Monday, September 15, 2008

Tools for connection

In the 90s, email was a way to bring together people for whom their local universe was insufficient. It provided community and mobilization. And then it became so popular as to become burdensome. Social networks, chat, instant messaging, phone texts created a weave of affinities which demanded both attention and bandwidth. For some it became overwhelming, with many disjointed pockets, not coalescing. What began as an anarchy skilled at self-organizing became out of control,

Enter new tools.

Dgroups describes itself as “simple, non-commercial (no ads), respectful of privacy, and targeted at low bandwidth users in the South”, a tool to be used by advocates who would uplift the developing world.

A health discussion dgroup is moderated, and “to ensure integrity, the forum is overseen by skilled moderators. As a subscriber, you can be assured that all messages you receive will be relevant, readable, and understandable. Messages are proofread before posting to ensure they are reader-friendly. All internet addresses mentioned in emails are checked for functionality.”

No typos, no name-calling, no rough edges. I wonder what kind of an exchange or community is built when interventions are so edited, massaged, moderated, smoothed. Doesn’t this put a great deal of power in a few hands, create a hierarchy that will perpetuate in the developing world the style and values and politenesses of the already developed world. Capitalism, democracy, and culture all globalized.

Another instance: a website prides itself on “selected, current [health] knowledge from peer-reviewed journal literature via C-Channel”, assuring that nothing too unusual will be available for the viewer.

Like is finding like to the exclusion of all else - making universes smaller instead of larger, and those in power believe they are helping those with less. Will we all become homogenized?

“A closed system limits choice, but it is more stable and more reliable. An open system is far more fragile and unreliable – this is the price of freedom.” Leander Kahney, Inside Steve’s Brain, 2008. p 248