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Archive for the 'Technology' Category

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

Mark Taylor on Recovering Place

“Paradoxically, the more pervasive and invasive Google Earth, GPS and customized apps become, the less we know where we are. And when we don’t know where we are, we don’t know who we are.”—Mark Taylor

Recovering Place, Mark C. TaylorThe following post is by Mark C. Taylor, most recently the author of Recovering Place: Reflections on Stone Hill:

Place is disappearing. The accelerating intersection of globalization, virtualization and cellularization is transforming the world and human life at an unprecedented rate. The fascination with speed for speed’s sake is creating a culture of distraction in which thoughtful reflection and contemplation are all but impossible. These developments are driven by new information and networking technologies that have created a form of global capitalism in which, as Karl Marx predicted, “all that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned.” As processes of globalization expand, localization contracts until place virtually disappears in a homogenous space that is subject to constant surveillance and regulation.

While science and technology are literally changing the face of the earth, it is rarely noted that modern and postmodern art prepared the way for this grand transformation. Modernism’s veneration of speed, mobility, abstraction and the new combines with postmodernism’s play with free-floating signs that are backed by nothing other than other signs to prefigure the virtualization of life that occurs when the tensions of temporality vanish in the apparent simultaneity of so-called “real time.” Paradoxically, the more pervasive and invasive Google Earth, GPS and customized apps become, the less we know where we are. And when we don’t know where we are, we don’t know who we are.

While new information, networking and media technologies have undeniable benefits, they also bring losses that should not be overlooked. The guiding thesis of Recovering Place: Reflections on Stone Hill is that globalization, virtualization, and cellularization result in the disappearance of place and the eclipse of what once seemed real. While these processes appear liberating to many people, they are often profoundly destructive of human relationships as well as the natural world. My wager is that by pausing to dwell on and in a particular place we might once again know who we are by rediscovering where we are. This is not an exercise in nostalgia but rather a deliberate attempt to fathom various sedimentations surrounding us that might harbor alternative futures that would allow us to recover ourselves by recovering place. But what is place? Where is place? How does placing occur?

I have been exploring these questions in my teaching and writing for more than four decades. As the processes of dematerialization, virtualization, and globalization have accelerated, I have been drawn once again to the material, the real, and the local. Recovering Place: Reflections on Stone Hill is the third work in a trilogy that includes Refiguring the Spiritual: Beuys, Barney, Turrell, Goldsworthy and Rewiring the Real: In Conversation with William Gaddis, Richard Powers, Mark Danielewski, and Don DeLillo. In these books, I return to what has been left behind but does not disappear to imagine the looming future, which harbors the prospect of either exceptional creativity or unprecedented destruction.

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Friday, October 25th, 2013

Watson on Jeopardy! And IBM’s Decision to Put Him There

Of course one of the most prominent examples of congitive computing is Watson’s famous victory on Jeopardy!. Below is a video produced by Engadget that documents Watson’s appearance with Ken Jennings, Alex Trebek, et al. And below that is an excerpt from Smart Machines: IBM’s Watson and the Era of Cognitive Computing, by John E. Kelly and Steve Hamm. In the excerpt Kelly and Hamm reveal the fascinating story behind the creation of Watson and the decision to put it on Jeopardy!

Excerpt from Smart Machines:

The Watson project got its start in a surprising way. In the fall of 2004, IBM’s head of computing systems soft­ware, Charles Lickel, traveled from his home in Tucson to spend the day with a small team he managed at an IBM facility in Poughkeepsie, New York. At the end of the workday, the team gathered at the nearby Sapore Steak-house for dinner. They were bemused when, at seven p.m. sharp, many of the diners abruptly got up from their tables, rushed into the bar, and clustered excitedly around the TVs. One of Charles’s guys explained that they were watching long-time champion Ken Jennings defend his title on Jeopardy!

Charles hadn’t followed Jeopardy! for years, but the scene made an impression on him. A few months later, research director Paul Horn asked his lieutenants to think up a high-profile project that the lab could take on that would demonstrate IBM’s scientific and technological prowess. The company calls these its “grand challenges.” The previous grand challenge had been a huge success: IBM’s Deep Blue computer had beaten the world’s top chess grand master in a highly publicized match in the mid-1990s. But a lot of time had passed since that victory.

