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EFF-Austin Cyberdawg Social, November 2003.

Austin: Wireless Future, ongoing project / meetings; conference (March 12-16)

SXSW Interactive, Austin (March 12-16)


Polycot helps organizations determine how to build and use effective web technologies to solve problems, build loyalty, share knowledge, and organize projects. For more information, email consult at weblogsky.com, or check out the Polycot Consulting web site.


CEO, Polycot Consulting. Polycot is a network services company: network consulting, installation and administration, as well as web solutions (architecture and development).

Member of the blog team at Another World (worldchanging.com)

Co-Founder of the Austin Wireless City Project

Manager of the Wireless Future Project for IC² Institute

Associated with Rheingold and Associates, Online Social Networking

Moderator and co-administrator at the Dean Issues Forum

Writer of various interviews, reviews, essays, and articles.

President of EFF-Austin

Member, Board of Directors, Austin Freenet

Local advisor for South by Southwest Interactive

Steering Committee Member and Webmaster, Austin Clean Energy Initiative

Member of the blog team for Howard Rheingold's Smart Mobs weblog.

Cohost of The WELL's Inkwell.vue, discussions and interviews.

Webmaestro for Viridian Design

Co-instigator of Austin Bloggers

Member of Mindjack's Board of Advisors.

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weblogsky archives

November 2003

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April 2001

Email jonl at weblogsky.com


Tuesday, December 31, 2002
Video from Creative Commons Launch

Lisa Rein posted QT videos and mp3 audios from the launch event for The Creative Commons. Featured: Craig Newmark, Aaron Swartz, Glenn Otis Brown, Brewster Kahle. [Link]
posted by jon lebkowsky on 12/31/2002 08:26:02 AM | ~permalink~ | ~post a comment~

Monday, December 30, 2002
Stigmergy and the World-Wide Web

An essay by Joe Greogorio, found via Evhead. Not exactly original thinking, but this is a pretty good overview of emergence in the context of the worldwideweb, and I dig the term stigmergy, for interaction through the environment, which is an apt description of the foundation of community in Blogistan. [Link]
The World-Wide Web is human stigmergy. The web and it's ability to let anyone read anything and also to write back to that environment allows stigmeric communication between humans. Some of the most powerful forces on the web today, Google and weblogs are fundamentally driven by stigmeric communication and their behaviour follows similar natural systems like Ant Trails and Nest Building that are accomplished using stigmergy. The web is new. In the context of written human history is barely a blink of an eye. Yet as new as the web is, it is already showing it's ability to support complex human interactions that mimic natural systems use of stigmergy. And were just getting started...
posted by jon lebkowsky on 12/30/2002 09:44:46 PM | ~permalink~ | ~post a comment~

Wiley Wiggins: Solarcon-6

Sometime after Rick Linklater's "Dazed and Confused" was released, Wiley Wiggins (who played Mitch Kramer, on the run from Ben Affeck's paddle) left Austin and spent some time doing the struggling actor thing in Los Angeles. Wiley says "Solarcon-6 started life as a notebook I carried around with me during my brief stint as a struggling actor living in downtown LA. I had no job, very few friends, no money, no prospects... things looked bleak. The 'stories' are all fragmented, fuzzy... Hallways that lead to dead ends. They're not for everybody. This e-book represents a refreshing purge of bad memories for me. An externalization of something malignant, like coughing up infectious sputum. Please forgive me if it offends. " Thing is, though, Wiley can write, [Link]
I'M VISITING WITH MY PARENTS. First we go to a convenience store that is surrounded by bums and gutterpunks that harass my parents as they get ice cream. I ask for cookie dough ice cream but they come back with a box of junior mints. My Mom tries to tell a bum that she has no money but she has some old clothes he can have in the car. We go to what I suppose is my Dad's house to watch a silly science fi ction movie that is about two black drug dealers who are having a visit… one of them is really crazy and is screaming all the time about his guns. They're in a really huge mansion jumping around shrieking and aiming guns at each other trying to freak each other out I guess. Then it goes to some cheesy Vietnam flashback. I turn to ask my parents what we're watching and they're both asleep on the couch.
posted by jon lebkowsky on 12/30/2002 12:03:55 PM | ~permalink~ | ~post a comment~

The Wireless Commons Manifesto

"We have formed the Wireless Commons because a global wireless network is within our grasp. We will work to define and achieve a wireless commons built using shared spectrum, and able to connect people everywhere. We believe there is value to an independent and global network which is open to the public. We will break down commercial, technical, social and political barriers to the commons. The wireless commons bridges one of the few remaining gaps in universal communication without interference from middlemen and meddlers." [Link]
posted by jon lebkowsky on 12/30/2002 08:04:50 AM | ~permalink~ | ~post a comment~

