Fuzzy Logic (phred) Wed 2 Jan 02 18:49
Slashdot has a large accumulation of experience on reputation ranking now. Much more sophisticated in its own way than artificial worlds like Advogato with its ludicrous cross of Mutual Admiration Society and Apprenticeship Ladder. Anyway, both sites are surviving, albeit with some bruises. But I digress. Bruce, the question on the minds of the faithful flock: is the Viridian Green movement dead or is the Pope-Emperor just on sabbatical? We definitely need something to help the enviro movement save itself from its tendencies toward humorlessness and a lack of design sense that is rivaled only by its corporate antagonists.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 2 Jan 02 19:41
The Viridian notes are still coming, the last was December 30. Check out http://www.viridiandesign.org.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 2 Jan 02 19:51
... and here's the link to the latest Viridian note: http://www.viridiandesign.org/notes/251-300/00289_the_world_is_becoming_uninsu rable_revisited.html Check out entries for the Enron Logo Contest, which seems to've hit a nerve. Good question, though: what's up with the Viridian Design Movement? Are you seeing cases (other than the contests) where designers show clear Viridian influence? Has anybody put together a Viridian exhibit?
Steve Cassidy (cassidy) Thu 3 Jan 02 06:04
The thing about Afghan civilian casualties is whirlwind-reaping for terrorists: once your armies don't wear uniforms, the civilians who surround them are at risk. Bulk drops of the latest $4,000 Sony email capable camcorder into the Hindu Kush won't change that - and I find it kinda ironic that this discussion has another thread about being green, while simultaneously describing the least green, least important, most impractical, most wasteful method of not fixing the problem of people dying right now! A civilian filmed dying on a webcam is still, after all, dead. As for that Bin Laden snippet: even allowing for the overly pompous structure of public speech in Arabic (as translated: maybe the translators are pompous...) - if I was a streetwise arab looking at those words, I'd be thinking "he didn't use 7 grams to kill specific men in America" and "most of the people who died in Africa were not American and not Crusaders". Arabs can spot dangerous lunatics just as well as the rest of us, if not better: the flip-side the the 'civilian identification' problem in Afghanistan can be seen from the uncontrolled, military-approved footage showing former Tali-Tubbies shaving like crazy the minute the climate went against them: the entire 'arab problem' is that Arabs seem not to form large, persistent, treaty-holding societies. This may mean that they are 'freer' than Americans, from some points of view...
Gail Williams (gail) Thu 3 Jan 02 12:02
Afghans are not Arabs, but the fluidity of alliances there, at least, is an interesting point. Do you say this from observation and interaction with Arab people, or from media & interpretation alone?
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Thu 3 Jan 02 13:40
I dote on Viridian stuff, but it's only my hobby. I have to earn a living just like the other pampered Yankee kulturkrats, and at the moment that seems to involve a whole shitload of military stuff. I'm even expecting the imminent arrival of some *security clearance documents.* It'll be kinda interesting to know if cyberpunk sci-fi writers can even *get* a federal security clearance. I bet Gibson can't get one. He's Canadian. Heh heh heh. Viridian is three years old now, and it mutters along at about the same pace as my other online crusade, Dead Media Project, once did. I'm not gonna be hurried into the point of burnout. I'm just going to contribute what I can, as I can, until the happy day comes when I declare victory and find something else to obsess about. If I get a lot of money and some spare time, I'll pick up the pace some. But really, Viridian is a small public-outreach deal compared to writing novels; the number of people on that list is miniscule compared to the number who will go out and buy a Bruce Sterling book.
Brian Slesinsky (bslesins) Thu 3 Jan 02 14:59
But perhaps the Viridian websites get more traffic? Since your dispatches are all on the web, why join the list?
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 3 Jan 02 17:52
Possibly because it takes the Viridian gremlin a day or two to add the latest note to the site? If you want it NOW, join the list! Bruce, what's the Viridian website traffic like? The site was slashdotted lately; did a bunch of new people join the list at that point? Or was there a sustained increase in the number of people viewing new Viridian notes?
