Order is in the eye of the tagger

From David Weinberger’s introduction to Everything is Miscellaneous (2007).

The majority of taggers may tag “las vegas” as “vacation,” but those who think of it as “sodom” can find their way through the data as well.

That’s the big change the rise of the miscellaneous brings. We’re adding massive amounts of metadata — tags, links, playlists, even taxonomies — to all of the resources available on the web without prior planning and coordination, making a huge mess. But, that mess actually enhances the available ways we can find and make sense of what’s available to us. All that unplanned metadata lets us pull pieces together, and then it helps us contextualize and understand those pieces.

Until we started digitizing everything, we organized either the physical things themselves (what Everything Is Miscellaneous refers to as the first order of order) or we physically separated the information about the things and organized that (the second order): Think of books and card catalogs, or merchandise on racks and a catalog of products. With the third order, for the first time we can organize information, ideas and knowledge free of the limitations of the physical. And that enables us to get past the notion that there must a single right order, whether it’s Aristotle’s, God’s, or Linnaeus’ best guess.

Singing Hearts from Intrepid Teacher

“A few days ago I started reading The Last Child in the Woods. It sparked in me a sense of panic and guilt about the amount of time my daughter spends outdoors connecting to nature, getting fresh air, and exploring. I decided I wanted us to begin exploring our surroundings together. Even if our immediate surroundings was an empty dry desert field covered in garbage and construction refuse.

“We went outside with our cameras in hand to see what we could discover. I wish I had a field recorder, so I could have recorded her excitement and enthusiasm. We spoke of the wind, the setting sun, and how plants can grow with little water. We spoke about the power of art to make the ugly appear beautiful. We asked questions of each other. We guessed at answers. The two of us were a mobile outdoor classroom. Father and daughter in an empty field in the desert.

“When we came home I asked her if she wanted to see her pictures on the big screen of the computer and talk about what she had seen. The result was a very simple photo essay.

http://dearkaia.blogspot.com/2009/09/first-photo-essay.html

“Being the proud dad that I am, I decided to share the experience with my Twitter network. I thought that was the end of it, until last night when I noticed several comments come pouring in. After a quick request as to who was responsible I found out that @wmchamberlain had shared Kaia’s blog post with his class. I suggest you go and read some of the 43 comments.

“I immediately got in touch with him through Twitter, and he told me that a few of his students were curious if we had electricity in Doha. I told him, if he was interested, I could Skype into his classroom and answer some quick questions. So there we were, a small classroom in rural Missouri and me in my kitchen talking about our surroundings. We were following our curiosity. We were discovering new things. We were learning, beyond classroom walls, because we had all decided to take risks and be open with our lives. I told wmchamberlain’s students that since Kaia is only three she may have a hard time reading their comments and really grasp what is going on….

“The next day Kaia and I sat in our kitchen and watched their video. She is still too young to really grasp the connections that she is making, but in a few years these connections and this type of interaction will be ubiquitous in her life. I hope that her teachers are ready to help her continue on this journey.

Towards a new civic ecology by @henryjenkins

“The contemporary communications system is at once struggling with the threat that many major news outlets which have been the backbone of civic information over the past century are crumbling in the face of competition from new media. We may not be able to count on the traditional newspaper, news magazine or network newscast to do the work we could take for granted in the past….

“At the same time, we are seeing expanded communications opportunities in the hands of everyday people — including in the hands of academics and other experts who traditionally had little means of direct communication with the various publics impacted by their work. The problem at the present time is that existing channels of professional journalism are crumbling faster than we are developing alternative solutions which will support the kinds of information and communication needed for a democratic society….

“Thinking about a civic ecology helps us to recognize that while journalists do important work in gathering and vetting the information we need to make appropriate decisions as citizens, they are only part of a larger system through which key ideas get exchanged and discussed.

“We understand this if we think about the classic coffee houses which Habermaas saw as part of the ideal public sphere. The proprietors, we are told, stocked them with a range of publications — broadsides, pamplets, newspapers, journals, and magazines — which are intended to provide resources for debate and discussion among the who are gathered there on any given evening….

