In memory of Paul Reynolds, who succeeded in seeing the good things the internet could be, a discussion. Examples, anecdotes, arguments, visions, etc.
I nominate us. Seriously. For all that things might become fractious or frustrating, the PAS community is a cultural and intellectual wellspring for me. It also makes me laugh every day.
And it's mine. MINE, you hear!?
Oh. I'm sorry. I lost my composure there.
Brown considers career in local body politics
Newmarket has Cameron Brewer, Remuera has Cameron Slater – but I greatly prefer my local Cameron – Cameron Greig, that is, founder and keeper of pointchev.com, where his pick of the best of the entries for the "A weekend in the Chev" photography competition has finally been posted. Neighbourhoods benefit from the fact that people like him are prepared to put so much work into community websites.
Fiona and I helped with the photo comp judging, which was an illuminating experience. Although I was quite glad when it was over and I didn't have to see leaflets describing me as one of "our local celebrities" every time I went into a cafe.
I'll second Russell.
Whilst we are praising great things, I am currently reviewing a very excellent book by Graeme Turner (University of Queensland), Ordinary People and the Media: The Demotic Turn(Sage, 2010). Critiques much of the hyperbole and delusionary claims about the 'democratisation' of the media, without being alarmist nor snotty.
I was going to say the New Zealand Electronic Text Centre, before our forward looking university decided to restructure it. Beside that, some of the best contemporary writing comes from blogs, and I can't get past that very simple and in some respects old-fashioned proposition.
(Also, I've learned about most of this writing one way or another via Stephen. So I nominate Stephen Judd for best of the web.)
So I nominate Stephen Judd for best of the web.
I thought we weren't supposed to be suggesting the blindingly obvious?
Russell nominated PAS, so I thought nothing was too obvious.
Okay, well I've said this all before somewhere here, I am sure. But it bears repeating. I first stumbled onto the Internet about 15 years ago when chat was still HTML, and javachat was just making an appearance. I spent a good long while obsessed with chatting with peeps, from the Americas mainly. Pagans were the most fun, but I met many and varied people. Just like going to the pub but in your jammies, really. I went on to meet one of the most important people in my life, in a chatroom. She's still on my quickdial. I have met many, many people in that way. But that's not the best thing. The best thing is that I went from completely scathing of all things computery to having a love affair with the internet to it now being an essential part of my life. Whether it be emailing for work or to friends. or skyping with Micky in Essex or making friends or downloading music or shopping, or banking.....I couldn't be entirely without it. I do most things online. And yes, Russell, PAS had broadened my horizons and enriched my life. And I have made some lovely new friends. Really, that's the best thing about the internet for me, still. It remains just like the pub, but with better people.
Here's to all the ageing raw HTML coders who still get frustrated when WYSIWIG editors make multiple nested tables for every damn table cell, when a simple <tr><td> tag combo would suffice.
Here's also to all those coders who once they changed jobs in the late nineties have forgotten just about everything, and have to use WYSIWIG editors to code paragraphs.
Style sheets? That's a fashion magazine, right?
And to PAS.
Notable: Metafilter intervention in human trafficking: a guy said "hey, my friend from Russia has been jerked around by the company that was to get her a job and I think she's being lured up for a life of stripping and prostitution in New York", or words to that effect, and this online community leapt into action.
On a smaller local scale, Facebook gave a win recently for us. A young teen friend posted that she was going to hang out with her new "friend", who turned out to be decades older. She denied it was creepy and that her parents needed to know. A back-and-forth happened on my wife's Facebook page, with all my wife's female friends chiming in and saying "nope, definitely creepy" and finally the teen was convinced to go talk to her parents about it. It's not earth-shattering, but it's a humble counter-example to the "MURDERER FOUND VICTIM ON FACEBOOK" unhappy endings that are easier to find.
These happy endings occur every day; they're just not in my orbit or in such public spaces as Metafilter. We hear a lot about how the Internet is making us stupid and evil, but in truth the Internet helps human beings to be human. It's not just helping bad people be bad, it also helps good people to be good.
And that's something I'm sure Paul would have agreed with.
I love being able to easily find gems like this recent conversation between two cutting edge thinkers, Daniel Pink and Clay Shirky, about how the internet can transform contribution - including my own. Everyone deserves to read this one.
Shirky: Oh, that walk down memory lane is painful. Somehow, watching television became a part-time job for every citizen in the developed world. But once we stop thinking of all that time as individual minutes to be whiled away and start thinking of it as a social asset that can be harnessed, it all looks very different.
The buildup of this free time among the world’s educated population—maybe a trillion hours per year—is a new resource. It’s what I refer to as the cognitive surplus.
Pink: A surplus that post-TV media—blogs, wikis, and Twitter—can tap for other, often more valuable, uses.
Shirky: That’s what’s happening. Television was a solitary activity that crowded out other forms of social connection. But the very nature of these new technologies fosters social connection—creating, contributing, sharing. When someone buys a TV, the number of consumers goes up by one, but the number of producers stays the same. When someone buys a computer or mobile phone, the number of consumers and producers both increase by one.
This lets ordinary citizens, who’ve previously been locked out, pool their free time for activities they like and care about. So instead of that free time seeping away in front of the television set, the cognitive surplus is going to be poured into everything from goofy enterprises like lolcats, where people stick captions on cat photos, to serious political activities like Ushahidi.com, where people report human rights abuses.
