Archive for the ‘communitarian’ category

Community Media: Selected Clippings – 03/22/08

March 23, 2008

Comcast Cameras to Start Watching You?
by Chris Albrecht


If you have some tinfoil handy, now might be a good time to fashion a hat. At the Digital Living Room conference today, Gerard Kunkel, Comcast’s senior VP of user experience, told me the cable company is experimenting with different camera technologies built into devices so it can know who’s in your living room.

The idea being that if you turn on your cable box, it recognizes you and pulls up shows already in your profile or makes recommendations. If parents are watching TV with their children, for example, parental controls could appear to block certain content from appearing on the screen. Kunkel also said this type of monitoring is the “holy grail” because it could help serve up specifically tailored ads. Yikes.   —>

City takes business to airwaves
by Susan Larson
The Daily Journal (MN)

[ comments invited ]

As a cameraman films, Community Development Director Gordon Hydukovich tells Lynne Olson, assistant to the city administrator, about an exciting new project happening in the city. Later in the day, the whole community will know about it when they watch, “City of Fergus Falls Update” on PEG Access channel 18.

Call it Regis and Kelly with a local twist. Implemented in February, the program is an effort by the city to keep residents informed about what’s happening around them in an entertaining way.  “We’ve heard from council that a concern they hear among the people is they want improved communications,” Olson said.  What better way to do so than through television?

“We highlight different departments, a project or special event,” Olson said. “We try to pick a timely topic.”  In this most recent case, the subject was a tabletop planning session set for April 10 regarding the west river area of the city. Hydukovich, who will lead the meeting, finds the show to be a means of making such meetings more effective.  “I can explain (a project) to people in a room while they’re sitting there,” he said. “But this gets it out and gets people thinking about it before, so they can come prepared and ask questions.”

Each episode airs the same day it is filmed, Jim Francis PEG Access executive director, said. It is played about 14 times until the next segment is filmed. Go to PEG access website — — and look under “schedule” for the schedule.   —>

Tuned In: What do you want in local TV news?
by Rob Owen
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (PA)

—>  When I asked two weeks ago what viewers expect of local newscasts, I knew I would get some feedback. But I honestly didn’t expect the outpouring of response from more than 100 viewers, many of them frustrated with the state of local TV news.  Many of those responses — about 35 printed pages’ worth — have been posted in Tuned In Journal at The recurring complaints were these:

• Too much news time…
• Too many teases; too much hype…
• Too many Steelers stories as news…
• Too much weather…
• Too many stories with no relevance to the average viewer…
• Too many references to Web sites…
• Too few stories on the arts…
• More serious news…

Hopes for Wireless Cities Fade as Internet Providers Pull Out
by Ian Urbina
New York Times

PHILADELPHIA — It was hailed as Internet for the masses when Philadelphia officials announced plans in 2005 to erect the largest municipal Wi-Fi grid in the country, stretching wireless access over 135 square miles with the hope of bringing free or low-cost service to all residents, especially the poor.

Greg Goldman is chief executive of Wireless Philadelphia, a nonprofit organization set up to help administer the program. He said that about $4 million was needed to cover the rest of the city.  Municipal officials in Chicago, Houston, San Francisco and 10 other major cities, as well as dozens of smaller towns, quickly said they would match Philadelphia’s plans.

But the excited momentum has sputtered to a standstill, tripped up by unrealistic ambitions and technological glitches. The conclusion that such ventures would not be profitable led to sudden withdrawals by service providers like EarthLink, the Internet company that had effectively cornered the market on the efforts by the larger cities.  Now, community organizations worry about their prospects for helping poor neighborhoods get online…

“The entire for-profit model is the reason for the collapse in all these projects,” said Sascha Meinrath, technology analyst at the New America Foundation, a nonprofit research organization in Washington.  Mr. Meinrath said that advocates wanted to see American cities catch up with places like Athens, Leipzig and Vienna, where free or inexpensive Wi-Fi already exists in many areas.