“By this same token, the present moment is characterized by both commercial and noncommercial forms of communication. As the comic strip, Zits, explains, ‘If it wasn’t for blogs, podcasts, and twitter, I’d never know whar was going on.’…

Educational reform should go hand in hand with our efforts to restructure the civic ecology. As I’ve shown in my work for the MacArthur foundation, young people need to acquire a range of skills and competencies if they are going to meaningfully engage in the new participatory culture. As they scan the media ecology for bits and pieces of information, they need more discernment than ever before and that comes only if they are able to count on their schools to help them overcome the connected concerns of the digital divide, the participation gap, and the civic engagement gap.

“The Digital Divide has to do with access to networked communication technologies — with many still relying on schools and public libraries to provide them with access. The Participation Gap has to do with access to skills and competencies (as well as the experiences through which they are acquired). And the Civic Engagement Gap has to do with access to a sense of empowerment and entitlement which allows one to feel like your voice matters when you tap into the new communication networks to share your thoughts.

“Unfortunately, we’ve wired the classrooms in this country and then disabled the computers; we’ve blocked young people from participating in the new forms of participatory culture; and we’ve taught them that they are not ready to speak in public by sequestering them to walled gardens rather than allowing them to try their voices through public forums. …

“Jessica Clark and Pat Aufderheide have written about Public Media 2.0, suggesting that we should no longer think about public service media (as if the knowledge simply flowed from above) but rather public facilitating and public mobilizing media that creates a context for meaningful conversations and helps point towards actions which the public might take to address its concerns. It is no longer enough to produce science documentaries which point to distance stars without giving the public something it can do to support your efforts and absorb your insights into motivated action.

“It is no longer enough simply to inform. You must inspire and motivate, you must engage and enthrall the public, if you want to cut through the clutter of the new media landscape.”

Creative destruction

During several days of contemplation about creativity and transformation — thank you #TEDxDirigo! — I was drawn, again, to consider “creative destruction:” the perspective that successful new ideas expand upon, integrate, and destroy the form of the prior.

“Just as the cassette tape replaced the 8-track, only to be replaced in turn by the compact disc, itself being undercut by MP3 players, …  online free newspaper sites such as The Huffington Post and the National Review Online are leading to creative destruction of the traditional paper newspaper….

“In fact, successful innovation is normally a source of temporary market power, eroding the profits and position of old firms, yet ultimately succumbing to the pressure of new inventions commercialised by competing entrants….

“In philosophical terms, the concept of ‘creative destruction’ is close to Hegel‘s concept of sublation. It was introduced into German economic discourse by Werner Sombart in 1913 … It has been argued that Sombart’s formulation of the concept was influenced by Eastern mysticism, specifically the image of the Hindu god Shiva….

“In Hinduism, the god Shiva is simultaneously destroyer and creator, portrayed as Shiva Nataraja (Lord of the Dance), which is proposed as the source of the Western notion of ‘creative destruction.'”

From Douglas Coupland: a radical pessimist’s guide to the next 10 years

“The iconic writer reveals the shape of things to come, with 45 tips for survival and a matching glossary of the new words you’ll need to talk about your messed-up future.

“1) It’s going to get worse. No silver linings and no lemonade. The elevator only goes down. The bright note is that the elevator will, at some point, stop.

“2) The future isn’t going to feel futuristic. It’s simply going to feel weird and out-of-control-ish, the way it does now, because too many things are changing too quickly. The reason the future feels odd is because of its unpredictability. If the future didn’t feel weirdly unexpected, then something would be wrong….

“20) North America can easily fragment quickly as did the Eastern Bloc in 1989. Quebec will decide to quietly and quite pleasantly leave Canada. California contemplates splitting into two states, fiscal and non-fiscal. Cuba becomes a Club Med with weapons. The Hate States will form a coalition….

“38) Knowing everything will become dull. It all started out so graciously: At a dinner for six, a question arises about, say, that Japanese movie you saw in 1997 (Tampopo), or whether or not Joey Bishop is still alive (no). And before long, you know the answer to everything…

“43) Getting to work will provide vibrant and fun new challenges. Gravel roads, potholes, outhouses, overcrowded buses, short-term hired bodyguards, highwaymen, kidnapping, overnight camping in fields, snaggle-toothed crazy ladies casting spells on you, frightened villagers, organ thieves, exhibitionists and lots of healthy fresh air….

