inkwell.vue.400 : State of the World 2011: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #51 of 156: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Thu 6 Jan 11 03:22
*I guess I should get all worried about the gun shows and the ammo
shortage anecdote... But that's what the US offers the world.  Guns and
ammo.  The US spends more on military gear than everybody else put
together.  The US is spending Chinese credit on military gear.  

*It doesn't seem too surprising that a nation with these habits should
be really into the produce.  It's like the Swiss and clocks, or the
French and cheese. 

*There aren't any tough, armed, right-wing militias in the US shoving
people off the sidewalk.  The US doesn't even have soccer hooligans.
The Tea Party is amazingly nonviolent, even by American political
standards.  They don't occupy buildings, they don't get teargassed,
they don't burn churches or car-bomb the opposition party.  

*Their spiritual leader is this daffy Aimee Semple McPherson creature
from Alaska -- she's not some kind of jackbooted Mussolini.  The Tea
Party is not remotely scary.  Bonkers, yeah; physically intimidating,
no way.
inkwell.vue.400 : State of the World 2011: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #52 of 156: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Thu 6 Jan 11 03:36
*The Brazilians are buying a lot of guns.  They're seriously beefing
up the Navy and the Air Force.  This Brazilian pugnacity is kinda
overlooked by leftie fans who admire their green and working-class

*The Chinese are also boosting their Navy quite a lot, but the Chinese
are in a tough neighborhood.  It's a little unclear to me who the
Brazilian Air Force is supposed to blow up.  Their worst security
problems are in the jungles and inside their own cities.  They've got
zilch to do with Mach 4 dogfights.  I confess myself a little puzzled
by this.

*It may be that they're buying this stuff just to boost their own arms
industry.  Because they do make arms -- especially cute little urban
tanks / armored cars -- and yeah, they sell plenty of 'em.  Weird
warthog-like armored cash-cars have a heavy presence in the streets of
Sao Paulo; they seem as common as fireplugs.
inkwell.vue.400 : State of the World 2011: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #53 of 156: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 6 Jan 11 04:33
Two big shows in the U.S.: Congress is in session, and the 2011
Consumer Electronics Show is under way. It's debatable which of these
two should or will get the most attention. Congress is full of Tea
Party newbies all full of worldchanging piss and vinegar, convinced
that they can fix government by pruning budgets and programs, not quite
realizing yet how constrained is their power, and that the grand old
party they're in bed with drinks 'way too much, and wets the bed every

Meanwhile CES opened with a speech by Microsoft's Steve Ballmer, who
was focused on selling "interactive entertainment," what we used to
call games, via Xbox 360, Xbox Live, and Kinect, which "have made 2010
the best in our history." Ron Forbes followed, addressing the pressing
questions du jour, like "when is Xbox gonna support Netflix and Hulu
Plus?" Netflix is offering unlimited streaming movies and television
shows at $7.99 per month, diverting the mass audience from broadcast
and cable television to a commercial-free environment where you can
stream content 24/7 on demand. You can potentially be wired to content
and games every minute of the day, insulated from the world at large,
without thinking a single unique thought of your own. Welcome home,

On the other hand, many are also wired to partisan news channels,
drive-by conversations on TWitter and Facebook, short form digital
video from YouTube et al.  There's a f2f social culture evolving, too -
meetups, events, and parties coordinated online, feeling like crowds
though often only 30-40 people here and there. Freelancers who
otherwise have nothing in common share coworking spaces where
everybody's some variation of web developer or social marketing maven.
Elsewhere in academic and incubation environments entrepeneurs are
scratching their niches, looking for new ideas, new games, new forms of
media, new ways to source and package energy... something that will
sell in a world where pockets once heavy with coin are feeling drained.

It's all so fragmented.

The monkeys in our heads are rattled, they're bouncing and swinging
out of control. Streams of thought block awareness of the moment. We're
somnambulists in a world of persistent dreams that are not necessarily
our own. The voices in our heads are not inherently our own, and not
inherently friendly. And there are so many of them.

