January 03, 2004

The 2004 Bruce Sterling State of the World Address

The 2004 Bruce Sterling State of the World Address:

Bruce Sterling: In the case of the American polity, the manual is supposed to be the Constitution. It gets kinda spooky when power-players in the USA decide to no longer read it.

I'm very interested indeed in smart-mobs, but a mob isn't a democracy, no matter how much hardware its members may be carrying or how clever they get at deploying it. Woodstock is unexpected, delightful and surprising, because nobody expected it and there are huge raw energies there. Altamont comes to grief. It's like a principle.

Burning Man doesn't come to grief, but Burning Man has a cabal of hardened, experienced cadres, it only lasts three days, and it's swarming with cops. Burning Man is organization disguised as licence. If bikers started beating and knifing naked people at Burning Man they'd be jumped on by Danger Rangers and Nevada cops with guns. Burning Man is a party, not a city-state.

I'm gonna believe in the Internet as a true-blue "platform for democracy" when a bunch of people go start some new settlement, using the Internet first, and then a town *grows up around that.* It's like the apotheosis of the "smart house," which isn't a normal house with some wiring and chips strung through it, but a place specifically built to shelter the network.

A functional polity needs a social infrastructure. Government requires things like separation of powers, balance of powers, consent of the governed, rules of order for debate. It needs civility. Its institutions have to command public credibility. It helps a lot if they've been around a while and their workings are open and obvious. The Internet has been around a while but it's conspicuously lacking in those other things.

I'm glad that major candidates are understanding that the web is around, and I'm all for Thomas Paine getting a few sentiments off his chest. Radio used to have much the same political role, when it was shiny new and sexy in the 1930s. Radio is technology, not a political panacea. Roosevelt was great at radio, but so were Goebbels, Huey Long, Father Coughlin and Mussolini. Those particular struggles weren't resolved by building better vacuum tubes...

Posted by DeLong at January 3, 2004 08:13 AM | TrackBack

Comments

Internet is like radio, a technology. It works the way you make it to work. The difference is that you can make internet do more things than the radio.

And Howard Dean knows it.

They used to say something like "you can't make a purse out of pig's ears". One day somebody came along did precisely that. I think it was the scientists and technicians of a company called Arthur D. Little.


Posted by: Bulent Sayin on January 3, 2004 08:52 AM

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"A silk purse out of a sow's ear', properly.

Posted by: big al on January 3, 2004 09:50 AM

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I can't think of anything SO UNSOLVABLE in American politics that you'd consider burning man or internet radio much help or guidance. come to think of it, revolutions are for losers.

Posted by: c. on January 3, 2004 10:05 AM

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Interesting. I didn't know a sow meant a female hog; so I must have read pig (unless I looked it up then and then found it easier to remember the word pig); I do vaguely recall now the word silk, now that you post the correct expression; and I also remember reading how they manufactured that purse and it does fit the word silk. This was a book titled "Think Tanks", published in 1970s but unfortunately I can't recall the author's name.


Posted by: bulent on January 3, 2004 10:39 AM

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"revolutions are for losers"

Wrong. Revolutions are made to get the losers out of the way and clear the field for the champs.

Posted by: Bulent on January 3, 2004 11:52 AM

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The Internet forming a town seems off the mark, since the Internet is non-territorial by nature -- that's almost part of its definition.

Posted by: Zizka on January 3, 2004 02:44 PM

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That part is in fact completely incoherent babling. Look at this:

"I'm gonna believe in the Internet as a true-blue "platform for democracy" when a bunch of people go start some new settlement, using the Internet first, and then a town *grows up around that.* It's like the apotheosis of the "smart house," which isn't a normal house with some wiring and chips strung through it, but a place specifically built to shelter the network. "

Posted by: bulent on January 3, 2004 10:24 PM

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bulent:

If that book had anything to do with "hogs" and "tanks" in the same book, I believe it most likely was concerned with manure disposal, and you don't want to go there, believe me. You should see the stink those two words raise together, both literally and figuratively, when the suburbs move out to the farm country.

Posted by: northernLights on January 3, 2004 11:54 PM

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Zizka: "The Internet forming a town seems off the mark, since the Internet is non-territorial by nature -- that's almost part of its definition."

