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inkwell.vue.400 : State of the World 2011: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #0 of 156: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sun 2 Jan 11 08:20
    
Bruce Sterling is a science fiction author, journalist, speaker, and 
citizen of the world, spending much of his time on the road, in Serbia, in 
Italy, and in the U.S. He's traveled broadly all his life, and has 
cultivated a global perspective which informs his writing, both fiction 
and journalism. He has focused on the cutting edges of Internet and hacker 
cultures, environmentalism, and global politics, and more recently he has 
become a critic of design and proponent of "design fiction."

Jon Lebkowsky is an Internet expert, evangelist, and consultant, social 
commentator, gonzo futurist, media analyst and critic, organizer and 
activist based in Austin, Texas. He's cofounder and Chief Digital Officer 
of Plutopia Productions, a future-focused events, entertainment, and media 
company.  

This is their eleventh annual State of the World conversation on the WELL. 
  
inkwell.vue.400 : State of the World 2011: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #1 of 156: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sun 2 Jan 11 09:11
    
Hello to all, welcome to the party. This conversation should run about
a week. You can join the conversation even if you're not a member of
the WELL, by sending comments and questions to inkwell at well.com.
We're also experimenting with a Facebook event page for feedback - it's
at https://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=170315026343207&ref=ts.

I'm not clear whether the world was more demented than usual in 2010,
or the general craziness was just better documented than ever before.
Either way, there's a lot of real meat on this year's plate. I want to
open with the top story at Global Voices in 2010:
http://globalvoicesonline.org/2010/06/14/brazil-the-cala-boca-galvao-phenomeno
n/
 There was also a report in the NY Times:
https://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/16/nyregion/16about.html

Here's a summary: Galvão Bueno is a famous Brazilian broadcaster, and
is always the narrator for the Brazilian football (soccer) and
volleyball matches, even though many consider him unbearable. During
the 2010 World Cup the phrase "Cala Boca Galvão" trended 'way up on
Twitter - Brazilians were tweeting it like crazy. It means "Shut up,
Galvao!"

What's funny is that Twitter users outside Brazil totally misread the
phrase, saying it was part of a campaign to save a rare and endangered
species of bird in Brazil. Brazilians picked up on this, and went along
with the wrong interpretation, also suggesting that it had something
to do with some kind of remedy, a new single from Lady Gaga, etc.

Real Tower of Babel stuff - "the power of social media."

Bruce, what's trending in your Twitterverse?  Are they bouncing the
announcer or saving the bird?
  
inkwell.vue.400 : State of the World 2011: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #2 of 156: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Sun 2 Jan 11 14:23
    
I'm still very much on Twitter, and I'm keener on Brazil than I was a
year ago, but I never follow anything "trending" on Twitter. Twitter's
trends have become way too big to be genuinely trendy.

I did spend a month in Brazil at the end of 2010.  I was in Belo
Horizonte, Sao Paulo and Brasilia.  Looks like I'll be going back this
spring, too, likely to Curitiba and Rio.

Brazilians are notorious for their Twitter fever.  I'm following quite
a few Brazilians nowadays on Twitter, including the new president
Dilma Rousseff (the female former underground activist/urban
guerrilla).  The former president, Lula, recently declared that in his
retirement he's going to spend his free time tweeting and blogging.  

Brazilians I earnestly queried about this assured me there was no way
Lula was turn into a full-time Internet maven.  They opined that Lula
was just joshin' around...  But I dunno.  I think it makes a lot of
sense for former or wannabe world leaders to pull a Sarah Palin, and
infiltrate Twitter.  For Lula, that would beat the heck out of writing
some boring memoir or trying to do Brazilian talk shows.  Conventional
media in Brazil has never been his friend.

At the moment, I'm in Belgrade.  We've been moving house within the
town -- from the formerly-Ottoman district to the formerly
Austro-Hungarian district.  It's mildly snowy, it's low-key, and my new
apartment lacks broadband as yet.  I also managed to mildly bonk my
thumb while doing home repairs.  If I sound a little more terse this
time during this -- what? the twelfth go-round? -- it's all about the
bandaid and the hardware.

"What I saw on my December summer vacation," etc:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/brucesterling/sets/72157625515739725/

*Innocent people used to be relatively safe from the supreme boredom
of other people's tourist photos, but this is a network society, so,
not any more.
  
inkwell.vue.400 : State of the World 2011: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #3 of 156: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sun 2 Jan 11 18:03
    
But we can always filter the photos intelligently. The blitz of
photos, event reports, notes about parties, augmented reality checkins
from exotic places etc. are kind of cool, they give a swirling sense of
connectedness to the noosphere. On the neurotic side of the equation,
there's a low internal moan about all the places you're not, and
disruption of focus on where you actually are. Nice photos, by the way.

