Tag Archives: blogs

Computers from Sierra Leone

Last year, in one of my classes, we discussed witchcraft beliefs in Sierra Leone, where some hold that there exists an invisible city populated by cannibalistic elites who prey on ordinary people and enjoy the finest in luxury goods and technology. Our discussion focused on how closely the modern-day witch city mirrors popular perceptions of Westerners and corrupt local leaders – they hoard money, exploit the poor, and offer only the most rudimentary of technological advances while keeping the best for themselves. One of the examples of this, perhaps surprisingly, was the One Laptop Per Child program, which aims to provide children in the developing world with extremely basic computers – the critique being that the West is only willing to provide the barest trappings of laptop technology.

Walrus blogger Jon Evans has a good post on OLPC, turning its latest organizational woes into a broader critique of the idea itself. His best point:

Did the OLPC braintrust think they were bringing modern technology to the Third World? They were years too late; it’s already there, in the form of the not-so-humble-any-more cell phone. Tiny villages in Africa have GSM coverage and cell-phone stalls run by local entrepeneurs. You can bank by phone from the Colombian jungle, or get market prices texted to you while fishing off the Indian coast. Mobile phones have permeated the developing world to such an amazing degree that it makes no sense to try and reproduce that existing cultural and technical infrastructure from scratch.

Also, for your amusement.

Finally, in response to my irrefutable charge that Vanderbilt is a sloppy, non-fact-checky “citizen journalist,” the accused writes:

Rather, I was simply referring to the fact that finding free internet in Montreal, let alone ANY URBAN CENTER, is ridiculously easy, and Nelles’ inability to do so may not be as valid an excuse as he made it out to be earlier in the week.

I shouldn’t be surprised that Vanderbilt would write something so classist, since he’s an elitist Eagle Scout from San Francisco. I was not in an “urban center” at the time. I was in my hometown, a place that could be reasonably described, if I may borrow phrasing without attribution, as “a hellhole. An absolute jerkwater of a town. You couldn’t stand to spend a weekend there. It’s just an awful, awful sad place, filled with sad, desperate people with no ambition. Nobody, and I mean nobody, but me has ever come out of that place. It’s a genetic cesspool.” So no, I wasn’t able to run out the door, MacBook in hand, in search of some ironically-named wannabe Algonquin Round Table, you cheese-eating West Coast Democrat.

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This is already getting stupid

PJ Vogt has challenged me to a “blog-off,” which sounded like some kind of hurling contest before I realized he just meant a weblogging competition. In a way, that’s even grosser – we’re duelling to see who can be more internet-addicted and unemployed. [Ed. note: Vogt will be unemployed starting tomorrow.] His rules:

-Each combatant must blog 1 (one) time per day, for the calendar week beginning this Saturday, January 17.*
-The first person to go 24 hours without a post, loses.
-Re-posted, re-hashed media analysis does not count.

I have a suspicion Vogt is only doing this to fill his time now that his sweet gig documenting upper-middle-class life is over. But I’m in the middle of Around the World in Eighty Days right now, and this Phileas Fogg dude travels the globe on a bet, so I figure I can probably handle observing “Gee, the National Post sure is conservative” for the next week. So to Vogt, I say this.

By the by, Vogt asserts that a blog is not “an appropriate place from which to lob ad hominem attacks” before tearing apart my own personal webspace as full of “[r]e-posted, re-hashed media analysis.” But I’ve come to expect as much from Vogt, who back in the day was often observed procrastinating on the internet in class defaming student politicians in my name. Anyway, since MediaScout is no more, I’ve got no more rehashed media analysis to re-post. But shouldn’t Vogt know that? Either he’s not the diligent reader of my work he claims to be, or he’s lying. Which is it, Vogt?

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This is what they call a “flame war,” right?

PJ Vogt, my erstwhile friend and colleague, has decided to devote his first, lonely blog post to something he labels “Drew Nelles bashing.” He decries as “reprehensible” the fact that I have not updated my weblog in a long while – and “that’s if you want to count re-posted MediaScout entries.”

Well, a full week and three days have passed since Vogt wrote that post, which remains the sole entry on his spare Blogspot (snicker) template. “Hypocrisy” does not do Vogt’s act justice. This negligence of his readership is merely a repeat betrayal; just last year, he left our scrappy student newspaper for more lucrative pastures. (During his fleeting tenure, I recall a certain proclivity towards inside jokes.) How the good people at This American Life can withstand his production-night flatulence and caffeine addiction, I will never understand.

Vogt will surely continue his meteoric rise up the industry ladder until he reaches his worthy namesake Pajamas Media – an organization most recently known as a vehicle for Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher, whose own journalistic credentials rival those of Vogt’s. But will Vogt – who is my entire readership – abandon his own blog readers, once he attains such heights? If so…the ethics of such an action are questionable!

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So you’ve decided to give up on writing

Blogging, journalism’s younger and boring-er cousin, has never interested me. Even blogs that aren’t confessional-type online diaries hardly seem a step up from LiveJournal. They always have a strange odour of narcissism and desperation; just because you can blog doesnt mean you should.

I’m no Luddite, but I’m not convinced this medium is a step forward. Probably half the blogs I’ve come across routinely mangle the English language. I’m told blogging helps keep your writing sharp, which is part of the reason I started this thing, but that hasn’t held up in my experience. The few times I have blogged, for the McGill Daily and MediaScout, my own writing has disappointed me. That’s part and parcel, I guess, of trying to get something online as quickly as possible, without the benefit of a second pair of eyes.

So, as to why I’m doing this. At a student-journo conference a few months back, a panel on “Landing the job/internship” told us that blogging is a good thing to put on your resume. It shows the old newsroom dinosaurs, apparently, that you’re interested in “new media.” Resume-padding is soul-crushing, but I guess there are side benefits. At least this will provide a handy online archive for my (rarely) published work.

A friend of mine, who recently started her own blog, told me: “Blogging is emotionally taxing, I don’t recommend it. You spend your entire life wondering whether your blog is too rant-ey, or too granola-ey, or too colloquial, or not casual enough, and does anyone even fucking read the thing? etc.”

Yup.

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