Category Archives: communication

新媒體中的言論自由 徐洛文教授專訪

特約記者:徐梓傑 (本科四年級生)

震撼全球的佔領運動,新傳上下各人也緊貼着運動的進展。這時要跟老師進行訪問,話題也離不開這場運動。

眼前香港的局勢,相信你我也意想不到。他,新傳學院助理教授徐洛文也如是說。

今年八月,他重返校園,加入中大新傳學院,就遇上罷課和佔領運動,這名回流香港的助理教授以「Surprise」形容。「香港社會累積了好多年不滿,好似好易就『撻着火』,但在很多人已經放棄的時刻,見到學生一直『頂』住」。他這年執教本科一年級生的Development of Mass Communication課,九月下旬,學生罷課,他才剛剛開課三星期,還未趕得及認識學生。但看見學生們對佔領運動的熱情,已令他留下深刻印象。「下一代這麼有心,學生很有理想,我很榮幸當上他們的老師。」

他從大學校園跳到Google,遊走亞洲各國,現在又到了本院執教鞭。三年前,他離開香港城市大學的教席,轉往Google公司,從事公共政策及政府關係的工作,主要與言論自由有關。負責與亞太區各國政府協商,例如某國關於言論自由的政策出台,他與工作團隊便會提交文件,游說政府改善政策,又或者政府看見上載至Youtube的片段出問題,他便代表Google跟對方斡旋。

他憶述最深刻的一次,要處理「Innocence of Muslims」影片惹起回教人不滿的投訴。影片反伊斯蘭教的主題激發不少回教徒於各國示威,最嚴重的包括利比亞及埃及。面對亞洲大部分伊斯蘭教國家的投訴,他的工作是要應對當地政府。當時,巴基斯坦政府要求影片下架,是否下架他需要考慮兩個主要問題:一、法律問題;二、影片是否違反Google內部的政策(例如不容許有三級片)。就着這段影片,因為其內容並無違反Google政策,因此,公司決定這段影片不用下架,而巴基斯坦政府結果封鎖了Youtube。

他形容,大學教學研究與擔任Google公司的前線工作,猶如「識食」同「識煮」的關係。不論在大學任教,還是較早時在美國修讀博士課程期間,他主要研究互聯網、新媒體的全球化政策,當時的論文大多從批判角度入手,是「評價菜式」。但加入Google工作,他便要「親自下廚」,通過游說工作,改變一國政策。因為政府有關資訊傳播的政策如何推行,皆直接影響Google 公司的工作。離開Google,他放棄了高薪厚職、公司股份,還有每年豐厚的聖誕禮物(通常是智能手機)。為的是甚麼?

徐洛文直言有感於自己在Google的工作發展去到瓶頸:「始終我不是一個政治家」,他在Google的工作,可以影響公司,甚至政府政策,但工作成果相對抽象,滿足感不大。他想多寫評論文章,但又受制於Google員工的身分。只有離開工作崗位,重投校園他才享有自由,延續學術研究;重拾教鞭也因為他希望接觸年輕人,看著學生成長,他說這樣「更有滿足感」。

遊走各國,他還是落腳香港,是因為對香港有感情。他父母為香港人,早年舉家移民至荷蘭阿姆斯特丹。他在荷蘭出生、長大,但一直有跟在港的表姐聯繫,那時還是寫信的年代。他跟表姐閒話家常,也會談到香港文化。小時,他跟香港學生一樣,愛看香港卡通、電視電影:「還是那個熟悉的原因──因為睇無綫劇集大。」回想中學年代,親友更會從香港寄一些劇集光碟給他。

慢慢地,互聯網普及,他跟表姐也改以電郵聯繫,上網也能收看港台節目,不用再等幾星期從香港寄來的影碟。他感受到互聯網的力量,相信互聯網能打開他的世界,能改變世界。他着迷於互聯網和新媒體的發展,後來考上荷蘭的萊頓大學 (Leiden University),雖然本科和碩士並非修讀傳播學相關學科,但他的碩士論文題目是Internet in China。輾轉他往美國賓夕凡尼亞大學修讀媒體傳播相關的博士學位,2010年學成回流香港,展開其教學及工作生涯。

四年過去,他漸漸習慣香港的生活模式,但同時也感受到社會上,新一代與上一輩的矛盾加劇。這次佔領運動,更讓他印證社交媒體的重要角色。「WhatsApp,Facebook等新媒體是新一代的溝通平台,他們透過社交媒體,把自己親身經歷抒發出來,這些內容與主流媒體的故事很不一樣。」。他認為,正因為新一代的溝通方式,催化了這次佔領運動遍地開花。新媒體能夠讓新一代找到身分認同,互相組織起來就成為運動的群眾力量。他又相信,在主流媒體一片「懷疑論」、「河蟹論」的報道下,新媒體的言論空間更見重要。

面對新世代的學生,他謙稱學生們教識他「謙虛」、「勇氣」和「爭氣」。他看見學生面對將來,有勇氣積極爭取更好未來,但又不像上一輩般,否定未來的可能性。在強權之下,他寄語學生要對將來有信心,人權和民主要自己爭取。

為了一盡己責,9‧28催淚彈事件後,他在《衛報》投稿,希望世界更了解香港發生的事,他說,不只年輕人有責任,老師也有。

徐洛文教授小檔案

my dissertation lives

On July 29, 2010 I defended my dissertation, passed with revisions. The next day I took the plane to Hong Kong, the following Monday I reported duty at the City University of Hong Kong, and in the meantime I was working on those revisions, while trying to adapt to a new life.

