The Structure of Communication

The Structure of Communication

Temporal Structure

Synchronous (real time)

Synchronous Communication transpires in real time. In other words, it transpires when two parties are present in relation to each other in such a manner that that enables them to initiate a communicative act that is apprehended essentially instantaneously by the other party(ies) involved in the communicative act.

Examples of this is include face to face conversations, telephone conversations and instant messaging.

Asynchronous

Asynchronous Communication, in contrast to synchronous communication transpires when two parties are not present in relation to each other in such a manner that enables them to initiative a communicative act that is apprehended essentially instantaneously by the other party(ies) involved in the communicative act.

Examples of this include letters and email.

Distributive Structure

One-to-One

One-to–One communication when one individual initiates a communicative act intended for another individual.

Examples of this include letters, emails from one person to another person (not a group!), instant messenger, telephone calls between two parties (not conference calls!), video conferencing

One-to-Many

One-to-many communication when one individual initiates a communicative act intended for more than one other individual.

Examples of this include group email distribution, mail drops (letters sent to a whole postal code, form example), voice messages sent from a single source to a large number of mobile recipients.

Many-to-Many

Many-to-Many communication transpires when many people are in the presence of each other and therefore a communicative act can be initiated by a number of different individuals in such a manner that enables the communication to be received by a number of different individuals.

Examples of this include face to face group interaction (meetings), conference calls and video conferences.

Intentional Structure

Private

Private communication transpires when the intention of the communicator is such that what is communicated is intended for a precisely defined recipient or recipients.

Examples of private communications are letters, emails and telephone calls.

Public

Public communication transpires when the intention of the communicator is such that what is communicated is not intended only for a precisely defined recipient or recipients. In other words, it is the intention of the communicator that what is communicated might be received/apprehended by anyone.

Examples of public communication include advertising, magazine and newspaper publication and postings in public forums (internet discussion threads etc.).

It should be noted that what makes a communicative act public is the fact that a representation of what is communicated and archived.

Presence Structure

Unmediated

Unmediated communication transpires when the parties to the communication are present in space in relation to each other in a manner that enables them to apprehend each other through the use of all of their senses.

Examples of unmediated communication include face-to-face conversations, meetings (in a room, not online…)

It is important to note that associated with unmediated communication is the consciousness those that are party to the communication have of their spatial proximity to each other. This consciousness has evolved due to the obvious fact that, to date, it is not been possible to interact in an unmediated fashion in the absence of temporal proximity. However, there is no theoretical impediment to the possibility that unmediated communication might be non-spatially proximal. At this point this might be science fiction, but we might be able to imagine the possibility of technology advancing to the point where we can experience others through all of our senses in a precisely analogous manner to how we currently experience those that are in our immediate presence, yet where it is such that the other person is in a physically different location.

Mediated

Mediated communication transpires when the parties to the communication are not present in space in relation to each other in a manner that enables them to apprehend each other through the use of their senses.

Examples of mediated communication include letters, telephone calls and emails.

The nature of how communications are mediated needs to be analyzed in terms of the modes of sensory stimulation that are activated in the interaction. Hence, we can extend our taxonomy as follows;

Textual Mediation:  it is the written word that provides the essential mode of communication.

An example of this is the letter.

Auditory Mediation: it is the auditory sensory process that is essential to the mode of communication.

An example of this is the telephone.

Visual and Auditory Mediation: Both the visual and auditory sensory process are essential to this form of communication.

An example of this is a video conference.

Persistence Structure

Persistent: A persistent form of communication is one where the idea that constitutes the communication persists in time. In other words there is a record of the communication that can be viewed at a later time.

Impersistent: In contrast an impersistent form of communication is one where the idea that constitutes the communication does not persist in time. There is no record of the communication other than what resides in the mind of those that are party to the communication.

Implicit Potential

Reflects the extent to which a particular form of communication makes possible implicit communication.

Communications Taxonomy

Empirical Types Temporal Structure Distributive Structure Intentional Structure Presence Structure Persistence Implicit Potential
Face-to-face Conversations Synchronous One-to-One Private Unmediated Impersistent Very Strong
One-to-One telephone ccnversations Synchronous One-to-One Private Auditory Mediation Impersistent Moderate
Conference Calls Synchronous Many-to-Many Private Auditory Mediation Impersistent Moderate
Instant Messaging Synchronous One-to-One Private Textual Mediation Impersistent Weak/Moderate
Chat Rooms Synchronous Many-to-Many Public Textual Mediation Impersistent Wea/Moderate
Discussion Boards Asynchronous Many-to-Many Public Textual Mediation Persistent Weak
Letters Asynchronous One-to-One Private Textual Mediation Persistent Weak

‘Mail Drops’

Asynchronous One-to-Many Public Textual Mediation Persistent Weak
One-to-One Email Asynchronous One-to-One Private Textual Mediation Persistent Weak/Low
One-to-One video conferencing/web camera Synchronous One-to-One Private Visual and Auditory Mediation Impersistent Strong
Many-to-Many video conferencing Synchronous Many-to-Many Private Visual and Auditory Mediation Impersistent Strong
Group Emails Asynchronous One-to-Many Public Textual Mediation Persistent Weak

Next Generation Communication

We are most interested in forms of communication that satisfy the following conditions: are synchronous, many-to-many, public, visual and auditorily mediated, and persistent.

