If it works, it’s obsolete

Paul Raven @ 02-02-2014

There are some elephants in the room that Chairman Bruce would like to show to us.

[Opening ceremony speech from transmediale2014]


The Fall of the House of Murdoch

Paul Raven @ 11-07-2011

While I’m not so optimistically convinced as some of my fellow Brits that Rupert Murdoch’s media empire has been as badly bloodied as we’d all like it to be, there’s no getting around the fact that the last week has seen a pretty spectacular sea-change in the relationship between British politics and the fourth estate. The BBC’s Paul Mason has a long searching post on these events which – very sensibly, I feel – contains more questions than confident analyses, and is well worth a read. It is a remarkable thing to see not just a very conspicuous case of, as he puts it, “the network defeating the hierarchy”, but to see so many people who were previously sceptical of the network’s power scratching their heads and wondering where the next sinkhole is going to open up.

I’m not naive enough to believe we’re driving headlong toward some sort of post-pyramid social utopia… far from it, in fact, as I suspect that – despite the spectacular scale of these clashes – these are merely the first border skirmishes between the crowd and the ziggurat rather than the culmination of a war. But even so, the Rejectionistas and cynics who’ve been telling us that the power of the network is illusory are sounding more behind the curve than ever.

The only certainty from here on in is change. Wear a helmet.


ExPoMo-a-go-go

Paul Raven @ 19-05-2011

Another day, another newly-coined paradigm label for the unnamed (or rather polymonikered) present: this is expostmodernism [via Justin Pickard].

The force most people want to talk about is social media and wireless devices, and they are often treated as the only causes of the culture shift happening right now. But that’s a very narrow view. I see a number of major factors driving ExPoMod, including:

  • A new boogieman. The Cold War ended in the 90s. Nuclear attacks still pose a risk, but are unlikely to wipe out entire continents. Terror attacks are the new spook, and while devastating, they tend to be localized. When the world is not in danger of ending, there is less motivation for cynicism and apathy.
  • The maturing of the internet. In the early 90s, the savviest internet users were teens. The internet was a place of dubious information and anonymity. In the Oughts those users grew up and harnessed the internet professionally. Now people use their real names and information is as accurate (or more accurate) as offline sources.
  • The depreciation of privacy. Throughout the postmodern period there was a concern for privacy of personal information. Only government and corporations had the resources to collect and use repositories of personal information, and they weren’t trusted. Since the late 90s there has been increasing value to putting one’s personal information online, and increasing difficulty in keeping it private. With real advantages to sharing personal information, privacy has become a polarized issue and more people are comfortable giving it up.
  • A new type of war. The wars of the last 20 years tend to kill thousands or tens of thousands of people, a sharp contrast to the millions of dead in the World Wars, Korea, and Vietnam. Nationalism is less polarized, and discussion of war is more openly couched in economic terms.
  • Economic shift. As the housing market fails, people find less security in staying in one location. More people take advantage of the ease of travel and communication, and they spend money differently. Sectors that delivery creativity, information, technology, and experiences are seeing growth.
  • Change in education. As the price of college soars and more jobs require Master’s degrees, people increasingly seek ways to self-employ or work creatively. Many people prefer focused training through workshops, conferences and online materials to be preferable to formal institutions of higher learning. With the breadth and depth of information available online, this strategy has become a viable alternative to college for launching a successful career.

Together these factors shape a multi-generational move toward new beliefs, views and lifestyles. The single most notable shift is the decline of alienation. Alienation, the banner trait of postmodernism, occurs when an individual feels their existence has no point—either because their work provides no satisfaction, or because they don’t feel like they fit in with their community.

Not sure how much newness is in that pseudomanifesto, or that I agree with everything it says, and I definitely think “altermodern” has a better ring to it… but the sense that we’re on the cusp of a transition? Yeah, I get that. Hard to look at the news and not get that, really.


Perpetual perfect present: journalism strategies for an atemporal world

Paul Raven @ 18-02-2011

Apparently the BBC has been doing this for a while, but this is the first time I’ve seen anyone mention it explicitly; The Guardian attempts to address the atemporality of the globalised 24/7 newsriver:

So our new policy, adopted last week (wherever you are in the world), is to omit time references such as last night, yesterday, today, tonight and tomorrow from guardian.co.uk stories. If a day is relevant (for example, to say when a meeting is going to happen or happened) we will state the actual day – as in “the government will announce its proposals in a white paper on Wednesday [rather than ‘tomorrow’]” or “the government’s proposals, announced on Wednesday [rather than ‘yesterday’], have been greeted with a storm of protest”.

The BBC website, among others, adopted a similar strategy some time ago and I feel it gives an immediacy to their reports akin to watching or listening to a live news broadcast. So in a sense we are, perhaps belatedly, recognising another way in which a website is different from a newspaper.

We are likely to make much more use of the present tense (“the government is facing a deepening crisis …”) and present perfect tense (“the crisis engulfing the government has intensified …”); until the change of approach, we would probably have written “the crisis engulfing the government intensified tonight …”

Largely unmentioned is the root cause of the problem being addressed, namely that folk who aren’t “digital natives” don’t make a habit of checking the date and time on online articles. To be fair, I only learned that necessity the hard way, after being called out on having posted some five-year-old nugget as news…

Though this raises an interesting facet of atemporality, namely that not all information is time sensitive to the same degree. A lot of more general knowledge is “news” if it’s new to the person reading it. The central channel of the river flows faster than the edges…


An agency without agency

Paul Raven @ 11-02-2011

Yours truly, 28th January:

Egypt tweet, 28th January 2011 - Paul Graham Raven

Wired‘s Danger Room, 10th February (yesterday):

Twitter and the mainstream press are filled with rumors that Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak may be forced to step down as early as Thursday night. What does CIA Director Leon Panetta think? All he could tell a congressional panel on Thursday morning is that he, like them, is relying on the media for his info.

And how did that work out for you, folks?

Posted not for self-aggrandizement (well, maybe just a little bit), but to highlight the fact that professional intelligence gathering appears not to have caught up with the world it’s supposed to watch; another symptom of the declining reach of the nation-state in general, and the interventionist impulse in the US in particular.

You can’t control what you don’t understand; time to stop trying and start listening, maybe?


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