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Posts Tagged ‘Science

Warming up for Picnic ’07

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Picnic ’07, Amsterdam’s annual event organized by the Cross Media Week Foundation focusing on creativity in cross media content and technology, is only a month away and the list of speakers is nearly finished. Between the 25th and 29th of September, Amsterdam’s Westergastfabriek will once again host the event after the succes of last year’s edition. But with such a diverse and wide-ranging programme, where will you go? In order to get into the mood and warm up for the event, it is worthwhile to highlight some of the fascinating speakers and take a more in-depth look at what they are all about.

Reuben Steiger (Former Linden Labs Evangelist and founder/CEO Millions of Us)
scion2ndlifeAt Picnic ’06 Philip Rosedale of Linden Labs / Second Life presented his take on ‘the empowerment offered by Second Life of the average citizen to not only create but monetize their own content and design’. This year former Linden Labs Evangelist Reuben Steiger will take the stage at Picnic’s Virtual Worlds, which is all about virtual worlds becoming central to the future of marketing, technology, entertainment and brand-building. After his work at Linden Labs, Steiger founded and became CEO of Millions of Us, a company dedicated to helping businesses understand and harness the power of virtual worlds. An example is the Toyota Scion car in Second Life.

Being an evangelist and clearly someone who believes in the power of virtual worlds, Steiger fights of recent criticism of Second Life as a branding tool at influxinsights.com by saying that ‘some of the criticism is partially warranted, but a lot of it is poorly contextualized and opportunistic, in the sense that pundits love to tear down technologies that have ridden a wave of hype. IT analyst firm Gartner calls this the hype cycle – new technologies spark a wave of initial excitement, expectations inflate, the technology is found to be imperfect in some ways, and there is a backlash – but in the long term, a good technology will overcome the hype cycle and enjoy long-term adoption.’ Are virtual worlds all that Steiger says they are, or just a big bubble? Are you a skeptic or an enthusiast? Not sure? You can find out at Virtual Worlds. In the video below Steiger answers questions on his personal interest in Second Life and if virtual worlds are a response to alienation in real-life.

When? 27th September 14.00 – 17.00
Where? WesterUnie
What? Virtual Worlds at Picnic ’07

Cory Doctorow (SF novelist, blogger, technology activist)
doctorow overclocked Cory Doctorow, co-editor of popular weblog BoingBoing and contributor to the likes of New York Times and Wired, explores the benefits and consequences of online systems in his latest (fictional) book Overclocked: Stories of the Future Present (free download). This provocative collection of six previously released stories shows Doctorow extrapolating todays user experiences towards a futuristic vision and creating fascinating stories in doing so. An extensive review can be found at The Uberreview. For his writings, Doctorow has already been compaired to ‘Cyberspace’ godfather William Gibson by Entertainment Weekly. In the Authors@Google series Cory Doctorow himself presents and discusses the book, if any questions remain be sure to go see Doctorow at Fab, or the personal fabrication revolution.

When? 28th September
Where? WesterLiefde
What? FAB, or the personal fabrication revolution

Pablos/Paul Holman (Futurist, IT security expert, notorious hacker)
From an interview with Pablos “Paul” Holman at DLD ’07, shown in video below, comes the following provocative quote on creativity in companies: ‘Especially large companies tend to be poor at doing new things. They have lots of resources, lots of people and a lot of infrastructure . But all that gets in the way of when you’re trying to be creative. […] Ideally for me, I’d be able to wake up in the morning and dream up something I’ve been dreaming about. Then go build it by lunchtime, launch it in the afternoon and see if people like it. And then maybe fix some bugs by dinner.’

hackerbotpablosContrary to Doctorow, Holman does not read science fiction because he doesn’t want to be accused of plagiarism. His views however are, as the Picnic website also mentions, unique. With his design studio Komposite he ‘consults on bizarre invention and design projects that assimilate new technologies’. To give you an idea: Among his projects is the Hackerbot, a WiFi seeking robot that can find you when you’re using a wireless network – and drive up to show you your password on its screen. According to the Hackerbot website, the robot is really quite friendly and tries not to show your passwords to anyone else. Interested? Be sure to check out Holman at Picnic ’07, also if you’re interested in salsa dancing!