He said that true municipal networks, the ones that are owned and operated by municipalities, were far more sustainable because they could take into account benefits that help cities beyond private profit, including property-value increases, education benefits and quality-of-life improvements that come with offering residents free wireless access.  Mr. Meinrath pointed to St. Cloud, Fla., which spent $3 million two years ago to build a free wireless network that is used by more than 70 percent of the households in the city.   —>

An ideal future communications infrastructure, how do we get there, and what is stopping us!
by Russell McOrman

[ comments invited ]

Whenever the discussion of “Net Neutrality” comes up we often get stuck with how the current network is configured, who provides it, and other historical issues. I would like to toss out that history for a moment and offer what I believe to be an ideal, talk about transition issues, as well as some of winners and losers in that transition (and thus who the greatest opponents are)

Future network infrastructure

Imagine a municipal ultra high speed network (Fiber to the premises/Home, or whatever future technologies may be even faster) that allowed the city residents to make arbitrary connections from their home to other points in the city. Sometimes they would connect to other citizens, and other times they would connect to companies.  These companies would offer a wide variety of services, mirroring many legacy services and having the ability to innovatively create more.

What we currently think of as “phone” service would be handled by competing companies that offered directory services and voice (and possibly video for video phones) connectivity between municipalities, as well as gateways to legacy “phone” networks (domestically and internationally). Voice communication between municipal residents could go point-to-point without the need of an additional intermediary.

What we currently think of as “television” service would be handled by people being able to directly subscribe and connect to various networks individually. I may be a fan of CBC and thus I would have a subscription with them. Individual community based stations would be relatively cheap to set up compared to the current system which either needs wireless transmitters or an agreement with both a cable company and the CRTC. Like the voice services, there would be competing companies offering the service of bringing in “television” stations that are not part of the networks who offer their stations directly in the municipality.

Switching from any service a company offers to a competitor should be very easy given the connection to ones home is entirely neutral to any company.

Transportation and utilities offer a path to this ideal

What I consider to be the ideal should sound familiar, as it is the system we use for our ground transportation system and many utilities including electricity. We have municipally owned/managed road infrastructure which allow us to travel between any two destinations within the city. We don’t have a “Walmart road” as well as a “Canadian Tire” road running to our homes like many of us in Ontario have a “Rogers” and a “Bell” wire running into our homes. The municipality — unlike the legacy phone and cable companies — doesn’t claim some alleged right to actively inspect the contents of all our vehicles or “traffic shape” roads based on whether they like the contents of our vehicles or not.   —>

Tibet could be a public relations fiasco for Beijing
by Ken Kamoche

The Tibetan crisis is once again revealing some serious weaknesses in the way China handles threats to its much-vaunted quest for harmony. The riots in Tibet have also put to the test China’s slogan for the games: “One world, one dream”. In one part of the Himalayas at least, that dream is fast turning into a nightmare…  Imposing a media ban, ordering foreign journalists out of Lhasa, demonising the Dalai Lama and the hardline approach the government has taken all suggest that China has some way to go if it is to achieve internal harmony and gain the respect of the international community…

Beijing ought to have learnt some lessons from the collapse of the former Suharto regime and in particular how deceptively simple technologies like text messages played such a pivotal role in mobilising a street revolution. The same goes for Tibet.  You can cut off the formally constituted communication channels, chase away foreign journalists, block access to the Internet and foreign TV channels; but it is a losing battle.

Information seems to have a life of its own. It seeps through the cracks, bypasses the controls and gets to those who need it, or is dispatched by those who have to. The mess that is going on in Tibet cannot be swept under the carpet. If it continues to simmer, it will also further alienate the Taiwanese who fear they might go the way of Tibet.   —>

Think You’re Not an Anarchist? Download This Book!
by Phil Grove
A Cooperative, Unending Endeavor

[ comments invited ]

Anarchism is political philosophy of radical humanism that commends itself to Quakers and many others who should give it more attention. It’s a vision of human relations that is egalitarian as opposed to hierarchical; communitarian as opposed to individualistic; and ecological and sustainable as opposed to extractive and doomed. Anarchists assess the modern condition as slavery to modern instutions of dominance and oppression; and they seek freedom for all.

