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

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On Utilizing Technology To Connect People On Different Continents

As many of you know, I am greatly interested in the way that technology can be utilized to connect people across across the world – to make the constraints imposed by geography less relevant.

Since I am a musician, one particular angle on this that I am pursuing is using music at the centrepiece of this process. In other words using technology to broadcast music globally, and to use this process to engage people on issues of social change. The following is evidence that others are thinking along the same lines…

If this concept interests you, please let me know as I am working on putting a team together to explore potential projects in this area.

WE GOT SKILLZ
FACEBOOK GROUP: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=25921017860

We Got Skillz is bringing together basketball, music, fashion and dance to host an annual event to be held in Kampala, Uganda that will use these four areas to advocate for social change. This event has the potential to unify, empower and cultivate the importance of international cooperation in an exciting new way. Musicians such as Boys II Men, Joe Thomas, Tanya Stevens and Tanto Mentro & Devonte will be coming to perform. Other performers from in and around East Africa will be hosting workshops for young people in Uganda prior to the event. International dance crews, fashion designers and basketball players will also be coming to contribute to the workshops and the event.

The objective of the event is to showcase the local talent within Uganda and provide a platform for young people to maximize their potential. We believe that positive messages can only be received when they are delivered in a way that distinguishes them from other negative messages. That is why we have chosen to utilize what has already proven to be one of the most influential tools on the planet: hip hop culture. (According to Radiotron, Hip Hop School of Arts in Los Angeles CA, “Hip hop has proven itself to be a solution, an alternative, and a way out of poverty, crime, gang life, drug abuse, violence, vandalism, and negativity…Hip hop has saved and transformed the lives of thousands of people. It has become a vehicle through which young people can join forces together and empower themselves through the arts to make a difference in their own lives and in their communities.”)

Both the workshops and the event will be multicast around the world. The interactive multimedia communication technology provide and supported by Asita Informatica Inc. This event will launch the WGS Global Voice bridging the digital divide project that will be starting immediately preceding the event. Schools from all corners of the globe will be invited to connect through an online platform, allowing young people from various cultures and backgrounds to interactively learn about the lives of the other young people that they are sharing

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.

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

The Concept of Facebook

In yesterday’s post I made reference to an article that I wrote entitled The Concept of Facebook. I thought I might as well provide a link to the article for those that are interested:

The Concept of Facebook

The following is an exerpt from the article to give you an idea of what it is all about…

I find the Facebook phenomenon very interesting. What is most interesting is the question as to why it has captured everyone’s and interest. The following are a few thoughts on social networking sites in general and Facebook in particular. There is much to say on this topic and it certainly can’t be said in a few pages so consider the following simply representative of a few themes that will at least serve to ideally stimulate your interest in the topic and hopefully some discussion as well!

FACEBOOK AND SOCIAL NETWORKING SITES

Community

The question that we want to ponder is: what is it about the Facebook community that makes it more interesting than other communities? Think for a moment about the circle of friends you associate with (pretend this was in the pre-facebook era!). What is it about the particular interactions with these friends and the information you had about these interactions that made this particular set of people your close friends.

The question I want you to reflect on is: what sort of information is it about a group of people (and the individuals that constitute that group) that defines the group as your friends?

We are notified when friends post pictures, when friends connect with other friends, which friends are attending which events, who is dating whom etc.

This, in and of itself, is not the whole story, however. What makes the information that we receive relevant in a unique way is that we receive it in real time.

Continuity of Experience: Real Time Interaction

By real time, I mean as it happens. Effectively, Facebook updates information on a continuous basis letting our friends know about changes in our profile as they are made. If this does not sound all that exciting, I ask you to reflect on how you interact with your friends and more generally how you interact with anyone. If you think about this for a moment you will realize that life happens in real time!

The way that we walk through our days and our lives is such that we are presented with a continuous flow of information, images etc. some of which we interpret as relevant and some of which is trivial or useless.

It is the continuity of experience that is something that, heretofore, has not been effectively replicated by other social networking sites, and that makes the Facebook experience unique.

The Space Between You and Other

When you think of the way that you walk through life, one way to think about it is to realize that we are always in spaces. This is to say that, for example, we might get up in the morning go to the bathroom to take a shower, go downstairs and have breakfast with our families, go to school or work for day, go out to dinner with friends at a restaurant later in the evening, attend a lecture the following day and so on. When considered as such we note that each of these ‘environments’ can be considered a space. If you think about things in this way, it becomespretty apparent that ones life is reflected in the spaces within which you are present and the patterns with which you participate in these spaces. You will note that you go to work five days a week and spend eight hours a day in ones ‘work’ space. You will note that every week you attend a rehearsal with your band and so on.

What is interesting is that you will also associate certain people with the spaces that describe your life. Your home will be associated with those in your immediate family. It might be your wife, your parents, your children and so on. The question is: what is it about the spaces that reflect your life that make it possible to associate particular people with each space?

It is the fact that they are in close proximity to you!

Proximity

It seems pretty obvious that people that are in the same spaces are proximal to you. For example, it is obvious that if you live in the same house as someone then you are closer to them (in some sense) than a total stranger; if you attend a class with other people, you are closer to them in some sense than you are to people that you have never seen. But what is it precisely that creates this proximity.

It is that you are present in relation to them in a certain way!

Presence

Presence is the idea that any actions that we might make are observable by others. When thought of as such it seems pretty obvious that if we are in the same room as someone else, then if we move, the other person will notice. This isn’t rocket science! Therefore, proximity and presence are closely related and the point is simply that those that we are proximally related to are those that we are present in relation to in a manner that makes it possible for us to intentionally make it such that the other person is aware of us. Again, consider the case of those that are a part of your home. If you yell, they will hear you!

