Friday, October 30. 2009
There is a post on the marvellously satirical blog Stuff White People Like, on White (White in the sense of US slang for the Lefty Liberal Intelligentsia) people's view of people who Know About Technology
When white people go away to college, they tend to study what are knowns as the Arts. This includes actual Art, English, History, Classics, and Philosophy. These can of course be broken down further into Film, Womyn’s Studies (yes the spelling is correct), Communications, Gender Studies, and so forth. It is important to note that a high percentage of white people also get degrees in Political Science, which is pretty much like arts, and only seems to have the word “science” in it to make white people feel better about themselves.
Now, I was reminded of this over the last few days because I was listening to the debates on the C&binet Forum Conference sessions over the Internet whilst working. This was an invite only session, and it became increasingly clear to me over the 2 days I was listening in, that this discussion about the future of digital media was being essentially run by White people, talking to White people, for the benefit White people. I doubt there was the merest smattering of a Tech Major present. (OK, I exaggerate - but just look at the forum's blogroll - nary a techie blogger in the whole roll, its MSM tech journos all except for TechCrunch - who, of course, were not actually invited to the event, being, well, Tech Crunchies )
One can argue that this is fine, after all heaven forbid the critical Affairs of State be decided by people who are not White! (I mean, if we had a Real democracy we'd be doing weird things like not invading random Mid-Asian countries, for example - imagine that!) The big problem with technology is that, by and large, mainstream Meedja, Journos and Politicians - the "White" people mainly invited to these sorts of bashes - actually don't by and large know how all this stuff actually works (Sorry good people, but being on Twitter and/or Facebook and even having an instapundit blog on Wordpress doesn't quite qualify). This means that when the Dark People who run theEvil Corporations appear and talk smoothly about how the Digital Landscape works, then the White people get totally bamboozled and either lap it up (if its a "Good" Evil Corporation - Google Neutrality anyone?) or tend to run around jousting at various largely irrelevant windmills, muddying the Ether nets.
Its the (smoothly) bland leading the blind. (By the way, JP Rangaswami has written a great fiskpost on Dark Lord Mandelson's nefarious scheme over here......)
Which is why, of course, the UK is in the Digital Shi....Situation it is in. 'Nuff said........
I had written the above last night and was going to spike it under the "This Would Seem Like Sour Grapes Because You Weren't Invited* " heading (that, and this article probably is as close to a perfect 10 on the Paul Carr Scale of How to Lose Friends and Piss People Off that I've ever come) , but then I read about an Unconference that was held at the above Cabinet Forum by some of the attendees, and was run for roughly the same reasons that I raised as issues above. It is written up here on the Pervasive Media Blog. Here is a synopsis of the conclusions.
University is broken. Education is way behind industry. Our education system needs to change - places like RCA, ITP, University of South California are brilliant at fostering creative entrepreneurialism by getting artists, writers, programmers etc to work together on one project. We need to teach teamwork and interdisciplinary, entrepreneurial skills through an embedded cross-cutting logic.
May I emphasize "There is a need for more computer scientists coming into the creative industries in order to create innovative products" and "We need a new generation of producers with more diverse skills and an overview of the industry"
They are right of course, but lets just go down another level on the implications:
Once upon a time, the White people of the Media-Political complex were called the "Chattering Classes" and had Dinner Parties in Islington, but now some are paddling in the shallower waters of technology and thus label themselves as Geeks, or even "Digerati". This is of course inaccurate, the correct term is Chatterati, obviously. Digerati by and large know how this stuff actually works, and work in - or even run real businesses in - the space. Unfortunately, many Digerati are inarticulate, wear unfashionable glasses and look like the IT Crowd, so they are best left Unseen and Unheard. (This of course is what Quangos are for - Quangos allow White people to draw large salaries for performing the unpleasant job of managing Real Geeks, so that other White People don't have to see them at conferences like this...... )
So, next C&binet Forum, I would like to see some of the people there who do actually know how this sh*t all works rebutting some of the claims made. Some positive discrimination for people who actually did some Maths in their university degrees, for example, would be helpful. People with unfashionable glasses and haircuts. Maybe even people who studied IT. (OK, OK, thats probably going too far.....)
