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April 5, 2011

A little something we can do

Ethan Zuckerman suggests putting pressure on the phone companies in the Ivory Coast to provide free SMS messaging during this crisis when it’s hard for people to top up their cards. He points to the Texas in Africa blog that has posted the ways to contact the companies. It’d be a goodwill gesture on their part that could make a real difference to people trying to stay in contact with friends and family.

[FOLLOW-UP on April 6: Orange has responded very positively, providing a packet of free services to their customers in the Ivory Coast. Ethanz says you can thank them here. Well done, Orange!]

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July 12, 2008

Plato and chat

Im reading Julian Warners “From Writing to Computers,” published in 1994. In a wonderful chapter he looks at the senses in which the Western tradition thought documents contained or were intelligent — written documents “appear to understand what they are saying,” Plato says. Warner looks carefully at Platos Phaedrus, a seminal text for those concerned with the transition from oral to written cultures. Thats the one where Plato worries that the onset of written documents will ruin human memory: Those who acquire the skill of writing “will cease to exercise their memory and become forgetful; they will rely on writing to bring things to their remembrance by external signs instead of on their own internal resources.”

Plato has another complaint: Writings cant respond to questions: “writing involves a similar disadvantage to painting. The productions of paintings look like living beings, but if you ask them a question they maintain a solemn silence.” Ive taken these quotes from Plato from Warner pp. 58-59.

Makes you wonder what Plato would have made of chat, IM, and SMS.