But they’re done now, and the dissertation has been deposited and put online.

A big thank you to a lot of people, but to my advisor, Barbie Zelizer, and the incredible folks at Global Voices in particular.

Here is the abstract:

A Journalism of Hospitality

How would a newsroom look if we could build it from scratch, current technologies in hand? My project answers this question through a comparative study of legacy mainstream professional newsrooms that have migrated online, what I call “adaptive newsrooms”, and two “transformative” newsrooms, Indymedia and Global Voices. In particular, it takes up the challenge of rethinking journalism in the face of new technologies, by analyzing the cultures, practices and people of a new kind of news production environment: Global Voices, an international project that collects and translates blogs and citizen media from around the world in order to “aggregate, curate, and amplify the global conversation online – to shine light on places and people other media often ignore.”

An ethnographic study of Global Voices spanning four years reveals that the internet enables a radical shift in several key facets of news production: its political economy, its sociology and its culture. The Global Voices newsroom, for example, demonstrates how the internet allows for different kinds of newsroom routines that are designed to bring attention to underrepresented voices, whereas it was previously thought routines determined the news to be biased towards institutional and authoritative voices. I argue that these changes in news production challenge us to judge journalistic excellence not only in terms of objectivity or intersubjectivity, but increasingly also in terms of hospitality. Roger Silverstone defined hospitality as the “ethical obligation to listen.” Understanding journalism through the lens of hospitality, the internet presents a unique opportunity as well as poses a radical challenge: in a world where everybody can speak, who will listen? I suggest that in a globally networked world, there continues to be a need for journalism to occupy an important position, but that it will require a process of rethinking and renewal, one where journalism transforms itself to an institution for democracy where listening, conversation and hospitality are central values.

You can also download the entire PDF. (300+ pages, 2+ MB)

dear facebook, freedom or friends? that’s not a choice

facebook fail

I finally decided to leave Facebook.

I won’t lie, that was not an easy decision. In fact, it was really hard. See, Facebook is the only place where all my friends are together. Leaving Facebook is not just quitting a website, but it also means saying goodbye to all my friends. I am afraid I will no longer be invited to birthday parties, see cute pictures of their babies, or be able to find out that they have graduated and congratulate them.

But I have also seen Facebook slowly change over the years, for the worse, a decline that is beautifully documented by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. There are many good reasons why you might want to consider leaving Facebook. One of them is that Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, apparently says that he “doesn’t believe in privacy”. Well, he just happens to be the guy who is in charge of the website where I hang out pretty much all the time with my friends. I compare this to being invited to a house party with all my friends, but where the owner secretly records everything we do and say, and tries hard to sell it to advertisers. When he gets caught, we rage, and he says “oops, sorry”. Again and again, like an abusive partner, he promises to clean up his act. At what point do we say “enough is enough”? Should we trust him never to do it again? Not if it is clearly against his financial interest. Why not leave?

Facebook effectively holds our friends as hostages. The ransom is not our privacy, but our freedom. Let me explain: I do have (some) privacy on Facebook. Most of my information on Facebook was not exactly secret. The problem is not privacy: it is not being in control of your own life. Facebook might give us privacy, but always on their terms. They make it incredibly hard to leave. They make it almost impossible to save your messages, photos and profile. We are talking about them refusing to give back our information, our photos, /our/ life! It is almost impossible to leave, so we stay and they will continue to take whatever privacy they feel they can get away with. How much do they feel they can get away with? Let me ask you: how much privacy are our friends worth to us?

Dear Facebook, freedom or friends? That’s not a choice. So I quit. Instead, I plan to write on this blog, twitter, and longer e-mails to friends. It will not be a perfect replacement, but it will have to do until a better option comes along (psst there was life before Facebook!).

Allow me to make a wild analogy, one I believe is not entirely out of left field. Many people know that there is censorship in China. Many people also tell me that 1) the poor Chinese must feel really repressed or 2) they must be okay with it. But if that’s the case, who in their right mind can be okay with censorship? They must be brainwashed.

Ask yourself this: if I decide not to leave Facebook, yet I know they do not care at all about my privacy, what does that mean? How is that different from the people who continue to use the internet in China day in day out despite the prevalent and prolific practices of censorship? This is not a rhetorical question. Of course I realize Facebook is not the Chinese government, but I do think there are similarities between them, in kind although perhaps not in degree. Are you still on Facebook, and if so, why?