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Quotes from The Web We Have to Save

thanks to Ted for the reference

I could have commented on Ted’s Facebook post, but given the argument of the article I figured I had to bring it here. Long live the web!

The hyperlink was my currency six years ago. Stemming from the idea of the hypertext, the hyperlink provided a diversity and decentralisation that the real world lacked. The hyperlink represented the open, interconnected spirit of the world wide web — a vision that started with its inventor, Tim Berners-Lee. The hyperlink was a way to abandon centralization — all the links, lines and hierarchies — and replace them with something more distributed, a system of nodes and networks.

Blogs gave form to that spirit of decentralization: They were windows into lives you’d rarely know much about; bridges that connected different lives to each other and thereby changed them. Blogs were cafes where people exchanged diverse ideas on any and every topic you could possibly be interested in. They were Tehran’s taxicabs writ large.

….

At the same time, these social networks tend to treat native text and pictures — things that are directly posted to them — with a lot more respect than those that reside on outside web pages. One photographer friend explained to me how the images he uploads directly to Facebook receive a large number of likes, which in turn means they appear more on other people’s news feeds. On the other hand, when he posts a link to the same picture somewhere outside Facebook — his now-dusty blog, for instance — the images are much less visible to Facebook itself, and therefore get far fewer likes. The cycle reinforces itself.

The Stream now dominates the way people receive information on the web. Fewer users are directly checking dedicated webpages, instead getting fed by a never-ending flow of information that’s picked for them by complex –and secretive — algorithms.

….

Today the Stream is digital media’s dominant form of organizing information. It’s in every social network and mobile application. Since I gained my freedom, everywhere I turn I see the Stream. I guess it won’t be too long before we see news websites organize their entire content based on the same principles. The prominence of the Stream today doesn’t just make vast chunks of the Internet biased against quality — it also means a deep betrayal to the diversity that the world wide web had originally envisioned.

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From a collapse of the empire to the municipal socialists, below are few excerpts from some recent pieces that together illustrate the various scales, contradictions, and possibilities of politics in the US.

The Biggest Threat to America’s Future Is … America, by John Cassidy
http://www.newyorker.com/news/john-cassidy/the-biggest-threat-to-americas-future-is-america

Today, however, it is hard to make the argument that the U.S. political system is serving the country well. With heightened competition and new global challenges, such as the rise of China, the United States badly needs to acknowledge the new realities and improve its game. Despite the country’s enduring economic strength, its conception of its role in the world is outmoded, its infrastructure is crumbling, and its test scores are lagging in math and other areas, despite its impressive performance in cutting-edge research. At the very least, it needs to preserve some of its old techniques of maintaining power, including fostering institutions through which it can exercise “soft power” and serving as a magnet for talented and hard-working immigrants, who provide it with invaluable skills and entrepreneurship.

Rather than accomplishing any of these things, Washington seems to be trapped in a never-ending back and forth, in which sloganeering substitutes for analysis and political point-scoring is elevated above policymaking. It’s a dismal spectacle, and if it goes on indefinitely it will exact an increasingly high price. Not the sudden collapse of Pax Americana, perhaps, but the gradual undermining of it.

Is a New Political System Emerging in This Country? by Tom Engelhardt
http://billmoyers.com/2015/03/25/new-american-order/

Otherwise, a moment of increasing extremity has also been a moment of — to use Fraser’s word — “acquiescence.” Someday, we’ll assumedly understand far better how this all came to be. In the meantime, let me be as clear as I can be about something that seems murky indeed: this period doesn’t represent a version, no matter how perverse or extreme, of politics as usual; nor is the 2016 campaign an election as usual; nor are we experiencing Washington as usual.  Put together our one percent elections, the privatization of our government, the de-legitimization of Congress and the presidency, as well as the empowerment of the national security state and the US military and add in the demobilization of the American public (in the name of protecting us from terrorism) and you have something like a new ballgame.

While significant planning has been involved in all of this, there may be no ruling pattern or design. Much of it may be happening in a purely seat-of-the-pants fashion. In response, there has been no urge to officially declare that something new is afoot, let alone convene a new constitutional convention. Still, don’t for a second think that the American political system isn’t being rewritten on the run by interested parties in Congress, our present crop of billionaires, corporate interests, lobbyists, the Pentagon and the officials of the national security state.

Out of the chaos of this prolonged moment and inside the shell of the old system, a new culture, a new kind of politics, a new kind of governance is being born right before our eyes. Call it what you want. But call it something. Stop pretending it’s not happening.

