Tag Archives: social media

Felipe Calderon’s Cabinet on Twitter

@GGalvanG (Guillermo Galvan G.), Secretary of National Defence, Mexico

My latest post for Global Voices, just published on their website and reproduced below.

Mexico: Felipe Calderon’s Cabinet on Twitter

Posted 19 April 2011 14:58 GMT
Written byDeborah Esch
In mid-April, the government headed by Felipe Calderon announced with much fanfare that every member of the cabinet was now registered on Twitter, and prepared to deal with the public more directly via social media.

Two reports in the Mexican mainstream media set the story in motion. Writing for CNNMexico [es] under the title “Mexico busca eficacia del gobierno electronico pese a la poca conectividad” (”Mexico looks for efficient government despite limited connectivity”), Hiroshi Takahashi reported on the presentation of the draft communique from the President, which features new language on the use of social networks including Twitter and Facebook, as well as a redesign of the website [es] associated with his office that now comprises nineteen blogs.

Alejandra Sota, the President’s Co-ordinator of Social Communication, pointed out [es] that Mexico leads Latin America in the use of Facebook, and occupies eighth place [es] in the region in its total of Twitter users. Ms. Sota elaborates on her blog [es], located on the revamped website:

El nuevo modelo de comunicacion digital de la Presidencia es un proyecto basado en el compromise con la innovacion pero, principalmente, con la transparencia; con el derecho de los mexicanos a saber, y con su obligacion de preguntar, de informarse, de debater y proponer….  A partir de hoy el gavbnete mexicano sera el primero completo en twitter en el mundo.

The new model of digital communication from the Presidency is a project based on a commitment to innovation, but mainly to transparency, to the right of Mexicans to know, and their obligation to ask, inquire, discuss and propose…. The Mexican cabinet will be the first in the world to be fully on Twitter.

A report by Maria del Carmen Cortes for El Universal [es] entitled “Timidos, muchos secretarios para expresarse en Twitter” (”Many secretaries are timid about expressing themselves on Twitter”), distinguished between the handful of secretaries who already had active accounts and significant followings on Twitter, and another group of users entirely new to the platform.

Pero lo cierto es que muchos de ellos prefieren pasar inadvertidos, mantanerse en silencio, sin emitir comentarios en esta plataforma instantanea….

La initiativa forma parte de una nueva forma de comunicacion del gabinete presidencial, cuyo objetivo es mantener comunicacion directo con los ciudadenos.

But the truth is that many of them prefer to go unnoticed, to keep quiet, not to comment on this instantaneous platform….

The initiative is part of a new form of communication on the part of the presidential cabinet, whose objective is to maintain direct communication with citizens.

Javier Lozano, the secretary of Labour and Social Welfare (who has declared his own presidential aspirations), is thus far the most popular and prolific of the ministers on Twitter, with more than 37,000 followers and over 11,700 tweets to his credit (at the time of writing this post). The timeline for his Twitter account, @JLozanoA, yields the following tweet, indicative of a certain level of comfort with the medium.

Ya me voy a dormir, no sin antes reconocer que Chivas perdio bien con un golazo de ultimo segundo contra Santos (en Guadalajara). Saludos.

Now I’m going to sleep, but not before acknowledging that Chivas lost even with a goal in the last second against Santos (in Guadalajara). Best wishes.

On the other end of the spectrum is the minister of Public Security, Genaro Garcia Luna, with 1,408 followers and, to date, a single, somewhat redundant, tweet at @GenaroGarciaL.

La cuenta de twitter del Secretario de Seguridad Publica es @GenaroGarciaL

The twitter account of the Secretary of Public Security is @GenaroGarciaL

The secretary is, however, already on the receiving end of a number of tweets from his followers, including Ale (@aaleog), who directed the following messages to him:

@GenaroGarciaL el silencio informativo es la peor strategia

@GenaroGarciaL la mejor consigna es explicar en todo momento lo que se hace

@GenaroGarciaL informative silence is the worst strategy

@GenaroGarciaL the best slogan is to explain at every moment what is being done

The Secretary of Public Education, Alonso Lujambio, who can be reached @LujambioAlonso, is drawing a sometimes enthusiastic response from his followers. From Aguascalientes, Manuel Cortina (@manuelcortina) tweeted approvingly, appending the link to a twitpic of the minister:

Desayunando con @lujambioalonso  #AgsMx  http://twitpic.com/4m2379 Buen ejercicio democratico

Having breakfast with @lujambioalonso  #AgsMx  http://twitpic.com/4m2379 Good democratic exercise

The Attorney General, Marisela Morales, issued her first tweet from her account @MMoralesI, which took the form of a call for collective responsibility:

Solo con la participacion activa de la sociedad vamos a someter a la delincuencia

Only with the active participation of society will we subdue delinquency

Her followers appear to be of mixed minds about Mexico’s prospects. Guillermo Lozano A. D. (@glazanoad) wrote encouragingly from Leon, Guanajuato:

Marisela, cuenta con todo nuestro apoyo como sociedad, confiamos en tu capacidad y conviccion para acabar con la delincuencia

Marisela, count on all our support as a society, we trust in your capacity and conviction to put an end to delinquency.

Irma Zvelasco (@unpieenelcielo) was more equivocal:

@MMoralesI Esperamos que eso sea cierto, por q vamos muy mal

@MMoralesI We hope that is true, because we are going very badly.

It is worth noting that in the same week that the Calderon government trumpeted its full-fledged entry into social media, the World Economic Forum issued its Report on Global Information Technology 2009-2010. According to the study, Mexico ranks 78 out of 133 in the use of information technology –the same as the previous year. The report measures how likely countries are to take advantage of opportunities afforded by technology with regard to governance, business and public policy.

With the question of access to a range of technologies underlying the results of the WEF report, one user’s response to the announcement that Mexican ministers are now on Twitter takes on a particular resonance. Ivan Trejo Molina (@ivan_trejom) admonishes,

http://on.cnn.com/gqQSIHJ #Mexico / Sin embargo olvidan ke no todo Mexico esta en TW

http://on.cnn.com/gqQSIHJ #Mexico / However they are forgetting that not all of Mexico is on TW[itter]

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Mexican netizens cite Chomsky on Mexico

A survey of blogs, YouTube accounts, Twitter and other social media emanating out of Mexico turns up many predictable names – and some that are perhaps less to be expected.

Longtime MIT professor of linguistics and political historian Noam Chomsky has for decades written widely and polemically on Latin America as well as the Middle East. With the notable exception of interventions in the debates surrounding the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), however, Mexico hasn’t played a pivotal role in his corpus. Yet informed netizens looking for answers to vexed questions about contemporary Mexican public life and politics persist in seeking out Chomsky, whether for direct critique and commentary on Mexico, or analysis of other cases for possible extrapolation.

Noam Chomsky, by Flickr user jeanbaptisteparis (CC BY-SA 2.0)

In one instance, Jose Martin Preciado – preciado1000 to his YouTube viewers – posted a clip under the title “Noam Chomsky on the Militarization of the Mexican Border.” While the video was first shared in January 2010, its content remains highly pertinent.

Under the auspices of Z Magazine and its blog site chomsky-must-read.blogspot.com, interviewer “Amauta” likewise encountered Chomsky in January 2010 and took the occasion to ask him about Mexico. The interview resonates powerfully a year later, not least through Chomsky’s observations on the media and the current state of Mexican society.

Amauta: So I wanted to start the conversation with your recent trip to Latin America. I just heard you were in Latin America and you were in Mexico this Monday and this weekend. How was it? Just a general statement.

Chomsky: I was in Mexico City. It’s a very pleasant city in many ways. It’s [a]vibrant, lively, pretty exciting society, but also depressing in other ways, and sometimes almost hopeless, you know. So it’s a combination of vibrancy and, I wouldn’t say despair, but hopelessness, you know. Doesn’t have to be, but it is. I mean, there is almost no economy.

Amauta: And you went there specifically for the anniversary of La Jornada?

Chomsky: La Jornada, which is, in my opinion, the one independent newspaper in the whole hemisphere.[…] And amazingly successful. So it is now the second largest newspaper in Mexico, and very close to the first. It is completely boycotted by advertisers, so when you read it…there are no ads. Not because they refuse them, but because business won’t advertise….   But nevertheless they survive and flourish.

A Twitter search of Chomsky’s name turns up a recent tweet from Luis (@LUT3RO) linking to the article The hopes of Noam Chomsky and two postscripts.” This was retweeted by Ivan Oliver (@popochazCape), who appends “Great article by my idol Chomsky!”

The article, dated March 1, 2011, on the website Prodavinci [es] transcribes, in Spanish, an interview with Chomsky conducted by Boris Munoz. “The hopes of Noam Chomsky and two postscripts” is a wide-ranging exchange, but at two junctures the conversation turns to contemporary Mexico.

Pocas semanas atrás estuve en México y gente ligada al periódico La Jornada me comentó que hay grandes áreas al norte dedicadas a la producción, zonas incluso vigiladas por militares. El asunto de fondo es que, al parecer, un 25% de la economía mexicana depende de los narcos. Otro tanto depende de las remesas que llegan del exterior, lo que quiere decir que la economía productiva y funcional se ha reducido. Incluso las maquiladoras multinacionales, que no se ajustan a los patrones nacionales de la economía productiva, se están yendo del país debido a la competencia de China.

A few weeks ago I was in Mexico, and people at La Jornada told me that there are large areas to the north dedicated to production [of opium], including areas controlled by the military. The bottom line is that, apparently, 25% of the Mexican economy depends on drug traffickers. The economy is likewise dependent on remittances sent from abroad, which means that the productive economy is functionally reduced. Even multinational maquiladoras, which do not meet national standards for a productive economy, are leaving the country due to competition from China.

He goes on to say,

Por otro lado, […] el declive de la calidad de vida con Calderón es terrible. No hablo solo de los niveles de nutrición, sino de la caída de los salarios. Eso también es crucial para entender el avance de la economía de las drogas. En el World Economic Forum se ha discutido otro fenómeno derivado: la paradoja de que en un país con ese tipo de violencia, la bolsa se encuentre por los cielos, alcanzando hace poco máximos históricos. En realidad, eso habla de dos Méxicos, uno rico y otro pobre. No hay nada paradójico al respecto. Es algo que viene sucediendo desde que las reformas neoliberales de los ochenta dividieron al país. El número de billonarios ha aumentado casi tan rápido como la tasa de pobreza. Así se explica el fenómeno de Carlos Slim, el hombre más rico del mundo, y se entiende que a la bolsa le esté yendo bien, porque los inversionistas estadounidenses asumen que a los sectores privatizados, a los billonarios y a los narcos les seguirá yendo bien. Mientras tanto la población colapsa.

On the other hand […] the decline in quality of life under Calderon is terrible. I am not speaking only of the levels of nutrition, but of the fall in wages. That is also crucial to understand the progress of the drug economy. At the World Economic Forum another phenomenon has been discussed: the paradox that in a country with such violence, the stock market is skyrocketing, reaching record highs recently. Actually, that speaks of two Mexicos, one rich and one poor. There is nothing paradoxical about it. It’s something that has been happening since the eighties, when neoliberal reforms split the country. The number of billionaires has risen almost as fast as the rate of poverty. This explains the phenomenon of Carlos Slim, the richest man in the world, and it is understood that he is succeeding because U.S. investors assume that a privatized sector, the billionaires and the narcos, will continue to do well. Meanwhile, the population collapses.

He adds,

Encontrar soluciones para esos problemas exige reconocer que existen y eso no lo vemos. Así que tenemos por delante un largo camino por recorrer.

Finding solutions to these problems requires recognizing their existence, and we don’t see this. So we have before us a long way to go.

Such observations and insights retain their force more than a year after they were first made public. This may explain, at least in part, why Chomsky continues to serve as a resource for Mexican netizens seeking thoughtful analysis of problems that appear, at times, intractable.


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Tracking @kommons: an experiment in reverse reverse chronology

During a short parenthesis of time this morning, I took my first real crack at Storify, a platform for curating social media that enables, for example, a reshuffling and reordering of tweets in the service of constructing a narrative.  I tried to tell a brief tale about witnessing a chapter in the history of Kommons.com, a startup to which (as readers of this blog will know) I have become attached.  You can find the Storify effort at http://storify.com/makurrah/good-times-kommons, and below.

Tracking @kommons: an experiment in reverse reverse chronology

Storified by Deborah Esch, November 18, 2010 at 11:00
Story thumbnail
A Storify narrative about witnessing a chapter in the history of @kommons, told through the curation of relevant tweets.

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Viva Mario Savio (and @CodyBrown)

This morning, as I stared at my feet on the subway, feeling the irritation and dismay build at the dehumanizing sardine-can conditions in the car, which were thrown into stark relief by a long weekend spent, in part, on horseback, moving at my pace of choice through lovely and quiet autumnal trails on the Niagara Escarpment, I had an unexpected light-bulb moment.  I was, as usual, rifling my mental archives for a point of departure for today’s post, hoping to “turn up” a suggestive line or paragraph or page, perhaps one authored by one of this blog’s intellectual exemplars (you will find most of their names – their number is small – under the heading “Local Forecast” on the right-hand sidebar of the main page).  Perhaps it was the press of the crowd on its collective way-to-work that prompted a different impulse:  why not inquire of others regarding their sources of intellectual, theoretical and ethical inspiration?  And (since an insta-poll of my fellow commuters was neither viable nor, quite honestly, all that promising) why not avail myself of Twitter in order to carry it out?  There were a handful of folks on my timeline, I thought, who might be willing to share in this regard, should they chance upon my fleeting inquiry.

So, a short time ago, I sent out 8 or 10 tweets, a combination of DMs and @replies, that read more or less like this:

Hey.  For an informal poll of some folks I follow on Twitter: who are your intellectual (philosophical/theoretical) exemplars/heroes?

I got my first response in under two minutes (an interval brief enough to flag in the context of my critique of the ideology of the “real-time” Web), when one of the people I was most interested in hearing from fired back.  @CodyBrown is someone I have followed for some time, and know only through Twitter.  I know (or at least I believe) him to be a denizen of Brooklyn, a co-founder of @kommons and @nyulocal – two worthy projects, it would appear – and the author of a “Blog on Journalism, Collective Knowledge, and What Makes Things Cinematic.”  And I follow him on the basis of this fragmentary biographical information, and (much more) because of the nature, the character of his tweets, which are well-turned, stringent, funny, and which nearly always include worthwhile links.

Virtually as soon as I had finished sending my queries into the ether, I got @CodyBrown’s response:  “Mario Savio.”  When I replied to thank him and to give him an opportunity to gloss his response in this context, I promptly received a link that led me to a video clip of Mario Savio addressing a crowd on the steps of Sproul Hall at Berkeley, on December 2, 1964.

@CodyBrown exemplifies what I prize about Twitter.  If he is not (yet) among my intellectual exemplars, he is close to the top of my very short list of social media and journalism go-to guys.  I am grateful to him for “turning up” the footage of Mario Savio speaking at a historical juncture.

Based on what is admittedly minimal evidence, I believe that Cody and Mario have a trait or two in common.  So, while I thank the former once again for his timely replies, I offer as well a word of advice.  Call me superstitious, but if you’re thinking of moving any furniture, you might want to consult the Yellow Pages.  http://writing.upenn.edu/~afilreis/50s/savio-obit.html

Now, let’s see if anyone else has responded.

