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.
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?
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.
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?
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/
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.
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.
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
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
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?
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.
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?
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?")
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Mon 3 Jan 11 13:57
Ted Newcomb has suggested #sotw2011 as the hashtag for this conversation.
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?"
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?
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
E (wickett) Tue 4 Jan 11 06:04
<scribbled by wickett Tue 4 Jan 11 06:05>
. (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?
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.
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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