SFGate: How Technology Can Help Human Rights

How Technology Can Help Human Rights

by Marcus Chan, SFGate, The Tech Chronicles, May 5, 2010

So it turns out that the popular Flip video camera is good for more than just capturing YouTube stunts or your son’s soccer game. And the virtual world of Second Life is more than a place to hook up. Try using those technologies to advance human rights.

These were just a couple of examples mentioned at The Soul of the New Machine, a conference hosted by UC Berkeley to showcase how technology and new media are being used to promote justice and human rights around the world. Read more…

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Telegraph: China to force internet users to register real names

China to force internet users to register real names

by Peter Foster, The Telegraph, May 5, 2010

The move comes less than a week after China announced a hardening of its State Secrets law, requiring internet and mobile phone operators to inform on their customers and co-operate with police demands for information on users.

Plans to make all online users register have been debated for years in China, but senior officials have confirmed that the government is now actively investigating how to implement a system of real-name registration.

“We are also exploring an identity authentication system for users of online bulletin board systems,” said Wang Chen, the vice-head of the ruling Communist Party’s propaganda department in a speech to China’s top legislature reported by the state-run China Daily newspaper. Read more…

American Interest: Beijing’s Islamic Complex

Beijing’s Islamic Complex

by Charles Horner and Eric Brown, The American Interest, May-June 2010

In early July 2009, the official Chinese press reported that 197 people had been bludgeoned or stabbed to death and nearly 2,000 more injured in communal violence in Ürümqi, the principal city of Xinjiang, the People’s Republic of China’s farthest northwest region. For observers worldwide, the clash prompted a quick primer on another of the world’s festering ethnic conflicts. In this case, the antagonists were Han Chinese—Ürümqi’s dominant ethnic group thanks to decades of government-encouraged Chinese settlement—and Uighurs, a Turkic Muslim minority, some 7–9 million strong, who have long bristled under the PRC’s erratic and harsh rule.

Throughout its modern history, Xinjiang, and for that matter China as a whole, has been riddled with inter-ethnic violence. On the face of it not much about last July’s violence seemed new. Yet even as Beijing mobilized thousands of armed police to re-impose ethnic harmony, it was striking how quickly the unrest escalated and garnered worldwide attention. Muslim-majority societies in particular took note, and so did the Chinese political elite: President Hu Jintao hastily returned home from a G-8 meeting in Italy. This was new. Read more…

Huffington Post: What Does China Have To Do With Islam and Democracy?

What Does China Have to Do with Islam and Democracy?

by Haroon Moghul, The Huffington Post, May 3, 2010

In the most recent The American Interest, Charles Horner and Eric Brown discuss how and why Communist China is fearful of Muslims (“Beijing’s Islamic Complex”). Inside China, the Uighur Muslims of Xinjiang, or Turkestan, who came onto many people’s radars for the first time after last summer’s riots in Urumqi, might be a threat to the People’s Republic, though I cannot imagine so tiny a minority challenging so giant a state. More plausibly, the authors argue that global Muslim awareness of Uighur oppression jeopardizes China’s outreach to the Islamic world. And China may need Islam to become a true superpower: “The Xinjiang episode drew somewhat less harsh comment from Washington, Tokyo and Sydney, but it engaged official and popular interest in predominantly Muslim countries in an unprecedented way.” Read more…

Putting People First: Recent Immigrants Driving Advanced Cell Phone Use

May 4, 2008, Putting People First

Latino boy on mobile phone
Last year, The Economist published an article about ethnographic user research at Swisscom. One of the findings it highlighted was that immigrant workers are the most advanced users of communications technology:

“It is migrants, rather than geeks, who have emerged as the “most aggressive” adopters of new communications tools, says [Swisscom anthropologist Stefana] Broadbent. Dispersed families with strong ties and limited resources have taken to voice-over-internet services, IM and webcams, all of which are cheap or free. They also go online to get news or to download music from home.”

That same trend is also present in the United States, with Latinos depending on their cell phones for more services than other [major] ethnic groups, turning to it for messaging, downloading music, surfing the Web and e-mailing, as reported by the San Francisco Chronicle. Read more…

Vistas: My House, My Shield – Considering the Needs of Muslim Immigrants in Home Design

My House, My Shield – Considering the Needs of Muslim Immigrants in Home Design

by Cory Chandler, Fall 2005, Vistas, Texas Tech University

“My house is the shield of my disgrace,” says a phrase used by Arab Muslims. Cherif Amor points to this as an illustration of the importance Muslims place on the concept of privacy in their homes.
“Visual privacy has played an instrumental role in shaping Muslim home interiors and is still influencing the home interior space organization,” says Amor, an assistant professor in Texas Tech’s Department of Design.

In many predominantly Muslim countries, privacy issues rule home design. Houses are built with screens over the windows. Sitting rooms provide a barrier between the entrance of the house and living spaces.  This is not the case in the utilitarian designs of American homes. In fact, many Muslim
immigrants collide with a cultural schism when they arrive in the United States seeking a home to suit their needs. This was especially true of early immigrants, who considered themselves sojourners in their new country, says Amor. He spent three years delving into the homes of Muslim immigrants.

The Guardian: Goodbye virtual world, hello real one

Goodbye virtual, hello real world

Ruth Ingram, The Guardian April 29th 2010

Lead article photo

Students in Shanghai. Photograph: Don McPhee

Munira was on course to spend 25 years of her three score and 10 playing internet games and messaging her friends. That was until the 18-year-old was rescued by the shutdown of virtual Xinjiang after deadly riots last July caused, claims Beijing, by foreign ­manipulation of the internet.

YouTube scenes of atrocities committed on ­Uighur factory workers in eastern China by their Han colleagues spread around the world, fanning the flames of bitterness and fury among Uighurs everywhere and precipitating vengeance and retaliation on a murderous scale.

Beijing’s accusations that the whole thing had been stage-managed by ­malevolent splittists justified an indefinite crackdown on international calling, texting and the internet. Eight months of military occupation has calmed things down sufficiently for the government to revive restricted contact with the outside world, but the provincial capital, Urumqi, is still not back online. Read more…