Transitions In The Possibility For Communication: summary[b1]

Transitions in the possibility of communication in respect to time, and its relationship to group formation can be briefly summarized as follows:

Basic Verbal Communication (limited communication form): Talking and shouting represent this form of communication. The ability to communicate is limited to the number of people who can hear you when you shout!

Basic Written Communication (limited communication form): Writing represents this communication form. The ability to communicate is limited in the sense that the pace of distribution of information is a function of how quickly one can distribute written material – books, flyers etc.

First Generation Electronic Communication (one to one communication): This form of communication is represented by the telegraph, telephone etc. These methods can be considered linear communication forms in that they represent communication from one party to another. With the exception of recent advancements that are not used widely (conference calls, for example), most electronic communication easily supports only one to one communication. Second Generation Electronic Communication (one to many communication): This form of communication is represented by email, the use of which is growing at an explosive pace. Email allows for the easy management of lists and groups, as well as control over how one communicates. It allows for easy communication to groups, and represents a recent evolution in group communication process

Third Generation Electronic Communication (real time many to many communication): This form of communication is represented by Instant Messaging: As a result of bandwith increases, and the proliferation of the internet as a medium for communication, we are seeing an explosion the use of Instant Messaging, which allows for real time communication between many participants simultaneously.

The Next Generation in Communication: (organized and mediated [SF2] real time many to many communication): The next generation of communication and interaction will include the ability to effectively organize, collaborate and work in real time dynamic groups on the Internet. Key components of this will be:

  • Organizational systems that facilitate the coordination of virtual teams and virtual projects; integrated collaborative tool systems.
  • Your ability to have your relationship with the internet mediated by Intelligent Agents that provide the capability to customize the nature of your interaction with the exponentially increasing volumes of data that are out there.
  • Your ability to interact in real time with members of your group if you wish.

Group Communication

Communication needs to be understood in four different ways:

Intentional: the act of communicating something where there is an intention to communicate. In other words a person means to communicate something to someone specific, or to some specific group.

Non-Intentional: the act of communicating something when there is no intention to communicate anything specific to anyone in particular. Note that you can communicate non-intentionally by creating the conditions that make communication possible.

Explicit: the act of communicating something that is crystallized in some way – written, verbal, a picture etc.

Implicit: the act of communicating something that is not crystallized – best understood, for example, as body language, tone, inflection etc.

The distinction between non-intentional and implicit communication is subtle and rests on the fact that implicit communication is part of an intentional communicative act. As per the example above, in the case of a someone that is having a conversation with someone else, we note that a component of what is intentionally communicated in this communicative act will be implicit – it will be the grounds for the sorts of inferences that are made by the other party in the conversation in relation to one of voice, inflection, gesture etc. We note, however, that this must be distinguished from non intentional communication since it is part of a communicative act that is fundamentally explicit.


[b1]Needs to be reworked

[SF2] Need to expand on nature an implications of mediation

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Moving Forward!

It’s been a long time since my last blog entry. Much has changed in my life and this will be reflected in the blog as I move forward. Those of you that take the time to read some of my previous entries will note that the focus was highly abstract and theoretical.

As we move forward you can expect the content to be more balanced. Most of it will reflect what I am thinking about and working. Even so, due to the fact that there are some deep intuitions that underlie my opinions, one can expect the content to maintain a bit of a philosophical feel.

One easy way to get things going is to reference several documents that I have written in the last few months. These documents provide a good overview of what I am thinking about and working on:

Climate Change Collaboration Platform: A description of a platform and processes that could be used to develop collaborative processes within the climate change space. See: http://docs.google.com/Doc?id=dc4gbgsj_71kxq8qhgs&hl=en

Open System Mobilization Platform: This is the very large vision for a platform that would enable very large numbers of people to collaborate in real time! See: http://docs.google.com/Doc?id=dc4gbgsj_25hqc96xt3&hl=e

Ecosystem Collaboration Platform: This is a powerpoint presentation that contains a visual representation of the sort of platform that I think would make collaboration between organizations much more effective. You will need to download it from:http://www.mediafire.com/file/zt2wondwgmm/EcosystemCollaborationPlatform.ppt

Social Venture Investment Bank: This is a position paper exploring the viability of the creation of an investment bank in Canada, the purpose of which would be to finance social ventures.  You will need to download it from http://www.mediafire.com/file/hrimnoizwno/SocialVentureInvestmentBank_0312.09.doc

Let me know if you have any questions regarding any of these documents.

