Philobiblon: Big brother, or big community?

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Big brother, or big community?

Can the community take control of the electronic spaces of the city? That's an issue addressed in this morning's Guardian, in an interview with William J Mitchell, author of Me++: The Cyborg Self and the Networked City.

He's an MIT man, so you might guess the answer is yes. There's more than a touch of the utopian about his vision, but it is seductive:

The bus passes the famous neon billboard displays that frame Piccadilly Circus, and again Mitchell is exercised by the possibilities. If those billboards were programmed with a coherent artistic vision rather than just advertising, he says, they could be used, a little like the old Georgian squares of London, to give an aesthetic consistency and a unity to the area. It's already being done in various places around the world, he says - those in the know call it "dynamic architecture" - and it's getting cheaper and more practical. The displays could be themed to change with the seasons or even at different times of the day. Piccadilly Circus could be made into a free speech zone, he says wistfully, a kind of digital speaker's corner activated by citizens dialling in from their mobile phones.

Utopian yes, but of course the technology is not deterministic about its use; it is up to us to mould the way it is used, and available to use, to make it happen.

Which brings me to Madonna. I'm really not into music - just sounds like noise to me - but I've always admired her, as the first female star to really take control of the system, to exploit it instead of being exploited by it. (As in say Tina Turner, abused by her manager etc.)

Apparently she's found, and is using, the next big thing, krumping. Add it to your vocabulary - at least it is a great-sounding word.

Then going back into some seriously scary history, the Polish government has released the Soviets' vision of nuclear war, the Telegraph reports.


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