Now there are some 55 million blogs and some are good? Well, no actually. He would be quite surprised if any exist in 10 years. (And if it is true that blogs are that ephemeral, some cultural institutions like libraries and archives better start archiving those relevant to their collecting guidelines sometime soon!) They may be best as platforms for the development of something. ‘They are like watching yourself get beaten to death with croutons’ – and they’re not that potent a media. They’re also not fine art. The usual discourse is like three paras, an embedded video, some hyperlinks, flickr sets, Digg and social book-marking links, etc. Is it done well or badly? Is there any web design critique that could be applied to it to say whether it is done well or not? Sterling (a blogger himself) says it is an unstable media not aspiring to greatness. A word-of-mouth kind of culture.
Reed Hundt – a US intellectual and lawyer, who is very weary looking. Disenchanted by Federal Government, he is now in private practice. He was involved in auctioning spectrum (just like we are doing here in Oz). And he has a mad scheme to steal broadband and sell it (as gifts) to police, public safety authorities, etc. He wants to take it from broadband TV. Broadband TV is for shut-ins. Broadcast TV is a lower end evil medium. It was bad before American Idol, but now there is no budget to put on decent stuff. It is junk. He wants to put the net over TV as b-band Internet. It would reduce distinctions between the different media forms. There is no technical reason to not do it. It would change major stuff. It needed a ground swell of support and Hundt was trying to do it with public-safety and security services – cops, firemen, etc. The US would then leapfrog to the top of the national broadband rankings. He has a rather dull website and he used to run a blog.
Yochai Benkler – social networking and what it takes to build a third kind of production system that harnesses productivity, creativity. They need thoughtful engineering and some care. He puts forward a method for socially motivated common-space peer production:
- divide up the work – there is a lot to do, suck helpers in
- the work must be granular, modular (projects) and ‘integrate-able’ (all adds up to turn into one thing that really achieves something) – not seen much in other lines of work, not business, even government
- be self-selective – people chose to join in (people come out of the wood-work)
- have an in or out mechanism (like a two-way membrane)
- have a communication platform to talk to each other, fast & efficient
- humanisation??? (not further discussed)
- include trust construction – has to be built, confidence building (very important)
- someone has to think about what is normal, acceptable behaviour and create that
- transparency – so motives are not questioned
- monitoring (a police force of sorts to prevent someone attacking the system – hackers, thieves, etc. because the Internet is a savage world)
- peer review (who is good at stuff?) – a motivator
- discipline (an Achilles heel of all Internet efforts)
- fairness (will ‘the intelligentsia exploit the helpless proletariat?’!) – Wikipedia and Digg don’t pay people! Things that were formerly professions are now falling apart on the net and are no longer business, they are melting like the Arctic
- institutional sustainability – who knows how long it will last (e.g. Slashdot) – what is the legacy plan, what is needed? The hardware is radically unstable!
Benkler doesn’t talk about some unpleasant extremist forms which might appear to have all of this licked! We can all think of extremist organisations who might be doing much of the above, but perhaps without the transparency and with a different take on humanisation and fairness? Maybe they are proof of the potency of this form of organisation?
In order to make this work, Benkler says that we need to understand that computers are platforms for self-expression rather than well-behaved appliances. Computers really stink as appliances. They are painful to use, always in beta, etc. Well-behaved appliances kill self-expression and common space peer production. Something that barely works can become a common space peer production factory!
Benkler distributed his book (all 500+ pp!) in pdf format and then he opened a wiki for everyone to help him explore this issue, but there was nobody there. It isn’t easy to be as smart as he is! It was just a vast echo chamber. You can open stuff like that, but it doesn’t mean they come in and if they do it doesn’t mean they’ll be useful. Sterling says he could not help him. It is an interesting issue.
Sterling closed his rant with a poem about serenity and a sense of fulfilment. Perhaps it was about life not on the web? It was a bit of a stretch for me . . .