This is timely: "There is a growing mountain of research. But there is
increased evidence that we are being bogged down today as
specialization extends. The investigator is staggered by the findings
and conclusions of thousands of other workers—conclusions that he
cannot find time to grasp, much less to remember, as they appear. Yet
specialization becomes increasingly necessary for progress, and the
effort to bridge between disciplines is correspondingly superficial."

Oh, wait - that was Vannevar Bush in 1945.
inkwell.vue.400 : State of the World 2011: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #54 of 156: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 6 Jan 11 04:40
"If a man reasons and thinks soundly, no matter what path he follows
in solving these problems, he must inevitably arrive back at himself,
and begin with the problem of what he is himself and what his place is
in the world around him." - George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff

"You are perfect as you are, and you could use a little work." -
Shunryu Suzuki-Roshi
inkwell.vue.400 : State of the World 2011: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #55 of 156: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 6 Jan 11 04:54
Two comments from Julian Bond, via Facebook:

Bruce: "We can take some comfort in discussing the State of the World,
rather than the state of the USA." Well said. This is something that
bothers me every year when the discussion starts global but frequently
ends up being about the USA. Given that it's an American (living in
Belgrade) talking to an American (living in SF) with an au...dience of
mostly Americans I guess this is not so surprising. It irks though
because the English language internet is so dominated by US websites,
people and thinking that I look forward to some truly global thinking
in these discussions.

Bruce: "Now the Europeans really do seem to be acting old". As a Brit
I have to think twice about what you are referring to. But then I
remember that Britain is not really in Europe. ;) We've been so
cosmopolitan for so long that institutionalised racism seems a minor
issue compared with other European countries. And we didn't quite
succumb to the state sponsored, job for life, pension forever mindset
that actively discourages entrepreneurs in a sea of bureaucracy. Of
course we have our own problems and had a huge hand to play in the
banking meltdown. It's not all good, just different.
inkwell.vue.400 : State of the World 2011: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #56 of 156: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Thu 6 Jan 11 05:05
*Yeah man, iPad Surface Kinect Android!

*It's great to have outlived the era of the "personal computer."  I
don't know anybody whose computer has an airgap and is entirely
"personal."  Even if this mythical guy existed, how would I ever learn
about him?

*Lately I've been reading (of all things) Isaac D'Israeli's
CURIOSITIES OF LITERATURE.  Super-geeky lit-blogger guy, our Mr.
D'Israeli.  It's pretty clear that he was overwhelmed by the bulk of
the world's intellectual minutiae a full century before Vannevar Bush.
inkwell.vue.400 : State of the World 2011: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #57 of 156: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 6 Jan 11 05:49
Cliff Collard was telling me yesterday that a single iPhone is more
powerful than the combination of all the Apple IIes that were produced.

Here's the Project Gutenberg link for D'Israeli's work:

I can relate to D'Israeli, as described by his son:

"He was himself a complete literary character, a man who really passed
his life in his library. Even marriage produced no change in these
habits; he rose to enter the chamber where he lived alone with his
books, and at night his lamp was ever lit within the same walls.
Nothing, indeed, was more remarkable than the isolation of this
prolonged existence; and it could only be accounted for by the united
influence of three causes: his birth, which brought him no relations or
family acquaintance; the bent of his disposition; and the circumstance
of his inheriting an independent fortune, which rendered unnecessary
those exertions that would have broken up his self-reliance. He
disliked business, and he never required relaxation; he was absorbed in
his pursuits. In London his only amusement was to ramble among
booksellers; if he entered a club, it was only to go into the library.
In the country, he scarcely ever left his room but to saunter in
abstraction upon a terrace; muse over a chapter, or coin a sentence. He
had not a single passion or prejudice: all his convictions were the
result of his own studies, and were often opposed to the impressions
which he had early imbibed. He not only never entered into the politics
of the day, but he could never understand them. He never was connected
with any particular body or set of men; comrades of school or college,
or confederates in that public life which, in England, is, perhaps,
the only foundation of real friendship. In the consideration of a
question, his mind was quite undisturbed by traditionary
preconceptions; and it was this exemption from passion and prejudice
which, although his intelligence was naturally somewhat too ingenious
and fanciful for the conduct of close argument, enabled him, in
investigation, often to show many of the highest attributes of the
judicial mind, and particularly to sum up evidence with singular
happiness and ability."
inkwell.vue.400 : State of the World 2011: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #58 of 156: Engaged, confused and self-righteous (robertflink) Thu 6 Jan 11 06:24
>He not only never entered into the politics of the day, but he could
never understand them.<

When shall we again have such leaders?
inkwell.vue.400 : State of the World 2011: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #59 of 156: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Thu 6 Jan 11 09:11
Isaac D'Israeli wasn't a political leader, just the father of one.  My
guess was that the guy was an undiagnosed Asperger's case.