When? TBA
Where? TBA
What? Pablos Holman

Stefan Sagmeister (Graphic designer and typographer)
sagmeisterYou might have seen Stefan Sagmeister‘s design in your local record shop on the covers of Rolling Stones, Lou Reed and Talking Heads recordings. The Picnic website mentions that just as film, art, music and literature have the power to move people, Stefan Sagmeister’s innovative work shows that graphic design, too, can cut to the emotional core. An in-depth interview with Sagmeister can found at designboom.com. The image is courtesy of Grafik-freunde Stuttgart.

In 2004 Sagmeister spoke in Monterey, California about how design can make us happy and more specifically design that made him happy on a personal level. Telling stories ranging from billboards and museum exhibitions to pictorial language, Sagmeister is able to show how design can touch a nerve. Design never felt more personal while listening to Sagmeister’s presentation and his words seem far removed from corporate thought. Anyone intested in the emotional side of creativity, and creative industries in general, should see Sagmeister at Creative Genius: Things I Have Learned So Far at Picnic ’07.

When? 27th September 16.50 – 17.20
Where? Zuivering West
What? Creative Genius: Things I Have Learned So Far – Stefan Sagmeister

Various Meetings and (Un)Common Ground
Like last year, Picnic also hosts various meetings such as Virtueel Platform’s (Un)common Ground II: An expert meeting that brings together all the top thinkers in the industry. This year the sub-title is Scale and Intimacy. At the meeting experts will take a close look at the complex issues arising when practices and models of collaboration move across different scales. Like Stefan Sagmeister in his presentation, questions such as ‘how to maintain the emotional connection that people make to the ideas that are promoted or the services or products that it delivered’, are asked. Although the meeting is ‘invitation only’, be sure to check out Virtueel Platform’s publication (Un)common ground. Creative encounters across sectors and disciplines for more information.

For information on all Picnic ’07 events (25th – 29th of September) go to the Picnic network website. Oh… and did I mention Andrew Keen (see my previous post) will also be there?

Google Geoday Benelux 2007 Report

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MarkerWhen the invitation for the Benelux Google Geoday 2007, shaped in the form of the Google Maps marker which has risen to fame in the past years, landed in my mailbox it promised to become an interesting day in Amsterdam’s EXPO XXI this Thursday. With presentations by Bernard Seefeld (Google/Endoxon), Brandon Badger (Google) and Remco Kouwenhoven (Nederkaart) in the morning and workshops on Google Earth and the Google Maps API in the afternoon. With a big thanks to the people at Generation Next who were responsible for my ticket in the first place.

Google’s Geo development (Google Earth and Google Maps) has taken a big step in the previous years, with the coming of Earth and Maps there is a definite focus on adding layer after layer of information on the globe. Like graffiti on a wall everyone can apply meanings to the maps made available by the Google Geo team. As Lev Manovich noticed in The Poetics of Augmented Space: Learning from Prada when talking about Augmented Space: The 90s were about the virtual, the 2000s will probably be about the physical. Not the infinite Internet, but the finite space of the physical land. And it seems that Google eagerly agrees with this prophecy. Below is my account of the day.

Keynote by Bernard Seefeld
Dangerous dragons were used in the early days of mapping if parts of the map were not known yet to the cartographer. This is one of the examples Seefeld uses from the early mapping practices, which stands for the improving of the image and the filling of the gaps. The early cartographers did not have the information to fill in the holes so they just drew dragons. Another example given is the map of New Holland, or what is now called Australia. The interesting thing is that the Portuguese probably reached this land first, but the Dutch were the first to draw a map of it and therefore being ‘responsible’ for the discovery of the land (a discovery from a Western perspective, anyway, as the Aboriginees were already there).