On another subject,  couple of posts ago on your blog, you linked a
terrific DesignBoom piece on design fiction from the UK's Dunne & Raby
studio:
http://www.designboom.com/weblog/cat/8/view/12673/dunne-raby-at-saint-etienne-
biennale-2010.html
"... the project presents scenarios for various design proposal[s] and
how they could be utilized in our contemporary world, looking beyond
how things are being designed now and how they should begin to be
designed, imagining alternative possibilities and different ways of
being, giving tangible form to new values and priorities."

You've been tracking the world of design and the emerging discipline
of design fiction - what's newest and most interesting in the world?
What real world impacts are we seeing from "design fiction" scenarios?
  
inkwell.vue.400 : State of the World 2011: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #4 of 156: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Mon 3 Jan 11 01:33
    
*Well, once I get all fully wound-up on "design fiction," we're gonna
be in for it...  There's gonna be some design-professor peroration like
that outburst last year about the "decline of consumerism."

*So it you never heard of design fiction, well, here's the jackdaw
heap of goodies.  I suggest you check this out and brace yourself.

http://www.wired.com/beyond_the_beyond/category/design-fiction/
  
inkwell.vue.400 : State of the World 2011: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #5 of 156: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Mon 3 Jan 11 01:52
    
*Then there's the subject of the photos, which I'm not ready to let go
of -- any more than I can let go of making them.

*I've got almost seven thousand photos in that FlickR heap now.  That
doesn't even count the ones I discarded myself.  And people do watch
'em.  Somehow I got enough FlickR and Yahoo juice that I get about 150
hits a day.  Each and every day now.  It seems to be ramping up.

*The social interest in my photos is fascinating to watch.  I'm pretty
sure that 80 percent of these viewers have no idea that it's me. 
They're looking for search words:"keyboard pants," misspellings of the
word "scorpion."  And they're getting a free product whose quality is,
I guess, more or less okay for them.  Because they keep showing up.

*Yet my photos aren't any good, as photos.  They're just snapshots
with a pocket cam; they're never well lit, they're rarely
well-composed.  Mostly they're visual writerly notes, they're triggers
for personal memory, stuff I can go back later and go "oh yeah" about. 

*That's presumably why I keep doing it.  I don't derive any particular
benefit from being a not-very-good Internet photographer.  I get a
certain amount of egoboost out of it, I guess, but there's also
something vaguely humiliating about being a "photographer" whose most
famous work ever is a can of Mickey Mouse Croatian Liver Paste.

*I think the real reason I do it is to watch this visual aspect of the
Internet mutating.  Photos and the Internet have been changing
violently, in ways that conjure up powerful ideas like "drive toward
free" and "cult of the amateur." I watched analog photography die, and
it could be that pretty soon I'm gonna have to watch FlickR and Yahoo!
die, too.  

*And then my thriving FlickR set is gonna have the melancholy grandeur
of an album full of rapidly fading Polaroids, only much, much more so.
FlickR was the ur-Web 2.0 social network, and it was brilliantly
designed, but then, so was the analog Brownie.

 
  
inkwell.vue.400 : State of the World 2011: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #6 of 156: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Mon 3 Jan 11 01:59
    
*It makes me think of the melancholy tale of Kodak, who knew from the
get-go than digital photos would replace analog technology -- but they
missed the transitional boat there, BECAUSE THEY COULDN'T BEAR TO
CREATE BAD CAMERAS.  They were elite American optical engineers and
they couldn't bring themselves to debase the product.

*That's not some kind of quirk.  Look at this scary thing about the
Japanese here.  "Digital age leaves myopic Japan facing manufacturing
crisis." 

http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20110101f1.html

*Basically the argument here is that they refuse to use crap
components, and they're sticking to high-end developed-world glossy
consumer tech, so they can't get any traction... with the Brazilians.
  
inkwell.vue.400 : State of the World 2011: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #7 of 156: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Mon 3 Jan 11 04:56
    
*Here's ex-President Lula on a hospital charity call, showing up in
some teenage kid's excited lousy Internet snapshot.

http://noticias.r7.com/brasil/noticias/ex-presidente-lula-aceita-pedido-e-tira
-foto-com-criancas-em-hospital-20110101.html

*What do you think went through his head:  "well, I'm ex-president, I
guess I'll be in some teenage kid's socially-mediated scrapbook now?"

*And if you think that's something, check out the checkered career of
Twitter's own "KermlinRussia," the Fake Medvedev.