But this book of his is the product of all that fetishistic reading
(in four or five languages).  And it's not lit-crit, it's just the
"curiosities"-- the freaky stuff.  Poe read the book. Hawthorne read
it.  It's scarcely a "book" at all, it's more like some primer for
erudite dandyism.

Obviously it's got nothing at all to do with the State of the World in
2011, but it sure makes reading a Twitter stream a lot more
approachable.  Plus, it's chock-full of off-the-wall anecdotes I never
heard of, and many are by no means "literary."

One of the most interesting parts of it is hearing D'Israeli
gossipping about the freaky habits of dropout bookworms who are much,
much weirder than he is.  For instance, there's a pen-portrait of the
Librarian of the Grand Duke of Tuscany, and the guy is basically a
mole.  Lives in narrow tunnels of books, sleeps on books, eats on
books.  Knows the location of every book crammed in his mansion through
some kind of geek radar.  

I'd been meaning to read this book for ages...  then got it off Google
Book Scan.  Of course.
inkwell.vue.400 : State of the World 2011: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #60 of 156: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Thu 6 Jan 11 09:21
One can moan about the difficulty of keeping up with current events,
but then there's the past.  There can only be more and more past. How
can anyone keep the assorted doings of humanity straight in their head?
 It's like a vast heap of detritus struck by earthquakes.

It's agonizing to hear D'Israeli referring offhandedly to
hugely-famous period figures who are almost completely forgotten now. 
Famous preachers.  Romance novelists.  "The famous philosopher Bayle,
who died so nobly..." At one point D'Israeli refers offhandedly to
knowing Byron, and it's obvious that Byron is some kind of annoying
young punk -- the kind of writer you're better off not hearing about.
inkwell.vue.400 : State of the World 2011: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #61 of 156: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Thu 6 Jan 11 09:36
This is what it once used to mean to be "literary," as D'Israeli
points out.

"We, count and senator, for us and our College, declare Francis
Petrarch great poet and historian, and for a special mark of his
quality as a poet, we have placed with our hands on his head a CROWN OF
LAUREL, granting to him, by tenor of these presents, and by the
authority of King Robert, of the Senate and People of Rome, in the
poetic, as well as in the historic art, and generally in whatever
relates to said arts, as well in this holy city and elsewhere, the free
and entire power of reading, disputing, and interpreting all ancient
books, to make new ones, and to compose poems, which, God assisting,
shall endure from age to age."

Petrarch's composed poems are in pretty good condition in this remote
age, but the idea of some aristocrat putting some leaves on your head
so that you have "the free and entire power" to read books in some
town...  Well, I guess that's even more freakily archaic than using
carbon paper in a manual typewriter. Although, not by a lot.

D'Israeli says that the pleasant custom of crowning Poets Laureate
with Laurel died out, basically because of grade inflation.  Laurel was
pretty cheap as foliage went, so pretty soon every passing blog
commenter wanted a crown of his own.  Then, nobody did.

A lot of the curious guys in this book are martyrs to capital-L
Literature, and they're dying for something vast and slow and powerful,
 that bears very little resemblance to anything that modern writers
inkwell.vue.400 : State of the World 2011: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #62 of 156: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 6 Jan 11 12:53
When blogs appeared, many decried the low quality and trivial focus of
much of the writing, but I was blown away by how many really good
writers broke surface, absent the print world's barriers to
publication. Pre-web, we saw zines and small book publishers churning
out an unprecedented massive flow of interesting if not great writing,
much of which moved to the web as webzines and blogs started to appear
and get traction. At this point I'm not sure how I feel about this
explosion of valuable content. They say cream rises, but if there's a
real glut of cream, you can be drowning in it. And it's as if the
literary world has no shape... a mass of erudite prose has splattered
against the face of the world, Sherwin Williams-style ... how do you
sort it out? 
inkwell.vue.400 : State of the World 2011: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #63 of 156: Ted Newcomb (tcn) Thu 6 Jan 11 13:43
Well there's the tools: filters,feeds,aggregators,scrapers,search
engines,networks,subscriptions,etc. and who know's what's next? All
part of our new digital learning experience. Little late in the day for
someone as old as me, but I'm taking an online class from Howard
Rheingold in order to learn how it all works and how to make it work
for me.