During one of the brainstorming sessions aimed at picking the company’s next grand challenge, Charles suggested building a computer that could compete on Jeopardy! IBM has long used man-versus-machine games to moti­vate scientists, focus research, and engage the public. In the early 1960s, IBM researcher Arthur Samuel, the AI pio­neer, created one of the first computer programs capable of learning when he wrote a checkers-playing program designed to run on the 701, IBM’s first commercial com­puter. Samuel challenged one of the top U.S. checkers champions to a match—and won. IBM researcher Gerry Tesauro in the late 1980s developed a program called TD-Gammon, which used a technique called temporal differ­ence learning to teach itself how to play backgammon. It was competitive in matches with some of the world’s top backgammon players.

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Thursday, October 24th, 2013

Steve Hamm on Smart Machines and the Era of Cognitive Computing

Yesterday we heard from John E. Kelly III in a lengthy conversation about his experience as a researcher at IBM and his take on the history of computing as well as his vision of its future. Today we hear from the co-author of Smart Machines: IBM’s and the Era of Cognitive Computing, Steve Hamm.

In the interview, Hamm considers how congnitive computing represent the third stage in the evolution of computers. He also explains how these new “smart machines” are different than their predecessors and particularly equipped for the age of big data:

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013

Video: John Kelly Discusses Cognitive Computing and Watson at the Computer History Museum

John Kelly III, co-author of Smart Machines: IBM’s Watson and the Era of Cognitive Computing, discusses IBM’s Watson and cognitive computing as well as other topics ranging from his background and the path that led him to IBM and the history of research there to the newest lab in Nairobi, Kenya.

The discussion was part of an event at the Computer History Museum:

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

Interview with Steve Hamm, coauthor of Smart Machines: IBM’s Watson and the Era of Cognitive Computing

Smart Machines, Steve Hamm and John KellIn the following interview, Steve Hamm coauthor of Smart Machines: IBM’s Watson and the Era of Cognitive Computing, discusses cognitive computing and how it is changing the work and research being done at IBM and elsewhere:

Q: What is the era of cognitive computing?

Steve Hamm: John Kelly and other leaders at IBM believe that we’re on the cusp of a new era in computing. Scientists at IBM and elsewhere are creating machines that sense, learn, reason and interact with people in new ways. These machines will help people overcome our mental biases and penetrate complexity so we can make better decisions.

You can think of a cognitive system as a truly intelligent assistant that helps individuals live and work more successfully, and that helps organizations become more efficient and effective. The implications are huge for individuals, businesses and society as a whole. With these technologies, we will be able to make the world work better and more sustainably.

Q: Is IBM Watson a cognitive computer?

SH: Scientists in IBM Research see Watson as a transitional technology. Using machine learning, natural language processing and statistical techniques, they were able to achieve an amazing feat: to beat two past grand-champions at the TV quiz show Jeopardy! Watson represents a major first step toward the era of cognitive systems—and, in fact, the Watson technology of today is much improved over the technology that was showcased on Jeopardy!

However, scientists at IBM and elsewhere are working on advances in a wide range of technology fields, including learning systems, information management, and hardware systems design, which will ultimately produce computers that are very different from today’s machines. They will operate more like the human brain works, though they will be by no means a replacement for human intelligence. They’ll be extremely powerful yet also extremely power efficient.

(more…)

Monday, October 21st, 2013

Book Giveaway! Win a Free Copy of “Smart Machines: IBM’s Watson and the Era of Cognitive Computing”

Smart Machines: IBM’s Watson and the Era of Cognitive Computing

“We are at the dawn of a major shift in the evolution of technology,” write John E. Kelly III and Steve Hamm in their new book Smart Machines: IBM’s Watson and the Era of Cognitive Computing,

The victory of IBM’s Watson on Jeopardy! revealed how scientists and engineers at IBM and elsewhere are pushing the boundaries of science and technology to create machines that sense, learn, reason, and interact with people in new ways to provide insight and advice. These changes are explored in Smart Machines: IBM’s Watson and the Era of Cognitive Computing, which we be featuring throughout the week on our blog, twitter, and facebook.

We are also offering a FREE copy of Smart Machines to a lucky winner.

To enter our Book Giveaway, simply e-mail pl2164@columbia.edu with your name and preferred mailing address. We will randomly select one winner on Friday, October 25 at 1:00 pm. Good luck, and spread the word!