The anarchist vision is not an unconstrained, chaotic nightmare that replaces modern institutions with nothing; it is a highly organized, nonheirarchical web of community-scale institutions within which to conduct human activities. By far, it is the political philosophy most compatible with Quaker testimony and practice; and also most compatible with the values of many advocates of participatory democracy, equal rights, feminism, environmentalism, and holistic health and living.

Anyone interested in anarchism should read Getting Free: Creating an Association of Democratic Autonomous Neighborhoods by James Herod. In this succinct work, Herod makes the case for some form of anarchism as the only viable alternative to the current system of global capitalism. But more importantly, he addresses the question of strategy in a straightforward manner. He conducts an unblinking critical survey of the failed past and current strategies of the left, rejecting them all as unable to defeat the capitalist system.

Our alternative parties, our vigils and demonstrations, our civil disobedience, our single issue campaigns, and our educational efforts are all ineffective against capitalism, in Herod’s view. The most they can achieve is to temporarily curb the worst abuses of capitalism. Depressing stuff, but I would suggest that a lot of the torper we feel on the left stems from our repressed understanding that Herod’s criticism is correct. We have not been getting anywhere.

But Herod doesn’t leave it at that.  In place of past strategies to overthrow or reform capitalism, Herod advocates a strategy of the gradual abandonment of capitalist institutions and substitution of alternative, community-based democratic structures. Here is the list of specific strategies he proposes:   —>

compiled by Rob McCausland
Alliance for Community Media


Death. Resurrection? A Timely Meditation on US Corporate Media

March 21, 2008

Are US Media Violating the 1st Amendment?
by Fatin Bundagji
Arab News

[ comments invited ]

Last week Arab News printed in the “Letters to the Editor” column a letter by Ms. Lin Hansen Petro from Portland, Oregon, commenting on my article, “Peace & Stability: Pre-requisites for Reform” (March 7). Ms. Petro wrote that while writing her article, “Fatin Bundagji conveniently forgot, as Arab writers usually do, that the US was attacked by Arab terrorists which led to retaliatory action in the Middle East and out of America. All those glorious outreach programs she was describing that America used to do would still be in effect and there would be no war waging at the moment if the radical Arabs kept their opinions and hatred of American policies in the academic or political arena… the majority of Americans are getting pretty fed up with handling out billions of dollars in aid, education, medical care, technological advancements, and religious tolerance and so on to a world of egocentric ingrates”.

Ms. Petro has every right to her opinion. But as a citizen of a nation built on the values of liberty, equality and justice; a nation that regards a free press to be as important as its three independent arms of government, Ms. Petro also has the right to an accurate and unbiased media beaming into her home on a daily basis. This basic American right, the right to a free press, she, and most American citizens are systematically denied.

To most average hardworking and law-abiding Americans, their view of the international community is severely shortsighted and impaired. It is a worldview that is craftily fine-tuned, filtered and controlled by media outlets that are biased in favor of the sources that fund them.

In his article “None dare call it Censorship”, Jack Douglas, a retired professor of sociology from the University of California, writes: “All serious and intelligent journalists today know that the US government has massive media management brigades to carefully control what Americans see and, thus, what they are very likely to believe about things of which they have no direct experience, such as high-level politics, finance and foreign affairs. They also know that the government is extremely effective in secretly censoring the news by using devices such as ‘embedded reporting’ in nations like Afghanistan and Iraq which the US government invades, occupies, and governs. (If you do not know what ‘embedded reporting’ is, I strongly advise you to ‘Google’ it).”

Today, almost all media in the US are owned by for-profit corporations that by law are obliged to put the profits of their investors ahead of all other considerations. This goal of maximizing profit both jeopardizes the practice of responsible journalism and violates what the founding fathers of the US Constitution paid in blood to preserve: A free press — a free press that is protected by law in the 1st Amendment of the Bill of Rights; a free press that is regrettably being compromised by the elite on a daily basis.

The reasons for this compromise may vary but at the core, is the need for power and control. Power and control by US corporations, advertisers, and official agendas to name but a few. FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting), a US national media watch group. states that not only are most US major media owned by corporations, but that these corporations are becoming larger and fewer in number as the bigger ones absorb their rivals thereby reducing the diversity of media voices and putting greater power — and a narrow debate — in the hands of few.

According to FAIR, most of the income of for-profit media outlets does not come from the audiences, but rather from commercial advertisers who are interested in selling products to that audience. This gives corporate sponsors influence over what people see and read and all in favor of information that does not criticize the sponsors’ products or discuss any corporate wrongdoing.

As for the official agenda, FAIR states that despite the claims that the press has an adversarial relationship with the government, in truth US media generally follow Washington’s official line. This is particularly obvious in wartime, foreign policy coverage, and with domestic controversies. The owners and managers of dominant media outlets generally share the background, worldview, and income bracket of political elites.

Top news executives and celebrity reporters frequently socialize with government officials; and the most powerful media companies routinely make large contributions to both major political parties, while receiving millions of dollars in return in the form of payments for running political ads.

For true democracy to work, people need easy access to independent, diverse sources of news and information. The last two decades the US has seen a record corporate media consolidation. Whereas in the 1980s there were more than 50 media outlets nationwide, by 2000 they shrank down to a mere 6.

Big money buys big media and at the expense of the 1st Amendment. But luckily for the average American, the story does not have to end here. Independent news and media outlets are actively working at preserving a balanced coverage of the news so as to give the American public a broad and multidimensional aspect of what is being covered. FAIR, the one I mentioned above, is one of them, and Democracy Now is another. In addition, there are many more available online, and they are increasing in number and in national reach.

I urge Ms. Petro to Google “US media watchdogs” to empower herself to learn firsthand of whatever she chooses to be informed on.

This is her right, and I have to add her responsibility to her country, and to the world at large.

She may not know it, but by the sheer power and might of her country, any opinion she forms, however innocently, will by default affect the lives of millions of people in countries she may never have heard of.

I will conclude my article with a quote from Lee Atwater who masterminded media bias back in the 1980s and who created the most powerful Republican Media Propaganda Grand Strategy for controlling US pubic thinking. On his deathbed he said, “my illness helped me to see that what was missing in society is what was missing in me: A little heart, a lot of brotherhood. The ’80s were about US acquiring wealth, power, and prestige. I know. I acquired more wealth, power, and prestige than most. But you can acquire all you want and still feel empty. What power wouldn’t I trade for a little more time with my family? What price wouldn’t I pay for an evening with friends? It took a deadly illness to put me eye to eye with that truth, but it is a truth that the country, caught up in its ruthless ambitions and moral decay, can learn on my dime. I don’t know who will lead us through the ’90s, but they must be made to speak to this spiritual vacuum at the heart of American society, this tumor of the soul.”

New Voices Grant App Deadline; LSE Conf Call for Papers

February 17, 2008

Apply Now: Funding to Start Community News Projects
Contact Kira Wisniewski – (301) 985-4020  kira [at] j-lab [dot] org
New Voices

APPLY NOW! Applications due: Feb. 20, 2008.

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – J-Lab: The Institute for Interactive Journalism invites U.S. nonprofit groups and education organizations to apply for funding to launch community news ventures in 2008 and to share best practices and lessons learned from their efforts.

The New Voices project will help fund the start-up of 10 innovative local news initiatives next year. Each project may receive as much as $17,000 in grants over two years. Thirty New Voices projects have been funded since 2005.

Eligible to receive funding are 501(c)3 organizations and education institutions, including civic groups, community organizations, public and community broadcasters, schools, colleges and universities – and individuals working under the sponsorship of a nonprofit fiscal agent.

Grant guidelines and online application can be found at Project proposals are due February 20, 2008.   —>

Community and Humanity Conference
by Charlie Beckett

[ 1 comment ]

In celebration of the LSE Department of Media and Communication’s 5th year, my colleagues are inviting critical thinking about how the media and communications environment is implicated in shaping our perceptions of the human condition. How is it mediating human values, actions and social relations? We welcome proposals for papers and panels offering theoretical insight and/or empirical work on this theme. Abstracts or panel proposals may focus on one or more of the areas below.

* Communication and Difference
* Democracy, Politics and Journalism Ethics
* Globalisation and Comparative Studies
* Innovation, Governance and Policy
* Media and New Media Literacies

The conference is at London School of Economics and Political Science, London, Sunday 21st – Tuesday 23rd September 2008.  Abstracts should be submitted by 1st March 2008. Go here to submit abstract and/or register.

compiled by Rob McCausland
Alliance for Community Media

Community Media: Selected Clippings – 01/25/08

January 26, 2008

Comcast fight joins federal case (MI)
by Deanna Rose

A Macomb County court case against Comcast has been combined with a federal lawsuit, with several communities attempting to permanently halt the cable company’s movement of local access channels to higher-numbered digital channels.  Macomb County Circuit Judge David Viviano, in response to a lawsuit filed by the city of Warren, granted a motion for a temporary restraining order Jan. 14 that prohibited Comcast from relocating public, educational and government, or PEG, channels. The move, slated to occur Jan. 15, was to place PEG programming on digital channels in the 900s.

A hearing for a preliminary injunction on whether or not to make Viviano’s decision permanent was scheduled to take place Jan. 22, but the case has since been moved to the U.S. District Court in Detroit and combined with another case citing similar issues.

U.S. District Judge Victoria A. Roberts, of the Eastern District of Michigan, issued the same action Jan. 14 as Viviano did. The federal decision was made on behalf of a motion filed Jan. 11 by Meridian Township and Dearborn against Comcast, which stated the move would no longer keep PEG channels on the lowest service plan, limiting access to senior citizens and low-income subscribers. With the channel switch, non-digital customers would have to purchase a converter box to watch PEG programming after Comcast’s promotional offer of a free converter box expired after one year.   —>

Court won’t block bids for cable TV PEG contract
Maui News (HI)

WAILUKU – Second Circuit Judge Joel August said Thursday that the state could continue with a competitive procurement process for public-access television services.  Akaku: Maui Community Television, which holds the Maui contract for public-access TV, had asked August to stop the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs from using a competitive bidding process, saying it was illegal and inappropriate given the station’s role in protecting free speech.

But August said that while he wasn’t sure the state is required to use competitive procurement, it has “wide discretion” in awarding the contracts. “They’re free to use any reasonable form of designation they wish to,” he said.

State law requires cable TV companies to provide money and channels for public, education and government access on cable. The DCCA has contracted with nonprofit organizations like Akaku to manage the public-access services.  After years of awarding no-bid contracts to Akaku and three sister operations in other counties, the DCCA was told by procurement officials the contracts had to be awarded in a competitive process.

The agency issued requests for proposals in 2006. But the procurement notice has been on hold while the state addresses protests filed by Akaku and the Oahu operator, Olelo, and while the DCCA writes rules for the procurement process.  The department is currently seeking approval to hold a public hearing on the draft rules.  The state Procurement Office last month granted an extension of the current contracts to July 15 while the DCCA completes the rules and renews its request-for-proposals.

August said Thursday he was “rather pleased” the state had listened to his recommendation that it create procurement rules.  He suggested that in addition to other factors, the DCCA make a “commitment in writing” to looking at preservation of free speech as one of its selection criteria for the contracts.   —>

Raymond’s RCTV paves the way for public access excellence
by Sean Bourbeau
Rockingham News (NH)

People that were trapped in their homes during the floods last year had power and cable TV, but they didn’t have land-line phone service and cell phone service was spotty at best.  Sure, there were images on the floods on Channel 7 and Channel 9, but they weren’t able to give people the type of information they needed if they wanted to venture out of their house.