New HollandSeefeld takes the first example and also the mapping of New Holland, which was not accurate at first to say the least as the shape of the land on this image shows, to the present. He notices that the Google Geo team faces a similar situation in pasting together the best available satellite imagery to create the globe of Google Earth. Sometimes the information is available, sometimes not and in that case lesser detailed imagery has to be used. It is not about drawing dragons, but about improving satellite images.

So now we have an explanation of Google’s basemap philosophy, pasting together a globe in a way that perhaps reminds us of the patched body of Frankenstein. Building on top of that basemap is the next step and this is also the core of the Google Geo team’s stated mission: Organize the world’s geographic information and make it universally accessible and usable. Which is derived from Google’s overall mission statement, which is actually the same but doesn’t include the term geographic.

GoogleAntInstead of discovering new land, like in the age of navigation and in the second example given above, the user is now able to discover new information, the era of the information age. The emphasis here was especially on the enhanced content applied to the base like web links, reviews of places, photographs and featured content. Seefeld actually went as far as too say that the base is nice and the content makes it great. The base is always the same, just like the physical. But it is information and meanings applied to the physical space that make it what it is. The new idea is that meaning is applied with the use of the virtual, leaving aside the physical. Through the geo applications new discoveries can be done in the physical space, as an example Seefeld showed the Google ant; a species that got discovered with the help of geo applications.

But all this information applied to the surface of the Earth requires a way to search the information. This is the territory of the spatial web, which is all about geotagging, KML and more. Making the meanings applied to the Earth searchable. But nowadays discovering the earth isn’t as dangerous as it used to be. The dragons are gone; discovery has become a safe practice. Boring? Perhaps. You can always try the navigation option in Google Maps and Earth and follow the directions, even if it asks you to swim across the Atlantic Ocean.

Dragon Map

What is fascinating is the applying of so many meanings to the finite globe with the help of this virtual reality. I asked Seefeld the question what his views are on potential conflicting meanings. He emphasized the role of the user and also said that it is important to have access to all opinions. Getting everything 100% true is very difficult but the goal is to fix it again and again until it is good, with the help of user opinions. This really reminded me of the already infamous Wikipedia wars, which is more about events, persons, etc. while Google Earth is about space and meaning. As Dorling & Fairbairn say in the chapter Alternative Views from their book Mapping: Ways of Representing the World: ‘Maps have always presented pictures of ‘truth’ and just as many people have many different truths, so there are many maps to be drawn.’

“From API to mashup” by Brandon Badger
The key to presenting all these various views on planet Earth and what a website developer can show his/her visitor are mashups. Using the base map and applying content, meaning, to it. Badger emphasizes the essential role of the user and giving us a rather simple and commercial equation: Google’s tools + You = Victory. A more convincing model for the concept of the mashup was that the sum of the two parts makes for something more valuable than just the sum of the two parts: 1+1=2,53542. I guess it is a good thing Time magazine named us as persons of the year, but it also makes us a lot busier with supplying content for Web2.0 applications. When will “we” get too busy with supplying content until the point that we don’t want to do it anymore? It will probably mark the end of Web2.0: The death of the user.

Mashups by Remco Kouwenhoven
On his website Nederkaart.nl Remco Kouwenhoven shows lots of examples of mashups with the use of the Google Maps API. He showed us some of these on the screen, but the one that struck me the most was this map about the air traffic above Schiphol. What it intents to show is the high density of airplanes at Schiphol airport paired with complaints about the noise.

Schiphol Noise in Google Earth

This reminded me of a remark by Mark Monmonier in the Dorling & Fairbairn piece I already mentioned above: ‘Cartographic propaganda can be an effective intellectual weapon against an unresponsive, biased, or corrupt bureaucracy.’ These mashups can provide this cartographic propaganda in real-time. Current issues can be addressed with the help of real-time information gathering. On Kouwenhoven’s website a lot more examples can be seen and it is a definitely worth browsing and importing some of the examples into Google Earth.