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Thu 3 Jan 02 21:10
Well, a lot of people on Slashdot extracted a speech of particular interest to Slashdotters, and we did a flood of join-ups, but tht's not a heavily trafficked site. It's no Robot Wisdom. A lot of people read email who rarely websurf. They are two different media really, and email is the more topical. People respond to a request I send over email, while a request on a website is scarcely noticed and if people do respond. they respond months late. With close to 2,000 people, Viridian is the biggest list I've ever run. It used to be a lot more intimate than it is, and I miss that quality. Email lists don't scale very gracefully.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 3 Jan 02 22:19
At the beginning of this topic, there's a quote from your interview with Ashley Crawford: "We're entering a different conception of history, in which Armageddons and Utopias are seen as simple-minded. Because they're the same thing: a bogus method to stop thinking about the passage of time. In a Utopia, history ends because everything's perfect; in an Apocalypse, history ends because everyone's dead. The problem here is not that we need pie in the sky or death-threats in order to feel awake. The problem is that the clock doesn't stop ticking just because we might find that intellectually convenient." ... and in post 19, I mentioned Pat Buchanan's shaggy apocalypse story, _The Death of the West_, which is more about the postmodern evaporation of Christian dogma... but it's kind of apocalyptic. I was thinking it would be cool to create a top-ten list of apocalyptic characters and scenes from recent history... one might be Jim Jones and the whacky mass suicide at Guyana, another might be Koresh et al at Waco. Osama bin Laden should be in there, and Tim McVeigh. Heaven's Gate. Bhopal. Chernobyl. Ray Milland in "Panic in Year Zero..." What am I leaving out?
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 4 Jan 02 06:17
...and here's something completely different: Cory Doctorow has written a *crucial* short piece on the state of the Internet, which is posted at <http://www.oreillynet.com/lpt/a//network/2001/12/21/2002.html>. Here's an excerpt, actually the last three summary paragraphs: "Providing circuit-grade reliability over a public-switched network is too expensive to make a go of it. Providing stand-alone-PC-grade reliability in a Web-services world of uncoordinated actors is too expensive to make a go of it. Providing DSL-grade connectivity over 802.11 is too expensive to make a go of it. "The next generation of Internet entrepreneurs will be people who understand this. They'll be working to provide unreliable services that work in concert with other unreliable services to provide a service that works on average, but not predictably at any given moment. They'll challenge the received wisdom that customers are hothouse flowers, expensive to acquire and prone to wilting at the first sign of trouble. These entrepreneurs will build services that are so compelling that they'll be indispensable, worth using even if the service flakes out when you want it the most. "The close-enough-for-rock-n-roll revolution is a-comin' -- to the streets, comrades!" The name of the piece is "2002: The Carpetbaggers Go Home."
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Fri 4 Jan 02 10:36
Yeah, after the Revolution, things will be different. Not *better* -- just different. The key to guys like Koresh and Jones, and probably bin Laden, is that suicide offers a final solution to a melodrama that is showing its age. It's like: we liberated Afghanistan, we created a holy Umma, we wrapped the local crank in the cape of the Prophet, yet everybody's starving. How long is this supposed to go on? The clock's ticking, we're losing our grip here and the mesmeric romance is fading. Why not blow up New York? At least the flames will camouflage the squalor of our own dysfunction. Guys in law enforcement like to refer to this as "suicide by cop."
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 4 Jan 02 10:49
But are they really starving? I hear that, but I see televised images that seem to show healthy kids and adults, and I hear that, when it was raining food packages, they were picking only the stuff they especially liked and leaving the rest to the wind. Starving people usually aren't so picky. All the world's a stage, and the people on it merely players hoping for the next sound byte...
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Fri 4 Jan 02 10:49
Guys who are big Internet activists have a problem with the Internet showing its age. They are really emotionally invested in it, and have a hard time envisioning it as corny, or past-it, or showing its inherent limits. Or as a dead medium someday, like the telegraph. A lot of heavy people came out of the subculture of telegraphy. Thomas Edison was a telegrapher. Even Gene Autry the cowboy star was a telegrapher. There are decades of plays and movies where a uniformed guy busting in with a telegram is a key dramatic moment. The telegraph was very important and had a very good run for a technology, but it wasn't a permanent revolution. The sense of wonder has a short shelf-life. The technological sublime is a long-term social phenomenon, but it manifests itself in glossy hardware that ages as quickly as a supermodel.
