BBC2 Programme - The Virtual Revolution

I guess the name speaks for its self.

BBC2 Programme - The Virtual Revolution

Postby Karen on Mon Feb 01, 2010 11:59 pm

I just watched episode one of The Virtual Revolution (4 episodes)- it reminds me of Block 1 on T214, Napster, Wikipedia, the Web etc. :)

I think it is available online as well - its worth a watch. On BBC2 on Saturday 8.15pm.

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Re: BBC2 Programme - The Virtual Revolution

Postby Andrea on Tue Feb 02, 2010 3:56 pm

There's a response to the program by Magnus Ramage:
http://open2.net/digitalrevolution/web_2_0.html
esse sequitur operari
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Re: BBC2 Programme - The Virtual Revolution

Postby Andrea on Fri Feb 12, 2010 12:46 pm

I watched the second episode last night (I downloaded it to iPlayer). With a title like "enemies of the state?" I just couldn't resist! :-)

The plot follows very much the standard discourse analysis prevalent in political ecology: centralising versus decentralising powers. There are in fact huge parallels between the programme and my own favoured narrative:

Many environmental discourse analyses differentiate the environmental debate according to two distinct discourses.11 The first of these points towards a dominant global environmental discourse characterised by technocentrism and managerialism, linked to general discourses of modernisation and, more recently, neoliberalism. This discourse promotes the centralisation of decision-making powers through mutually supporting scientific institutions, governments, multi-national industrial corporations (whether state controlled and/or private) and, recently, western conservation and development NGOs. Whichever political orientation, left or right, this global process of centralisation has consistently undermined local control over resource management, replacing it with a homogenised, ubiquitous and hierarchical administrative structure which increasingly de-skills and disempowers local communities. Secondly, a commonly associated counter-discourse emphasises an agenda of decentralisation through the promotion of human rights, self determination and localised community-based and ecologically compatible approaches to environmental management. Examples include the emergence of the Indian Chipko movement in the 1970s; the Kenyan Green Belt Movement in the 1980s; the Mexican Zapatista movement in the mid-1990s; and the global Transition Towns Network in the 2000s. [source: http://oro.open.ac.uk/19146/


what I strongly disagreed with is the attempted association of fundamentalist terrorist organisations with the decentralising, grassroots movement. The only thing that fundamentalist organisations have in common with libertarian grassroots movements is that they are currently in the minority. The rest of the association within the program is woefully wrong. Fundamentalist terrorist organisations are about suppressing truth, autonomy and diversity. In fact, they have more in common with the centralising, hierarchical and authoritarian regimes supposedly on the other side of the divide. Suppressing freedom of expression on the Internet will only serve the interests of both multinational corporations, central governments and fundamentalist terrorist organisations.
esse sequitur operari
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Re: BBC2 Programme - The Virtual Revolution

Postby Teiana on Fri Feb 12, 2010 1:10 pm

centralising versus decentralising powers.


i think either extreme is dangerous.. people have most idea what is going on when there's the exact right mix of centralised and decentralised power.. at either end people can't really see what is happening either because they're too close to the issues(no big picture) or too far away from them (no details).
Any argument that wants to weigh the pros and cons of one against the other is flawed, since neither is the solution. And it could waste both energy and opinion - by polarising attitudes towards one or the other instead of working out a practical middle ground..
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Re: BBC2 Programme - The Virtual Revolution

Postby Andrea on Thu Feb 18, 2010 12:58 pm

Teiana wrote:
centralising versus decentralising powers.


i think either extreme is dangerous.. Any argument that wants to weigh the pros and cons of one against the other is flawed, since neither is the solution. And it could waste both energy and opinion - by polarising attitudes towards one or the other instead of working out a practical middle ground..


I'm not sure about this "balance" thing. One thing that we have learnt from the emerging field of complexity science is that decentralised, autonomous actors can coordinate their basic behaviours to create extremely adaptive and goal seeking behaviours for whichever system they are participating in. I've been reading Tim Harford's "Undercover Economist":

Economist Paul Seabright reminds us of the pleas of the Soviet official trying to comprehend the Western system: 'tell me..... who is in charge of the supply of bread to the population of London?' The question is comical, but the answer -- nobody -- is dizzying.


The Western 'free' market might be adapting towards the wrong goal, but it is certainly not centrally coordinated. Even attempts by governments to direct the economy often prove to be futile (which incidentally demonstrates the complete ignorance of many 'centralising' decision-makers when it comes to intervening within complex adaptive systems).

I would argue that any attempt to centrally manage complex systems is a waste of precious resources. some people may be fooled into believing that it might be efficient in the short term, but it is certainly completely maladaptive over the long-term.
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Re: BBC2 Programme - The Virtual Revolution

Postby Teiana on Thu Feb 18, 2010 5:06 pm

i think it's more like a human chain of people with buckets trying to put out a fire. we need there to be people all the way along the chain. it's no good anyone arguing that only the people nearest the fire are useful, or, conversely, only the people filling the buckets. While these roles are clearly crucial, it's the process behind the chain that is the key. arguing for either centralising or decentralising is like arguing for 'all bucket fillers' or 'all bucket emptiers'..
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Re: BBC2 Programme - The Virtual Revolution

Postby Teiana on Thu Feb 18, 2010 5:07 pm

the 'middle ground' solution doesn't mean the solution has to exist in the middle, just that without the people in the middle, the solution falls apart... i think. both ends required, yin and yang, not one or the other.
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Re: BBC2 Programme - The Virtual Revolution

Postby Andrea on Fri Feb 19, 2010 12:11 pm

Teiana wrote: it's no good anyone arguing that only the people nearest the fire are useful, or, conversely, only the people filling the buckets.


But do you need a central authority to coordinate the "extinguish the fire" objective? As long as people have a basic understanding of what the overall purpose is (put the fire out) and can identify a useful role to play (fill the buckets, pass these along, or empty the bucket on the fire) then the job will still get done. And the decentralised process may even be more adaptive since individuals may start off different chains by reacting to the complex behaviour of the fire around the building -- would a central authority have that "big picture" view?

Who is the central authority behind the Internet? Nobody. And that's why it works so well.
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Re: BBC2 Programme - The Virtual Revolution

Postby llamagirl on Sat Feb 20, 2010 9:51 am

but there needs to be consenus as to what the goals and values are for any social system, and some sort of co-ordination within the system to apply the goals and values. For example most people do not find it acceptable that the internet or the free market sould be used for the exploitation of others. This is the bit that I have not yet worked out in the centralisation /decentralisation argument. As Teiana said how can a sense of the bigger picture be retained when you are focussed on one small section of the overall system, and who decides what the goals and values are and how can they be applied. There are many competing views of what social systems should achieve, and many of them are not in the best interests of society as a whole. I do not think that relying on decentralisation alone would prevent those with power or those with 'unacceptable' goals from imposing their interests on the system.
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Re: BBC2 Programme - The Virtual Revolution

Postby jim_lewis1 on Sat Feb 20, 2010 12:47 pm

I'm not surprised that an economist presents this view:

Economist Paul Seabright reminds us of the pleas of the Soviet official trying to comprehend the Western system: 'tell me..... who is in charge of the supply of bread to the population of London?' The question is comical, but the answer -- nobody -- is dizzying.

but I am a bit surprised you are quoting thhis as an example of the beneficial power of decentralisation.

Whilst the soviet sytem doubtless failed to properly account for the needs of its people, (leading to shortages), the only reason the decentralised system in the western world seems to work so well is becasue of the huge amount of waste. Noone has to go without bread, (to an extent anyway), but the price is oversupply and waste.
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