The Workshops
After a morning of presentations the afternoon was reserved for us, the user, to start creating content using the tools supplied by Google as Badger pointed out. Although I’m not sure for how long these links will be online you can check out the small assignments of the workhops at these links: Google Earth workshop and Google Maps API workshop. More technical info is also available through code.google.com. There was one jawdropping example in the Google Earth workshop that I didn’t know about, which is an incredibly detailed 3D city model of Berlin. Definitely a must-see.

Hauptbahnhof Berlin 3D

After spending two hours being immersed in the representation of the physical space on the screen, the pavement on my way to the train station also had some new meaning applied to it. A strange awareness of how easy meaning can be applied to the physical space we navigate each day, or to the places where we live. Being unaware which meaning has been applied in the virtual to the places we call home. What also struck me after this day is the dependence of Google on the user, who is responsible for supplying the content. It makes you think, but for some reason I’m just feeling lucky right now.

Talking about ‘Fans, Bloggers and Gamers’

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Jenkins Fans Bloggers GamersFor the Masters of Media blog at the University of Amsterdam fellow student Roman did a Podcast on Henry Jenkins‘ new book Fans, Bloggers and Gamers: Exploring Participatory Culture and he called me up to talk about it. Got to love those vintage phonelines and the aesthetics of Podcasts!

You can check it out in this blogpost, or you can download the ‘Discussing Jenkins’ Podcast directly from here. And since we’re talking about bloggers here, check out what other blogs say about it here, here and here. The first link includes an interesting interview with Jenkins.

Cyberkoelies: Buy World of Warcraft characters or experience straight from China

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Cheating has been around as long as games existed. If you fail at something time after time, you just typed in the code and off you went to the next level. With MMORPG’s and a complete social online community, that way of skipping the hardest part is gone. Players are looking at other possibilities offered. One of them is buying character from eBay, or in some other way.

chinese wow playersMade in China has probably been around for as long as mass produced toys are overflowing the markets. And while the West used to get their cheap toys from China, they now get their experience points straight from China where the young people from the countryside who want to make a carreer in the big city -in this case portrayed Zhengzhou- play World of Warcraft for a living.

The Dutch documentary Cyberkoelies by Floris-Jan van Lyun deals with this sensitive subject. He shows us the lives of Jing and Wang, two Chinese youngsters looking for a way to get out of the seemingly never changing life of the Chinese countryside.

Van Luyn shows us that the life of the farmers and the ‘ore farming’ for other users in World of Warcraft isn’t all that different. What makes it attractive is the virtual world. Jing tells us that there are less boundaries in this world, and when we see her walking down the street -in real life that is- she tells us that she just enjoys watching people walking around.

The employer is also interviewed, and this gives us some insight as to who is behind this business but in the end we don’t really get any more concrete information than ‘a contact in Germany.’ Tracing this line back to the players who actually want these ‘virtual tasks’ done would be a very interesting next step. To track the people who make this whole system of supply-and-demand work.

Besides Jing, Van Luyn also shows us the life of Wang. His family doesn’t really understand what he is doing, his brother thinks he is kind of a failure and his father doesn’t really know what the computergame is as long as it is legal: “Because that is what is important for my generation.” If it is legal or not can be contested. According to Chinese law probably not, but the ‘employers’ from World of Warcraft -I’d call them the cheaters- are not favored in World of Warcraft.

User GijsW posted a comment on the forum of Holland Doc, the program that aired the documentary. He noticed that these practices are not ‘legal’ in World of Warcraft, because one user can only play his own character which would be very hard to check up on. And he also mentions that some parts of the game actually are becoming too time consuming, causing the users to ‘outsource’ their ‘work’ to the Chinese youngsters at a certain cost. Cheating costs money nowadays.

ore mining in WOWThe documentary didn’t really convince that the older generation in China doesn’t know what computergames are, or that World of Warcraft is the same work as working in the ‘real’ fields. Although these things do exist, they are not specific for China. I found that the main argument to go and see the documentary is the outsourcing of work in the virtual. These are the nasty jobs -ore mining, time consuming jobs- the West doesn’t really want to do. The toys we don’t want to make.

