{teaching} The Global and Hyperlocal: HR, Media/Tech & Post-2015 Goals


Our journey continues.

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A wordle of the almost 3000 words you contributed to http://padlet.com/minna_aslama/4thgen — what strikes you as interesting in terms of the frequencies of certain words?

Our globalized world is marked by extraordinary progress alongside unacceptable — and unsustainable — levels of want, fear, discrimination, exploitation, injustice and environmental folly at all levels.

– The road to dignity by 2030: ending poverty, transforming all lives and protecting the planet Synthesis report of the Secretary-General on the post-2015 sustainable development agenda 

How the last session brought us here
  • We discussed the basics: Different generations (3) of human rights. Sometimes, the 4th generation is said to be the rights of the future generations. And, it seems, the media and communication technologies will have  great role in that.
  • We also discussed the specific focus of this course. We are taking the global outlook but a very local attitude:  the media, communication technologies, and human rights together are a core theme of global debates, paramount in terms of the future development of our planet as a whole. Yet, equally, these are everyday, ‘hyperlocal’ issues for all of us, in our highly mediatized world. That’s why we are drawing from our own experiences and expertise, making connections betwwen theory and praxis.

[Marko knows what he’s talking about. He was Chair of Department of Journalism from 2007 to 2011, and  a Chairman of the Expert commission for Pluralisation of Media at Slovenian Ministry of Culture from 2009-2010. He was a member of Experts’ group for new Mass Media Act (2009) and Public Broadcasting Act (2009) at Slovenian Ministry of Culture. He was a Chairman of Expert commission for radio and television programmes at Slovenian Ministry of Culture from 2002-2004. He is a member of National Committee for Information Society since 2010.

AND: He’s written for main Slovenian media including largest daily Delo and leading political weekly Mladina.;  for daily Der Standard, the largest quality newspaper in Austria; as well as features for magazine Paper from New York. He was correspondent for press agency IPS from Vienna. He was reporting on international policy for Delo as well as writing interviews and features about pop culture; with, among others, Metallica, R.E.M. (Michael Stipe, twice), David Byrne, Henry Rollins, Philip Glass, Depeche Mode, Pharell Williams, Rammstein, Duran Duran Bryan Ferry, Air, Massive Attack, Blur, Patti Smith, Moby, … As well as Christina Aguilera…]

UN and the development of Comm Rights – a refresher course
  • How has the media and comm tech become a global human rights, development, and governance question? Arguably, most discussions around media, communication and human rights in the past decades have have focused on national contexts of building and maintaining democracy — mass media, after all, were structured around national systems:
  • The rise of mass media in the 19th century = information could be shared, at least potentially, not only by the elites, but by vast groups of people, regardless of economic or social standing = democratization of communication.
  • In the 20th century, many countries chose to establish a public broadcasting system to ensure several components that had to do with the media’s relationship with democracy: universal access to media contents; diversity of all kinds of contents (famously, the trinity originally attributed to the BBC: public media should inform, educate and entertain); as well as a variety of voices and viewpoints, also those of minorities.
  • In the academic contexts, the normative model of the public sphere by Jürgen Habermas has often been used in defense of such thinking: a democracy needs a diverse functioning media to guarantee a public sphere where citizens (virtually) meet to debate (rationally) and agree (consensus) on common issues.

The above discourses on media and democracy have a Western conceptual history, but with globalization have become prominent in international contexts:

  • The idea of Development Communication often included the idea of (more) universal access and, hence, establishment of vehicles of public service media.
  • The new tech =  issues are increasingly borderless, global.
  • The the idea of democracy and democratization now embraced the concept of ICT4D.

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The context of the United Nations and global debates on the role of the media reflect the above development:

  • Freedom of Expression is defined already in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) of 1946, Art. 19.
  • The discussions on Right to, and Freedom of, Information entered the debate in the 1960s — when the role of governments and states were questioned and the rights of individual citizens to information were brought forth.
  • Around the same time, the lesser developed countries begun to bring up the Right to Communicate:  They wanted to challenge the Western domination of mass communication. Active partners in the conversation were UNESCO, proposing the New World Information and Communication Order and the so called UN McBride Commission(1980).
  • In the 1990s, the idea of the Right to Cultural Identity was added to UNDHR — and challenged in fora such as the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) , and later in the World Trade Organization (WTO) in terms of copyright agreements.
  • Also in the 1990s, the UN recognized the increasing  importance of the Internet and organized two major meetings on the issue: The World Summit on the Information Society.  It soon became clear, also with the beginning of the UN-driven Internet Governance Forums, that Communications Rights was the term several stakeholders started to use as an umbrella term for the new challenges of the networked era.