Thursday, April 18th, 2013

Santiago Zabala – Out of Network: The Art of Filippo Minelli

“Minelli, by traveling to the slums of Cambodia and painting “Second Life” on its walls, is indicating the contradiction between these two worlds (advanced technological capitalism and its social detritus) — and it is also disclosing the limits imposed by these social networks. These networks, and the Internet in general, are the culmination of Being’s (human existence) replacement with beings (objects) — with the global technological organization of the world.” — Santiago Zabala

Hermeneutic CommunismThe Stone, the philosophy blog of the New York Times, recently ran a post by Santiago Zabala on the art of Italian artist Filippo Minelli. In his post, Zabala, Icrea research professor of philosophy at the University of Barcelona and coauthor of Hermeneutic Communism, intersperses powerful photos of Minelli’s work with explanations of why Minelli’s message needs to be taken seriously. We’ve excerpted some of the essay below, complete with several of the photos. Read the entire article here.

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Friday, February 15th, 2013

Claude Piantadosi: The Case for Mars

This week’s Book of the Week was Claude Piantadosi’s Mankind Beyond Earth. We gave you the opportunity to win a FREE copy of the book (you can still enter our Giveaway!), brought you an author Q&A and an interesting tidbit post on why 21st century manned space exploration matters, and even shared some of our favorite retro space exploration art on Pinterest. As a fitting conclusion to our feature, we bring you Claude Piantadosi’s perspective on humanity’s next step (or giant leap) into space exploration: sending people to Mars.

(To view in full screen, click on icon in bottom right-hand corner.)

Thursday, February 14th, 2013

Why Mankind Beyond Earth makes for Better Life on Earth: A little thing called “Spinoff”

Civilization is obliged to become spacefaring, not because of exploratory or romantic zeal, but for the most practical reason imaginable… staying alive.
– Carl Sagan

While Claude Piantadosi’s Mankind Beyond Earth exudes an obvious “romantic zeal” for space exploration, it is telling that the author chose the above quote as his epigraph. Like Sagan, Piantadosi has a talent for keeping his feet on the ground while he looks to the stars, and that includes a strong defense of exploratory science as a prolific source of what he calls “spinoff.” The steep learning curve associated with space exploration has indirectly led to vast improvements in many practical earth-side technologies, including:

• Air and Water Purification
• Aviation Efficiency and Safety
• Satellite Communication
• Small Size and High Resolution of Infrared Cameras
• Food Preservation Methods (for Soldiers and Refugees)
• Telemedicine
• Hazardous Gas Detectors
• Prosthetic Limbs
• Tools for Measuring Climate Change

We hope this tidbit will come in handy the next time you find yourself faced with a pragmatist who just can’t see the value in mankind’s stepping out into the cosmos. For more details, check out the book!

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

Imagining Mankind Beyond Earth (on Pinterest!)

Claude Piantadosi’s Mankind Beyond Earth frames space exploration as humanity’s ultimate challenge to adapt to new and extremely hostile environments. However, while Piantadosi is quite frank about the physical and financial limits of human spacefaring, his book is also brimming with examples of its potential for human creativity. Inspired by this enthusiasm (and the book’s retro cover art) we’ve put together a Pinterest Board (see below) featuring some of our favorite illustrative imaginings about travel to the stars.


Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

An Interview with Claude Piantadosi, Author of Mankind Beyond Earth

“As a lifelong investigator, I have a deep belief that maintaining our research leadership in all facets of science is critical to our nation’s continued success as a forward-thinking civilization. Despite its great costs and high risks, space exploration is still a wholly worthwhile investment for America.”—Claude Piantadosi

Our featured book this week is Mankind Beyond Earth by Claude Piantadosi (remember to enter our Book Giveaway for the chance to win a FREE copy!)

In the following interview, Piantadosi outlines his book and makes a compelling case for manned space exploration in the twenty-first century.

Q: How does your book approach human space exploration?

Claude A. Piantadosi: Mankind Beyond Earth uses space exploration as a model to help guide the reader to a deeper understanding of why we explore and how important exploration is to our species. Space exploration, like past explorations of the oceans and the continents, is ultimately about people and about our ability to adapt. Space is in many ways our most challenging frontier, because the resources we have to advance space exploration are very limited, and they must be put to good use both to develop new technologies and to explore such a uniquely hostile environment. This requires deep scientific knowledge and careful planning, as well as patience, particularly where peoples’ lives are at stake.