Cyberkoelies is not available -yet- with English subtitles, but if you can understand a bit of Dutch or Chinese then this is definitely an interesting documentary. You can view the documentary online at the Cyberkoelies page at VPRO Holland Doc. Dutch newspaper NRC also ran an interesting story on this, which includes an interview with Van Luyn. The first image is courtesy of VPRO.

Dispatches from the City: Examples from MyCreativity

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mclogoTogether with the Masters of Media crew, I have been covering the MyCreativity convention. An initiative by Geert Lovink and Ned Rossiter. I covered the last part of the convention and this featured some great examples of the upcoming Creative Industries around Europe.

The closing session of MyCreativity continued the previous session on dispatches from the city: Examples of the Creative Industry -or insert preffered term here- from around Europe. The first session covered Vienna, Dublin, Barcelona and Basel. In this second session we’re venturing into London, Helsinki, Berlin and with Rotterdam we’re bringing MyCreativity back home to the Netherlands. What follows are my observations, thoughts and questions on the presentations.

London by Anthony Davies
“The Evil Empire” of the Creative Industries as Davies introduced his country and city to the audience. He describes the process as being curiosity driven, or “knowledge for knowledge’s sake.” In his quite theoretical presentation Davies highlighted two examples from London; firstly the cooperation of the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) and Cap Gemini, secondly an example from the University of Arts London (UAL). The first is illustrative for the second, so I will explain the first a bit more detailed below.

The ICA is a publicly funded instution and has since the late 90s been looking into cooperations with companies and a new way of financing culture. If we take a look at what both institutions are about, we can see where the two can meet, the ICA is an arts institute and the Cap Gemini the world’s leading management consulting and computer services firm. Business seemed to need creativity at the end of the twentieth century.

creativelondonThis also resulted in certain ‘Clubs’ or networks, including for example Channel 4, Cap Gemini and the ICA. Network culture seems to have quite a lot of ties with the Creative Industries. Networking and cooperating seems to be on of the essences of the new industry, creating cultural entrepeneurs scouting the markets. And through these networks companies can also scout the best of breed and the ICA -for example- becomes a best of breed provider.

This way there is a massive boost in educational funds and literally billions of euros are spent on these contracts. And in the end Cap Gemini of course also gets rewarded for their investment, by being leader of the creative pack in their field. In this light Davies mentioned the adaptibility of the discourse around the Creative Industry.

One thing that I got out of these two examples personally, is the fact that for example medical studies are heavily subsided by companies but that art and creative studies still mostly have to be untied and publicly funded only. Remains of a 70s hippie culture, or an essence of art?

Reading
Davies, Anthony. ‘The Surge to Merge Culture with the Economy.’ Presentation from Copenhagen Free University. 2001.
Davies, Anthony. ‘Basic Instinct: trauma and retrenchment 2000-4.
Davies, Anthony and Ford, Simon. ‘Culture Clubs.’
Davies, Anthony and Ford, Simon. ‘Art Capital.’

Helsinki by Minna Tarkka
Tarkka takes us on a “walk through Helsinki”, showing us mostly images of what changed the creativity of Helsinki in the recent history. Such as the impressive fire which destroyed the Makasiinit -or the VR Warehouses in English according to the Wikipedia entry- the center of Helsinki that marked the end of an era. To get an account of the event, follow this google search link: makasiinit fire.

firehelsinki

This end of an era created the openess for new visions for the future of creativity in Helsinki. An interesting project Tarkka mentioned was Helsinki 2015. Tarkka questioned if in 2015 there would even be bigger enterprises? And she is anxious to see what will happen in the media landscape in the future of Finland, since it was very regulated and now there is new space opening up. An account of Finland looking to the future can be found at this short explanation of Finnsight 2015.

More and more Finland is looking for opportunities to brand itself on the international market. The Eurovision songfestival is seen as a great opportunity to present the new creative possibilities of Finland to Europe, although it is debatable if the previous Finnish winner Lordi is a good example for trustworthy business, but it sure was a creative act.