Oh, and as for the the Blogroll....c'mon guys, you need to read a bit wider than that. You could even read this 'ere Broadstuff blog, after all, we've been shortlisted for the BIMAS so we must be some cop......
*The tongue is , I hope, firmly in the cheek - and what cheek - They did, after all, streamcast the sessions and put it all up on Twitter for comment. I'm thus now awaiting the Grapes of Wrath
(Update - In the interests of journalistic balance, there is a far more sanguine post by Anthony Mayfield, on TechCrunch EU oddly enough . Anthony imho doesn't go far enough on the Tech lack - this post, on the other hand, goes too far )
(Update 2 - To explain a bit of my frustration here - we do a lot of work in this space, and I will shortly post up some research we have done on the pace of innovation over the last 100 years or so that I presented at the "Internet: Next 40 Years" session last night. In essence, the changes that are coming to the media have been predictable - and have been predicted - for at least 15 years to my certain knowledge and have happened more than once before over the last 100 years, and are not quick - its a 20 - 30 year repetitive cycle, from novel technology driving economic shift to screams for industry protection to social takeup to regulatory shift to it all happening again. (see here for some of our previous analysis on the situation). It just makes me very frustrated that, because the answers aren't "under the Creative Media lampost" as it were, they are deemed not to exist, or at least don't get airtime.)
(Update 3 - a friend pointed me to this 2006 post from Tom Coates saying much the same as I said above. I love the analogy of the Old Order wailing for assistance because it can't run away from the snail)
(Update 4 - in response to some comments below, and several emails and DM's from people. I was not so much shooting at the people in the room or Arts majors per se, as I wrote in the Comments:
"I was more aiming at the weird - and unique to UK thing I think - of the wide separation of Arts and Tech in the culture, so the governing class (the media-political and to an extent financial set) by and large have a very small amount of tech in their "DNA". And in a world that is increasingly driven by its technology, this to my mind opens 2 major risks:
I feel extremely strongly about this (as the above post shows, methinks) - we are a small niche strategy consultancy in this space, we study the UK vis a vis other countries, we study this technology age vs previous ones and do future projections - and the things that stare out at you when you do are:
(i) This era of change is not unique - for those that can be bothered to do so, there are plenty of lessons from previous technology waves that can be instructive. And the Old Order always reaches for the protectionist lever.
So it is frustrating to see the (smoothly) bland leading the blind in 2009. There is no need, and little excuse for it. That the "Stuff White people like" blog is written in the USA proves they have the same ideological issues, but the fact they also have held the technology lead since the 1950's shows they are able to overcome it too.
Posted by Alan Patrick in Digital Media Web 2.0 at 20:57 | Comments (16) | Trackback (1)
Best of Broadstuff 2009
So folks, here it is for your Bumper Christmas Holiday Edition- the 10 Best Broadstuff stories of 2009. In its own way its a good log of some of the ZeitGeist in the Digital Ecosystem space. In order of popularity they were: 1. Stuff White People Don't
Tracked: Dec 24, 18:06
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Grapes ordered and awaiting shipping .
To a poor technologist like myself, the output of the conference was truly painful. "Must Do Better" penned on this term's report I'm afraid.
I hope they take your advice.
Only one way to describe this evisceration of everything Web/E X.0 - super fucking awesome !!!
It wasn't the whole Web/E 2.0 thing I was taking aim at, so that's just collateral damage
I was more aiming at the weird - and unique to UK thing I think - of the wide separation of Arts and Tech in the culture, so the governing class (the media-politicial and to an extent financial set) by and large have a very small amount of tech in thei "DNA".