Want to Rebuild the Left? Take Socialism Seriously, by Kshama Sawant
http://www.thenation.com/article/198425/socialist-politics-heart-rebuilding-left#

After receiving one of the highest votes for a socialist candidate in decades, I ran again in 2013 for the Seattle City Council. Once again, my campaign made bold anticorporate demands—for rent control, a “millionaires’ tax” to fully fund social services, and a citywide $15 minimum wage. Running independently as a Socialist Alternative candidate helped me tap into voters’ anger at the status quo of corporate politics. In Seattle, the council members pay themselves $120,000 a year, the second-highest council salary among the nation’s forty largest cities. I accepted no corporate donations and pledged to take only the average Seattle worker’s wage of $40,000. I also promised to use the rest of my salary to help build social movements.

….

A few weeks after my election, Socialist Alternative and I launched 15 Now, the grassroots campaign that worked with the Seattle labor movement to build support for a $15 minimum wage. Last April, after three months of intense campaigning and movement-building with a citywide network of neighborhood groups, 15 Now filed a “charter amendment.” Business leaders, fearing that the ballot measure could end up being passed as a voter referendum in November, decided to limit their losses by crafting a weaker $15-per-hour ordinance—and then fought to undercut that with loopholes.

The loopholes (including a longer phase-in period, a tip credit, and subminimum wages for teens and persons with disabilities) reflected the strength of the corporate counteroffensive to our movement’s efforts and the complicity of the Democratic Party. But the final result will be a $3 billion transfer of wealth over ten years from corporations to Seattle’s 100,000 lowest-paid workers.

All of these gains are only a taste of the fundamental change we need. While successfully defending low-income housing was a victory, we also need to build thousands more units. While raising funds for social services is a real step forward, we need tens of millions more just to address critical needs. Genuine socialism means planning the entire society and economy on a rational, democratic and sustainable basis—delivering a high standard of living to all while protecting the environment.

Any attempt to develop socialist municipal policies will inevitably come up against resource and technological constraints, as well as political attacks from outside the locality. This can even be seen in the fight for the $15 minimum wage, when Seattle’s victory was immediately threatened by potential statewide initiatives aimed at outlawing local minimum-wage laws. Socialists can overcome these challenges by drawing strength from the interdependence of working people nationally and internationally.

Randall continues to find the good stuff…

Lebenskünstler

Bethel’s Free University Re-Imagines Education, Unites Community

[Bethel is the town immediately north of mine. Its population is approx. 2000]

The town of Bethel is about to start its second year of Bethel University, a pop-up community school that offers a wide variety of free classes open to anyone, Bethel resident or beyond.

Stone says the creation of Bethel University was “a long and winding path,” but that after Tropical Storm Irene, the community wanted to live in a different kind of place, one where neighbors were familiar and supportive.

Stone’s involvement in Bethel University stems from Tropical Storm Irene as well. “When Irene hit, it took us several days to realize how bad the damage was in town. And that was a real wake-up call for me, to say, I really [should] know that someone’s house was swept down river a half mile from my…

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Jaron Lanier is definitely one of the more popular tech gurus. In the video embedded above he discusses his recent book Who Owns the Future. The book takes very broad strokes at discussing the computational dimensions of the political economy in the early 21st century. In the most general sense, his argument is about what an updated version of the labor movement within the digital era might look like. Central to his argument, are several key ideas:

Siren Servers – Behind every large company or political project, you’ll quickly find a super computer. Within the commercial context, the siren server’s primary function is to calculate market variables in order to maximize profit and externalize risk. In Lanier’s view, siren servers are central to the concentration of economic and political power, and the erosion of livable wages, and stable jobs.

Levees – Historically, the labour movement, unions, tenure, etc, have functioned as “levees” regulating the market and protecting middle and working class interests. Building off the notion that free-markets are not so free, but in fact require regulations to function, Lanier asks how do we create digital levees to protect the economic interests of the general population?

User Data Compensation – Lanier argues that if corporations are going to collect user data and profit from it, then users should be compensated for their data. This is one of the key concepts he proposes as a possible levee. He presents this notion of paid-for data and content in contrast his longtime involvement in the open source and free software movement, which in his view has failed, insofar as it has been instrumental in helping to birth siren servers.

Who Owns the Future is a quick-lucid-fun read, but there some shortcoming to his argument. While the notion of user data compensation (or micro-exchanges within the internet) is a provocative one, it isn’t the magic levee he hopes it to be. Social media is one of the domains where he proposes such a system of micro-exchanges would promote economic distribution, but other researchers have looked into this possibility with FaceBook, and concluded that such compensation would come to roughly $50/year for each user. While most people wouldn’t turn down fifty bucks, it’s hardly going to roll back the economic losses that neoliberal policies have ushered in.