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Fri 4 Jan 02 10:51
I don't doubt that people in Afghanistan are starving. It's a nation of subistence agriculture with a three year drought and a ruined shipping infrastructure. It makes sense.
Gail Williams (gail) Fri 4 Jan 02 10:55
With the added attraction that if you could create the conditions for heroic cultural martydom, people might be inspired by you for years or centuries. The man who started the true jihad. Aside from what you really believe heaven will have in store for your devotion. On more tee-shirts than Che, no need to prove that an Islamic government makes things better for more than the elite of the Talaban, and paradise for you personally in the afterlife. A souped-up version of suicide-by-cop and one hell of a motive to lob the biggest explosion you can muster at Goliath, while maintaining the stance of the simple hero with the slingshot, standing with the innocent and the faithful, just asking for furious overreation in response. Babies named after you for decades if you pull it off...
Gail Williams (gail) Fri 4 Jan 02 11:02
(That was posted in response to <37> while three other posts slipped in ahead of mine, messing up the context.)
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 4 Jan 02 13:03
There's a relevant piece in today's New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2002/01/04/international/asia/04AID.html Evidently relief agencies have averted famine so far, but local warlords are beginning to steal much of the food once it gets there... business as usual now that the Taliban's been uprooted. Back to the interview... you have a new book due sometime this year, _Tomorrow Now_. Speculative nonfiction, I take it. Can you tell us something about it?
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Sat 5 Jan 02 10:49
*Well, it's more like TOMORROW ELEVEN MONTHS FROM NOW, but I still have chances to tinker with it, and I plan to do so. It's about seven aspects of the early 21st century and how they make this century distinctive from other cultural epochs. I figured it was about time for me to write a straight0out futurist pundit book. I'll pbobably be a lot wiser ten years from now, but I doubt I'll have the energy to go through a work so sprawling and rambunctious. Tomorrow Now's Chapter Four, the military chapter, is looking especially prescient at the moment, but I think the high point of the book is probably Chapter Three on postindustrial design. I'd much rather hang out with designers than soldiers.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sat 5 Jan 02 10:53
What are you learning from your forays into the design world?
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Sat 5 Jan 02 15:25
Mostly that it's a whole hell of a lot harder to actually make products than it is to sit around thinking them up. I'm reminded of my early forays into the literary world. It's harder to write sell and publish a novel than it is to come up with great ideas for books. Hell, I've got *thousands* of great ideas for books. Quite commonly I'll stuff ten or twelve of them into *one* book.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sat 5 Jan 02 19:49
Do you get into the business side at all (selling and publishing)? Or do you do the creative stuff and leave the rest to your agent and publisher?
Pierce Presley (jonl) Sun 6 Jan 02 06:28
Email from Pierce Presley: I think many of the problems with mainstream media's coverage of the Afghan campaign (if this is a war on terrorism, there will more) stem more from their cheerleader attitude than their acquiescence to the administration's gatekeeping. Every time I turn on the networks, its the same news from the same places, and a moment's study of a good map lets you know the reporters are talking about events miles from them; dissident opinions (and they do exist) either are dismissed or disrespected; experts talk and talk and talk without answering basic questions about civilian casualties, infrastructure damage and long-term plans. The homogenization of American media (one newspaper per town, maybe four local news station connected to a network, two viable radio news networks, a dearth of relevant Internet sites) means that those who might take a different view have no reason to do so. Publicly traded media (those at the mercy of stockholders used to ridiculous profit margins) won't do anything to antagonize their advertisers, since that will lower profits. Look at the layoffs, buyouts and other reductions at media companies in the midst of the top story since the fall of communism. Part of the problem with the proposed solution (independent, low-cost media) is that, as Mr. Sterling has pointed out, it isn't everybody who can produce competent media -- or, as I like to put it, strapping a camcorder to a dog doesn't make him a videographer. One solution might be to try and increase the number of media outlets built on the St. Petersburg Times/Poynter Institute model: the newspaper/TV station/radio station/Web site owned by a non-profit corporation. While this certainly doesn't remove the profit motive from the business, it helps keep the popularity contest under control. Now, at last, to my questions for Mr. Sterling. How much does media feed the current war frenzy (I'm including advertising, which can't sell hemorrhoid pads, seemingly, without using the flag)? How will the reduction in media competition affect both America and the world as we continue into the new millennium? Do you see any hope for independent media outlets, especially outside urban centers?