That’s where Channel 22 stepped in, also known as Raymond Community Television (RCTV), providing roads that were open and closed throughout Raymond.  Marc Vadeboncoeur, member of the cable committee, went out to various roads and checked with the police and fire chiefs to find out information regarding road closings, safety measures, and other flood related coverage.

They were then able to post this information on Channel 22, giving people who had little or no information a wealth of it.  Their flood coverage is one example of how far RCTV has come in a decade since it started.  Vadeboncoeur said this coverage made the channel relevant.  “That was probably one of the best uses of local access,” he said. “The town (viewed) Channel 22 as a viable resource for them to get information out when needed.”   —>

Letter: City public TV channel needs some attention
by Bernie del Llano (4 comments)
Nashua Telegraph (NH)

As I began typing this letter, it has become more to create awareness and relay concerns about our public, education and government channels here in Nashua.  Well, first of all, we do not have a public channel. We live in one of the biggest cities in New Hampshire, and we do not have a public channel. We are too big of a city not to have one.

I have done many “public” shows for Lowell, Revere and Malden, Mass., as well as in our own state. I co-hosted a flood-relief telethon for Merrimack, and now every Monday morning I co-host a live talk show in Manchester for MCAM on Channel 23.  But as a resident of Nashua, I cannot have a public access show in my “hometown” because there isn’t a public access channel to begin with.  Cable television advisory board, what is the status of the public channel? Do you need help with this? —>

City’s special session to focus on Suddenlink franchise agreement
Enid News (OK)

Enid City Commission will meet in special session 6:30 p.m. Tuesday for a public hearing on Suddenlink Communications and extension of its franchise agreement with the city.  During the hearing, commissioners will review Suddenlink’s compliance with its existing license, review results of a satisfaction survey and identify future cable-related community needs and interests.   —>

‘Humble Farmer’ makes TV return
by Ray Routhier (1 comment)
Kennebec Journal (ME)

Seven months after he lost his public radio show because he wouldn’t agree to restrictions on what he could say on the air, the man known as “The Humble Farmer” is bringing his humor and commentary back to Mainers via public access television.  Robert Skoglund sent new versions of “The Humble Farmer” on DVD to public and community access TV stations around the state this month, hoping to get them on. In an e-mail to fans, Skoglund wrote that 28 stations have agreed to show the program or consider it. Skoglund declined to comment on his TV efforts for this story.

Stations that have scheduled “The Humble Farmer” include Harpswell Community Television, South Portland Community Television and Saco River Community Television, which appears in Buxton, Hollis, Limerick, Limington, Standish and Waterboro.

Skoglund had done his weekly show on the radio stations of the Maine Public Broadcasting Network for 28 years before he was dismissed in June. MPBN officials said Skoglund had refused to sign a letter indicating he would follow commentary guidelines that apply to the network’s non-news staff.   —>

Bismarck public art policy discussed
by Gordon Weixel (7 comments)
Bismarck Tribune (ND)

Questions from the community were as wide-ranging and diverse as the subject matter itself during the course of Thursday evening’s Public Arts Forum sponsored by the Bismarck Parks and Recreation District.  Originally intended as a four-person panel with a moderator, an unexpected fifth panelist appeared in the form of park district director Steve Neu, who found many of the questions directed his way. Other panelists included Bismarck State College instructor and artist Michelle Lindblom; local art dealer Ondine Baird; public art consultant Jack Becker; and Doug Kane, who started the process by questioning the park district’s policy on public art display…

…Neu said there will be further discussion with the community and that the information will be brought to the park board for their consideration. The forum was broadcast live on Community Access Television and will be repeated several times.   —>

FAQ: Inside the High-Stakes 700-MHz Spectrum Auction
by Bryan Gardiner

The FCC’s 700-MHz-spectrum auction officially began on January 24 and stands to be one of the most significant airwave auctions in U.S. history, potentially affecting everything from the cost of your wireless service to the competitive landscape among U.S. mobile providers for years to come.  With 214 qualified bidders expected to compete for various 700-MHz band licenses — including Verizon, AT&T and Google — some industry insiders say the government could rake in as much $30 billion in the auction. That money will be used to help transition to all digital TV signals by 2009.