I'm just going to focus on one or two areas of interest to concentrate
on and rely on the curation and collaboration of others. Twitterstream
helps out there and I'm sure more sites will come. Quroa is already
taking off from Twitter.

It's like being let loose in a candy shop - have to resist the urge to
have it all, or you just get sick.

So, in an interesting way all this info overload may well help us all
become more inter-dependent on one another. Worth a shot! Nothing else
is working.
inkwell.vue.400 : State of the World 2011: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #64 of 156: gmoke (gmokecamb) Thu 6 Jan 11 16:54
Bill McKibben is mulling the idea of an ongoing global brainstorm on
local, practical climate change solutions and adaptations.  Something
like that is inevitable if only through such organizations as ICLEI on
a municipal level.

Congress is getting all the press and I'm not seeing a lot of coverage
of the CES this year.  Even on boingboing, this year's edition seems
to be getting mostly yawns.  Maybe this is a technological plateau
before the next ascension to a whole nother level.

It does seem as if we are living in a cover band world.  The Tea Party
Congress bids fair to be a rerun of the Contract Congress.  Hopefully,
that means there will be an Obama boom the way there was a Clinton
boom.  But let's skip the blue dresses and semen stains this time
around please.

I wonder when Bruce is going to head East and report on China, South
Korea, India, Indonesia, and Japan.  In a Viridian flashback, it might
be good to visit Australia as well.
inkwell.vue.400 : State of the World 2011: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #65 of 156: Brian Slesinsky (bslesins) Thu 6 Jan 11 19:41
Ran across this today:

"But the web is not just some kind of magic all-absorbing meta-medium.
It's its own thing. And like other media it has a question that it
answers better than any other. That question is:

  Why wasn't I consulted?

I'm wondering if online social gadgets are going to go out of fashion
in 2011.
inkwell.vue.400 : State of the World 2011: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #66 of 156: bill braasch (bbraasch) Thu 6 Jan 11 19:51
I'm seeing more texting, as little phone as necessary and occasional posts
to Facebook, mostly travel or event photography, as the social media of the
twentysomethings around here (Oakland / San Francisco).

Mafia Wars, Farmville etc. are for the parents to play 'on break', I
suppose.  I read last week that Mafia Wars is now a prison game played on
smuggled in phones.  What's to lose if you're already in the joint?

My son says they broke Facebook when they let us on.  Thus we have texting.
inkwell.vue.400 : State of the World 2011: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #67 of 156: Ted Newcomb (tcn) Thu 6 Jan 11 20:02
I get that from my kids too. They don't even answer their phone
anymore, just text and use mobile and rarely use the Internet.
inkwell.vue.400 : State of the World 2011: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #68 of 156: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Fri 7 Jan 11 02:14
"Abundance breaks more things than scarcity," as Clay Shirky once
abundantly said.

I used to be  involved in the paper fanzine scene, so I was never much
daunted by the supposed  "barriers to entry" in publishing.   If you
ever read a "slush pile" for a traditional publisher, you became
instantly aware that there were legions of people writing -- even
intelligent and hard-working people -- whose writing just didn't
deserve any attention from publishers.  It was no use making that stuff
widely public,  because only twenty people would read it -- and they'd
be the guy's relatives, who would think, "Wow, my cousin, the
published writer!"

Now we got blogs (for the time bein).  The "writing" there is not what
blogs have ever been about.  The writing doesn't much matter in blogs;
the blogging matters.  