As we proceed, I’ll talk more about what I am doing to advance the ideas that are introduced in these documents.

Suresh Fernando

Technology and Massive Dialogue

There has been much discussion on this blog about the changing nature of space; the way that we can extend the environments that we are in in order to bridge geographic boundaries.

Another theme that is related, and that I will expand further on in due course, is the idea that technology allows you to extend the range and scope of the conversations that we have. We can include more people in the conversations that we have, and to the extent that we do that, we can get to know others that are located at  distance from us, develop a consensus on how to deal with problems with these people and so on.

The following is a great example of what is happening.

THIS PROCESS IS A GREAT EXAMPLE OF HOW TECHNOLOGY CAN BE USED TO BRIDGE BOUNDARIES AND BRING TOGETHER PEOPLE FROM AROUND THE WORLD THAT HAVE A COMMON INTEREST IN ADDRESSING THE CLIMATE CHANGE ISSUE!

Okay, we finally have a venue set for the Mass Dialogue session on Dec. 10th. It will held in the IRMACS theatre (ASB 10905, from 9 to 11 am.

Here’s a spiel from Amber to get you started, and below that is my own synopsis of what I think will happen, based on the larger pdf document that I’ve attached below. The documents below put together by Amber provide a good about of background (helped me a lot!). Please send info as far and as wide as you can, and ask them to RSVP to amber.church@gov.bc.ca.

On December 10, 2008 join youth from across BC as they connect with the youth delegation at the United Nations Climate Change Meetings, COP 14, in Poznan, Poland.
Young people across the province will gather together at schools and municipal buildings to hear an update of the international negotiations from youth working on the ground in Poland, to have their questions answered, and to find out how BC youth can help make a difference to the outcomes of COP 14. Youth unable to gather at the hubs throughout BC will be able to join the live videoconference through their home computers. This event is part of the Mass Dialogues, a program that will see 35,000 young people around the world connecting with youth at COP 14 to engage on the issue of climate change and create positive change.

The format will be something like this:
9am – we make the connection with the Poznan people and establish communication.
9-9:05 am – People arrive.
9-9:30 – participants learn how the question process is going to work.
9:28 am – 2 minute warning from Poznan
9:30 am – Moderator introduces and welcomes attendees, we have a brief video of ourselves shown worldwide (It will be a few seconds).
9:35 – Moderator introduces the session and the panelists in Poznan.
9:45 – Panel discussions begin – moderator poses his/her own questions to the panel of judges. During this time, SFU participants (and people around the world) write their questions on paper and give them to the SFU moderator, who types them into the Poznan moderator, who selects questions for the next section.
10:15 – Moderator begins to ask questions selected from Mass Dialogue participants. If you question is selected, you come up to our microphone and when ask it live.
10:45 – Thanks yous and session ends.

FAQs:
Who is a youth? Someone under 30.
Do I have to be an expert on climate change? NO. You have to be a youth. Prepare if you want, or just come and learn.
Will I be on camera? The whole group will be for a few seconds at the beginning. But if your question is selected your voice will be heard.

Next Generation Process: video online dating!

In my travels around cyberspace I ran into a company called Speeddate.com that caught my attention. Now there’ s nothing particularly novel about online dating, with a plethora of sites like LavaLife, Match.com etc. out there.

I don’t claim to have made an exhaustive assessment of the various online dating options, but this is certainly the first site that I am aware of that features video interaction. I think that this will make all the difference and should propel this model to the forefront sooner than later.

What is so great about video interaction? There is one problem that I have noticed that is common to most, if not all, online dating sites; the absence of the ability to really trust the information that you receive. In short, when I review a profile, how can I know whether the information that I am viewing is an actual representation of the person that placed the profile?

The issue of trust is not a new problem and companies like Amazon have made famous third party methods of trust development. Amazon has introduced the third party review, where others in the community review the book, CD, etc. Ebay does something similar allowing customers to review the various vendors. If 99.9% of the reviews are positive, you can feel pretty good about your choice.

The problem is that third party reviews do not work to provide us with the sort of information that is sufficient to know whether you want to date someone or not. In short, Sally may have been a great date for Joe, but this doesn’t mean she will be a great date for me.

Furthermore, if Joe really likes Sally, he hardly has any incentive to promote this on a dating site!!

Now its important to note that third party endorsements do help to build the sort of trust that can serve to assist in developing ones social networks. This has a lot to do with how the social networking model works – why Facebook is as powerful a model as it is. There is a some likelihood that if you are friends with Joe and Joe is friends with Sally, that you can be friends with Sally (if not date Sally!).

So, how can the next level of trust be developed? The sort of trust that can be the source of a more intimate relationship can be developed via face-to-face interaction. This is why when we use online dating services, the next step is to meet for coffee! Meeting for coffee allows us to observe each other in a manner that results in us gathering further information about each other, the purpose of which is to increase our level of trust of the other person.

