It’s crazy time in the world at large, a time of social, political, and economic chaos and a questioning of fundamental assumptions we’ve made about how the world works and doesn’t work. You can blame the “interesting” difficulties we’re in on shortsighted politicians, greedy bankers and corporations, god-mad religious fundamentalists, exploding and fragmenting communications… and I’m sure those and others are aspects of the Trouble. But I think we have a deeper problem. We’ve lost our sense of the common ground of humanity, of the pattern that connects us all.
This is too often said and too easy to say: in a profound sense we are united at the core, but we lose the sense of unity, and see only what divides us. How can we feel this truth in our bones? How can we find a way past the significant and growing barrier and borders, the sense of separation that we feel?
Perhaps we can find the common ground through music, a form of communication that can be a common language and source of unity. “From Jerusalem to Cordoba,” a performance Scoop Sweeney and I are producing Friday night (7pm at St. David’s Church, Bethell Hall, 301 E. 8th Street in Austin) is a powerful musical performance by Catherine Braslavsky and Joseph Rowe that includes songs and forms associated with both Christian and Muslim mystical traditions. Behind the music, there is an understanding of the common ground of humanity. In this music, there is a possibility of peace, a sense of our shared source and reality.
I’ve found myself giving cautionary talks on the future of the Internet, or possible futures, plural – the real danger that the Internet and the World Wide Web that operates on it will become less open, perhaps become fragmented, balkanized into closed networks that no longer cooperate, filled with walled gardens with various filters and constraints, and no longer be a platform with low barriers to entry and assurance that if you connect something, anyone anywhere in the world will have access to it. The Internet would no longer be the powerful engine for innovation and communication it has been.
Tim Berners-Lee, who created the World Wide Web, writes about this in Scientific American, saying that some of the web’s “successful inhabitants have begun to chip away at its principles. Large social-networking sites are walling off information posted by their users from the rest of the Web. Wireless Internet providers are being tempted to slow traffic to sites with which they have not made deals. Governments—totalitarian and democratic alike—are monitoring people’s online habits, endangering important human rights.”
If we, the Web’s users, allow these and other trends to proceed unchecked, the Web could be broken into fragmented islands. We could lose the freedom to connect with whichever Web sites we want. The ill effects could extend to smartphones and pads, which are also portals to the extensive information that the Web provides.
Read Berners-Lee’s important longer piece, “Long Live the Web.”
My next scheduled talk about the future of the Internet is January 5 at noon, at Link Coworking.
Hossein Derakhshan, aka Hoder, is evidently facing the death penalty in Iran – for blogging (or, in their words, “collaborating with enemy states, creating propaganda against the
Islamic regime, insulting religious sanctity, and creating propaganda
for anti-revolutionary groups.”) This is nuts, and we should all be blogging in support of Hoder’s release. More information at Global Voices.
The “Katrina People Finder” technology has been updated by Ka-Ping Yee at Google, and placed online. It’s embedded at the State Department’s web site. Not sure why they changed it to “Person Finder,” but it’s simple, easy to use, and has two components: a search, if you’re looking for someone who’s lost, and a way to report information about someone that’s found, confirmed dead, etc.
I’m embedding it here, as well:
This caught my eye, and I was wishing I could drop everything and head for the National Museum of African Art.
It’s as rousing as a drum roll, as piquant as a samba, as sexy as Césaria Évora’s voice. It’s about glitter and tears, bawdy jokes and baskets of flowers, miracles and mysteries, money in hand and affairs of the heart. It’s about standing at the edge of the sea at dawn and watching a world re-born. In that world no one walks; everyone dances and swims; everyone, that is, who has taken the plunge into Mami Wata’s realm.
Who is Mami Wata? She is Mother Water, Mother of Fishes, goddess of oceans, rivers and pools, with sources in West and Central Africa and tributaries throughout the African Americas, from Bahia to Brooklyn. Usually shown as a half-woman, half-fish, she slips with ease between incompatible elements: water and air, tradition and modernity, this life and the next.
Rebecca MacKinnon tweeted a pointer to Ai Weiwei’s Truth to Power, a Chinese blog. This links to an interview posted in Chinese and English.
Simon Kirby: Your criticisms of the Olympic Games are not reported in
the official media, but your blog remains online. What is the purpose of
Ai Weiwei: I do my blog because this is the only possible channel through
which a person can express a personal opinion in China. No newspaper,
magazine or television channel would ever present your argument or ideas. I
am the most interviewed person in China, even domestically, and yet even if
I say something it cannot be published here: so I am talking to myself – it is
ridiculous. So I felt that a blog might be a good way to create one forum in
which to open one’s mind. Yet every time I sit to write I still hesitate: should
I do it? What will the consequences be?
Reminder that we take so much for granted in the USA.
The annual State of the World conversation with Bruce Sterling, led by yours truly, is under way. You have to be a member of the WELL to post directly, but nonmembers can send comments and questions to inkwell /at/ well.com. Link
According to Global Voices Advocacy, the active and highly visible Iranian blogger Hossein Derakshan (aka Hoder) has been arrested in Tehran and “is being investigated on suspicion of espionage for the state of Israel.” No posts on Hoder’s blog since October. Hoder’s been active in shining a light on other similar arrests. GV notes that the arrest hasn’t been confirmed by other news sources.