Saturday, December 28, 2002
Overclocking by Gregory Cochran

Gregory Cochran's Overclocking essay, posted by Jerry Pournelle (who should correct the typos, by the way), is a fascinating consideration of the genetics of intelligence, including speculation about potential outcomes of practical research, e.g. "smart pills." Cochran suggests, in a response to a brief message from Pournelle, that the sociopolitical implications and potential physical consequences of IQ boosters could be, er, interesting. He mentions a couple of science fiction scenarios from the past (e.g. Flowers for Algernon), but he fails to mention the Krell. Also no explicit mention of eugenics or the "master race" concept, though the issues Cochran does mention suggest that he's aware of the bioethical implications. [Link]
But it would be easy for them to be too expensive for general use in non-first-world countries. Them that has, gets. Even if too expensive for general use in a poor country, the kakistocrats could probably afford them, making revolution harder. Dictators would, as a perk, get smarts as well as power. The gap between us and , say, Guinea Bissau would become awesome.
posted by jon lebkowsky on 12/28/2002 07:04:33 AM | ~permalink~ | ~post a comment~

Friday, December 27, 2002

I'm convinced that Matt Drudge has lost his mind.
[ Discuss Drudgery ]
posted by jon lebkowsky on 12/27/2002 05:27:00 PM | ~permalink~ | ~post a comment~

Thursday, December 26, 2002
Paul Laffoley

Paul Laffoley attributes his art to an alien nanotech lab implanted in his skull near the pineal gland! [Link] [Another Link] [Still Another Link]
Given the scope of his current projects - a time machine that creates memories of the future, and a Klein Bottle four-dimensional vegetable house, you have to wonder what Laffoley would unleash on the world if given control of a digital film studio.

Could Laffoley really be the Counter-culture's visionary Leonardo Da Vinci for the Twenty-first Century? Yes - for once the oft-applied Recognition superlative of Renaissance Man is truly deserved, having been won first by Laffoley through the struggles and trials of Seeking after his own Truths.

posted by jon lebkowsky on 12/26/2002 12:27:37 PM | ~permalink~ | ~post a comment~

Cecil B. DeMitnick

Life is looking up for Kevin Mitnick, who's teaming with Kevin Spacey (!!!) to produce corporate training videos. [Link]
posted by jon lebkowsky on 12/26/2002 08:18:41 AM | ~permalink~ | ~post a comment~

The Cybersecurity Industrial Complex

From Wired: Bruce Sterling on the Federal plan to protect the national information infrastructure. [Link]
Self-appointed security experts may scoff, yet "National Strategy" is actually a well-informed report written by sober, career-oriented functionaries. Richard Clarke and Howard Schmidt, the board's chair and vice chair, respectively, have broad experience that ranges from police work to the Air Force to the National Security Council to Microsoft. And there's money on the table. The $1.4 billion a year currently spent to secure federal computers is likely to expand by a factor of 10 during the rest of the Bush presidency. Given the present lean times, many clever hands will have their palms out. "National Strategy" cordially name-checks nearly every outfit that might improve the situation.
posted by jon lebkowsky on 12/26/2002 05:55:37 AM | ~permalink~ | ~post a comment~

Tuesday, December 24, 2002
A quote

I've been reading posts on the WELL by my Venezuelan friend, Ricardo Bello, who's been discussing the opposition strike against Hugo Chavez and the mess Chavez seems to've created in Venezuela. Ricardo posted this quote, which I think is pretty great:

It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of loosing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it.

Source of the quote is Nobel laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma. Here's another, longer quote:

Acting as if they believe in democracy and treating this country like a plaything, building a fantasy world is the cause of all our problems. We can not continue in this way. That is why I am constantly reminding you that our problems will not be automatically solved once democracy is restored. Don't imagine this. Once democracy is restored we will still struggling for the preservation of democracy. We must build a strong and enduring foundation. After laying a foundation to build a house, manpower, money and expertise are required. A house built without architectural knowledge is not the same as that built with architectural knowledge and expertise. In addition, it is essential that we be honest and compassionate among ourselves.

Reminder: she's talking about Burma.

posted by jon lebkowsky on 12/24/2002 01:23:15 PM | ~permalink~ | ~post a comment~

Dow vs Thing

Because of a bit of web detournement by RTMark, its host, Thing.net, is losing its connectivity. Thing.net's upline provider, Verio, got a DMCA notice from Dow Chemical in reference to a political parody site an RTMark group called The Yes Men set up. The site, similar to this one at dowethics.com, was designed to look like an authentic Dow site but contained content critical of the Union Carbide and Dow handling of the 1984 Bhopal disaster. (There's also an article about the controversy in the New York Times.) [Link]
posted by jon lebkowsky on 12/24/2002 04:34:52 AM | ~permalink~ | ~post a comment~