The writing in my own blog isn't much good.  My blog's 'writing"
consists mostly of  wisecracks, sarcastic complaints and You Go Girl. 
It's the LINKING that is important in a blog, not the "writing".  The
screen-size snippets of  prose are in a supportive position to the work
of the blog as an entity on the Internet.

Nobody goes to my blog to read Bruce Sterling's sparkling prose.  They
just whip through the updated torrent of eldritch curiosities there. 
"My cousin the Augmented Reality guy."  "My cousin the Design Fiction
guy."  Nobody reads all of it; my blog is like a cigar-box full of
pinned, still-living bugs.   If  they find something hip they haven't
heard about, then they click on that and vanish.  

Sometimes they link back to it.  

If I stopped performing that blog, everything in it would swiftly
linkrot and die.  Nobody's gonna read that blog in 20 years, although I
wrote books 20 years ago that are still read.
inkwell.vue.400 : State of the World 2011: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #69 of 156: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Fri 7 Jan 11 02:20

As blogging has grown older and the bandwidth has increased, more and
more  blogs are non-textual, ever less writerly.  In theory, my blog
could become a "vlog" where I don't type one word, but just stare into
the laptop camera and deliver the parenthetical wisecracks as literal
offhand remarks.  It could be a podcast, or a Tumblr.  With some work I
could probably shoehorn my blog into my FlickR set.

Here's a great modern blog.  It's all about a young, hip Jewish woman
in New York dressing up and talking about her clothes.  It's
hysterically funny, and utterly beloved by its readers, and it could
never have existed in any analog medium.

Even the fashion magazine press loves this young woman; they hire her
to write,  sometimes.  She's indeed a pretty good "writer," but without
the pictures of the clothes and the links to her daily adventures,
there's nothing much there.  The text alone could never sustain that
scene she has created.
inkwell.vue.400 : State of the World 2011: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #70 of 156: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Fri 7 Jan 11 02:22
The bigger blogs are struggling hard to destroy their original format
now.  It's no longer about a democratic voice for the lonely
pamphleteer shut out by analog publishing.  Nobody cares about that,
that is over.

For Gawker, it's about the optimal "post-blog" as an aggregated
branding vehicle.

Gawker is trying hard to saw off the ladder rungs under them, and to
act more like a feisty TV network.   That's all about creating NEW
barriers to entry, where Joe Blogger can't get a word-in because Gawker
has a professional skill-set and a uniquely designed interface... 
It's a platform for post-blog expression, a platform, like Facebook or
Twitter or maybe Fox News.  Once you control the platform, the
"writing" takes care of itself.  

Nobody seeks out the "great writing" on Facebook pages.    There's
never been a literary MySpace anthology.  "The Best-Written Blog Posts
of 2008," who would ever look at that?  It would be like seeking out
the best-orated CB radio monologues and issuing a vinyl record.
inkwell.vue.400 : State of the World 2011: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #71 of 156: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Fri 7 Jan 11 02:25
There is no end-game in sight to the techno-transitions here.  The
"post-blog" may well destroy the blog, but there's no stability at all
in the "post-blog."  The WELL has more stability than any of these
high-bandwidth metamediated entities.  Because the WELL is cheap to run
and it's stopped fitfully struggling to keep up.  

While volatile stuff like Facebook, Gawker, Twitter -- man, the Cloud
is waiting for them.  The "post-web" is waiting, the Cloud.  And the
Cloud is gonna do to the Web what the Web did to the Net and what the
Net did to the Information Superhighway and what the Information
Superhighway did to the Arpanet.

That is, well, abundance breaking things -- over and over again. 
Mostly what it breaks is the earlier febrile efforts to exult in or
rein in the abundance.   It breaks what is already broken.

The story is one of endless pioneer shacks that had vast potential,
but were never much more than electronic frontier shacks -- "obsolete
before plateau," disrupted before anybody could get really good at
doing it.    

 The favela falls down, and you pick up the cracked and scattered
bricks and rebuild another favela.  It may be a really colossal
gold-rush favela that's drained the life out of all the rural villages,
but the streets have no names and there's no mayor.  There is no
continuity; there is no heritage.  It's a slum rather than a
civilization.  It lacks a literature.  

Life in a favela is not a dashing pioneer adventure, it's a hustle, an
endless grind.  A grind, sometimes broken by earthquakes.

