Hello Goonanism enthusiasts world wide. I’d like to make a special shout out to all those in Mozambique who are regularly tuning in to find the next instalment of the worlds most revolutionary Blog Spot.
My plan has worked and I have managed to find an issue that has intersected many people’s areas of interest and motivated Theo to post a comment – thanks mate, I had you in mind when I posted that last message.
Terry you’re still a superstar in my mind (and I often wonder who else’s).
So down to business. Where do I sit on the issue? Somewhere between all of you of course. The thing about this issue is that I think there is some function in it being an ambiguous topic because the borders are blurred and to sharpen them up would stop the leeway which makes this medium so powerful. So yes, I think it is a powerful medium.
Terry. When I talk about issues of democracy with regard to the internet I do it in a very specific way – and a way that I perhaps didn’t make too clear. I am referring to the ‘open source’ movement (one dear to may heart) as a model of democracy, not the democratising of information or what ever else. Disinfopedia is a fantastic example (that I may have mentioned before.) It started with just 250 articles being published on the web page which were then edited and added to, making them more extensive. Other members of the public then added their own articles which were added to, edited and so on providing an extremely extensive and accurate database of information. If someone is providing something malicious or incorrect then the thousands of other users will correct the information. Hence democracy and participation at it’s finest – everyone is a journalist.
However in addition to this I don’t think we should underestimate the democratisation of information as a whole. I think that as a direct result of the internet and the ability to transfer large amounts of information that would perhaps otherwise not be viewed or heard is creating a more informed society – especially for subversives like my self. Because of the internet I am exposed to massive amount of information leaving me in a fairly well informed position. It is also a refreshing anecdote to corporate mainstream media (no offence Age workers) which is increasingly in bed with right-wing agendas.
Software design and ownership is another fascinating area but one that I hope will be/is overcome by open source software where the licensing agreement ensures that the source code and any changes you make to it are public knowledge and the big boys are worried about it because it’s a growing movement that is increasingly user-friendly and superior on many levels (especially it’s stability.) This software also means that the capacity of the computer you are using only needs to be a fraction of that which is used by Microsoft et al – hopefully reducing the cost of computers. Not a perfect solution but a significant step in the right direction.
I also think that the internet debate has lead to a lot of “oh but half the world doesn’t even have a phone, let alone the internet” – which is true – but we’ve never had such a level of communication before. The majority world now has a voice and it is one of the peoples for a variety of reasons which I won’t go into but you can now get extremely up-to-date information on the detailed workings of any country around the world.
Your comments of the internet not being an extension of analogue mediums is also spot on but this is also the power of the internet. One needs to be careful about which issues etc are dealt with in cyberspace. A forum such as this is probably a really good example of how to use this forum – personal relationships are an example of a bad way to deal with them (nuff said). My point being that the interaction that is enabled by the internet allows vigorous debate in a reasonably quick but considered manner but there are problems (I think) with the impersonal-ness which facilitates some nastier situations. I don’t think I’ve explained my self very well but it’s the best I can muster at this stage – it was a big weekend.
Theo, you’re a patriot to the internet – don’t let it (or William Gibson) cloud your vision. Your comment that “This filter you have defined is a contrived ideal that these professionals use as a form of defense against the idea of free movement of information” is great but don’t let these sorts of “damn the man” ideas detract from the issue. Yes the free flow of information is emancipatory (is that a word?) and I think contributes to a great deal to the more “informed” nature of society today. Because something is professionally published does not mean that it is necessarily more reliable than something on the internet but I refer to my point that we need to be careful with the context of the internet. People read and interact with it differently (even the most technologically embraced people). There are articles now on how to write on the internet and that is to write short snappy article so that you can keep peoples attention. Because of this ideas are rarely explored to the extent that they could be explored in a book. Only a complete tight arsed wanker would read an entire book online (even if it was written my William Gibson).
Finally, Roland (my dear boy). Your final point regarding the commercially driven motivation to develop technology is an interesting one. One that I dispute a little, but not entirely. The internet was first developed as a file management system for some university in the States – not for commercial interests. Yes it is true that there is now no way of getting online without engaging in a Telco but the open source movement (bless it) is doing a damn fine job of attacking the corporate bully. And remember all this Telco stuff is just helping the revolution (much as Marx described the factory floor) as it enables a greater level of organisation. And as the old catch phrase goes – you’ve got to organise to resist. I know this isn’t the strongest argument but as I stated at the beginning I don’t overly feel the need to explore this issue in too much depth.
Theo, my above statement I think repudiates your second set of claims. Hotmail is a lot more than an email address so don’t kid your self about it. It exists as a massive marketing tool designed purely to advertise things. Perhaps the internet’s greatest advertising vehicle is free email addresses as is Messenger and others. So stop sucking Billy Gate’s ding dong.
Now to the next issue…
Roland (who else), to be honest I’m not overly sure what your point is. To reduce your comment down a bit the only question or contentious part seems to revolve around big agribusiness and their middle men gaining massive profits for the current system and therefore having no motivation to change it. Of course these people don’t have a motivation to change it. That’s why you have government regulations that prevent this exploitation and presumably some for of enforcement so that the labour and environmental abuses are stopped and everyone becomes well fed, not just the fat cats? Have I missed something? No shit I’m placing a higher values of human rights and the environment that our current capitalist system will allow. Jesus Christ man, who do you think I am? Adam Smith?
Or is it that by increasing the cost of coffee and therefore hopefully the wages of the underclass of majority world countries that you effectively just increase the profits of big agribusiness and their middle men? If so, see above.
So anyway, in Tasmania both the Liberals and the Greens share opposition (not in a coalition though). Consequently they are the “enemy” of the Labor party as far as state politics go. The other day the Minister for Infrastructure, Energy and Resources, Brian Green (oh the irony) put out a press release saying:
“Senator Bob Brown and those at the so-called Global Rescue Station say the campaign in the Styx Valley is about the welfare of the planet, but the reality is that the campaign is all about the political survival of the Greens… Can’t the Greens understand that every time well-managed forests are locked up in Tasmania it puts pressure on Australia to source its timber off-shore? Where does that timber come from? It comes from third world countries with third world forestry practices.”
To me it sounds a lot like an organisation that is threatened by the Greens. Is this a crack in the wall? Are the right (and yes that means you ALP) really concerned that their time is up? Possibly and while this is a some what petty example I think that we are starting to see a right that is now concerned that it is facing a significant opposition. The New York Times recently commented that there are now two world powers, the USA and Civil Society. That’s a big call from a reasonably conservative paper.