Cyberutopianism

June 9, 2011

My thanks to Paul Evans and Memeserver for posting a link to the excellent RSA visualisation of Evgeny Morozov’s critique of cyberutopianism. I mentioned his book in January 2011 in Brave Old World and started reading it as soon as Amazon delivered it.

I think it’s important t that Morozov concludes the book with a question:

“while it’s becoming apparent that policymakers need to abandon both cyber-utopianism and Internet-centrism, if only for the lack of accomplishment, it is not yet clear what can take their place. What would an alternative, more down-to-earth approach to policymaking in the digital age – let’s call it cyber-realism – look like?”

He then offers some notes to focus the minds on the politics and social, rather seeing technology as the silver bullet. This all comes across a bit like the Adam Curtis series recently broadcast on BBC2 “All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace“, which also supports a less engineered world view.

Drawing down on this concept that technology is not the silver bullet, we then have to accept (if we are to remain idealistic) that another way is possible. This other way may make use of the technology, but not see it as the be-all and end-all, but just the tool it is. This new tool is reliant upon people fixing the existing systems to make them work before we re-engineer the engines (systems thinking rather than systems engineering). One thing Morozov and Adam Curtis’s documentary indicate is the need for flexibility of thought along with the necessary employment of feedback loops in all these situations. They also require learning from history, without the historicism.

So, what should digital-age policymaking look like?


Brave old world

January 11, 2011

Some will consider the less idealistic view that the Great E-mancipator sometimes displays around e-government and e-democracy unfortunate for one whose role can be to employ such tools. However, I have recently found that my approach has support in other quarters. A book review by Bryan Appleyard  (and perhaps Bryan should maintain his website?) in the New Stateman of January 10, 2011 of a book by Evgeny Morozov, entitled “‘The Net Delusion: How Not to Liberate the World“, would appear, along with the text reviewed to be in sympathy. The review in the Guardian of January 9, 2010 manages a quote by Morozov on the matter of his native Belarus, that might perhaps echo around the world: 

 “no angry tweets or text messages, no matter how eloquent, have been able to rekindle the democratic spirit of the masses, who, to a large extent, have drowned in a bottomless reservoir of spin and hedonism, created by a government that has read its Huxley”.

It is important to remember that no technology has, can, or ever will improve society as a whole, without the cooperation of those in power, or the direct action of those without. Technology is but the yeast to the bread of a better society. 

Morozov is also delivering a public lecture at LSE, London on 19 January 2011.