Information promiscuity and Socially Transmitted Democracy

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During one of the plenary sessions at the "Parliament and the Interent Conference" a contributor from the floor said that "Information promiscuity" was a natural reaction to the unholy combination of the surveillance society and data incontinence (losses of personal and other data). That set me thinking.

What is the electronic equivalent of an STD (sexually transmitted disease)?

Is it the socially transmitted dictatorship of the blogogracy (that new oligarchy drawn from  the IT-literate members of the semi-hereditary political tribes that rule most societies)?

Or can the growth of social networks really bring about a democracy of the masses, akin to that which Chairman Mao laboured to create, in the teeth of opposition from most of his party, including the city-dwellers and intelligentsia who felt, like Stalin (and too many ICT suppliers), that the peasantry (alias users) should know their place and do as told.

I also liked the phrase: "Parliament will look at the issues in the context of a European Framework"

Was that a belated recognition that the real debate is taking place in Brussels? Are the recent comments by the DCMS Secretary of State to the Royal Television Society about a level playing field between television and the Internet merely a recognition that the UK is now implementing a directive (Audio-Visual Media Services) designed to protect broadcasters against change?

I listened to comments on why the state should not invest in Broadband, how we should take our time over debaes on spectrum and how the asymetrical business rates which helped destroy communications competition "were a complex issue".

I wondered what we could learn from how China is seeking to build a truly socially inclusive  information society, not just urban broadband but GSM masts spanning the Gobi desert, enabling peasant, worker and municipal co-operatives to trade nationally and even internationally. Is building on their success our route out of global economic stagnation?

One of the challenges posed at the conference was how to make a success of the global Internet Governance Forum by producing results before the 2010 deadline that was set in Tunis: including recommendations for "enhanced co-operation" - whatever that might mean.

So what might be the areas for "enhanced co-operation" be?

I left with three ideas buzzing round my heard.

1) Anglo-chinese co-operation (others may join but we should not wait for them) to not only bring low cost mobile access to the backwoods of Africa and Asia but also trusted financial services, to help villagers to trade their way out of global slump.

2) Reform of the domain name registry system to make it harder for criminal websites to migrate around the world ahead of attempts by law enforcement to catch up.

3) The UK to take a lead in bringing multi-national business together, working within existing legal frameworks, to organise the global co-operation that governments cannot.  

We tend to forget that London is the world's most multi-cultural city, where children from 50 or more races may live on the same housing estate and attend the same school. In most other supposedly multi-cultural cities, children grow up within their parents' chosen ghetto. 

Teaching others will help us to both learn how to handle our own problems better and repair the damage done over recent months and years to our global trading position. It needs to begin by learning how our children use the new technologies to organise their social lives across cultural boundaries without their parent's knowledge as well as along the lines of their respective family, clan and caste diaspora with their grandparent's approval.

  

 

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For me, the significant things about the Parliament and Internet Conference were the dogs who didn't bark on the night.

1. As Philip foresaw a week or so ago, the younger internet enthusiasts were not there.
2. Nor were any charities or "civil society" representatives. (or, if they were there, they kept quiet)
3. Nor were the "sousveillants", the Web 2.0 sites which give local government, Parliamentarians, the NHS and the rest of the establishment a hard time. This was a shame, because I feel that, thanks to their use of the Internet in the last two years, they have changed irreversibly the relationship between the citizen and authority.
4. Whereas last year and the year before, the conference attracted attention from lots of bloggers, a Google search has revealed only Philip so far.
5. I didn't notice any journalists, which seemed a pity, considering the important topics discussed and the eminence of the speakers.
6. Nor did I see any MPs, other than the usual suspects from the All Party Groups.

I was that contributor from the floor...

My question, which occurred to me only during the conference, was wondering if people felt that because of the "surveillance society" the government knew pretty much everything about you anyway so why bother to be careful with personal data - the "facebook generation" type casual attitude to information criticised in the Burton report for contributing to their much-publicised laptop loss.

It would indeed be ironic if all that surveillance, intended to counter terrorist threats, was actually having the opposite effect by making people more careless with sensitive information. Another example of a complex system with unintended and uncontrollable side-effects? Don't get me up on that soapbox again...

A pity that the speaker, the CEO of an important public body, masterfully dodged my question, but only after admitting it was "hard"...

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Philip Virgo published on October 18, 2008 12:54 PM.

Recycling personal data as "aid" to Africa was the previous entry in this blog.

Data incontinence needs potty training not just e-nappies is the next entry in this blog.

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