WOLF HAUNTS

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It’s four months and counting, the university lecturers are still on strike, young people are more interested in Skelewu than in science and the appalling reading culture of the youths is still in the news. Being an 80’s kid who grew up when reading was a fun past time, I’ve been reading Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel’s Man Booker prize winning novel worthy of a prominent position on any mantelpiece. Reading Mantel’s fictionalized epic of the shenanigans immanent in Henry VIII’s court as he navigated a divorce from his Queen and from Rome, with its array of intrigue and lies and spies, dovetailed seamlessly with the shenanigans of the NSA and the USA and its allies over electronic eavesdropping.

Studying the impact of Google on new media via Coursera, I learnt that the array of gadgets and gizmos available in our post modern world has produced a highly distracted citizenry. Long form reading, like proper writing, is going out of fashion as ‘netizens’ prefer to flit from one attraction to another. The consequences are the lack of proper in-depth thinking which has been the pillar of civilizations, and on a lesser note, the wrong spellings that teachers now face in essays.

Even though the internet is a good thing and has facilitated learning worldwide by instituting free and massive flow of information, Edward Snowden and co have continually drawn attention to the ills and dangers; and words like data mining and ‘filter bubble,’ originally tech buzzwords now connote danger and evil akin to wire-tapping and hacking, and Google’s ‘don’t be evil’ now sounds hollow and sinister.

In 2013, while America the dominant nation in the world deploys high-tech methods to ‘bug’ the communications of enemies and allies, Cardinal Wolsey, the enigmatic, infamous ‘churchman’ of the 1520’s – when France was battling the Spanish for ‘world’ dominance – would have simply sent a spy (preferably a coy, stupid looking servant) to eavesdrop on any person that affects his interest. This shows that even though we have 500 years distance from Henry VIII’s England, nations still suspect each other and the word allies is at best sentimental. Methods may have evolved but humans are still the same.

So from Angela Merkel to Cardinal Bergoglio to Joe the average (where the heck is he?), the spying drama continues to echo and confound. And all of a sudden my Google search bar looks ominous; as ominous as Anne Boleyn’s disapproving looks. 

@sirwebs

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Blackberry: Is the fruit rotting?

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I took a blogging ‘summer holiday.’ But hopefully I am back at just the right time. As I type these words, gunmen are still holed up in a Nairobi Mall in Kenya exchanging fire with the Kenyan Defence Force and confirmed and unconfirmed reports filter in from the North-East of Nigeria as Boko Haram militants continue their, now attritious war, with the Nigerian Army.

But for many young people across these climes, especially the social media savvy type, the biggest news of the week is how to download the iOS 7 and the BBM for Android and iOS. Blackberry, taking a huge hit in the Smartphone market and suffering a slow death, has made its flagship chatting application ‘cross platform.’  Cross platform here does not include Nokia’s Window’s Mobile, meaning that Blackberry thinks Nokia should go back to making bicycles for Finns.

Though the stats continuously indicate that Blackberry is no more a ‘cool’ device to have in the rest of the world, the Canadian firm, formerly known as Research in Motion (RIM), has still got plenty of momentum in Africa, especially Nigeria, where BB, as they are affectionately termed, still sells bucket loads. New ones and huge amount of used ones too as all the abandoned Blackberries from Europe make their way here. A combination of cheap internet via the Blackberry Internet Service (BIS) and its use a a fashionable accessory has driven this, obviously ‘against the market trend,’ and at the height of the ‘Blackberry madness,’ lynching of Blackberry thieves and a Nollywood film titled Blackberry Babes were the hallmarks.

Still popular and entrenched in Nigerian Pop Culture, social scientists, media watchers and tech geeks are all watching to see, if, and when, the Blackberry will change from uber-cool to unwanted now that the mother company is adrift and the BBM (ubiquitous, must-have, social media tool) is available on Android and iOS. The Blackberry has driven the social media interaction in Nigeria helping tens of millions of young people become active on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc and communicate with each other, affect the outcome of a presidential election, sound the death knell for print media in the country, lead a successful ‘occupy’ protest against fuel subsidies and of course spread innumerable rumours and misinformation.

Blackberry activists are geared up again, ready to use the platform to mobilize and engage citizens for protests against the national assembly this September. In the wake of celebrations marking fifty years of the March on Washington led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights brass of the day, it is a remarkable indicator of progress in technological development that, while King and his people wrote letters and trudged from door-to-door, today letters are typed on keypads and thousands respond.

So while my heart goes out to the carnage in Kenya and Borno and of man’s inhumanity to man worldwide, and while you search for a link to download BBM for Google’s Android, cast a thought for Google’s motto: Do no Evil.

@sirwebs.