It’s important to note that what enables us, when we are interacting face-to-face, to gather the sorts of information that can increase our trust of the other persons is our ability to view Implicit forms of Communication (forms of communication that are not necessarily intended by the other person). You can view what the other person looks like, how they dress, their body language etc.

So what does all of this have to do with Speeddating.com? Well, by making video interaction the basis for their model, they are jumping to a form of contact that immediately enables us to gather the sorts of evidence about the other person that can provide us with the basis for determining whether the other person is someone that we might be able to trust. It will eliminate a lot of the time that is wasted on other online dating services.

I predict that this model will be the future of online dating!!

(This is not an endorsement to invest in the company. It only represents the first impression of the authour of this piece and was written without any contact with the company.)

Suresh Fernando

Also check out the Technology And Social Change Wiki

SCREEN CAPTURE OF SPEEDDATING.COM

About: The Relationship Between Technology and Social Change

I just updated by About page with a pretty succinct line of argument that sets the stage for much of what this blog is about….

This blog is focused on developing and argument for, and highlighting examples of, the increasing role that technology (and in particular the internet) will play in making Massive Social Change a possibility.

By Massive  Social Change, I am referring to the type of social change that is necessary to create the sorts of consensus that are necessary to begin to address very large global problems such as climate change, poverty, famine, war etc.

These problems are generally considered to be of the sort that we cannot realistically address. It is simply assumed that they are conditions of the human species; that things must be this way.

The argument that I am developing will suggest that it is the Perception of our Differences that results in the heterogeneity and fragmentation that is the source of our inability to solve these sorts of problems.

The Perception of Difference is the result of the fact that the evolution of the human species occurred in a manner that did not allow for Communication between disparate groups. Different hunter-gather tribes, for example, evolved without knowledge of each other.

This inability to Communicate was the result of geographic dispersion – their relations to each other were Non-Proximal.

The absence of Proximal relations between people says something about the Space that the people inhabit.

My contention is that the nature of Space is changing! The mere fact that I have connected with you is evidence of this.

That the nature of Space is changing makes it possible for us to address the Proximity issue that gives rise to the Patterns of Communication that result in the false Perception of Difference.

In resolving this problem, in time, people can come to realize that they are more similar than they think and that creating artificial boundaries that result in conflict and the inability to work collectively on problems of global scope is a false illusion.

If we view things as such we can set the necessary conditions for future generations to truly fix the world!!

Peace and Love,

Suresh Fernando
sureshfernando@hotmail.com

The Technology and Social Change Wiki – 50 groups added!!

Just to let everyone know that I have added 50+ group profiles to theThe Technology and Social Change Wiki,

The focus of the wiki is to aggregate information, and eventually serve as the basis for the formation of a community, around the intersection between technology and social change. I am collecting data on various groups that are operating in this area, cutting edge technologies that can play a role in social change, innovative processes that can play a role in social change and much more!

The basic taxonomy that I have started with is:

  • Online Communities
  • Companies
  • Not for profit organizations.

Please note the following:

  1. These are all groups whose websites I have scrutinized in some depth and that I believe are doing very interesting work! Hence this list should be more useful than generic databases with tons of data, but where the human touch is lost.
  2. Part of the profile includes a screen capture (example below) of the homepage. I believe that this helps a lot for you to get a feel for how the group is presenting itself to the world.
  3. The profiles are still very preliminary as I am just identifying the groups that I intend to track and communicate with, but have not as developed the template for the more robust profiles that will, in due course, be developed.

A note on the technology and social change wiki… I am just getting this project off the ground and therefore need all the help I can get in more areas than I can think of!!

If you, our anyone else that you can think of, might be interested in learning more about this project, please pass this on.

Don’t hesitate to contact me directly at:

Email: sureshfernando@hotmail.com

On Massive Social Change (MSC!!)

I posted the following on the Technology and Social Change wiki that I am developing at:

http://technologyandsocialchange.wetpaint.com

So what is this wiki all about? This wiki is for those that believe that the internet can be used for socially beneficial purposes!

What makes this particular wiki unique?
Simply that it has a very specific focus – to aggregate information and ideas that lie at the intersection technological innovation and Massive Social Change (MSC!!)?

What is Massive Social Change
(MSC!!)? Good question! The idea that technology, and most specifically the internet, contributes to social change is not news. Obviously it is transforming our environment in immeasurable ways. What is not being discussed is the role that the internet can play in creating the sort of change that can positively transform the world on a massive scale – the sort of social change that is revolutionary in nature.

That sounds grand, but why bother with Massive Social Change? Well, are you concerned about issues like climate change, poverty, famine, war etc? If those sorts of Global Problems are to be resolved, they will require Massive Social Change.

Do you seriously believe that those sorts of problems can be resolved? Yes I do. I do not believe that it is intrinsic to our nature that we must kill each other, destroy our environment and so on.