If it needs to be said, one thing that seems blindingly obvious from this discussion and others recently, is that the best of the web is social. Whether it be things which are obviously so, or things that appear on the surface to be technical or arcane, the joy of the web is in creation of things together. New spaces, new ideas, new things. When it all comes together it's wonderful and beautiful.
and this online community leapt into action.
heart warming stuff, thanks Nat, and our moderator [overlord].
Actually, thinking about what the Net empowers, a more obvious story is that this morning I streamed Paul Weller live at The Royal Albert Hall through The Concert Channel, and both the sound and video quality were quite unexpectedly good, even at the lowest bandwidth (I prefer a small drop on quality to having constant caching interruptions).
Since found out he is playing here later in the year, but it was still great to have this running through the stereo during breakfast.
I'd give a vote for YouTube also. There's just so much to see. The latest X-51a scramjet motor was my last hit.
I can't really add much to what George said at 1.24 pm.
The bits of the Internet that are truly awesome - Reading the Maps and a couple of my favourite web comics are the first examples that spring to mind - are that way because of the people who created them. They may have existed without the Internet, or they may not; but without the Internet it's highly unlikely that I'd even have heard of them in the first place.
I've got a couple of friendships of a decade or more's standing that I can thank the Internet for, as well. Basically, the Internet is made of people, not computers - it's the people who make the pictures, who type the words, who wrangle with code and curse at CSS, that make the Internet what it is.
They may have existed without the Internet, or they may not; but without the Internet it's highly unlikely that I'd even have heard of them in the first place.
I taught a politics and the media class yesterday, and explained to my undergraduates how before the 1990s, we had to print things and distribute physical copies. There were and are advantages to this, as with any technology of production. I think here of my father's photocopier, a machine with he very proudly produced political pamphlets for letterboxing, and how as a child I'd walk the streets with him. But it was also difficult, on cold wet mornings.
I think the major change in my opinion has been the removal of barriers to access in the transmission of information. It was hard for me to explain this to my students, because they simply take it so thoroughly for granted.
During the 1951 waterfront lockout, it was an imprisonable offense to possess or distribute literature in support of the watersiders. It can now be revealed that one source of this literature was a press in my grandparents' house on New Windsor Road and one distributor was my Dad, aged 12 years, on his bicycle. Only recently did I realise what a risk the whole family was taking in support of their political beliefs.
Up until a few months ago, I would have said WWW FTW! Just set up a website!
However, the DIA filter makes me far less confident.
Make of that what you will.
Possibly some of the fine writing whose discovery Gio attributed to me with such undeserved praise can be found at Poemas del Rio Wang Random example post, or Language Hat, or Three Quarks Daily. And of course there's Gio's own blog, which you should immediately read all the back numbers of.
Have you gone and read all the back numbers of Bat Bean Beam? Excellent.
I have started to suspect recently that one reason I am finding local magazine and newspaper writing so grating is not that they have become worse, but that I am now regularly reading much better things.
What I find the very best thing about the internet is how I can get started on virtually any topic of interest. It's true that online resources are inferior to well-stocked libraries, and that generally you end up with a very shallow grasp of whatever you're trying to find out about. But I certainly am making more strange food, playing more strange music, reading more strange books, and constructing more strange devices than I ever would have without online resources making the first steps easier.
That's nice for me, but it's just amazing in Bangladesh.
Have you gone and read all the back numbers of Bat Bean Beam?
You're too kind. But seriously, there will be a test.
If it needs to be said, one thing that seems blindingly obvious from this discussion and others recently, is that the best of the web is social.
Yes, and, as you mention in your later comment, those who only know the internet era will never understand the kind of social and informational isolation that many of us experienced in the pre-internet era (which sounds kind of maudlin, but I only mean it literally).
Indeed, even those who did experience that era would struggle to remember all the ways that life was so different (having to travel intercity - well, North Shore to AK - to find one little line in what appeared to be the only copy of a book that existed in the region; having interests or hobbies that were shared by literally no one you had ever spoken to; and - for the vast majority of us - only being able to communicate with more than one person at a time if those people were physically present).
Heh. A friend of mine has a marvellous story of how he escaped from a certain provincial boarding school one weekend and made it down to Wellington to see MC Hammer, coming back in the early morning just in time to appear as if nothing had happened. It was a tight operation involving covert ticket ordering, buses, trains and bread delivery trucks.
The reason I tell you this is that on hearing this a 26 year old mutual friend expressed astonishment that a schoolboy could plan this before the internet -- surely this was impossible! I had to explain to him about these devices called pub-a-lick tell-a-fones.
Yes, and, as you mention in your later comment, those who only know the internet era will never understand the kind of social and informational isolation that many of us experienced in the pre-internet era (which sounds kind of mauidlin, but I only mean it literally).
That's true. A few years ago while hitchhiking through the Wairarapa I had the privelege of being driven by an old man who had lived in the region his entire life. He told me of how differently people started to think about time and place once the motorcar made its way into people's lives. It was an absolutely fascinating discussion with someone who grew up in the age of the horse.
I think our conception of place is also being altered in the same way by cheap international air-travel. I don't like to assume that the internet will have the same impact, or subscribe to arguments that The World is Flat, but I think we're already seeing some of those kinds of impacts on information.
making more strange food, playing more strange music, reading more strange books, and constructing more strange devices
and let's not forget meeting more strange people
I had to explain to him about these devices called pub-a-lick tell-a-fones.
They seem to be disappearing - 2600 's project of documenting payphones is rapidly moving towards memorialisation as mobile devices take over all worlds (1st, 2nd, and 3rd).