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ICTs, Media and the Czech Society (NYU Prague)

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jaroslav svelch

on 15 September 2015

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Transcript of ICTs, Media and the Czech Society (NYU Prague)

“You are standing on a clearing near a huge rock massif. There is small opening in the rock at the ground level. Another quite big opening is about 15 meters above you. You can see a letter. You can go east. Command: ?”
behind the Iron Curtain
no private enterprise
no hardware or software market
inefficient centrally planned industry
"unsatisfactory" electronics industry
embargos on import
language barrier
ICTs at home/limitations
Jaroslav Švelch, Charles University in Prague
"It was everybody's dream to have their own computer." - M. H.
overcoming limitations
"Organization for the Cooperation with the Army"
"Union of Socialist Youth"
The Adventures of Indiana Jones in Wenceslas Square in Prague on January 16, 1989
You are standing in front of the Grocery House department store. The entrance into the subway is fortunately clear. An annoying man (probably a communist) is looking out of a balcony and happily watching the good work of the members of the Public Security. You can go down, to the right and inside. You see a cop.
You drove your axe so deep inside his skull, that it cannot be pulled out. You see a dead cop. (Znovuzrozeny, 1989)
“O.K. You are standing at an unobstructed entrance into the subway. As soon as you showed up, an officer came to you and searched you. Having found nothing, he called on his “comrades” and they beat you senseless. As they were running away to deal with some woman with a baby carriage, one of them lost a machete. You crawled for it and committed hara-kiri. INDIANA JONES IS DEAD [scroll]”
Gaming and new media in the Czech Republic
Computing behind the Iron Curtain
Computer hobby in the 1980s
Czech online culture
Antonín Svoboda (1907-1980)
mathematician, engineer
work for military
SAPO (1958)
EPOS, EPOS-2 (1960,62)
could not get professorship
ignored and undermined by Communist bureaucracy
the computer gap

informal distribution networks
mostly distributed on cassete tapes
fast and efficient
works at “the speed of lightning”
no respect for copyright
gift economy
“<< City of Robots >> A science fiction computer game. Produced by Zenitcentrum to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Pionýr Organization of the Socialist Union of Youth. (Press a key)”. The in-game screen: “I am on a metal-plated street. I see: A round building. A thin beam of light. A steel door. Robot parts. Exits: East. West. […]”
City of Robots (1989)
"encrypted", advertised in the national media
registration: 99 crowns
5,000 prizes
easy to hack
(movie ticket: 10 crowns)
before 1989 - requests to join international networks (EARN) rejected
connected to the Internet via Czech Technical University
gap is closing
now faster connection that the U.S.
Come Internet
percentage of Internet users in population
Source: International Telecommunications Union (Geneva), June 2013
Neviditelný pes - daily since 1996
first major news website iDnes - 1998
blogs - affiliated with news outlets
"semiautonomous online culture"
services, conventions, memes come in from the West
but many innovations, services, and spaces are specifically Czech
the notion of the "Czech Internet" does exist, as well as "Czech Twitter"
local companies (Seznam, awards, journalists)
discussion forums
news outlets/blogs
social networks
Facebook - Czech translation in 2008, 4,2 mil. users
Twitter - around 200 000 users - "elite"
SOCIALBAKERS - based in Pilsen
"the Internets"
political participation
...and Czechoslovakia!
"Vajíčka pro Paroubka" (2009)
campaign against shutdown of CRo6 (2009)
Karel Schwarzenberg's presidential campaign
satire - "Žít Brno"
GAMING culture
specific: turn-based online strategy games (Travian)
MMORPGs on pirate servers (until recently)
HCRP is popular
huge LARPing community
Game industry today
prevalence of PC gaming
targeted at niche markets
some mainstream success

“[…] I had a group of so-called Communists within the Institute [...] There was a tendency to check me, and after a certain time to harass me. I don't know why, but in countries controlled by Communists there’s no logic to what they do.”
more tech industry
Market CZ/US
Full transcript