A red guitar, 3 chords, and the truth

This weekend I participated in the NYC free culture summit and learned a few refreshing radical activism tricks from the class of ’06.

In stark contrast to the scholarly focus group I attended last week, this group explicitly understands that they need to create social spaces for like-minded activists to congregate, learn, and plot. The tools of the revolution were revealed in the speed geeking session – Once someone in the 21st century finds the truth, all they need is a mailing list, a blog, a wiki, irc, and rss (with a dash of delicious and flickr, to taste). Remarkable how quickly and easily people with real communication needs figure out how to use this suite of tools, understand which is good for what and when.

Highlights included a Riot Folk performance, a talk by Siva (“Space. Hope. Imagination. Potential.”), a talk by the Creative Commons gang, and suprise appearance by Cory Doctorow .

The most fun had to be not-protesting (you need a license to protest) outside of Time Sqaure’s Virgin Megastore, and reverse shoplifting DRM info into the stacks of damaged cds.

The revolution might not be televised, but it could very well end up on flickr.

His Master’s Voice

I recently read that Guglielmo Marconi envisioned the radio being used primarily for 2-way communications, and Alexandar Graham Bell imagined the telephone being used to broadcast concerts to large audiences. Whether or not this is true, it’s interesting to wonder if the inventors of technology are really the best at predicting its eventual usage.

Today I attended a focus group organized by the Marconi Society and EPIC which focused on the next generation of scholarly tools, and the future of research and the journal. Most people in the room were completely overwhelmed by the amount of information they were supposed to track, and many thought that better filtering tools would help. People also talked about the real problem of knowledge quality and credibility, and some sort of map for navigating the various layers of information in the world.

What I kept hearing in people’s remarks was that people really need spaces, not maps. Researchers need virtual watering holes to gather around. The quest for knowledge is not a search for data, it is arrived at through dialectic. Communities of like minded researches will naturally perform the task of filtering, highlighting, and vetting important information. It will take AI a long long time to accomplish the comparable task with advanced search and filtering portals….

Seems to me like the Marconi Society should consider funding the development of a specialized distribution of a well established CMS, perhaps modeled on drupal’s CivicSpace, or Shuttleworth’s SchoolTool. CivicSpace is basically a drupal bundled and configured with some modules that are geared towards operating an NGO. SchoolTool a Zope3 app designed for operating a small-mid size k12 school. The work might also benefit from considering the social software design patterns we worked on in Ulises’ course this past fall.

I also met some really cool people, doing really interesting and socially important work with technology.

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