100936-Indian-Government-Uses-Comic-Book-to-Scare-Kids-From-Piracy

Leave a comment

India: Look, mom’s online

Mothers in India spend an average of 28.6 hours each week on media, including some 15 hours online, reading newspapers, listening to music and even watching TV shows on the Internet, says a study by Microsoft Advertising and Starcom MediaVest Group.

For these mothers, traditional media rank low as a source of information about products they buy for themselves or for their children. Five hundred Indian mothers took part in the study that also covered China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, Japan and South Korea, aimed at providing insights into the online lives of Asian mothers. “Mothers are becoming increasingly digital-savvy and, conversely, much more cynical to overt advertising,” said Kenneth Andrew, marketing director, Microsoft Advertising, Greater Asia-Pacific. It is important for brands to create relevant online experiences that reach these mothers at the right time with the right message, Andrew said.

Source taken from: http://www.livemint.com/2010/05/27222607/Look-mom8217s-online.html?h=B

, , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

New Net domains break language barriers

By TAREK EL-TABLAWY (AP) – May 24, 2010

CAIRO — The use of non-Latin characters in Internet addresses is a key step to opening up the Web and making it more “personalized” for billions of users, the head of the nonprofit body that oversees Internet addresses said Monday.

Rod Beckstrom, CEO of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, said around half of the people using the Internet do not use Latin script. But the recent approval of Arabic and Russian characters for domain name suffixes will help bridge that linguistic barrier and encourage more users online, he said.

“This is part of the Internet becoming more truly global,” Beckstrom told The Associated Press on the sidelines of an event celebrating the introduction of such suffixes in Arabic. “We see this just opening up and making the Internet more global.”

“It seems to be a more important offering for the psyche of people. Our language is part of our culture and our identity, and having … the ability to express our domain in our chosen language is something that people feel very powerfully about,” Beckstrom said.

Earlier this month, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Russia become the first nations to get Internet addresses entirely in non-Latin characters.

Egypt, for example, secured the right to the “.masr” domain (written in Arabic).

The step marked a fundamental shift in the Internet domain name system since its creation in the 1980s.

Until the approvals were received for Arabic and Russian, websites had to end their addresses with suffixes like “.com” that were written in Latin characters — a restriction that posed challenges to expanding the reach of the Net to people who could not read such script.

Beckstrom, in comments echoed earlier by Egypt’s Information Technology Minister Tarek Kamel, said lifting the language barrier would allow new and unprecedented access to the Internet.

Kamel told reporters earlier Monday that of the 60 million mobile device users in Egypt, only about 17 million were online. The new system would greatly boost those numbers, he said.

“Now we have a stronger reason for inclusion, for bringing them and making them part of this revolution that is happening worldwide,” Kamel said.

Beckstrom said that Arabic is the seventh most common language currently on the Internet.

That figure reflects the rapid growth in Internet use in the Mideast, where technical issues and political constraints have at time served as serious impediments to the expansion of the Web in the region.

While Egypt was among the first to submit an application last year for the new domains, other nations have jumped in, as well.

ICANN said it has received a total of 21 requests for such domains, representing 11 languages, since it began accepting applications in November.

Beckstrom declined to say when additional approvals could be made, noting that the process of setting up the domains took years of technical and policy work.

“It takes some energy to do the work on the technical script selection,” he said, listing just one of the challenges countries must tackle before getting their domains approved.

Source taken from: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5hm6wrsWwh4MbpKK89cwHUSeqjYkgD9FTB5E01

, , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment