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Author Archives: niharika

Is Social Media The New Global Diplomat ?

Sorry about the delayed post … but I’m working on something that I hope is going to turn out to be amazing for the concluding travelogue and it is in two parts, so that is taking up a lot of time … I do have  a short podcast for this post which should be up later tonight!

However I do have a few questions for you all today & I’d love some feedback and input as it could help me with my conclusion -

A) Did you know that the Internet is one of the nominees for the Nobel Peace Prize this year ?

B) Do you agree with the statement that Social Media is or can become the new Global Diplomat ?

C) Can you think of any examples of communities, people, nations or groups using the internet and its various tools to open channels of communication and start a meaningful dialogue?

Voices of Dissent: How Indians and Pakistanis are using Social Media to air their opinions!

The best ideas come to us by chance, and that is exactly what happened to me while writing this week’s travelogue… I was struggling to compile a video / slideshow of clips from various videos and blog posts I found online,when I came across some satirical cartoons mocking the on again-off again India-Pakistan peace efforts, and a new idea for a travelogue was born.

I decided to juxatapose images, cartoons, opinions (from blogs and discussion forums) to show the two sides of this complex issue. I’ve done this in two parts –

1) A video with images of peace the two media houses from India and Pakistan are using to promote their cause, however each alternating slide is a (political) satirical cartoon I have found online on independent blogs. (P.S. – the background song is the anthem of the Campaign)

2) A slideshow of the varied and differing opinions that Indians and Pakistanis are voicing online via Facebook, Twitter, and the blogosphere.

Marketing Peace: Aman ki Asha + Social Media

A few months ago, two media houses – The Times of India Group and the Jang Group of Pakistan – launched a new project called AMAN KI ASHA (Desire for Peace), a joint initiative to foster cultural and diplomatic relations between two countries that have been at odds for over 60years.

On the face of it the project seems to be a noble one, attempting to bring together people and cultures that are historically entwined and share many commonalities. It is spearheaded by two large media conglomerates that have the means and power to bring together many influential and important people from both countries in order to have a meaningful dialogue. The push has been largely cultural so far with print and broadcast media being the main outlets for the campaign.

The photo posted above, alongwith the official articles and television commercials that can be found on youtube and elsewhere on the web attempt to mingle identities, icons and highlight the similarities of the two nations that were formerly one.

For me, personally the campaign, which I consider a publicity gimmick,  became interesting when someone directed me to their Facebook Page, which has a mere 16000 + fans. This led me to explore the websites set up by each media group respectively, and then the blogosphere to see what buzz this’ long-awaited’ campaign was creating online. My finds(and lack thereof) have been quite intriguing so far …  so through this travelogue I aim to the following

a) Discuss the various voices of dissent, cynicism and negativity that I can see  online

b) Video Interview and discuss with young Indians and Pakistanis the potential of such a project offline and online

c) Figure out how to better the digital footprint of this  project and how important is the social media aspect of such an initiative (which so far seems untapped)

Most importantly though, I”m wondering, is this just clever marketing? Or can non-governmental corporations create borderless media / mediums via which we can promote and produce better communication and peace processes between nations ?

** Introductory Podcast  coming up as soon as it converts to MP3 without freezing my computer **

Question – Are applications like Street View augmenting or replacing our traditional travel experiences?

I could have picked up the privacy or educational angles on my topic, however, coming from a travel and tourism background, I feel more drawn towards the tourism angle of the Google Street View software. As I started exploring the many ways in which people are using Google Maps and its Street View functions, I discovered that the application is not only being used to figure out route maps or directions from one place to another, but through the creative minds of some developers, bloggers and thinkers, Google Maps is becoming a virtual, 3D space full of images and experiences by which we can travel the world at the click of a button!

To start off, have a look at the website, Google Sightseeing, to get an idea of what I mean. Started by two brothers in Scotland, the website presents you with a new destination, or place of interest everyday, albeit from a Google perspective. The readers and the site’s editors combine Google Satellite images along with the images captured on the ground by Google cams and provide one with a brief history or background of the location.

Example – The Burj Khalifa in Dubai – The Tallest Building in the World

Travelogue #3 – Virtual Wanderlust

In early December 2009, a friend posted a link on Facebook that caught my eye, that of a virtual tour of the ruins of Pompeii in Italy. Lo & behold, I felt like I was strolling around this incredible, historic site all from the comfort of my bed !!

Google Maps with it’s Street View function is changing the way we imagine and explore the world, be it trying to picture what our surroundings would look like when we get off at an unfamiliar station in NYC, or through these new virtual tours of landmarks around the world.  Check out what UNESCO is attempting to do in collaboration with Google –

YouTube Preview Image

The questions this brings to my mind are -

a) How do you see this changing sightseeing / tourism, and could we call this virtual tourism? Is Google making world famous landmarks accessible to those unable to travel?

b) Could this help revolutionize education methods of tecahing history, geography, architecture, etc, as this kind of technology improves?

c) Are we ready to give up on the thrill of exploring and actually travelling to these far off lands? Or is this an example of technology providing us with the power to choose what we would like to see and do whilst travelling?

It is these questions, and related thoughts and various opinions that I would like to explore in the coming weeks through this travelogue.

** UPDATE **

So, upon further research, I realized that another key issue or question that comes into play with Google Street View is that of PRIVACY (surprise surprise huh?). The application gave rise to a number of blogs and websites when it was first launched in 2007, because it used real time (uncensored) footage and clips.

Websites such as  Street View Fun cashed in on this new fad by asking people to submit their favorite images from Google Street View, Bing StreetSide and Mapjack. These images range from the scenic, to the funny and quirky, to the very inappropriate (read – contain nudity) even. Point in case, check out this image someone captured of a woman ‘flashing’ the Google cameras —

Google Gets Flashed !

Even more recently, Google Street View has been condemned by the European Union, which has expressed concerns that Google is violating EU citizens’ rights to privacy. To quote from a news report from last week -

Street View has been met with significant backlash time and time again. Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Japan, and Greece have all expressed concern with Street View. Google has responded to those concerns by agreeing to blur out people’s faces, license plate numbers, and other personally identifiable details, as well as lowering the height of the Street View camera to ensure it doesn’t become a digital “peeping Tom”, capturing photos of people in intimate or compromising settings in their own homes.

The new challenge from the EU relates to warning communities before the Google Street View-mobile rolls into town, and the length of time Google retains the unblurred, original images in its own database. The EU has asked that Google do more than simply post its image-capturing schedule online, and that it purge the original images after six months.”

(Source: http://www.networkworld.com/news/2010/022610-google-street-view-raises-privacy.html )

Interesting that we keep coming back to Google & Privacy Issues isn’t it??