Monday, December 23, 2002
Joe Strummer Dead at Fifty

Cos years have passed and things have changed
and I move anyway I wanna go
I'll never forget the feeling I got
when I heard that you'd got home
an' I'll never forget the smile on my face
'cos I knew where you would be
an' if you're in the crown tonight
have a drink on me
but go easy...step lightly...stay free

(From Stay Free by Joe Strummer and Mick Jones)
posted by jon lebkowsky on 12/23/2002 04:48:54 PM | ~permalink~ | ~post a comment~

Top Ten Web-Design Mistakes of 2002 (Alertbox Dec. 2002)

Jakob Nielsen's list of web usability problem areas for the year. You'll recognize 'em all (though you may not agree with 'em 100%). [Link]
posted by jon lebkowsky on 12/23/2002 04:30:48 PM | ~permalink~ | ~post a comment~

David Weinberger Interview

David Weinberger is interviewed by yours truly in the SXSW Tech Report. David's latest book is Small Pieces, Loosely Joined: A Unified Theory of the Web Note that the url for the interview will change when it's archived. . [Link]
I think the answer is that our RW idea of space is screwy. Thanks to Newton and Descartes, we think of space as an abstract container that consists of equidistant points in three dimensions. Obviously that's a highly useful way to think about space, but it doesn't capture our lived experience. In daily, unreflective life we don't experience space at all. We experience places: your living room, your basement, a restaurant, your cubicle, the corner you're sent to when you're bad, and so on. Places have meaning and emotional qualities. And, of course, places are navigable: I can get from one to another. But that's exactly what the Web consists of: navigable places that have meaning and emotional qualities. The Web feels spatial because it shares those most important qualities of RW space. And, in so doing our Web experience clarifies something about our RW experience of space: we don't live in an abstract container devoid of qualities but in a world that consists of places that mean something to us. We shouldn't have to be reminded of this, but we've elevated the scientific viewpoint to such an extent that we often think that abstract space is real and places are "merely subjective." Because the Web doesn't have a container or abstract grid points we can't make that mistake there.
posted by jon lebkowsky on 12/23/2002 04:15:20 PM | ~permalink~ | ~post a comment~

Bikes, Elephants, and Community Networking

In India, the telecom revolution requires real muscle - 5000 guys on bikes with cellphones, biking into rural areas where there's usually one phone per couple of hundred people. Computers have been hauled on the backs of elephants, as well, but Grameen Sanchar Seva Organization (GRASSO) is planning more effectively, beginning with men on bikes, then adding a truck per ten villages and one Internet kiosk per ten villages. [Link]
"Villages lack even their own transport to carry produce to markets, so digital connectivity is like half a circle," Das said. "We will provide physical connectivity, too, and complete this circle."

To achieve this, GRASSO will help villagers start their own small businesses. Previously unemployed men will become owners of telephone booths, Internet kiosks and vehicles that will carry agricultural produce.

"The idea is to build three networks -- phones, Internet and transport -- each sustaining the other," said Das.

posted by jon lebkowsky on 12/23/2002 07:21:42 AM | ~permalink~ | ~post a comment~


Thanks to Tom Morin for pointing me to this bit of tech archaeology: a web site documenting the Multics (Multiplexed Information and Computing Service) timesharing operating system, introduced in 1965. Multics influenced the development of Unix (get it? Multics, Unix... heh. Geek punsterism at work.) Multics went away in 2000, but Multicians hope for a revival (see alt.os.multics). [Link]
posted by jon lebkowsky on 12/23/2002 06:48:04 AM | ~permalink~ | ~post a comment~

Sunday, December 22, 2002
Toy Symphony

Tod Machover at MIT's Media Lab is creating Toy Symphony, an extension of Machover's work on The Brain Opera. The Toy Symphony concept allows children to create, appreciate, and perform sophisticated music. [Link]
An integrated approach to music education and creativity is at the core of Toy Symphony. Through coherent musical concepts that are fused with intensive hands-on workshops, online activities for home or classroom, the exploration of new technological inventions, and a culminating public concert, Toy Symphony serves to show children that they can create their own music, discover the potential of the symphony orchestra, absorb musical and technological principles through Music Toys, and ultimately be an important part of a large-scale, professional production.
posted by jon lebkowsky on 12/22/2002 06:58:14 AM | ~permalink~ | ~post a comment~

FBI under fire for IT slipups (CNet)

Those of us who are concerned about the intention behind DARPA's Information Awareness Office can only hope that DARPA is no more effective than the FBI in managing IT projects and resources. [Link]
"Because the FBI has not fully implemented the critical processes associated with effective IT investment management, the FBI continues to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on IT projects without adequate assurance that these projects will meet their intended goals," the report concluded.
posted by jon lebkowsky on 12/22/2002 06:43:59 AM | ~permalink~ | ~post a comment~

