Is the LTTE really finished and the War over? videos watched over 37,000 times

Is the LTTE really finished and the War over? is a series of short videos in English, Sinhala and Tamil featuring promiment politicians, former LTTE members, academics and civil society activists. The 24 videos in this series have been viewed, just a few days after they were uploaded, well over 37,000 times collectively. Some videos alone have generated over 5,000 views to date.

The videos feature, among others,

  • Prof. Rohan Samarajeewa
  • Prof. Tissa Vitharana
  • Victor Ivan
  • Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan
  • The spokesperson of the JHU
  • Amal Jayasinghe

Propelled by interest in its latest video series, Vikalpa Video is at the time of writing on the Top 100 list of YouTube channels globally. For a playlist of all the videos and for updates to the series click here.

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Vikalpa YouTube Channel in Top 100 list again

vikalpa-most-viewed

For the 3rd time since its launch, Vikalpa’s YouTube video channel has hit the Top 100 list. At the time of writing, it’s #31, though earlier this morning it was #29, the highest rank globally Vikalpa has attained to date.

Earlier this year, Vikalpa was on the Top 100 list for its coverage of Lasantha Wickrematunge’s assasination.

Today’s rank was propelled by a video series titled “Is the LTTE really finished and the War Over?“.

A video featuring the spokesperson of the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) alone was viewed over 3,400 times in less than 24 hours. The video featuring Prof. Rohan Samarajiva’s response to this question in English was also viewed over 1,600 times in the same time period.

The series also features a range of leading civil society activists, politicians and academics including,

  • Vasudeva Nanayakkara
  • Prof. Rohan Samarajiva
  • Amal Jayasinghe
  • Victor Ivan
  • Prof. Tissa Vitharana
  • Dr. Vickramabahu Karunaratna

Click here for a playlist of the videos, which are in English and Sinhala.

Internet and Web based Citizen Journalism in Sri Lanka

Background paper to a workshop on Citizen Journalism I’m organising in the near future. Full paper with references as a PDF from here.

Many less radical institutions – governments, NGOs, think tanks – are struggling to address the same challenge, unable to respond to the rapidly shifting balance of power between the individual and the institution radically disrupted by the Internet. In today’s ultra-networked world, an unaffiliated individual with a laptop and an Internet connection is often more influential and resourceful than an organization with a staff of twenty and a fax machine was only twenty years ago.

– Evgeny Morozov on openDemocracy.net

Introduction

The overarching problems of a State riven by violent conflict, corruption, nepotism and the significant breakdown of democratic governance and human rights, especially in recent years, deeply inform the timbre of traditional media. It is a vicious symbiosis – traditional media is both shaped by and shapes a violent public imagination. The potential of Web 2.0 and new media in general and citizen journalism, mobile phones and USG in particular (e.g. YouTube videos, blogs, SMS and mobile sites) suggests that content that critiques the status quo, authored by civil society, can play a constructive and increasingly significant role in peacebuilding and stronger democratic governance in Sri Lanka. The renowned Columbia Journalism Review has an interesting short article on the power of citizen journalism even under repressive regimes. Blogging the Coup by Dustin Roasa notes,

The debate over citizen journalism in the U.S. tends to dwell, tediously, on whether citizen reporters can supplant, rather than complement, the professional press. But in many countries around the world, where the press is under government control, corrupt, or simply incompetent, citizen journalists may be the only source of information that is reasonably credible. Without citizen reporters in Myanmar, for instance, it would have been impossible to know what was happening during anti-government demonstrations last year, while in the Middle East, bloggers have become a viable alternative to the heavily censored, state-run media.

Citizen journalism on the web and Internet is seen in this short paper as a way through which all peoples of Sri Lanka, with something as basic as ownership of or access to a mobile phone, can hold to account the violence practiced by the Rajapakse regime, the LTTE, the TMVP and other armed groups in the country who policies and practices are inimical to democracy. Put simply, citizen journalism aims to be as much as a annoyance to them as they are to democratic governance. There are well over 300 blogs in English, Sinhala and Tamil now aggregated on www.kottu.org, Sri Lanka’s largest blog aggregation site. There is already a growing culture of vibrant debate on issues linked to governance, human rights, war and peace on the blogosphere that rivals the qualitative reportage in mainstream media (MSM). New voices on blogs like Dinidu de Alwis and Indi Samarajiva are speaking with a new voice, appealing to new audiences and capturing malleable minds of youth more familiar with web media than traditional print and electronic journalism.

