December 14, 2010
Have you seen this map?
Paul Butler at facebook made it; it’s a visualisation of pairs of facebook friends around the world. He said this of it; “My curiosity was the locality of friendship. I was interested in seeing how geography and political borders affected where people lived relative to their friends. I wanted a visualization that would show which cities had a lot of friendships between them”.
Look beyond the biggest, brightest lights and you can pick out some of the smaller, yet visibly identifiable stars in this social-network-milky-way. Just to the right of India there’s an almost Y-shaped cluster that has Bangkok at its centre. (Click on the map it gets bigger.) Just to the left of the Y there’s a small lonestar. That’s Rangoon that is.
Rangoon has a population of five million and it’s not even as facebook-bright as The Faroes with its population of fifty thousand.
But it’s there and that’s a good thing.
The government in Myanmar is not internet-friendly, never has been. Most people cannot afford to spend 20% of the average daily wage on an hour in an internet cafe and cafe owners have to report regularly to the authorities (and reportedly are now required to install and record CCTV). If you want to use WordPress, or a lot of other sites, you need to know how to use a proxy server, but facebook gets through and is allowing some small number of Burmese people to reach beyond their closed (to them) borders and to make international friendships in cyberspace.
And that’s got to be a good thing too.