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“Cognitive Surplus,” indeed

Yesterday’s mail delivery brought my pre-ordered copy of Clay Shirky’s volume Cognitive Surplus:  Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age.  Having learned a good deal from Clay’s writings, lectures and interviews, I’ve looked forward to reading another book-length offering.  Sure enough, I was rewarded (almost in passing) as early as page 15.

In the context of my efforts to bring an “epistemology of media lag” argument to bear on contemporary claims for the so-called “real-time” Web, I was particularly gratified to read, in the book’s first chapter, Clay’s account of one example of individual members of society “voluntarily making and sharing things” by way of social media.

To pick one example, a service called Ushahidi was developed to help citizens track outbreaks of ethnic violence in Kenya.  In December 2007 a disputed election pitted supporters and opponents of President Mwai Kibaki against one another.  Ory Okolloh, a Kenyan political activist, blogged about the violence when the Kenyan government banned the mainstream media from reporting on it.  She then asked her readers to e-mail or post comments about the violence they were witnessing on her blog.  The method proved so popular that her blog, Kenyan Pundit, became a critical source of first-person reporting.  The observations kept flooding in, and within a couple of days Okolloh could no longer keep up with it.  She imagined a service, which she dubbed Ushahidi (Swahili for “witness” or “testimony”), that would automatically aggregate citizen reporting (she had been doing it by hand), with the added value of locating the reported attacks on a map in near-real time [emphasis added].  She floated the idea on her blog, which attracted the attention of the programmers Erik Hersman and David Kobia.  The three of them got on a conference call and hashed out how such a service might work, and within three days, the first version of Ushahidi went live.

Mindful of Clay’s own creativity and generosity, I would humbly propose an amendment to the final clause:  make that near-live.

Postscript:  The bio on the jacket-flap enumerates Clay’s consulting gigs, which include BP, for whom he did work on “network design.”  On day 57 of the spill, with a newly publicized flow rate of 35,000-60,000 barrels per day, as Obama is about to address the world from the Oval Office on events unfolding in the Gulf, it would seem that someone missed the boat.

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Research in motion: “The ‘real-time’ Web in 100 words or less”

First off, I am perfectly aware that a strict grammarian would never write “100 words or less,” in the knowledge that “fewer” is the correct term in such a context.  But I am in fact quoting from the title of a post written by Marshall Kirkpatrick for ReadWriteWeb, a to which I subscribe via e-mail (that makes it one of a very few, fewer than 100 certainly).  In September 2009, Kirkpatrick threw down a gauntlet, challenging the blog’s readers to “explain the phenomenon of the Real-Time Web in simple terms and few words…. From Facebook to the New York Times to blogs and geeky tech infrastructure, it seems like everyone’s exploring the Real-Time Web paradigm these days.  It’s not easy to explain, though.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Having extended the challenge to his large readership, Kirkpatrick went on to “offer our working explanation of what the real-time web is and why it’s important, in exactly 100 words.”  The combination of RRW‘s collective expertise and the economy of Kirkpatrick’s formulation meets the high bar for entry into my notebook.

The Real Time Web Explained…In Exactly 100 Words

The Real-Time Web is a paradigm based on pushing information to users as soon as it’s available – instead of requiring that they or their software check a source periodically for updates.  It can be enabled in many different ways and can require a different  technical architecture.  It’s being implemented in social networking, search, news and elsewhere – making those experiences more like Instant Messaging and facilitating unpredictable innovations.  Early benefits include increased user engagement (“flow”) and decreased server loads, but these are early days.  Real-time information delivery will likely become ubiquitous, a requirement for almost any website or service.

These are indeed early days, and it is difficult to discern whether we are talking about the beginning of the end, the end of the beginning – or whether plotlines or calendars even apply.  Gloss (likely to exceed the 100 word limit) to follow in due course.

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Research in motion: from my “real-time” Web notebook

I confess to feeling a certain pressure, since beginning to make an argument about the illusory, ideology-driven character of the “real-time” Web, to write quickly, to skip over the tangle of challenges required and just put something out there.  But, I’m adhering instead to at least some of the intellectual imperatives that are, in part, a legacy of scholarly training, and trying to do some homework before presenting myself as any kind of authority.  Along the way I will be sharing some of my findings.