Saturday, December 21, 2002
Between the Wars: The Red Scare

After reading my post about the rounding up of Muslim immigrants in California, Bobby Lilly sent me this link about the "Palmer Raids" of 1918-21 (the "Red Scare"). I hope we haven't gone that far, but all the more reason to question authority. Thanks, Bobby! [Link]
The year 1919 saw a great deal of social conflict--a wave of strikes, the passage of both Prohibition and Woman Suffrage, and the Chicago race riot. A series of bombings by suspected anarchists began in Summer 1919; on June 2, bombs went off in eight cities, including Washington DC, where Palmer's home was partially destroyed. Just who set the bombs remained unclear. Although there were only about 70, 000 self professed Communists in the United States in 1919, Palmer viewed them as responsible for a wide range of social ills, including the bombings. Encouraged by Congress, which had refused to seat the duly elected socialist from Wisconsin, Victor Berger, Mitchell began a series of showy and well publicized raids against radicals and leftists. Striking without warning and without warrants, Palmer's men smashed union offices and the headquarters' of Communist and Socialist organizations. They concentrated whenever possible on aliens rather than citizens, because aliens had fewer rights. In December of 1919, in their most famous act, Palmer's agents seized 249 resident aliens. Those seized were placed on board a ship, the Buford, bound for the Soviet Union.
posted by jon lebkowsky on 12/21/2002 12:59:06 PM | ~permalink~ | ~post a comment~

Thursday, December 19, 2002
The All Seeing Pie in the Sky...

John Barlow just send another message to his list, this time noting the disappearance of the illuminatoid image from the DARPA Office of Information Awareness page. He tracked down a source for the image, though, at the Conspiracy Archive, at its page devoted to the Illuminati conspiracy. [Link]
From the Conspiracy Archive: The All-Seeing-Eye in IAO's logo is watching, listening, and tracking the whole globe. Judging by their stated areas of research, I think the plan is to marry 'psychic spying' with Echelon technology - thus the use of a recognized occult symbol for a logo. How's that for your tax dollars at work?
posted by jon lebkowsky on 12/19/2002 02:23:04 PM | ~permalink~ | ~post a comment~

Hundreds of Muslim Immigrants Rounded Up

The INS arrested an estimated 500 Muslim immigrants in California Wednesday. Evidently these are immigrants who came forward to register with immigration authorities. The INS said the arrests were for violations of immigration laws, expired visas, or criminal activity. [Link]
"It is a shock. You don't expect this to happen. It is really putting fright and apprehension in the community. People who come from these countries -- this is what they expect from their government. Not from America," said Sabiha Khan of the Southern California chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations.
posted by jon lebkowsky on 12/19/2002 06:55:33 AM | ~permalink~ | ~post a comment~

John Barlow on Total Information Awareness

John Barlow's emailed a new piece on Total Information Awareness, along with an earlier piece he wrote for Forbes ASAP. In dropping Barlow's text into html, I happened to check the link to the DARPA site for TIA, and found that the all-seeing pyramid logo has disappeared. Perhaps the Illuminati threatened to sue for trademark infringement. Barlow is in good form... [Link]
But the Information Awareness Office is the brainchild of a very smart man who is working inside a very smart agency. It is, as you probably know by now, being created under the supervision of Admiral John Pointdexter, who, while Reagan's National Security Advisor, cooked up much of the Iran-Contra plot. (I had thought at the time that being convicted of 5 felonies would end Poindexter's career in government service, but I underestimated him.)

It's being born inside the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. DARPA, as its more generally known, is a place where leviathans of technology stride forth regularly to alter the world as we know it, as often for good as ill. DARPA gave us the Internet. It's small - only 240 personnel - smart, anti-bureaucratic, and capable. DARPA doesn't try to develop in-house where the bureaucracy can make giant hairballs of most initiatives. It out-sources, and generally to the right places. DARPA's proven capacity to make technology happen is a large part of why we should take the Information Awareness Office seriously.

Even if, in all the hue and cry that has followed its revelation, the IAO is aborted, it is one of many related endeavors that have received less publicity. For example, DARPA has recently been conducting research into imposing a new set of Internet protocols that would tag all the packets in Cyberspace with unique markers that would make anonymous Internet use effectively impossible.

posted by jon lebkowsky on 12/19/2002 06:24:25 AM | ~permalink~ | ~post a comment~

Sunday, December 15, 2002
Keeping Track of John Poindexter

John Poindexter advocates Total Information Awareness; wonder what he's thinking after a bit of sousveillance? [Link]
posted by jon lebkowsky on 12/15/2002 02:05:50 PM | ~permalink~ | ~post a comment~

Nat Hentoff: We'll All Be Under Surveillance

Nat Hentoff writes about Total Information Awareness in The Village Voice. His title: We'll All Be Under Surveillance. Read and consider... one question is what we're willing to give up to secure ourselves against known and unknown threats... and how well can we trust leaders to use surveillance tools responsibly? [Link]
Without any official public notice, and without any congressional hearings, the Bush administration—with an initial appropriation of $200 million—is constructing the Total Information Awareness System. It will extensively mine government and commercial data banks, enabling the FBI, the CIA, and other intelligence agencies to collect information that will allow the government—as noted on ABC-TV's November 14 Nightline—"to essentially reconstruct the movements of citizens." This will be done without warrants from courts, thereby making individual privacy as obsolete as the sauropods of the Mesozoic era. (Intelligence from and to foreign sources will also be involved.)
posted by jon lebkowsky on 12/15/2002 07:48:52 AM | ~permalink~ | ~post a comment~

Friday, December 13, 2002

I couldn't find a link to this press release, so I'm posting it in its entirety. Thanks, Bobby!