If it is not intrinsic to our nature, then why is conflict and misery the story of human history? Things have been as they are due to the fact that the human race has evolved in a very specific way – with specific groups evolving in isolation from each other.

What does the particular pattern of the evolution of human history have to do with the current state of affairs in the world?
It is simply a fact that, for example, the hunter-gather tribes in Africa evolved separately from other hunter gather tribes in the Northern hemisphere. As a result of this, they evolved different value systems, customs etc. What is important to note is that the value systems and norms that they evolved were unique to their particular community. The point is that different communities evolved because people were spread out in different parts of the world and therefore had no contact with each other.

So even if it is true that different communities evolved because, historically, people were geographically dispersed across the globe, what does that have to do with the current problems in the world? It is my view that conflict, and the inability to develop solutions that account for all people, is due to perceived differences between communities, people etc. Perceived differences, in turn, are the result of the fact that communities have evolved independently and therefore have formed their own values, customs, religious paradigms and so on. It is this sort of heterogeneity that is an impediment to the formation of the sorts of consensus that are necessary for the resolution of global problems.

If, for example, we want to come together to address the issue of climate change, the underlying ethos must the our commonality not our differences. We must see each other as brothers.

A good example of this idea is played out in science fiction movies like Independence Day, where the threat of annihilation by an alien species causes the world to come together to ward off the enemy. What is interesting in this sort of narrative is there is a collective consciousness of our commonality in the face of something that clearly stands distinct from us. Furthermore, with the collective consciousness of our commonality we are able to do great things!

My contention (at least my hope) is that external threats are not necessary for us to have the sense of our commonality. What is necessary is that we recognize that the differences that we perceive are contingent realities that are the result of the evolution of the species and could have been different. For example, we can certainly imagine that the world consisted of only one small tribe in one location that expanded over time. We can reasonably assume that, if this were the case, we may only speak one language, have one religion etc. I fully recognize that this is an oversimplification, but the overall idea should be clear.

OK, so what does the internet have to do with solving the sorts of problems that you say are the result of the evolution of human history, but could have been otherwise? The answer has been hinted at in the conversation that we have been having. To the extent that the problems are the result of perceived differences, and perceived differences are the result of the formation of different communities, the answer lies in the formation of a singular Global Community.

The idea of a Global Village is not new, but it does not seem to be contributing to the solution. Many people would argue that globalization is part of the problem. It’s important to understand that the notion of a global village is still in its infancy. Keep in mind that the birth of the internet as we know it is less than two decades in the making!! What we need to do is to be able to think outside the box and envision how, as the technological infrastructure evolves, the changes that take place will fundamentally impact our lives. We must look further into the future to understand the sorts of things that are possible and then once we can envision the possibilities, we must work towards making them a reality.

So, give me an example of something that we should be thinking about that is not getting the attention that it deserves. Consider the utilization of social networks like Facebook. In most major North American cities and, in particular, in universities, the penetration rates are very high – ranging in some cases to the 75% range. Currently Facebook is used largely to keep in touch with friends, to organize social calendars, to exchange information about music interests and so on. In short, it is used to manage our social processes. The reason that Facebook has exploded in the way that it has is because it provides the best architecture and user experience for those that want to manage their social processes (there is more to be said about this and I have said more in The Concept of Facebook).

The important point is that what is important for the younger generation are their social processes, therefore the success of Facebook can, at least in part, be attributed to solving an important problem for those that are in high school and university. The point is that, for those, that are roughly 15 – 30 years old, there is nothing that a technology platform can do that is more important for them than to provide them with a means to meet people, keep in touch with friends, express themselves to friends etc.

Therefore, first and foremost, the success of social networks is that they solve the problem that people have regarding social contact.

The question that I believe needs to reflected on is: what happens when the user base of social networks gets older, they have families, have careers etc. and making more friends is not their first priority. What then?

Will social networks like Facebook evolve to account for the fact that peoples’ priorities in life change?

Will social networks evolve to provide applications that will assist people in making a contribution to their communities when contributing to their communities is more important than making more friends?

This is all very interesting, but it seems that we are digressing. We were talking about the creation of a Global Village for the purpose of resolving global problems. How does the internet contribute to this? In short, the internet changes three things; the Space between each other, the Patterns of Communication between each other, and the structure of Knowledge. It is in understanding these ideas and their interdependence that the solution will reveal itself.

It is not the place to go into this in detail, but if you are interested in more details, please visit my personal blog at suresfernando.wordpress.com. I will, however, give you a few thoughts on these ideas:

Space and Presence: We can think about Space intuitively. If we are both sitting in the same room, then we are both sitting in the same space. But what is it that makes it the same space? The fact that we are Present in relation to each other, where to be present in relation to each other means that there exists the possibility for us to be conscious of each other as a result of the sensory stimuli that we receive from each other. In short we can see and hear each other. In the olden days, in order to be present in relation to each other, we needed to be physically in the same space with each other. Nowadays, presence applications like Twitter make it possible to be present in relation to each other differently and therefore the nature of the space that exists between each other is changing.