Although bidding gets underway on Jan. 24, 2008, the public won’t know who the winners and losers are until the auction officially concludes. Per FCC rules, the entire bidding process for Auction 73 will be anonymous, and the government agency has warned participants not to disclose anything about the auction (or their bids) until after it’s over. That said, interested parties can track the auction’s progress by visiting the FCC’s auction homepage.

Over the next week, industry insiders will be watching Google in particular. If the company does win the highly coveted “C Block” of spectrum, the portion that has been deemed “open to any devices and services,” the resulting network could usher in much-needed innovation, improve services, and even a “third broadband pipe” (after DSL and cable) into the home — one that wouldn’t be controlled by any one company.

The “C Block” carriers a minimum bidding price of $4.6 billion, and the general consensus is that if Google does win this portion of spectrum, the company will have someone else build the network. Total build-out costs could be as high as $15 billion, according to industry analysts.  Of course, there are already enough loopholes attached to the “C Block” to render all of the open access stipulations obsolete if the FCC doesn’t get its asking price for the spectrum. Unquestionably, there’s a lot at stake.  Here’s a FAQ on how the FCC’s 700-MHz auction will work — and why you should be interested in its outcome.   —>

[  In the last few months I’ve been keeping an eye out for the term ‘ communitarian.’   That word comes freighted with tons of baggage, but yesterday this interesting reflection turned up – not unrelated to access television’s practices and effects.  – rm ]

The new commonwealth
by Deric Bownds (4 comments)
Deric Bownds’ Mindblog (WI)

Some interesting comments by Kevin Kelly on possible political consequences of the Wikipedia phenomenon, excerpted from his brief essay. He changed his initial assumption that an encyclopedia editable by anyone would be an impossibility. This commentary has a rather different spirit than yesterday’s post on the internet phenomenon.

“It has always been clear that collectives amplify power — that is what cities and civilizations are — but what’s been the big surprise for me is how minimal the tools and oversight are needed. The bureaucracy of Wikipedia is relatively so small as to be invisible. It’s the Wiki’s embedded code-based governance, versus manager-based governance that is the real news. Yet the greatest surprise brought by the Wikipedia is that we still don’t know how far this power can go. We haven’t seen the limits of wiki-ized intelligence. Can it make textbooks, music and movies? What about law and political governance?

“The reality of a working Wikipedia has made a type of communitarian socialism not only thinkable, but desirable. Along with other tools such as open-source software and open-source everything, this communtarian bias runs deep in the online world…In other words it runs deep in this young next generation. It may take several decades for this shifting world perspective to show its full colors. When you grow up knowing rather than admitting that such a thing as the Wikipedia works; when it is obvious to you that open source software is better; when you are certain that sharing your photos and other data yields more than safeguarding them — then these assumptions will become a platform for a yet more radical embrace of the commonwealth. I hate to say it but there is a new type of communism or socialism loose in the world, although neither of these outdated and tinged terms can accurately capture what is new about it.

“The Wikipedia has changed my mind, a fairly steady individualist, and lead me toward this new social sphere. I am now much more interested in both the new power of the collective, and the new obligations stemming from individuals toward the collective. In addition to expanding civil rights, I want to expand civil duties. I am convinced that the full impact of the Wikipedia is still subterranean, and that its mind-changing power is working subconsciously on the global millennial generation, providing them with an existence proof of a beneficial hive mind, and an appreciation for believing in the impossible.”

[ Kevin Kelly is Editor-At-Large for Wired, and author of “New Rules for the New Economy.”  There’s more of his essay at Edge’s World Question Center website.  Interesting place – the question for 2008 is “What Have You Changed Your Mind About?” – rm ]

compiled by Rob McCausland
Alliance for Community Media