December 13, 2002
Contact: Paul Hardwin: mailto:phardwin@yurt.org
DowEthics.com: mailto:info@dowethics.com

But companies find it harder to stifle criticism

Two giant companies are struggling to shut down parody websites that portray them unfavorably, interrupting internet use for thousands in the process, and filing a lawsuit that pits the formidable legal department of PR giant Burson-Marsteller against a freshman at Hampshire College.

The activists behind the fake corporate websites have fought back, and obtained substantial publicity in the process.

Fake websites have been used by activists before, but Dow-Chemical.com and BursonMarsteller.com represent the first time that such websites have successfully been used to publicize abuses by specific corporations.

A December 3 press release originating from one of the fake sites, Dow-Chemical.com, explained the "real" reasons that Dow could not take responsibility for the Bhopal catastrophe, which has resulted in an estimated 20,000 deaths over the years (http://www.theyesmen.org/dow/#release). "Our prime responsibilities are to the people who own Dow shares, and to the industry as a whole," the release stated. "We cannot do anything for the people of Bhopal." The fake site immediately received thousands of outraged e-mails (http://www.dowethics.com/r/about/corp/email.htm).

Within hours, the real Dow sent a legal threat to Dow-Chemical.com's upstream provider, Verio, prompting Verio to shut down the fake Dow's ISP for nearly a day, closing down hundreds of unrelated websites and bulletin boards in the process.

The fake Dow website quickly resurfaced at an ISP in Australia. (http://theyesmen.org/dow/#threat)

In a comical anticlimax, Dow then used a little-known domain-name rule to take possession of Dow-Chemical.com (http://theyesmen.org/dow/#story), another move which backfired when amused journalists wrote articles in newspapers from The New York Times to The Hindu in India (http://theyesmen.org/dow/#links), and sympathetic activists responded by cloning and mirroring the site at many locations, including http://www.dowethics.com/, http://www.dowindia.com/ and, with a twist, http://www.mad-dow-disease.com/. Dow continues to play whack-a-mole with these sites (at least one ISP has received veiled threats).

Burson-Marsteller, the public relations company that helped to "spin" Bhopal, has meanwhile sued college student Paul Hardwin mailto:(phardwin@yurt.org) for putting up a fake Burson-Marsteller site, http://www.bursonmarsteller.com/, which recounted how the PR giant helped to downplay the Bhopal disaster. Burson-Marsteller's suit against Hardwin will be heard next week by the World Intellectual Property Organization (http://reamweaver.com/bmwipo/wipo.html).

Hardwin, unable to afford a lawyer, has composed a dryly humorous 57-page rebuttal to the PR giant's lawsuit (http://www.reamweaver.com/bmwipo/response.htm#reality). On page 7, for instance, the student notes that Burson-Marsteller's "stated goal is 'to ensure that the perceptions which surround our clients and influence their stakeholders are consistent with reality.'" Hardwin goes on to assert that his satirical domain is doing precisely that, by publicizing "academic and journalistic materials about Burson-Marsteller's involvement with and relationship to, for example, Philip Morris and the National Smoker's Alliance, a consumer front group designed to create the appearance of public support for big-tobacco policies; Union Carbide and the deaths of 20,000 people following the 1984 disaster in Bhopal; and political regimes such as that of Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and more recently Saudi Arabia following the events of September 11; and to properly associate them with the relevant Trademark so that they may be understood accordingly by Internet users."

In response to the suit's claim that "a substantial degree of goodwill is associated with [the Burson-Marstellar Trademark]" Hardwin offers much "evidence to the contrary" including "a newspaper headline in which the Complainant is characterized as 'the Devil.'"

posted by jon lebkowsky on 12/13/2002 09:47:16 AM | ~permalink~ | ~post a comment~

Thursday, December 12, 2002
More on World Sousveillance Day

John Ratliff's written a piece, inspired by World Sousveillance Day, for the Austin American-Statesman. John conducted his own sousveillance project at Walmart's, and came to a very interesting conclusion about store security. [Link]
It was while I was still inside the store that the second prospect started occurring to me. Above each cashier's station was a shiny globelet attached to the power poles. I asked one employee what they were, and she looked like she had never noticed them before. "I don't know," she said. "Probably cameras."
posted by jon lebkowsky on 12/12/2002 01:53:07 PM | ~permalink~ | ~post a comment~

