Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Suburbia fights back

BBC Article: Suburbia fights back. In ligth of recent lcoal discussions about Park and Ride schemes, has now got me thinking about traffic flow. Park and Ride is all about getting into the city centre. What choices do I have to get out for the day?

To Be or not to Be?

At first, I thought that our society has created a stigma between having and not having. I guess, this comes out of the idea of the "Haves and the Have-Nots" that regularly gets thrown about in the politico-media circles. The problem with this is that the logic is circular - by acknowledging that a gap exists between the Haves and the Have-nots, we assume that Having is Good, and that Not Having is Bad. In other words, we say there's a problem, because we see that there's a problem.

OK, maybe that's belittling a serious situation a bit. There is a gap here, or rather, there are 2 - 1 of which is serious, and 1 of which is artificially inflated. It's important to recognise first that some things can often be classed as "fundamentals". It is these things that we should be saying the Have Nots are lacking - clean water supplies, various freedoms, access to health and education, et al. But the problem arises when we equate "not having" with the idea of not having luxuries. Fair enough, a lot of the time people that use the phrase do so in good faith, for relevant purposes. But at the same time, by simplifying the situation into such a simple idea, I think we also rapidly blur the boundaries between what's necessary and what's not. Without sensible discussion, I think that the idea of a gap can be perceived almost as a definition of class, with those using the phrase subconsciously aware of some kind of "superiority".

And this, I think, is where the phrase falls down. On the wrong side of this blurry line, a side adhered to through unconscious social instinct more than venom or malice, the idea of "not having" is equated with the idea of "not being" - partially, I would say, a result of the psycho-commercial nature of Western business and economy. We are brought up to think that success involves material goods, to the point where we judge ourselves by our financial situation and our posessions. Our ability to "be someone" is intrinsically tied in to our wealth, and manifests as what we can achieve as a result of it.

(As a side note, perhaps to be chased up later, it may be worth mentioning then that measuring the flow of money as an economical indicator or "prosperity" may actually be upside down. If spending money can be considered not a sign of how much money you have, but how much money you feel like you are expected to spend, then countries with greater private sector flow could be considered less healthy "emotionally". Perhaps.)

So, to recap, the phrase "haves and have-nots" covers more ground than it intends to, "accidentally". In fact, there is a second danger that we are simultaneously creating - the idea of the "Be's and the Be-not's". In some ways, this labelling is even more dangerous than the original, as it confronts our idea of not just of how we live, but literally who we are. It is the bastion between the space around us and the space within us. "They can take our land ... but they can never take our freedom!" .. or can they? Who's in charge of this finger pointing? Who stands to benefit? How do I know that what's expected of me is necessarily the best thing for me? These are all questions that get swept aside when the questions we're presented with and tormented with are nowhere questions.

How many fingers do you think I want you to see?

External Editor

Callooh! Callay! I have Vim in Thunderbird today! Everything is in harmony.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Evolution in the Geekwave, pt. 1.

I originally wrote the passage below before seeing this BBC article...

E-mail is the new database

...but now I figure I can tie them together in one big post.

I started thinking about Things that were useful when the geek ruled the net, but that have fallen into more "disuse" now. This post concentrates on the first of those - Formatted e-mail responses. i.e. taking the time to structure a reply to an e-mail, inserting responses where relevant, snipping irrelevant text, and adding "topic reminders" if felt necessary. I've noticed that over the last few years, generally only those that have been around the net for a while now continue to do this. Few others do.

Why is this?

People top-post. Because of 2 reasons, I think:

a. 99% of conversations are real-time, and people tend to read from the beginning and post instantly. The current state of the thread is all in their head, and replies are made in response to the last post, which is also in their head. Is there some reason why people respond to things "on the whole" as opposed to particular points one-by-one?

b. People don't think about conversations in a context outside of the one in which they're replying. They're not generally aware that people may or may not be looking at random points of the conversation in months or years to come. I think *this* may also boil down to 2 reasons:

i. People aren't used to searching through conversations. Why should they be? For most of history, it hasn't been viable to store conversations for long periods, and as such, stored (and thus searchable) documents tend to be about the facts, rather than who said what. Even today, I suspect that Google web search is used much much more than Google Groups.

ii. People's conversations tend less to be about practical information, i.e. the kind of information that people would want to refer to. You may want to find out who said what at a particular time, but not (generally) about a particular fact. Other mechanisms are generally rammed into place to otherwise keep track, more formally, of the _fact_ obtained from conversation.

So people tend not to in-line reply, as it doesn't fit in with their _contextual_ view of either the conversation, or the information within the conversation.

Do we need a different way of organising our conversations? I seem to think so. So does Phil, although I think our techniques (and goals) differ a little bit. Certainly nobody else seems particularly concerned about it, so I hereby flag it as something that'll come out of the current investments in knowledge organisation...


Blimey. Consumers find that DRM is shit for them. Whodathunkit?

We don't need no history. Today we *make* history.

BBC provide a look into something I'd ehard about ages ago... History lost in dust of war-torn Iraq:

"'US military vehicles crushed 2,600 year old brick pavements, archaeological fragments were scattered across the site, more then 12 trenches were driven into ancient deposits and military earth-moving projects contaminated the site for future generations of scientists."

Perhaps, aside from the obvious historical loss, there's a more symbolic resonance here too. Those who forget history...

Thursday, April 21, 2005

What happened to...

...Blahsploitation? I get redirected to blogger.com...

Monday, April 18, 2005

What is democracy?

An amusing, possibly-insightful look into alternatvies to democracy, from the BBC. The Canton system is the most interesting of the lot, especially as the reason "Against" is pretty spurious...

The article's also possibly too non-serious to make mention of voting reform which, I suspect, could make a difference to the ongoing, increasing apathy we have.

Personally, I figure the future will consist of a more dynamic mix of various of these. The idea of Cantons could arise sporadically (in the physical world, or in the virtual space), based on more efficient communication networks, but the system could possibly be more fluid, more flexible, such that different systems are tried more, and those which are better emerge intuitively. The trick is to keep flexibility while maintaining a sane level of inclusion and accountability - not easy.

"The democratization of academia is complete!"

Worth reading to the end of if you've ever had fun with academia:

Hoax paper fools cybernetic boffins

Oh, should probably also link to the paper generator too, for hours of fun.

Under fire

Do any other countries have this problem?

(Courtesy of JD)

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Guardian snippets

A quote to consider. Nasty incidents happen when "thinking people are crammed into an unthinking, irrational modern society". I'm inclined to agree. The quoted though? The US Libertarian National Socialist Green party, who run www.nazi.org according to this Guardian story. That's the second time in past weeks that right-wingers have had something decent to point out. Arguments are ruined by the perspectives of politics. Foucault was right, polemic sucks.

Two-thirds of world's resources 'used up'

When power means efficiency, means uniformity. Viva la difference!

Monday, April 04, 2005


Ooh, I do love it when I'm right:

Insecure Postal Voting Exposed

...He criticised the government's insistence that the current postal voting system was working, adding: "Anybody who has sat through the case I have just tried and listened to evidence of electoral fraud that would disgrace a banana republic would find this statement surprising."