P2P Foundation

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In Bangkok, Thailand: International Workshop on Ethics, Wellbeing and Meaningful Broadband

Via Soraj Hongladarom:



International Workshop
Ethics, Wellbeing and Meaningful Broadband
August 16 - 17, 2011
Chulalongkorn University

Introducing broadband to a country such as Thailand has faced a number of challenges. Many of these challenges are regulatory and political in nature. Many groups are vying for a lead position in the broadband game and no one wants to lose out. This has led to an impasse where nothing is moving. However, a brighter prospect appears to be on the horizon when a new law was passed recently setting up the National Broadcasting and Telecommunication Commission (NBTC) which has the responsibility and the authority to lay out regulatory framework for broadband network. Hence it seems that Thailand will have its own broadband network soon. 

Nevertheless, a new set of challenges are emerging as a result of the introduction of the broadband network. When the physical infrastructure is there, these new challenges include how the network will be used to the best interest of the public as a whole. We have introduced the notion of “meaningful broadband” to refer specifically to these new challenges. How can broadband communication be “meaningful” in the sense that it responds to not only the demand for economic growth, but also the need to maintain the values and goals which are not so directly measurable? These values and goals comprise the meaningfulness of people’s lives. Meaningful values, for example, are present when the people do not become a mere cog in the giant economic wheel but retain their sense of purpose and direction that is ethically positive. Hence a number of questions and challenges emerges:  How can broadband use be integrated into the traditional lives of the people so that it does not become a mere tool of the new seemingly all-powerful values of consumerism and globalized commercialization? How can broadband fit with and even promote the values that are meaningful to the people?

This is the rationale for the international workshop on “Ethics, Wellbeing and Meaningful Broadband.” A number of internationally recognized scholars have been invited to the workshop to share their viewpoints with leading Thai thinkers and members of the public to find ways to respond to the challenges of ethical and meaningful broadband use mentioned above. The workshop aims at answering the following questions:

1)   How to operationalize "sufficiency economy" in NBTC? The Thai constitution has a requirement for each Thai ministry and agency, including its regulatory agency, to further "sufficiency economy," a principle laid out by the Thai king. The principle has affinities with the Bhutanese principle of “Gross National Happiness.” How is this requirement of either Sufficiency Economy and Gross National Happiness being operationalized? Of it is being ignored, why and which government agencies are innovating on this theme. As a new regulatory agency tied to the theme of digital convergence (linking broadcast and broadband), NBTC represent a new opportunity to position Sufficiency Economy as an overall driver of digital convergence strategies, integrated into the frequency allocation (spectrum management) and taxation strategies of the new regulator as well as establishing a new interface between regulation and "human development" which is a traditional concern of ministries such as public health, culture and education which have been totally isolated from telecommunications regulation.   

2)  How to pre-empt government censorship of the Internet?   Recently political constituencies and governmental factions have furthered internet censorship in Thailand and in other Asian nations. This is particularly evident regarding online games, gambling, pornography, and (in particular countries), certain themes such as Lese Majeste, Singapore's sensitivity to criticism, China's sensitivity to human rights arguments, Arab countries sensitivity to protest movements fostered by the internet. Censorship is an example of "throwing the baby out with the bathwater" because exclusion of web sites via censorship often prevents a country from receiving benefits from internet-based learning in an effort to achieve specific goals and much internet censorship is ineffective and unenforceable for a variety of reasons. Nonetheless we can expect censorship to continue and grow unless "national broadband ecosystems"  emerge that that are meaningful to citizens and nations. In particular, needs of vulnerable citizens (the poor, the uneducated, young children) must be protected. What can be done in the design and regulation of new technologies to attracted ethically valuable applications technology and discourage negative impacts? What can be learned by the effort to develop "quality of life indexes," e.g. those underlying Bhutan's Gross National Happiness (GNH), to provide objective measures of technologies that enable policymakers to exclude or attract certain technologies based on their anticipated ethical impacts?

3)  Rethinking "media ethics" for the broadband era: What is the track record of "media ethics" strategies to limit harm from television and encourage voluntary compliance by Hollywood or music-makers?  What has/hasn't worked in influencing behavior by large number of users, e.g. young children?  What are the obstacles that have prevented better success of media ethics strategies? Now that the broadbandera is introducing multimedia convergence how is the media ethics field changing? What new opportunities and challenges is it facing.   What can be learn from South Korea and other broadband-saturated nations? How to effectively integrate media ethics considerations intobroadband policies before a nation embarks upon its broadband-enabled transformation? 

4)  Predicting the ethical impacts of broadbandWhat are the best methods for scenario construction, forecasting and prediction of the ethical impacts of broadband? How can a “wellbeing society” be visualized and construction that involves broadband use? How canbroadband contribute to wellbeing? How are the ethical impacts in poor uneducated countries different from advanced highly educated nations?  

5)  Technological determinism vs. human intervention: What are current views regarding the philosophical concept of technological determinism?  What is the origin and development of this concept and what do we know from empirical research on this theme -- from Pythagoras to Heidegger to McLuhan? What are the technologically deterministic viewpoints that now dominate the broadband era -- and what corporate or governmental interests sustain these viewpoints?   What opportunities exist to alter the course of next-generationbroadband-enabled technologies in order to ameliorate their ethical impacts? 

Tentative Program

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Morning    Opening

    Technological Determinism vs. Human Intervension


Afternoon    Rethinking “Media Ethics” for the Broadband Era

    Predicting Ethical Impacts of Broadband

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Morning    How to Pre-empt Government Censorship of the Internet


Afternoon    Operationalizing “Sufficiency Economy” and “Gross National Happiness” (focusing on Broadband)


The workshop is supported by the National Research University Project, Chulalongkorn University, the Thailand Research Fund (through the School of Wellbeing) and the National Broadcast and Telecommunication Commission of Thailand.

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