Right to Know (Book)

Right to Know (Book)

Right to Know – India’s internet avant-garde

During post-production of my first feature documentary, Ocean in a Drop, I began writing, drawing on my journals and the numerous interviews I’d undertaken, what has turned out to be a my first book, Right to Know – India’s internet avantgarde.

Right to Know describes, in part, how Ocean in a Drop came about, then goes on to describe the more nuanced observations on the impact the internet is having on rural and tribal communities in India. It provides a more indepth and personal view of the many stories shared with us, so many more than the film could tell.

The book closes with a series of photographs taken by up-coming photo journalist Mubeen Siddiqui. Mubeen accompanied our crew on every shoot eventually turning his hand to videography.

Designer and then intern at the Digital Empowerment Foundation, Cathy Chen, created a unique layout for the book which, if you’re lucky to find a print version, was printed on hand made elephant dung paper. A PDF/eBook version can be freely downloaded and shared.

Forwards were kindly written by Anriette Esterhuysen (Director of global policy and strategy, Association for Progressive Communications) and Mishi Choudhary (Legal Director, Software Freedom Law Centre).

Right to Know is published by the Digital Empowerment Foundation and the Australia India Institute. It was launched in Delhi on 16 December 2017 by the Australian High Commission in collaboration with the the Australia India Institute and the Digital Empowerment Foundation.

The stories are so vivid…

Associate Professor Rebecca Giblin, Faculty of Law, Monash University

Garton, Andrew, 1962, author
Right to Know: India’s Internet Avant-garde
Issued in print and electronic formats
ISBN 978-81-933164-2-9

Directors Statement

Directors Statement

Director’s Statement – Ocean in a Drop

In 1994 I co-wrote the PAN Asia Report, the first published study on the extent to which a pre-web internet had grown throughout South-east Asia, South Asia and Indo-China. Over three months my co-researchers and I visited universities, telecommunications facilities, news gathering centres and non-government organisations. We were also encouraged to where ever feasible to announce and demonstrate the attributes of the yet to blossom world wide web.

We found that the most publicly accessible of computer networks were cobbled together by former engineers, volunteer coders, human rights workers, environmentalists, labour union organisers and entrepreneurial funders. This saw the emergence of a new breed of activist advocating for public and secure access to information and communication technologies. Their goal was to connect like minded social networks to each other so that their public reach increased.

Twenty years later plans to make a film about the impact the internet is having on rural and tribal communities in India took shape. By January 2015 the first of four shoots was underway. I would find very similar stories, the same challenges and expectations as those I had encountered in 1994, with the same kinds of people organising local and regional networks with like-minded entrepreneurial funders backing their initiatives. Information and communication activists emerged from these rural villages too, enabling access to government initiatives and entitlements via the web, the only means by which much of these resources are now available. There was one major difference though. These were villagers who had leapfrogged radio and television, finding themselves face to face with Google, Wikipedia, Facebook, myriad integrated text messaging services and the world’s vast store of websites.

By the end of 1994, 2,738 websites had appeared online.  By 2015, on arriving in India, 863,105,652 websites and just over one billion videos were available to one and all, including newcomers to the internet. What would India’s rural communities make of all this information and how would they find anything meaningful there? What would be the consequences, the ripple effects within a single person, their friends and families, or an entire village given the sudden appearance of internet connected computers at their disposal?

These were some of the questions I asked throughout Ocean in a Drop and in many ways, not that different to those I had asked in 1994. However, one significant achievement of the internet since is how it has become the largest, most unique, most far-reaching and instantaneous gathering of us ever! It’s in our pockets, alerting us to global and local events the moment they happen.

This is the world – the torrent of it – its wild diversity and uncertainty, its spontaneity, its Wikipedias of the informed and the opinionated. What will India’s internet newcomers make of the world they find there and how will we welcome them?

We visited 14 villages located in nine districts in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar. We travelled across highways reduced to rubble, mud, sand and surfaces, so uneven that large vehicles were seen toppled and abandoned on the roadside. We took trains to get to the furthermost locations, amazed that we could lug cameras, lights, tripods jammed into every available space within our sleeper compartment.