And in a wold that is increasingly driven by its technology, this to my mind opens 2 major risks:
(i) Misunderstanding - of how the technology works, which leaves the policymakers - and media overall - very vulnerable to misconceptions, bamboozlement and snake oil salesmen.
(ii) Missed opportunities - not understanding what is going on , and even worse being misled by the vested interests, leads to a lot of wasted time, resource and effort.
On top of everything else the Arts,the creative, aren't very good at it anymore.
They barf back, re-cycle, sniff each other, and are having more and more problems selling their product due to content.
Govt, policy makers, meeja, they just don't get IT.
They like to think they do. But they don't. They don't have any grapes of wrath either, pretty ineffective expensive and useless measures predicted. Nobody can stop pirates whilst the meeja fatcats are ripping off the public and the artists. I don't fileshare BTW. I have nothing to gain by commenting, apart from trying to make the powers that be see when they are wrong and backing up good posts like this.
I always thought that the Dark ones could hardly wait to invent something to make millions and then buy a Caribbean Island. While the White people could hardly wait to buy this something so they can stay in touch while staying in a hotel across the bay from that private island.
The arty people in the US know how to make a web page, use photoshop, maybe use an avid... and that is about the extent of their tech IQ. The rest is spin on their part. Oh, and a down side is they don't realise this...
I know, I've been an IT guy for advertising firms and video production houses.
Annnnd you just got linked to by the Whitest of the White people himself...Mr. Instanpundit..lol
I hope is it just a British thing to divide humanity into Eloi and Morlocks. There must be dialog between the artists and the engineers. But collaboration between practitioners of diverse specializations requires mutual respect which is rare.
what the HELL are you blathering on about ?!? ..off the meds?
So Mr. Instapundit is a "lefty liberal"? I don't think so.
Back in the day, or at least in that small corner that I was a part of, when the microcomputer was being invented and the internet was being invented and most of the real programmers were self-taught, back at that time, when the only barrier to entry was the capability and desire to do the work and there was no university screening people out, most of the people that invented what we take for granted today were not even remotely lefty liberal but instead were rather distinctly and extremely libertarian.
What is your point again ? Who are we supposed to hate, and for doing (or not doing) or understanding (or not understanding) what exactly? Artists don't understand how their MacBooks work at an IT level? Really? No shit! How many IT people know how a MacBook REALLY works? How many have been to the Apple factory and checked over the chip designs and worked out exactly what they do? Are you saying that creatives and techies should have the SAME skillset?
'There must be dialog between the artists and the engineers'. About what? To achieve what end?
Wasn't it the chatterati who were 100% against the invasion of Iraq? And the sober businessmen and people who actually know facts and history and things about the world who supported it?
Isn't it the job of consultants to ALWAYs insist that opportunities are being missed, that the current lot of creatives are hopeless at business (NSS) and that the UK always lags behind everybody else because we're just that stupid, and lazy, and luddite?
AML, I don't think you're the same page - you need to go back and look at the details of the cabinetforum - All the answers to your questions are there.
Suggest you read "The Audit of War" by Correlli Barnett.
The same arts majors versus science problem in the 30's and 40's.
IIRC the head of the UK radar program in WWII took several firsts (at Oxford?). Firsts in Latin, greek, classic literature.
He wasn't a very good tech manager.
This is a cultural problem as you mention.
"That the "Stuff White people like" blog is written in the USA proves they have the same ideological issues"
No, we don't. And we don't use weenie words like "whilst". Or "methinks" for that matter.
Get this. The USA is responsible for world security and if we have to invade some oriental country to secure it, then we're going to do it. We don't like it but none of the other muttering loin-cloth wearing mutts on the planet are going to do the job so we're all in.
Get this. The USA is the source for everything of value in tech. None of the nattering Euro camp-followers (in the Roman Legions sense of the term) have brought even an antacid to the table.
So, get with the plan. Put aside all this word-twisting designed to masquerade as someone who belongs at the table.
If you're not USA and White, you simply do not.
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