Based on a Mar. 9th lecture by Gearóid Ó Súilleabháin
Another Richard Poynder interview that jumped out at me was the 2006 conversation with Lawrence Lessig, leader of the Free Culture Movement and co-founder of Creative Commons, who was mentioned in less than glowing terms by Richard Stallman.
Lawrence Lessig Source: Wikipedia
Lessig is generous in citing Stallman and the Free Software Movement as key influences on his book “Free Culture”. Stallman is less so, noting in the Poynder interview problems he has with some Creative Commons licensing, and expressing the view that Lessig’s book shows him to be “less ethically firm”. The disagreement appears to reduce to Stallman’s insistence that people have a fundamental right to copy creative works while Lessig argues for a more nuanced position.
It is therefore perhaps a little odd, given Stallman’s overt disappointment in Lessig’s failure to be absolutist, to read Andrew Keen’s criticisms of Lessig in “The Cult of the Amateur”. “A fronte praecipitium a tergo lupi” Lessig might have been thinking in reading that he and “cyberpunk William Gibson laud the appropriation of intellectual property.” But Lessig is a law professor and more able than most to defend himself, which he does quite comprehensively in a May 2007 post on his own site. Lessig suggests the Keen book can only have been intended as masterful “self-parody” and is “riddled with falsity”, errors he subsequently proceeds to parse in detail.
That said, I must confess to still preferring Keen’s take on amateurs.
Having watched Sherry Turkle’s Alone Together presentation, which included some follow-up questions from Aleks Krotoski, I went in search of more on Turkle and tripped across a brief TechCrunch conversation she had with Andrew Keen where they specifically address privacy and Facebook:
Later, watching Turkle’s TED Talk, Connected, but alone?, and noting her comment that social media draws us to “sacrifice conversation for mere connection”, I was reminded somehow of Gary Nunn who writes for the Guardian’s “Mind your language” blog. A recent post by Gary titled Small talk? It’s not big and it’s not clever prompted me to tweet a suggestion that he needed to visit Ireland where “small talk is an art form”. He was gracious enough to reply. I was being a tad flippant, but I do feel that the art of conversation, whether trivial or consequential, has long since peaked and is descending at pace towards a monosyllabic base camp.
William F. Buckley Jr. Source: Wikipedia
On the other hand, Jeff Jarvis and his plea for “publicness”, reminds me of one of my favorite authors and broadcasters, the late William F. Buckley Jr., who once quipped “I won’t insult your intelligence by suggesting that you really believe what you just said.” Buckley, the founder of National Review, whose command of language and rhetoric is abundantly evident in his sublime essays and in his Firing Line debates, also humorously noted that he “would sooner be governed by the first two thousand names in the Boston telephone directory than by the two thousand members of the faculty of Harvard.”
The first is that, even for late 2007, much of what Kelly has to say is not that earth-shattering nor even that instructive. Almost as if he is explaining something out loud to himself that those who follow technology, even tangentially, had pretty much come to understand – the “Internet of Things” was, after all, coined by Kevin Ashton at Proctor & Gamble back in 1999. As Kelly finishes with “One machine; the web is its OS; all screens look into the One; no bits live outside the web; let the One read it; the One is us”, I am silently mouthing “The Matrix”, only to subsequently discover from Kelly’s bio that his 1994 book “Out Of Control” had been required reading for the 1999 film’s actors. Mea culpa. Fortunately the Wachowski brothers (at least before “reloading”) were still able to fashion a stylish, thought-provoking view of a simulated reality in a dystopian future.
Kelly casually notes that the price of total personalization is total transparency. It is a theme he returns to in a 2011 L.A. Times interview, and one I find disquieting. It is hardly a giant leap from there to Mae Holland’s insistence in “The Circle” that “privacy is theft”. In that same L.A. Times interview Kelly also, glibly I feel, dismisses creative professionals and proclaims that “we are all creators”.
Andrew Keen Source: The Guardian
Like Walpole I am a believer in serendipity, and on the day I watched the Kelly TED Talk, the Guardian published an interview with Andrew Keen about his latest polemic “The Internet Is Not The Answer”. A Tech Weekly podcast of an Aleks Krotoski interview with Keen is also online. The contrarian in me identifies with Keen. In brief he believes the internet has become largely about money and monopolies. Keen, a self-confessed content snob who was critical of user-generated media in “The Cult Of The Amateur”, expresses grave concern for the impact of the “culture of free” on creative professionals. In decrying the increasingly anti-social nature of social media he mentions the Twitter shaming of Justine Sacco, the subject of an excellent New York Times article.
Kevin Kelly’s notion of handheld devices as merely windows into the “One” machine reminded me of this:
Source: Ken Sweeney (via Twitter)
Depressing, but fortunately technology also provides the antidote with this superb BBC piece about the re-opening of the Rijksmuseum, including the installation of “The Night Watch”:
Second Thoughts: Language
I found Kelly’s TED Talk a tad too self-referential. Not unwarranted perhaps for the former executive editor of “Wired” magazine, but then I read that he graduated to “Senior Maverick” upon relinquishing the editorial post, a title that like “Digital Prophet” and “Thought Leader” has neither meaning nor value; I hope it was at least bestowed by others. I recollect a former boss publicly styling himself as “Pragmatic Visionary”; I saw scant evidence of either but I confess I may not have looked hard enough.
Technology is replete with such puffery and eschews the “simple, honest, direct language” that George Carlin speaks of in:
when describing how two-syllable “Shell-shock” (World War I) morphed into eight-syllable “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder” (Vietnam) by way of “Battle Fatigue” (World War II) and “Operational Exhaustion” (Korea). Thus, as Carlin bemoans, is pain buried beneath jargon and humanity lost to sterility.