Wednesday, December 11, 2002
World Sousveillance Day

December 24 is World Sousveillance Day! Sousveillance is a response to surveillance, i.e. the watched watches the watcher. Also called World Subjectrights Day. Thanks, and a tip o' the weblogsky hat (with its surveillance camera), to Bill Scannell and Bobby Lilly for the pointer! [Link]
This is a day when security forces are very busy watching for shoplifters, and it is also a time when folks are reflecting on the year's activity and it's something to do rather than merely buying something. It's also a time of year when many people go back to their home towns, to visit friends and relatives. For many students, exams are over, but courses start again in January (a good time to show off some great holiday pictures). It's a time to stop spending, and instead to add to the frantic state of panic and start shooting! And WSD is also a satire of the way in which authority has replaced spirituality. As surveillance develops into an omniscient network, that people are willing to praise as their saviour, it may in fact become their slaviour.
posted by jon lebkowsky on 12/11/2002 09:13:25 AM | ~permalink~ | ~post a comment~

American Rebellions

Thom Hartmann compares contemporary concerns about corporations to the origins of the American revolution, and notes that the controversial concept of "corporate personhood" resulted from a legal error. [Link]
That war—finally triggered by a transnational corporation and its government patrons trying to deny American colonists a fair and competitive local marketplace—would end with independence for the colonies.

The revolutionaries had put the East India Company in its place with the Boston Tea Party, and that, they thought, was the end of that. Unfortunately, the Boston Tea Party was not the end of that. It was only the beginning of the power of corporations in America.

posted by jon lebkowsky on 12/11/2002 04:49:19 AM | ~permalink~ | ~post a comment~

Tuesday, December 10, 2002

Someone didn't particularly like my comments on decentralization yesterday, in followup on an email list, so I wrote something to clarify my thinking. Thought I should post it here, too.

Democracy is a problematic word because it's fuzzy, and there's not always clear thinking about its implications. Democracy works best with relatively small, relatively homogenous populations. Where you have size and diversity, as in the U.S., it's difficult to find shared perspectives and build consensus. Because democracy doesn't scale well, we have a system where democracy is mediated by hierarchical structures for governance, and we have buck-stops-here roles for leaders who make critical decisions that won't wait for consensus.

The policy machines are inherently somewhat centralized but not unapproachable. In an ideal situation we'd have an informed electorate, clear channels of communication with representatives (mediators of democratic will), and (most critical for democracy) informed debate on critical issues.

Some of us have held a vision for the Internet's role in taking us closer to an ideal of democracy where citizen participation is more possible and better acknowledged, and perhaps where grassroots movements can emerge and have real effect. This looks viable but we have a lot of thinking and a lot of work to do before we can realize our vision, and we should understand how difficult it is to realize. If we focus on a vision of 'nodal politics' and fail to organize effectively for the existing political system, we may have significant, critical, troubling losses before we have any wins.

It's also important to realize

  • that mobs, too, are emergent and democratic, and that smart mobs are still mobs.
  • that participation based on Internet technology still excludes many voices: we haven't made enough progress yet toward a goal of universal access.
  • that intelligent decision-making requires informed perspective, so we have an educational mission and we must consider how messages transmitted over networks will be interpreted effectively (which is one reason to have 'people on the ground').
Much more to say about this, but my time is limited at the moment....
posted by jon lebkowsky on 12/10/2002 05:20:43 AM | ~permalink~ | ~post a comment~

Monday, December 09, 2002
Bruce Sterling on Tomorrow Now

My brief interview with Bruce Sterling about his just-published nonfiction book Tomorrow Now: Envisioning the Next Fifty Years is in the latest SXSW Interactive Tech Report. [Link]
Funny thing about predicting the future: even if you hit it on the money, you can't state it in the future's own terms. Vannevar Bush's "As We May Think" is probably the most impressive work of speculative technical forecasting that I ever read. It's all about databases and networks and it comes from a day well before any digital technology. But the nouns are all wrong. "Memex." There aren't any. The technology that Bush was forecasting doesn't mean to us what it meant to him. It feels different to us because we are swimming in it. So we speak and think of it in ways that he could not.

In a way this is a challenge just as severe as the fact that the future is unpredictable even in principle.

posted by jon lebkowsky on 12/9/2002 03:02:49 PM | ~permalink~ | ~post a comment~

Comments on 'decentralization'

Adina Levin just posted this about decentralization and sent me a pointer. The response I emailed her:
Heh... I just shake my head and sigh.

I was preaching this stuff years ago and writing a book about it for MIT Press which never got published, and I think that was partly because I was hung up on the dichotomy and couldn't think through the resolution.