Reading
Tarkka, Minna. ‘Labours of location. Acting in the pervasive media space.’, Species of Spaces, ed. Giles Lane. Diffusion eBook Series. London: Proboscis. 2005.
Sivonen, Henri. ‘Makasiinit fire coverage

Berlin by Sebastian Luetgert
The critical theory comes back in the presentation from Luetgert called ‘Capital of Failures'; he wants to explain how creative initiatives did NOT work in Berlin. Armed with a whole range of great terms and thoughts he gives a very interesting presentation. What to think of ‘Easy-jettification’ for example, a term he used for the increasing cheap flights in Germany. But also an official slogan of the city of Berlin ‘Poor, but sexy.’ And what to think of ‘Islands of Excellence, Oceans of Dementia’ which refers to the deserting of the countryside in Germany.

simberlinLets take a look at the negative examples he gives of the city of Berlin. To begin with, the city of Berlin has an estimate debt of 60.000.000 euro’s, that is 20.000 per inhabitant. Luetgert compared this with playing Sim City with a constant debet (without the ability to cheat, I’d add). The destruction in the 1950s of the hardly damaged buildings from WWII is another negative, this was part of a plan to actually limit the amount of houses in Berlin to set up a better real estate market. Also the dot.com boom in Berlin started when it was already over in the world, so Berlin only experienced the downfall of it.
What is interesting is that Luetgert gives us a lot of things to think about, but not very concrete answers.

We have to fill in the dots ourselves on the question if being positively f*cked makes us creative. And if there is the capital of failures that actually helps us. Luetgert himself mentioned that the situation will be financially grimm for the next 20/30 years, but personally I really like Berlin for its broken, melancholic feel (amazingly portrayed in the film ‘Der Himmel Uber Berlin’). And the might just be the contradiction in ourselves Luetgert is talking about.

Reading
Luetgert, Sebastian. ‘An Introduction to a True History of the Internet.’
Luetgert, Sebastian. ‘Roaming Producers.’

Rotterdam by BAVO
This presentation started with its conclusion involving a Medea allegory; kill creativity to protect it (like Medea killed her children to protect them).

rdamOne example from Rotterdam I’d like to highlight here a bit, is called the ‘Poetic Freedom Project’, more information in Dutch is available from SEV.nl: De Dichterlijke Vrijheid. In this project the buyers of the houses renovate the whole block themselves together with an architect subsidised by Rotterdam itself. What is interesting about this, is the flow of money around the various networks (buyers, Rotterdam, architects) to create a new creative enviroment to work in.

More information about the work of BAVO architect-philosophers Gideon Boie and Matthias Pauwels can be found at www.bavo.biz. A site that is definitely worth checking out for its content.

Reading
BAVO. ‘Plea for an uncreative city (First draft of a yet to be finalized manuscript)‘. August 2006.
BAVO. ‘Enjoy the Right not to Enjoy!
Boie, Gideon. ‘Design Intelligence.’

Plato’s Republic: The decline of the state and the history of the World Wide Web

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PlatoWhile reading through Plato’s conversation with Socrates in his classic writings of the Republic, I noticed an almost utopian allegory in Book VIII in which they discuss the decline of the state. The decline discussed by the ancient Greek philosophers resembles the history of the web untill now very precisely. I will give you my view of how I see this -maybe unorthodox- allegory. You can download it in a PDF here: Plato’s Republic: The decline of the state and the history of the World Wide Web.

Aristocracy
According to Plato’s writings, the essence of the state lies in the aristocracy (aristos meaning “best,” and krateîn meaning “to rule”). The principle of this state is the capability of reason of the philosophers. Because they possess this ability of reason, they are the best to rule. From this point on the state can only decline.

Since children of the philosophers might not be philosophers but commoners, other interests will tear the group apart. When they eventually cease to be philosophers nobody will listen to them anymore, and there will be no more respect for them from the warriors and commoners.

Looking at the early days of the Internet, which would later make possible the foundation for the Internet, we see the philosopical intentions and thoughts of the first users about what is perhaps to come. One of the early online communities called The WELL, which is still online today, is an example of early discussion of what was to come and become of the internet.