Q: Why should we keep sending people into space when robots will do?

CAP: This is one of the most common questions I’m asked by physical scientists, who understand that the cost of a human space mission is at least ten times that of a comparable unmanned mission. The capabilities of robotic probes are increasing dramatically and most of our greatest discoveries in space have come from robotic missions, such as the Mars Rovers. However, the man versus machine tug-of-war creates a false dichotomy. There are roles for both types of missions to space, as my examination of the history of our space program in the book illustrates.

The ability to set the horizons for human and robotic missions in proportion and in tandem is important to our future success in space. A forward-thinking hypothetical is the use of remote mining technology to dig an underground space habitat, say into a hillside or crater rim on Mars. In talking to a couple of professors at the Colorado School of Mines, they think (and I agree) it would be preferable to have the “remote miner” fairly close to the excavation site, perhaps on the moon Deimos or in Mars orbit, instead of 50 million miles away on Earth, where a radio signal takes about four minutes each way and would be accessible to the excavator less than half of the time due to the daily rotations of the two planets on their axes.

(more…)

Monday, February 11th, 2013

Book Giveaway! Win a FREE copy of Mankind Beyond Earth by Claude Piantadosi

This week our featured book is Mankind Beyond Earth: The History, Science, and Future of Human Space Exploration by Claude Piantadosi.

Throughout the week we will highlight aspects of Mankind Beyond Earth here on our blog, as well as our Twitter feed, Pinterest page, and Facebook page.

You can also win a FREE copy of the book by entering our Book Giveaway on GoodReads. Good luck, and spread the word!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Mankind Beyond Earth The History Science and Future of Human by Claude A. Piantadosi

Enter to win

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

A Q & A with Mark C. Taylor

Rewiring the Real

This week our featured book is Rewiring the Real: In Conversation with William Gaddis, Richard Powers, Mark Danielewski, and Don DeLillo by Mark C. Taylor. Remember to enter our Book Giveaway to win a FREE copy of Rewiring the Real. Today, we have a fascinating Q&A with Professor Taylor, in which he delves into the relationships between art, technology, and religion he explores in greater detail in Rewiring the Real, and discusses the role of philosophy in a changing world.

Question: Rewiring the Real is part two of a trilogy, the first part of which is Refiguring the Spiritual. Both of these two works discuss important aspects of today’s society through analysis of a single work by important modern cultural figures (novelists and artists respectively). What led you to this conceit?

Mark C. Taylor: Let me begin by placing these two books within the larger trajectory of my work. For almost four decades, I have been developing an analysis of the interplay between religion and multiple aspects of culture. As I explain in After God, religion is not limited to what transpires in churches, synagogues, temples and mosques but pervades all aspects of society and culture. Unfortunately, the hyper-specialization and professionalization of the university discourage the multi-disciplinary and cross-cultural analyses that are, in my judgment, essential to effective critical inquiry.

In a series of books dating back to the late 1980s – Disfiguring: Art, Architecture, Religion; Imagologies: Media Philosophy; About Religion: Economies of Faith in Virtual Culture; The Picture in Question: Mark Tansey and the Ends of Representation; Hiding; Grave Matters and Mystic Bones – I have explored the relationship of religion and philosophy to art. In some of these books, I use design to develop my argument. More recently, I have begun to expand philosophy beyond the printed page by creating artworks in different media – video games, photography. I am also engaged in creating art. In 2002, I had a major exhibition entitled Grave Matters as Mass MOCA and I am now engaged in a major land art and sculpture in the Berkshires.

There is also an historical context for this work. During the crucial decade of the 1790s, art and literature began to displace religion as the means for expressing religious and spiritual concerns. Though rarely acknowledged, it is not possible to understand many major twentieth-century artists and writers without an appreciation for their spiritual preoccupations. Refiguring the Spiritual and Rewiring the Real attempt to rectify this oversight.
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Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

With the iPhone 5, Has Apple Lost Its Edge?

Pelle Snickars, Moving Data

“With the release of the iPhone 5, the promise back in 2007 of the iPhone becoming an ever expanding mobile media machine might have come to a halt. At least temporarily.”—Pelle Snickars

The following post is by Pelle Snickars, co-editor of Moving Data: The iPhone and the Future of Media.

