Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Porn, the Internet and online journalism

Francis Fukuyama declared history, viewed as a clash of ideologies, has ended. He said “liberal democracy” of the type pioneered by the United States might constitute “the final form of human government.”

So what’s next? What is supposed to be the next organizing principle of history?

Cyberspace, of course, Internet enthusiasts say. The Internet is global and personal at the same time. With a computer and a telephone line one can communicate, and even have sex, with anybody around the world. The Internet is supposedly becoming a “new paradigm for human development.”

Nicholas Negroponte, in his 1995 book Being Digital, wrote:

“Computing is not about computers anymore. It is about living. As we interconnect ourselves, many of the values of a nation-state will give way to those of both larger and smaller electronic communities. We will socialize in digital neighborhoods in which physical space will be irrelevant and time will play a different role. Twenty-five years from now, when you look out a window, what you see may be five thousand miles and six time zones away. When you watch an hour of television, it may have been delivered to your home in less than a second. Reading about Patagonia can include the sensory experience of going there. A book by William Buckley can be a conversation with him.”

Media, of course, is in the forefront of this new world order. In the Philippines, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism has pioneered blogging as a form of interactive journalism. Other media organizations, like the giant broadcast network GMA and the Philippine Daily Inquirer, are preparing to plunge into new forms of journalism in the Internet.

Pornography, however, has been way, way ahead already and has become, for many people, the doorway into the online world.

In its latest installment of articles on addiction, the PCIJ printed a commissioned article I wrote on pornography. The proliferation of relatively cheap bootleg sex DVDs, as well as increasing access to the Internet, has made it easier for some Filipinos to get hooked on porn. To read the article visit GMANews.TV or the PCIJ website.

Monday, November 27, 2006


Doug Engelbart, a Stanford researcher, came to the Philippines in 1968 and came across an essay written by Vannevar Bush and published in the Atlantic Monthly under the title “As We May Think.” Inspired by the essay, Engelbart wrote a program that demonstrated the first working hypertext software he called “oNLine System.”

Engelbart’s software allowed users to browse through multiple windows of text using a small block of wood mounted on a ball to direct the cursor – a prototype mouse. Engelbart, however, was years ahead of his time. It would be another 25 years before the invention of the World Wide Web.

Imagine if Engelbart was not stationed in the Philippines and did not come across Bush’s “As We May Think”? The Internet would not have been the same as we know it today.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

When things happen on a Sunday

It was supposed to be a lazy Sunday afternoon. I woke up while a heavy downpour tries to drown an army of cockroaches in the drainage outside the gate. I was supposed to just supervise that hanging of posters on the walls of our office that's why I decided to wake up late. I even had my breakfast/lunch at Jollibee at past 2 p.m. (By the way, I was surprised that Jollibee indeed cut on the use of plastic and Styro!)

Then the text messages started coming: There was the encounter between government forces and communist rebels where one insurgent reportedly died; then there was the reported shoot-to-kill order by the Army against a peasant leader; then Defense chief Cruz resigned and Saddam Hussein was sentenced to die by hanging. (Will they literally hang him?) I’ve been reading a biography of Saddam and it’s interesting to learn how his miserable childhood and his growing up years in the town of Tikrit affected his later years.

Again, it’s still work, Saddam or not. News won’t stop coming and it’s already 8 p.m. What was supposed to be a lazy afternoon spent reading Saddam’s biography or browsing back issues of Time or Newsweek that keep piling on my desk or an afternoon watching NCIS ended just like one of those weekday afternoons.

Saturday, November 04, 2006


I was enjoying reading new entries from John Nery’s blog only to realize that I’ve been missing my blog too. It has been a while since I last wrote something. I’ve been preoccupied these days with everyday matters – like how to go about doing an article on pornography for the PCIJ, how to achieve symmetry in putting up the frames on the wall of the office, how to manage time between editing stories and making work processes go smoothly, attending meetings, etc.

There are books too that are waiting to be read – Michael Weisskopf’s new book on the war in Iraq lent to me by a dear friend, Paulo Coelho’s The Zahir (also borrowed from a friend), Ghost War, the award-winning book of Steve Coll on terrorism that I started reading last year, a Cuban novel, and several journalism books that I only remember to browse when an invitation to give a lecture comes.

My only respite from the daily, if not hourly, grind is to watch the television series “Rome” and “Prison Break.” The first is a lesson in history while the second is a reminder that things can be done if one puts everything into making it happen, be it breaking out from prison or making a wireframe become a working website.