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/01/02/meet_the_persident?page=full
  
inkwell.vue.400 : State of the World 2011: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #8 of 156: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Mon 3 Jan 11 05:28
    
That Lula piece says he "could not resist and accepted the request of
a group of children to take a picture." Couldn't resist, I suppose,
because he's a real man of the people, the rare charismatic leader with
deep social intelligence, who connects with everybody, even (or
especially) a tribe of kids in a hospital. It's inspiring to see a guy
like that in action. The Kremlin could use a Lula about now, I suspect.
Maybe Lula could embark on a coaching career, with Mark Zuckerberg,
Julian Assange, Dmitriy Medvedev and John Boehner as his first clients.
And he should probably start with Yusuf Raza Gilani:
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/04/world/asia/04pakistan.html?_r=1&src=twrh
p
  
inkwell.vue.400 : State of the World 2011: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #9 of 156: Ted Newcomb (nukem777) (tcn) Mon 3 Jan 11 08:46
    
Always nice to start the year off with your points of view. These are
all good examples of how this may well be the year social media pushes
back in it's effect on global culture. As we understand and
misunderstand each other what will be some of the issues involved in
our learning curve?
  
inkwell.vue.400 : State of the World 2011: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #10 of 156: la brujaja (zorca) Mon 3 Jan 11 11:39
    
love following your flickr photos. love flickr. it's like getting to watch
the world through other people's eyes. plus, as you point out, it's a great
way to build out our own personal memory banks. on a recent trip to san
francisco's mission, my home for 25 years, i stumbled on an alley that has
recently exploded with art worthy of any museum. combing through the set now
is almost as good as being there again.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/zorca/sets/72157625275597801/

so but i guess the question i keep asking myself is the same one i've been
asking for years. there are gems scattered all over the internet. what are
the discovery mechanisms that you see emerging for those of us outside the
mainstream flow? twitter and my newsreader are my best friends these days
(though frustrated by the lack of a feed for the wired/beyond blog?). guess
i'm still hoping for true collaborative filtering that could cull my own odd
tastes, match me up against the larger world, and and then build me a custom
feed that goes beyond what i'm already finding.

all typed out this feels a little churlish. i feel lucky to be exposed to so
much already. but do feel that we have a ways to go in finding the right
solutions to filtering and recommendations.
  
inkwell.vue.400 : State of the World 2011: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #11 of 156: Ted Newcomb (tcn) Mon 3 Jan 11 12:23
    
<10> Ditto. When do we get our robots to keep up with all the info
overload?
  
inkwell.vue.400 : State of the World 2011: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #12 of 156: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Mon 3 Jan 11 13:30
    
Via the Facebook events page for this talk, Phil Wolff posted:

"Humanity is under stress by large forces, (insert your list here).
Have you observed institutions adapting meaningfully? New ones emerging
to respond? "

(Kieran O'Neill commented on Phil's post: "The resurgence of bicycles?
City and town councils across the developed world are gradually
responding to this, with many setting targets like 10% of all journeys
being made by bike. Gradual response to shrinking oil supplies?")
  
inkwell.vue.400 : State of the World 2011: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #13 of 156: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Mon 3 Jan 11 13:57
    
Ted Newcomb has suggested #sotw2011 as the hashtag for this
conversation. 
  
inkwell.vue.400 : State of the World 2011: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #14 of 156: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Mon 3 Jan 11 16:42
    
Here's another one, posted by Ian Cooper on Facebook:

"This year has seen the web challenge the US's commitment to freedom
of speech on the Internet via Wikileaks, seen questions asked about net
neutrality, and seen more and more institutions realize that the
discourse practiced there is beyond their control. What do you think
the reaction of governments and institutions will be to that? Are there
historical parallels, such as vernacular versions of the Bible, or
Caxton and his printing press to draw from?"
  
inkwell.vue.400 : State of the World 2011: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #15 of 156: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Mon 3 Jan 11 16:52
    
Hard to generalize about the reaction of governments and institutions.
Those are just abstractions, after all. I suppose there is a
groupthink, a sense that the people who comprise the governments and
institutions surrender their will and identity to the concepts and
principles that shape and inform those - not sure what to call 'em,
transpersonal entities?  In the case of Wikileaks, the responses seemed
to come from a personal level of embarrassment, not so much a matter
of principle. And for that matter, are the principles clear?
  
inkwell.vue.400 : State of the World 2011: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #16 of 156: gmoke (gmokecamb) Mon 3 Jan 11 18:19
    
One thing I see on the horizon and which I think will be the next step
for 350.org is a kind of ongoing global brainstorm on local, practical
solutions and adaptations to climate change.  Since the international
diplomats aren't going to do anything until 2020 and the incoming US
Congress refuses to do anything constructive, those who want to address
climate change will have to do it themselves.  Online repositories of
information where people can share what works where and what doesn't
will help speed our climbing the collective learning curve and the
replication of successful experiments.

