Intro to Networked Collaboration

More on long-tail and clue train -esque

After two days at New School 75 yrs since the founding of the University in Exile, academics who fled Fascist Europe in 1933 as well as those who fled Columbia Univ in 1919 after the University President reinforced the National President Wilson’s ‘aliens and seditions’ acts which banned all commentary critical of the US government entry into WWI against the Germans.

There were some fascinating statements made from those panels about the status of education, free-speech, academic discourse etc which really fly in the face of the trends we see in Long-Tail, Clue-Train or Rhizome.

The whole idea of Cluetrain and Long-tail is that there is much more power in involving everybody and as many people we can into ideas markets, that will in the long-run be more productive for society.  It all comes down to the idea of control by a few to run the whole economy and the whole world.

All our readings and everything we see positive happening in society is about opening up control from the few to the many, and using the new tools for collaboration, and connection to give us more opportunities for creation and growth from all sorts of angles and unforeseen places.  The troubles we see in the economy today are directly related to a few gurus with special access and secretive knowledge controlling huge markets to benefit themselves, only to have their few bright ideas so well supported by University graduates of financial engineering and neo-liberal economics faculties come tumbling down, taking everybody else down with it.

We can see the perils of having power concentrated into the hands of a few.  It only takes a few ‘cronies’ (with usually the same ideas, educations, goals, objectives and understanding of the world) then to make a few BIG mistakes that wack everybody.  Our readings offer exciting alternatives to such an antiquarian world view enabled by many things including mindset and technologies.

The government taking stock holdings in banks may work to address that ‘crony concentration’ problem by opening these banks up to more scrutiny by Congress and Public Opinion, rather than the way it was run the last few years since Glass-Steigel and de-regulation.

But, the irony that came out at the Conference is that Conservative movements in the US have been about squelching the movment to de-concentrate power and give more power and means democratically to the many.

Conservative movements have worked systematically since the 1980s to dismantle the higher-education system through de-funding from Congress in favor of vocational training at Community College levels. I remember when I was in college in the 1980s, the war path from Washington against universities and tenured professors. Today, 60% of teaching is provided by non-tenure track, adjunct teachers who work part-time and have other jobs to make a living, and will never have a full-time job protected so that they can pursue research contradictory to the government or the business interests of major donors to the University. They have absolutely no protections for academic freedoms that might challenge power people who disagree with their ideas, research, and writings, even so far as having the rights to survey students or populations for social scientific research about how life has changed for families over many years or in response to policy or economic conditions.

The movement has been to systematically move middle class people out of higher education that might lead to graduate school and Phd’s, toward schools that teach practical skills to work in the economy, but never challenge it with new ideas of political, social science, judicial, or humanities nature.  It pounds that drum that the economy is the most important thing to what we do in life, and that everything we learn should have some foreseeable practical purpose to use in a job.  But, it presupposes that somebody knows what the right skills are to work in the economy of ‘tomorrow’.  Just who today with grey hair running a school or an education department of a government do you trust with that budget allocation decision facing your future?

Even though Friedrich Hayek from University of Chicago is considered the leader of conservative movement thought,  he was really all for doing away with centralized power in a few potential mistake makers.

Hayek was used as a beacon by conservative movement seeders for 60 years to get his ideas out there as alternatives to the ‘statist’ or ‘labor union’ ideas of their political opponents, which seek to concentrate large blocks of power for the many property-less workers away from the few owners of businesses and property. They started youth clubs for young conservatives on college campuses all over the country, and spread the ideas as a higher morality, funding institutes like Heritage Foundation or Cato Institute to further create the information they needed for media and outreach, and lobbying.

Hayek is used by Conservatives as a hammer against ‘collectivisation’ of any kind,  which Conservatives apply to Union movements, or business cooperatives or collectives. But, they did not go after large corporations, also run by a few and to often deleterous ends for investors as evidenced all around us now, or the corporate lobbyist control of congress and legislation which protects the status quo by also putting power in the hands of a few people who come from the same backgrounds, cultures, values and cloth.

This game can be directly attributed to the huge losses for shareholders today in bankrupt Big Auto stocks because of the years and years of rigging of emissions and mileage regulations to protect the gasoline combustion engine and its supporting petroleum industry, rather than open up competition to new energy forms.  The petroleum stocks are the only ones still standing from that game!

The Ayn Rand craze also fits in here. Her books inspired people of the same age and time to higher ideals about self-interest, self-determination, hard-work, idealising the entrepreneur, etc. But, those books are also seen as dehumanizing people, families and communities into units of production and consumption as the most productive way to think about life. Alan Greenspan cites Rand as the greatest influence on his life and philosophy of work, and after 50 yrs of this and promotion of Milton Friedman’s ideas in universities, so many people fervently believe that Self-Interest is the highest guiding ideal and will fight tooth and nail anyone who posits an alternative viewpoint.

No wonder our economy is teetering once again because the minds of a few concentrated with power have been steering it all by themselves, and they’ve managed to get millions to believe along with them.  The problem as discussed in Cluetrain or Rhizome is that these structures, don’t have a broad enough view of where they’re headed, or the potential pitfalls or effects for everybody brought on by their ideas and narrow frame of reference.  The Long-tail, Cluetrain and Rhizome readings make it plainly clear how this has to go if we’re going to shake this monkey on our backs for good.

The sad thing is private ‘philanthropic funds’ like BB&T Bank are today seeding all kinds of institutes for free for colleges all over the country now to further propagate the Ayn Rand belief system, against the will of tenured faculty members in colleges all over the country who disagree with such an overt promotion of a single ideology but who increasingly have less influence over academic affairs on their campuses. The professors say though that this program promotes one static view of economic philosophy rather than a broad understanding of multiple viewpoints and teaching a process for students to arrive for themselves at new and applied discourse for a new age.

The BB&T CEO, like Greenspan, credits Rand with forming the basis of his personal philosophy and he wants students to have that chance to. Our IRS allows this to happen through the use of tax-deductible ‘charitable’ contributions.

This is exactly what Hayek hated and won a Nobel Prize for. Concentrating power in a few and propagating ideas from one school of thought as an unchanging non-adaptive orthodoxy as a means to controlling the economy.

It is exactly the impulse we’ve got to figure out how to manage for our generation using the new tools and the mindset and vision they enable us to have for the first time to create a much more prosperous and dynamic world for many more.

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November 1, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , ,

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