Sunday, 18 March 2007

What's your worth? // Cultural Capital

Now that I can raise my head up out of this goo of reality and focus for ten minutes or so, let me talk about something silly-- I mean, functional and important.

I went to Open Knowledge 1.0 on Saturday - I was terribly shy and quiet. The ratio of male to female was, yes, rather unbalanced (as was race; ieee) -- but this isn't a post about gender inequality -- that's for another time my precious.

This isn't actually going to be a run through of things which were discussed during the talks - even though I have three notebook pages full of notes, I'd rather not give some sterile discussion of events. But there are a few key points that were raised:

Firstly: I realised why having open geodata is so fucking important and not at all banal.
Secondly: hard left-wing Socialist techies are amusing, but not to be fucked with.
Thirdly: accurate scientific and technological knowledge, especially that of the internet, is crucial in maintaining ones cultural capital.

Cultural capital. We were discussing this concept in my seminar last week (of which I am constantly given shit by peers for caring about), and in that time I was trying in vain to explain why there is a class divide between people who Can Use The Internet and people who Can't.

I was having a huge problem articulating myself at the time, which wasn't very amusing - my American accent and incessant need to communicate ideas, i.e. chatter on about stuff, makes people take the piss out of me all the time. I can never get anyone to listen to me because they all start laughing at my choice of language. Wait, wait, I nearly fell into an Emo-Emu trap; lets get back on track.

What I had been trying to say and hadn't been able to was that there are significant issues arising culturally due to people in positions of authority - like, oh, the Government as one example - who are not aware of the potential or even the basics of Web culture.

Let's take a comment made by John Sheridan, Head of e-Services for the Office of Public Sector Information at OK yesterday - who I note does not have any website or blog that I can find, unless he has also played for Leeds, or perhaps plays jazz piano or has ever been the military governor of Babylon 5.

I'll paraphrase due to a lack of photographic memory (oooh bad me), but what John Sheridan said boiled down to: when I talk about web stuff, I can see many colleagues eyes just fog over.

Now keep in mind this is the man who is trying to get Government to think seriously about archiving PSI on the web, including creating a database of government legislation which can be accessed by the public. And they've spent, apparently, the last 18 months discussing the possibility of that happening. Man. I wish the public would pay me to discuss something for 18 months. It would be like contract philosophising -- just at the end you wouldn't have to show any of your data.

It is all fine and well if a person can use the buzzwords; Semantic Web, dereferenceable UDI's, new ontologies, and so forth. But if they can't communicate those ideas in a confidant and accurate manner to a large group of people who don't understand them, how can they be considered valuable to the cause they're trying to promote?

I'm starting to think that it's not just sloppy and ineffective if people don't understand science & technology and it's place in contemporary society -- I'm starting to think it's downright destructive and dangerous.

Global warming might kill us all, and they tell me only %40 of Americans believe in evolution, and that officials freak out just a little when faced with stuff they don't understand.

But aside from the legislation and the cringeworthy sound bites government puts out, on regular civilian social level it just makes people less open to expanding on knowledge which is already out there, because they're unaware of possibility.

I'm rambling now; my focus which was so sharp has been softened quickly and I need to research more into cultural capital and sci/tech/web.

But the other evening, when there was a beautiful lunar eclipse, I text' (there is no plural, is there?) my friend to tell him to look out the window to see. He text' me back, saying 'haha, you can't trick me!'

He was certain that if the moon was eclipsed, it would be completely obfuscated from view thus he'd be trying to look for nothing. I had to call him to convince him that it would be out there, a muddy red orb hung high in the sky.

Just imagine if nobody ever told him how eclipses worked?


Michael said...

dense, complicated, probably not a good translation to begin with, but the source of the concept. interesting.

madame said...

all my ex's live in texted

although i wonder about ex's. if it shouldn't be exes. but who am i to argue?
oh, it's been textened.

fp said...

as long as it hasn't been tweetened