Quote of the Day

"In war as in life, it is often necessary when some cherished scheme has failed, to take up the best alternative open, and if so, it is folly not to work for it with all your might." - Winston Churchill

This Decade's "Gigabyte"

Back in my day (when I was 10 years old, just before the tech boom), I used to spend my nights fantasizing about the possibilities of a 32-megabyte harddrive. I remember being once arrested for learing at the Mac Quadra AV (it might have been "AV PRO"... who knows). But how could I not lear? It had 64 megahertz! The 68040 Chip! And "AV"? Oh, that means it plays audio and video!!!! Now that's high-tech shit!

(Actually Holding My Breath)

Zach Rosen (for those of you with sex lives, he is the founder and director of Civicspace Labs) shares some alarming news:

A Question of Journalism, Ethics, and a Random Mass of People with Hammers

Here is the dirty truth: I have no idea what that 'Zephergate' thing was all about. I tried to make it through several blogposts that explained the contraversy; but I just couldn't get past the first few paragraphs. I'm simply not interested in such matters; and I make it a point to avoid the world of people that are. That said, I wanted to share some 'thoughts'(1) about the debate on blogging, ethics, and journalism.

The blog is a piece of software (a.k.a. a tool). Without a human being, a blog decays into a dead rotting lump ones and zeros ( a point well demonstrated by the millions of abandoned blogs). I feel that I'm restating the obvious here, however, I've yet to read my next point among the threads of comments in these debates. Questions about ethics in blogging can only be understood if posed in human-centered languge, and terms (2). Here's one way to think of it: every time you encounter a question related to blogs, replace the word "blog" with "hammer", and "blogosphere" with "pile of hammers". I've found the trick to be quite useful in helping me think about the questions in a clearer sense. For example:

Such, Such Were the Joys


Soon after I arrived at Crossgates (not immediately, but after a week or two, just when I seemed to be settling into routine of school life) I began wetting my bed. I was now aged eight, so that this was a reversion to a habit which I must have grown out of at least four years earlier.

Nowadays, I believe, bed-wetting in such circumstances is taken for granted. It is a normal reaction in children who have been removed from their homes to a strange place. In those days, however, it was looked on as a disgusting crime which the child committed on purpose and for which the proper cure was a beating. For my part I did not need to be told it was a crime. Night after night I prayed, with a fervor never previously attained in my prayers, ‘Please God, do not let me wet my bed! Oh, please God, do not let me wet my bed!’ but it made remarkably little difference. Some nights the thing happened, others not. There was no volition about it, no consciousness. You did not properly speaking do the deed: you were merely woke up in the morning and found that the sheets were wringing wet.

A Framework for Societal Evolution


By David F. Ronfeldt, Senior Social Scientist of Rand Corporation

Power and influence appear to be migrating to actors who are skilled at developing multiorganizational networks, and at operating in environments where networks are an appropriate, spreading form of organization. In many realms of society, they are gaining strength relative to other, especially hierarchical forms. Indeed, another key proposition about the information revolution is that it erodes and makes life difficult for traditional hierarchies.

This trend — the rise of network forms of organization — is so strong that, projected into the future, it augurs major transformations in how societies are organized. What forms account for the organization of societies? How have people organized their societies across the ages? The answer may be reduced to four basic forms of organization: 1. the kinship-based tribe, as denoted by the structure of extended families, clans, and other lineage systems. 2. the hierarchical institution, as exemplified by the army, the (Catholic) church, and ultimately the bureaucratic state. 3. competitive-exchange market, as symbolized by merchants and traders responding to forces of supply and demand. 4. and the collaborative network, as found today in the web-like ties among some NGOs devoted to social advocacy.

Incipient versions of all four forms were present in ancient times. But as deliberate, formal organizational designs with philosophical portent, each has gained strength at a different rate and matured in a different historical epoch over the past 5000 years. Tribes developed first,hierarchical institutions next, and competitive markets later. Now collaborative networks appear to be on the rise as the next great form of organization to achieve maturity.

The rise of each form is briefly discussed below, as prelude to assembling the four in a framework—currently called the “TIMN framework”—about the long-range evolution of societies. The persistent argument is that these four forms—and evidently only these —underlie the organization of all societies, and that the historical evolution and increasing complexity of societies has been a function of the ability to use and combine these four forms of governance in what appears to be a natural progression.

While the tribal form initially ruled the overall organization of societies, over time it has come to define the cultural realm in particular, while the state has become the key realm of institutionist principles, and the economy of market principles. Civil society appears to be the realm most affected and strengthened by the rise of the network form, auguring a vast rebalancing of relations among state, market, and civil-society actors around the world.

Before elaborating on this, some definitional issues should be noted. The terms—tribes, institutions, markets, networks—beg for clarification:

Jay Rosen: Bloggers vs. Journalists is Over

Jay Rosen has written yet another brilliant essay:

Bloggers vs. journalists is over. I don't think anyone will mourn its passing. There were plenty who hated the debate in the first place, and openly ridiculed its pretentions or terms. But events are what did the thing in at the end. In the final weeks of its run, we were getting bulletins from journalists like this one from John Schwartz of the New York Times, Dec. 28: "For vivid reporting from the enormous zone of tsunami disaster, it was hard to beat the blogs."


"If it weren't for the callous lack of credibility of the pros, there never would have been a need for blogs." - Dave Winer


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