It takes great determination to get to these remote communities and even more to install communication towers, computer centres and the training that follows. We returned with over one hundred interviews – visiting, analysing, filming and experiencing what UNESCO describes as the media dark – regions of the world where little to no information and communication technologies have reached.

In 1963 Nina Simone penned the lyric, I wish you could know what it means to be me. The question I ask now, as we stand on the precipice of catastrophes and miracles the world over; reflecting on all whom I had met in India and the stories we share in Ocean in a Drop, is I wish we could know what it means to be us… and fast?

May you find something of ourselves, our diverse, complicated, beautifully imperfect selves, in our film.

Secure My Video

Secure My Video

Secure My Video

This guide explores the security challenges videographers and journalists face in dynamic, live video production and video distribution environments. It provides guidelines and best-practice techniques to secure video production, distribution and the safety and welfare of producers and their subjects.

Published: Version 1.0 2011, Version 2.0 2012

 

 

Foreword

By Andrew Garton

An impossible to imagine number people and plenty of utilities, it seems, are doing video. Children, teachers, sports professionals, activists, workers and the unemployed, radio and print journalists, the police, military and security firms are all swinging cameras somewhere on planet earth. In many countries now we are videoed in trains, elevators, in our cars in traffic, from the skies and even from space!

Video has become, as WITNESS’s Sam Gregory describes, spreadable, mailable and accessible by more means than ever. It has become, in less than half a decade, ubiquitous. It’s portable, potent and powerful. Hollywood and the largest media corporations in the world, Disney and News Limited, no longer command the public’s total attention at the screen. No country and no individual is immune from the lens.

In contexts where internet security issues are either unknown or are not taken seriously, where more and more people are using video to document abuses and record first-hand testimonials, and where Facebook has become the internet for millions of citizens, the means to both securely publish and access video in and from Indonesia is more critical than ever.

Along with the opportunities afforded by new technologies, there too are the threats. Creators of social justice video, for instance, can be located if they use an internet cafe and are not aware of how easily their location can be traced. The video they carry on USB sticks can be read on any computer and the people they capture on video may not be aware that they could be seen by thousands of people, all over the world, including the perpetrators of the injustices they may describe or have been subjected to. Anonymity and consent are little understood in Indonesia.

People have a right to free expression, but they too ought to have the right to anonymity should they wish it. Being seen and heard is one thing, being recognised and literally hunted down is another. It happens. Israeli authorities used Facebook to gather names of pro-Palestinian protesters and had them black-listed to prevent them travelling to Isreal1. Iran’s authorities scrutinised mobile phone footage on Youtube to identify demonstrators whom they later arrested along with passers-by who just happened to be in shot2. Iranians are also using crowd sourcing, a common social networking technique, encouraging the general public to identify alleged protesters in photos and video found on the web3. A more recent initiative has seen the general public swarm to Tumblr and Facebook offering their videos and photos of the hockey riots in Vancouver that raises serious questions about “name and shaming” and whether this constitutes “vigilantism or community policing4.”

In addition to these ethical issues, many of which are being tackled through international forums and public discussion at every conceivable opportunity, there are immediate concerns regarding the day to day practice of video activists. For example, video files can be large and they can take time to upload. Getting them to a server from an internet cafe in Aceh, for example, can pose problems, particularly if connections are not secure, or more commonly, slow and costly. People need to be prepared, they need time and they need to be anonymous. Additionally, once online how secure and/or reliable is the site one publishes to? Youtube looks like a public space, but it isn’t. Facebook encourages openness and sharing, but why does Julian Assange describe it as “the most appalling spying machine that has ever been invented5?”

As more video is produced and as more people, from all sectors of society use whatever means available to them hold up their cameras and send their images across networks and devices the means to do so ethically and securely needs to be both understood and readily available. The Secure My Video Guide contributes to this pool of knowledge and resources.

Credits

  • Researched and written by Andrew Garton
  • Version 2.0 updated and edited by Cheekay Cinco
  • Published by EngageMedia and Video4Change
Video surveillance sign, Tallinn, Sweden (Photo by Hans Põldoja, CC BY)

Video surveillance sign, Tallinn, Sweden
(Photo by Hans Põldoja, CC BY)

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