The important point is that our presence in relation to each other is now not dependent upon physical proximity!

Communication: Communications technology is introducing a whole new range of possibilities for how we communicate with each other. Traditionally, the most common form of communication happened face to face, which is synchronous (exchange). Once could also send letters, which is an asynchronous exchange. In both cases, we were limited to communicating either to a single person or to a larger group that was confined to a space of restricted size (say a large hall). It is now possible, in theory, to communicate simultaneously with millions of people! It should be apparent that this has implications for the possibility of Massive Mobilization (MM!!).

The important point is that the scope for communication is now not limited by physical constraints.

Knowledge: The evolution of databasing technology, search engines, RSS, spiders etc. have had a huge impact on our capacity to interact with and form knowledge. What is important to note is that, historically, knowledge was something that was created either in isolation, or in small groups. For example, Mozart worked on his compositions alone. At best a team of a few scientists might have worked together on a project. It is now possible to create knowledge collectively like never before and what we must consider are the possibilities for community formation that arise from collective knowledge formation. In other words, we can now create projects that involve millions of people. Consider the implications that this has for bringing people together!!

The important point is that collective enterprise is not limited by physical (or geographic) or temporal constraints.

It is the constraints that I have identified (and that the internet mitigates) that have, over the course of the evolution of history, contributed to the development of community specific ideologies and therefore to the perception of difference.

Well, this is all very interesting and I wish you the best of luck in mobilizing people and resources around this project!!

Thanks very much!! Please circulate information about this project to anyone that you think might be interested.

Introducing the Technology and Social Change Wiki!

I just set up a wiki through http://www.wetpaint.com for the purposes of creating a collaborative environment where those that believe that the internet can play a role in the resolution of Massive Social Problems can contribute in a number of ways.

The wiki can be found at: http://technologyandsocialchange.wetpaint.com

I will cross post my general comments that can be found on the CONTRIBUTORS’ MISSION page in the wiki:

I originated this wiki on August, 25, 2008.

I fully realize that it is a wiki and therefore is an information repository/community is not the medium within which I should attempt to evangelize. That said, it would be disingenuous of me to suggest that I don’t have a personal agenda, and that this wiki this wiki has nothing to do with my personal goals.

In order to be transparent I will say a few words about what I believe to be true and it should be clear how this wiki will contribute to my larger process. Readers that want more detail on the ideas that I am advancing below can review my blog at https://sureshfernando.wordpress.com.

This wiki is for those ‘outside the box’ thinkers who believe that the internet can be utilized for socially beneficial purposes. By socially beneficial I refer not merely to the sorts of things that we conventionally understand to be its benefit; disintermediation, information dissemination, customized content creation, collaborating on documents in ones office, games, networking, keeping in touch with ones friends etc. etc.

What I am referring to is the sort of social change that we will actually care about and will contribute to changing the world in a meaningful way!

I strongly believe that problems that are seemingly intractable such as climate change, poverty, famine, war etc. are not intrinsic to human nature and therefore it is possible to create a world where these problems will be drastically reduced if not eliminated entirely.

If what I am saying has any truth to it, the internet and the evolution of the communications infrastructure will play a role in making the changes that I envision possible.

In a nutshell, many of the problems with which we are faced are due to the fact that communities evolved in a geographically dispersed manner. It is literally the case that hunter-gather communities in Africa evolved without the knowledge of the existence of similar hunter-gather communities in the Northern Hemisphere. The absence of contact results in the development of differing value systems, customs etc. These differences, in turn, foster a perception that there are fundamental differences between communities. The truth is that these differences are merely contingent facts; things could have been different. If the world comprised a singular community that was geographically homogeneous, we can safely assume that things would be different. Communities that perceive themselves as being homogeneous don’t have the same sorts of issues that arise between those that perceive themselves as being different.

Therefore, the solution to problems of global scope is to create a global community.

What one must ask oneself is whether this is possible. If community has something to do with communication, and the dynamics of communication are changing rapidly and drastically, is there any reason to think otherwise?

Peace and Love.

Suresh


Contributors’ Mission
This page is dedicated to allowing the contributors to this wiki a few paragraphs to outline what their larger mission is, and why participation in this wiki will be beneficial to the process.

SURESH FERNANDO
I originated this wiki on August, 25, 2008.

I fully realize that it is a wiki and therefore is an information repository/community is not the medium within which I should attempt to evangelize. That said, it would be disingenuous of me to suggest that I don’t have a personal agenda, and that this wiki this wiki has nothing to do with my personal goals.

In order to be transparent I will say a few words about what I believe to be true and it should be clear how this wiki will contribute to my larger process. Readers that want more detail on the ideas that I am advancing below can review my blog at https://sureshfernando.wordpress.com.

