Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Languages of the Internet

As readers of this blog will already know, I've been very interested in the role of language in the development of the ICT sector here in Korea and around the world. (see, for example, this post)  Today The New York Times has an article that highlights the surging interest, all around the world, in learning computer codes which are the fundamental language of web content.  Today, whether one is interested in social networking, blogging, or just putting up a simple web site, a knowledge of the various coding languages involved is a big advantage and, I might add, a "moving target."

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

President Obama's speech at HUFS

President Obama made good use of his time on this week's visit to South Korea for the summit on nuclear security.  He made the obligatory visit by a U.S. president to the Korean DMZ, but also became the first United States president to speak to university students, in speech given at the Hanguk University of Foreign Studies (HUFS) in Seoul.  As reported in The Washington Post, he got a rousing response from students at HUFS when he told them “In our digital age, we can connect and innovate across borders like never before — with your smart phones and Twitter and Me2Day and Kakao Talk.”   The article also noted that leading up to the president’s appearance at the university, the White House had engaged the Hankuk student body in an online “Ask President Obama” contest in which questions were submitted through social media channels. The top 10 questioners received autographed copies of his book “The Audacity of Hope,” and the top three got hand-written responses from the president.
Obama's comments in the HUFS speech were all accurate, and underscored the contrast with his activities the day before, when he visited the DMZ.  When asked at a news conference about his impressions of the DMZ visit, Obama replied that “It’s like you’re in a time-warp. It’s like you’re looking across 50 years into a country that has missed 40 to 50 years of progress.”
President Obama's emphasis, both explicit and implicit, on the disparity in ICT development between the two Korea's is timely and deserves even more attention from the press and policymakers.   Chapter 8 of my e-book, Telecommunications and Transformation in Korea:  A Personal Perspective, makes my own opinion quite clear.  The chapter is entitled "From DMZ to Digital Divide:  toward national reunification" and amounts to an elaboration on President Obama's point.   The e-book is available on a free promotion through March 29.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

My e-book available for free download

I've set up my e-book, Telecommunications and Transformation in Korea: A Personal Perspective, to be available for free download from March 27-29.  It will only be available free on those dates.  Use this hyperlink.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Musical Diplomacy in the Information Age

Music occasionally becomes the focal point of diplomacy, especially when it involves a relatively closed country like North Korea.    Although most of the news from North Korea these days concerns that nation's nuclear program and its announced intention to launch a satellite in April 2012, there is an interesting exception circulating on YouTube these days.  It is a video of five North Korean teenage accordionists performing the 1960s pop song "Take on Me."  The Associated Press carried an interesting report on how this video came to be.  It is worth reading and the video itself is embedded here.

Musical diplomacy also occurred when the New York Philharmonic Orchestra visited North Korea in 2008. One of the highlights of their concert in Pyongyang, carried by CNN, was a symphonic arrangement of the Korean folk song "Arirang."

Whether carried live by CNN or circulating virally on YouTube, music represents an interesting aspect of information-age diplomacy and provides an opportunity for a glimpse into a society beyond closed borders.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

International patent filings set new record

Earlier this month, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) released its report on patent filings during 2011, which showed record-setting growth of more than 10 percent over 2010 in PCT (Patent Cooperation Treaty) filings. On a national basis, South Korea ranked fifth in the world, as shown in the accompanying graphic (click to see a full-size version). Only the United States, Japan, Germany and China recorded more filings. China overtook Korea for fourth place in patent filings in 2010. The WIPO report also showed that the Chinese telecommunications firm ZTE was the largest single patent filer in the world. Worldwide, the top ranking companies were all electronics and telecommunications firms. LG Electronics ranked 8th and Samsung Electronics 15th on the list.
As shown in the second accompanying graphic, Korean universities also had a very respectable presence in the rankings. KAIST, where I now teach, ranked fifth internationally behind the University of California, MIT, the University of Texas System and Johns Hopkins University. KAIST had 103 PCT applications published in 2011 and it was followed closely by Seoul National University, which had 99. Korea University ranked 17th and a number of other Korean universities showed up in the rankings.
Significantly, when PCT applications are ranked by fields of technology, the top ten fields are all within the general area of digital information, computing and communications technologies.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

More on the origins of the "information superhighway"

In previous posts, starting with one in December of 2008, I have noted that the term "information superhighway" seemed to originate, or at least gain widespread popular usage, following a 1994 speech at UCLA by then-Vice President Al Gore.   This was of particular interest to me because the government of Korea adopted this terminology in the Korea Information Infrastructure plan it initiated the following year.
Recently it has come to my attention that the Korean artist Nam June Paik may have used the term a full twenty years before Gore's speech.  In 1974 he was employed as a consultant to the Rockefeller Foundation and used the term "Electronic Superhighway" in a report entitled "Media Planning for the Post Industrial Society--the 21st century is now only 26 years away."  In 1995 his installation entitled "Electronic Superhighway" was installed in the Smithsonian American Art Museum, as shown in the following video.(Note:  "electronic superhighway" and "information superhighway" are close enough that we need to credit Paik at least with the inspiration and vision to apply the "superhighway" terminology to digital communication networks!)    Comments on this topic are welcome!