Steve Cassidy (cassidy) Sun 6 Jan 02 07:22
Umm, that bit about Afghanistan being a subsistence-agriculture economy... you do know that now the peace has been restored and the Taliban deposed, the farmers are going back to growing the two crops that are their traditional mainstay? Opium poppies, and Cannabis... That is, they will in the spring, when all the people who normally get out of the mountains and into Pakistan for the bad weather come back and work in the fields for cash...
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Sun 6 Jan 02 11:41
Do you get into the business side at all (selling and publishing)? Or do you do the creative stuff and leave the rest to your agent and publisher? *Well, one is pretty much obliged to get into promotional aspects, the book tour, publicity photos and so on. But I've got next to nothing to do with putting ink on paper. At the moment, the worst sore in the publishing industry is the collapse of its distribution system. I've never been anywhere near distribution. I very much doubt I ever will be. It's got about as much to do with writing novels as casting polyvinyl resin has got to do with playing an electric guitar. "Now, at last, to my questions for Mr. Sterling. How much does media feed the current war frenzy (I'm including advertising, which can't sell hemorrhoid pads, seemingly, without using the flag)?" *Al Qaeda really likes media. A lot of people have commented on bin Laden's apparent personal vanity; the shouldercam guy in constant tow, the nice selection of hats, the obligatory Kalashnikov that's in every shot, the symbiotic Al Jazeera thing.... Arab-Chechnyan rebel Khottab has also got a very calculated public image; he coined the phrase "Jihad of the Media" and sports a cool beret and Che Guevara ringlets. *Clearly the choice of attack targets was meant to compel overwhelming media attention; they weren't killing 3,000 stockbrokers at random, they chose very large symbolic targets in a city that is a world capital of the global diaspora. As for blowing up the Pentagon, that guaranteed a US military response no matter what the media said or did. How will the reduction in media competition affect both America and the world as we continue into the new millennium? *That probably depends on how many of these princes of media get thrown off the edge of a boat a la Robert Maxwell. One has to wonder why the Sept 11 attacks didn't cut to the chase and attack CNN HQ in Atlanta. Presumably they still take Wall Street more seriously as a global player than they do AOL-Time Warner. One has to wonder why. Do you see any hope for independent media outlets, especially outside urban centers? *I dunno what the "urban center" thing has to do with it. A media outlet proclaims itself "independent" when it's independent of the customary structures of mainstream finance, but they're always dependent on *something* -- very few people choose to wander around at random, spreading news, without some motivating agenda. And of course I see hope. I've met guys who were Charter 77 dissidents into Czech samizdat, guys who could do years in a slammer for a Bible or an underground comic. The counterculture always shines brighter as the mainstream becomes more stupefied and predictable. *During the Afghan dust-up, I've been paying a lot of attention to Indian media. The Indians are even less free of the institutional interests of the RAW than US media is of those of the CIA, but they have a large enough audience to budget some serious research and to pay journalists of talent. If the US media is in a blind rah-rah mode, well, read the media from offshore. It's the high point of globalization -- you can import other people's dissidence from the local shibboleths. *I tried reading the Pakistani media, but they've reached such a state of social and ideological collapse that they make even Fox News look good. " Umm, that bit about Afghanistan being a subsistence-agriculture economy... you do know that now the peace has been restored and the Taliban deposed, the farmers are going back to growing the two crops that are their traditional mainstay? Opium poppies, and Cannabis..." *Sure. All lawless areas become narcotics producers nowadays. You can't eat opium and cannabis, though. Nor are you likely to pull down much cash from the warlords who retail the stuff. And if there's a crop-killing drought, you're gonna starve right in the middle of your poppy field.
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