“45) We will accept the obvious truth that we brought this upon ourselves.”

The Internet doesn’t need your ‘great idea’ /@TheNextWeb

“Great ideas. That is what we are all after isn’t it? That one spark that leads to an empire, money and power? Well, I’ve got news for you. Ideas are yesterdays news. Passé. Done. Last century…. The difference between a nice idea and a very successful idea has always been execution, timing and a large dose of luck….

thrived more because of their long-term vision and attention to details and less because they had his single, cool and innovative, idea. Twitter wasn’t just a good idea either. In fact, most people at the time agreed it wasn’t much of an idea at all.

“I spoke to one of the early investors recently who told me ‘nobody saw it coming. We invested in Evan Williams because we believed in him as an entrepreneur and he only needed a small sum of money. But we all hoped he would quickly transform his service into something entirely different’. What Twitter did have was a working prototype, that people liked to use. And that is really all you need.”

Snuggly the Security Bear /@MarkFiore

“Hi there, I’m Snuggly the Security Bear…. We’re going to make the Internet wiretap friendly because we want you to be sunggly and safer… just like they do in Saudi Arabia and Dubai…. Besides, how do we know who to watch, unless we watch all of you?”

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

The movement for open government software

“Code for America was founded to help the brightest minds of the Web 2.0 generation transform city governments. Cities are under greater pressure than ever, struggling with budget cuts and outdated technology. What if, instead of cutting services or raising taxes, cities could leverage the power of the web to become more efficient, transparent, and participatory?”

“Information is the currency of democracy, yet in our Information Age, the average citizen is deeply disconnected from civic life. Governments spend tens of billions each year on information management, but much of that data is locked away in proprietary systems. Newspapers once fed civic engagement, but mainstream journalism is crumbling. And cities sharing the same challenges — from education to transportation — are stuck finding solutions on their own, often the aid of peer and citizen expertise.

“OpenPlans is a non-profit technology organization focused on civic engagement and open government. We use journalism and open source software to turn data into accessible, useful information. This work engages the average person in shaping their community.”

“As public sector budgets continue to shrink across the country, a consortium of public and non-profit organizations today launched a new effort to reduce government IT costs. Civic Commons is a new public-private partnership that will help governments share software they have developed, eliminating countless duplicative software development efforts and accelerating the spread of innovation across the country.”

Oppose proposed censorship law

“Senator Patrick Leahy has introduced S.3804 or the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA). Although this bill is in the first step in the legislative process, if signed into law, it would allow the attorney general and the Department of Justice to require domain registrars and registries, ISPs, DNS providers, and others to block Internet users from reaching certain websites.

“In addition, it would also create a set of Internet blacklists. One would be a list of all of the government-selected Web sites served with a “censorship court order” from the attorney general’s office. The second would be a list of domain names that the Department of Justice determines singularly and subjectively without judicial review that are described as or determined to be “dedicated to infringing activities” — whatever the heck that is. The bill will block domains on both lists, with the latter requesting that service providers do so with legal immunity when they block the sites listed.”

James Martin on the challenges of the 21st century

Excerpts from James Martin’s 2007 book and documentary (preview | complete). Martin is founder of the Oxford Martin School (previously the 21st Century School).

“At the start of the 21st century, humankind finds itself on a non-sustainable course – a course that, unless it is changed, will lead to catastrophes of awesome consequences. At the same time, we are unlocking formidable new capabilities that could lead to much more exciting lives and glorious civilizations.

“This could be humanity’s last century, or it could be the century in which civilization sets sail towards a far more spectacular future. Decisions that will lead to these wildly different conclusions have to be made soon. They depend upon our being able to understand the options of the 21st century, think logically about our future, and collectively take rational action.

“We live on a small, beautiful and totally isolated planet, but its population is becoming too large, and growing rapidly in its desire to consume products that need resources beyond what the earth can provide. Technology is becoming powerful enough to wreck the planet. We are traveling at breakneck speed into an age of extremes – extremes in wealth and poverty, extremes in technology and the experiments that scientists want to perform, extreme forces of globalism, weapons of mass destruction and terrorists acting in the name of religion. If we are to survive decently, we have to learn how to manage this situation.

“The message of this book is vitally important. We have reached a situation where grand-scale decisions have to be made”