Lanier is a captivating speaker (I recently had the opportunity to see him speak, and play music, at UCLA), but from his live lecture it became clear that his argument is largely grounded in a libertarian notion of a self-regulating market. As he put it, these digital levees would transition digital capitalism towards being inherently more equitable in the distribution of resources. That is to say, he privileges the notion of technical innovation over state regulation. Such a distinction is fuzzy at best, and in the context of a longer post would lead to the topic of Values in Design, or how certain cultural and economic ideals are built into systems and architectures.

reposted from fibreculture journal

Ippolita
Italy

Geert Lovink
University of Amsterdam

Ned Rossiter
University of Nottingham, Ningbo

0.

The internet turns out to be neither the problem nor the solution for the global recession. As an indifferent bystander it doesn’t lend itself easily as a revolutionary tool. The virtual has become the everyday. The New Deal is presented as green, not digital. The digital is a given. This low-key position presents an opportunity to rethink the Web 2.0 hype. How might we understand our political, emotional and social involvement in internet culture over the next few years?

1.

News media is awash with ‘economic crisis’, indulging in its self-generated spectacle of financial meltdown. Experts are mobilised, but only to produce the drama of dissensus. Programmed disagreement is the consensus of daily news. Crisis, after all, is the condition of possibility for capitalism. Unlike the dotcom crash in 2000-2001, when the collapse of high-tech stocks fueled the global recession, the internet has so far managed to stay out of the blame game. Web 2.0 only suffers mild side effects from the odd collection of platforms and services, from Google to Wikipedia,PhotobucketCraigslistMySpaceFacebookTwitterHabbo and so-called regional players such as Baidu and51.com. Despite its benign existence, there still is hyper-growth wherever you look. Web 2.0 applications and platforms remain ‘new’ but show a tendency to get lost inside the boring, stressful and uncertain working life of the connected billions.

2.

Social networks are technologies of entertainment and diffusion. The social reality they create is real, but as a technology of immediacy you can’t get no satisfaction. We initially love them for their distraction from the torture of now-time. Networking sites are social drugs for those in need of the Human that is located elsewhere in time or space. It is the pseudo Other that we are connecting to. Not the radical Other or some real Other. We systematically explore weakness and vagueness and are pressed to further enhance the exhibition of the Self. ‘I might know you (but I don’t). Do you mind knowing me?’. The pleasure principle of entertainment thus diffuses social antagonisms—how does conflict manifest within the comfort zones of social networks and their tapestries of auto-customisation? The business-minded ‘trust doctrine’ has all but eliminated the open, dirty internet forums. Most Web 2.0 are echo chambers of the same old opinions and cultural patterns. As we can all witness, they are not exactly hotbeds of alternative sub-culture. What’s new are their ‘social’ qualities: the network is the message. What’s created here is a sense or approximation of the social. Social networks register a ‘refusal of work’. But our net-time, after all, is another kind of labour. Herein lies the perversity of social networks: however radical they may be, they will always be data-mined. They are designed to be exploited. Refusal of work becomes just another form of making a buck that you never see.

3.

Social networking sites are as much fashion victims as everything else. They come and go. Their migration across space signals the enculturisation of software. While Orkut disappeared in G8 countries, it is still Big in Brazil. Is anyone still seriously investing in real estate in Second Life? What the online world needs is sustainable social relations. The moving herds that go from one server to the next merely demonstrate an impulsive grazing mentality: once the latest widgets are installed, it is time to move on. Sustainability is connected to scaleability. Here, we see lessons from the major social movements over the last 50 years. The force of accumulated social-political desires manifest, eventually, in national and global forums that permeate back into policy discourse and social practice: think March on Washington, 1963 (Black Civil Rights), Rio, 1992 (Earth Summit), Porto Alegre, 2001 (World Social Forum), Geneva and Tunis, 2003-2005 (World Summit on the Info-Society). None of these examples are exempt from critique. We note them here to signal the relationship between sustainability and scalar transformation. We are familiar with formats such as barcamps, unconferencing and have participated in DIY techno-workshops at those seasonal media arts festivals. But these are hardly instances of sustainability. Their temporality of tinkering is governed by the duration of the event. True, there is occasionally resonance back in the local hack-lab, but such practices are exclusive to techno-secret societies, not the networked masses. Social networking sites are remarkable for their capacity to scale. Their weakness is their seeming incapacity to effect political change in any substantive way. The valorisation of citizen-journalism is not the same as radical intervention, and is better understood as symptomatic of the structural logic of outsourcing media production and election campaign management.

