mobile devices | MIT Center for Civic Media

Mobile devices are becoming increasingly important as a means of distributing and sharing information. Cell phones, wireless hand-held computers, and new devices we haven't even seen yet are being used in new and unanticipated ways.

State of Emergency in Pakistan: An Analysis of Local Media

Much can be said about Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf’s decision to declare a state of emergency in my home country. In this post, I will set aside political commentary and restrict my comments here to the role that news media and new media are playing in the national crisis.

On Saturday, November 3, soon after proclaiming emergency rule in a televised address, Musharraf demanded that all cable operators stop beaming the broadcasts of all local and foreign new channels, except those of the state-owned Pakistan Television. Nearly 30 channels were promptly taken off the air. On Sunday, policemen raided the Islamabad offices of Aaj TV, a private news channel, and attempted to confiscate the channel’s equipment.

This nationwide broadcasting blackout was accompanied by sporadic efforts to cut telephone lines and jam cell phone networks, even though the telecommunications infrastructure in Pakistan is privately owned. According to VOA News, the telephone lines of Pakistan’s main independent news channel Geo TV were cut.

Mobile technologies and local communities, Part 1: Examining

There are, of course, numerous innovative initiatives emerging worldwide that make use of mobile technologies. To date, mobile devices have already been used to encourage learning, monitor elections, organize protests, play games, share images, and share vital health information. But sometimes the issue is figuring out how to identify what’s right for a specific community. The sheer magnitude of information, not to mention the constant stream of new technologies (that often require new literacies) make it difficult to find out what new ideas are out there–or how to connect with the groups behind these ideas.

What makes a technology civic?

For the past few weeks, students involved with C4FCM have been hopping between meetings, brainstorming ideas for new technologies and applications for existing technologies that can promote civic engagement and community building. A laundry list of desirable traits for new technologies with civic potential is emerging. New technologies deployed within a community should be inexpensive, scalable, and easily accessible on the part of the end user. A technology should not require the implementation of an extensive infrastructure, and should aim to make use of existing technologies with which members of most communities are already familiar. Some students are in favor of internal networking technologies that defy the logic of centralization and are not reliant on external networks or communications infrastructure. In addition, a technology should be adaptable so that different communities can tailor it to their specific needs. As a bonus, the technology should help to bridge the digital divide and should be suitable for use by those who are semi-literate or illiterate.