Last fall, Mashable’s founder and CEO Pete Cashmore began a stint as a weekly columnist for CNN.com.  In that capacity, he was one of several pundits who predicted that “real-time” would be “a top 10 Web trend for 2010.”  In December, he presented his case to CNN.com‘s readership under the admonitory headline “Brace yourself for the real-time Web.”  http://www.cnn.com/2009/TECH/12/10/cashmore.realtime.web/index.html

For Cashmore, a significant indicator of the ascendancy of  the “real-time” Web was Google’s December 2009 launch of “real-time” search, which brought “live” updates from Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites into its search results.  Taking this epochal event as his point of departure, Cashmore asked and answered a series of questions, which are worth reproducing at some length, in part because his language serves as a model for many others who write about these matters.

Why real-time?  What’s driving this real-time trend anyway?  In large part, lowered barriers to content creation:  Posting a 140-character update to Twitter is so effortless that Web users are becoming conditioned to create….

But the real answer may be in our heads.  These technologies are literally addictive, says psychologist Susan Weinschenk, fueling a “dopamine-induced loop” of seeking behavior and instantaneous reward.”  [Cashmore is quoting a post on Weinshenk’s blog, “What Makes Them Click.”]

Real-time search  If this new paradigm stimulates our seeking behavior, it follows that search is central to the real-time Web.  Before Google entered the fray, OneRiot and Collecta stood out among real-time search engines.

The reigning champion of real-time search, however, is Twitter Search, which provides instant updates whenever new tweets are posted.  “108 more results since you started searching.  Refresh to see them,” implores a message below the search box.  Enter the topic du jour here and you’ll no doubt find yourself in one of Weinschenk’s dopamine-induced loops.

This thirst for the new and novel is by no means limited to search, however:  It looks set to pervade the entire Web in 2010.  Let’s look at a few more examples.

1.  Real-time location   Foursquare…combines real-time updates with location-based features.  Every time a friend “checks in” nearby, you’ll experience the same buzz as when your BlackBerry chirps for a new email.  [Once again I give thanks for my vintage BB, which never, ever buzzes or chirps. – Ed.]

2.  Real-time news   News reading is going real-time, too.  An increasing number of early adopters use the Twitter apps TweetDeck and Seesmic to manage their consumption of updates from both friends and handpicked news sources, while newcomer Brizzly is becoming a hit with info-junkies thanks to its superior Web-based interface.

Even Google Reader, the de facto service for those following scores of blogs and news sites, now provides updates in real-time for those feeds that support it.

Will our news addiction ever be sated?  Oh, and don’t forget that news curation is going real-time, too.  See my real-time journalism article for a refresher.  [Isn’t real-time curation very plainly a contradiction in terms? – Ed.] 

3.  Real-time comments    If the stories are real-time, how about the comments, too?  Real-time services make blog comments work more like instant messaging….

4.  Real-time reviews   Why wait till you get home to review that cafe or restaurant when you’ve got Yelp and Urbanspoon on your iPhone?  Movie was awful, you say?  Try Flixster.

5.  Real-time auctions  ….

6.  Real-time collaboration   A trend within a trend:  We’ll be real-timing together in 2010.  Google Wave, the much-hyped collaborative tool, is wiki-meets-instant-messaging-meets-email and much more….

Real-time…everything!    The trend is too nebulous to capture its every facet.  Suffice to say, a vast array of Web sites and applications will try to capitalize on the real-time Web in 2010, serving our need to be engaged in the moment.  Serving, perhaps, but never quite satisfying. 

 [Yes, it’s the “never quite” that remains to be thought here, to say nothing of the “perhaps.” – Ed.]

Slow down, Pete (“easy,” as we say to horses who are moving too fast for their own good, and possibly ours).  You’ve signalled much that is of value, and perhaps more than you know.

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