How is this relevant you ask!

Facebook Modifies Presence!

What makes the concept of presence an important idea is that Facebook modifies ones presence in relation to others, and in virtue of this changes the nature of space itself.

All that is being said is that it is now easy to get the attention of others at a distance.

What is important about this is that it alters the pattern of communication that is possible.

Facebook Enables Implicit Communication

To better understand this idea, we need to think a little bit about communication. Without getting too deep, we need to begin by realizing that 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 people. Examples of this include talking to someone, writing letters to someone, telephoning someone etc.

Non-Intentional: the act of communicating something when there is no intention to communicate anything specific to anyone in particular. Examples of this include getting a book published, writing a song that gets distributed and so on. In these cases, we intend to communicate, but not to anyone particular.

Explicit: the act of communicating something that is crystallized in some way – written, verbal, a picture etc. Explicit communication can be intentional or non-intentional. For example we can communicate intentionally and explicitly by writing a letter and sending it to someone, or telephoning someone. It can be non-intentional in the case of the publication of an article. In both cases, what we communicate is crystallized in that we have consciously formulated it.

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

If we think about communication as such, we see that Facebook makes possible implicit communication in ways never before possible. This is due to the fact that it facilitates the creation of imagery that becomes part of the public domain. When one places a picture on ones profile, writes a note etc. one is placing the object within a domain where it becomes possible for someone to view the object, read the object and so on.

What is intriguing about implicit communication is that it is essentially a new form of communication – one that, to date, has been the purview only of authours, musicians, artists and so on. In the past it is only those that have created content that was deemed worthy of being part of the public domain that actually became part of the public domain. Today we can all create content that is part of the public domain.

I make no judgments on whether the content that is created is worthy or not of being in the public domain as I don’t think that this is the issue. What is important is that the possibility for presenting ourselves to the world has become possible, and that has unique and exciting implications.

For the rest of the article go go: The Concept of Facebook

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.

On Massive Mobilization (MM!!)

What is Massive Mobilization? Real social change requires Massive Mobilization, which, simply put, is the deployment of a massive amount of resources around single projects. By massive amounts of resources I refer to primarily to labour and intellectual capital.

A brief examination of critical points in history where meaningful social change has taken place will reveal that this social change was the result of the collective will of many people. This is what a revolution is! It is only if there is a collective will towards change that change will take place?

But isn’t there a collective will to solve global problems like poverty, climate, famine etc? You raise an interesting point… I would say that there is a certainly a will to resolve global problems of the sort that you mention and that will (or intention is a better word) is held by many people. What is missing is the collective part. What is missing is the mechanism to bring people together in a manner that will force the sorts of change that many people want, and that are necessary.

Why is financial capital not just as important? It is not that financial capital is unimportant, it is only that there is no shortage of financial capital, nor is there a shortage of those with financial capital that are in search of worthy projects. Once the underlying organizational and mobilization mechanisms are in place the financial capital will follow. Those with the money are shrewd and wise. This is why they have the money! Once they see that there capital will be directly responsible for making the world a better place, they will support the projects.

So what is missing? If you spend as much time online as I do, it will be clear to you that there are many different organizations with good intentions. There are organizations that are focused on particular issues, say youth or poverty. There are those that are more regionally focused; say on Africa or South Asia. There are those that are very small, those that are somewhat larger and so on. There is no shortage of people making an effort to make change.

What is missing is the fact that all of this positive energy is not being effectively deployed. There is a strength in numbers and it just does not make sense for there to be hundreds of small organizations working on alleviating poverty in Africa, for example. Of course, each of those organizations that is working on alleviating poverty is making a positive contribution, but if all of these groups worked together on certain projects, the results would be much more dramatic.

Would the effects of collaboration simply be increases in efficiency? A central part of the message that I want to communicate is that the process of large scale collaboration is more than just about improving process efficiency. Of course, processes would be improved as certain redundancies would be removed. Personnel and volunteer management, for example, could be centralized.

More importantly, large scale collaboration changes the community within which people participate. It extends the community and makes peoples’ activities part of a much larger enterprise. Wouldn’t you prefer to be working for a team of 10,000 people that are focused on solving poverty issues in Africa? Wouldn’t your confidence that meaningful change can actually take place be increased?

What cannot be forgotten is the human element in the social change process. People involve themselves in projects and their community for a number of reasons, and an important one is to be a part of a community that has a purpose. This is what provides them with purpose. Hence creating a community that has real purpose and a sense of collective momentum will improve the lives of those that are participating in it and this, in turn, will serve to generate further momentum.

This is what will make the sorts of change that we dream about a possibility!

So what has to happen to make this vision a reality? It is advances in technology, and the internet specifically, that will make this possible.

How and why this is so is not something that I can explain in detail in a paragraph or two, but is the purpose of this blog (and the wiki that I just started at http:///technologyandsocialchange.wetpaint.com).

I can give you a glimpse of what needs to happen and what will happen as the technology infrastructure evolves and user patterns evolve over time. In the previous entries I have introduced the notion of space and suggested that we need to think deeply about the nature of space and they way that it is changing in the modern world.

My contention is that as the nature of space evolves, it will be possible to extend the dynamics of small group interaction to a larger scale. Small group interaction is typically conducted face to face and in real time. This is what takes place in meetings etc. What technology makes possible is to extend some of the patterns that are at play in these sorts of interactions across physical boundaries.

I will say no more on this topic at the moment, but will treat it in great depth in due course.

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.