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”

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Transformation and Then Some!

Please watch this TED talk!  In less than 20 minutes, you will learn so many things on so many levels, and have a good laugh doing it!

Hans Rosling is a specialist in public health. This is the story of his discovery of the visual presentation of information. Now, he works with David McCandless, who created the animation I embedded in my earlier post,  A Beautiful Example of Transformation.

This video illustrates transformation on so many levels:

  • Public health
  • Education technique
  • Visual communication
  • Cultural misconceptions
  • Economic disparity

It shows how all this is connected and interconnected, and does it with humour, grace, wit, and intelligence. A lesson for us all.

It’s Not Cause and Effect, It’s the Content, Stupid

There is so much debate going on about whether the guy who shot Rep. Giffords was influenced by communication such as Sarah Palin’s crosshairs, or was just a lone nut case.

Friends, IT DOESN’T MATTER!

Even a lone nut case is affected by environmental factors, and the communicational environment in the U.S.A. has been poisoned for a good 20 years now.

It’s in the air, and anyone can feel it.

When you live away and you come for a visit, you feel it so thick you can cut it with a dull plastic end of a lifelike plastic Kalatchnikoff barrel.

When it’s in the air, the nut cases will pick it up.

So will others.

Who cares if Loughner read Palin’s (or other extremists’) site or not? These sites didn’t cause the shooting, they created the atmosphere that helped someone decide that it was OK to shoot.

Content matters.

A Beautiful Example of Transformation

Friends, check out this video:

It’s a great example of what Edward Tufte has been writing about for decades, and a marvelous demonstration of the power of simplicity to tell an important story.

Check out the site that posted this, Information is beautiful, to see more of the same kind of transformation thinking.

I have written elsewhere about the need for a transformation society (not an information society), where the accumulation of information becomes less important, information gets de-commodified, and is transformed into knowledge, know-how and understanding.

This seems a daunting task, and yet these people have done a part of it so simply, clearly, and (seemingly) effortlessly.

The video embedded above (and you can find a version for the U.K. in pounds sterling, too) shows clearly how we have developed an economy of debt, where we prefer to overspend and play financial games, than to put a relatively small amount of money into really solving some of the world’s problems.

Our information accumulation society has had something to do with this phenomenon, so it is wonderful to see the same technology applied to demonstrate clearly that this is a road we do not want to continue following.

Next step:  Let’s find ways to demonstrate how we can use the technology to implement these solutions.

More About Communities of Interest

In my last post about WikiLeaks, I used the term, “community of interest.”  What’s this all about?

Let’s start with a very simple analogy:  Primitive humans, in prehistoric times.  These folks quickly formed communities of interest, based on the paleontological record.  Why?

  • Not because they look alike
  • Not because they have a family relationship
  • Not because a psychologist told them they ought to do it
  • Not based on advice from the most recent self-help book…

They formed communities because they were hungry, and catching a mammoth requires a group effort!

What this means, in reality, is that our notion of “community” as a cooperative group working in some sort of altruistic harmony towards a common goal or common welfare, is not a complete definition.

Communities can form for very short-term reasons, and for very selfish ones.  Communities of interest on the internet form and dissolve all the time, and can often have shifting composition and purposes. This mobility of community is an interesting phenomenon. As the youngest generations, those who have grown up with Facebook, Twitter and the like, mature into adulthood, it will be interesting to see how the “moral” idea of community gets changed.

Are we headed towards a world where “community” is defined purely by self-interest?  Will the variety of human motivation survive the era of instant gratification?

The community of interest organized around WikiLeaks is infuriated at what seems to be a conspiracy to close the site.  This could be purely altruistic in nature, or could be motivated by a generalised anti-authoritarianism fueled by anger and frustration in the wake of events such as the recent financial crisis.

Whatever the motivation, the tools of contemporary communication technologies are playing a role not only in accompanying social change, but in driving it.

The Real Significance of WikiLeaks

The shock value of the WikiLeaks revelations have been dissected and analyzed to death. There would seem to be consensus that we didn’t learn much we didn’t already know from the recent flood of documents exposed by the site. There seems to be less consensus about whether these leaks represent a new transparency or a danger to international diplomacy.

None of these, it seems to me, represents the real significance of WikiLeaks. The real story comes from the spontaneous eruption of support for Julian Assange on the internet. I don’t just mean the spontaneous rallying of public opinion via the net. I mean the guerilla actions of hackers who attacked, en masse, Visa and Mastercard computers when they closed down payment services for WikiLeaks.

We seem to be headed for a world in which the existing power structures – governments, multinational corporations, economic alliances, etc. – are having to face, more and more, parallel structures – call them communities of interest, if you like – that run detours around the usual circuits, and circumvent the usual “avenues of power.”

It’s clear that this is just the beginning.  How far will it go, and is it a good thing?