The very early Internet was used by scientists, engineers, librarians and of course the computer experts. There was no user-friendly, uniform interface and you had to learn a very complex system to actually participate in the first place.

There was a threshold for the participation, but once that threshold lowered it became widely available for the masses mainly by the introduction of the HyperText Markup Language (HTML) and the World Wide Web. The early Internet aristocrats saw their ideals and what they had built up suddenly exploited by the Internet providers.

To me they can be seen as the warriors, they merely use the technology and ideas provided to construct an infrastructure. The base of a state like the military. And the users are the commoners of Plato’s days. The Internet became user-friendly, and therefore the users noticed that they could work with the Internet all by themselves without having to learn any complex computer system. All was equal and the threshold was gone.

Timocracy
[We take] the State first and then proceeding to the individual, and begin with the government of honour? –I know of no name for such a government other than timocracy, or perhaps timarchy. -–Republic, Book VIII

The result of the decline of the aristrocracy is the timocracy according to Plato and Socrates. The warriors are now the rulers. They have a monopoly of force, so why not use it? Timocracy means the rule of honor. But how does this decline into the next state? When the code of honor is broken and the children of the warriors will start to use their military powers to obtain wealth.

The Internet providers had a monopoly on the division of the Internet. They had the servers and the capabilities to bring the Internet and the World Wide Web in the living room of thousands of families. While at first this was an ideal, to bring Internet to every household and every desk at the office, this soon became a bloody battle for wealth with . With examples of AOL booming to immense heights and wealth in the late 90’s –but also other national providers all over the world- the companies obtained wealth.

Oligarchy
I believe that oligarchy follows next in order.
And what manner of government do you term oligarchy?
A government resting on a valuation of property, in which the rich have power and the poor man is deprived of it. –Republic, Book VIII

And so we arrive at the next state which is dominated by wealth, value and property: The oligarchy. The desire of the rich is one of the main principles, but there is still quite some discipline involved because no one can simply live a luxurious life of pleasure and continue to be rich. But in the end, the lack of discipline of the children of the rich will be the downfall. Spending money that isn’t really there anymore.

With the Internet we still face the problem of the digital divide, where the rich have the power (of the Internet) and the poor are deprived of it. The words of Plato can be copied and pasted directly on the problem of the digital divide, which still haunts the Internet today. This problem arose in the time that the Internet was distributed by the Internet providers, the time when Internet was available for the public, but only the public that could pay.

The wealth of the Internet providers, and the newly found dot-com companies who all wanted a piece of the pie, continued to boom in the second half of the 90’s. The dot-com companies can be seen as the children of the Internet providers, sprouting from the new abilities of the available networks.

But when everyone discovered that he pie was actually not so big as expected, and the companies were spending money that wasn’t really there (yet), the bubble burst resulting in the infamous dot-com bubble.This caused a time of economic recession in a lot of Western countries. Dot-com companies fell hard, and also some providers like the Dutch World Online went down with the bubble.

Most of the dot-com companies were static websites, not the read-write web. The “poor people” wanted to be able to speak up about their own lives, and they wanted their share of the Internet. Being a watchdog for the bigger companies –and the jurassic big media- who failed in the dot-com bubble. After the burst of the bubble, the people took their chance to speak up resulting in Web 2.0.

Democracy
Next comes democracy; of this the origin and nature have still to be considered by us; and then we will enquire into the ways of the democratic man, and bring him up for judgement. –Republic, Book VIII

Now we have arrived in the state of democracy, the rule of the people. Plato sees the democracy as the most fair, or most beautiful of the constitutions. It represents the desire of the many, and anyone can have his or her say in what is going on. Every voice is equal, so this means that anything goes. What Plato talks about is that this equality will be the downfall for the democracy, sinced they will become increasingly undisciplined and therefore chaotic. This chaotic nature will result in the people wanting someone to give them laws, order and guidelines to quiet things down and stop the chaos.