This wiki is for those ‘outside the box’ thinkers who believe that the internet can be utilized for socially beneficial purposes. By socially beneficial I refer not merely to the sorts of things that we conventionally understand to be its benefit; disintermediation, information dissemination, customized content creation, collaborating on documents in ones office, games, networking, keeping in touch with ones friends etc. etc.

What I am referring to is the sort of social change that we will actually care about and will contribute to changing the world in a meaningful way!

I strongly believe that problems that are seemingly intractable such as climate change, poverty, famine, war etc. are not intrinsic to human nature and therefore it is possible to create a world where these problems will be drastically reduced if not eliminated entirely.

If what I am saying has any truth to it, the internet and the evolution of the communications infrastructure will play a role in making the changes that I envision possible.

In a nutshell, many of the problems with which we are faced are due to the fact that communities evolved in a geographically dispersed manner. It is literally the case that hunter-gather communities in Africa evolved without the knowledge of the existence of similar hunter-gather communities in the Northern Hemisphere. The absence of contact results in the development of differing value systems, customs etc. These differences, in turn, foster a perception that there are fundamental differences between communities. The truth is that these differences are merely contingent facts; things could have been different. If the world comprised a singular community that was geographically homogeneous, we can safely assume that things would be different. Communities that perceive themselves as being homogeneous don’t have the same sorts of issues that arise between those that perceive themselves as being different.

Therefore, the solution to problems of global scope is to create a global community.

What one must ask oneself is whether this is possible. If community has something to do with communication, and the dynamics of communication are changing rapidly and drastically, is there any reason to think otherwise?

Peace and Love.

Suresh

The Relation Between Modernity, Space, Consciousness and Massive Social Change

In yesterday’s entry I introduced the notion of Vectors of Consciousness in order to capture sense in which Outside Spatial environments have a ‘collective’ feel. When a number of people are in the same space and are conscious of each other, the way that collection of people stand in relation to each other, and therefore their environment will depend, in part, on the extent to which the Object of which they are Conscious (Locus of Consciousness) is something about which they are all conscious (Intersection of Consciousness). We used the contrast between watching a performer in a concert hall and being present in a shopping mall. In both cases we are in Outside Space, but clearly these are very different environments. The difference that I want to highlight is that in the case of watching a performance, we are collectively focused on the performer. In the case of walking around in a shopping mall, there is a certain randomness to the way that peoples’ attention is focused.

Today I want to introduce a few more concepts that will give us further tools to understand the sense in which the spaces that we operate in are different. After introducing the concepts I will say a few words about how these ideas are relevant to the wired world that we are living in today.

Size: Defined as the distance required to establish the spatial boundary. This is to be understood in its intuitive sense in that, for example, a concert hall is a large space, whereas a coffee shop is a smaller space.

At first glance we might think of this boundary as being defined by the physical facts involved – that, for example, the walls of the concert hall and the coffee shop define the size of the space. I would like you to think of Size differently, however, as the area within which we can be phenomenally conscious[1] of objects within the space. Since consciousness of objects requires that they are phenomenally present for us, the size of a space defines the boundary within which we can receive meaningful phenomenal stimuli. The walls of the coffee shop define the space because when we are inside the walls, we are not able to be conscious of things outside of the walls.[2] In the case of the piano recital, we are very conscious of being quiet and this is because we know that the slightest sound can be heard by all others in the room (as well as the performer!).

If the space that I am in is defined by the boundary that encompasses the set of possible Objects of which I can be conscious and you also happen to present in the same space, then it follows that it is possible for us to be conscious of each other; their exists the possibility for Reciprocal Consciousness.

One more point needs to be emphasized. Not only is there the possibility for Reciprocal Consciousness, we note that the consciousness is Simultaneously Reciprocal. This is important because not all cases of Reciprocal Consciousness need to be simultaneous. We all, for example, have a consciousness of our friends and family members but this does not mean that when I am thinking about my mother that she is necessary, at that moment, thinking about me. The possibility for Reciprocal Consciousness is simultaneous because it is a form of consciousness that arises from phenomenal stimuli.

If I am able to see/hear you at the same time that you are able to hear/see me then there exists the possibility for Simultaneously Reciprocal Consciousness and we are thus in the same Space.

Stability of Locus of Consciousness: Defined as the predisposition for the Locus of Consciousness to remain constant, across the group, over a period of time. For example, in the case of the performer at the recital, we can expect that he/she remains the Object of Consciousness for the vast majority of those in the hall for the vast majority of the time. We would therefore say that, in this case, the Locus of Consciousness is stable.

