Presidential elections are a circus. It’s a long race. Like little sperms reaching for the far-away egg, they are all frantically fighting for their shot at “making it”. Does anyone remember “Look who’s talking?” with John Travolta? There’s a cool scene with the blind sperms swimming up the fallopian tube; some go in the wrong direction, some swim against a wall without much success, and some get tired before reaching the goal. All are tirelessly fighting to be that sperm that gets to the egg first, the only sperm to get in- the presidential sperm.
So in this frantic attempt to gain an edge, it appears that almost all the candidates (or better said, their campaign advisers) place certain importance on web 2.0 tools. They all have blogs on their webpages, most appear on youtube.com’s Spotlight feature, and they really like to seem like they are connected with the Internet phenomenon.
They must be commended by their efforts to explore anything that will aid them in their quest and turning to web 2.0, but I must say they are missing the point. No candidate that I’ve seen thus far is actively posting on a blog, or frequently uploading videos- of themselves. Not only that, but the political rhetoric does not translate well to Web 2.0. While most renowned bloggers, those who are influencing the way blogging happens (such as Doctorow, Searls, etc), have a very open and transparent way of communicating that can be challenged by the contributors of the blog, I consider the political presence in the Web to be the traditional way of political communication:
1. Avoidance of making controversial statements that they could be held accountable for.
2. Staying on talking points.
3. And crafting a message designed to be liked by “everyone”.
That’s just not what I would consider contributing to the wealth of networks we are creating right now. However, I do think this will change if mainstream politics wants to enter this new medium, but that will require a change in campaigning itself.
The cultural manifestations of the new networked world.
I am starting to discover a certain culture that permeates the fabric of the networked world. Regardless of what group is meeting, the room is always filled with a thirst for knowledge regarding this new world and the anxious desire to make sense of this forming world in a clear way. To think of a “new collaborative networked world” as something that occurs in the Internet, or an Internet-based phenomenon may be too shallow an idea at this point.
Past Thursday I went to an Assignment Zero event in San Francisco. On the table pints of beer and around those David Cohn, from Assignment Zero, Phil Kast, co-founder of Writewith a collaborative writing tool, Frances Oman, who heard of this event through an email from a Texan friend, Sarah Cove and myself. It became eventually apparent to me that my difficulty to speak of how all our projects were part of a same phenomenon was something I shared with the rest of the group. However, the initial “difficulty” was well handled due to everyone’s interest in genuine collaboration. The conversations were centered around the offer of greater possibilities through new tools, books, experiences.
How is collaboration possible? Through transparency and accountability which generates trust between collaborators. The major questions that we explored were how we can build and use systems that will have that transparency and accountability in order to create a trusted network of collaborators in the fields of journalism, politics, etc. in order to give the user not only an offer or product they want, but something they in turn are responsible for creating.
This book has opened to me the following possibilities:
It has helped me look at our current world and see some driving forces that are in conflict. First, as Benkler calls it, the “Industrial information economy” and the “Networked Information Economy”. I can boil this down to the confrontation going on right now between Microsoft and Google, the increasingly heated debate regarding licensing with Google being a proponent of Creative Commons and Microsoft sticking to standard copyright practices. I’ve heard about it, creative commons, and its potential benefits, but in all honesty it seemed like a fringe movement, ill articulated and raw. Boy was I wrong. Benkler has an incredible powerful articulation of how this current conflict or struggle is reshaping of our cultural landscape. This is happening now, and at an accelerated rate.
We already live in a world where open source software can compete quite compentently against very well established corporations, like Microsoft for example. A loosely connected network of people collaborating with each other can create wikipedia.org, leaving Encyclopedia Britanica on the shelf collecting dust. So is the path of evolution set towards “Networked Information Economy”? It seems inevitable that the confrontations and frictions will increase, and pivotal that we change our current course.
While this power struggle exists in the big scheme, the space for action is here now, for millions of individuals and might not be here indefinitely. And whether that space continues is only dependent on us using the tools.
I just listened to a podcast by Open Source. In this podcast, they discuss the historical and current practice around copyright infringement, and claim that the tighter practice and debate of copyright has only developed in the last 20 years or so. It is an interesting discussion that you can find, along with the podcast, here.
They also brought forth a new distinction for me: plagarism versus copyright infringement. I had never differentiated between the two, but they claim that plagarism is an ethical wrong, determined by a community of artists (whether academic scholars, musicians, etc.) while copyright infringement is a legal one. There is a small intersection between the two. The example they give is if a journalist is pushed for time and stupidly grabs a column written by someone else in a copyrighted journal, puts his/her name at the top, and prints it.
There are some interesting discussions at Open Source’s site. I especially liked silvio.rabioso’s suggestions of further reading. More avenues to explore.
There is a lot of unsettlement happening right now around what is media, what is its role in a democracy, what will its role be in the future, how can interesting new spaces for journalism be constructed to expand freedom and knowledge of the world. This blog is an experiment in these conversations. And we invite you to join with us and hopefully build something valuable.