Renukanth Subramaniam and I have a lot in common. Both of us have used the benefit of internet cafes for gain. Both have taken a keen interest in their global nature. I've been in internet cafes round the world, Renukanth stuck mainly to one in Wembley, North West London, but his work has reached many. So, I hope, has mine
There the difference ends. I'm in a comfortable office, he's in prison. He thought he could use an internet café to offer some sort of anonymity, and he worked for a kind of criminal ebay, buying and selling stolen identities. Read more about him here.
Read more about me on these pages.
I have now completed a world journey of internet cafes. Scroll to the bottom of the blog and you'll see I started all bright and bushy-tailed, finding stories of education, enterprise and cheer. There are huge advantages to the public nature of internet cafes. And - as I discovered in programme three - some disadvantages too. As I type this in my comfortable office, the only people who can "shoulder surf" or look over my shoulder at what I'm writing, are colleagues. For me, privacy is easy. On the other hand, Sam Roberts shoulder-surfed a man in Burkina Faso and saw he was threatening to kidnap someone's auntie. No aunties were kidnapped in the making of this programme. Brave Sam intervened as you'll hear in programme three, (link to main page)
I hope you'll get involved too - at any stage of the journey. Read the blog, listen to the programmes and feel free to comment on cafes and what they mean. As mobile technology develops they may die out. I met two Norwegian backpackers in Sydney who won't ever use a café again. Among backpackers the world over, this is rare. For almost all of them internet cafes are community centres as well as communication hubs. The Norwegians carried miniature laptops with dongle gizmos that could get them online, wherever they are. They're part of a growing post café wireless mobile generation. Does anyone else find that sad?
Nick Baker| 08:16 UK time, Wednesday, 3 February 2010
I've met former ambassadors, self made men and newlyweds in internet cafes, as well as the homesick and homeward bound, the backpacker, the student and the many for whom internet cafes are the only way online. Yesterday, in the café above, I even met a man who knew me - or at least knew my voice. I started on my ritual pre-interview explanation - about how I was on the way round the world using internet cafes to get me from place to place and... He stopped me short. "I know. I just heard your show on a Fiji FM station. You were stuck in New York...
Well things have moved on quite a lot since then and here I am (via China Africa and Australia) in Fiji, where I just met Elder Munton and Elder Peak, from Tennessee and California respectively. These are the only Mormons - missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints - dressed like this - without trousers.
No shortage of religion and ritual on Fiji. The music in that clip comes from a Kava ritual at a forest plantation here. Kava's a completely legal mildly narcotic drink with a complex family ritual surrounding it, and I was introduced to the Fijian singers and family by two students I met in a café: Jan and Tom - German forestry students on attachment from the Eberswalde International Forestry Ecosystem Management course near Berlin:
So Possible links to Germany, California, Utah, Tennessee...but I have a link from here in Fiji to New York, where I started, which sadly sours the tone I've established - by mere chance - in which Internet Cafes are positive places....
Nick Baker| 08:42 UK time, Thursday, 28 January 2010
Back in New York, at the beginning of this project to draw a map of
internet cafes round the world, I was worried that the urban internet
café was endangered. (Hear more in Programme One)
cities in the developed world everyone has a laptop, a mobile device, a
connection. No need to go out to get online. Sydney proves this
wrong. There are scores, maybe hundreds of cafes. I've spoken to
Koreans, British, French, Palestinians, Croatians and Samoans in them
here. Not to mention the inevitable backpackers on their way to or
back from Thailand. To all of them, the internet café's a lifeline.
not just the write-home culture that makes Sydney internet café
central. Sydneysiders are a gregarious lot. They don't stay in.
Blame the weather, maybe, or the beauty of the coast. Take-out food,
convenience stores, a pub or bar or cheap café on every corner. The
only reason to go home is to sleep. Here's Anna from Belgium with her
new boyfriend Amori from France in a big café downtown and her theory about why the Internet café died in New York but thrives in Sydney.
anna blog clip.swf
On the round the world front, a story that started in Africa,
then sent me here, now has a link to Fiji in the Pacific, my next and
possibly last stop.
The cable to which this man is pointing, in Café Milano in Berekeley, California marks the place where the internet started. Arguably. And argument is what it sparked off, in 1991, when the man pointing to it, Wayne Gregori, first...
Episode 2 of The Internet Cafe Hobo can be heard on 22nd December at 23:06 GMT on the World Service in which you'll hear me in Nairobi in Kenya, Benin and France.The first episode, you be download and listen to...
....but there's a world of internet cafes in Africa alone. They're everywhere. The "cyber" pictured above is one of the first to open on the premises of a secondary school campus, this one in Parakou, Benin.So to date the...
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