Seeing it suddenly trendy after thinking and writing about it all these years gives me the willies, too, because one conclusion I drew about our early online activism was that it never worked. We were never effective. The one victory we claimed, over the CDA, was the result of a lot of work on the ground by effective attorneys; no amount of grassroots work made it happen.

I think you've got it ~ the grassroots stuff is fine but it has to be anchored to reality. You can network information, but you can't network action in the same way.

One of my greatest failures, I think, was in failing to find the focus to complete that book so that MIT would actually print it. What I submitted must've been pretty crappy, because the editor stonewalled me 'til I threatened to take it elsewhere, then we spent another couple of years with me trying to figure out what was wrong with it and restructure it so that it was acceptable. The idea was to write something like Alinsky's 'rules for radicals,' except in this case for Internet activists. I had a vision of something I referred to as 'nodal politics,' in which the form of the Internet would become the form of political networks... there would be activist nodes feeding information to each other peer to peer, building ad hoc movements around specific issues. We wouldn't need political parties to hold their constituencies together around rigid ideologies, so we would be less consumed by political dogma and more clear about our intentions and expectations.

So I had this hazy idealism stewing in my brain and I couldn't quite write it, because I saw real flaws. I couldn't really point to any grassroots successes. Democracy itself seemed flawed, impractical. .

While I was thinking about (and conflicted about) nodal politics, the Republican right wing was organizing effectively on the ground, building a strong ideological and practical base to take and sustain power. They have demonstrated to me that my I should be conflicted over 'nodal politics.' The conflict was from a nagging concern that my idealistic notions would not lead to any wins, that the notion of a nodal politics needed more, needed a practical dimension rooted in physical-world political reality. So as other people are celebrating the Internet's potential to further something called "democracy," I can only think that we're fiddling while Rome burns.

posted by jon lebkowsky on 12/9/2002 09:07:59 AM | ~permalink~ | ~post a comment~

Saturday, December 07, 2002

TextArc is an application that arranges all the words from a given book or other text on one page, and maps their relationships within the narrative. The site includes examples using Hamlet and Alice in Wonderland. [Link]
posted by jon lebkowsky on 12/7/2002 07:19:50 AM | ~permalink~ | ~post a comment~

Friday, December 06, 2002
Before the Web

Before the Web is a site that's collecting stories about the genesis of today's Internet, before web technology was deployed in '92. There were plenty of interactive technologies at the time, though. They're looking for stories about videotext, teletext, database publishing, corporate email, BBS sysops, SIGs, chat, User Publishing, key-word search and conferencing before http/html, and before the Internet evolved from a limited-access r&d network to the pervasive, increasingly inclusive phenomenon we have today. [Link]
Before the Web will help fill in the blanks, by providing a place for practitioners of the online services era to contribute anecdotes, stories, and recollections of first-time-ever events that illustrate what it was like to invent a new medium out of thin air.
posted by jon lebkowsky on 12/6/2002 07:32:24 AM | ~permalink~ | ~post a comment~

Karl Auerbach: ICANN is "Out of Control"

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, was created by a coalition of user communities to coordinate the standards for identifying locations on the network. The idea was that there had to be some central authority to ensure the integrity of domain name, ip numbering, and related systems. This is as close as the Internet has come to any kind of governance. ICANN included publicly elected members, one of which, Karl Auerbach, has been critical of the organization throughout his tenure. ICANN finally took action in response to his criticisms: they voted to dump the public members from the board, so Karl and others will be leaving soon. In this interview at oreilly.com, Karl summarizes his perspective on ICANN. (via boing boing). [Link]
A lot of people look at the domain name system as equally in need of centralized control. They look at DNS and see there's a root on top and some number of names underneath and they say, "Whoa, we need an organization to manage that." From a technical point of view, that's completely untrue. The DNS is really an optional service on top of the basic functionality of the Internet. We could have many different versions of DNS. The only concern is they be consistent with one another. People have elevated this argument for consistency to the idea that we can only have one, catholic source of names. That's a leap of logic that does not exist in reality; nevertheless ICANN uses that leap to justify its existence.
posted by jon lebkowsky on 12/6/2002 05:22:35 AM | ~permalink~ | ~post a comment~

Thursday, December 05, 2002
Descended from rocks?

