Sunday, April 16, 2006

Podcast a threat?

Podcast deniedTechnology is a tool. It can be used for good or bad. Podcasting is a technology. It can be used for good or bad. Essentially, podcasting allows a person to distribute an audio recording on any subject, whether it is intelligible or not. Podcasting uses the internet as a distribution media, which explains why it has been gaining currency in recent times.

Podcasting is really not new. A few years ago, before even the word 'podcasting' was invented, there were already people who were recording and distributing their audio recording through the internet. One such was from Jeff Harrow of the Harrow Group. He used to issue the Harrow Technology report fortnightly in three formats - one is delivered over e-mail, the other is on the web and a third is through audio which can be downloaded from his website and 'played' over an audio capable software. These audio recordings are still available on the web.

Of late, use (or denial of use) of podcasting for the coming General Election has a been a bone of contention. I am not convinced by the Singapore government's recent explanation that podcasting is a media over which there can be little or no control. Well, yes, you can't stop somebody, anybody, from podcasting. You can't shut down their operations if such podcasts contain slander and defamatory content, because they will likely operate from some overseas server out of reach of local jurisdiction. So you can't sue them with the local defamation laws.

But fighting such opponents need not necessarily be in the form of police action or law suits, effective though they may be. Yes, these have proven to be very effective means, some say, in bankrupting (and silencing?) not a few opposition politicians in Singapore. That's another story. With the advent of the internet, and the technologies that are increasingly available to spread one's message, whether these messages are obscene, defamatory, ridiculous, frivolous or serious, parties must learn to appreciate these technologies and use them just as effectively, if not more so, to fight those who would podcast against them. Apparently, the incumbent government does not want to do this, just yet. Why so is anyone's guess. The government spends quite a bit on R&D in the newest technologies in its Statutory Boards such as DSTA, and even in the military. So podcast as a technology is not unknown to the government. Instead, it still prefers its proven formula involving the police and the defamatory laws. This is short-sighted. Times are changing, and the methods must also change.

As mentioned, the technology is really not new. To communicate with the younger set of people, it must embrace the various technologies that have come out of the internet. Increasingly, they must realise that they are dealing with a very connected internetworked generation whose primary and preferred means of communication is through the internet.

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