Many have argued that the iPhone 5 launch was the most important product announcement for Apple since the first iPhone arrived back in 2007. Previous new models and versions have, in effect, been minor upgrades, so it was finally time for Apple to face the increased competition and secure its cutting edge smart phone profile. It’s now been five years since Apple entered the smart phone market—and literally altered and redesigned it. The iPhone rapidly became the prototype of the constantly connected gadget, blending media consumption, mobility, and social media. No other mobile phone—before or after—has even come close to the iPhone’s sociocultural impact, or demonstrated the extent to which mobile technology shapes new media culture. The very term mobile media in fact means something completely different after the iPhone. However, with the release of the iPhone 5, the promise back in 2007 of the iPhone becoming an ever expanding mobile media machine might have come to a halt. At least temporarily.

The question still remains regarding what kind of technology a smart phone actually is—and has become. Is it primarily a piece of shiny hardware, a mobile platform for innovative code distribution, or a gadget targeting new forms of media consumption? What about the blurred boundaries between smart phones and tablets; are they different gadgets or essentially the same devices (only with screens in various formats)? Being mobile and connected as well as handling various forms of media—be they music, films, books or web based content—are important features that nearly all these new devices share.

If the laptop or stationary computer once was our default machine, this is not the case any more. Today, mobile devices are our primary communication tools for voice, text, image, video, sound and gaming. The iPhone didn’t start this development—but it increased the speed of technological change dramatically.

(more…)

Friday, July 13th, 2012

What Steve Jobs Did Not Know About Apps

Moving Data: The iPhone and the Future of Media

“Apple’s iPhone and App Store has, thus, proven that walled gardens are not necessarily a bad thing, at least not for a successful digital marketplace to emerge.”—Pelle Snickars

The following post is by Pelle Snickars, co-editor of Moving Data: The iPhone and the Future of Media. For more on the book, you can read the introduction or Patrick Vonderau’s post on What Can Be Learned from an iPhone Bill .

In January this year as Apple’s iPhone celebrated its five year birthday, its App Store surpassed half a million available apps with some 25 billion pieces of code downloaded (according to Mobile Statistics). Arguably, the iPhone iOS is—by just about any measure—the most innovative in the history of computing. It’s the combination of innumerable software apps and high performing slick machines that have made Apple into the world’s most valuable company. And since an iPhone5 is rumored to be on its way, the story will continue.

Too much has already been said and written about the visionary talent of the late Steve Jobs. Still, it is worth mentioning that even he was occasionally wrong. Apple has often been described as a “closed” company striving for total control. But it remains a true irony that externally produced apps, which helped to define the revolutionary iPhone, were not on Apple’s radar in 2007. Initially, the iPhone had nothing to do with apps at all.

(more…)

Thursday, July 12th, 2012

Patrick Vonderau on What Can Be Learned from an iPhone Bill

Moving Data: The iPhone and the Future of Media

The following post is by Patrick Vonderau, co-editor of Moving Data: The iPhone and the Future of Media. For more on the book, you can read the introduction.

In 2007, blogger Justine Ezarik uploaded a video on YouTube, titled 300-page iPhone bill. (see video at the end of this post)

Following the first month of service after the iPhone’s introduction in 2007, Justine shocked viewers with the story of her “first AT&T” bill, which was indeed 300 pages and delivered in a box. The video shows nothing but Justine leafing through all those pages, accompanied by relaxation music. “Use e-billing. Save a forest” her video encourages at the end. It shortly went viral and has so far been viewed by 3,236,083 people around the globe, gaining “iJustine” international attention and what appears to be quite a lucrative career in online media.

iJustine’s YouTube video is not only the first instance of someone making a lasting career out of an over-sized telephone bill,it also tellingly connects two corporations who often are seen as fierce competitors: Apple and Google (which had acquired YouTube in 2006). The competition between these two companies over the smartphone market and beyond might very well determine what future media entertainment will look like. Even more to the point, iJustine’s video has put a spotlight on an object no serious media scholar so far would have shown any interest in. What, if anything, could be learned by looking at a smartphone bill?

(more…)

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

Capitalism and the History of the iPhone — An Excerpt from Moving Data

Moving Data: The iPhone and the Future of Media, Pelle Snickars and Patrick Vonderau

We continue our week-long focus on Moving Data: The iPhone and the Future of Media with an excerpt from the book’s introduction by Pelle Snickars and Patrick Vonderau.

