Who Has a License to Drive the Information Superhighways?

Update – 2 March 2015: The promised part 2 of this post is now published!

The former U.S. Vice President Al Gore coined the term, “information superhighways” to describe the Internet. It was a great political slogan, and Gore was certainly one of the most internet-friendly U.S. political figures (and one of the first). But that doesn’t mean the term has legs.

A superhighway, for example, has a speed limit – well, just about everywhere except Germany, that is. Does Internet have one? I suppose it might, purely in terms of capacity – but not for the kinds of reasons that motivate automobile speed limits. In fact, we limit driving speed for safety – but on the Internet, the faster the better, and speed limits are seen as an impediment to efficient operation, not a safety regulation.

To drive on a superhighway, you need a driver’s license. Are we willing to pass an examination to drive on the Internet superhighway? Should we be? Personally, I think not.

In many countries, superhighways have tolls that pay for their maintenance and provide a profit to a concessionaire. We do pay our ISP’s, but in general, we don’t seem to think they provide good maintenance of our routes. And now, they are wanting to control what makes, models, and colors of car can drive on their highways.

In short, the traditional model of superhighways includes some sort of pay-per-distance, the need to be licensed to use it, and other forms of legal and social controls, that in general, Internet users have been reluctant to accept.

Why is it that we think it’s OK to have our cars registered with the government, our drivers’ licenses issued by the government (which can then track us thanks to both), and to have a whole raft of laws affecting how we drive and how fast, that restrict our “freedom” of movement – yet we are not willing to have analogous controls for navigating the world’s info-paths?

My best guess has two components:

  • The Internet is NOT a system of superhighways – it has a meta-existence that only a few roads have ever known (The Silk Road, Route 66…)
  • The Internet functions in the realm of ideas – and we do not take well to “thought control.”

In this post, I’ll deal with the first component.

Continue reading “Who Has a License to Drive the Information Superhighways?”

First Steps: Structured Content Strategy Spain

Last week, we had the first Structured Content Strategy meeting in Spain (to our knowledge) organized by Urbina Consulting and Blue Stream Software in Valencia. The turnout, as expected, was small. OK – it was WAY smaller than expected. Still, it was the occasion for a few practitioners to start to make some headway towards creating a community in this country where “content” as a business asset is still unknown or misunderstood, and many content professions don’t even exist in the official repertory of professions.

Continue reading “First Steps: Structured Content Strategy Spain”

EuroIA – Design for Good

I can’t begin to express how much this year’s EuroIA conference affected me – in so many positive ways.

This was a conference of Information Architects, which I attended for the first time 2 years ago, in Prague. This year’s edition was in Edinburgh, and I was pleased and honoured to be included among the speakers.

What struck me most about the programme, was that without having any announced theme, almost all the presentations, from Lisa Welchman’s opening keynote to the closer by Andrea Resmini, touched at some point on the need for those of us who design and develop content and the systems that deliver content to people to think humanistically, to be ethical, to think about doing – or “designing for” – good. Continue reading “EuroIA – Design for Good”

Why I Left Facebook

I left Facebook on June 16, 2013.

I hated to leave – ever since I’d been in touch with former classmates, and people from my original home town, an extraordinarily special place, I have really cherished my Facebook contacts, old and new, as my network has grown and thrived.

I had to do it, though. I couldn’t stand the hypocrisy any longer.

Continue reading “Why I Left Facebook”

The Coming Crisis

I’m not an academic. I haven’t done any research. I just observe the world and say what I see, and what I see is this:

  • We think it’s OK to deliver personal attacks, salacious innuendo, smear campaigns, and lies, and refer to it as “political discourse.”
  • We think it’s OK to advertise every product made in every part of the globe at every level of quality as “the best” – thereby rendering the word “best” meaningless.
  • We think it’s OK to announce loud and clear that we are against money laundering, tax evasion, and fiscal fraud, proclaim significant measures to combat them, and do nothing.
  • We think it’s OK to patent living organisms, genetic codes, and other aspects of life on this earth, as if they were industrial products.
  • We think it’s OK to use a term like “intellectual property,” and we think we can buy and sell ideas.

Continue reading “The Coming Crisis”

Lost in the Meme Field of Good and Evil

For most of the last seven years, France has had a meme called Florence Cassez. Mlle. Cassez has spent all of those seven years behind bars in a Mexican prison. She was arrested for kidnapping, along with her boyfriend, a known Mexican gangster. Her arrest was filmed by Mexican television. The entire country, terrorized as it is by drug wars and gangs, both imported from Colombia where the climate is not so comfortable any more, and home grown, watched as a foreign criminal was brought to justice by the Federales.

Mlle. Cassez, even during her arrest, said, “Yo no sabia” – “I didn’t know.” She consistently claimed her innocence, and her defenders asserted that her only crime was poor choice in partners and gullibility. The case became a cause célebre in both countries, and almost immediately became politicized, with Mexican and French presidents digging in – the one insisting on her guilt, the other on her innocence. The Mexican press was universally cruel to her, while the French press had practically acquitted her, so wildly enthusiastic were they for her cause.

Several times, the Mexican courts, right up to the Supreme Court, were asked to rule on questions of irregularity in her arrest, tainted evidence, etc. All to no avail. All appeals lost.

Florence Cassez became a true meme, spreading like wildfire and becoming symbolic in at least two countries, pushing in opposing and incompatible directions in each case.

Continue reading “Lost in the Meme Field of Good and Evil”

Doing Well by Doing Good

In the late 1930’s, two significant political figures discovered new technology.

At the time, the new technology was called Radio. And both of these political figures discovered, pretty much in parallel, its power and influence.

One of these figures was Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels.
The other was New York City Mayor Fiorello La Guardia. Continue reading “Doing Well by Doing Good”