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NYPD in the spotlight through YouTube

Initiatives like Witness have been doing it for years, but sites like YouTube resulting in a surge of new videos that expose Police excesses, corruption and brutality even in New York. 

A recent article for the NY Times (Officers Become Accidental YouTube Stars) explores the issue further and is in effect an article about citizens empowered through digital media to record what they experience and see. In the US, their right to record is constitutionally protected. But in other regimes, it’s more difficult to act as citizen journalists. Either way, new media and ICTs are bearing witness in ways that would not have been possible a few years ago, or even imagined a few decades before. 

YouTube may be 99.9% drivel, but a single video that exposes human rights abuse or violence and helps bring the perpetrators to justice is reason enough to encourage the use of mobile phones and online video to strengthen democracy and our active participation in governance.

Quick take – Google launches audio indexing

Google announced the launch of its new audio indexing technology – terribly called Gaudi – through a dedicated website. Available only in English and vaunt to crash Safari on my Mac, the site nevertheless shows some early promise.

It is however still woefully inaccurate, the challenge of having to create algorithms that can ‘understand’ the accents of those who appear in the limited selection of videos Gaudi currently indexes.  

 

Obama on sex education
Obama on sex education

Given the sheer volume of (English) content on Google Video and YouTube, the evolution of this tool will surely make it easier to navigate Google’s video sites and discover content hidden in videos. I can also see great potential in a custom video search engine helping viewers quickly go to sections in a video without having to watch it from beginning to end. 

Of course, the downside of going directly to keywords in a video is that you lose context. I read somewhere that the average attention span per video of those who visit YouTube is less than 3 minutes. Google’s technology will probably reduce this even more. 

We will end up watching more videos, but will we understand the issues any better?

Vikalpa Video in the YouTube Reporters Top 100 for coverage of 1983 anti-Tamil riots

Screenshot taken at 9.15am, 30th July 2008 (+5.30GMT)

The Vikalpa Video Channel made it to the top 100 most viewed channels on the YouTube Reporters category this week. The interest in and traffic to the site was largely generated by over 30 short videos on July ’83 available here.

To put this significant achievement in perspective, the global media giant Voice of America’s YouTube channel generated 2,452 views to date on the YouTube Reporters category. CPA’s Vikalpa Channel has generated 2,377 at the time of writing.

This is the second time the channel has made to the top 100 list. The first was in December ’07.

Screenshot taken from here at 9.25am, 30th July 2008 (+5.30GMT)

Writing on Sri Lanka’s growing abductions, Burning Bridge noted recently that a video produced by Human Rights Watch on this disturbing issue had (at the time) only been viewed less than 2,000 times. Of the many possible reasons for this, one striking feature of many human rights / humanitarian advocacy in Sri Lanka is how little they leverage new media, social networking and well established (web) content management platforms for video like YouTube.

We’ve got well over 104,000 views to date and over 2,300 this past week alone for our videos, that are largely in Sinhala and Tamil and also feature notable figures from polity and civil society speaking in English such as TNA MP R. Sampanthan, Tamil Human Rights Activist Shanthi Satchithananthan and Convener of the Civil Monitoring Committee Mano Ganesan

I just need to find the time to sit down and write about the lessons learnt and identified as well as the technical and content generation and dissemination strategies adopted by us to make the channel what it is today and to take it forward in the midst of and as a response to the incredibly violent and difficult context for independent media in Sri Lanka.

Government Information Department on YouTube!

Deane kindly pointed me to the relatively new Government Information Department’s YouTube channel.

Along with the expected drivel, there’s also some great historical footage to be found (e.g. content from the Non-Aligned Movement Summit held in Colombo 1976).

Unsurprisingly, there’s only stuff here in Sinhala. Tamil, apparently, is not a language the Government Film Unit or the Information Department cares too much about. Perhaps that’s because according to Lankapuvath, Sri Lanka’s state owned news agency, everyone other than the Sinhala Buddhists are “lesser folks”.

It’s great to see the Government waking up to the possibilities of new media.

However, it’s really sad to see the all too familiar blinkered and exclusive Sinhala-Buddhist mentality inform the Informational Department’s understanding of and approach to a larger Sri Lankan identity online.