Spatial Stability of the Locus of Consciousness: Defined as the relationship between the Locus of Consciousness and the physical characteristics of the Space. If the relation between the Locus of Consciousness and the physical environment remains constant then we can say that the Locus of Conscious is spatially stable. If the performer stays seated on her piano stool, then she represents a spatially stable locus of consciousness for those in the audience. In contrast, we can imagine a pop star dancing around the stage with great enthusiasm. In this case, the performer is the Object of Consciousness to no lesser a degree than the concert pianist (all eyes are trained on both!). Yet in the case of the pop star, the physical facts of the situation are different.

Practically speaking this is pretty obvious. In the case of watching a piano recital we are likely to be fixed in our seats. It is the kind of environment that requires that we constrain ourselves physically etc. A pop concert marks a strong contrast with not only the performer, but the audience free to move around, All of these sorts of variables bring to bear on the nature of how we are conscious of ourselves and others in the spaces that we inhabit.

You can now think about the sorts of spaces that you inhabit, who/what the Locus’ of Consciousness are in the spaces that you inhabit, and the extent to which these spaces are stable.

So what does all of this have to do with anything you ask!

It should be pretty clear that the notion of spatial size has less meaning in the modern world. This is not to say that large rooms aren’t still large rooms! What it means is that the range of possible objects about which we can be conscious do not have to be physically proximal in the same way that they had to be in the olden days. In the days of the Hunter Gatherer communities, people lived in close proximity to each other and the people that they were conscious of were those that they could see, hear and touch. It is literally the case that our ancestors in Africa would not have had the slightest idea that others on different continents even existed.

Therefore, modernity serves to eliminate certain constraints on possible of objects of consciousness.[1]

Intuitively this should be pretty clear to anyone that utilizes the internet. If you are reading this blog, then there is a sense in which you and I are in the same space. It is the precise nature of this change that is taking place that we want to understand.

OK, but then what does Locus of Consciousness and Stability of Locus of Consciousness have to do with anything?

Part of what I will demonstrate is that Modernity gives rise to the possibility of Social Change on a scale, and in a manner, never possible before. I will argue that it is possible to engineer solutions to large scale global problems such as climate change, poverty, famine, war and so on; typically problems that we have thought of as insoluble.

The reason that this is possible is that the evolution in the communications infrastructure allows us to make a Particular Object of Consciousness the Locus of Consciousness for a very large number of people – millions! There is nothing, in the world that we live in today that prevents us from aligning a very large portion of the worlds collective energy on large scale problems and thereby creating collective developed solutions for these sorts of, seemingly intractable, problems!

More on all of this tomorrow!


[1] It’s important to note that it does so in other ways than this which I will discuss as we move forward.


[1] Remember that phenomenal consciousness refers to the sort of consciousness that arises from data that is presented to us via our senses. Photons impinge on my retina and I see your face.

[2] One shouldn’t interpret this absolutely literally. Obviously even when one is sitting inside a coffee shop one can see cars passing by, hear people talking on the sidewalk and so on. This is true, but clearly the availability/accessibility of such stimuli is reduced by the presence of the concrete that separates us from those outside of the coffee shop. One must understand this notion as a matter of degree.

Content

i just updated my content page and thought I might as well post it…

It is necessary for me to say a few words about the nature of the content that you can expect on this blog so that you can understand why many of my posts are abstract and philosophical and yet I have am providing links to various organizations. Read the following to understand where all of this is going…

It is the nature of the issues that I am interested in writing about that they are complex and therefore there is no simple way to address them. Therefore, the vast majority of the content that you will find on this blog is conceptual in nature. If you are going to benefit in any way from this blog, you will have to think and reflect on the ideas that I put forth.

My objective is, over time, to advance a THEORY about MODERNITY, that will provide people with a certain amount of optimism about the future.

A THEORY (in the sense that I am describing it) is a set of interdependent CONCEPTS that will comprise an overall vision of how I see things. My goal is simply to communicate what I am thinking with the hope that this will generate a certain amount of DIALOGUE.

CONCEPTS will be represented in ALL CAPS and, over time, will be elucidated in much greater detail. If the purpose for this is not clear consider my making the assertion that the ‘modern world is a lot different than it used to be in the past’. For you to understand this, you will have to know what I mean by modern as this is a central concept in the assertion that I am making. Hence, if I am to effectively communicate with you it will be imperative for me to elucidate in some detail many of the concepts that I introduce. Unfortunately this cannot be done all at once.

In due course I will hyperlink the concepts so that you can click directly to a more precise elucidation of the idea.

The specific content that I am introducing relates to the role that the evolution of the INTERNET is playing on the formation of IDENTITY and COMMUNITY, and how this creates unique conditions for positive social change.

As a result, I AM GREATLY INTERESTED IN ORGANIZATIONS THAT UTILIZE THE INTERNET FOR THE PURPOSES OF POSITIVE SOCIAL CHANGE. I AM CREATING A DATABASE OF SUCH COMPANIES, some of which are provided as links on this blog.

Please let me know if you have any thoughts or comments on my project.

Peace and Love,

Suresh