If you attempt to name the streets and create a mayor, everybody packs
their hammocks and runs away as fast as they can.
inkwell.vue.400 : State of the World 2011: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #72 of 156: Ed Ward (captward) Fri 7 Jan 11 03:01
>>Nobody seeks out the "great writing" on Facebook pages. 

Although this isn't what you meant by that, one of my Facebook
friends, a graphic designer, got to playing with the 420-character
status-update limit, creating little snapshots with words that had a
lot of power. Being a designer, one day he made a fake book cover
called 420 Characters. I asked him if there were such a book, and he
said only in his mind. I asked my agent if there'd be a market for the
first book created exclusively on Facebook, and now 420 Characters will
be out this fall. 
inkwell.vue.400 : State of the World 2011: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #73 of 156: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Fri 7 Jan 11 05:48
*I'm quite the Twitter fiend myself, but I rather doubt that even an
exceedingly witty 140-character compilation of the coolest things ever
from a billion users is gonna outlast Petrarch.

*I could print out a Lulu book of my blog in short order... but I
wouldn't read it myself, so why force that on others?

*I don't wanna have this problem taken as some kind of crotchety
chiding of "bad content." That's certainly not my point. Because, as I
pointed out earlier about my own photographs, I'm a major offender
there.  Seven thousand mediocre photographs!  

*And I'm not gonna get any better in that line of work, because I
can't be bothered.  In theory, I could get a better camera and maybe
take classes and become more technically capable, but I don't care. 
Photography is not my metier, my heart's not in it, and I never got
involved in it until the barriers-to-entry crashed abjectly, and it got
so cheap and easy that lazy, indifferent meddlers could pitch in.  And
I'm a proud one of their membership.

*I don't intend to stop uploading photographs, either. Even though
there are billions, torrents every day, and I can't keep up even with
photoes from my circle of friends and relations. 

*On the contrary, I'm drifting into doing videos.  

*If the barriers to fabbed production keep crashing, I may be doing
objects, pretty soon.  I did a lamp once.  It wasn't all that great a
lamp, but if I could do weird generated lamps by waving my hands over
an interface, man, the world might be deluged in lamps.

*Check these out:

*Lotta cardboard there; lotta mulch.  Humble materials, a lot of cheap
code.  Very contemporary.  Very Favela Chic.
inkwell.vue.400 : State of the World 2011: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #74 of 156: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 7 Jan 11 06:18
<bslesins> on "Why Wasn't I Consulted": Doc Searls, carrying forward
thinking from the Cluetrain Manifesto he co-authored, has created
Project VRM (Vendor Relationship Management) at the Berkman Center at
Harvard: The point, from the "About"

1. To encourage development of tools by which individuals can take
control of their relationships with organizations — especially in
commercial marketplaces.
2. To conduct research on VRM-related theories, usage of VRM tools,
and effects as adoption of VRM tools takes place.

WWIC made me think of that.

It also made me think of a multimillion-dollar web development project
I worked on, where in meetings I thought I made good sense about what
we should be doing, but a young and very confident other guy was always
more persuasive, and mostly proved wrong (the project eventually
failed). After the project died, I was hiking with someone who had been
in the meetings and asked why people so often when with the other
guy's advice. "Well, that was always obvious to me," he said. "You
tried to be collaborative. You were consulting people, asking them what
we thought we should do, as you offered your ideas. He just told them
what to do, and they did it." He was forcefully directive, and I was
collaborative and sought consultation.

I've seen this a lot since then, so I don't agree that people want to
be consulted. Some probably do, but many more just want to be led by
someone who's very positive, confident, and charismatic.

<bruces> Re. abundance on the Internet - David Weinberger talked about
this, "the plenum," at Fiber Fete in Lafayette, Louisiana last

His followup blog post is worth reading in full (and I suspect some of
this will be in the book he's writing). Here's a longer excerpt:

"These abundances are not merely quantitative. They change the nature
of what they provide. And they refuse to stay within their own bounds.
For example, we go online to get information about a product, probably
through a mobile device. There we find customer conversations. These
voices are not confined to giving us product reviews. We are also
ubiquitously connected to pragmatic advice, to new businesses and
institutions that compete with or make use of the item we’re engaged
with, to governmental and legal information. If people are unhappy with
the product, they may use their online meeting spot as a way to
organize an activist movement.

