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I said

> The increase in variety is real, but governments are busily using the same
> technologies to build some hefty attenuators.

but should have added amplifiers too.

Dai

On 3 March 2010 20:52, Dai Griffiths <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
My working assumption is that you are right, and I suppose it has to be as I have spent the last fifteen years telling people (in one way or the other) that the Internet and IT in general have the potential to make their lives better. But I have a nagging feeling that this is an item of faith rather than a reasoned position. I've got two worries.

1) The statistical aggregates are relevant, but there are hands tightly gripped onto the levers of power, and if anything is going to change there has to be a mechanism for the statistical aggregate to take effective action in the world. Recent attempts to change the political reality (Malaysia, Iran...) have been unsuccessful, while some largely pre-internet initiatives were successful (1986 People Power revolution in the Philippines, Ceaucescu's fall in 1989). I'm not saying things are getting worse, just that there isn't a pattern yet which demonstrates that the Internet is enabling change.

2) The increase in variety is real, but governments are busily using the same technologies to build some hefty attenuators. This is most obvious in China, and so far the government seem to be keeping the lid on quite effectively. My impression from the (admittedly few) conversations I have had with Chinese people about the rights and wrongs of the Tibetan and Uighur situations is that their view is par for the course for citizens of an imperial power that is consolidating its position.
In the UK the grotesque increase in surveillance is part of the same trend, and goes ominously hand in hand with Big Media's lobbying to enable the state to inspect our internet usage. I don't see much popular awareness of the issue in the UK, where the consensus seems to be "Our policeman may not be quite as wonderful as we thought, but really bad things only happen to foreigners. And as long as we don't have to carry around a plastic card in our pockets it'll all be all right".

So it's cautious optimism for me!

I just read Little Brother, a novel by Cory Doctorow which is (I think) a very good imaginative representation of one way that the current threats and opportunities presented by the Net could play out. You can download it from his website.
http://craphound.com/littlebrother/download/
It's really aimed at teenagers, but I didn't find that any kind of problem.

Best

Dai


On 3 March 2010 19:59, Roger Harnden <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
Dai, to follow up my usual intemperate and spontaneous response to your message........

i really don't believe that we are faced by the sort of dichotome you suggest. I think all the signs are hat (a) will happen, and that (b) is being fuelled by vested interests (vested in the past - of all interests and persuasions).

The reason I think this (along with Clay Shirky and others) is the law of numbers. Whereas certain f my peers have believed that complexity theory has had relevance in social affairs and I have insisted that the numbers involved for statistical significance  makes such a claim untenable, I believe that with the Web, statistical aggregates starts becoming relevant.

And, further, Dai, I, being an optimist - as regards human beings - feel that this will work against institutions, the State and other social forms, because - as Stafford Beer insisted - they have not got the requisite variety to deal with it.

Sorry, Dai, don't know whether you are familiar or not with 'Stafford' jargon (as in 'variety').

Roger




On 3 Mar 2010, at 18:37, Roger Harnden wrote:

Dai - I'm not sure who you are, but I totally go along with what you say, and, more importantly, with what you say about which doors we attempt to push,

Hello, and best wishes


Roger
On 3 Mar 2010, at 16:34, Dai Griffiths wrote:

I agree, and appreciate the judiciously placed scare quotes around 'the others'.

A friend of mine when in Spain was shaken to be rescued from a car breakdown and subsequently fed by a crew of friendly passers by who happily announced "We're fascists".
The Internet makes that kind of contact much more likely, by removing many of the filters which operate in day to day life (it is typical that my friends contact happened after a breakdown in normal activity). But, for better or for worse, the Internet also reduces the social damping on interactions, including on insults and provocation.

It's not clear to me how this balance of "more contact with the other /  less social control over provocation" will work out.
Will the Internet
a) help us to see that 'the other' is not simply an evil entity that should be destroyed, but a human being with whom we have a potential/actual problem that needs to be resolved? (Uncomfortable for all of us to some degree, as Roger suggests).
Or
b) will it be an flame war that grows until it reaches critical mass, when it spills out into unthinking destructive action?

I see both as possible outcomes. So more practically the question is, what interventions could be made to nudge the Internet towards a).

Dai


On 3 March 2010 16:42, Roger Harnden <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
The interesting thing about the future of internet is that it will cut through ALL OF OUR prejudices.

Sure, the red-neck hill billy will have a voice, as will the Islamic fundamentalist, as will the atheist, as will Roger Harnden - but ALL of them will be in the mix, and only some of them will be attractive to 'all of the people all of the time' (Bob Dylan).

The only ones scared of it should be those of us - and that side of EACH of us - who feel uneasy about co-existence with 'the other'.
And, every State and every Prejudice, will be scared by this and will attempt to diffuse the possibility that all ' the others' have a voice.

And - Frank - this is not because of any intrinsic 'big brother' or 'expertise - but because the Web is uncontrollable except in 'local pockets'.

The Web itself is not a vantage or pulpit, but a CHANNEL or an order of magnitude greater than any that might have been conceived by McCluhan. Pulpits and expertises will hustle each other for space in this medium, but each will fail - or, more accurately, will rise, variously dominate, and disappear in an endless flow.

Roger

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