Monday, August 11, 2014

Forget politics for a minute -- how about entertainment?

Twenty years ago, while working on a study of the Internet in India, I had a chance to meet Professor M.S. Swaminathan, at his research foundation in Chennai. Our research framework included several facets of the Internet in a nation, including its use in commerce, education, government and health care. Professor Swaminathan pointed out that we were completely overlooking what would be the most important application, entertainment.

This was long before selfies, YouTube, Angry Birds or Netflix existed -- he was on to something that we "serious" academics could not see.

Observers of the Cuban Internet have a tendency to focus on serious applications like political dissent, health care and education, but we should heed Professor Swaminathan's admonition.

I've noted that wired and wireless local area networks are springing up around Cuba, and, evidently the government is trying to crack down on them. But, most people are using these networks for entertainment -- games, posting selfies, watching video, listening to music, etc., not politics.

Cuban entertainment is also found on the Internet. For example, Silvio Rodriguez, singing a traditional song, Ojala, has over 17.5 million hits on YouTube:

and recent song, Ojos Color Sol, sung with the Puerto Rican hip hop duo Calle 13 has had close to 5 million hits.

A young Cuban singer, Kamankola, has used the Internet in a different way, raising over 3,000 € on the Verkami crowdfunding site to produce his debut CD "Antes que lo prohiban."

Maybe we are paying to much attention to the political applications of the Internet and not enough to cultural applications.

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