A couple of scientists propose a new theory for the origins of life, t"that living systems originated from inorganic incubators - small compartments in iron sulphide rocks. " This suggests that life may be more prevalent in the universe. [Link]
Dr Russell says: "As hydrothermal fluid - rich in compounds such as hydrogen, cyanide, sulphides and carbon monoxide - emerged from the earth's crust at the ocean floor, it reacted inside the tiny metal sulphide cavities. They provided the right microenvironment for chemical reactions to take place. That kept the building blocks of life concentrated at the site where they were formed rather than diffusing away into the ocean. The iron sulphide cells, we argue, is where life began."
posted by jon lebkowsky on 12/5/2002 06:05:56 AM | ~permalink~ | ~post a comment~

Sunday, December 01, 2002
HIV Info for World AIDS Day

AIDS Virus

Fact sheet about HIV from the World AIDS Day web site. Inoculate yourself with information! (Also note progress toward a vaccine. Research needs funding.) [Link]
posted by jon lebkowsky on 12/1/2002 09:11:16 AM | ~permalink~ | ~post a comment~

Keep Artist Joe Coleman's Work At The 2003 New York Outsider Art Fair Petition

A Joe Coleman piece used to illustrate the Hartford Advocate article.
Activist Bobby Lilly turned me on to this petition. Joe Coleman is a powerful visionary and an "outsider artist" if there ever was one, but he's being excluded from New York's Outsider Art Fair, evidently because he tries a little too hard to make a living with his art. Signt the petition to oppose Coleman's exclusion from the January event. If you want to know more about Coleman's work, check out Patricia Rosoff's article for the Hartford Advocate. When I signed the petition, I wrote "If I understand correctly, Coleman's being excluded from the Outsider Art Fair because he works at making a living from his art. Does this mean that art's not viable if the artist isn't starving? I say put him in the show and give him a *prize* for his "unusual level of awareness of the marketing and sales of his work". Maybe it'll rub off on the other artists." [Link]
posted by jon lebkowsky on 12/1/2002 07:00:06 AM | ~permalink~ | ~post a comment~

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Hibiscus by Jon L.


Interview with David Weinberger for SXSW Interactive Conference's Tech Report

Discussion with Bruce Sterling at The WELL, January 3 - 17, 2003.

Jon L. interview for South by Southwest Interactive conference's Tech Report.

Jon L. interviewed by Adam Powell (5/13/2002)

jonl interviewed by R. U. Sirius (A version of this interview appeared in The Austin Chronicle)

Conversation with Bruce Sterling at the WELL's Inkwell.vue Forum

Interview with R.U. Sirius at CTHEORY

interview conducted by Yoshihiro Kaneda in conjunction with the publication in Japan, in the book CyberRevolution, the essay "Inforeal."

interview with Allucquere Rosanne Stone.

No Stone Untenured: May '98 Interview with Sandy Stone

Bruce Sterling interview for bOING bOING #9

The Tedium is the Message, Assholes: Interview (for AltX) with R.U. Sirius and St. Jude

Don't Believe the Hype (Austin Digerati Roundtable published January 28)

Why We Listen to What They Say: Interview with Doug Rushkoff

Interviews with
Doug Block and Michael Wolff

Projecting the 21st Century: An Interview with Gary Chapman

Information Junkie, an interview with Reva Basch (Researching Online for Dummies)

Webb on the Web

Wired to Virtual Reality: Interview with Howard Rheingold

Interview with Carla Sinclair, author of Signal to Noise

Making Movies on Cyber Location: an interview with director Doug Block (Austin Chronicle, February 1998)

Untangling the Web: interview with Gene Crick of MAIN and Sue Beckwith of Austin Freenet


Review of Paulina Borsook's Cyberselfish, in Whole Earth Magazine.

review in HotWired of David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest.

Cyber Top Ten for 1997 (Austin Chronicle, December 1997)


2001 Blues
in Rewired

What Happened to the Cyber Revolution?
in Signum

A Few Points about Online Activism in the March '99 issue of the UK journal Cybersociology

ZapSpace, published as A Fistful of DOS in the Australian magazine 21C

The Cyborganic Path from the April '97 issue of CMC Magazine

Essay: Are We a Nation? We Are Devo in The Ethical Spectacle.

Chaos Politics!

Fiction that Bleeds Truth!


Little Nemo in Slumberland (bOING bOING, February 1998)

Technopolitics, a 1997 essay on cyberactivism originally appearing in the Australian magazine 21C.

Your 15 Minutes Are Up, Mr. Gates!

1998 Top Nine List from the Austin Chronicle!

Dungeons and Draggin's: a look at the Ultima Online phenomenon

"We Do Cool Things": a profile of Austin's George Sanger, aka The Fatman, and Team Fat

The Opera Ain't Over 'til the Cyber Lady Sings: Honoria in Ciberspazio (Austin Chronicle, November 1997)

Shout Spamalam! The Austin Spam Suit

Election Notes 2000

Who Are You? Who Owns You? A consideration of Amazon's privacy policy.

Nodal Politics

Amicus Brief filed with Supreme Court regarding the "Communications Decency Act"

11.25.96 Freewheelin' in Austin

1.7.97 Cyberdawgs and CyberRights: EFF-Austin

2.25.97 VR in 3Space: Brian Park

1.28.97 Going Native in Cyberspace: Bob Anderson

3.25.97 A Parisian Spring in Austin: Joseph Rowe and Catherine Braslavsky

4.22.97 On a Rock and Roll Firetruck: Shawn Phillips

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