Read more here from a short summary article on the historical developments above.

  • Much of the recent debate has focused in the Internet and Human Rights. In late 2009,Finland declared broadband Screen Shot 2013-10-26 at 7.42.57 PMaccess a legal right. The UN followed in 2011 in declaring the importance of access:

“Given that the Internet has become an indispensable tool for realizing a range of human rights, combating inequality, and accelerating development and human progress, ensuring universal access to the Internet should be a priority for all states,”

Frank La Rue, a special rapporteur to the United Nations,  in his report to the UN Human Rights Council

  • Note to self: While human rights seem universal, they can also been seen as relational and contextual, even when we think about the Internet. For instance, the question of access may include challenges of corruption and concentration of ownership, as some African activists argue.
From one to two reasons why communication technologies and the media matter for human rights
  1. Freedom of expression, and other ‘classic’ communication rights.
  2. The media and communication technologies as a means to an end, assisting in realization of other rights: political participation, work, education, health… [more on this in the sessions to come — and in your projects.]
Why discuss 1. AND 2.  — right now?

The so called UN Millenium Development Goals have been in place for 15 years, addressing poverty and hunger, education, maternal and children’s health, diseases, environmental sustainability, and global co-operation. They are about to be replaced. The new UN Sustainable Development Goals will be decided upon in September 2015.

As a recent article in the Guardian reported, civil society groups from 77 countries came together to call on the UN to make access to information and media freedom central to the post-2015 development agenda. The article highlights that freedom of expression and  access to information are crucial for the future goals in general:

Quality, current and accessible information is crucial to establishing the scope and nature of development challenges. It empowers people to hold their leaders to accountand participate in the decisions that affect their lives.

It also forms the basis of a free and independent media, which, as media development NGOs [non-governmental organizations] such as Internews have emphasised, plays a vital role in safeguarding development. A free media informs, facilitates public participation through open debate and helps to hold those in power to account.

The lack of information about development targets is considered to be a significant factor in the failure to meet previous targets. The UN secretary general’s special adviser on the millennium development goals Jeffrey Sachs, publicly acknowledged how problems posed by out of date data have hindered progress on achieving MDG targets.

Bringing it all together: Assignment Week 2

Paraphrasing Marko’s reflection: You are already experts in the crucial field for democracy and development: the media and communication.

This week, you will write a collaborative position paper about why communication, related technologies, and the media should be a part of Sustainable Development Goals as their specific own goal. Why does it make sense (not only economically, but socially, culturally…)?

Week 2 readings (in Dropbox), most of them very practical, will help you:

  • Intro & an essay by Cees Hamelink: the role of comm research in social justice and human rights work.
  • The latest “synthesis” report of the UN Secretary General on SDGs.
  • A brief by UNESCO on the media and post-2015 goals.
  • A brief by DW Academie on the media and post-2015 goals.
  • … And one extra: The IAMCR report from a few years back on comm research views on human rights.
  • Plus, a tab within this blog with more resources.

… And feel free to do research of your own. Feel free to bring in your theoretical and empirical expertise into this conversation.

You will work in 3 teams of 10+ or so people and compose your essay in Google docs. You will receive an email  invitation to your team. Each team member contributes an idea or an example = 2-3 sentences. I will edit the texts and we will share our essays amongst ourselves to see the wise arguments and solutions we could come up with, collaboratively. You will find detailed instructions in the Google docs.

Your contribution is due: Wed 25.3. midnight Helsinki time!

{teaching} Live Blog: 4th Gen Intro session 11.3.


2012-07-16 13.52.43Welcome to the first session of The Fourth Generation!

Prelude: INTERESTING answers and insights to the pre-course questionnaire!

  • The general consensus seems to be that the media and comm tech relate at least to the famous Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights — Freedom of Expression — as well as to privacy, right to one’s artistic and scientific achievements, and right to education.
  • Surprisingly many of you are working/interested in media/comm tech and development. Great — that will be one of the main foci of examples, and definitively  one of the main issues we will look at when we will assess the future. We will also have a screencast or two by folks who work in this field.
  • Many of you are also concerned about gender and human rights. That’s great too as one or two (depends how many will want to work on it) of our group work cases will address that.
  • Your concerns of the main HR violations are numerous. They vary from capital punishment to gay rights, but the most recurring themes were gender inequality and, yes, freedom of expression. As the recent study by the organization Reporter without Borders notes, in 2014 FoE declined significantly in all over the world. In this age of digital media that some time ago was hailed as the saviour of democracy…
  • Some themes you want to discuss are – as already noted – gender, media & comm tech; FoE; surveillance; media development questions; but also corporate social responsibility, stalking/cyberbullying, cyber hate crimes, and digital divide (thank you for that — only some 42% of the world is online and while mobile leap frogging will do some of the work, that won’t solve the problem immediately).

