What if, there was an entity, e.g. an algorithm, a start up etc., which filters the various YouTube tutorial videos, by sorting them out according to genre, complexity, language etc. and then re-distributes this content through common satellite TV channels, giving people without access (digital, social, economical, etc.) a better possibility to learn how to become more tech-savvy? A good idea to fight the digital divide?
What if science fiction was exactly that? Just it’s the other way around. What if real science is all about fiction; where it is most crucial which outlook one is about to take? Imagine there are as many possible futures as they are drops in the sea. You see, what is to become, is not written until it will be. The cursor is constantly blinking and waits for your decision. In this possible future there is a being. Not sure what to become, yet certain on its path of life. All writers tell the truth. Some of them are more vivid in doing so than others. When the clarity of imagination resonates with many who wish to believe, there’s a pretty good chance of this vision to become a reality.
What did Isaac envisioned in his trilogy of Daneel and Baley? People living in closed, clinical spaces, with purely processed food; engaging with each other by the means of computer mediated communication technologies. Hmmm. Nah. This ain’t the present! After all, we still seek shelter on the surface of the place some call mother. And what about the Hiros of our hedonistic history? Where are the hackers that hinder our reason from relapsing into dullness and control of the sterile ‘virality’ perpetuated by the United Franchised Nations? Aren’t we living in a world were people play with populations, using drugs and dogmas for an indoctrination that is covered quite clever in ever so entertaining medial stimulations? Its 28 years later in this brave new world! And we’re screwing each other big time, because we cynically chose to adore more dystopian depictions of science in fiction, than to idealistically imagine the philosophical potential that might utilize UrTOPIA.
Using digital technologies has become so convenient that with the rise of the so called digital revolution arose also the need to reflect it. A very impressive compilation of reflections dealing with the role and impact of the “user” (or digital native, as it is now called) comes in form of a four part book called Digital AlterNatives with a Cause? by the Bangalorian Center For Internet & Society. In its fourth part one finds Ben Wagner’s essay Natives, Norms and Knowledge: How information and communications technologies recalibrate social and political power relations. It is a text I strongly recommend, especially to those interested in the reasons behind contemporary policies that try to regulate digital activism such as the US SOPA act.
Wagner starts out by recapitulating the fact that, as any technological progress, the digital revolution has produced profound cultural changes. In order to make these changes more visible and to question their implications, he analyses the ways in which they can be understood as shifts of “sociological, normative and knowledge boundaries” (p. 22).Yet behind every boundary lies a legitimising process setting it up. Hence, Wagner is also interested in the discourses and institutions that legitimise these shifts of boundaries.
So where and how are the boundaries being shifted?
For example there is the fact that now more people have the power to influence what we call reality or history. Wagner points out that this new power is socially seen less evenly distributed than one would hope. He says “it seems that the existing elite has simply expanded and been complemented by an additional ‘digital elite’.” (p. 22) Though the old-school elite still holds some aces up their sleeves in order to keep this new ‘digital elite’, respectively digital natives, under control. This is for instance, according to Wagner, reflected in the ways the media keeps producing and sustaining stereotypes of the unsocial nerd, which makes it possible to easily stigmatise subversive elements such as Mr. Assange.
Analysing the effects of this newly gained power, Wagner looks at the norms set up by digital natives. Instead of pining down a list of certain norms, he has a much better approach by saying:
[T]he tools provided by the internet have unmasked pre-existing norms which were not previously evident. The tools of the internet bring these norms to the surface by allowing for their practise an environment which seems to offer endless opportunities to those connected to it. (p. 24)
So we’re dealing with a new playground on which the digital natives seem to dominate the rule defining process. This makes it problematic for the political system, as its purpose is to keep social order and also to acknowledge, reflect and integrate certain shifts of norms. As an example for such a critical discourse, Wagner refers to the rise of the Pirate Party.
However, this establishment of a new social order is strongly correlated with a re-bordering of knowledge, as Wagner states. On the one hand there are those who seek to open up knowledge borders by for example sharing files, while on the other hand there are those who call for more restrictions because they fear a digital “‘wild west culture’” (p. 26) or a destruction of their position. Both sides have valid points, and Wagner correctly highlights the conflict a society faces when this re-bordering process “takes place outside of realms where it can be contested.” (p. 28)
Them are: the people we live with, everyday,
a society, we, one hundred per cent.
They are: what we have failed to see, everyday,
a reflection of us, they’re them in consent.
What consent seems to have forgotten so long,
is its own essence: a union of contrast.
Multitude – the base, is what makes them so strong.
Uncontrolled, they fear: a union of unrest.
But let’s tell them, who actually they are!
What if?: We have been telling us all along.
Just look at his story going back so far.
Evolution/change is what makes us so strong.
Yet change as the base, as they say, is to fear.
Yes, that’s how I feel society is run.
Controlling is their only answer to steer.
When it’s change’s chance to undo what went wrong.
In these times we hear many metaphors speak.
And it is helpful to listen what they mean.
Having been passed down, here, from some ancient Greek,
They misrepresent, what they’re supposed to mean.
They can’t build a bridge that is perfectly still.
True physics just tells you it’s impossible!
But wait, no, they do it, by passing this bill.
Ignoring resonance + the knowledge of all.
Okay, maybe we have to learn once again,
Not to fear the sheer beauty of resonance.
It’s true, its power can break any consent.
But the joy lies in not to know what to dance.
So let’s take this chance to dance,
To the rhythm of them all.
An idea, billions of fans?
Is there honour in a fall?