The murmur of the snarkmatrix…

August § The Common Test / 2016-02-16 21:04:46
Robin § Unforgotten / 2016-01-08 21:19:16
MsFitNZ § Towards A Theory of Secondary Literacy / 2015-11-03 21:23:21
Jon Schultz § Bless the toolmakers / 2015-05-04 18:39:56
Jon Schultz § Bless the toolmakers / 2015-05-04 16:32:50
Matt § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-05 01:49:12
Greg Linch § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 18:05:52
Robin § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 05:11:02
P. Renaud § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 04:13:09
Jay H § Matching cuts / 2014-10-02 02:41:13

The opposite of ours
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I agree with Tim O’Reilly; David Weinberger’s statement on net neutrality is pretty danged good:

The Net as a medium is not for anything in particular — not for making calls, sending videos, etc… Because everything we encounter in this world is something that we as humans made (albeit sometimes indirectly), it feels like it’s ours. Obviously it’s not ours in the property sense. Rather, it’s ours in the way that our government is ours and our culture is ours. There aren’t too many other things that are ours in that way.

If we allow others to make decisions about what the Net is for — preferring some content and services to others — the Net won’t feel like it’s ours, and we’ll lose some of the enthusiasm (= love) that drives our participation, innovation, and collaborative efforts.

I think if you had to summarize how Jaron Lanier feels about the Internet now, you could do worse than say, “it used to be OURS, but it’s THEIRS now.” For Lanier, he means the early freewheeling individualist-humanist pioneers, as opposed to the corporate peddlers of alleged community. Not everyone experiences everything in today’s internet that way, but for someone who came up during the wide-open, small-community period, it probably has to feel like something important’s been lost.

Now imagine that in five years, we (us, here, listening, this community, and all communities networked to it) all feel the way Lanier does. That none of it is ours anymore, all the way down to data packets. That’s what we face today.

9 comments

I keep thinking about the Eternal September. You know, the moment when Usenet stopped feeling like it was “ours” for the regulars and instead feeling like it was THEIRS (the interlopers from AOL).

I don’t know exactly what point this association makes except that the OURS/THEIRS thing is an emotional response and so prone to some of the worst kind of manipulation. I’d say that for a certain class of people, the current ‘Net already feels like it’s THEIRS. Definitely the people who are aiming to prioritize this or that kind of traffic, perhaps also for the people who feel like the Internet is the domain of terrorists, pedophiles, hackers, and pornographers.

I get deeply suspicious of OURS/THEIRS divisions. To some degree, the degree that I consider myself to be in something of a global minority, I recognize that there’s an extent to which I rely on the THEM for keeping my OURS up and running. I mean, studies show that the people keeping Google in the black are almost nothing like me. Me and mine have gone blind to the advertising, we barely register, but we rely on the goodwill and use of the THEM to keep the most useful tool to our purposes up and running. I depend on Google’s many services and I contribute almost nothing to their income.

The same kind of thing for Twitter, most new outlets (I am not the target market for most of the advertisments that I do see), etc.

On Twitter, I am driven crazy by the occasional elitism of my OURS group. They (we?) make snarky (in the original sense, pace this site’s URL) comments about the intellectual quality of trending topics, feeling smug about how stupid THEY are etc. But in the end, for all that we feel like Twitter is OURS, it’s actually only viable if it’s also THEIRS.

‘Cause real Net Neutrality will mean that there is room for the THEM. For the AOLs and the network marketing, and “inauthentic corporate communities” and all the rest of it. A truly neutral ‘Net should feel like THEIRS for just about every value of US.

All of the above was written without reading the article, let alone the book itself. So take that for what you will…

Read the Lanier NYT interview.

He sounds a lot like the Unabomber.

Do you mean this in a positive, negative, or neutral way?

Neutral, I suppose. Diagnostic?

I’m still working my way through the Manifesto (it’s kind of slow going). And much of what Kaczynski says has been said in other places by people less liable to leave explosive booby traps around.

I’m reading the Lanier book. He doesn’t sound *anything* like the Unabomber to me.

I don’t think Tim has got it quite right, either. Much more than US and THEM, I see his argument centering on US and IT. (Hey, that actually works pretty well, since “it” is both an impersonal pronoun and an abbreviation for Information Technology).

I’m a slow reader and not yet halfway through, but the biggest concerns he’s flagged for me are about the relative inability of our technology to reflect anything like the nuanced subtlety of our lives. Worse, he’s arguing that the technology effectively locks out alternatives, robs expression and experience of such nuance, and pushes everything toward a self-referential mean defined by the process itself. By the nature of that process, it trends toward ubiquity.

And I see that as much scarier than either US/THEM or the Unabomber (who was, after all, a single not very effective threat).

Online culture, he goes on, “is a culture of reaction without action” and rationalizations that “we were entering a transitional lull before a creative storm” are just that — rationalizations. “The sad truth,” he concludes, “is that we were not passing through a momentary lull before a storm. We had instead entered a persistent somnolence, and I have come to believe that we will only escape it when we kill the hive.”

((The NYT article quoting Lanier))

2. The industrial-technological system may survive or it may break down. If it survives, it MAY eventually achieve a low level of physical and psychological suffering, but only after passing through a long and very painful period of adjustment and only at the cost of permanently reducing human beings and many other living organisms to engineered products and mere cogs in the social machine. Furthermore, if the system survives, the consequences will be inevitable: There is no way of reforming or modifying the system so as to prevent it from depriving people of dignity and autonomy.

3. If the system breaks down the consequences will still be very painful. But the bigger the system grows the more disastrous the results of its breakdown will be, so if it is to break down it had best break down sooner rather than later.

((Ted Kaczynski Industrial Society and Its Future))

((I’m very curious to read his actual book instead of just spouting opinions about an article in the NYT))

Tim — the book is a $9.99 ebook at barnes & nobel that I’m reading on my phone. Now that *is* slow going, but the book is $26 in hardcover.

How come I never noticed this ampersand before?? Wow.

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