There are some groups online which are trying to pull together parts
of this puzzle but no central nexus that I know of.  Yet.
  
inkwell.vue.400 : State of the World 2011: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #17 of 156: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Mon 3 Jan 11 23:36
    
*Wow, we've got a conversation with a #hashtag.  How 2011.

*In terms of following stuff, I like search engines, pundits, and
serendipity.  I'm trending toward pundits, because the search engines
are getting maxed-out by search-engine optimization.

*For instance, here's Tim O'Reilly, Mr Web 2.0, turning me on to the
increasing uselessness of Google.

"timoreilly Tim O'Reilly 
"On the increasing uselessness of Google http://bit.ly/dQuCg7 I agree.
Even the google alerts I set are almost all turning up spam."

*I might have felt just some vague sense of discontent without
realizing that the Google sourcewaters have been polluted there.

*There was a halcyon period there where people seemed lost in the info
overload and the search machines were full of limpid lucidity.  But we
may be approaching a period where the machines will feed you an
infinite amount of cunningly-engineered gibberish and you have to climb
to the mountaintop and talk to some human greybeard in order to have
any idea what's going on.

*I think it's great to follow obscure national leaders.  I used to
think these people were well-informed.  After all, they've got, like,
intelligence bureau briefings every morning, and stuff...  Now I
realize that they mostly cut ribbons and go to summits.  Librarians in
small Midwestern towns
  
inkwell.vue.400 : State of the World 2011: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #18 of 156: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Mon 3 Jan 11 23:51
    
...as I was saying, librarians in small Midwestern towns are better
informed than these national-leader guys.

*These WELL commands are touchy today. With a sore thumb and a wonky
touchpad, this is like riding a bronco.

*A lot of the stuff that most interests me is of niche interest. I
mean, like, ludicrously niche interest.  For instance, if you're into
3d-printed couture shoes, you're just not gonna do much better than
Fabbaloo.

"fabbaloo Fabbaloo 
3D Printed Couture Shoes http://goo.gl/fb/jhtUV #3dprinting "

*It's not like Fabbaloo is the world's greatest journalist or
anything, but the Venn Diagram of couture shoes +plus+ fabbing is so
tiny that Fabbaloo is all over it.

*I used to have a lot of hope in crowdsourced collective intelligence,
but I've come to realize that these networked wisdom-of-crowds
entities are not very bright... they're about as "smart" as, say, the
helpful and publicly-minded Rotary Club.
  
inkwell.vue.400 : State of the World 2011: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #19 of 156: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Tue 4 Jan 11 00:12
    
*As for the US Congress... well, there was a time when there would be
a "Congressional investigation" and there was some likelihood that the
Congress, as a knowledge-seeking body full of smart, rich lawyers with
subpoena powers, would discover some objective facts about public
reality that people didn't already know.

*With the present Congress, I don't see how that's possible.  Why
would objective facts trouble these zealots in any way, and if they
knew the truth, what would they do with it?  About all they can do is
move the mental frameworks of Christian Fundamentalism off the Bible
and onto the US Constitution.  

*And that's why I like to follow SarahPalinUSA on Twitter.  Because,
although the US Congress is incapable of rational thought, at least
they've got their female Delphic oracle.  

"HeyTammyBruce Tammy Bruce retweeted by SarahPalinUSA
But this hypocrisy is just truly too much. Enuf already--the more
someone complains about the homos the more we should look under their
bed"

*So, I'd be guessing they're gonna ease up on the gaybashing this
season to please ol' Sarah, and then... but what?  Perform some
crystal-ball skrying on the Federal Reserve and the Trilateral
Commission, I guess.... 

The US Right are non compos mentis now.  It's like watching Nixon's
Silent Majority finally discovering LSD.
  
inkwell.vue.400 : State of the World 2011: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #20 of 156: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Tue 4 Jan 11 02:29
    
*Julian Bleecker is the guy who wrote the first Design Fiction
manifesto, so he is pretty much Dr. Design-Fiction.  Here he describes
what he's been up to lately.

http://www.nearfuturelaboratory.com/2011/01/03/a-few-things-the-laboratory-did
-in-2010/

*This SXSW Interactive panel he mentions, which featured Julian
Bleecker,  Stuart Candy, Sascha Pohflepp, Jake Dunagan, with Jennifer
Leonard ably moderating, was the ground zero of Design Fiction.
A great collation of overlapping ideas and creative approaches by
people who really wanna do it.  