With the rise of Web 2.0 and social media some bloggers, like journalist Dan Gillmor in his book We The Media, see this as a revolution in media and Internet. Finally the people have the power, no more top-down hiërarchies but grassroots is the way to go. This is the current situation we are in, a democratic World Wide Web, or the read-write web. The people have a way of speaking their hearts out and this results in an incredible stream of information, mostly about personal thoughts, views and experiences.

What is needed, is guidance, laws and order for anyone to make sense of this massive amount of information. Someone, or something has to step up to stop the chaos. What Plato says in the Republic is this: “The excess of liberty, whether in States or individuals, seems only to pass into excess of slavery.”

Tyranny
And so tyranny naturally arises out of democracy, and the most aggravated form of tyranny and slavery out of the most extreme form of liberty? –Republic Book VIII

The tyrant will be the one that succeeds in quieting down the situation. After that, and when the people have faith in him, he establishes a new kind of government, and that is the tyranny. The state is still about desires (freedom, wealth), but these are now only the desires of the tyrant himself. In European history when can point out recent examples like Hitler and Mussolini, who made a democracy decline into a tyrrany.

I am not going to fill in all the dots here on what will happen. But I think this process is something we are working towards. Not a tyranny in the old sense of the word, with war and bloody battles, but a monopoly we help set up because we all like to use it. I will give a hint: There is more than one website that can help you order the chaos, and if we don’t start supporting other alternatives on ordering the World Wide Web we might be blinded by a single view of the World Wide Web and also of the world.

We need multiple perspectives on the world, and because of a person’s inevitable way of following the masses the freedom is now in danger. This might sound worse than I really mean it, but I hope this makes you wake up and see that there are so many lenses through which you can view the World Wide Web and we only tend to use just one. Isn’t that a shame? A waste of opportunity?

I would like to end my thoughts with one last quote from the Republic: “The people have always some champion whom they set over them and nurse into greatness. […] This and no other is the root from which a tyrant springs; when he first appears above ground he is a protector.”

Further reading and sources used
Plato. The Republic (translated by Jowett, Benjamin). Project Gutenberg Etext no. 1497. Website visited 10-16-2006, http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/1497
Ross, Kelley L. Plato’s Republic. Website visited 10-17-2006, http://www.friesian.com/plato.htm
Plato’s Complete Works. Website visited 10-16-2006, http://www.geocities.com/pharsea/Dialogues.html

Yahoo! Timecapsule: What would you like to say to the future?

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timeYahoo! launched a new subpage called Timecapsule at timecapsule.yahoo.com. Although not very popular in the Netherlands, a timecapsule can be put in the ground with some stuff you think are important to you at that time, you dig it up fifty years later and you can look back at all those memories.

Jonathan Harris, the man behind Yahoo! Timecapsule, thought this would be a great idea to try out on the web. And so we now have a digital timecapsule. Accessible to the whole world to put in their messages of Faith, Sorrow, Fun, Anger and lots more. In a personal note on the website, Harris states: “Yahoo! Time Capsule sets out to collect a portrait of the world – a single global image composed of millions of individual contributions. This time capsule is defined not by the few items a curator decides to include, but by the items submitted by every human on earth who wishes to participate.”

A few days after the start though, Michael Krumboltz from Yahoo! Timecapsule writes on the Encapsuled blog that the Anger category seemed to draw the most text submissions. Interesting stuff, because I think this Timecapsule is a reflection of a whole group of people (Yahoo! users). It’s even mass psychology maybe.

So what do we want others to think of us in 2020? Because that is when the Timecapsule will be opened, at Yahoo!’s 25th anniversary: “After 30 days, time capsule content will be saved onto a digital archive and sealed, to be opened at Yahoo! corporate headquarters in Sunnyvale, Calif. on the company’s 25th anniversary in the year 2020. In addition, copies of this content will be presented to Smithsonian Folkways Recordings archives in Washington, DC to be preserved, studied and shared with future generations.”

Written by newmw

October 13, 2006 at 6:00 pm

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