Think more metaphorically. The definition of "community" need not be geographical (territorial) only -- today there are "scientific communities" (sure you heard that term), why not extend that to "communities of common interest", which is not that large a step?

Note: I'm not claiming that's an insight; it is already a reality for 4+years (the real take-off of the internet), expanding geographically as internet access becomes ubiquitous. Email usually comes first (and newsgroups), then full internet.

Posted by: cm on January 4, 2004 01:42 AM

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northernLights:

"... you don't want to go there, believe me. You should see the stink those two words raise together, both literally and figuratively, ..."

No problem, we are (all?) adults here (in the sense that no topic should be off-limits). Whoever doesn't fit the description I will heartily welcome to adulthood by virtue of having joined. And I have grown up to some extent knowing about sewage, post-slaughter leftovers, and their disposal.

Posted by: cm on January 4, 2004 02:07 AM

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I'm confuseeeeed!

(Imitiating this Italian type actor forgot his name but he did this dancing movie with Olivia Newton John -- hah! Saturday Night Fewer! But I think he said "I'm confuseeeed! in another movie of which I only saw a clip... I probably saw only a clip of Saturday Night Fewer too... such cultural imperialism!!!)

So what's happenning here, NorthernLights, cm? You don't have to answer if you are not going to say "oh, nothing!" :)

Posted by: Bulent Sayin on January 4, 2004 07:51 AM

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bulent:

Oh, nothing! It's all you can expect from someone who is, how shall we say, an intellectual lightweight?

My brain got so hammered by the initial post, it starts searching around for unrelated things and tries to slam them all together. Then when you wrote about hogs and tanks it reminded me of field trips I have been on when the pig manure pits were emptied and spread around the fields for fertilizer. There were some super fancy suburbs around and those people were maximum po'd by the whole process.

So when farm community runs up against suburb community, farmers usually lose, at least if they want to continue hog farming as a way of living.

Which is, I guess, somwhat related to the topic, since, Constitution or no, if people really don't want you or your shit around, they'll find some way to get rid of you.

Then there's another story from farm country. If you are far away from the cities, always beware of illegal manure pit disposal processes. For example, it a road looks wet, and it hasn't rained, under no circumstances should you drive on that road, as I did. The smell of pig shit lasted at least a year afterwards.

That's why I say- don't go there.

Posted by: northernLights on January 4, 2004 01:07 PM

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The book:

Dickson, Paul. Think Tanks. New York: Ballantine Books, 1972. 397 pages.

A link: http://www.namebase.org/sources/aF.html

Just as a matter of fact.

Posted by: bulent on January 4, 2004 05:16 PM

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About internet, from "Netwars" by Jason Wehling:

http://www.infoshop.org/texts/wehling_netwars.html

"(David) Ronfeldt has authored many research papers for Rand, but his ties to the military don’t end there. He has also written papers directly for the U.S. military on military communication and, more interestingly, for the Central Intelligence Agency on leadership analysis.

Ronfeldt argues that "the information revolution. disrupts and erodes the hierarchies around which institutions are normally designed. It diffuses and redistributes power, often to the benefit of what may be considered weaker, smaller actors." Continuing, "multi-organizational networks consist of (often small) organizations or parts of institutions that have linked together to act jointly. making it possible for diverse, dispersed actors to communicate, consult, coordinate, and operate together across greater distances, and on the basis of more and better information than ever.

Ronfeldt emphasizes that "some of the heaviest users of the new communications networks and technologies are progressive, center-left, and social activists. [which work on] human rights, peace, environmental, consumer, labor, immigration, racial and gender-based issues."

Posted by: bulent on January 4, 2004 05:42 PM

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http://symphony-x.com/archives/000018.html

The internet, like radio and telephones, makes different kinds of community possible. The Wall Street boom of the 1890's was, to no small extent, based on the ability of people to trade stock without being on the floor.

Posted by: Stirling Newberry on January 5, 2004 12:27 PM

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Internet gives us direct democracy communications, though we are not aware of it yet.

Posted by: bulent on January 5, 2004 02:39 PM

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