*The audio recording of this panel:


http://audio.sxsw.com/2010/podcasts/031310i_designFiction.mp3

*The odd thing about my own relation to design fiction is that, unlike
Pohflepp, Bleecker, Candy and Dunagan, I scarcely do any of it. 
Because I'm just not a designer.  Sometimes I teach design fiction, and
watch my design students try it out.  And I collate it on my blog. 
But I don't do much of it myself.

*Sometimes I write science fiction with a heavy design emphasis, but I
wouldn't formally call that "Design Fiction."  Design Fiction is very
contemporary and tends to mix speculative objects, "diegetic
prototypes," mockups, group activities, futurist scenarios, drawings,
animations, videos, interactions, and vaguely political "critical
design" put-ons.  Design Fiction has never been a linear, narrative,
literary effort at fiction.  

*The role of writing in design-fiction is pretty much like
tech-writing for other kinds of industrial-design efforts.  It's
supportive rather than central.

*The gray eminences of design-fiction are undoubtedly Tony Dunne and
Fiona Raby of the Royal College of Art.  They never write fiction. They
write books, teach, and do installations.

"Dunne & Raby use design as a medium to stimulate discussion and
debate amongst designers, industry and the public about the social,
cultural and ethical implications of current and emerging
technologies."  And boy, do they ever.
 
  
inkwell.vue.400 : State of the World 2011: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #21 of 156: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 4 Jan 11 05:29
    
A Dunne & Raby quote that fires me up:

"Design can only follow our needs and desires, it can't create them.
If our desires remain unimaginative and practical, then that is what
design will be. In this project we are hoping for a time when we will
have more complex and subtle everyday needs than we do today. These
objects are designed in anticipation of that time. Patiently waiting.
Maybe they are utopian."
http://www.dunneandraby.co.uk/content/projects/75/0

I do wish they had said "Maybe they are Plutopian."
(http://plutopia.org - shameless plug)

Your point with the Viridian Design movement, that the best way to
rewire culture and thought is by hacking design, made great sense, and
Viridian succeeded in drawing designers and futurists to the problem of
global warming and accelerating global awareness of the potential
problem, but it was hard to imagine the backlash. Global warming's
become an aspect of a greater culture war, supposedly "conservative" vs
"liberal," but I think it's less ideological than that, less
conceptual, more emotional. I've talked to people who know nothing
about climate science, but they have something to say about global
warming, and it's not intellectual dispute. They just hate it. They
hate the idea because they associate it with a loss of freedom. They
don't want anybody to tell them that they can't spew carbon into the
atmosphere... they're weary of constraints dictated by experts,
professionals, governments... seat belts, emission controls, smoking
areas, mandatory vaccinations, food inspections... lately in the U.S.,
mandatory health insurance... 

Saturday at a party in rural Travis County, Texas, I met a garrulous
man who railed against the nanny state and the socialist revolution in
America, and warned me that he and others like him are buying guns and
hoarding ammunition. There's going to be a revolt, he said. It's not a
matter of whether, just when. He was pleasant, friendly, and
acknowledged at one point that he probably sounded a little crazy. But
he was serious.
  
inkwell.vue.400 : State of the World 2011: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #22 of 156: E (wickett) Tue 4 Jan 11 06:04
    <scribbled by wickett Tue 4 Jan 11 06:05>
  
inkwell.vue.400 : State of the World 2011: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #23 of 156: . (wickett) Tue 4 Jan 11 06:08
    

 Liberals and progressives were thrilled and vocal when Barack Obama became
 our first black president.  They/we have been largely incoherent (or 
 silent) about the relationship between race and the subsequent rise of 
 vigilante political revolution/terrorism against governmental oversight.

 Why can we not name the likely connection between the race of our president
 and the rising mass rejection of government?
  
inkwell.vue.400 : State of the World 2011: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #24 of 156: Ted Newcomb (tcn) Tue 4 Jan 11 09:05
    
<21> Jon, I heard the same thing from Bakersfield, Ca. Think the
heartland is just fed up by what they do and don't understand is going
on during the "chaotic disruption" of this technological and global
transition we are all experiencing. Kind of scary though. And the
militias have been all too quiet for all too long. 

<23> Think it's coincidental not racial. A lot of confluences re:
above.
  
inkwell.vue.400 : State of the World 2011: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #25 of 156: Ted Newcomb (tcn) Tue 4 Jan 11 09:06
    
I've never really gotten the Design thing until now. Thanks for all
those links.
  

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