4.

From social to socialism is a small step for humankind ­ but a big step for the Western subject. What makes the social attractive, and socialism so old school and boring? What is the social anyway? We have to be aware that such postmodern academic language games do not deepen our understanding of the issues, nor widen our political fantasies. We need imagination, but only if it illuminates concepts that transform concrete conditions. The resurrection of the social after its disappearance is not an appealing slogan. Some ideas have an almost direct access to our body. Others remain dead. This in particular counts for insider jargon such as rent, multitude, common, commons and communism. There’s a compulsion to self-referentiality here that’s not so different from the narcissistic default of so many blogs. What, then, are the collective concepts of the social networked masses? For now, they are engineered from the top-down by the corporate programmers, or they are outsourced to the world of widgets. Tag, Connect, Friend, Link, Share, Tweet. These are not terms that signal any form of collective intelligence, creativity or networked socialism. They are directives from the Central Software Committee. «Participation» in «social networks» will no longer work, if it ever did, as the magic recipe to transform tired and boring individuals into cool members of the mythological Collective Intelligence. If you’re not an interesting individual, your participation is not really interesting. Data clouds, after all, are clouds: they fade away. Better social networks are organized networks involving better individuals—it’s your responsibility, it’s your time. What is needed is an invention of social network software where everybody is a concept designer. Let’s kill the click and unleash a thousand million tiny tinkerers!

5.

We are addicted to ghettoes, and in so doing refuse the antagonism of ‘the political’. Where is the enemy? Not onFacebook, where you can only have ‘friends’. What Web 2.0 lacks is the technique of antagonistic linkage. Instead, we are confronted with the Tyranny of Positive Energy. Life only consists of uplifting experiences. Depression is not a design principle. Wikipedia‘s reliance on ‘good faith’ and its policing of protocols quite frequently make for a depressing experience in the face of an absence of singular style. There ain’t no ‘neutral point of view’. This software design principle merely reproduces the One Belief System. Formats need to be transformed if they are going to accommodate the plurality of expression of networked life. Templates function as zones of exclusion. But strangely, they also exclude the conflict of the border. The virus is the closest thing to conflict online. But viruses work in invisible ways and function as a generator of service labour for the computer nerd who comes in and cleans your computer.

6.

The critique of simulation falls short here. There is nothing ‘false’ about the virtuality of social networking sites. They are about as real it gets these days. Stability accumulates for those hooked to networks. Things just keep expanding. More requests. More friends. More time for social-time. With the closure of factories comes the opening of data-mines. Privacy is so empty of curiosity that we are compelled to slap it on our Wall for all to see. If we are lucky, a Friend refurbishes it with a comment. And if you are feeling cheeky, then Throw A Sheep! You would be hard-pressed to notice any substantive change. But you will be required to do never-ending maintenance work to manage all your data feeds and updates. That’ll subtract a bit of time from your daily routine.

7.

The Network will not be Revolutionized. What does this mean for Indymedia 2.0? The question of why indymedia.orgfailed and did not further develop into an active and open social networking site or clearly take up a position in the Web 2.0 debate is something that needs to be addressed (see the nettime debate of May 2009). Have media activists already learnt enough of the Brechtian Indymedia Lehrstueck that started in the late nineties? Is global branding and branching, as in the case of Indymedia (one name, often similar design, sharing of servers, some syndication of content, etc.), still as important as it used to be? Indymedia met the challenge of scaleability in amazing ways only to discover its limits. Contamination seems key for transnational social-political networks. As do regular face-to-face meetings. Let your network connect with the concrete and adaptation and transformation will undoubtedly kick in. Then try reconnecting across networks (and other institutional and organizational forms) on the global scale. Conflict will already have multiplied and the primary condition of sustainability will be underway.

8.

Web 2.0 is not for free. ‘Free as in free beer’ is not like ‘free as in freedom’. Open does not equal free. These days ‘free’ is just another word for service economies. The linux fiefdom know that all too well. We need to question naïve campaigns that merely promote ‘free culture’ without questioning the underlying parasitic economy and the ‘deprofessionalization’ of cultural work. Pervasive profiling is the cost of this opening to ‘free market values’. As users and prosumers we are limited by our capacity as data producers. Our tastes and preferences, our opinions and movements are the market price to pay. At present, Facebook‘s voluntary and enthusiastic auto-filing system on a mass scale represents the high point of this strategy. But we cannot succumb to the control paranoia and to the logic of fear. Let’s inject more kaos in it! So what if you have your anti-whatever Facebook group? What does it change other than expanding your number of friends? Is deleting the radical gesture of 2009? Why not come up a more subversive and funny, anti-cyclical act? Are you also looking for rebel tactical tools?