"In other words, Clay Shirky is right: The Net makes it ridiculously
easy to form groups. In fact, when your information medium,
communication medium, and social medium are all precisely the same, its
ubiquity will make it hard not to form groups. For example, if your
child has a bad cough, of course you’ll go online. Of course you’ll
find other parents talking about their kids. Your information search
has become a communicative enterprise. Because you’re now talking with
other people who share an interest, your communication is likely to
spawn a social connection. These plenums just won’t stay apart.

"Furthermore, many of these networked groups will be hyperlocal,
especially within localities where connectivity is ubiquitous. As we
get more of these locations, hyperlocal networks will connect with
other hyperlocal networks, creating superlocal networks (although I
have no idea what I mean by that term).

"These plenums will affect all of our institutions because they remove
obstacles to our being more fully human."
inkwell.vue.400 : State of the World 2011: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #75 of 156: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 7 Jan 11 06:56
I gave a give minute talk at Ignite Austin last year on the history
and future of media, called "Future Social" - It was just a few minutes,
but with a lot of research and thought behind it, and I've been
thinking more about it ever since. Media started with words and
conversation, then there was writing, and then we had the insight that
we could capture and replicate the written word, so we started creating
books, very scarce because they were hard to replicate by hand. Then
the printing press was invented, and books became less scarce - but you
still had to have a press to make a book or a pamphlet or magazine,
newspaper, whatever - so there was that barrier to entry.

With scarcity, we created a lot of formalism around publishing. Anyone
could write, but only the best meaningful purposeful writing was
"accepted for publication." Hence the growing, often immense slush
piles of the world. 

What started as conversation evolved to become carefully considered
product, and only until we had low cost, mass market means of
production - "desktop publishing" - did that start to change. As in the
zine world, where anyone with a computer and a bit of savvy could
produce a publication and find ways to circulate it... all this was
catalogued in Mike Gunderloy's great zine, Factsheet Five (which Bruce
was talking about at an Austin Writer's Club meeting the night we had
our first f2f meeting in the late 80s - wasn't long before I was
publishing a zine myself, FringeWare Review, and writing for Factsheet

Zine publishers never made any money, in fact many were operating in
the red and publishing as a labor of love or lust, so when the web
appeared as a form of publishing with even lower barriers to entry,
paper zines became webzines. bOING bOING is perhaps the most famous
example - moving it to the web saved not just money, but time (Mark
Frauenfelder was busily working at Wired Magazine by then). 

Then came blogs and social media, all more conversational - we came
full circle. I came to think of mass media as an aberration, an effect
of scarce means of production - people really want to have
conversations. Reading a book or periodical was a poor substitute,
because it was one way.

And I agree with Bruce. If you're in a conversation, and someone in
the conversation behaves like a published piece - talks on and on about
some subject - that seems wrong. 

While we were more focused on one-way publication, we learned to write
long sustained pieces, like a long investigative piece or book, and
those are still valuable, there's no substitute for them. But,
increasingly, we see mindshare committed to shorter bits of writing, as
Bruce says, with links and pointers. We surf from piece to piece,
spending less time on any one. The venues that capture our attention
and mindshare, like Facebook, do so by offering us a variety of

Part of the genius of Facebook and Twitter is that they limit posts,
mandating shorter forms. Facebook also limits what we see, by offering
us a selective stream of posts as our default view, though we can still
see the raw stream. That incidentally means that nothing you post is
likely to be visible to all of your friends - some algorithm within
Facebook is deciding what you'll see. In the words of Elvis Costello, I
used to be disgusted by this, but now I'm amused. In abundant
information environments, I know that filtering of some kind makes
sense. Rather than give you a way to do it (as in Twitter, where you
can follow a list that's a sub of the universe of all the people you
follow), Facebook decides for you what you see as default, how dare
they? "Why wasn't I consulted!" In fact, I bet most are fine with an
algorithm that filters for them. Like the people who don't want to be
consulted, would prefer to be led.


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