Monthly Archives: March 2013

The dream is fading fast

John Naughton:

Because we’ve all bought into the techno-utopianism of the early Internet, we tend to assume that it’s always going to be open to everyone. But as more and more of the world goes online, it’s clear that we’re heading in a very different direction — towards an online world dominated by huge, primarily foreign-owned, corporations which are creating walled gardens in which internet users will be corralled and treated like captive consumers, much as travellers are in UK airports now. The dream that the Internet would make everything available to everyone on equal terms is fading fast.

Link roundup

I find this stuff so you don’t have to:

Let’s do the LocalGovCamp again

Photo by Mark Braggins.

Photo by Mark Braggins.

It’s probably about time we sorted LocalGovCamp out again!

For various reasons it’s going to be running after the summer rather than before, as has previously been the case.

So, the two potential dates are 21st or 28th September. Let me know if you feel strongly one way or another in the comments.

Location will be Birmingham as usual, although I am on the lookout for another (cheaper) venue than Maple House, which rather busted the budget last year and made the vein on the side of my forehead swell to an unpleasant degree.

It will be an interesting time to run the event, as cuts bite deeper into local authority budgets. I’m hoping there will be some discussion about how digital can help councils deliver better services for less, and also how we can tackle some of the digital inclusion issues that will emerge around welfare reform.

As always, I’ll be on the lookout for sponsors once I have an idea around costs – the usual benefactors will get an email soon, but if anyone new wants to chip in, just let me know. An Eventbrite page will be up once the details are all confirmed.

Fragments

Donald Barthelme, in See the Moon?, in 1968:

Fragments are the only forms I trust.

Italo Calvino, in If on a Winter’s Night, a Traveller, in 1979:

…the dimension of time has been shattered, we cannot love or think except in fragments of time each of which goes off along its own trajectory and immediately disappears.

Gordon Burn, in Born Yesterday from 2008, writing about the erstwhile Eastenders actress Susan Tully:

A colleague had logged her onto YouTube for the first time that very afternoon, and the fact that just tapping the words ‘Michelle Fowler’ into the thing could back so many moment of the past crowding back – a pandemonium of fragments (an aggregation of fragments is the only kind of whole we have now)…

Jaron Lanier, in You are not a Gadget in 2010:

Instead of people being treated as the sources of their own creativity, commercial aggregation and abstraction sites presented anonymized fragments of creativity as products that might have fallen from the sty or been dug up from the ground, obscuring the true sources.

Link roundup

I find this stuff so you don’t have to:

Digital lit.

It strikes me that digital literacy is becoming more and more important, as more and more of the things we do in life are digitalised.

It helps to understand how computers work if you want to buy some music these days, or watch a film, or read a book.

Not just the physcial act of downloading, and paying, and pressing the buttons to get it to display. But also some kind of knowledge of the companies providing the service, on what terms, and with what motivations.

220px-HowardRheingoldJI4

Howard Rheingold in his book Net Smart outlines five key skills needed for digital success:

  • Attention
  • Crap detection
  • Participation
  • Collaboration
  • Network smarts

I dare say all those five are required for existing at all in the digital world we are increasingly finding ourselves in, and not just when we are doing what is apparently digital stuff. Even when you’re offline, you need to be thinking through these things.

Jaron_lanier

I’ve been reading a bit of Jaron Lanier‘s stuff lately, which resonate with a few of the folk that read here. He’s a digital visionary, who these days isn’t sure we are headed in the right direction… This from a recent interview with John Naughton (who himself has some interesting perspectives on these issues):

The thing to remember about HTML, though, is that Tim [Berners-Lee] was not trying to redesign the world. He was trying to do a quick thing for a very particular context – a physics lab. The beauty of HTML was that one-way linking made it very simple to spread because you could put something up and take no responsibility whatsoever. And that creates a society in which people display no responsibility whatsoever. That’s the problem…

Societies and cultures become locked on to ideas. The “open culture” idea – which was really just an experimental thought in the 1980s – has now become an orthodoxy with its cadres of adherents. I dearly wish I could make them realise how experimental it was and how we should not treat it as anything sacrosanct.

The idea that there is philosophy behind the tools we are using in an interesting one, and that those philosophies may come to define and change our behaviour because of the tools we decide to use. I do believe that the ability we all have to publish the things we create is incredibly affirming and powerful, and a good thing. But other stuff worries me, such as the fragmentation of culture and identity into tiny pieces, and the way our culture is being handed over to Silicon Valley companies that don’t necessarily have our or society’s best interests at the forefront of their priorities.

Currently this most affects those that create and publish content, although in the near future, as gardens get walls built around them, it will become a bigger and bigger issue for those that consume culture: whether text, books, music, video, whatever. Oftentimes it is making a value judgement between convenience and control – which often correlates to closed and open, respectively.

However, we are where we are. If we are to shape where we will go next, we need the skills and understanding to make the right choices, to protect ourselves both as individuals and as communities. We need to keep our wits about us and our eyes open. But how many people can we really say do, right now?

Why start a blog?

There are a number of reasons why you might want to start blogging:

  • You have ideas you want to share
  • You have a story to tell
  • You have knowledge you want to demonstrate
  • You want to progress your career
  • You want the great work your organisation does to get recognition

All of these are great reasons. But basically it comes down to wanting to do whatever it is that you do better.

Because if you start a blog, after a little while, that will be the result – no matter what your original motivation.

One reason a great blogger will never give you is “because my boss told me to”. Good bloggers do it because they want to, because it works for them, and not because it serves their employer’s purposes.