Japan and Digital Politics

For Politicians in Japan, Net Is No-Go Zone [pdf]

No home pages. No blogs. No spam mailings and certainly no fund-raising. None are allowed in one of the most technology-obsessed nations on Earth.

For Takafumi Horie, a 32-year-old rebel in a country distinctly lacking in antiheroes, those edicts are like telling George Bush he can’t campaign with Karl Rove.

“I need to get to the people in the area and I keep thinking: If only I had the freedom to use phone mail, photo mail, viral marketing and ring tones to get my message across,” Horie lamented this week before an audience in Tokyo.

“But most Diet members don’t know how to use the Internet,” he said, citing lawmakers’ discomfort with technology as more evidence that Japan’s political class is out of touch.

Using the Internet for political ends is not, strictly speaking, outlawed. It simply falls outside the category of admissible campaigning.

The ban on digital politics has its roots in the Public Office Election Law passed in 1950, which anticipated the age of spam by outlawing the “distribution of documents and graphics to unspecified general public.”

Parsing Kanye West

Comparison and contrast with the Dixie Chicks 2003 brouhaha: A critic with cred [pdf]

Controversy is a tricky current for celebrities to navigate, and sometimes it can push their career plans off course. The Dixie Chicks, for example, took a political swipe at President Bush in 2003 and were punished by a nasty backlash from fans and country radio. Or take Madonna and rapper Ludacris, music stars who lost lucrative pitch deals with Pepsi when their music was deemed too edgy to sell soda.

So how can Kanye West go on national television and passionately accuse Bush of not caring about blacks one week and still be riding high the next as a bestselling rapper and corporate pitchman?

Wireless BBand on Katrina-Ravaged Gulf Coast?

Wireless Broadband Rises to Challenge Land Lines [pdf]

As telephone and wireless companies scramble to repair their hurricane-battered networks along the Gulf Coast, some of them are calling up the future.

Wireless broadband — high-speed Internet connections that transmit voice calls and data — is being set up for emergency crews in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast as well as for residents in Mississippi’s Biloxi-Gulfport area.

Networks relying on such technologies as Wi-Fi and WiMax can be established faster and more cheaply than crews can right telephone poles and cellular towers or bail water out of flooded switching stations.

And they are heralded by some as successors to the nation’s extensive, but antiquated, tangle of copper telephone lines and the metal forest of mobile phone towers.

“Why not build the next-generation phone system now?” asked Mohammad S. Shakouri, an executive at wireless gear maker Alvarion Inc. and an official in the trade group WiMax Forum.

Later: Wireless Networks Give Voice To Evacuees

A New Member of the Google Team

New Google ‘Evangelist’ to Spread Applications

Google announced on Thursday that Dr. [Vinton] Cerf would be leaving MCI, where he is senior vice president for technology strategy, to be one of a dozen or so vice presidents working closely with Eric E. Schmidt, Google’s chief executive, as the company continues to move beyond its roots as an Internet search engine.

[…] His hiring is the latest in a string a successful high-profile recruiting efforts on Google’s part. Rob Pike, a high-level software engineer, was recruited from Bell Labs in November 2002. Louis Monier, who oversaw research and development at eBay, went to Google this summer. And Kai-Fu Lee, a former Microsoft vice president, joined Google in July, prompting Microsoft to file a lawsuit that is now in court.

Conflicting Norms

Blocking a modality of control: Web Cameras Will Not Show Walrus Hunt

Popular Web cameras that allow viewers to watch live video of Pacific walruses will be shut off this week at the request of Alaska Natives.

Native leaders do not want viewers to see the animals shot and butchered during a fall subsistence hunt, fearing widespread Internet images could threaten the tradition.

“They’re certainly concerned about anything that could turn that around again and make it so they couldn’t hunt out there anymore,” said a state biologist, Joe Meehan.

An Assessment of the iPod Cellphone

IPod Phone Isn’t Perfect, but It’s a Start

So questions about the new iPod phone flew thick and fast in nerd circles. Will it look cool, like an iPod? Will it have the iPod’s famous click wheel on the front? Will the phone have a hard drive that can hold thousands of songs? Will you be able to download songs straight from the Internet? Will it have a FireWire or U.S.B. 2.0 connector for superfast music transfer? Will you be able to use your songs as ring tones, so that the phone bursts out in “You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman” when your husband calls?

[…] ALL right, now, about those questions: the answer to all of them is no.

See also Sony Takes On Apple IPod by Offering New Walkman