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Technorealism: A New Way to Think about Technology, Politics, and Culture? or
A KNOW-NOTHING PARTY FOR THE '90S? Below are some comments, list of original Signers,
the Conference Announcement and info about
Please feel free to Add Your Comments.
PRINCIPLES OF TECHNOREALISM
1. Technologies are not neutral.
A great misconception of our time is the idea that technologies are
completely free of bias -- that because they are inanimate artifacts,
they don't promote certain kinds of behaviors over others. In truth,
technologies come loaded with both intended and unintended social,
political, and economic leanings. Every tool provides its users with a
particular manner of seeing the world and specific ways of interacting
with others. It is important for each of us to consider the biases of
various technologies and to seek out those that reflect our values and
True ... but you might take this further and examine how technologies have over time affected people of different classes. Or directly look at how technology have affected class structure itself. How is information technology likely to affect this? Good words, but just a start.
2. The Internet is revolutionary, but not Utopian.
The Net is an extraordinary communications tool that provides a range of
new opportunities for people, communities, businesses, and government.
Yet as cyberspace becomes more populated, it increasingly resembles
society at large, in all its complexity. For every empowering or
enlightening aspect of the wired life, there will also be dimensions that
are malicious, perverse, or rather ordinary.
"malicious, perverse, and ordinary". Valid point, but where to go from here?
Who decides what is "malicious or perverse"?
3. Government has an important role to play on the electronic
Contrary to some claims, cyberspace is not formally a place or
jurisdiction separate from Earth. While governments should respect the
rules and customs that have arisen in cyberspace, and should not stifle
this new world with inefficient regulation or censorship, it is foolish
to say that the public has no sovereignty over what an errant citizen or
fraudulent corporation does online. As the representative of the people
and the guardian of democratic values, the state has the right and
responsibility to help integrate cyberspace and conventional society.
Technology standards and privacy issues, for example, are too important
to be entrusted to the marketplace alone. Competing software firms have
little interest in preserving the open standards that are essential to a
fully functioning interactive network. Markets encourage innovation, but
they do not necessarily insure the public interest.
"no sovereignty over what an errant citizen or
fraudulent corporation does online" Who decides this? "As the representative of the people
and the guardian of democratic values, the state has the right and
responsibility to help integrate cyberspace and conventional society." You are missing the point here.
A congress and president who vote for the CDA have clearly shown contempt for the online community and it is questionable if they are truly "representative of the people" or just the moneyed interests that they hit up for campaign contributions.
4. Information is not knowledge.
All around us, information is moving faster and becoming cheaper to
acquire, and the benefits are manifest. That said, the proliferation of
data is also a serious challenge, requiring new measures of human
discipline and skepticism. We must not confuse the thrill of acquiring
or distributing information quickly with the more daunting task of
converting it into knowledge and wisdom. Regardless of how advanced our
computers become, we should never use them as a substitute for our own
basic cognitive skills of awareness, perception, reasoning, and judgment.
Good point. Is advertising a form of pollution?
5. Wiring the schools will not save them.
The problems with America's public schools -- disparate funding, social
promotion, bloated class size, crumbling infrastructure, lack of
standards -- have almost nothing to do with technology. Consequently, no
amount of technology will lead to the educational revolution prophesied
by President Clinton and others. The art of teaching cannot be replicated
by computers, the Net, or by "distance learning." These tools can, of
course, augment an already high-quality educational experience. But to
rely on them as any sort of panacea would be a costly mistake.
True, but where is the balance? Need to get into specifics ... will mandating filtering software for schools and libraries help or hinder the educational process? This is also a very USA centric view. The issue of education requires a deep understanding of cultures and some consensus of even what the goal of education even is.
6. Information wants to be protected.
It's true that cyberspace and other recent developments are challenging
our copyright laws and frameworks for protecting intellectual property.
The answer, though, is not to scrap existing statutes and principles.
Instead, we must update old laws and interpretations so that information
receives roughly the same protection it did in the context of old media.
The goal is the same: to give authors sufficient control over their work
so that they have an incentive to create, while maintaining the right of
the public to make fair use of that information. In neither context does
information want "to be free." Rather, it needs to be protected.
Misses the point. The real question is who owns what and who has the power? Will companies that demand exclusive rights of writers help the creation and support of writing? Ownership is a big issue. "Fair use" is an important concept in the development of culture.
7. The public owns the airwaves; the public should benefit from their
The recent digital spectrum giveaway to broadcasters underscores the
corrupt and inefficient misuse of public resources in the arena of
technology. The citizenry should benefit and profit from the use of
public frequencies, and should retain a portion of the spectrum for
educational, cultural, and public access uses. We should demand more for
private use of public property.
"We should demand more for
private use of public property." Excellent point. What about adding a 30% excise tax on all TV and Radio ads?
8. Understanding technology should be an essential component of global
In a world driven by the flow of information, the interfaces -- and the
underlying code -- that make information visible are becoming enormously
powerful social forces. Understanding their strengths and limitations,
and even participating in the creation of better tools, should be an
important part of being an involved citizen. These tools affect our
lives as much as laws do, and we should subject them to a similar
Sounds nice but misses the reality that significant part of the worlds population is in survival mode.
