Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Pubic's Internet Power: Prita Mulyasari and Citizen Journalism

When one sends an e-mail to a friend, or even a group of friends, complaining about poor service you received at some public institution, you do not expect to suddenly find yourself in jail or in the middle of a highly publicized lawsuit. This is however, exactly what happened to Indonesian mother, Prita Mulyasari. Prita’s case has caught the attention of the global village and it has risen to international and internet fame through the persistent and widespread support of her case. In America it seems unthinkable to imagine something like this actually happening, but, thanks to the efforts of online supporters, the news of this injustice has been made public to the world. To set up the case, a bit of back ground information; Prita Mulyasari was admitted to Omni Hospital in Banten, Indonesia. While Ms. Mulyasari was at the hospital she received treatment that would make anyone whom has been to a hospital shudder. After being misdiagnosed several times and being put through a hellish battery of shots and doctors she wrote an e-mail to some of her friends detailing the horrendous treatment that she received while at the hospital. An English translation of the letter is available on the blog, Indonesia Matters . In the letter, Ms. Mulyasari details the ridiculous way she was treated while under the care of Omni Hospital and the seeming indifference of the doctors that attended to her. After sending the letter, from her private e-mail, it somehow became pubic and the hospital filed a civil suit against her for defamation. In the end, Prita was charged, imprisoned and fined rp 204 million. After the decision, the public outcry was momentous, the local paper, The Jakarta Globe has had near constant coverage of the case, and groups even working with donors to pay off her fines. At this time it seems that justice, even if it is late in coming, has come for Prita. The hospital has offered to drop their civil suit against her, however, only if she will agree to drop the countersuit that she has against them.
This case has not only brought to light the injustice that Prita suffered but has also shown the power that the electronic public can have when working together for a cause. The internet has made global communication accessible and affordable for people across the globe, and is beginning to truly unit the world as a connected global community. Prita's case has shown what can happen if enough voices are heard. The internet also allowed the world to quickly hear of Ms. Mulyasari's plight; a Facebook group (while in mostly Indonesian is still informative) was set up to garner support and raise global awareness of the injustices of the case and the blogsphere is filled with individual and organizational blogs on the topic. This case is, in my opinion, a perfect example of Axel Bruns' idea of "citizen journalism." In Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life and Beyond, Bruns discusses the traditional model for journalism or the "three stages of conventional news procedures", which follows a pattern of the news being selected by a closed group of journalists and editors that is trickled to the public. Citizen journalism breaks that mould by allowing the public access to news from their sources by way of internet. Bruns discusses:
Although the initial stories may consist of barely more than pointers to new information and news items elsewhere on the Web, citizen journalism extends them by enabling its communities to comment on such stories and thereby buildup more detailed, communal understanding of their background, context, and impact, as well as evaluating the information contained in the initial reports and combining or contrasting it with other available information (75).
This idea is shown within the Mulyasari case in the way that the global electronic community came together to share the available information and not allow the more powerful hospital to cover-up the story. It is interesting to speculate if this type of public exposure is the future of journalism in the information age. How long can traditional means of communication such as television broadcasts and newspapers keep up with the lightning fast pace that the internet can provide? We can only hope that future innovation in communications will continue to bring the world together in both news and tradition.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Talk about flow of Information!

I was looking on Yahoo news this evening and came across an interesting blog. Yahoo is blogging a live, play-by-play of the health care bill vote with new post going up every 15-30 minutes. I think that this is a fascinating example of the way that new media is changing the way that people get their news. It has long been possible for the average person to follow activity going on with our legislation by watching channels like CSPAN, but this online coverage opens the debate up to a new group of people that may (like many) find it difficult to watch the actual debate. This medium is clearly not an exhaustive representation of the debate, but I think is an available and followable option for information on something that is important.

In other class related news, I have started putting together a video about some interesting gaming info. As soon as I master the editing software on my mac I will be posting some footage!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Human rights and Technology

For the sake of this class I have been more alert to watching stories that pop-up on my news feed that are tech related (it has always been the archeology until now). I have posted several articles that deal with the unique set of problems that a wired world creates (the laptops taking still photos in homes, the menacing Facebook stalkers, my undying love of all things mac). However, this article addresses an interesting issue with the technologically connected world. Before reading this I was not aware that the US had blacklisted several countries and had stopped the flow of social networking software into these countries. I was one of the people who followed the Iranian elections and following protests on my Twitter (one of the only times I have used it regularly before this class) and was moved my the stories and images that were pouring out of Iran and the responses from the world. Twitter allowed, if only for a few days, the rest of the world to feel as if they are there in the conflict with a constant stream of information and communication. I was shocked when I learned from this article that Iran is one of the black listed countries and that we almost didn't have the chance to learn from all of the Iranians that were brave enough to keep posting, even when the police squads were searching homes for Tweeters and shutting down ISP hubs to stop the flow of information. The internet and social networking sites are working to make the world more of a true "global village" and by finally allowing these countries the right to join in this flow of information and culture is a big step in the right direction.