Posts Tagged ‘clay shirky’
Is there a name for that feeling you get on a day when you realize you are witnessing history? That the world is not the same as it was yesterday?
The USA has joined hands to end its dark days. Its people are victorious, and lucky, and we are grateful. I believe Obama will be a great president – intelligent, thoughtful, innovative and courageous. As a friend says, if he delivers %50 of what he promised, he will go down in history as one of the worlds great leaders. But in a way, it almost doesn’t matter what he does now. the fact that he was elected is such an inspiration that I’m sure we’ll see it’s consequences ripple through the globe.
First, there’s the issue of his skin colour. I know that should not be an issue, I know that it would be better if there was no point in mentioning it. But there is. He’s black. He’s the first black president of the USA. And he proves that the barriers that once existed should not be taken as given. Yes, there still are injustices, prejudices, and inequalities everywhere – and non-white people of America know that all too well. Yet these can be transcended, challenged and demolished. No, not can be. Need to be. Expect many a speech to begin with the words “if a black man can be the president of the USA…”, from political rally to supermarket checkout queue, from kindergarden to factory. If a black man can be the president of the US, there’s no reason I should take that ____.
Then there’s the issue of power, and who owns the government. Up until yesterday, US elections were decided by the candidates ability to bring in big money. Under that rule, the president’s first account was to the people who held the big money. Obama tells another story, of mobilizing masses, of an average donation of $80. This is not just a tactical issue. Its a matter of allegiance. A president who owes his presidency (in the literal, financial sense of “owe”) to grandmas across the country has the freedom to serve the interests of these grandmas. This sends a message to political systems across the world. It shifts the balance of power from the one who has millions to the millions who have one.
For quite some time, my response to Clay Shirky’s book was “so where is everybody“? Obama is saying “here they are, right here with me on this historic day“. If technology now gives us the power to self-orgenise, mobilise, and coordinate action, why are people still sitting back and allowing the world to run them over? Perhaps part of it was that they didn’t believe they had the power. Even if the $80 donation or masses of grandmas story is part fiction, it doesn’t matter. Because that’s the story that is going to define social dynamics from this day on. In Tel-Aviv, it’s already happening (Hebrew, ht Hananc).
Uri Blau reports for Ha’aretz about a group of 80 or so teenagers who used ICQ and SMS to meet at the mall in Pisgat Ze’ev with the explicit intent of lynching a few Arabs and to scare others away from the mall.
It would have been difficult to choose a more cynical date on which to send out such a message: Wednesday, April 30, the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day. Dozens of boys arrived at the meeting place in the Pisgat Ze’ev shopping mall. They streamed in from all parts of the capital, some on foot, some by bus and some driven in by parents. Equipped with knives, sticks and clubs, they all had one purpose: to do harm to Arabs for being Arabs.
(ht The Traveller Within)
Such an incident says nothing about Israel as a state or as a society. Every human group has its dark elements. As for the tools they used to organise their attrocious initiative – IQC, SMS, Twitter – they are not good nor bad. They can be used to promote human rights as well as they can be used to oppress them.
But the ease of organisation does change the scene: Clay Shirky often mentions flash mobs as an example of the positive impact technology has on the power of people to self-organize. And yes, I agree. Technology empowers individuals and communities. Which means we each, individually and collectively, have a greater responsibility.
We do not need to look to institutions to lead change, we can do it ourself. But we can no longer trust institutions to direct change. Here comes everybody, the good and the bad. There are no inocent by-standers: inaction is complaisance.
Clay Shirky makes an interesting analogy between Gin and Television, and their relationship to social and cognitive surplus. Couldn’t help thinking about Hogarth.
|Beer Street and Gin Lane are two prints issued in 1751 by English artist William Hogarth in support of what would become the Gin Act. Designed to be viewed alongside each other, they depict the evils of the consumption of gin as a contrast to the merits of drinking beer.
… On the simplest level, Hogarth portrays the inhabitants of Beer Street as happy and healthy, nourished by the native English ale, and those who live in Gin Lane as destroyed by their addiction to the foreign spirit of gin;
…Gin Lane shows shocking scenes of infanticide, starvation, madness, decay and suicide, while Beer Street depicts industry, health, bonhomie and thriving commerce, but there are contrasts and subtle details that allude to the prosperity of Beer Street as the cause of the misery found in Gin Lane.
Nowadays you can get any form of trash on the TV, yet governments from US to China are trying to control the ‘net. Looks like the man has sided with the Gin makers this time.
Kinda gives a new dimension to “free as in beer”..