There are significant areas which are not covered. These mainly have to do with money and ownership of the Internet.
- Will the Internet evolve along the cable TV model where rates are raised based on how much debt service the market will bear?
- The issues of money and open competitive markets must be examined in greater detail.
- It is naive to think that government regulation will be benign and helpful to the Internet. Government regulation has stifled innovation and freedom in most cases where it has gotten involved.
- Assuming that technology widens the gap between rich and poor, it might be worth considering how technology could distribute it's benefits more uniformly so that a greater number of people welcome it's introduction.
- Digerati ... How does technology affect the creation of a new group of elite's who will attempt to make decisions for the rest of us which will just be for their own financial benefit?
original Signers (in alphabetical order),
DAVID S. BENNAHUM, New York, New York
Contributing Editor, Wired, Lingua Franca, I.D., and Spin magazines
BROOKE SHELBY BIGGS, San Francisco, California
Columnist, San Francisco Bay Guardian online
PAULINA BORSOOK, San Francisco, California
Author, "Cyberselfish: Technolibertarianism and the True Revenge of the Nerds"
(forthcoming from Broadway books)
MARISA BOWE, New York, New York
Former Conference Manager, ECHO
SIMSON GARFINKEL, Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts
Contributing Writer, Wired
Columnist, The Boston Globe
STEVEN JOHNSON, New York, New York
Author, "Interface Culture: How New Technology Transforms the Way We Create and Communicate"
DOUGLAS RUSHKOFF, New York, New York
Author, "Cyberia," "Media Virus," "Playing the Future," and "Ecstasy Club."
Columnist, New York Times Syndicate, Time Digital
ANDREW L. SHAPIRO, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Fellow, Harvard Law School's Berkman Center for Internet & Society
Contributing Editor, The Nation
DAVID SHENK, Brooklyn, New York
Author, "Data Smog: Surviving the Information Glut"
Commentator, National Public Radio
STEVE SILBERMAN, San Francisco, California
Senior Culture Writer, Wired News
MARK STAHLMAN, New York, New York
Author, "The Battle for Cyberspace" (forthcoming)
Co-founder, New York New Media Association
STEFANIE SYMAN, New York, New York
Executive editor and co-founder, FEED
Conference on Technorealism
How should we think about technology?
The Berkman Center for Internet & Society invites you
to attend "Introducing Technorealism: A New Way to Think about Technology,
Politics, and Culture," Thursday, March 19, 3-6 pm, in Ames Courtroom, Austin Hall, on
the Harvard Law School campus. There is no fee to attend the event, and preregistration is not required.
A dozen leading technology critics --
authors of acclaimed books, and leading journalists, editors, and
commentators -- will discuss their collaboration on a set of principles
that challenges the conventional dichotomy between cyber-utopianism and neo-Luddism.
3:00 pm - 4:15 pm: Panel One -- What is Technorealism? An
Overview, moderated by Prof. Lawrence Lessig.
4:15 pm - 4:30 pm:
Refreshment break/meet the panelists.
4:30 pm - 6:00 pm: Panel Two --
Hypertext and Hyperbole: Technorealism Applied, moderated by Prof. Charles
Nesson and Jonathan Zittrain.
Participants: David Bennahum (Wired, Spin), Brooke Shelby Biggs (San
Francisco Bay Guardian), Paulina Borsook (author, Cyberselfish), Marisa
Bowe (Word), Simson Garfinkel (Boston Globe, Wired), Steven Johnson
(author, Interface Culture; Feed), Douglas Rushkoff (author, Cyberia; Time
Digital), Andrew L. Shapiro (Berkman Center, The Nation), David Shenk
(author, Data Smog; NPR), Steve Silberman (Wired), Mark Stahlman (New York
New Media Ass'n), Stefanie Syman (Feed).
Katie Hafner, Battle Cry of the Technorealists, New York Times, March 12, 1998, p. E3
Elizabeth Weise, Tract Waves Yellow Flag on Technology, USA Today, March 12, 1998, p. 3D
Ian Christe, Digital Dream Team Calls for 'Technorealism', Wired News, March 12, 1998
comments about ...
It had become apparent that, after two consecutive epochs wired on hyperbolic technobabble, the intelligencia needed to crash. So a small group of intellectuals bent on truth and a book contract had a brilliant... er... um... at least sobering idea: What if we were to continue the trend, and make each digital epoch more dreary than the last? What if we were to lay claim to digital reality itself, defining it in language so stilted, with ideas so mind-numbingly simplistic and obvious, so soporific that a dazed cyberpopulis, already rendered doofus from data shock, might just sign on? And in the course of cyberevents, both great and small, we may sufficiently impress Random House or perhaps St. Martin's Press?
Propaganda - Dissent - TechnoSurrealism @disinfo
TECHNOREALISM: A KNOW-NOTHING PARTY FOR THE '90S
D I T H E R A T I archive, 16-20 March 1998
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