14:15: Introductions! Rune: This is an experience-based course. Please bring in your own experiences and interests — work or otherwise — because this is an issue that is so in the flux that old theories are not going to solve our problems. Most of our assignments are practice-oriented because we are tackling the field that is so complex.

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Rune: Just finished his PhD: see saugmann. tumblr.com/dissertation

Screen Shot 2015-03-11 at 8.21.09 AMMinna’ s intro: PhD from Helsinki, interest in media reform as well as in ICT4D (see more in this blog).

Screen Shot 2015-03-11 at 8.29.57 AMOthers… (see also the FB intros!): FoE and data privacy are big issues! Social media and social movements. Piracy, hate groups.Screen Shot 2015-03-11 at 8.39.03 AM Gender. Freedom of journalistic expression in  relation to journalists using new digital tools. The ways in which the media constructs discourses.

How does this course differ from other courses: We create a global outlook and apply our knowledge and build the bridges between theories and praxis.

Please make sure you’re on the FB group and feel free to share.

Generations of Human rights: Video on this section of Rune’s lecture is here.

There are many texts (marked as ‘W1’) in the Dropbox —  take a look.


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  • What’s in a communication rights? Can communication be a right when clashing with other rights? (Privacy)
  • E.g. US – HR and the public sphere meets the economic sphere. E.g., Google’s involvement in discussing comm rights.
  • [Access = an NGO based on the premise that media/comm rights are essential to human rights.]
  • Tech companies / private services and ‘quasi rights’, ‘quasi laws’ = user instructions and privacy clauses. Those documents in many ways override national laws. You may give up some rights when you agree on a private company as you agree to those terms of service.
  • Who is actually the SUBJECT of the right? The problem for the mediator systems (platforms) – who is responsible (intermediary liability)? Is Google responsible for a website that violates some laws of a nation? Google, Facebook etc. have all been  in this difficult bind.
  • In addition should Google et al.  give info to governments when they request it?
  • In sum: 3 main players: govts, corporations, NGOs.
  • [Minna: 4th sector = loosely affiliated, non-institutionalized, groups such as some hacker groups, some individuals…] – the below chart by Joseph Nye, showcasing also the local – national – global dimension (see also discussion below; more next week!)

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Darker sides:

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  • #1: Privacy: NOT ONLY private citizens but right to representative governance — and to the latter their right to privacy is important – a treat to representative democracy.
  • Risk society: a new risk by surveillance – global digital freedom risk.
  • Individual state is not enough to govern = a collective action problem, need for agreement beyond the nation state.

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  • Images and digital content in general is such a fundamental part we live in -> EXPOSURE becomes a part of torture (e.g., Abu Ghraib) – images are a part of all kinds of actions we do.

These are difficult — yet interesting — ways of discussing the question of HR & comm tech/the media.

PLEASE SEE RUNE’S SLIDES HEREFourth Generation HR – intro session

This is your next assignment, due at midnight Wed 18.3.: 

You are to ‘participate’ in a on open consultancy call for an EU report on human rights and technology. 

You can do this ‘for real’ as well as on our shared platform — just note that the real deadline is Mon 16.3.

Here’s the intro video to the assignment – to introduce you to the case.

Here’s the participatory platform. You will need a password — that’ll be posted in our secret FB group and emailed to you.

Here’s the original call for consultation.

Let Minna know via email if you have any questions or post one below.

{research} Human Rights Indicators


I’m obsessed with media development indicators AND thinking of a rights-based approach to media and comm tech.

That’s why I’m thrilled that the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has published Human Rights Indicators: A Guide to Measurement and Implementation. The publication aims to assist in developing quantitative and qualitative indicators to measure progress in the implementation of international human rights norms and principles.

The guide will be an interesting conceptual tool for me, to test some of the ideas I have been developing in terms of the media, e.g., here.

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And, as the OHCHR notes in its press release:

“It is thanks to the indicators that we know where we stand and what we still need to do.”

{research} Should Public Service Media be a Right?


Or rather, can we align the mission and legitimization of PSM with other rights-based approaches that seek to reclaim the digital commons? What do you think?

Read my take from this working paper, prepared for the RIPE@2014 conference in Tokyo in August: Rights-Based Approach to PSM?