Martin Empson

Are You Sitting Comfortably?

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The web has a selective view of the election.

During last year's US election the two main parties put massive resources into 'new media' - websites, blogs and email. While the forthcoming general election in Britain will not have anywhere near the same amount of resources poured into the internet side of the campaign, there are some interesting plans afoot.

Both sides in the US election attempted to get voters to upload their films, debates and questions. For instance both sides put huge amounts of time and resources into short films to be downloaded and forwarded.

Start the Engine

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Corporations are finding new ways to dominate search indexes.

How big is the internet? How many websites are there? According to the online encyclopedia Wikipedia, Google's search index searched over 4 billion pages in early 2004. By the end of last year the number of pages had doubled to over 8 billion. Given such a vast amount of information, successfully searching the internet becomes a task in itself - and the search engines allowing you to do this have become hotly contested areas for business and other websites.

That's Entertainment

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The battle for the future has begun.

There is a major battle going on in the technology industry. On one side, we have companies like Sony and Philips siding with movie studios like Fox and Disney. On the other, NEC and Toshiba have joined forces with Warner Home Video.

The battle is about the future for DVD technology. Basically there are two competing technologies - Blu-Ray, backed by the Sony side of the argument, and HD DVD backed by the others. Both offer massive increases on storage volume - approximately five times the size of current DVDs in the former case.

A Novel Solution

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The burgeoning world of ebooks

'Socialism', we're told, 'will never work. Everyone's too greedy to work together for the common good.' It's a common argument and we've probably all had it thrown at us numerous times. So it's pleasing that there are a good number of examples of people working collectively to help disprove it.

Aside from the examples of solidarity and struggle that we would all answer this argument with, there are also examples of collective work on the internet that show people doing huge amounts of work for no personal gain, purely in the interests of other internet users.

Scrutinising Democracy

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US election shenanigans can't hide from the internet.

Months before the US presidential race started, the internet was a hive of activity and discussion about it. Indeed, the election was always going to be one where electronic media played a huge role. Back in January this year Democratic contender Howard Dean was described by the Guardian as the 'web's candidate for president'.

You Don't Say

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How the FBI have tried to gag Indymedia.

On 7 October, a major attack on free speech took place. It was barely noticed by the mainstream media and almost totally ignored by all but a handful of politicians and activists.

Responding to an FBI federal order, Rackspace, a US company with offices in London, handed over the computer equipment responsible for running and hosting some of the websites that belong to the Indymedia network.

Moore Fact Than Fiction

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Film websites are becoming venues for heated political debates.

If you look closely at the billboard advertising any latest US blockbuster movie, you will often notice a web address hidden among the credits. Occasionally the film studios will tie their film into some other advertising and sales deal - so the official website may well be hosted by the Sun newspaper, for instance. However, with more controversial or political films the web can become more of a battleground.

Still Crazy After All These Years

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Review of 'The Bomb', Gerard DeGroot, Jonathan Cape £18.99

When former president Ronald Reagan died, he was acclaimed as a great president who saw off the threat of Communism. Few of his obituaries noted how he oversaw a massive increase in defence spending. His running mate in the 1980 election, George Bush Senior, described how the US could win a nuclear conflict if they had a 'capability that inflicts more damage on the opposition than it can inflict on you'. Together, they presided over a reheating of the Cold War, threatening the whole of the planet.

No More Private Parts

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Hardly anyone noticed, but a month back the consultation stage for the government's paper on identity cards closed. This is the first step towards their introduction.

If you want to see what you missed, a pdf of the document is downloadable from the Home Office's website. In its introduction David Blunkett informs us that 'the threat of global terrorism, the ease with which large numbers of people now travel around the world and the proliferation of identity fraud make secure identification more vital than ever'.

He also reiterates the government's plans to make it compulsory for every citizen of the UK to carry such a card.

Save the World

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Greenpeace has launched a very well designed website to coincide with The Day After Tomorrow's release.

With a similar URL to the real movie website, they mimic the official film style, while attempting to get a serious message across - climate change has already started. It has to be said though that the official film website doesn't simply promote the film, but also highlights some of the issues - though the fake news stories of a frozen California and snow on the Acropolis in Athens undermine the serious point being made.

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