In this section, Snickars and Vonderau explore what makes the iPhone distinct as both a device and an object of study. Likewise they also consider how the device grew out of other technologies and its historical precedents.

A History of Possibilities

In order to come to terms with Apple’s iPhone, it is important to consider the dynamic intersection among these marketing, technological, and cultural forces. Despite the iPhone’s economic success, elegance, and “revolutionary” newness, the question still remains how and why to engage in studying the iPhone as a media object in the first place. In their seminal book, Digital Play: The Interaction of Technology, Culture, and Marketing, Stephen Kline, Nick Dyer-Whiteford, and Greig de Peuter suggest investigating this interdependent dynamic of technology, culture, and marketing efforts as propelling the “circuit of capital” and growth in information capitalism. The political economy of media provides a critical but fairly general perspective on the iPhone as an “ideal-type commodity form,” one that reflects the social organization of capitalism at its present moment. Recent ventures into the field of media-industry analysis have testified to the productivity of this critical tradition. Focusing solely on the iPhone “moment” in the media history of consumer capitalism, however, also introduces a number of fallacies that obscure—rather than clarify—what seems to be at stake. To favor the emergent and the immediate at the expense of the old and the contingent, or of failures and devaluation, often leads to a skewed picture of innovation processes and of media history generally, and potentially even to a fetishization of branded consumer products, which the iPhone epitomizes.

(more…)

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

The Best Business Writing 2012 Sheds a Light on Patent Trolling

One of the more fascinating pieces in The Best Business Writing 2012 is When Patents Attack!, a story that was broadcast on NPR’s beloved “This American Life”.

In the radio piece, Alex Blumberg and Laura Sydell investigate how patent lawyers have run amok in the digital age, hindering innovation and costing companies and consumers billions of dollars. They track down shell companies in East Texas and a source’s inconsistencies in Silicon Valley to reveal how patent trolling is affecting innovation and driving the prices up on new technologies.

You can listen to the show in its entirety here:

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

Are E-books Good for Poetry? A Post by Siobhan Phillips

Siobhan PhillipsThe following post is by Siobhan Phillips, author of The Poetics of the Everyday: Creative Repetition in Modern American Verse.

Last month, an AP story about digital publication briefly focused poetry-lovers’ general despair at the future on a specific new problem.

Billy Collins had recently seen his work on a Kindle e-reader, and he didn’t like what he saw. The device broke up lines of his poems, altering stanzaic integrity at whim and changing the shape of the verse. Charting other instances of digital manipulation and other writers’ worries, the article concluded that poetry, as “the most precise and precious of literary forms, is also so far the least adaptable to the growing e-book market.” One more example, it seems, of how the digital age is leaving behind an antiquated habit of verse-reading, and one more way in which poetry needs to be defended from the onslaught of a twenty-first-century marketplace.

Or is it? Those are not the only lesson to take from the problem of Kindle presentation. Somewhere between the mangled lines of e-reader poetry, I would argue, lies a demonstration of how digital reading is moving ahead to places where verse has already been, and of how poetry scholarship could profitably contribute to theories of twenty-first century media.

(more…)

Monday, August 9th, 2010

Christopher Davidson on Blackberry Censorship in the UAE

Christopher Davidson, DubaiChristopher Davidson, whose book Dubai: The Vulnerability of Success was just reviewed in the New York Review of Books, recently contributed to the Index on Censorship on the UAE’s recent decision to ban Blackberry use.

Davidson argues that the UAE’s decision is motivated by mounting political opposition in the country. In recent months hundreds of Blackberry chain messages have been sent in the country criticizing ministers and other government officials associated with sexual and financial scandals. Users have also used Blackberries to organize public protests.

The recent ban is not the first time that the UAE has tried to curb Blackberry use. In the days immediately following the Iranian election, the government-owned telecom company Etisalat encouraged users to download a “performance enhancement.” After users complained of malfunctioning after downloading the patch, it was revealed that it was spyware that the government used to monitor transmissions on Blackberry.

Davidson speculates that the ban will lead other Arab countries to also curtail Blackberry use (Saudi Arabia has already done so.) It will also damage the UAE’s international reputation while internally it will once again deny to UAE citizens a “a safety valve for criticism and free expression, and this will likely have serious medium term consequences, as opponents inevitably seek out alternative outlets.”