Friday, March 05, 2004

On "Culture War" and "Culture War" rhetoric

In the USA there seems to be a debate that is being referred to as the Culture War. Rather than rejecting popular culture outright, a growing number of Christians are producing and consuming their own popular media on the fringes of the mainstream entertainment industry, as I quote from Henry Jenkins, director Comparative Media Studies at MIT.

He argues that ยดwe all struggle to make decisions about what kind of popular culture we want to bring into our homes. We can respond to that challenge with fear or with courage, with minds open or minds closed. The culture war rhetoric closes off discussion (...)

Then, Jenkins continues, What I respect about the Christian discernment movement is that it is educating people to make meaningful choices and giving them a conceptual framework for talking about what kinds of ideas get expressed through the media they consume. These folk have been willing to defend popular media against others in their same religious denominations who would denounce them. They hold firm in their own beliefs and they have not renounced their desire to see such beliefs become a more powerful force in our culture, but they have created an approach that respects diversity of opinion and civility of expression.

Maybe the society at large can benefit from this fragmentation. Untill recently effects of the mass media on regime support and change, on the political behavior of citizens, and on the quality of democracy could hardly be underestimated. It is generally believed that media's effects on politics are the product of media technologies, the structure of the media market, the legal and regulatory framework, the nature of basic political institutions, and the characteristics of individual citizens.

I have already argued earlier that we are entering a world where the structure of the media market is changing and mainstream may lose their share, and apparently it is not one by one, but even group by group.

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Electronic Voting in the USA, a long way leading to nowhere?

"The modernization of the nation's voting infrastructure is long overdue," said Alfie Charles, spokesman for Oakland-based Sequoia, which built the machines being used by as many as 4 million voters in California and Maryland. I took this quote from a CNN online article.

Reading the whole story, I occured to me that the US of A is not as advanced in these techniques as we are in the Netherlands. I remember having voted here with use of electronic equipment back in the 90'ies. However, electronic voting is not without risks as the article also shows: [...the technology brings a new breed of security concerns, like software errors and hackers that could make the results unreliable....]

Well, it's a long way to go, if we ever get there. Thomas, a Danish friend who works in Zagreb, informed me about Paul Krugman, a strong media figure who has a column in the NY Times. Krugman also wrote about e-democracy and he was not in favour, to put it gently.

(...)Computer experts say that software at Diebold and other manufacturers is full of security flaws, which would easily allow an insider to rig an election. But the people at voting machine companies wouldn't do that, would they? Let's ask Jeffrey Dean, a programmer who was senior vice president of a voting machine company, Global Election Systems, before Diebold acquired it in 2002. Bev Harris, author of "Black Box Voting" (www.blackboxvoting.com), told The A.P. that Mr. Dean, before taking that job, spent time in a Washington correctional facility for stealing money and tampering with computer files.

Questionable programmers aside, even a cursory look at the behavior of the major voting machine companies reveals systematic flouting of the rules intended to ensure voting security. Software was modified without government oversight; machine components were replaced without being rechecked. And here's the crucial point: even if there are strong reasons to suspect that electronic machines miscounted votes, nothing can be done about it. There is no paper trail; there is nothing to recount.(...)

Read the whole story at the unofficial Paul Krugman site.

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