9.

Soon the Web 2.0 business model will be obsolete. It is based on the endless growth principle, pushed by the endless growth of consumerism. The business model still echoes the silly 90s dotcom model: if growth stagnates, it means the venture has failed and needs to be closed down. Seamless growth of customised advertising is the fuel of this form of capitalism, decentralized by the user-prosumer. Mental environment pollution is parallel to natural environment pollution. But our world is finished (limited). We have to start elaborating appropriate technologies for a finite world. There is no exteriority, no other worlds (second, third, fourth worlds) where we can dump the collateral effects of insane development. We know that Progress is a bloodthirsty god that extracts a heavy human sacrifice. A good end cannot justify a bad means. On the contrary, technologies are means that have to justify the end of collective freedom. No sacrifice will be tolerated: martyrs are not welcome. Neither are heroes.

10.

‘Better a complex identity than an identity complex’. We need to promote peer-education that shifts the default culture of auto-formation to the nihilist pleasure of hacking the system. Personal exhibition on Web 2.0 social networks resembles the discovery of sexuality. Anxiety over masturbation meets digital narcissism (obsessive touching up of personal profiles) and digital voyeurism (compulsive viewing of other’s profiles, their list of friends, secrets, etc.). To avoid the double trap of blind technophilia and luddite technophobia, we have to develop complex digital identities. They have to answer to individual desires and satisfy multiple needs. Open-ID are a good starting point. ‘Steal my profile’. It’s time to remix identity. Anonymity is a good alternative to the pressures of the control society, but there must be alternatives on offer. One strategy could be to make the one (‘real’) identity more complex and, where possible, contradictory. But whatever your identify might be, it will always be harvested. If you must participate in the accumulation economy for those in control of the data mines, then the least you can do is Fake Your Persona.

Authors’ Biographies

Ippolita is an Italian Collective.

Geert Lovink is a Research Professor of Interactive Media at the Hogeschool van Amsterdam (HvA) and an Associate Professor of New Media at the University of Amsterdam (UvA). Lovink is the founding director of the Institute of Network Cultures, whose goals are to explore, document and feed the potential for socio-economical change of the new media field through events, publications and open dialogue. He is the author of many books, including Dark FiberUncanny NetworksMy First Recession and Zero Comments: Blogging and Critical Internet Studies.

Ned Rossiter is Associate Professor of Network Cultures, University of Nottingham, Ningbo, China and Adjunct Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Cultural Research, University of Western Sydney, Australia. He is author of Organized Networks: Media Theory, Creative Labour, New Institutions (2006) and co-editor of numerous volumes, including (with Geert Lovink) MyCreativity Reader: A Critique of Creative Industries (2007).

reposted from laughingsquid

how-fast-could-you-travel-across-the-us-in-the-1800s

This map from the Atlas of the Historical Geography of the United States (1932) shows how long it took to travel across the United States in 1800, with a starting point in New York City. For example, New York City to New Orleans took about four weeks. By comparison, the map below shows rates of travel in 1930, when railroads allowed travelers to cross the country in about 4 days. For more maps, check out Mother Nature Network.

how-fast-could-you-travel-across-the-us-in-the-1800s-1

reposted from: occupyeverything & 

“Participation — that loathsome term bantered about by the neoliberal ideologues of the mainstream artworld — may describe one aspect of the empathetic but anonymous community that has coalesced around aaaaarg, but completely fails to address why we use it, and how. Not as participants nor as mere readers, but as users. And though the collective noun “usership” remains dramatically undertheorized — indeed the word itself, though immediately understandable, has not been ratified by those indexes of expert culture called dictionaries — aaaaarg itself has, here and there in its vast, user-uploaded archive, contains some compelling resources to help better grasp the philosophical underpinnings of the concept and to unpack some of the implications of a politics of usership. Of course there is no “proper” way to use aaaaarg; usership is an inherently restive and unpredictable category, meaning that the word for alleged misuse is simply actual, factual use. A tremendous amount of latitude exists between existent infrastructures, services, rules and dispositives and the countless uses to which they are put. If one were to define the premises of an emancipated usership, it could be said that a kind of reflexive poaching supersedes faithfulness and obedience. These contents are proposed in that spirit, and hopefully, in sorting and repurposing the contents of aaaaarg around usership, usefully instantiating usership while taking a first stab at shoring up the concept.”

http://occupyeverything.org/2011/contents-1-usership/